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Robots, Time Travel and The Interview of a Lifetime

It was almost as if I was dreaming when I heard the first words come out of his mouth. It took me right back to those hundreds of hours of CD’s that my high school tennis coach gave me to listen to.  At first I shrugged those CD’s off as useless “self-help” stuff that people who didn’t have ambition or the right attitudes in life needed – in order to try to get out of their own way.  But, the further I got into training at  higher mental levels – state championships, official visits at universities around the country and setting my sights on making an Olympic run for my home island of Barbados – the more I noticed that the words coming out of this guy’s mouth on these CDs were coming in more and more handy in my “self talk” as I was working my way through grueling matches in the 100 degree Florida weather.

photo 1And today, it’s almost like I’m in the future. I’m sitting in a hotel room on vacation, while my wife and kids are down at the beach. I told them I’d be back in an hour, I was going to go to San Francisco to NASA to conduct an interview with that same guy with the voice.  This only sounds truly crazy if you understand the fact that I was on vacation in North Florida.  I’ve been known to be unrealistic about time before, but to San Francisco and back in an hour?! What?!

How did I plan to do this?! Don’t laugh…a robot.  Okay, okay, I know this has the sound of a poorly-written sci-fi novel, but in reality it was all true.  I am working on a documentary right now about Peter Diamandis. If you don’t know who Peter is, he is the co-author of the New York Times Best-Selling Book, Abundance.  He is also the founder of the X-Prize. You know, the one launched in 1996 where some crazy guy offered $10 million to the first team that could circumnavigate the globe twice sub-orbitally, within a 2-week period?  The same one that Richard Branson bought the technology for and created Virgin Galactic?  Yeah…that X-Prize. And that crazy guy who made the offer, and didn’t even know where he was going to get the $10 million from, was Peter.  Peter is also the founder of Singularity University with Google and NASA.  He’s the real deal. And for this documentary, here are a few of Peter’s “friends” we’re interviewing: Richard Branson, Quincy Jones, Will.i.am, and quite a few more.

But today, I am using what’s called a “BEAM” robot.  The BEAM is made by Suitable Technologies, founded by Scott Hasaan, who was the key software architect and developer of Google, Alexa Internet and the Stanford Digital Library—another friend of Peter’s. Yeah, I know, what a slouch!

As I beam into Singularity University on the NASA Campus, I access the robot. My face comes up on the screen so others can see me and talk to me, and I start looking around. It seems eerily similar to what it must feel like for a newborn baby.  Darkness, and then light, and trying to make out where you are and what your surroundings mean…except this time, I’m in a closet…and I have to get out. (…cue joke here.) I start driving forwards, but I realize I have to drive over wires that look like some my film crew, who I flew in from LA, left in the doorway. And then I hear some talking.

I recognize the voices of my crew, so I yell for help, and they come and rescue me, helping me navigate the wires.  I drive down the hallway and make it through a few tight spots, as I check the camera angles my Director of Photography, Ramy, who many of you know, has set up for me, and then I drive to the spot right next to the camera that I would be sitting in if I were there live.  Actually, I had been in that same spot with the same robot about 2 weeks prior, interviewing the legendary futurist Ray Kurzweil, who Forbes Magazine called “the rightful heir to Thomas Edison”, who is also the Chief Engineer at Google.  You may also know him as the inventor of the synthesizer, the inventor of the flat bed scanner, OCR text recognition, and also as the New York Times Best-Selling Author of the book, The Singularity is Near.

As I was waiting today for our interview subject to come in, I see Peter Diamandis, and we catch up for a few minutes as I fill him in on where we are with filming -- he sounds pleased. It’s a nice thing to hear a guy who Fortune Magazine just ranked as one of the 50 Most Influential Leaders in the World in 2014, say good things about you, I’m not gonna’ lie!  After Peter and I catch up, Ramy and I exchange a few words and he asks me if I want to see the room where most of this event is taking place. I say sure, and we head down the hall together.  I keep trying to clip his heels…just for fun. He laughs and starts walking a little faster than the BEAM can so I’ll leave him alone.  But alas, we reach the limit of this robot, the stairs! So we back up and get into place to wait for the interview.

Finally, there’s some hustling and bustling from down the hall and I hear, “He’s coming,” and everyone gets into place.  He rolls in and is upbeat and very cordial, much more so than I was expecting.  We go through the common niceties, I tell him hello from a few of our mutual friends to build rapport.  He engages instantly and makes a few jokes to get back and tell them what he said about our mutual friends, and then says he’s ready to roll for the interview.  “Cameras speeding,” I hear, and we’re off.

I ask the first question and that voice comes out and takes me back to when I was 16 – listening to those self-help CDs in-between tennis matches and pop, rock and country hits.  The voice belongs to personal development juggernaut, Tony Robbins. But now, he is live. At least live with me and my robot.

photo 2

As you can imagine, the interview couldn’t have gone better. I could have practically sat there and stared at Tony and magic would have rolled out of his mouth, but I asked the questions for the perspective I need for the movie. I ask him about Peter, about Abundance, about X-prizes, about Singularity University, and he is very forthcoming about donating millions of his photo 3own dollars to these causes to see the advancement of the future. Tony is a part of this inner circle with Peter – among the richest, most famous people in the world – who all believe “the future is better than you think.”  Why? Because they’re dedicated to making it that way.  And my goal is to empower the messages of Tony Robbins, Peter Diamandis, Richard Branson, Quincy Jones and many others to help the world get out of a scarcity mindset and start helping to create abundance in the future for ourselves and our children.   Just as the interview ends, I realize it’s time for me to get back to my world and my children.  So, we take a quick selfie (of course!) and out I beam, back to Florida, back to the beach.  All in all, I was a bit unrealistic about the time frame. It took more like an hour and a half, but when I got back to the beach, my wife and kids were glad I wasn’t gone for too long, and ready to play in the surf again…all thanks to technology, and a future I couldn’t have even begun to imagine just a couple of years ago, before I met Peter. And I want you to be able to see the future the way I can now, too.

We are going to introduce many of you to these types of technologies when we host our X-Group Mastermind meeting with Peter in the X-Prize office in Los Angeles in February of 2015.  It’s going to be incredible.  Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we have a few spots left for executive producers and producers who want to help fund the movie I’m making on Peter.  I truly believe it is going to win a TON of awards and make a huge impact on the world.  If you’d like to learn more about the X-Group or the movie with Peter, feel free to email me at: Nick@DNAgency.com or call the office at 800-980-1626.

For now, the kids are sleeping, and we’ve got more vacationing to do tomorrow. So, I’m off to dream of a future that’s better than I thought.

…Won’t you join me?

 

 


Why Personal Branding is Worth the Effort: Four Benefits of a CelebrityExpert® Brand

We have written a great deal about personal branding in these blog entries and articles – and today, we are going to step back and review why personal branding is such a big deal to begin with. It’s not just a trend – creating a CelebrityExpert® brand is a powerful growth strategy for your business. The bottom line is that consumers prefer to do business with a trusted expert, so when you become that expert, you have many advantages. Among them:

1) Being the expert allows you to charge higher rates. Think about it… you’re willing to pay a premium price to work with an expert when it comes to your health, right? Or your finances, or your car, and the list goes on. Expertise is valuable, and when you’re the expert, you can charge higher rates and still win the business.

2) Being the expert attracts new business. When your market perceives you as the expert, you can expect customers and clients to actively seek you out. This makes marketing a much easier process and results in dramatic growth.

3) Being the expert leads to more referrals. If referrals from other professionals are an important part of your business model, creating a CelebrityExpert® brand is invaluable. Professionals are very careful about whom they refer clients to, as their name and reputation is also on the line. If you’re the trusted expert in your market, you can expect a flood of referrals to come your way.

4) Being the expert makes it easier to retain clients. It’s much easier, and more cost effective, to retain current clients rather than find new ones. Your expert status makes your clients more likely to continue doing business with you – as long as your service and the results you provide are consistent with the brand you’ve created.

Personal branding isn’t just a trendy subject – it can make a big difference in your bottom line. If you’d like to discuss this subject further, or if you’re ready to get started creating your CelebrityExpert® brand, please get in touch with us today!


Personal Branding 101: Tell Your Story

The marketplace is more competitive than ever before. The weak economy means that consumers and businesses are less likely to spend than they have been in the past, and the arrival of the internet means that the competition is truly global in many cases.

That’s why, as a business owner, your personal brand is more important than ever. You need to stand out from the crowd… or you’ll be lost in it. And one of the best ways to build a memorable brand is to place facts and figures on the backburner and instead focus on storytelling. A good story differentiates you and your business from the competition, and it makes you and your business more memorable.

1) What makes you unique. Don’t start by reciting your resume or telling your audience where you went to college. Focus on interesting, relevant information. For instance, as a retirement advisor, a compelling story could be that your parents or grandparents experience a stressful retirement, and now your passion is making sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing retirement.

2) What your customers struggle with. Your story should go into depth describing the issues that your customers face. Continuing with the previous example, as a retirement advisor you could describe the stress and anxiety that too many retirees face. Tell the story in a way that resonates with your audience.

3) How you and your business can help. Once you’ve introduced the problem that your customers face, you can introduce the solution. Tell them how you leverage your unique abilities to create a solution tailor-made for them.

4) What customers experience as a result. Finally, close your story by discussing the results your customers and clients experience. As a retirement advisor, you could share how your clients have been able to stop worrying about finances, and about outliving their money. They don’t spend their days watching the stock market and stressing out, but instead spend time traveling, golfing, or spending time with the grandkids.

Telling a good story is the key to making yourself memorable. These four tips will help – but please get in touch with us today if you’d like to discuss this subject further!

 


Celebrity Branding 101: Five Steps to a Stronger Personal Brand

A strong personal brand is critical for the success of your business. Specifically, a personal brand that positions you as a leading expert within your marketplace will make it easier to attract and retain clients, and make it possible to charge premium rates and still win the business.

How do you go about creating such a powerful brand? It takes time, and it takes a strategic approach. Below are five steps you can take to build an effective personal brand.

1) Create a business card that sets you apart from the crowd. Your business goes a long way towards creating the first impression that people have of you – particularly in a setting that doesn’t allow for an extended conversation. It’s worth investing into the design and creation of a business card that stands out from the crowd. A great business card makes you memorable and often “hooks” your audience into wanting to know more about you.

2) Demonstrate your expertise by publishing a book. Our society holds authors in high esteem – we simply assume that they must know what they are talking about if they published a book. So take advantage – publish a book on your industry and watch your credibility soar. Writing and publishing a book may sound like an impossibly difficult task, but it’s not. Contact us today to learn more!

3) Get involved in community service. Another great way to raise your profile and do good at the same time is by getting involved in community service. Whether it’s supporting a local charity, assisting in a clean-up day in your town, or pursuing a larger scale cause like cancer research, getting involved in a cause is a great way to build relationships and to let people see what you’re passionate about.

4) Look for opportunities to speak. Speaking in public provides instant credibility. Most people are terrified by the idea of public speaking, and doing so earns instant credibility and respect. Look for opportunities to speak to networking groups, organizations, seminars, or anywhere else your target market gathers. Focus your speeches on providing valuable tips and information to your market.

5) Dress the part. Finally, it’s important to understand that your visual appearance plays an important role in defining your personal brand. Take some time to think about your appearance. For instance, if your brand is “Mr. High Powered Lawyer”, you may want to wear a well-tailored suit every day of the week. On the other hand, if you’re a laid-back, relaxed retirement planner, your wardrobe should be very different. Whatever your “look” may be, it’s important that you consistently dress the part. Over time, what you wear goes a long way towards shaping your perception, so take it seriously.

An effective personal brand is a powerful asset for any business. These five tips will help you get started in the right direction, but please contact us today if you’d like to learn more, or if you’d like some help along the way!


Social Media Marketing: Four Reasons You Can’t Afford to Wait to Get Involved

We’ve written lately about how to get started on social media, but in case you’re not yet convinced that you need to get on social media, this blog entry is for you. As a business owner, social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter give you the opportunity to reach a potentially huge audience for very little cost. Here are four reasons you can’t afford to wait to get involved:

1) Your competitors are on social media. Whether you are on social media or not, you can count on this: you have competition on social media. Businesses in all sorts of industries, from landscaping to law to financial planning, have increasingly turned to social media to market their business. If you’re not engaged, you are at a disadvantage to your competition.

2) Your customers are on social media. Businesses with a young target audience have used social media to great effect. But young people aren’t the only ones using social media today. Numerous studies have shown that individuals of all ages are active on social media – particularly on Facebook. Whether you’re marketing to teens or to retirees, rest assured that your customers are actively using social media!

3) Your website is much more engaging when you’re active on social media. For your website to be effective, it needs to be engaging. And one way to make it more engaging is to incorporate your social media presence. Simple feeds or “widgets” displaying your latest tweet, photos, or status updates are a great way to draw your audience into the conversation you’re having with your market.

4) Your search engine visibility is impacted by social media. Finally, social media profiles and activity are increasingly playing a role in search engine visibility. If you are regularly posting links to your website on social media, you’ve got a better chance of showing up in a prominent location for key search phrases. This, alone, is more than enough reason to get serious about social media!

Questions or comments? Do you need some help getting started on social media? Contact us today to learn more!


Getting Started on Social Media: Four Steps for Success

By now you have heard how important social media is for marketing purposes, and particularly for small businesses who don’t have the multi-million dollar budget to advertise through more traditional channels.

If you’re convinced that your business needs a social media presence but aren’t sure how to begin, here are four keys steps in the process. If you’d like some help along the way, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

1) Select the right platforms for your business. The “Big Three” social networks are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Nearly as popular are networks like YouTube, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest. Every business should have a presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you regularly produce video, YouTube is a must. And if you use images to promote your business, Instagram and Pinterest are invaluable. Finally, while Google+ doesn’t have the same level of popularity as some of the other networks, it’s affiliation with Google’s search engine means that it’s a good idea for most businesses to have a presence.

2) Brand your profile. Once you’ve identified your social networks, it’s important to properly brand your profile. Use your company colors whenever possible, and make sure your logo and tagline are clearly visible. Your social media profiles are often the first exposure a prospect has to your business, so it’s important to make the right first impression.

3) Link to your social media profiles from your website, email marketing campaigns, and so forth. Once your social profiles are up and running, make sure they’re seen! An important way to do this is by linking to them from your website, your email marketing campaigns, and wherever else you can. Some businesses will even include a link to their social media profiles on their business cards!

4) Stay active and engage with your audience. Finally, don’t create your profiles and then forget about them. This is a common scenario – but it’s almost better to have no social media presence at all than one which sits dormant. Post links to your blogs and articles, share links to breaking news, share funny or inspirational quotes, answer questions from your audience… be active!

Questions or comments? Contact us today if you’d like to learn mo


Celebrity Branding Online: Four Common Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

The internet in general, and social media specifically, have revolutionized the way small businesses market themselves. Today, reaching an audience of thousands or even millions doesn’t require a six-figure marketing budget. With the right strategy and proper execution, even a small Mom-and-Pop shop can reach a large audience with their marketing message.

So it’s no surprise that businesses all across the country have turned to social media in order to bolster their marketing efforts. But as with most things in life, there is a learning curve, and many small businesses are forced to learn the hard way by making costly mistakes on social media. Today we’re going to identify four of these common mistakes to avoid:

1) Not branding your profiles. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are very user-friendly. It’s not difficult to upload your business logo and additional collateral. Yet many business owners skip this step, and as a result end up with a generic social media presence which doesn’t enhance their brand or highlight their celebrity status.

2) Not staying consistently active. Creating a social media presence is only the beginning. Once you’re set up with a well-branded profile, it’s important to use it regularly! Many business owners are excited about social media in the beginning, but quickly get distracted by the day-to-day operations of their business. If you want to get results, you need to stay active.

3) Using your profiles purely for self-promotion. Social media is a place for engagement, not one way promotion. Interact with your audience. Answer questions. Provide advice. Post content that provides value to your followers. If all you’re doing is promoting yourself, your audience is quickly going to tune you out.

4) Going “out of character”. Finally, remember that everything you do online reflects your brand. Don’t go out of character –stay true to your CelebrityExpert® brand. Before you post anything, ask yourself, “is this appropriate for my audience and for the brand I am working to build?”

Social media is an incredible tool for business marketing – but it’s easy to make mistakes. Avoid these common errors, and contact us today if you’d like to learn more!  


Personal Branding 101: Are You Leveraging the Power of Social Media?

As we kick off the New Year, it’s an opportune time for business owners to evaluate their branding and marketing efforts and look for opportunities to improve. And one of the best ways to do this, if you aren’t already, is to tap into the power of social media. Social media platforms offer business owners an effective and cost-efficient way to reach their target audience. In this blog entry, we’re going to cover the “big four” social media platforms and a few others. Are you taking advantage of each of them?

1) Facebook. Facebook, the world’s most-used social network, is a great way to connect with your target audience. In addition to posting links to your blogs, articles, and other informational content, you can use it to share photos and video that may be of interest to your audience. If you don’t yet have a Facebook business page for your business, it’s time to get started. Contact us if you’d like some help with the process!

2) Twitter. While Twitter isn’t as visually oriented as Facebook, it’s a great platform to share links to your blogs and articles, as well as breaking news and other information that matters to your audience. For instance, as a tax accountant, you could use Twitter to share breaking news and analysis regarding changes to the tax code.

3) LinkedIn. Every business owner and professional needs a LinkedIn profile. The platform creates an opportunity to network and gain exposure without leaving your office. It’s a great way to hire employees, to create partnerships with other professionals, and to market your business to other business owners.

4) YouTube. Video is an effective way to reach your target audience and help them to feel comfortable with you and your business. YouTube allows you to reach a huge audience- and to share your videos on your website and on other social networks as well.

5) Instagram, Pinterest, and others. There are literally hundreds of social media networks in existence, but not all of them are a good fit for every business. If you’d like to learn more about the variety of social networks that exist, and how you can leverage them to build your brand and grow your business, please contact us today! 


Take Your Personal Brand to the Next Level in 2014

The holiday season is here, and the New Year is right around the corner. That makes this an ideal time to pause and reflect on the state of your business as 2013 winds down and the New Year begins. We’d like to encourage you to take a few moments over the next weeks to evaluate the state of your personal brand. Have you built a brand that establishes you as the unquestioned CelebrityExpert® in your market? Does your brand give you the ability to lock out the competition and build a loyal clientele?

If your brand isn’t where you’d like it to be, here’s the good news: 2014 offers you the opportunity to start fresh and build the powerful personal brand your business needs. Here are four ways you can get started with this process:

1) Get consistently active on social media. Do you have a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube? If so, that’s a great first step. But if you aren’t active on these networks, you’re losing out. Commit to regularly engaging with your social media audience in 2014!

2) Start writing. Writing is an incredible tool for creating your personal brand. You can start with blog entries (like this one!) and articles. To take your credibility to the next level and enhance your CelebrityExpert® status, the next step is writing a book. (If you’re not sure where to begin, we can help!)

3) Leverage the power of video. Are you using video on your website and on social media? If not, you are losing out on a great medium for connecting with your audience and building credibility. The good news is that today’s technology makes it easy to shoot high quality video. So get serious about it in 2014!

4) Pursue speaking opportunities. Whether it’s a networking event, a seminar, or an industry function… speaking about your area of expertise is a powerful branding strategy. Start looking for opportunities that may arise in 2014!

We want 2014 to be the best year yet for you and for your business – and your personal brand has a vital role to play in creating the growth you’re looking for. Contact us today to learn more!


Personal Branding: Four Foundational Principles

In this blog post we are going to focus on the basics. We are going to discuss why personal branding is so effective, and we’re going to cover several key concepts which will keep you focused as you work to create your CelebrityExpert® brand.

1) People buy people. First and foremost, it is important to understand that people buy people. When given the option, consumers prefer to do business with individuals that they know, like, and trust. For that reason, an important focus when creating a personal brand is ensuring that it resonates with your target market in order to achieve these results.

2) Consumers prefer to do business with an expert. Imagine for a moment that you’ve just moved to a new city and your child has a toothache. You need to get her to a dentist. There are a number of possibilities, but one of them is a well-respected author and speaker in addition to his clinical work. All other factors being equal, you’d want to take your child to the respected expert – right? You don’t want to trust your child to anyone but the best! The same is true of your customers. They want to do business with an expert. If you can create a personal brand that positions YOU as that expert, your business will benefit tremendously.

3) You won’t be remembered unless you’re memorable. Most of the time, when you meet someone, they’re not going to have an immediate need of your services. But when the need arises, months or years down the road, the question is… will YOU be the name that pops to mind? An effective personal brand is a memorable personal brand. This is why lead capture is so important as well - don't leave it to chance for them to remember you. Instead you should capture the information of your prospects and constantly deliver valuable content to build trust, and ultimately become their "friend in the business."

4) Personal branding is about highlighting your strengths, not becoming someone you’re not. It’s easy to get carried away while working on your personal brand. But always remember, the market is very good at spotting a “fake.” People know when a business or an individual is trying to mislead them. So don’t create a brand that isn’t really you—instead, your goal should be to create a CelebrtiyExpert® brand that leverages your unique strengths and abilities.

If you’d like to learn more about personal branding, or if you need some assistance along the way, we can help. Give us a call today to learn more!


Personal Branding 101: You Don’t Have to Be An Extrovert to Succeed

We speak about personal branding a whole lot, as you can imagine. And one of our favorite parts about speaking is having the opportunity to talk to business owners before and afterwards. We are often asked great questions, and one that we hear from time to time goes like this:

“I love everything you said about personal branding and I know that my business needs it. But… I’m just not a people person. I could never get in front of a large crowd. I can barely handle a networking event. So what do I do?”

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to be an extrovert to build a powerful personal brand! Today, we are going to cover several ways that you can create an engaging and impressive brand without getting up to speak to an audience, and without attempting to charm a whole room full of networking professionals.

1) Publish Blogs and Articles. Writing blogs and articles discussing your market and your area of expertise demonstrates that you know what you’re talking about. And you can do it in the peace and quiet of your office or your home! Focus on writing content that provides answers to your market’s common questions, and that provides value to your readers.

2) Write a Book. In our culture, we associate authorship with expertise. If you write a book, you’ve achieved an instant credibility boost. And yes, before you dismiss this idea… we can guarantee that you DO have a book in you! Let us know if you’d like to discuss this further.

3) Focus on Relationships. People are important – but you don’t have to take them on in large numbers! Focus your “networking” efforts on getting to know key professionals in a one-on-one setting. One strong relationship is much more valuable than 10 surface-level relationships anyway.

4) Practice What You Preach. Finally, live out your brand. Let your market see that you’re honest and genuine. Over time, if you stay true to your values and consistently do what you say you’re going to do, your brand and your reputation will grow on its own.

Yes, sometimes personal branding can be easier if you’re extroverted and willing to talk to anyone, anytime. But you don’t have to be an extrovert to succeed! Hopefully this blog entry provided some helpful tips… but please contact us today if you want to know more!


KIM KARDASHIAN AND THE POWER OF A CELEBRITY BRAND

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: Kim Kardashian And The Power Of A Celebrity Brand

Kim Kardashian, according to CelebNetWorth.com, gets paid about $20,000 to tweet out a product endorsement on her Twitter account. She earns from $50,000 to $100,000 for one appearance at clubs, parties, and other events. For some international events, she’s been paid a cool million. It’s a lot cheaper if you come just to see her--she supposedly charged guests from $1,000 to $2,500 to attend her 30th birthday party in 2010.

In 2012, according to Forbes Magazine, she earned a total of $18 million from product lines, personal appearances, her TV series, and everything else the Kardashian empire has its hands in.

As everyone knows, celebrities like Kardashian, Justine Timberlake, Heidi Klum, andeven the Olsen twins from the old Full House sitcom can generate income from all sorts of side ventures--just by attaching the power of their celebrity brands to them. Because they’ve created names that their audiences know and respond to, they can use that name to generate consistent and meaningful revenue--even when they seem to be famous just for being famous! In other words, the celebrity brand is what drives their success, not their talent.

You might think that in the business world, the rules are different. But are they? Maybe you’re not a reality TV star, a supermodel, or a hot musical act that might show up onSaturday Night Live, but you can still establish a name for yourself that can create some very profitable results.

Let’s go deeper into this idea.

What do the celebrities we named a couple paragraphs ago have in common? One thing--they had a very visible presence in the public eye. Timberlake and the Olsen twins started as child stars on TV shows. Heidi Klum has been a top model for over 20 years. And Kim Kardashian . . . well, most of us know how she first attracted so much attention.

Now, we’re not claiming a lawyer, a dentist, or a financial planner, to name a few of the types of clients we handle, will ever reach Kardashian-istic (yes, we know that’s not a real word) heights. What can happen, however, is that through the same kind of concentrated exposure, any entrepreneur, professional, or business owner can develop their own powerful personal brands that pay off in a multiplicity of ways, such as:

  • Increased fees for services: Obviously, the more you’re recognized in your field and known in your community, the more people will pay for access to your expertise.
  • More clients and customers: Your celebrity brand will draw more people to your door for your products and/or services, simply because they know your name and that gives you more credibility.
  • Paid media appearances: As an established expert, you’ll be in demand as a speaker and possibly even on for-pay panels. You can also hold webinars and in-person seminars and charge top dollar.
  • Recognition in your field: The more of a leadership position you assume in your industry, the more others who are in the same business will look to you for your advice and guidance. Many of our clients generate a lot of extra revenue by coaching others who do what they do.
  • Entree to exclusive circles: Successful people love to get together with other successful people and compare notes--or even create a formal mastermind group, as defined by Napoleon Hill in his groundbreaking book, Think and Grow Rich, to assist with each other’s entrepreneurial efforts. The more powerful your celebrity brand is, the more access you’ll have to these high-level summits.

While the celebrity brand concept remains the same whether you’re an Olsen twin or a tax attorney, the game does have to be played a little differently in the business world. While living crazy lives does nothing but awesome things for the Kardashians, negative attention in the business world isn’t really what you’re after. So before you decide to set fire to a hotel room or take an Anthony Weiner-style selfie, remember that you need to associate three important elements--trust, credibility, and expertise--with your celebrity brand.

At our agency, we make that happen for our clients by placing them in best-selling books; high-production branded films; interview shows that are broadcast on CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX affiliates as well as other cable news outlets; and in prestigious print outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, and USA Today. In all those venues, they not only gain the right kind of exposure, but they’re also able to prove their expertise in a way that’s benefit-oriented for the reader or viewer.

The bottom line is that when you make yourself as visible as possible and, at the same time, build a powerful brand story, you create a celebrity brand that packs a punch that would leave Rocky Balboa reeling. So, yes, in some ways, we’re recommending that you should actually emulate Kim Kardashian--but you still might want to think twice about getting into a relationship with Kanye West.

JW Dicks (@jwdicks) and Nick Nanton (@nicknanton) are best-selling authors who consult for small- and medium-size businesses on how to build their business through personality-driven marketing, personal-brand positioning, guaranteed media, and mining hidden business assets. They offer free articles, white papers, and case studies at celebritybrandingagency.com.


Personal Branding 101: To Become a Celebrity… Act Like a Celebrity!

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is very simple: celebrities are regular people, just like you and I. They have special talents and abilities, just like you do. They just know how to promote their expertise, and today we are going to talk about how you can too.

Why is this important?

As we have discussed in previous blogs and articles, your business can benefit tremendously if you create a powerful CelebrityExpert® brand. Becoming the “expert” in your market leads to more customers, better retention rates, and ultimately more money in your pocket.

So the fact that celebrities are people just like you… means that you have what it takes to create a CelebrityExpert® brand of your own.

Celebrity status isn’t something you’re born with (ok, unless you’re born to British royalty), it’s something you develop. And below are three ways you can develop your celebrity status:

1) Network like a celebrity. One thing virtually every celebrity has in common is a long list of contacts in key places. As the saying goes, it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know. Make it a priority to build relationships with important players in your marketplace. You may be amazed at the doors that open up to you.

2) Speak like a celebrity. Speaking in public creates a powerful perception of expertise. Most people are terrified of speaking in public, and if you’re wiling do to so, you’ve created instant credibility. Even if it’s as simple as speaking to a networking group or a business function from time to time, public speaking is a key element to creating a CelebrityExpert® brand.

3) Write like a celebrity. Writing about a subject, any subject, implies expertise. Writing a book on your industry, aimed at your target market, is one of the most powerful steps you can take when it comes to building your brand. And while it may sound like an overwhelming project, trust me when I tell you that writing a book isn’t as difficult as you might think. And I guarantee that you’ve got a book in you, even if it is hard for you to picture right now. Write a book and cement your CelebrityExpert® status within your marketplace!

If you’d like to learn more about how YOU can become a celebrity within your marketplace, please get in touch with me or any of the Agents at our Agency today!


Celebrity Branding: Four “Little Things” That Will Enhance Your Celebrity Status Overnight

Building a CelebrityExpert® brand is a process. And to achieve this goal, we help our clients to leverage a variety of media tools, from video productions to cutting-edge websites and everything in between. But as I tell clients, building a powerful personal brand isn’t just about large-scale media strategies. Just as important are the “little things” that a business owner must get right in order to build an authentic brand.

Below are four of these “little things” that play a big role in creating a powerful CelebrityExpert® brand.

1) Sharpen your elevator speech. When you have 20-30 seconds to tell someone about your business… what are you going to say? A well-crafted elevator speech is critical in order to intrigue your audience and help them quickly grasp your unique skills and abilities. Take some time to practice your elevator speech – and ask for feedback from friends, family, and colleagues.

2) Dress the part. It’s a simple principle, but something many people overlook… you have to dress the part! If your brand is “Mr. High Powered Lawyer”, your suit needs to match that image. Just as an actor in a movie is always dressed for his or her role, you should always be “in character” for the brand you are building.

3) Invest in an appropriate business card. It’s easy to find cheap business cards, but is that really the first impression you want to make? If you don’t already have one, invest into a business card that projects the credibility and the expertise you are seeking to develop. You never want to be embarrassed to hand out your card!

4) Adopt a “celebrity mindset.”Finally, begin thinking of yourself as a CelebrityExpert®. Carry yourself appropriately, and you will be amazed at how differently your audience begins to perceive you. This doesn’t mean that you should be cocky – but you should be confident in yourself and your expertise.

Questions or comments? Get in touch with me, or any of the Agents in our Agency, if you’d like to learn more!

 


Is Your Personal Brand Lost In Translation? How To Clearly Communicate Your Value

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: Is Your Personal Brand Lost In Translation? How To Clearly Communicate Your Value

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“The small grass is feel ashamed to smile, please don’t bother it.”

“Please use the escalator on your behind.”

“Take the Initiative for Bringing Invalidity Pregnant Parks.”

No, we’re not making the above phrases up. These are actual public signs posted in foreign countries, where English is definitely not the first language. Now, the reader can almost get the idea of what they were aiming at – but not quite. That’s because the authors of those signs have some of the right words – but definitely not all of them.

Result? A lot of blog sites that compile these kinds of signs because they’re funny to those of us who understand proper English. But these kinds of “lost in translation” examples also illustrate a huge point that’s important to everyone who wants to effectively communicate their personal brand: You may think you’re talking the language of your potential customers or clients, but, in reality, you may not be making your point any more clearly than the handicapped bathroom sign that reads, “Deformed Man Toilet.”

That’s because, as an authority in your field, you have a certain expertise that most of your audience does not. That’s great, because that expertise is the basis of your business and brand; you’re selling a knowledge base that your customers lack. But that advantage also sets up a challenge, in that those customers may have difficulty understanding what you’re trying to convey. Just because you know what you’re talking about doesn’t mean they do.

The most common causes of miscommunication in conveying your brand are:

  • Providing inadequate information, so that your audience reaches their own conclusions, rather than the one you intended. For example, if you fail to let people know why you have credibility in your area, they may not fully believe your messaging.
  • Misinterpretation, where you word things in such a way that the audience gets the wrong idea. A good example of this is when you over-explain something and people think it’s too complicated for them to deal with. 
  • Cultural differences, as seen in the first two paragraphs of this blog! If your brand extends beyond the borders of your country, you can easily make the wrong impression - and have no idea why!

The good news is that you can solve these potential problems before they happen – by making sure your communication is efficient and effective. Here are a few ways your personal branding efforts can bridge the gap between what you know and what your potential customer doesn’t:

  • Consider the best way to convey your information

Is it better to do a series of internet videos to communicate your personal brand? Or are a series of books better suited to your purpose? Decide what medium allows you to most clearly articulate your personal brand – as well as gives you the best shot at reaching your specific niche.

  • Use the simplest, clearest language to communicate.

Jargon is a great shortcut to “talk shop” when you’re commiserating with fellow professionals – but it’s the worst possible way to talk to your leads. The more complex your language is, the more likely you’re liable to leave your audiences confused – so use plain and simple wording whenever possible.

  • Go from A to Z.

Structure can be all-important when you’re talking to an audience. The old three-point rule of “tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em, tell ‘em what you told ‘em” is actually some ancient wisdom from Aristotle himself. Don’t jump around with information; instead, put it in a clear and understandable order that people can easily follow.

  • Tailor your presentation to the audience you’re talking to.

If you’re communicating with a very specific niche, make sure you speak their language.  If it’s a group of soccer moms, be practical and  down to earth, if it’s a C-level seminar, be polished and informative. And, if you’re in another country, make sure you know the rules of the game there. Remember, it’s all about them, not all about you.

There’s no doubt miscommunication can be costly; just ask the state of New Jersey, because it cost them $200 million a few years ago. Communication should always be a decisive advantage to your personal brand, not a detriment – so make sure your message is coming through loud and clear!

 

 


Personal Branding for Success: Five Benefits of a Powerful Personal Brand

We have talked a whole lot about personal branding in these articles and on our blog. We have talked about branding strategy. We have talked about practical steps for creating a powerful brand. We have even looked at “hits and misses” from celebrities and public figures in order to gain insight into what to do, and what NOT to do, when it comes to branding.

Today, we are going to take a different approach and highlight several practical benefits of a strong brand. As we have discussed, an effective personal brand positions a business owner as a credible expert and a celebrity within his or her market – a CelebrityExpert®. And below are five benefits that you can expect from such a brand. A strong personal brand will lead to…

1) More demand from consumers. As I’ve written before, when given the choice, people prefer to do business with a recognized expert. Imagine you’ve just moved to a new town and one of your children begins experiencing severe tooth pain. You have to find a new dentist, and quickly. If there are a number of options but one of them is a recognized expert, a published author, and frequently appears on TV… isn’t he or she going to be your first choice? All other things being equal, I know I’m going to choose that dentist 100% of the time… aren’t you?

2) The ability to charge higher prices. Higher demand and greater credibility gives you the ability to charge more money and still win the business. We just examined the appeal of a strong celebrity brand, and it’s natural that consumers are willing to pay more in order to work with a recognized expert. This improves your profit margin and the overall financial health of your business!

3) Increased customer loyalty. In addition to bringing in new business, a CelebrityExpert® brand makes it easier to retain your current clientele. It’s a comforting feeling to know that you are dealing with the “best” – whether you’re a dentist, a lawyer, an accountant, a landscaper, a realtor, and so forth. As long as you continue to provide great service, your customers are going to be more loyal than ever.

4) More referrals from professionals. When professionals need to refer their client to someone else with a different area of expertise, credibility is a primary concern. The last thing the professional can afford to do is refer a client to a business that isn’t credible. A strong personal brand makes it easy for professionals to feel great about sending business your way.

5) Less direct competition. Finally, a strong, focused brand makes it very difficult for the competition. Even if they offer products or services that are very similar to yours, without the CelebrityExpert® brand, they are at a significant disadvantage.

As you can see, personal branding isn’t just a trend or a “box” that must be checked off—a powerful brand can be a game changer for a business. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch with me or any of the Agents at our Agency today!


Personal Branding: Five Simple Ways to Enhance Your Celebrity Status

If you have been reading this blog regularly, you know how valuable it is to build a brand that establishes you as a CelebrityExpert® within your market. Developing your Celebrity status will help you bring in more business, allow you to charge higher rates, and make it easier to retain clients and customers. We’ve spent a great deal of time discussing strategies to develop such a personal brand, and today we’re going to cover five simple tactics that you can put in place to help you enhance your Celebrity status.

1) Make the right impression with a strong business card. Your business card plays an important role in formulating the first impression that you create. So it’s important that your card positions you in the right light. That doesn’t necessarily mean a card that is flashy or dramatic—but your business card should represent the brand you’re building.

2) Demonstrate your knowledge via social media. Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook give you the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise to the world. Share articles that are relevant to your audience. Provide insight and analysis of breaking news concerning your market. This approach provides value to your audience while reinforcing your expertise at the same time.

3) Use your email signature to build your brand. Many of you send hundreds of emails each week. So why not brand this interaction, each and every time? You can do this with your email signature, which should summarize your points of differentiation while reinforcing your brand. Include a logo as well, if possible.

4) Dress the part. If you’re branding yourself as a high-powered lawyer, showing up in a badly worn suit that hasn’t been dry-cleaned in a month won’t work. Similarly, if your brand is a personable, friendly, laid-back retirement advisor, the flashy suit doesn’t fit. Dress appropriately for the brand you are developing!

5) Donate your expertise. Finally, one of the best ways to demonstrate your expertise and reinforce your brand is to find causes or charities to get involved in. This gives you the opportunity to utilize your abilities while working for a great cause at the same time. One way many of our clients have done this is by embracing the Entrepreneurs International Foundation, and I couldn’t be any prouder or more grateful!

Questions or comments? Please contact me or any of the Agents at our Agency to learn more!


Personal Branding: Five Simple Ways to Enhance Your Celebrity Status

If you have been reading this blog regularly, you know how valuable it is to build a brand that establishes you as a CelebrityExpert® within your market. Developing your Celebrity status will help you bring in more business, allow you to charge higher rates, and make it easier to retain clients and customers. We’ve spent a great deal of time discussing strategies to develop such a personal brand, and today we’re going to cover five simple tactics that you can put in place to help you enhance your Celebrity status.

1) Make the right impression with a strong business card. Your business card plays an important role in formulating the first impression that you create. So it’s important that your card positions you in the right light. That doesn’t necessarily mean a card that is flashy or dramatic—but your business card should represent the brand you’re building.

2) Demonstrate your knowledge via social media. Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook give you the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise to the world. Share articles that are relevant to your audience. Provide insight and analysis of breaking news concerning your market. This approach provides value to your audience while reinforcing your expertise at the same time.

3) Use your email signature to build your brand. Many of you send hundreds of emails each week. So why not brand this interaction, each and every time? You can do this with your email signature, which should summarize your points of differentiation while reinforcing your brand. Include a logo as well, if possible.

4) Dress the part. If you’re branding yourself as a high-powered lawyer, showing up in a badly worn suit that hasn’t been dry-cleaned in a month won’t work. Similarly, if your brand is a personable, friendly, laid-back retirement advisor, the flashy suit doesn’t fit. Dress appropriately for the brand you are developing!

5) Donate your expertise. Finally, one of the best ways to demonstrate your expertise and reinforce your brand is to find causes or charities to get involved in. This gives you the opportunity to utilize your abilities while working for a great cause at the same time. One way many of our clients have done this is by embracing the Entrepreneurs International Foundation, and I couldn’t be any prouder or more grateful!
Questions or comments? Please contact me or any of the Agents at our Agency to learn more!


Every Entrepreneur’s Biggest Mistake (And How To Avoid It!)

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: Every Entrepreneur's Biggest Mistake (And How To Avoid It!)

In 2006, Salemi Industries thought they had a surefire moneymaking product. It was something totally new that (a) had an obvious need and (b) could be sold worldwide. Anthony Ferranti, the man behind the innovative product, had noticed that with the widespread usage of cell phones in public areas, callers needed a private place to have their conversations--and to not disturb others in, say, a restaurant. So he decided to create a solution.

That solution was his invention of what he called “The Cell Zone”, a large plastic pod that he saw as the modern equivalent of the phone booth. You could step into The Cell Zone and have a perfectly private talk without being bothered and without bothering anyone else. The early signs were good--The Cell Zone proved to be a sensation at that year’s Restaurant Show, where eatery owners expressed enormous enthusiasm for the product.

Now guess how many Cell Zones the company ended up selling? You might have an idea since you’ve probably never heard of it or seen one. The company ended up selling less than 300, and losing close to $650,000 in the process. Turned out restaurants didn’t care for the price ($3,500) and they didn’t want to give up the square footage to accommodate the privacy pods.

The moral of this particular story? You can have what you think is an awesome product with the greatest potential in the world--and still fall flat on your face. And here’s why: because, before you put everything into perfecting whatever it is you want to offer, you never tried to actually sell it.

Recently, the Harvard Business Review published an article in which they surveyed 120 entrepreneurs from all around the world to ask them what their biggest mistake had been with a product or service launch. The number one answer of more than half of these business leaders? They didn’t try to sell it early enough. To quote one of those entrepreneurs, “Don’t make anything until you sell it. Get people really interested in buying it before you invest too much time and effort.”

The fact is that few things really “sell themselves”--especially if they’re new to the marketplace. According to Booz & Company, 66% of new products fail within two years, and, according to the Doblin Group, an astonishing 96% of all innovations fail to deliver any return on a company’s investment.

Here are a few tips on how to presell your launch, so you can know whether it’s worth moving forward, or whether you need to either change it up or drop it altogether:

Beware of the Bubble!

Another regret expressed by many of the entrepreneurs surveyed by the Harvard Business Review was that they let themselves be swayed by initial sales to friends and family. These kinds of people obviously want to support you and, if the investment isn’t too big, will happily buy your product. You can also end up depending too much on your staff or co-workers’ enthusiasm for something new you want to bring to market. Again, they want to believe in what you’re doing and often won’t give you a truthful impression of what’s waiting for you in the cold, unforgiving marketplace. So don’t rely on the opinions of those in your “bubble”--survey others who don’t really have a reason to prop up your new product with manufactured praise.

Co-Create With Your Potential Customers

Today, more than ever, buyers want to feel involved with what they purchase and use--and they want to know that the seller is listening to what they have to say. That’s why increasingly the concept of co-creation, involving consumers in the actual development of a product or service, is becoming a dominant business approach. Francis Gouillart, author of The Power of Co-Creation: Build It With Them to Boost Growth, Productivity, and Profits, says a great deal of today’s R&D is being done through social media. "Social media has liberated social forces...What used to be a fairly isolated political process has become a form of business," says Gouillart.

Try Out Your Sales “Story”

We’ve written frequently about the concept of StorySelling--and, as a matter of fact, we have a whole book on the subject coming out this summer. That’s why we believe it’s crucial to see if you have a powerful enough story to tell about your new product or service--one that will convert a prospect into a buyer. For example, we will frequently discuss with a few key clients a new service we’re thinking about providing, to make sure people like them would actually want to pay for the value it would bring to their business. And they are able to do the same thing, because we provide them with a platform to share new ideas through different channels of media--print, television, radio, blogs, and books--which enables them to gauge reaction and see what sparks excitement.

Of course, some products just aren’t destined to be successes--celery-flavored Jellois one that comes to mind! But if you take the time and put as much effort into your selling as you do into your product development, you’ll have the advantage of knowing whether your new offering can really take off from the launching pad!

 


Personal Branding: Confidence is Key to Making a Great First Impression

Creating a strong first impression is important when it comes to creating a strong personal brand. The first impression you give sticks in the mind of the people you meet—for better or for worse. And one of the most important things you can do to create a powerful first impression is to project confidence.

But this is often easier said than done. I have worked with plenty of business owners who struggled to project confidence—even though they were very successful and highly intelligent individuals. Here’s a secret: you don’t have to actually be confident to project confidence. And oddly enough, training yourself to project confidence even when you don’t feel it will often help you become more confident. (You’ve heard the expression “fake it ‘til you make it.”)

As somebody who often speaks in front of large audiences and interacts with world-class entertainers and business leaders, I’ve had to develop my sense of confidence as well. And to help you make the same journey, I’d like to share three tips to help you project confidence so that you can make a stronger first impression and create a more powerful personal brand:

1) Turn off your “internal critic.” We all have our own personal internal critic… he (or she) lives in our head. The internal critic is quick to point out flaws and criticize plans. “They won’t take you seriously.” “They’ll think you’re an idiot.” “YOU could never pull that off.” The amazing thing is that the people you interact with are rarely (if ever) as critical of you as you are of yourself. So stop being your own worst critic.

2) Recognize your own expertise. You’re great at what you do. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be running a successful business. Take some time to think about what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve learned. Embrace the reality that you are great at what you do, and that others can benefit from your perspective. Of course, there’s a line between confidence and cockiness that you definitely don’t want to cross. Stay humble! You can be secure in your own abilities without being a show-off.

3) Use body language. Finally, use body language to convey confidence whether you feel it or not. Start with a strong handshake. Speak slowly and clearly. Look your conversation partners in the eye. Sit up straight, keep your shoulders straight. This is all review—but it’s easy to forget, and it’s important!

Confidence is key to creating a great first impression and to building a strong personal brand. If you’re not as confident as you should be, I hope that you’ll find these tips to be helpful. And remember, if you have to… fake it ‘til you make it!


Boost Your Personal Brand… in Ten Minutes or Less

I talk to a lot of business owners every year. Between speeches, seminars, conferences, and similar events, I am blessed to have the opportunity to get to know business owners from all over the country in a wide variety of industries.

And over time, I have come to identify a number of common “themes” that business owners often use during our conversations.

One of the most common is something like this… “Nick, I really like what you have to say about personal branding – I just don’t have the time.” So today, I’m going to cover several steps you can take to strengthen your personal brand without spending much time at it.

1) When you meet with a client, tell a story. The best way to communicate your personal brand is through a story. This is true no matter what channel you are using – social media, TV, a book, whatever. If you can tell a story that reflects your expertise and reinforces your brand, it will stick in the mind of your audience much more effectively than simply rattling off a list of accomplishments. The next time you’re meeting with a client, try to work in a story!

2) Upgrade your email signature. Many of you send hundreds of emails per week. Your email signature is an opportunity to broadcast your brand repeatedly. At the least, make sure it includes a brief summary of what you do. Consider including your logo and other branding as well.

3) Tweet something personal – a joke, a recap of your latest adventure, an inspiring quote, or even an article you found helpful. Many business owners are intimidated by Twitter and social media in general. They often feel that it simply demands too much time. But if you can make a habit of creating a short post once or twice each week, it will help you “get the word out” to your audience. If even this sounds like too much, you can also delegate to your team.

Obviously, this short list is only a starting point. The truth is that you can create a powerful brand without spending a huge amount of time each week—and I hope these suggestions will help get your wheels turning. If you’d like to learn more, please get in touch with me or with any of the Agents at our Agency!


The Critic, The Mouseketeer, And The Iron Lady: Three Giants In Personal Branding

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: The Critic, The Mouseketeer, And The Iron Lady: Three Giants In Personal Branding

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Recently, the world mourned the passing of three very different and unique personalities--Margaret ThatcherAnnette Funicello, and Roger Ebert. Each member of this high-powered trio left a mark on those who loved and admired them. They also enjoyed fame for the vast majority of their lifetimes, and all three were even the subjects of movies (Meryl Streep won an Oscar last year for her portrayal of Thatcher inThe Iron Lady, Funicello had a highly rated TV movie produced about her life, and Ebert is the subject of the documentary Life Itself, which is yet to be finished).

But beyond that, you wouldn’t think they had much in common. These were not three people you would expect to see in the same room, let alone the same sentence. Think about their widely diverse careers:

These three each had a personal brand that the years never diminished. We think it’s instructional to look at why these three names endured--and will continue to endure--when so many others have faded into obscurity.

  • Authenticity

We’ve written often about how authenticity is probably the most important trait for a personal brand to have, and these three had it in spades. Of all the criticisms that might be launched at them, “phony” is one that would never make the cut. They were invariably true to themselves, no matter how fashions, trends, or politics changed.

When that level of authenticity is firmly in place, a public figure will always continue to pick up followers rather than lose them. All of us encounter so many less-than-genuine people who, depending on what situation they find themselves in, present an array of different faces, that it’s a breath of fresh air to encounter those who stick to their guns.

  • Consistency

Along with that authenticity came consistency. Annette was always very respectful of Walt Disney, the man who discovered her, to the point where she refused to wear skimpy bathing suits in her beach movies because he disapproved of them. Similarly, Roger Ebert championed underdog movies as well as causes he believed in, and rarely backed down from a fight. And when it came to Thatcher, anyone nicknamed “The Iron Lady” isn’t likely to bend with the wind!

When you’re consistent with your words and actions, you never disappoint those who already admire you and you end up earning the respect of the rest. Inconsistency, in contrast, creates a blurry personal brand that people have difficulty getting excited about.

  • Courage

Now, courage isn’t usually a trait we ascribe to a personal brand, but these three people in particular definitely make us think twice about that omission. We were being a little coy earlier when we said these three had nothing in common besides their fame. The fact is that all three battled long-term debilitating diseases; Thatcher withAlzheimer’s, Ebert with cancer, and Funicello for over 20 years with multiple sclerosis. The courage displayed in those battles made us admire these people even more and feel more bonded to them as well.

How someone deals with tragedy can define that person more than how they deal with triumph. In the case of these three, particularly Ebert and Funicello who were able to deal with their afflictions more publicly, their stature actually grew as a result of the health difficulties they found themselves having to deal with. Their struggles were inspirational, not only to those who shared these diseases, but to those of us who just couldn’t help admiring how they faced their fates with openness and a positive attitude.

Now, underpinning all three attributes we just described was one more invaluable asset--strength. Every successful personal brand has it, as did these three. They not only set the mark for how to create an enduring personal brand, but also on how to live a life.


The Kanye And Kim Kardashian Lesson In Personal Branding: Combining Audiences For Impact

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: The Kanye And Kim Kardashian Lesson In Personal Branding: Combining Audiences For Impact

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Hip-hop star Kanye West may be a musical genius--but he’s definitely not one of the most liked celebrities around. He’s infamous for interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009, as well as other public displays of bad behavior. When even the president of the United States goes out of his way to call you a jackass, you know you might have an image problem.

Keeping all that in mind, you might think Kanye’s days as a mainstream celebrity are over. And yet, who do you continually see in online gossip headlines, as well as entertainment TV shows? Kanye West. And why? Because, of course, he’s dating Kim Kardashian.

To say Kanye and Kim have different followings is to understate the obvious. The former has a pack of fervent music fans, the latter has a huge reality TV base. If one were to be cynical, one would say they only got together to grow their respective audiences--by tapping into each other’s celebrity status to burnish their own. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

Actually, it’s a time-honored tactic in show business to team up to increase the popularity of both parties. Think about two of 2012’s biggest hits, The Avengers and The Expendables 2. Both realized a lot more box office profits simply because a whole lot of popular heroes were together for the first time ever and their fans came together in movie theaters as well.

And, by the way, it happens in politics too. Recently, ultra-liberal Democrat Cory Bookerteamed up with ultra-conservative Republican Bill Frist to make national appearances for the cause of anti-obesity. Whether these two are both seeking to raise their profiles or are genuinely concerned about this issue (or, most likely, both), it’s clear they got together to make the biggest impact possible--by combining their very separate audiences to dramatic effect.

This works for business branding purposes as well. When you partner up with the right person--someone who has their own strong following and/or unique talents--the combination usually packs more power than each individual has on his or her own. Even more importantly, you also get access to that person’s specific audience.

For example, we’re honored to be able to work on book and TV projects with such marketing and business heavyweights as Brian TracyDan Kennedy and Jack Canfield. But it’s good business for all concerned, because these greats get renewed exposure to our network in a whole new context--and our network, naturally, feels privileged to work with these legendary figures.

So think about who you can partner up with on a new project or business that could bring your product or service to a whole new audience--namely, somebody else’s. And keep in mind the following guidelines, suggested by Entrepreneur magazine, when you start searching for the right someone to join forces with:

1. Do they share your values?
If you and/or your business represent certain values, you don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t have the same affinity with those values--or, worse, openly contradicts them. You not only risk angering your base, you also risk undermining your whole business! The only exception to this rule is when, like Frist and Booker, you come together to support a cause bigger than the both of you.

2. Do they complement you and your business?
You don’t want to work with someone who does the exact same thing as you; you want to work with someone who has skills and assets that complement yours. Otherwise, that person could steal your thunder and your business. When you work with people that bring something new to the party, however, they make you look like you’re bringing added value to your customers.

3. Do they help you do your business better?
Sometimes a partner can actually fill in a critical hole in your business, such as improve your delivery system or offer a useful product extension of what you already provide. This isn’t an absolute necessity when it comes to choosing who you work with--but it is a definite plus to be on the lookout for.

4. Will both of you benefit?
When a partnership is unbalanced in this department, things have the potential to turn ugly. Resentments build quickly over one person feeling like they’re getting merely breadcrumbs, while the other is gorging on a loaf and a half. Both of you should know, going in, how this joint venture is going to do good things for each party--otherwise, you’re most likely headed for an unpleasant ending.

Celebrity Branding almost always benefits when more than one celebrity is involved. When you pick the right partner, you increase your credibility, your fan base and your star power. But there is one catch--and that’s that two negatives do not make a positive.

For example, while Kanye and Kim may have made a big media splash when they hooked up, they may have also inadvertently increased their number of individual haters. Why? Becausethey both have huge negative ‘Q’ Scores (the measurement of celebrity likeability), leading some news commentators to speculate as to whether they may actually have created the most toxic couple of all time!

So double up--not down--and double your success in the process. All it takes is the right partner to expand your market base and your influence.


Personal Branding: Be a Giver, Not a Taker

The legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar used to say that “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

He was right—but you wouldn’t know that by the way much of our culture operates today, especially in business. Businesses and professionals often seem to approach those around them with a “what can I get out of this” mentality.

What does this have to do with personal branding?

Personal branding is all about defining and communicating your personality, your abilities, and your strengths. Establishing yourself as talented, intelligent, experienced, and so on is very important. But I’d like to challenge you to add something else to the brand you are creating: brand yourself as a giver. As someone who looks for opportunities to help others get what they want. If Zig Ziglar was right (and I believe that he was), this will ensure your own success as well.

Practically, here are several ways to become a “giver” and build your brand at the same time.

Connect people. Sometimes, all it takes is a brief introduction to solve two problems at once – An employer or individual looking for an employee or a partner, and another individual looking for an opportunity. Look for opportunities to connect people- they’ll appreciate it!

Lend a hand to a good cause. Look for an opportunity to contribute to a local cause or charity. It doesn’t have to be financial – donate your time to a good cause, and encourage your staff to do the same. Investing back into the community is the right thing to do, and it also improves your visibility. Many of our clients have led the way on this issue—all of the authors that we help publish have agreed to donate their royalties to Entrepreneurs International, and we were proud to be a part of a “Mission for Good” trip to benefit an orphanage in Mexico along with several clients.

Speak at local schools. Speaking at a school or a college is a great way to encourage and equip students while building your own brand at the same time. It’s also very rewarding – speaking at the University of Florida (my alma mater) is one of my absolute favorite things to do.

Looking for opportunities to give, rather than to get, may seem counterintuitive—especially in business. But it’s the right thing to do, it’s good for your personal brand, and it’s good for your business!


Branding 101: How Will the American Airlines – US Airways Merger Play Out?

The business world has been buzzing since the announcement of a major merger between US Airways and American Airlines earlier this month. As a frequent flyer, I can testify that this story got my attention too!

Obviously, a merger of this scale is enormously complex. And one of the many factors that must be carefully managed is the customer experience that will be provided. This is no small challenge when you’re dealing with businesses of this size—particularly in an industry where customer service is often suspect.

A recent article on Forbes.com previews these challenges and offers some suggested areas of focus for the airlines. I think that many of these principles could be applied to your business, as well. Take a look:

Setting and then keeping new public performance benchmarks. The new airline could establish targets — on-time, satisfaction — and launch new ways to not only narrate its efforts but new incentives for its operations to meet them.

Committing to customer benefits. Do you understand the rules for what an airline does when weather cancels your flight? American could specify the principles for how it treats (and charges) its passengers and thereby change the industry. What differentiates its loyalty programs? What isn’t an extra charge?

Creating communities for real participation. The new airline could forsake Facebook pages and other silly social media marketing stunts, and involve its passengers in real communities to test systems, programs, processes, etc. Make us all co-operators.

Fixing employee relations first and always. American, like any airline, is in the service business, and the biggest (if not only) variable in its delivery are its employees. Making sure they were happy and impassioned would differentiate the brand. Make the commitment to them, and then tell us, too.

Guaranteeing what will never change. Financial circumstances are always changing and can be used to legitimize many corporate behaviors. Which ones will the new American never forsake (leadership on safety is one, of course)? Again, declare them.

I would summarize these ideas as follows:

  1. Set and meet high standards.
  2. Communicate clearly with your customers—and keep your promises.
  3. Engage customers and build community.
  4. Invest into employees so that they in turn invest into customers.
  5. Commit to the core of the brand—i.e., what makes you unique.

In addition to being good advice for airlines, these ideas would benefit most of our businesses as well. At the end of the day, every business owner wants what US Airways and American Airlines want: to build a brand that stands for excellence and an exceptional customer experience. Keep these principles in mind and you’ll be well on your way!


Your Customer Compass: Are You Headed in the Right Direction?

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: Taking Direction From Disney's Customer-Care Philosophy

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Last month, we held our first Celebrity Expert Marketing Academy. And, because our Dicks + Nanton Agency is located in Orlando, we knew we didn’t have to travel far to give our clients the best (and most productive) experience possible. We just took them all over to our neighbor’s place, which has plenty of room.

And we’re not kidding when we say that. It covers over 30,000 acres and includes four theme parks, two water parks, 24 themed resorts, two spas and fitness centers, and five golf courses.

Our neighbor, of course, is Disney World, the world’s most visited entertainment resort. And, no, we didn’t go there to ride the flying elephants at the Dumbo ride (we have plenty of time to do that on our own). Instead, we went with our clients to learn some of the special secrets that have made Disney the incredible success it’s been for over 80 years. Fortunately, the corporation has set up The Disney Institute to enable all of us not wearing mouse ears to get some inside business tips.

Many of those tips focus on providing the customer with the best experience possible. The fact is that Disney’s customer service is the gold standard for every business--because their management understands that if you don’t treat your paying patrons as you should, you’re going in the wrong direction.

So let’s talk about how to go in the right direction--with the help of a very special compass.

Walt Disney evidently loved compasses. You’ll find what’s called the “Compass Rose” in front of the walking area in front of and in back of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. Not only that, but it was Compass East Corporation that began buying land in the Orlando area in the mid-1960s. That company was a cover for the Disney organization, which was snatching up property left and right for what would become Disney World; they hid their name from the transactions because, of course, sellers would have demanded more than the fair market price if they had known who was really after the transaction.

The compass, to this day, figures prominently in the Disney philosophy of customer service. For instance, we learned about the four points of The Disney Compass when it comes to how to treat a customer (an area of study Disney calls Guestology). We’d like to share these four profitable and productive directions with you here:

N - Needs
W - Wants
S - Stereotypes
E – Emotions

Let’s take these in turn and see how they impact your relationships with your clients or customers.

When we discuss a customer’s needs, we’re talking about the basics. If a person goes to the doctor, they might “need” medicine to get well. If someone goes to a CPA, they might “need” someone to do their taxes. It’s about meeting the minimum requirements of your business, whatever they might be.

Wants allow you the opportunity to kick it up a notch or two. For example, the person going to the CPA may also “want” new strategies to save on their taxes. When you provide that extra optional level of service, you differentiate yourself and give people more reason to come back to you, as well as refer you to other people.

Stereotypes require you to overcome negative impressions a customer might have of you or your business. For example, a stereotype of doctors might be that they only care about money and don’t care how long they make you cool your heels in the waiting area. If you are an MD, you can overcome that stereotype by attempting to minimize a patient’s waiting time and maximizing the one-on-one consultation time with you.

Finally, it’s common knowledge that emotions are often more powerful than logic when it comes to buying decisions. That’s why it’s always important to tap into what makes your customers or clients feel good about buying from you and focus on that in your delivery and fulfillment systems.

The Disney Institute is full of simple concepts like the above that enable you to bring a clear, yet sophisticated approach to doing business in the best possible way. We love to deliver those kinds of concepts to our clients (as well as ourselves, because we find they work like gangbusters), and we’re happy to share this one with you here.

With that in mind, we’ll leave you with seven more big ideas from seven rather small guys that will enable you to serve your clientele at the highest level possible.

1. Be Happy…make eye contact and smile!

2. Be like Sneezy…greet and welcome each and every client. Spread the spirit of Hospitality…it’s contagious!

3. Don’t be Bashful…seek out client contact.

4. Be like Doc…provide immediate service recovery.

5. Don’t be Grumpy…always display appropriate body language at all times.

6. Be like Sleepy…create dreams and preserve the magical client experience.

7. Don’t be Dopey…thank each and every customer!

Keep those seven principles in mind and you’re sure to dwarf the competition.


Personal Branding: Why It’s Worth Your Time

We talk about personal branding strategies regularly in this space. But every once in a while, it’s a good idea to remind ourselves why we’re working so hard to build a strong brand. The payoff, if you will.  Below are some of the primary benefits of a powerful personal brand:

  • Instant credibility.  If you’re an accountant, for instance, the last thing you want to do every time you come in contact with a potential client is have to convince them of your expertise.  If you’ve built your personal brand right, you’ll be seen as an expert before you even meet.  Your website, your staff, your marketing materials… everything works together to position you as the expert in your area of practice—so by the time you meet a client in person, your expert status is unquestioned.  This is also important when it comes to referrals—other professionals don’t want to refer their clients to anyone but the best.  A strong personal brand makes it clear that you are the go-to expert.
  • Stand out in the mind of clients and referral sources.  A strong personal brand creates a memorable persona and helps you stand out in the minds of your audience.  Whether it’s your intensity, your sense of humor, even the décor of your office—a strong personal brand stands out in the mind of everyone who encounters it.  Such top-of-mind awareness is invaluable—it will result in more referrals and highly loyal clients.
  • Command a premium price.   If your car breaks down, you’re willing to pay a premium to have a highly qualified mechanic take a look at it.  You’ll pay more for entrepreneurial advice from an established expert like Dan Kennedy than you will for advice from your father-in-law.  That’s just a reality.  Your personal brand creates a perception of yourself as an expert, and it puts you in position to command a premium price.

At the end of the day, a strong personal brand will result in more leads, more business, and the ability to charge premium rates. It’s one of the best investments you can make. If you’d like to learn more, or if you need some help getting started, please get in touch with me or any of the Agents at our Agency today!


Lance Armstrong, Branding Catastrophes, And What Not To Do

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: Lance Armstrong, Branding Catastrophes, And What Not To Do

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For years, cyclist champion Lance Armstrong denied using performance-enhancing drugs to aid him in his record-setting string of Tour de France titles. He stonewalled critics, threatened whistleblowers, and repeatedly denied all doping charges.

Until this week.

Armstrong threw himself at the mercy of the official court of public opinion this week--that would be Oprah Winfrey’s show – and finally admitted to doing what he’s been denying for over a decade.

Is Armstrong doing too little too late?

It’s probably too soon to tell. Armstrong, of course, has done a lot of good throughLivestrong, his cancer survivors’ charity. But unnecessary damage has been done to what was once an amazing success story simply by being unwilling to acknowledge simple facts. Armstrong’s heated denials of the drugs he is now finally acknowledging taking has resulted in behavior that some judge as being worse than the actual doping itself.

The point is you can only hold off brutal reality for so long, and the longer you try, the more you put your brand story at risk. Your authenticity begins to suffer and the public begins to lose trust in what you stand for. Since the Watergate scandal all the way back in 1974, the truth of the mantra, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up,” has just loomed larger and larger, especially in this area of social media transparency, where every lie gets magnified to a gargantuan scale.

So, what’s a personal or corporate brand to do when it’s confronted with an unpleasant situation that’s not about to go away on its own?

Last year, a client of ours faced his own dilemma along these lines. Tracy Myers, owner of theFrank Myers AutoMaxx dealership in the Winston-Salem area of North Carolina, found his business under attack from the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) for a single phrase he had used in some YouTube videos promoting his business. They claimed the phrase was deceptive; he claimed it was just the dealership’s policy, but, nonetheless, pulled the offending videos down.

He was shocked a few months later to find out that the government agency was publicly accusing him of deceptive advertising, even though he had done everything required by the agency to comply with their requests.

Tracy didn’t take this lying down--nor was he about to let the negative news play out and harm his business. He immediately took to his social media outlets and began telling his side of the story, and quickly got a smattering of positive support from his followers. That motivated him to go back to YouTube and post his own videos explaining what had happened with the FTC and why it was unfair.

Virtually all the comments he got on the video were positive. Not only that, but some of the car dealer’s supporters got together and took their own photo holding up “Free Uncle Frank!” (Uncle Frank being the car lot’s mascot) signs, which they posted on Facebook. Tracy was also lauded for how he dealt with a potentially difficult business situation.

The truth is you can turn around a negative and find substantial support in the process. Here are three tips we believe can help improve almost any difficult situation when it comes to your personal or professional brand:

1. Get out in front of the story.

Tracy Myers didn’t wait when the FTC action hit. He immediately put out his side of the story (one of the distinct advantages social media has to offer all of us) before bad publicity could snowball. In contrast, Armstrong saw a problem he would inevitably have to confront grow to monstrous proportions before he did act. If he hadn’t been so afraid to deal with the issues, he might have found ways to mitigate the damage along the way.

2. Be as honest and transparent as possible.

Do any of us remember that late night favorite David Letterman was once embroiled in a huge sex scandal? It all went away pretty quickly--because, when it broke, Letterman at once took to the airwaves on his show to admit his culpability in a forthcoming and serious way (so forthcoming that the audience actually laughed, because they didn’t think he could possibly be serious). The incident did little to no damage to his career, simply because he handled it as honestly as possible, even though he was guilty.

3. Make the media your own.

There’s no point in playing someone else’s game, especially when, today more than ever, you can take the ball and run with it as far as you want. That’s exactly what Tracy Myers did when he used YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and every other online outlet he could to get his message out. The worst you can do is put yourself in a reactive position to what someone else is saying about you; it’s better to be proactive and control how your message is delivered and presented to your public. Armstrong limiting his exposure to a single Oprah interview was actually the smartest way to do a “confession.”

Everyone faces personal and professional challenges that threaten their personal brand at some point--it’s part of being a human being. It’s how you handle those challenges that really determine what the ultimate impact will be.

When Armstrong finally decided to go on Oprah, it was at a point where he really had no choice if he ever wanted a shot at public redemption. It would have been smart to act sooner and more decisively.

As David Letterman demonstrated, we are much more forgiving of those who come clean at the first sign of trouble; it’s much harder to support someone who’s accused of playing with matches and won’t admit it until the house has burnt down. Admit quickly and self-correct (if necessary) immediately. Every second you don’t take action is another second you’ve lost to repair your reputation.


Personal Branding: Do You Need to Shift Your Focus in 2013?

As we’ve discussed previously, one of the key elements to a powerful personal brand is focus. Effective brands, personal or corporate, are focused on a particular niche and a particular set of characteristics that separate the business from others in their market. McDonalds is very successful at what they do—namely, selling affordable burgers and fries that taste the same no matter which location you visit. Meanwhile, just about every city in the USA has at least one local, high-end steakhouse. They’re not cheap, they’re not fast—but they are classy, distinctive, and known for delicious entrees.

Two very different restaurants with a very different focus—and both have found success.

The question is… what is your focus?

Who is your target market? What are the characteristics of your ideal customer?

How does your brand appeal to these customers? (Common answers might include “an emphasis on customer service” or “years of experience” or “a unique product that no one else can offer.”)

Now that you’ve got an idea of the focus of your brand, let’s take a few moments to evaluate it critically. Answer each of these questions as honestly as you can:

Does your brand resonate with your target market? In other words, is it appealing? Times change, and a brand that was attractive ten years ago could easily be obsolete today. (How many of us still use AOL as our internet provider?)

Does your brand set you apart from others in your market? The whole point of a strong personal brand is that it differentiates you from your competition. When successful, this gives you the ability to virtually “lock out” competitors because they simply can’t provide what you can. But the marketplace is fast-moving—so honestly evaluate whether your brand is still unique.

Does your brand focus on the value you provide to your customers? Ultimately, your brand should answer the question “why should I do business with you?” McDonalds offers fast, affordable burgers—consistent time after time. Apple offers cutting edge technology and a “cool” factor. Nike makes their customers feel like world-class athletes. What value does your brand provide?

The beginning of the New Year is a perfect opportunity to evaluate the state of your brand. Take some time to ponder these questions… and ask yourself if perhaps your brand needs a new focus for 2013.


Chris Christie, Honey Boo Boo, And The Top 10 Celebrity Branding Success Stories Of 2012

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: Chris Christie, Honey Boo Boo, And The Top 10 Celebrity Branding Success Stories Of 2012

 

As another year comes to a close, everyone is posting all kinds of 2012 Top Ten Lists. Don't believe us? Well, if you happen to have a few minutes during the holiday rush, here are 55 of them, courtesy of Time magazine.

Frankly, we can't resist the temptation to offer one of our own--focusing on our own specialty, of course. Without further ado, here is our 2012 Top Ten List Celebrity Branding Success Stories, celebrating those notables who best exemplified a specific and crucial facet of building a successful personal brand.

10. Honey Boo Boo

There's no question that TLC reality superstar Honey Boo Boo captured the nation's heart this year--and we think that's because this little girl and her family exemplified the personal branding quality of authenticity--if not the qualities of good nutrition (check out their "sketti" recipe and then contemplate their cholesterol counts!). Honey and her homies were always themselves, no matter what the situation--and that includes their pet pig, Glitzy! It wasn't for everybody, but it was for a huge number of TV viewers.

9. Chris Christie

Many conservatives lost their mind when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was showngiving some love to President Obama a week before the Presidential election, but actually, Christie was giving himself a co-branding advantage. Co-branding is when two unlikely brands combine forces (think of James Bond and Heineken teaming up in Skyfall) to broaden their bases and gain more exposure. In Christie's case, his bipartisan effort with Obama after Hurricane Sandy sparked a 19-point rise in his approval rating, bringing it to record-breaking heights.

8. James Bond

Speaking of James Bond, no matter what he's drinking these days, 007 has proven himself to be one celebrity brand that never quits. As a matter of fact, his latest screen adventure is his most popular ever, and that's quite an accomplishment after a half century of movie heroics. Why is he still so successful? Because the producers haven't been afraid to move him forward with some solid brand evolutionThe film successfully captures 2012 sensibilities, even though Bond originated during The Cold War in the 1950s. When a brand stands still, it gets left in the past. When a brand stays contemporary, it can continue to connect.

7. Lana Del Rey

Singer Lana Del Rey first burst onto the scene in 2011 as a YouTube sensation, and her uniquemusical style caused people to either love her or hate her. She appeared visibly uncomfortableduring a musical performance on NBC's Saturday Night Live last year, which made more music aficionados question her professionalism and authenticity. However, she didn't let any of this backlash stop her--and her new album has actually gotten her some respect. By showing integrity when it came to her core brand, she overcame the hate and established herself as a comer.

6. The Obama Campaign

Last month, Obama won a bigger victory than expected--many attributed the high turnout in his favor to his campaign's savvy use of social media45% of registered voters said they were motivated to vote by Facebook, Twitter and the like, indicating the increased importance of using these social sites to promote any celebrity brand.

5. Gabby Douglas

Gabby Douglas became a superstar at the London Summer Olympics with her record-breaking gymnastic feats. Sometimes a celebrity brand is sparked simply by an incredible display of high performance; whether you break world records or sales records, your audience is bound to take notice.

4. The Avengers

This Marvel-ous superhero movie became the biggest hit of 2012, but that success was actually several years in the making. The Iron ManHulkCaptain America, and Thor movies first introduced the team members in their own hit films, plus each teased the forthcoming Avengers film with appearances by group ringleader Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson). This is a shining example of how a solid brand strategy can multiply brand success.

3. Kony 2012

In early March, if you were even a casual user of social media, you couldn't get away from the viral video Kony 2012, as millions of people around the globe were sharing it. A poll suggested that over half of American young adults had heard of the video within days of its release. The video, which promoted the cause of the San Diego-based organization Invisible Children, demonstrated just what effective storytelling is capable of--which is why we consider it themost powerful personal branding tool (and which is also why we're writing a book about it!).

2. Jeremy Lin

In February of 2012, "Linsanity" hit the Big Apple--when Jeremy Lin, a player who was about to be cut by the New York Knicks, suddenly became the team's star player, with a series of awesome games in which he made the difference between a win and a loss. When you can successfully engineer that kind of unexpected shock and awe demonstration, you surprise your competition, delight your intended audience, and instantly create a memorable celebrity brand.

1. The Mayans

How can a culture that hit its peak more than a thousand years ago grab tons of publicity all year long? Easy: just predict the end of the world (or not). Yes, if you want to really draw an awesome amount of attention to your celebrity brand, simply make an apocalyptic prediction. There, of course, is only one problem with this approach: Every single doom-and-gloom forecast, so far anyway, has been wrong (and here's another Top 10 list to prove it). And let's face it--even if you do get lucky and hit it right, you're not really going to have a lot of time to enjoy your newfound fame. Better to stick with the branding ideas in the previous nine entries!

Have a happy and prosperous holiday season--and here's hoping your personal brand yields some excellent dividends in 2013!


Take Your Personal Brand to the Next Level in 2013, Part Two: Ten Resolutions

In a recent article, I highlighted five New Year’s resolutions to help you take your brand to the next level in 2013. As promised, here are five more:

6) Make your customers feel like insiders. If you can make your customers feel like “VIPs”, they’re going to be much more loyal to your business and your brand. Let customers get a glimpse “behind the scenes” from time to time. Sharing pictures of your team in action on social media is one great way to do this.

7) Provide value to your social media followers. Let’s be honest, most of us aren’t in position to “break” news in today’s fast-paced media environment. But you can provide analysis and other valuable information to your online audience. If you’re a tax accountant, for instance, you could explain the implications of a new law that is being debated by congress. This type of valuable insight will make your audience pay attention!

8 ) Interact with your social media audience. Too many business owners view social media as a one-way street. It’s not. If you are using social media merely to promote yourself, you’re not going to build an audience. Spend more time replying to status updates and tweets than you do creating your own.

9) Make sure your website reflects your brand well. In many cases, your website serves as the “face” of your business. Take the opportunity to communicate your brand. This means using pictures and video if possible—and it means creating content that reinforces your brand and your points of differentiation. If you’d like to learn more about creating a personal brand-centered website, let me know!

10) Look for speaking opportunities. Think about the last time you attended a seminar that featured a speaker.  Without even thinking about it, you granted the speaker “expert” status in your mind, didn’t you?  We naturally assume that someone qualified to address a large group on a specific topic knows what they are talking about—which is why making a speech is such a good idea.  When you speak on a topic, you become an expert in that subject—and that’s what personal branding is all about!

Feel free to get in touch with me or any of the other agents at the agency if you’d like help in this area. I hope that 2013 will be the best year yet for your brand and your business!


Three Reasons Why The Customer Experience You Provide Can Make or Break Your Business

You’ve probably heard talk about the importance of “customer experience” when it comes to growing your business. But have you ever wondered why it’s so important? Below are three reasons that it pays to create a brand and a business that is known for providing a stellar customer experience.

1)     Your business becomes immune to price undercutting.  Once your customers have experienced the unparalleled experience your business provides, it will be very hard to persuade them to go anywhere else.  Do you own an iPad, or do you know someone who does?  Ask them how likely they are to purchase a different tablet in the future, simply because it is priced more cheaply.  If you surveyed 100 users, you would be hard pressed to find more than one or two who would consider switching.  Why?  Because the iPad is an exceptional product and provides great value to its users.  Back to your business: the reality is that, from time to time, you will have to deal with competitors undercutting your prices.  But by building a brand centered around your unique and exceptional value, you render yourself immune to your competitor’s strategy. 

2)     Your business builds a loyal following.  If you attract new business simply by offering low prices, you can expect them to be loyal customers—until they can find lower rates elsewhere.  On the other hand, by marketing the unique value provided by your business, you will attract customers that appreciate the value you provide.  They won’t leave you in the blink of an eye—because the value you provide can’t be easily duplicated by your competition.  Sure, low prices are a great way to bring in new business.  But they’ll leave you just as rapidly as they found you.  Providing value enables you to build a loyal following—and to keep them for the long term.

3)     Your customers spread the word via word-of-mouth advertising.  Providing a great customer experience will lead directly to the most effective form of advertising known to mankind—authentic word-of-mouth advertising.  When your customer has a great experience, human nature means that he or she is very likely to tell a friend or a family member.  Over time, your business will build a reputation for quality care and service—and you can count on bringing in new customers who are eager to experience your business for themselves.

Customer experience matters—and it’s important that providing an exceptional experience becomes an integral part of your brand. It will pay dividends!


Are You Leveraging Your Personal Brand to the Max?

As you begin to build a strong personal brand, it is important to leverage it fully in order to grow your business. Whether it is networking, direct marketing, or meeting with a prospect face-to-face, make sure to incorporate the celebrity brand that you have created!

For instance:

Incorporate your personal brand into speeches and public events. Whether you’re speaking to a large audience or you’re networking with two fellow business owners, don’t be afraid to tie your brand into conversation.  Tell stories.  Talk about your hobbies.  Let your audience get to know you, personally—not just in your professional capacity.  By interweaving your brand into your conversation, you can simultaneously impress your audience with your knowledge of your industry and create a strong personal appeal.

Use direct marketing—but make sure your brand always shines through. Many small business owners don’t realize how effectively personal branding can be tied in to a direct marketing campaign.  Whether it’s your website or a direct mail campaign, branding yourself as the CelebrityExpert® in your market while presenting a strong call to action is powerful.  Don’t just market the services you provide—market yourself through your brand.  Your customers want to know that they are in good hands—so always present yourself as THE expert in your market.

Live your brand. Personal branding only works if you truly commit to it.  Every interaction you have with your market—whether it’s a face-to-face conversation, a radio commercial, a website, or a speech—should be consistent with your personal brand.  By itself, your personal brand has limited value… but when you tie it in to every aspect of your business and your relationships, it can take your marketing efforts to the next level. Be particularly careful that to “live” your brand while you are working with clients and customers—the impression that you create goes a long way to determine their perception of you and your business!

You’ve been working hard to create a powerful personal brand—so take advantage of it. Look for opportunities to leverage it on a daily basis. These suggestions will help you get started, but be sure to use your own creativity as well!


The Twinkie Template For Building An Eternal Brand

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: The Twinkie Template For Building An Eternal Brand

In the last couple of weeks, have you ever heard so much about Twinkies? I mean, since you were six years old?

In case you missed our recent national panic attack, America collectively gasped when it was announced that the Hostess snack food company was going out of business due to a labor dispute and, as a result, its flagship product, Twinkies, would soon disappear from store shelves.

The Twinkie feeding frenzy quickly began. Shoppers stormed stores to hoard the packaged treats, and escalating bids for Twinkies and Twinkie-related products were soon helping eBay sellers realize some pretty delicious profits. Twinkies even became a political football (were they the victim of Obamacare or vulture capitalism?) and, closer to home, grandpa got pretty angry about the potential loss of his beloved munchie.

What’s funny about all this sudden Twinkie worship is that Twinkies have weathered their share of branding storms over the years. There was the urban legend that Twinkies are made of so many ingredients that aren’t real food that they remain edible forever (not true--they have a shelf life of about 25 days). There was the infamous “Twinkie defense,” employed unsuccessfully in 1979 by the man who shot the San Francisco mayor (as well as city supervisor Harvey Milk), who claimed that too much junk food caused him to turn homicidal. And, of course, Twinkies have been the butt of jokes in shows like Family Guy and movies such as Wall-E. Any brand faces challenges--particularly one that’s been around for more than 80 years. If a brand is carefully built, however, it can be strong enough to sustain almost any bad press.

So--how can you make sure your personal brand is up to the Twinkie standard? Here are a few tips, courtesy of The Disney Institute, that lead to long-lasting success.

1. The Emotional Connection

The strongest way you can bond your audience to your brand is through emotion, and the best way to create that emotional component is through storytelling. We’ve written about the power of storytelling before, because it’s an integral part of our approach on behalf of our clients. When you frame your brand’s story in the right way, you reach people on a very deep level.

Twinkies, by the way, are fortunate in the fact that most of us have already crafted our own Twinkie brand story in our heads. Because they’ve been around so long, we all grew up with them; they were an integral part of many a childhood lunch. That’s why the thought of them not being around anymore elicited so much panic.

2. Employees as an Emotional Engine

Disney calls its theme park employees their “cast members,” and they all receive careful instructions on how they should present themselves to Disney guests. To quote the Disney institute, “Brand loyalty…is seen as a reciprocal relationship, beginning with us. Each cast member, regardless of rank, understands that we must be loyal to our customers to receive loyalty in return.”

Similarly, the people who work for you, or even vendors who interact with the general public on your behalf, should act as ambassadors of your “brand story” with points of difference in their presentations that set you apart from the competition. Beyond that, your products should be packaged and labeled in a manner that also extends your brand story.

3. Build Repeat Business

If your brand doesn’t prompt people to come back to you for more, how in the world will it have any longevity? That means you must make sure your brand truly connects with your target audience and that you continue to expand its appeal beyond its original buyers. Also, as Disney makes clear, you need to be your toughest critic. If you’re not honest enough to confront your brand’s weaknesses and find ways to continually improve your delivery, you’re not giving folks the motivation to keep buying from you.

Twinkies may not, in reality, last forever…but their brand just might, and so can yours. We should all aim to build a brand with the lasting value of America’s favorite snack--but maybe with a little more nutritional value.


Personal Branding: Five Ways to Draw More Attention on Social Media

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be great channels by which to connect with your target market. The explosive growth these platforms have experienced in recent years gives you the opportunity to reach a potentially huge audience in a branded, consistent, and cost-effective way.

That, in a nutshell, is why so many business owners are excited about social media.

But this growth presents challenges as well. Most obviously, as more and more businesses jump in to the fray, it can be very hard to be seen and heard. And as you know, it doesn’t matter how great your social media content is, if nobody sees it! So today, we are going to cover five ways to engage a larger audience via social media.

1) Interact. Too many business owners view social media as a one-way street. It’s not. If you are using social media merely to promote yourself, you’re not going to build an audience. Take the time to interact with others and build real relationships—it’s time well spent!

2) Share pictures. You’ve heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words. On social media, a picture may be worth ten thousand words. So use them!

3) Break news. If you’re in position to break news that impacts your industry, do so! There’s plenty of regurgitated content flying around on Twitter and other social media sites… but if you can break news, you’re going to build a following.

4) Provide value. Let’s be honest, most of us aren’t in position to “break” news. But you can provide analysis and other valuable information to your audience. If you’re a tax accountant, for instance, you could explain the implications of a new law that is being debated by congress. This type of valuable insight will make your audience pay attention!

5) Get personal. It’s important that your following on social media views you as a “real” person, not an impersonal business focused only on self promotion. Tell jokes. Talk about your favorite TV shows. Don’t be afraid to relax and have fun!

One final note: if this sounds like a lot of work… it is. Social media requires time on a regular basis. But the good news is that you don’t have to do it by yourself… you can delegate it to a member of your team. Just be sure that you create a plan and define your expectations so that they stay on track.

Questions or comments? Feel free to contact me, or any of the agents at our agency to learn more!


Five Personal Branding Secrets You Can Apply Today

We talk a lot about personal branding on this blog, and most of the strategies focus on long-term strategy, planning, and solutions. Today we’re going to change it up a bit and highlight five branding techniques that you can use to start building a more powerful brand immediately:

1) Practice your handshake and introduction. Obviously as a professional you know how to shake hands and introduce yourself. But give this process some thought, and ask yourself “am I projecting the best possible first impression?” If not, what needs to change? Work on it and put it into practice immediately—the first impression really does count.

2) Refine your elevator speech. When given 30-60 seconds to talk about yourself and your business, do you know what to say? Do you have a speech prepared that effectively communicate your brand and your points of differentiation? You never know when this will come in handy, so be prepared!

3) “Live out” your brand. Does your personality reflect the brand you are working to build? It should—or you’ll be contradicting yourself and sabotaging your brand. Work to ensure that you embody your brand in every day interactions, just as you do when you’re appearing on TV or interacting with your audience via social media.

4) Add a branded element to your email signature. If you’re like many business owners, you often send dozens of emails per day. Each of those emails is a chance to reinforce your brand—simply by branding your signature. Whether it’s a logo, a favorite quote, or a picture of yourself, find a way to take advantage of the opportunity!

5) Smile! This may sound elementary, but the truth is that happy, positive people are more fun to be around, and therefore more memorable. Do your best to maintain a cheerful attitude when you’re around others—it really does make a difference.

Personal branding doesn’t have to be complicated! Each of these strategies will make a real difference – so put them into practice today!


Why You Need a Personal Brand, Not Just a Company Brand

Branding is a very common element of a marketing campaign, and has been for many years. We all recognize the power of international brands like Nike, Coca-Cola, and Apple. Personal branding, on the other hand, is a little bit less well-understood. Rather than focusing on a business, personal branding seeks to help an individual build a powerful brand. Think Donald Trump or Oprah. That brand can stand for anything, though for most business owners credibility and expertise are significant components.

From time to time, I am asked why personal branding is so valuable—why a business owner should focus on their personal brand instead of simply their company brand. Below are three important answers to this question:

People buy people. When it comes to choosing a business to purchase from, consumers have consistently demonstrated that they prefer to do business with others that they know and trust. Where a company can sometimes seem “faceless” or anonymous, an individual has no such problem. While billion-dollar brands can establish credibility for the business, it is much harder for a small to mid-sized company to achieve this type of credibility without an emphasis on personal branding.

People are more memorable than companies. In addition to establishing credibility, creating “memorability” is a critical function of an effective brand. Simply put, you want potential customers to think of you when they need your products or services—not your competitors. And it’s easier for an individual to create this type of memorability than it is for a business itself.

People can become experts, companies very rarely accomplish this. One of the most important goals we have for each of our clients is to turn them into experts within their market. There are many ways we do this—from publishing books to appearing on NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX affiliates across the country. While it is relatively easy to turn an individual into an expert, it is much more difficult to create a company brand that conveys this message. In fact, most businesses that have successfully branded themselves as experts within a market usually accomplished this by first establishing individuals within the business as leading experts.

Now don’t misunderstand—building a corporate brand is important as well. But when it comes to getting the most “bang for your buck” as a small or mid-sized business, it’s impossible to beat the power of personal branding!


Personal Branding: Do You Have a Book in You?

One of the best strategies for building a powerful personal brand is publishing a book. I’ve helped hundreds of business owners through this process—and most of them would tell you that publishing their first book was among the most significant turning points in their career.

Yet, many business owners flinch at the idea of publishing a book. The most common reaction they have is “I don’t have anything to write about.” Most of the time, they’re just plain wrong—they DO have a book in them, and a successful one at that.

Do you have a book in you? Below are four questions to ask:

1) Do you have a unique perspective on your industry? Most industries deal with “groupthink” to some degree—but not everyone agrees. Do you have a unique perspective that flies in the face of the “common wisdom” in your industry? If so, you’ve got the premise of a book on your hands.

2) Does your experience give you valuable insights to share with readers? Have you “seen it all” over the years in your industry? Can you provide valuable tips and tricks to readers? If so, you’ve got a book to write!

3) Do you have a story to tell? Why are you in business? Do you believe passionately in a certain idea or a cause? Does your business allow you to make an impact on those around you? If you have a story to tell, why not make a book out of it?

4) Do you already write a blog, articles, or other content? Why waste the hard work you’ve put into writing content over the years? Consider re-purposing your existing content into book form. In many cases, all you’ll need to do is spend some time strategizing and editing your existing content. If you’ve got a wealth of content already created, you’ve definitely got a book in you!

If your answer to any of the questions I’ve just posed was “yes”… you have the ability to write a book. Doing so just may be the best decision you ever make. If you’d like to learn more about the process, please don’t hesitate to contact me or any other agent at our agency!  


Giving Your Brand Story “Primal Power”: The Science of Storytelling

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: Giving Your Brand Primal Power Through Storytelling

“Once upon a time…”

Those four little words, when combined, have an amazing allure, simply because we know that they signify that something special is about to happen…a story.

Humanity has used stories from the beginning to bind communities, create movements, inspire religions and promote patriotism.  From cave drawings to campfire tales, from papyrus writings to the Guttenberg Bible, our species has always rallied around stories – narratives that had the ability to hit us where we live and take us to someplace new.

At our agency, we make what we call “story-selling” an essential component of our branding efforts with our clients.  We’ve seen first-hand that, when you create the proper story, you’ve done most of the heavy-lifting required to build a successful brand.

The question, though, is why – why do stories have such “primal power” when it comes to influencing an audience?

It turns out there’s a perfectly good scientific explanation: Stories affect us on both on an incredibly deep intellectual and emotional level that studies are just beginning to understand.

That quest began when scientists discovered that fictional stories affected the same region of the brain that reacts when we ourselves are engaged in real-life drama.  Stories create a bonding empathy which causes us to strongly identify with the made-up protagonist – as if we were, in fact, that person.  In other words, stories have such impact because our brains actually get a little mixed-up as to what’s real and what’s not.

Further investigation has revealed that the actual physical process triggered by stories is the release of oxytocin, which is a hormone that’s usually affected by close emotional interaction – which is why its nickname is “the love hormone.”  Researcher Paul Zak from Claremont Graduate University, California, explains how oxytocin makes well-crafted stories that we read in books and watch in films and on television irresistible:  "We are empathetically engaged. We are treating this as if it is our real family. We can't help but care for these people."

Scientists have also determined why stories are so important to our intellectual activity: Our brains use them to process different strands of information and make sense of it all.  It’s no secret that our early ancestors created elaborate stories about various mythological gods to explain various natural phenomena they couldn’t understand.  Frankly, all of us are always after an explanation for why things are the way they are.

Think about all the data you take in on a daily basis (especially these days when non-stop information is the rule, not the exception); for the most part, it adds up to nothing but chaos.  Your brain, however, desperately wants a narrative to make it all understandable – even if that narrative happens to be wrong.

This is why certain stories have “primal power” as well as an enduring fascination.  Consider that NBC’s coverage of the Olympics in recent years, including this year’s London games, has focused extensively on the stories of the U.S. athletes’ various challenges and struggles, so that the events themselves have more narrative power.  And then there are the multitude of network one-hour “procedural” dramas, the alphabet-soup of CSI, L&O and NCIS shows and spin-offs, in which the killer is always caught and the audience is allowed to feel things are under control.

When someone’s brand story hits “the sweet spot” with his or her intended audience, the effects can be far-reaching and incredible – because it’s all about biology.  We can’t help but be drawn in by a great story.  That’s why Donald Trump knows it’s valuable to keep sounding off about whatever he wants – because being outspoken is his “brand story,” just as elegant entertaining is Martha Stewart’s and everyday cooking is Rachael Ray’s.  Their brands endure because the public wants to keep hearing their “stories.”

The power of storytelling is no fairy tale.  So put a strong story in place with your brand – that is, if you want your business to have a happy ending.


Build Credibility Without Re-Inventing the Wheel: Learn to Repurpose Your Content

If you have been paying attention to this blog, you know how important it is that you are consistently creating content that reinforces your expertise and your authoritative status within your market. Whether it is giving a speech, writing a book, appearing on TV, or something else entirely—creating content that positions you as an expert is a crucial element of creating a powerful personal brand.

There’s a problem with that, though. You’re a business owner—and as such, you simply don’t have the time to keep creating content. You’ve got a business to run!

So here’s a tip for you: don’t re-invent the wheel if you don’t have to! Learn to re-purpose content whenever possible. If you’ve just completed a big project for a client, and you have permission to do so, why not re-purpose some of that work for a blog entry or a news article? The truth is that much of the messaging that goes into a book, a speech, a blog article, or similar items can be reused elsewhere. Specifically, consider re-purposing your content into:

1) Blog entries. Got a couple hundred words of insight in an email, or some other format? Turn it into a blog entry!

2) E-books. Publishing an e-book is a great way to build credibility and provide value. And if you blog regularly, chances are that you have more than enough content to create a great e-book.

3) Traditional books. Or, if you’ve got even more content to pull from, think bigger than an e-book—consider publishing a physical book. The impact that publishing a book will have on your personal brand is impossible to overstate.

4) Speeches. Don’t forget about speeches and lectures. Whether it’s a book or a collection of blogs and articles centered around a common theme, chances are you can put together a strong outline for a speech just by pulling from content you already created.

You get the point! If you’ve been producing content, get as much “bang for your buck” as possible and leverage it through a variety of different mediums. As always, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or any of the agents at our agency if you’d like to learn more!

 


Create Raving Fans: It’s All In The Details

I’ve talked about the value of “raving fans” previously on my blog, but let’s take a moment for a quick refresher. A raving fan is a customer or client who isn’t just satisfied… but is so thrilled with the services or products that you provide that he/she can’t stop spreading the word. A raving fan is incredibly valuable, because there is literally no form of marketing that is more effective than legitimate word-of-mouth recommendations.

So what can you do to create more raving fans?

Obviously, it starts with delivering quality products and services that meet or exceed the expectations of your customers. That means not over-promising, and it means delivering consistently. But this alone doesn’t create raving fans.

One of the most effective ways to create raving fans is by getting the details right. It’s the “little” touches that take your customer experience to the next level. For instance…

Packaging. Have you ever bought an Apple product? If so, you know what I mean. Sometimes it seems like Apple takes as much time designing the packaging for their products as they do engineering their complicated devices. The result is that, every time you purchase a new product, you feel like you’re unwrapping something of incredible valuable.

Beating deadlines. There are a number of world-class companies, including Apple and Zappos.com, that take pride in beating their deadlines when it comes to shipping a product. They’ll tell you to expect delivery on Friday, for instance, and instead the product shows up on Wednesday or Thursday. And who isn’t delighted when a package shows up early?

Customer service. Many large companies struggle in this area—you probably know exactly what I mean. Have you ever spent 45 minutes on the phone, transferring from department to department in frustration before finally hanging up in frustration? This is all too common—but the good news is that it gives your business a chance to shine. Stellar customer service stands out in a world dominated by automated “help” lines and disinterested agents.

These are just three examples of “little” details that are often ignored by businesses. How many other opportunities can you find to WOW customers and create raving fans?


Winning The White House–Or New Business–Is All About Better Story Selling

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: Winning The White House--Or New Business--Is All About Better Story Selling

--

You have to admit, it’s rare to see Newt Gingrich and President Barack Obama putting out the same message, but that’s exactly what happened this year. That’s because, during the primary season, Gingrich's main goal was the same one as Obama’s is now--defeat Mitt Romney.

The tactic both men (or at least their Super PACs) used? Relate how Romney’s former company, Bain Capital, bought out businesses and closed them down, putting middle class Americans out of work--more specifically, by telling the story, through those people’s eyes, of how their lives were affected (you can check out one of Gingrich's ads here and one of Obama’s ads here.

We won’t argue the validity of that story or the politics involved here--there are more than enough talking heads on cable news to handle that wonderful task--but what we will argue is that both men effectively used an approach that we implement on our clients’ behalf everyday--story-selling.

As Arianna Huffington argued in a July 16 post, “Is Storytelling the Secret Weapon of 2012?”, using stories to persuade people has become the dominant strategy of political campaigns. Even Obama has finally recognized that fact. When he was asked what the main mistake of his first term had been, he answered, "The nature of this office is…to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times."

That’s right: the President of the United States thinks his biggest blunder wasn’t related to the economy, he thinks it was not telling a good story.

Obama learned the hard way, but the rest of us don’t have to. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a professional, or the head of a business (or whatever kind of effort you may be spearheading), it’s important to create a narrative that attracts the people you want in as powerful a way as possible. There are several reasons why stories work as well as they do for this purpose.

First of all, our brains like stories. They help unify seemingly random facts into an understandable whole, which our minds appreciate. They can mark that particular item as a closed case and go back to working on all our day-to-day duties, crises and challenges.

Second, stories tap into our emotions in a way that old school marketing can’t--how else can you explain grown men reduced to tears by Toy Story 3? There’s a reason Coca-Cola brings out those cute Polar Bear commercials every Christmas--the viewers go “awwww,” they feel a warm spot in their hearts, and associate Coke with sentimental holiday feelings. Stories create empathy and cause people to identify with us and our causes.

Finally, stories enable us to control how people perceive us. When a story resonates with the public, it immediately becomes what pops into their minds when they hear your name (or the name of your product or service). When a competitor tries to plant a negative story about you with your customer, they have to battle the default story you’ve already put out there. You already have the advantage in that fight, if you’ve done the right story-selling first.

One final note: For a story to really be effective, it has to have a high degree of authenticity and it has to be believable. Unless you’re playing off the elements that are genuine to you and your business, you stand a good chance of being called out on it, or having your story rejected altogether.

There are volumes that could be written about story-selling--we’re working on a book about it ourselves--but it all comes down to one undeniable fact: stories are the foundation of mankind, and to not use this formidable tool is a huge mistake. As the writer Reynolds Price said, “A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens--second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions survive without love or home, almost none in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives.”

When you consider all that, is it any wonder that whoever tells the best story now, wins in November?


Build Raving Fans: What the Music Industry Can Teach You About Inspiring Loyalty, Part Two

In the previous installment of this series, I covered four valuable lessons that business owners can draw from the music industry and apply to their own businesses. Specifically, the topic we’re addressing is how to build raving fans, that can’t stop telling people about what you do. Clearly, successful bands and artists do the same thing—and today we’re going to look at three more tools that they use to accomplish this goal:

1) Learn to tell a good story. Whether it is in the lyrics of their songs, in their music videos, or as a part of their biography, the best performers have the ability to tell a compelling story that resonates with their audience. What is the story that your business is telling? It doesn’t have to be anything over the top—something like “we’re the most experienced public accounting firm in Orlando” is more than enough, if it is consistently and persuasively told.

2) Give content away for free. The music industry grasped very early on that nobody is going to pay for a concert ticket or for a record from an artist that they haven’t heard. So they came up with a way to expose people to their music, in the form of singles on the radio and on channels like MTV. As a business, you can do the same through channels like a blog, social media, or articles that you write in newspapers and magazines. Let people get to know who you are and how you think… and they’ll be much more likely to become a customer!

3) Remember… it’s not about the music (or your products and services), it’s about how you make your audience feel. U2 isn’t one of the most popular bands in the world because of their technical skills. It’s not their chord progressions or Bono’s voice. It’s the total package they present—and the impact that their music has on an audience. Similarly, it’s not about your products… it’s about the impact they have on the day-to-day life of your customers.

The music industry may be a bit more “glamorous” than your industry, but the principles of success are very much the same. If you can apply these tips to your business, you’ll be better off for it! As always, if you have more questions, you can contact me or any of our agents at the agency!


You Have To Build a Relationship Before You Go All the Way…In Sales

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: You Have To Build a Relationship Before You Go All the Way...In Sales

Did you ever see the Seinfeld episode where Jerry strikes up a friendship with former baseball great Keith Hernandez? Hernandez calls Jerry up to ask him to help him move out of his apartment, and Jerry completely freaks out, because, as the comedian puts it, "I mean, I hardly know the guy. That's a big step in a relationship. The biggest. That's like going all the way!"

Human relationships, like Seinfeld, are funny. There are invisible lines you're not supposed to cross until you've reached certain levels of familiarity with a person. And that's not just true with friends and dates--it's also true with business.

Case in point: a new study in the Harvard Business Review revealed that, by the time a customer actually engages a salesperson, that buyer's mind is already made up 60% of the time. In other words, when you start pursuing a prospect at the moment that they're ready to buy something you sell, you're oftentimes already too late. They know who they're going to buy from--and chances aren't great it's going to be you.

Why? Because as Seinfeld will tell you, it's way too soon to go all the way with somebody they hardly know.

That's why the best salespeople don't drop everything and jump after a customer who has an immediate demand, if they don't already have a relationship with that customer. Instead, they either work to shape demand or cultivate relationships with leads who are likely to develop demand.

That approach puts the salesperson at the beginning of the customer's buying process, rather than at the end of it. Yes, you're there when there's very little chance of any immediate payoff, but you're actually doing the most important work of all when it comes to sales; creating arelationship. By the time that the customer is ready to "go all the way," they're comfortable doing it with you, because they know you and trust you. You're not perceived as some hustler trying to swoop in at the last minute to make a quick buck.

To look at this concept from another perspective, it's long been established that follow-up marketing is all-important to creating an eventual sale. Statistics from the National Sales Executive Association show that only 2% of sales are made on the first contact, while 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact. What's rarely mentioned, however, is why follow-up marketing works; the reason is that it's essential to building the kind of successful relationship with the customer that creates the conditions for a sale.

It's not just about meeting a customer's needs; it's about being trusted to meet a customer's needs. Trust is something that takes time to earn. Just ask Jerry Seinfeld.  In that same episode, Kramer can't believe Jerry actually agreed to help Hernandez move. He yells at him, "You said 'YES!?' Don't you have any pride or self respect? I mean what are you going to do next? You're going to start driving him to the airport?"

To which Jerry angrily replies, "I'm NOT driving him to the airport!"

If you want to make the sale--or just get a ride to the airport--make sure you've got the relationship established enough to allow that to happen. Be there at the beginning, and you won't get left out at the end.


Mitt Romney And The Power Of Discipline

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: Mitt Romney and The Power of Discipline

It's been a long and grueling campaign for Romney, one that saw numerous candidates surpass him in the polls before ultimately fading out. But after months of campaigning, Romney can finally set his aim at the White House. While he’s doing so, let’s take a moment to examine the marketing strategies that ultimately proved successful:

1) Consistency counts. While Romney has faced criticism for the way in which his convictions have evolved over the years, there is no questioning the consistency of his message during the primary campaign. While Rick Santorum generated controversy by addressing social issues and Newt Gingrich talked of putting a base on the moon, Mitt Romney hammered home his economic message day after day. In an election year where the economy is overwhelmingly the largest concern for voters, his focus paid off.

2) You can’t win votes (or sell products) without exposure. Romney’s critics complain that his ability to blanket the airwaves with campaign commercials was the key to his victory. Whatever you may believe about the role of money in politics, there is no denying that you can’t win without exposure. The same is true of your business—if you want to dominate your market, you must seek consistent exposure through credible channels.

3) Systems and discipline are essential for long term success. Romney’s closest competitors down the stretch were Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. While both of them inspired passionate support, they also made critical organizational mistakes which may have cost them the nomination. Gingrich was unable to meet the requirements to appear on the ballot in his home state of Virginia, while Santorum was ineligible to compete for nearly 25% of the delegates in the crucial Ohio primary. Passion and enthusiasm are great—but if you can’t back them up with rock-solid marketing and management systems, you will eventually flame out.

4) Control the conversation. Mitt Romney’s fundamental pitch is simple: his years of spectacular success in the private sector position him as uniquely qualified to turn the struggling economy around. He didn’t have the foreign policy experience that many of his rivals boasted. His conservative credentials were often questioned. But by refusing to let the conversation stray from his strengths, Romney was able to minimize the impact of these weaknesses.

Mitt Romney’s candidacy wasn’t the most dramatic—but his discipline and his consistent message allowed him to come out on top. How can you apply these principles to your ownbranding and marketing campaigns?


The Mother Of All Branding Opportunities

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: The Mother of All Branding Opportunities

Mother's Day recently got me thinking about the power of Mom. No, I'm not talking about her power to get us to finish all our vegetables or clean up our rooms--I'm talking about her power in 2012 to brand.

Let's face it, the American mother is an incredibly iconic figure that is constantly changing and growing. That evolution is most evident from television over the years; from the sweet 1950s apron-and-pearls portrayals provided by Donna Reed and June Cleaver to today's TV housewives that are both Desperate and Real. Moms are long past being just about apple pie and folding laundry; they've become a force to be reckoned with on all fronts.

That became very apparent a few weeks ago when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said a few words on CNN that set off a political firestorm of epic proportions. Rosen made the assertion that Ann Romney, the wife of Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, "never worked a day in her life" because she didn't work outside of the home.

Moms rose up as one to state the obvious; stay-at-home parents are on the job 24/7. Can you even put a dollar sign on all they do? Well, Salary.com took a shot at with its Mom Salary Survey, concluding that a full-time mom should be making at least $110,000 per year.  And even if she was only being a mom part-time, she still should be making $66,000 on top of her regular paycheck.

Should be, but isn't--which is why some enterprising mothers are taking to the Internet to create a "celebrity mom" status for themselves and using it to brand their own entrepreneurial endeavors (at this point, who hasn't read Dooce or The Pioneer Woman?). It makes sense; according to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one in four married mothers with children younger than 15 stay home with their kids--and they could probably use the extra household income. And running a business out of a home is increasingly commonplace. As a matter of fact, according to another U.S. Census survey, home is now where over half of the businesses in the U.S. are located.

There aren't any stats readily available on how many stay-at-home moms are becoming entrepreneurs (as CNN points out here), but you can find examples of  Mom power in action everywhere. Check out Dorothy Beal's site, Mile Posts, to see how this amazing woman and mother of three overcame a medical condition to become a marathon runner, and then branded herself to take advantage of sponsorship and advertising opportunities. Then there's Jen, The Suburban Mom, who promotes brands and special deals through her website, and Holly, who runs a fitness program to help transform any out-of-shape mom into a "Fit Yummy Mummy," at ClubFYM.com.

These are just three examples of so-called "ordinary" moms who took tried-and-true brandingprinciples and transformed themselves into marketing powerhouses. The lesson here? The ordinary becomes extraordinary when you leverage your everyday status to attract others just like you to your business.

So, dads, you'll have to wait closer until Father's Day to get your due. In the meantime, let's not forget that when you turn "Mom" upside down, you get "Wow."

However, I would first ask her permission before you do that.


How Does Your Brand Position You Within Your Market?

Macy’s versus K-Mart. Ferrari versus Honda. Apple versus eMachines.

What comes to mind when you think about these comparisons? Words like expensive, high quality, and classy likely come to mind when you think about Macy’s, Ferrari, and Apple. On the other hand, K-Mart, Honda, and eMachines probably generate thoughts like value or affordability.

Many people prefer to purchase from pricier, more exclusive brands. Others seek value and affordability over exclusivity. And there is no “right” or “wrong” answer here. In fact, all six of the companies I mentioned have built profitable businesses on the backs of their brand.

But here is what’s interesting—all I have to do is mention “Macy’s versus K-Mart”, and the vast majority of you immediately know where you stand in that comparison. Why? Because both businesses have firmly positioned themselves within their market. If you want affordability, you’re going to K-Mart. If you’re willing to spend more for trendier fashions, you’re choosing Macy’s.

So here is the question that matters to you, as a business owner: how does your brand position you within your market?

Are you considered high-end? Or are you considered cheap and affordable?

As a small business, the vast majority of the time it is a mistake to brand yourself as cheap and affordable. It’s simply too hard to build a highly profitable business when you have a miniscule profit margin. The exception is if you have such great economies of scale which allow you to make up for a small profit margin with an overwhelming sales volume.

The other major problem with branding yourself as a low-cost option is that, as soon as someone comes along who can undercut your prices, you’ll lose a large percentage of your customers.

That’s why our goal is to build a unique and high-end brand for each of our clients. We work to turn business owners into celebrity experts within their market—allowing them to charge premium rates while still bringing in business.

Take a moment now and evaluate your brand. Are you a “low price leader”… or does your brand position you as a top-end business within your market? If you’d like to learn more about this concept, please get in touch with me today!

 


Personal Branding: Where to Start

We talk often in this space about personal branding strategies such as book publishing, video production, and TV appearances. There’s a reason for that—these strategies have proven to be valuable tools for helping us turn business owners into celebrities within their market. The results are impossible to argue with. That said, not everybody is ready to pursue these strategies. If you’re new to the personal branding arena and just want to know how to get started, this blog entry is for you.

The first step, of course, is defining your personal brand. We’ve talked extensively about that process elsewhere on this blog, but feel free to contact me if you’d like to learn more. Once you’ve defined your brand, here are four good places to start your personal branding efforts:

1) Social Media. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook are great channels for personal branding- and getting started is not difficult. Take advantage of every opportunity to communicate your brand—which means selecting a great profile picture and using the “about me” fields to differentiate yourself and build your brand.

2) Business cards. In many cases, your business cards represent the first impression you make. It’s worth investing a bit of time and money into a great design and a card stock that establishes your value and differentiates you from everyone else out there.

3) Networking. Now that you’ve got a great business card, make sure you’re handing it out! Networking provides a great opportunity to build your brand one-on-one. Remember to emphasize your points of differentiation and your unique abilities whenever the opportunity arises. But it’s also important that you listen and legitimately try to build relationships—not simply recite a sales pitch over and over.

4) Your website. In many cases, your website serves as the “face” of your business. Take the opportunity to communicate your brand. This means using pictures and video if possible—and it means creating content that reinforces your brand and your points of differentiation. If you’d like to learn more about creating a personal brand-centered website, let me know!

These four areas are great starting points for your branding efforts. If you’d like to learn more, I’d love to hear from you… get in touch with me today!


Attention Must Be Paid – Or It Will Cost You Business

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and JW Dicks can be found here: Attention Must Be Paid--Or It Will Cost You Business

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Does the title of this blog ring a bell?

It might if you were listening in English class; "Attention must be paid," was the plaintive cry of Willy Loman's wife in the classic American play, "Death of a Salesman," now enjoying a hugely successful revival on Broadway.  Spoiler alert:  her husband ends up committing suicide because...well, attention wasn't paid.

People need attention.  It motivates them, it inspires them and it engages them.  Most importantly, it makes them buy from you.  When you don't pay attention to your clients, however, it can cost you - and that loss could add up to a lot more than a sale.

For example, did you know the main reason doctors get sued?  Believe it or not, it's not because of medical mistakes - it's because, again, attention wasn't paid.

As detailed in Malcolm Gladwell's book, "Blink," researcher Wendy Levinson recorded hundreds of conversations between surgeons and their patients.  Now, half of these surgeons had never been sued by a patient, while the other half had been sued - at least twice, as a matter of fact

The differences were striking.  The litigation-free surgeons spent, on average, three more minutes per patient than the second; they were also more inclined to engage in active listening, meaning they actually paid attention to what the patients said and responded accordingly - and with empathy.   The other doctors were cold and abrupt;  Levinson ended up being able to predict which surgeons would get sued just based on the tone they used with their patients.

It's not just uncommunicative doctors who can feel this kind of pain.  Lou Cassara, a principal at Cassara Associates, talked to more than five thousand financial services clients to find out why they switched from one advisor to another.  He found that over 80% left not because of bad advice, but because of a poor relationship with the rejected advisor.

Finally, let's take one more look at an incredibly critical business-client scenario; Disney World and kids.  The world famous theme park wanted to know which part of the Disney Magic most captivated the kiddies - so they hired a cultural anthropologist and business expert Kare Anderson to follow some little ones around as they hit the park with their parents.

As detailed in the Harvard Business Journal,  the results were a little shocking.  The kids paid the most attention to their parents' cell phones.  Why?  Because that's where the parents focused their attention, suddenly rendering Mickey Mouse irrelevant.   Disney wrongly assumed they were the center of attention in this relationship, but clearly, kids primarily pick up their cues from their parents no matter where they are.  Because the parents couldn't or wouldn't focus on their offspring, the fun factor was suddenly diminished.

So how's your focus when you're talking to clients?  Are you checking Facebook on your iPhone emails or actually interacting on a genuine level with them?  If you're not concentrating on the relationship - and you're not demonstrating appropriate empathy for their concerns - you're unraveling the crucial personal bonds that keep them coming back to you with their business.

Remember, attention must be paid - or you might not be.

 


Are You Living Your Personal Brand?

When most people think about personal branding, they think about big, exciting initiatives—like a photo or video shoot, or appearing on TV, or publishing an article in the Wall Street Journal. They’re right, of course, a big part of building a powerful and credible personal brand is leveraging major media sources. But that is only half of the equation.

The other half is not as glamorous, but is equally important. In addition to your “big” initiatives, it is important that you live out your personal brand on a daily basis. Every interaction that you have with your clients, your staff, your colleagues, and your market must reflect the brand you are trying to build.

If this isn’t the case, your brand will fall apart. Your staff and your colleagues will see you as inauthentic. Your clients will feel like they’ve been deceived. (We’ve all been there—promised a certain experience through a company’s advertising, only to find that doing business with the company is nothing like what we expected.)

So what does living your personal brand look like? It varies from person to person… but here are some universal areas to watch for:

1)     Personal interaction. Some of you, such as dentists, doctors, and retailers, interact with many clients and customers in person every day. It is important that each of these interactions reflects the brand you are building. That means dressing the part, speaking the part, and acting the part. If your brand is cheerful and relationship-oriented, you can’t be sullen and quiet in person.

2)     Your office / store décor. If you entertain customers in a physical office or store, your layout and décor needs to reflect the brand you have built. That means choosing the right colors, furniture, and layout. You can’t sell a modern, cutting-edge personal brand if your office feels old-fashioned and stuffy.

3)     Client correspondence. Whether it is via email, phone, or snail mail, remember that each interaction you have either strengthens or weakens your brand. Even communications as mundane as sending out an invoice should reflect your brand.

While high-powered media campaigns are essential to building a credible personal brand, they must be backed up by consistent, every-day action. Are you living out your personal brand?


Personal Branding Like The Stars: How A Systematic Approach Will Revolutionize Your Business

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog, written by Nick Nanton and Mikkel Pitzner can be found here: Personal Branding Like The Stars: How A Systematic Approach Will Revolutionize Your Business

Whether you love Kim Kardashian or you can’t stand her, you must acknowledge her ability to leverage media in order to create constant publicity. Whether it’s appearing on the cover of a book or simply attending church on Easter Sunday, Kardashian never fails to generate headlines.

She isn’t alone--Hollywood is brimming with actors, actresses, and celebrities who have learned to create a constant buzz even as they live exceptionally fast-paced lives.

We have the same goals--for ourselves, and for our clients. Granted, most of us are pursuing publicity and exposure on a smaller scale, but the objective is still to create consistent exposure in order to build credibility and visibility.

In today’s “social” world, everyone with an Internet connection has the ability to reach an audience numbering in the millions. (In fact, a 2011 study reveals that one out of every nine people on the planet has a Facebook account.) So why do most business owners fail to leverage branding and marketing tools to their fullest?

Because they are too busy running their business to even think about growing it! If we’re honest, most of us will admit that marketing tends to happen in spurts, not consistently.

Sustained growth requires that you adopt a systematic approach to branding and marketing. You can’t pursue marketing “when you feel like it,” because the realities of running a business mean that you will often go weeks or months without doing anything marketing related. We recommend to each of our clients that they create systems designed to meet their marketing and branding objectives. For instance:

1) Dedicate 30 minutes twice a week for blogging and article writing. This ensures a consistent presence in the blogosphere and will ultimately build a loyal following, many of whom will become customers or referral sources in the future.

2) Make social media part of your morning routine, like checking your email or even brushing your teeth. Social media is about building relationships and reinforcing your brand, and you can’t be effective without a consistent presence. If you can’t commit to this yourself, assign a member of your team to the task.

3) Utilize services like HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to constantly search for opportunities to gain exposure. Being quoted in an authoritative media outlet such as The New York Timesor The Wall Street Journal provides a massive credibility boost. But spending time each day pursuing these opportunities simply isn’t realistic. Services like HARO allow a business owner to quickly scan an email each day in search of an opportunity.

How can you consistently generate publicity for yourself and your business without spending hours each day focused on marketing? You must incorporate it within your daily life. You may not need to become a household name like Kim Kardashian, but if you can regularly generate headlines within your market, your business will reap the benefits.

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Nick Nanton (@nicknanton) is a best-selling author who consults for small- and medium-sized businesses on personality driven marketing, personal brand positioning, guaranteed media, and mining hidden business assets. He offer free articles, white papers, and case studies at celebritybrandingagency.com. Mikkel Pitzner is a partner of marketing and trailer rental company, Freetrailer, which currently operates throughout Denmark and Sweden. Mikkel, also know as The Automated Millionaire, is also a best-selling author and speaker and shows entrepreneurs how to create a business that will provide them with the lifestyle of their choice while taking them off the treadmill of their job, so they can spend time on things of their choosing.


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Zero in On Your Target Market

Before you can create an effective personal brand and leverage it through a marketing campaign, you need to zero in on your target market. This sounds obvious, I know, but you wouldn’t believe how many business owners invest thousands of dollars into elaborate branding and marketing campaigns that don’t appeal to their target audience.

If you are in the midst of a marketing campaign, take a moment to sit back and objectively assess whether your efforts are well-suited for your target market. If you’re in the planning process, now is the perfect time to ensure that you’ve properly identified your market—and the best ways of reaching them. Here are three questions to help you get started.

Where are your customers geographically? Are they spread across the world, across the country, or just across town? The smaller your geographic target, the more specifically you can speak to your target market by referencing local events and challenges that are common to your city as you build your brand and craft your marketing message.

What problems do your target customers share? The key to a successful marketing campaign is identifying a common problem that your market shares, and then positioning your products and services as the ideal solution. Take the time right now to create a list of five problems that keep your target customers awake at night—and find a way to communicate the idea that you can provide the solution. Do this effectively and you’ll never have a problem generating new business!

What language does your target market speak? No, I’m not asking about English, Spanish, or French. Accountants have their own distinct “language”, as do financial advisors, marketers, IT consultants, dentists, and every other profession. If you can present your brand in a way that speaks their language, you’re golden. Before planning your next campaign, invest some time into first-hand research. Attend trade shows and networking events that your target customers frequent. Read industry publications. Surf the web. Craft your brand and your marketing message in a way that appeals to your market and uses the language that they speak. Doing so gives you instant credibility with your audience.

At the end of the day, branding and marketing are all about communicating with your audience. If you don’t have an accurate idea of who your audience is, you can’t succeed. Contact me today if you’d like more help in this area!


Personal Branding: How NOT to Use Twitter

Most of this time, this blog focuses on practical strategies and tactics that will help you enhance your personal brand, with the ultimate goal of positioning you as a respected celebrity expert within your market. However, every once in a while it’s a good idea to examine what NOT to do when it comes to personal branding. Today, we’re going to focus on Twitter… and without any further ado, here are several of the most common personal branding mistakes we see:

1)     Too much selling. Your Twitter audience isn’t interested in a sales pitch. If you can subtly work in references to your products and services along with other valuable content, great—but if the majority of your tweets are self-promoting, you’ll be ignored.

2)     Post… and forget. Many people use Twitter this way: 1) log in. 2) post tweet. 3) log out. If that’s all you are doing, you’re losing the chance to participate in conversation and build relationships.

3)     Focusing only inwards. There are plenty of talkers in the world… and very few good listeners. The same is true on Twitter. Pay attention to what your followers are up to. Interact with them. Ask them questions about their life and their business. Get engaged!

4)     Not relaxing enough. Twitter is supposed to be fun and casual—you don’t have to be buttoned up, all the time. Crack a joke. Share some of your non-work passions. Let your audience get to know you!

5)     Relaxing TOO much. Of course, others go too far. Remember that your Twitter presence is ultimately a reflection of your business. Coarse humor and offensive statements don’t make you look good—so don’t go there. If you don’t want a client seeing it, don’t tweet it!

6)     Inconsistency. It’s hard to build meaningful relationships if you’re absent from Twitter for weeks at a time. Try to stay engaged—it doesn’t have to be every day, but you’ll need to be present at least a couple of times per week in order to make an impact.

7)     Not providing value. Ultimately, your audience isn’t going to pay attention if you don’t give them a reason to. Share news and analysis. Keep them updated with best practices. Make them laugh. Give your audience a reason to pay attention!

Hopefully these will help you build your brand on Twitter—feel free to contact me if you’d like to learn more!


Larry King Embraces Internet TV–Should Your Brand Follow Suit?

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog can be found here: Larry King Embraces Internet TV--Should Your Brand Follow Suit?

Larry King is back...kind of.

The legendary TV host will be back in front of audiences once again, but this time it will be over the Internet, not over the airwaves. Ten years ago, the idea of a credible personality like Larry King launching a web-based show would have been laughable, but the fact that it barely raised eyebrows today indicates how accepted the medium of Internet TV has become. In fact, a 2011 study shows that over 70 million adults in the United States watch full-length TV shows online. That number is rapidly rising, and the same study projects that in 2014, over 190 million adults will be watching TV online.

The emergence of Internet TV has repercussions for business owners as well. Video is a fantastic way to connect with your audience while building credibility at the same time. I’ve received many questions from clients and others about the concept of Internet TV and whether or not it is worth pursuing, so today we’re going to take some time to evaluate the medium.

In December, I did an interview with Andrew Lock, a TV/video marketing specialist and an all-around marketing expert. He explains that the value of an Internet TV show really comes down to establishing yourself and your business as unique while at the same time establishing trust and building a relationship:

“The fundamental problem these days is being able to stand out from the crowd," he said. "There’s no such thing these days as a unique business. And so, because it’s so easy to set up a website these days and to send emails and those kind of things online, everybody’s doing it, and so it is harder to stand out.

And so because of that, it really caused me to go back to basics and think what makes people want to buy anything, and really, it is all about relationships. It’s people getting to know, like and trust you. And the very best way to achieve that goal is to have a face-to-face meeting with people. Email is very impersonal, as is direct mail and other methods like that. And so the very best method is face-to-face, but it’s not practical to scale it.

So I realized that the next best thing to a face-to-face meeting would be videos, because people still get to hear and see you and look at your gestures, and really build a bond in a much more powerful way than these other methods.”

You’ve often heard me say that people prefer to do business with people that they know and trust… and as Andrew points out, connecting with prospects via video or Internet TV really is the next best thing to face-to-face.

In addition to being an effective way to form a relationship, there is no question that Internet TV has the potential to reach a huge audience. Larry King wouldn’t be putting his credibility on the line if it didn’t--and there are plenty of success stories that demonstrate the power of Internet TV. In fact, Mike Wolfe (currently hosting the popular show American Pickers) launched his program on YouTube and built such a following that the History Channel offered him a show on their network. (I’ll be speaking alongside Mike, discussing Internet TV and other tech-related subjects, at a private event in Nashville this summer--and I’m also excited about the opportunity to take a trip with him to his new store!)

Larry King’s latest venture, in addition to success stories like Mike Wolfe’s, have made it clear that Internet TV is here to stay. If you’re evaluating whether or not launching an Internet TV presence is worth the time and the resources, ask yourself this question: Will an Internet TV show allow me and my business to reach my audience? Like any marketing channel, Internet TV is not right for every business. But the rapid pace of technological innovation means that more of your customers are going to be moving online each and every day. If you believe that you can connect with your market via Internet TV, take the first steps now--don’t wait for your competitors to beat you to it.

Internet TV is an exciting and innovative way for business owners to reach their clients. It utilizes the power of face-to-face conversation, without requiring the massive budget needed to reach an audience through “traditional” TV.


Does Your Brand Resonate with Your Target Market?

There are many factors that go in to creating an effective brand, whether personal or corporate. From the colors you utilize to the attributes you seek to highlight, there are a tremendous amount of details that must be managed. Unfortunately, this often results in some of the most important questions being overlooked. As you build your personal brand, ask yourself this essential question: Does my brand resonate with my target market?

It’s obvious when you think about it, but you’d be amazed how many professionals have devoted substantial time and resources towards the creation of a dynamic personal brand… only to ultimately realize that their audience doesn’t appreciate it.

How can you be sure that your brand will resonate with your market? Below are three steps:

1)     Analyze the competition. As you begin to craft your brand, start by evaluating the competition. Obviously, the more successful businesses can serve as a good frame of reference, while less successful competitors should be generally considered examples of what not to do. From selecting colors to creating a brand-centered website, start by taking note of what works and what doesn’t in your market.

2)     Address common challenges that your target customers face. What is the problem you are seeking to address for your clients and customers? Are you going to provide reliable financial advice? Are you going to give your patients the perfect smile that has eluded them for years? Identify the core solutions you and your business will provide, and center your brand around them.

3)     Communicate the value you provide. Why should your market pay attention to you? How will you change their lives for the better? The answer can be simple or complex—but you need to have an answer. If your brand doesn’t give your audience a reason to pay attention, they won’t. Identify your primary value proposition and work it in to your personal brand.

Branding is much more than a flashy logo or a media strategy. In fact, you can invest millions into a brand and still miss the mark completely—if you don’t start with the primary goal of creating a brand that resonates with your audience. Contact me today if you’d like to learn more!


Don’t Be Like Rush: Tough Lessons In Crisis Management

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog can be found here: Don't Be Like Rush: Tough Lessons In Crisis Management

Whatever you may think of his political views, there is no question that Rush Limbaugh is a gifted communicator and entertainer. For over two decades he has maintained an audience in the millions, dwarfing most of his talk radio competition.

But early this month, he stepped over the line (by his own admission) and launched a personal attack on a law student named Sandra Fluke. Rush eventually apologized, but by the time he did so, the damage had been done. The outburst of negative publicity led over 140 advertisersto pull their support, and caused at least one radio station to drop his program. (Rush disputesthat number, noting that the majority of these advertisers actually had agreements with local stations, not Rush’s show, and that these advertisers simply requested that their ads air in a different time slot.)

Regardless of your political persuasions or your opinion of Limbaugh himself, there are important lessons to be learned from this episode. Below are three lessons that particularly stick out.

1) Come clean immediately. Rush made his initial statements during his show on Wednesday, February 29. He did not issue his apology until the weekend, and by the time he did so, the media firestorm had grown out of control. Rush and his team are smart enough to have known immediately that he made a mistake, and he would have been far better off apologizing immediately. Delaying the apology added fuel to the fire. If you or your business make a mistake, come clean as soon as possible.

2) When you apologize, it’s better to overdo it than not to do enough.When he did issue his apology, it was via a written statement on his website. Most observers found it underwhelming and immediately questioned his sincerity. The underwhelming apology then became a story of its own and stirred the media up further, rather than putting an end to the issue. (This episode brings back memories of the BP oil spill of 2010, in which then-CEO Tony Hayward apologized but also complained that he “wants his life back.” Needless to say, this lack of empathy and sincerity did not play well.) It’s better to appear too sincere than not sincere enough.

3) Once you’ve apologized and made things right, turn the page. Unfortunately for Rush, he has been unable to “turn the page” and escape the media firestorm that has been sparked. His unique position as a political icon has obviously made this difficult, but you can rest assured that his PR team has been working on the challenge. When it’s you or your business facing negative publicity, it’s important that you don’t let the story linger more than it must. Apologize, make things right--and then get back to making the right kind of headlines. Maybe it’s releasing a new product, maybe it’s writing a book, or perhaps it’s going on a TV blitz. Whatever your tactics, the key is to move past your misstep and get back to the core message of your business.

Most of us will never command the level of attention that Rush routinely generates, but every business owner has a brand to build and a reputation to protect. Crisis management is an important skill to possess, and by the time you need it, it’s too late to learn. There’s plenty for us to absorb from Rush’s recent incident--so take these lessons to heart.


Establish Value With a Strong Personal Brand

I have been talking recently about the importance of competing on value, not on price. When your business can charge higher prices than the competition in your market, yet still attract business because of the superior value you provide, you are well on the way to success.

How can you establish this value? Your personal brand can play a significant role—and below are several first steps.

Highlight your experience and qualifications. Your customers want to feel that they are in good hands. If you can position yourself as experienced and well-qualified, you allow them to simply relax and trust that you’ll take care of their needs. That sense of confidence is exceptionally valuable—and most consumers are willing to pay a premium for it.

Emphasize your expert status. Media exposure is key—whether that means writing a book, publishing articles in nationally circulated magazines, or appearing on local TV. Many of our clients laugh at this idea when we discuss it for the first time—their common response is “what in the world would I have to talk/write about?” But every business owner has a story to tell, and our clients have found great success in doing so. Emphasizing your expertise makes it easy to charge higher rates… because it’s a given that working with an expert means paying a premium rate.

Communicate what makes you different. A well-defined personal brand makes it easy for your market to understand what makes you different from the competition. I love the music and entertainment industry, and it shows—whether it’s on Twitter, through my website, or in face-to-face conversation. As a result, my clients know that I have the ability to leverage the same tools that are available to A-list celebrities. Take the time to define your most valuable points of differentiation—and work to incorporate them into your personal brand.

If your personal brand can communicate your qualifications, your expert status, and the attributes that set you apart from the competition, it will be very easy for your audience to understand the value that you provide. Establishing this value is an essential first step towards your goal of no longer competing on price… and your personal brand is a great way to accomplish this. I’d love to tell you more—feel free to get in touch with me today!


What Apple Can Teach You About Competing on Price

This post was originally featured on FastCompany.com.  The original blog can be found here: What Apple Can Teach You About Not Having To Compete on Price

Rumors are swirling across the blogosphere regarding the expected introduction of Apple’s iPad 3—the third iteration of their groundbreaking tablet device. And while the specifications of the device have yet to be revealed, experts project that millions will be sold in 2012 alone.

The idea of an Apple product selling like hotcakes isn’t surprising. But when you consider the difficult economic environment Apple has battled over the past four years, the success they have achieved is remarkable. It’s even more impressive when you consider that Apple products are rarely, if ever, cheaper than the competition. The iPad, for instance, retails for $499. Competitors, such as the Kindle and other tablets, often sell for $200 or less. Yet, in 2011, Apple controlled a whopping 66% of the tablet market.

Apple has achieved what every business owner dreams of: the ability to charge premium rates and still attract business. Apple has successfully refused to compete on the basis of price—and your business can too. Here are four ways Apple has accomplished this… can you apply these principles to your business?

1) Powerful branding. Thanks to a well-executed branding campaign, Apple has built a brand that is trendy, cool, and technologically advanced. The iPhone, in particular, has become a status symbol for many.

2) Strategic marketing. Every time a new product is launched, customers line up for hours (if not days) outside Apple retail locations. And every time, a product shortage prompts anxiety and even desperation from customers who were unable to get their hands on the product. The result is a palpable feeling of scarcity and value—customers feel privileged to fork over $500 for an iPad! While Apple won’t admit that they intentionally create product shortages in order to create a buzz, it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t be able to meet everyone’s demand on day one if they so chose.

3) Excellent customer service. Apple Care, the company’s warranty and customer care program, provides a level of service that is unparalleled in the electronics industry. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that expert help is a phone call away is a big part of the value Apple provides.

4) A product that doesn’t disappoint. Branding, marketing, and customer service don’t mean anything if the product is disappointing. Apple doesn’t cut corners and doesn’t make promises that its products can’t keep—resulting in customers that are consistently thrilled with their purchase. At the end of the day, if a product can’t live up to the expectations set by its marketing, it won’t be successful for the long term.

Apple doesn’t compete on price—and your business doesn’t have to, either. Apply these lessons… and you’ll find that you have the ability to charge premium prices and still win the business!



Personal Branding: What We Can Learn from Adele

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of once again attending the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, along with a group of over 30 clients that were in town for our Annual Hollywood Mastermind Meeting. The event is always a blast, and this year was certainly no exception. For many, the most compelling story of the evening was Adele’s stunning success—she left Staples Center with no fewer than six Grammys in her possession. Adele’s story is about more than musical talent, however—she’s a very savvy marketer as well. Below are three lessons I took from her success… how can you apply them to your business?

Seek exposure wherever you can find it. Adele’s first big breakthrough came in 2006, when a friend posted a song she had recorded on MySpace. The track made its way to a record label, XL Recordings, which offered her a contract. Two years later, her popularity in the United States received a significant boost in 2008 when she appeared on Saturday Night Live. The very next day, her album 19 topped the iTunes charts. The lesson? You never know where your next big break will come from—but the more media exposure you can create for yourself and your business, the better off you’ll be.

Embrace your identity. Adele isn’t your typical petite starlet—and she hasn’t tried to fit into that mold. She has embraced her identity, and her honesty has captivated the hearts of her audience. When it comes to personal branding, your goal shouldn’t be to meet artificial standards that others have created… your goal should be to communicate who you are and what makes you different from those around you. This strategy paid dividends for Adele—and it could for your business as well!

Tell your story. Adele’s life hasn’t been a fairytale, and she’s the first to point this out. From failed relationships to her struggle losing weight, Adele has experienced challenges that resonate with many of us. Rather than glossing over them, she has made her story the centerpiece of her music and her lyrics in particular. Tell your story! It doesn’t have to be a fairytale—it just needs to resonate with your audience.

For business owners, Adele provides more than catchy melodies—we would all do well to learn from her success. Contact me today if you’d like more information on this subject!


What the GOP Primary Can Teach You About Your Personal Brand

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com.  The original post can be found here: The GOP Primary Proves Personal Branding Isn't Optional

The race to become the Republican presidential nominee has dominated headlines for the last several weeks. But this process is more than just political theater—in fact, the GOP race has illustrated several important concepts that relate to personal branding. As a business owner or a professional, here are three key takeaways:

If you don’t define yourself, competitors will do so for you. In the weeks preceding the Iowa caucus, New Gingrich began to cut in to frontrunner Mitt Romney’s lead. Unfortunately for him, Romney’s campaign had the resources to launch an ad campaign casting doubt on Gingrich’s qualifications. Because Gingrich lacked the resources to respond, his momentum in Iowa was buried. As a business owner, if you don’t define your personal brand, you leave it up to your competitors to do it for you. Take control of your brand!

Style matters as much as substance. As a nation, we would probably be well-served if we were able to elect the smartest, most talented, most visionary individual to lead us as president. But the race for President isn’t about substance—it’s about voter appeal, aka “electability.” For better or worse, the same is true in the world of personal branding. You may be the most talented CPA in your town, but if you can’t construct a personal brand that positions you as an expert, you’ll lose business to competitors who are far less talented than yourself. Branding isn’t optional… no matter how good you are at what you do.

Liabilities can’t be ignored, but they can be overcome. There is no “perfect candidate” in the Republican field. In fact, there has been no “perfect candidate” in the history of politics. There are two types of candidates: those who are able to overcome their flaws, and those who cannot. Successful politicians are able to persuade voters to look past their flaws—either by persuading them that they don’t matter, or that they have been sufficiently addressed and are no longer a cause for concern. As a business owner, you’ll never have a perfect product or service. But if the strength of your marketing and your personal brand can overcome the objections of your customers, you’ll never have trouble closing the deal.

The strength of a politician’s personal brand can be the difference between winning and losing an election. As a business owner, a strong personal brand will give you the ability to dominate your market and lock out the competition. These three lessons from the GOP primary race will help you create a powerful brand—keep watching and see what else you can learn!


Does Your Website Reflect Your Personal Brand?

What should a strong website accomplish? It should represent your company accurately. It should provide information regarding the products and services you offer. It should generate leads. And… it should represent your personal brand! In fact, in many instances, the first interaction a potential client has with you will be via your website. For that reason, it’s essential that your website reflect your personal brand. Below are five great ways to do this… how many of them are you utilizing?

1) A prominently featured picture of yourself. Many business owners are shy about using their picture—but doing so is essential to build a connection with your audience.

2) A video introduction. Video is an effective way to catch the attention of your audience. A well-produced video gives you instant credibility and positions you as an expert—take advantage of the power of video! (Check out the video on the homepage of my website as an example: http://www.nicknanton.com/)

3) A list of your credentials and your accomplishments. Have you authored a book? Written articles or appeared on TV shows? Managed a remarkable project or event? Your website should highlight these accomplishments!

4) An emphasis on your points of differentiation. Let’s be realistic for a moment—it’s rare that your website will be the only one a potential client visits. So it is essential, if you are going to bring in business, that your website communicates why you are different from others in your industry.

5) A touch of your personality. If you have been paying attention to this blog, you know that a memorable personal brand can’t be all business, all the time. Whether it is your obsession with American Idol, your love for a local sports team, or a unique hobby—find a way to work a bit of personality into your site.

Your website represents a fantastic personal branding tool—but many business owners fail to capitalize. We’ve covered five ideas today… but it is a list that is far from exhaustive. Think outside the box, be creative… and find a way to communicate your brand effectively!


Capitalize on Your Points of Differentiation to Create a Powerful Personal Brand

A primary objective of every personal branding campaign is to create a brand that helps you stand out from the crowd. A strong personal brand is both distinctive and memorable—which means that it is essential that your brand highlights traits or talents that make you unique. To accomplish this, it’s important to identify your personal points of differentiation and to identify several that can be incorporated into your personal brand.

For instance:

Do you have a unique educational background? Perhaps you attended a prestigious college or earned a prestigious degree? Or maybe you are a lifelong learner and have acquired multiple degrees. If your educational background makes you uniquely qualified to provide services to your market, emphasize it! You spent plenty of time and money pursuing your education—it only makes sense to leverage it as much as you can.

What are some of the more interesting facets of your personality? Incorporating your personality into your personal brand is important—but only in a way that is relevant. Your phobia of spiders, for example, probably won’t add value to your brand. On the other hand, your non-stop work ethic or your creative approach to problem solving are likely worth working in to your personal brand.

What are your hobbies and passions? Remember, a strong personal brand is distinctive as well as memorable… and what better way to create a memorable brand than by incorporating your unique passions? I am a Florida Gators fan—and my clients, friends, and colleagues are well aware of this fact. You may not be a sports fan, but what are you passionate about? American Idol? Your vintage car collection? Traveling the world? Don’t be shy about working these hobbies and passions into your brand!

A strong personal brand will inspire your audience to trust you—because they will feel like they already know you. But such a brand cannot be built without highlighting the areas that make you unique. You’re not a robot—you’re not all business, 100% of the time. So don’t build a robotic personal brand. Focus on your points of differentiation and your unique characteristics and you’ll be well on your way to building an effective personal brand.


Lebron James is Back—What Can He Teach You About Your Personal Brand?

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com.  The original post can be found here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1804460/lebron-james-is-back-what-can-he-teach-you-about-your-personal-brand

The NBA season tipped off on Christmas day, which meant a return to the spotlight for Lebron James and the Miami Heat. As you probably know, Lebron James generated controversy (not to mention numerous headlines) last season with his decision to publically jilt the Cleveland Cavaliers in favor of the Miami Heat. In the process, Lebron’s personal brand evolved substantially—from a fan favorite, to a villain, to a gradually “rehabbed” image this offseason. There are a number of lessons that are relevant to business owners seeking to build a strong personal brand in 2012. Below are three of the most important.

1) If you’ve got bad news, deliver it in private whenever possible. Last offseason, Lebron James left Cleveland to play for Miami. This is not uncommon in sports—star athletes relocate often. However, the way in which Lebron handled the process was an unprecedented disaster. Rather than discreetly moving on, Lebron took over ESPN airwaves for an hour to make his announcement. He outraged Cleveland’s management team, broke the hearts of their fans, and disgusted fans across the nation with his seemingly self-centered approach. The moral of the story for business owners is simple: keep negative developments as quiet as possible. Whether it is laying off an employee, discontinuing a product line, or even closing a store location—handle it as discreetly as you can.

2) When you screw up, apologize and move on. Lebron’s “Decision” was handled poorly—this was obvious to everyone, immediately. But rather than apologizing for it, Lebron bristled at the suggestion that he did anything wrong. He then doubled down, so to speak, by appearing in a celebratory rally with his new teammates in Miami. As a result, he faced criticism all season long—a fate that could have been avoided had he simply apologized for his indiscretion. The moral: if you know you’re wrong, don’t fight it. Come clean, set things right—and move past it!

3) At the end of the day, it’s the bottom line that matters. Lebron James, for all of his personal accolades and notoriety, has yet to win a championship. To make matters worse, he has often seemed to “choke” when the stakes were highest. As a result, the media and most fans primarily focus on his shortcomings. Winning would completely change the narrative surrounding Lebron—but until that happens, he’ll be viewed by many in a negative light. As a business owner, the lesson is simple: exceptional products and services will define your brand in a way that nothing else can. Deliver an outstanding customer experience and you’ll never have trouble bringing in new business.

You’re not a superstar basketball player, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from Lebron’s personal branding nightmare. Keep these lessons in mind as you create a powerful personal brand in 2012!


Do You Have a Plan… and a System?

Every successful personal branding campaign features two components: a plan, and a system to ensure that the plan is successfully implemented.

Without both of these components, no branding campaign will work.

This should be an obvious point, but you’d be amazed at how many business owners approach branding (and marketing in general) with only one half of the equation. There are some that have a great vision and an aggressive plan to brand themselves as an expert in their field—but that fail to create systems to ensure that their plan is executed. Then there are others who utilize systems to get things done, for instance, posting on their blog twice per month, using Twitter, speaking at networking events—but that don’t have any overarching strategic purpose behind their actions.

For your brand to be successful, the first step is creating a plan. What does your brand consist of? Who are your target customers? How will you communicate your brand to your target market? How will your brand differentiate you from the competition? How will you leverage your brand into a profitable component of your overall marketing plan?

Of course, there is more to creating a plan than that, but those are many of the important questions that must be addressed. (If you’d like help creating a plan for your personal branding campaign, get in touch!)

Step two requires taking your plan and creating systems to ensure that it is executed.

If an element of your plan includes blogging regularly, the system could be that you (or a staff member) spends thirty minutes every Friday morning writing the blog for the upcoming week. Or perhaps you’d prefer to spend two hours writing your blog entries for the upcoming month. Either way is fine—as long as you have a defined system, and some sort of accountability to ensure that the system continues to run. If your plan calls for regular public speaking, assign as staff member to monitor local newspapers, websites, and organizations on a weekly basis in search of opportunities for you to speak.

This isn’t rocket science—but it’s critically important, and often overlooked!

Stop spinning your wheels in vain when it comes to personal branding and marketing. Take stock of your current efforts right now—do you have a plan, and systems to execute it? If not, get busy! If you’d like help, please get in touch with me today!


Netflix and the Power of Perception

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com.  The original post can be found here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1797961/netflix-and-the-power-of-perception


Over the last couple of months, Netflix has undergone a major brand transformation—and not in a good way. They’ve gone from a trendy, convenient video provider to a bumbling, greedy, corporate entity—and the significance of this transformation has shown itself in terms of cancelled subscriptions (over 800,00 accounts lost in the third quarter alone) and a plunging stock price (a drop of nearly 75% since July).

What caused this massive fall from grace? At its core, of course, were financial challenges. Netflix is facing increased competition and higher operating costs. But Netflix leadership made a fatal mistake while planning their response to these challenges—they failed to consider the power of public perception.

In July, Netflix announce that they were separating their online streaming services from their DVD service—and that customers would have to pay for both. In effect, this amounted to a 60% price increase. In what should have been a predictable outcome, there was a massive costumer outcry, particularly online.

Quite simply, Netflix leadership failed to account for the reality that customers would see their reorganization as a major price hike, and that these upset customers would vocalize their frustration online.

It got worse.

Over the weeks following their July announcement, Netflix held firm. They acknowledged customer frustration, but took no steps to fix the problem.

In September, they announced that they were creating a separate company and website to handle their DVD services, known as Qwikster. Once again, they failed to address customer perception—as this “solution” in no way addressed customer concerns. The response was overwhelmingly negative, and ultimately Netflix scrapped the idea.

The lesson here? Perception matters. Had Netflix created a more palatable strategy addressing their financial concerns, their dramatic fall from grace could have been avoided.

Netflix management appears to have recognized their error, and stated the following in a recent shareholder letter: “$7.99 for unlimited streaming and $7.99 for unlimited DVD are both very aggressive low prices, relative to competition and to the value of the services, and they are the right place for Netflix to be in the long term. What we misjudged was how quickly to move there. We compounded the problem with our lack of explanation about the rising cost of the expansion of streaming content, and steady DVD costs, so that … many perceived us as greedy. Finally, we announced and then retracted a separate brand for DVD. While this branding incident further dented our reputation, and caused a temporary cancellation surge, compared to our price change, its impact was relatively minor.”

Don’t repeat their mistake. Think about the impact of the decisions you make, as the CEO of your business, through the prism of your customer’s viewpoint. It’s not enough to make decisions that work for your business internally—they need to make sense to your customers, as well. Never forget the power of perception when it comes to building a strong company brand!


Personal Branding 101: “But I Don’t Need a Personal Brand”

I once had a business owner tell me, “Nick, I don’t need a personal brand. My business isn’t flashy and neither am I. My customers know me as trustworthy, honest, and reliable—what more do I need than that?”

What he didn’t realize is that, in stating that he didn’t need a personal brand, he had just identified his personal brand! Namely, this business owner is known to be “trustworthy, honest, and reliable.”

I share this story to correct the misconception that a personal brand is something only for Hollywood celebrities and public figures. The reality is this: everyone has a personal brand. Your personal brand is simply the collection of thoughts and emotions that your friends, family members, customers, clients, prospects, and competitors have whenever you cross their mind.

Everyone has a personal brand—but that doesn’t mean that it’s a positive image. For instance, some business owners may be considered arrogant or unconcerned with customer service. In some cases, this negative brand conception may be accurate—but in others, it can result simply through miscommunication.

As a business owner, you cannot afford to have a miscommunication when it comes to creating your personal brand—which is why it is critical that every business owner deliberately define and communicate his or her personal brand.

That doesn’t mean you have to appear on TV or plaster your smiling face on billboards throughout the city—that’s a strategy that is appropriate for some businesses, but not every business. You don’t have to become somebody that you aren’t. Your personal brand should reflect and enhance your personality, not distort it. If loyalty, honesty, and a focus on relationships are important components to your personality, those are the attributes that your personal brand should be built around.

Personal branding is not about becoming someone you’re not—it’s not about changing who you are. Personal branding is about enhancing your personality and your unique points of differentiation… and it’s about making sure that you are properly understood by your market.

Whether you recognize it or not, you already have a personal brand. The real question is this… do you have control of your personal brand—and are you happy with it? If you don’t define your personal brand, you are leaving it up to others to do so for you. If you’d like to learn more about defining a personal brand that appeals to your market and your customers, contact me today!


Get More Mileage Out of Your Brand

A strong personal brand is incredibly valuable for a business owner.  A well-developed personal brand allows you to lock out the competition in your market—and it enables you to stop competing based on price.  In other words, you can charge higher prices than the competition, and still win the business.  However, it’s important to understand that a strong personal brand alone won’t provide the results you are looking for.  Your personal brand is a tool—it’s a part of your overall marketing strategy.  It’s a huge part, to be sure, but it must be combined with other marketing strategies in order to deliver maximum results.  Below are several effective ways to accomplish this:

1) Incorporate your personal brand into speeches and public events. Whether you’re speaking to a large audience or you’re networking with two fellow business owners, don’t be afraid to tie your brand into conversation.  Tell stories.  Talk about your hobbies.  Let your audience get to know you, personally—not just in your professional capacity.  By interweaving your brand into your conversation, you can simultaneously impress your audience with your knowledge of your business and create a strong personal appeal. 

2) Use direct marketing—but make sure your brand always shines through. Many business owners don’t realize how effectively personal branding can be tied in to a direct marketing campaign.  Whether it’s your website or a direct mail campaign, branding yourself as an expert in your industry while presenting a strong call to action is powerful.  Don’t just market your products and services—market yourself through your brand.  At the end of the day, most customers want to work with an expert—so present yourself as the expert in your market.

3) Live your brand. Personal branding only works if you truly commit to it.  Every interaction you have with your market—whether it’s a face-to-face conversation, a radio commercial, a website, or a speech—should be consistent with your personal brand.  By itself, your personal brand has limited value… but when you tie it in to every aspect of your business and your relationships, it can take your marketing efforts to the next level.

At the end of the day, business is all about generating results.  A strong personal brand, properly leveraged through a variety of marketing channels, will have a tremendous impact on your bottom line.  Contact me if you’d like further information!


Have Fun With Your Personal Brand!

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com.  The original post can be found here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1787569/have-fun-with-your-personal-brand

You recognize the importance of building a strong personal brand—otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this blog entry.  But have you found a way to make personal branding fun? Quite frankly, branding is much less effective when you view it as an inflexible job, something that you have to do on a regular basis.  Your audience will identify branding that feels forced and artificial, and are going to be more attracted to a brand that appears genuine, vibrant, and fun.  So how can you make your personal branding fun?

1) Make sure that your brand represents your personality and your interests. If you asked your friends to describe you, how would they do it?  Would they note your intensity, your sense of humor, your attention to detail?  Whatever the case may be, make sure that your brand reflects who you are.  That way, whether it is on Twitter or in face-to-face conversation, you can be yourself without contradicting your brand. 

2) Share your hobbies. Are you a big sports fan?  (If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I am a Florida Gator fan!)  Are you into coin collecting?  Poker?  Whatever they may be, make your hobbies part of your brand—because talking about your hobbies is something that you won’t have to force yourself to do! 

3) Keep your audience up to date on your latest adventures, whether business or personal. I enjoy sharing pictures of my family via social media.  I often mention when I’m out eating at a certain restaurant, or if I’m on my way to a sports event.  (Don’t take it too far, though—don’t be the guy who posts pictures of his lunch five times each week!) I also keep my audience up to date on my latest speaking events, and other business projects.  It’s fun for me because I enjoy what I do, and therefore I enjoy talking about it.  Keep your audience up to date—let them know what you are up to.  It’s a great way to build relationships with your audience, and it’s a fun way to use new technology such as Facebook and Twitter!

If branding is a chore, you probably aren’t going to be very effective.  Find ways to make it fun.  Not only will you spend more time at it, but your audience will be more attracted to the brand you create.  If you need help making your brand fun, get in touch with me today!


Personal Branding: Relationships Are Key

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com.  The original post can be found here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1782187/personal-branding-relationships-are-key

As you know, personal branding is all about building credibility, visibility, and establishing yourself as an expert in your field.  But there is another element of personal branding which is often overlooked, and that is relationships.  In fact, I would go as far as to say that personal branding that doesn’t create and nurture relationships is almost useless.  Creating a relationship with a target customer often turns him or her into a prospect, and nurturing that relationship can turn the prospect into a customer.  Strong relationships with referral sources often lead directly to more great prospects.  And the relationships you nurture with colleagues can be an invaluable source of knowledge and ideas.  So how can you make sure that relationships remain a priority as you run your branding campaign?  Below are several suggestions.

1) Add a personal touch your social media presence. If you follow me on Twitter (@NickNanton), you’ll see that in addition to work-related posts, I also share pictures of my family and keep my followers updated on my latest adventures, work-related or not.  While you shouldn’t feel pressured to share more than you are comfortable with, showing your personal side on social media allows your audience to feel like they truly know you.

2) Actively seek relationships. Look, I understand the demands on your time.  I’m in the same boat—I’m always being pulled in four different directions.  And it’s great to be busy—but the danger is that our lack of time can easily cause us to neglect relationships.  Take advantage of every opportunity you get to create a new relationship, even if the individual doesn’t provide an obvious benefit to you.  You’ll be surprised how often a relationship turns out to be more valuable than you would have expected.

3) Be genuine. As long as you remain true to yourself and your values, and as long as you are committed to creating and nurturing relationships, you won’t have a problem building them!  Just remember that a relationship can’t be faked—so be real.  You don’t have to force yourself to be smart, funny, or charming… just be you!

Focusing on relationships is a great way to leverage the power your personal branding efforts.  Unfortunately, many business owners are so busy running and marketing their business that they fail to take advantage of them.  Don’t make that mistake—remember that relationships are the key to growing a strong business!


Personal Branding Tips: Three Reasons You Need to be on YouTube

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com.  The original post can be found here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1777410/personal-branding-tips-three-reasons-you-need-to-be-on-youtube

As technology continues to evolve, video is becoming more and more prevalent across the internet.  Even five years ago, filming and publishing professional-grade video content was much more difficult than it is today.  From a personal branding standpoint, video is a fantastic tool as it allows your audience to see your face and hear your voice… instead of simply reading text.  Below are three great reasons why, if you are serious about personal branding, you need to be on YouTube:

1) Video allows you to connect with your audience in a way no other medium can. Blogging is great.  So is a strong social media presence and well-written content on your website.  But no medium can provide the type of personal connection that video offers.  There is no substitute for this connection. 

2) Video allows you to express your personality. The essence of your personal brand is your personality.  And video allows you to express yourself far more effectively than any other form of media.  From your facial expressions to vocal inflections, video communicates the subtleties that make you unique.  Video allows you to express your passions effectively as well—passion is communicated much more clearly through video than through text or pictures.

3) Video is fun and easy for your audience. Let’s face it, reading takes more effort than watching a video.  For better or worse, most of us enjoy being able to lean back and simply watch the computer screen rather than actively read.  In addition, video is easy to share, both on your website and on social media.  Take a look at this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQKng6ummN4) that we created introducing our “Generation U” marketing services for an example! 

Today’s technology makes establishing a video identity achievable for every single business owner.  YouTube and other video-based websites are dramatically growing in popularity every day, so don’t wait until it is too late to jump on this bandwagon.  If you have questions or would like further advice regarding using video for personal branding, please feel free to get in touch with me today.  I look forward to seeing you on YouTube!


Personal Branding: It’s the Details that Count

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com.  The original post can be found here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1773630/personal-branding-its-the-details-that-count

There are plenty of misconceptions when it comes to personal branding, but I have found one to be particularly damaging: the idea that personal branding is nothing more than how you dress and the first impression you make on an audience. While it is true that your personal appearance and the impression you have on those around you are both important, the reality is that personal branding is all about the details.

When you create a brand, you are telling a story. It does you no good to build a “mostly strong” brand--because the details that you get wrong will undermine the brand you are trying to build. Have you ever heard a friend tell a great story, but been distracted by two or three glaring inconsistencies or downright falsehoods? No matter how compelling the story is, most people won’t be able to get past the details that are incorrect. So it is with building a brand. Below are several “little things” that many business owners get wrong...often with disastrous consequences for their brand:

1) Not staying true to their brand while dealing with individual customers. Many of us have experienced this bait-and-switch while dealing with large businesses, such as satellite TV providers or phone companies. You know what I am talking about--the commercial portrays the business as customer oriented and exciting, but the automated phone system sends precisely the opposite message. Don’t disappoint your customers--stay true to your brand every time you interact with them.

2) Contradicting their brand. It can be difficult to stay consistent with your branding efforts across multiple platforms. It is easy to say something in person that contradicts something you’ve written in your blog or shared on Twitter. But if this happens regularly, your market will begin to lose confidence in you and your business. Stay consistent.

3) Trying to be everything to everyone. Many business owners, in their quest to land every customer they see, are willing to shake up their brand in order to appeal to their latest prospect. Unfortunately, while this may increase your chances of landing a client in the short term, it weakens your brand to the point where it no longer stands for anything. Understand your brand, know what it stands for, and don’t deviate!

It is easy to undermine or weaken your personal brand.  And unfortunately, doing so can invalidate the time and resources you have invested.  Make sure that you have the details right!


Rebranding 101

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com.  The original post can be found here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1771299/rebranding-101

Rebranding is a drastic action that's is rarely necessary. But nonetheless, it's sometimes the only option...so today we are going to walk through that process.  Below are the essential first steps in the rebranding process.

1) Understand your market. The essential goal of branding is to differentiate yourself from your competition. Therefore, before you do anything else, spend time thoroughly researching your market. Understand the branding strategies of your competition. Evaluate which brands have been successful--and why they’ve been successful.

2) Identify your niche in the marketplace. Before kicking off your rebranding campaign, it’s essential that you know exactly which segment of your market you are aiming for. Which customers are you trying to appeal to? How intense is the competition for these customers? How will you differentiate yourself from the competition in order to win the business?

3) Make a clean break with your old brand. If you are rebranding, it means that your old brand is no longer viable. And if that is the case, why would you want any association with it? I'm often surprised to watch businesses, supposedly trying to rebrand themselves, end up with a new brand barely distinguishable from their old brand. Make a clean break. Change the name of your business, the colors, the “feel” of the marketing materials, everything you can. Otherwise, what’s the point?

4) Don’t repeat your mistakes. Your brand isn’t like a car--you shouldn’t need to replace it every couple of years. If you’ve determined that rebranding is necessary, it means that that either you made mistakes managing your previous brand, or that your market has shifted on you. Before proceeding with a rebranding effort, make sure that you understand where you went off course, and that you have a plan in place to avoid repeating your mistakes.

5) Create a plan. Once you clearly understand where you are going and why, it’s time to create a plan. Be realistic with regard to costs and schedule--if you don’t have the resources to commit to the effort, don’t do it yet. A rebranding campaign isn’t something you can do halfheartedly.

A rebranding campaign requires time, effort, and resources. Worse, it essentially nullifies all of the work you did building your previous brand. Nonetheless, from time to time it is necessary. If you are convinced that rebranding is your only option, make sure to take your time and do it right! The last thing you want is to be back in the same situation a couple of years later.


Four Hidden Branding Opportunities

Branding is all about repetition, right?  (If you have been paying attention to this blog, you know that the answer to this question is yes!)  Whether it is your logo, your picture, or your writing—the more your customers and your market are exposed to your brand, the more powerful it becomes.  That’s the reasoning behind many of the campaigns I help my clients run—social media, blogging, article publishing… it’s all about getting their names out there regularly.  However, if you focus only on the “big” branding tactics, you overlook many less obvious but powerful branding opportunities.  Below are four of my favorite hidden branding opportunities:

1) Email signature. How many times per week do your clients see your signature?  For many of you, that number will be in the hundreds!  At minimum, you need to have a logo.  You should also include a creative tagline, if appropriate, as well as links to your website, your blog, and your social media profiles. 

2) The holidays. Nowadays, receiving an actual physical card or a letter is unusual.  Take advantage of our digital overload and send your clients some type of tangible card or gift—this is guaranteed to make you stand out from the crowd! 

3) Your attitude. This is particularly important if you interact with customers and clients regularly—and yet, it is often overlooked.  Are you an optimistic, can-do, anything-is-possible type of person?  Even if you aren’t, try your best to adopt this attitude—because the positive “vibe” you create for your clients is more powerful than you may think. 

4) Answering the phone. I have mentioned this previously because it is a classic missed opportunity!  When the phone rings at your office, whoever picks it up needs to state the name of your business.  (I.E. “Celebrity Branding Agency, this is Nick.”)  Don’t miss this easy opportunity to keep driving your brand identity home!

So there you have it: in addition to your personal branding efforts on social media and through your blog and website, take advantage of these often overlooked opportunities.

If you have creative and/or overlooked branding opportunities, I’d love to hear about them!


Personal Branding: When Is It Time to Rebrand?

There are times in business and in life when it is time to simply start over.  A new career, a new relationship, a new location—sometimes, it’s time for something new.  This holds true in the world of personal branding, too.  There are times when, for whatever reason, it is simply not worth continuing in the same direction.  While this is a last resort, rebranding can be an exciting opportunity to completely revolutionize your business.  Below are questions to help you determine whether it is time to rebrand:

1) Does your brand still differentiate you from the competition? The core purpose of branding is to separate yourself from the rest of your market.  If your brand is no longer unique, it may be time to rebrand.

2) Has the market shifted away from your brand? Over time, consumer taste changes.  Think back to the clothes you wore in the Eighties if you don’t believe me.  The personal brand you created fifteen years ago may not have the same appeal to the marketplace that it once had.  Be honest and ask yourself whether your brand still appeals to your target customers.  If it’s hard for you to honestly answer the question, seek opinions from trusted friends or family members.  If your brand no longer appeals to your customers, it is time to rebrand.

3) Does your brand represent the direction your business is growing? Your goals and plans for your business may have shifted dramatically since you began branding yourself.  Where do you envision your business in five years?  Ten years?  Will your current brand still be a good representation of your business?  If not, it’s probably time to rebrand yourself and your business.

4) Is your brand visually appealing compared to the competition? Your brand includes your logo, your company colors, your marketing materials, your photo, and plenty of other visual materials.  Compare your branding materials to those of your competition.  How do you stack up?  If most of your competition has more appealing visuals, it is probably time to rebrand.

Rebranding yourself should be a last resort.  Most of the time, I advise my clients to simply work changes into their current brand.  But from time to time, it’s simply more efficient to start over with a blank slate.  Do you need to rebrand?


Personal Branding: Make it a Habit

Personal branding doesn’t happen automatically. Building a strong brand takes intentional effort. Today, a strong brand includes an active social media presence in addition to more traditional branding efforts. Effective branding takes time and effort—there’s no getting around it. I’ve spoken to many business owners who recognize the importance of a strong brand, but simply fail to devote the necessary time on a consistent basis. Here’s a secret: your branding campaign doesn’t demand hours of attention every day—in fact, taking ten or fifteen minutes to engage your Twitter followers may be enough most days. What your branding campaign does require is consistency—you need to be active multiple times per week, if not daily. And there is only one way to ensure that you are consistently active: you need to create a personal branding habit.

Yes, you’re busy. The demands of running a business are non-stop. I understand—I run several! But you find time to brush your teeth twice a day, right? You take the time to straighten your tie before heading out the door. Where do you find the time and the energy? You don’t have to “find” the time—you just do it, because it’s a habit. And that’s what personal branding needs to become. A habit. This could mean a couple of minutes on Twitter before bed each night, or it could mean 20 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday to work on your blog.

Personal branding isn’t about flashes of brilliance. It’s about being yourself, consistently, and engaging with the world around you. Posting three incredibly insightful tweets each month is much less effective than multiple “routine” tweets each day—because the point is to build a connection with your audience. And you can’t do that without consistent interaction. That’s why it’s critical that you are active on a near-daily basis. You don’t have to feel inspired—you just have to be there, and be yourself.

Effective branding requires consistent activity. It’s as simple as that. But you aren’t going to be able to be active consistently unless you establish a habit. It could be first thing in the morning, it could be the last thing you do before you leave the office, it could be after lunch—but whenever it is, find time to dedicate to your personal brand and start building the habit!


Personal Branding Doesn’t Have to Be a Chore

It’s unfortunate that many consultants and branding experts portray personal branding as a serious, difficult process. The truth is that not only can personal branding be fun—but it is actually most effective when you are having fun with it. So today we are going to look at ways to make your personal branding efforts more fun as well as more successful.

1) Be yourself. Many business owners make the mistake of building a serious, all-business personal brand. And while the core of your brand has to be your business expertise, a boring brand is simply not going to be memorable. So spice it up. Showcase your sense of humor. Share some opinions that may surprise people. Don’t hesitate to include your family and personal life into your public brand. You will connect with your audience most effectively when they feel that you are a “real” person just like them—so stop being so uptight all the time!

2) Join clubs and organizations that you genuinely enjoy. Networking is a big part of personal branding—after all, your brand needs an audience. But too many people force themselves to attend conventions and trade shows that they truly have no interest in. Do not go down that road. Instead, seek out organizations that you will truly enjoy. If you like acting, join a theatre club that meets every week. Or find a club for fellow hobby enthusiasts. Make friends, be yourself, build your brand—and you might be surprised by how many valuable connections you create. And you will have fun in the process!

3) Support causes that you believe in. Supporting the community is a great way to gain exposure for you and your business—while helping out a good cause at the same time. Rather than supporting specific causes because you always have or because you feel a duty to, seek out causes that you are passionate about. This could include local schools, community outreach—just about anything. By supporting an effort you truly believe in, you’ll be getting your brand out there while doing something you can truly feel good about.

Your personal branding efforts can be fun—in fact, they are most effective when you are having fun. So stop viewing branding as a chore and look for ways to make it something you genuinely enjoy.


Why Media Kills Most Small Businesses

Inevitably, one of the first questions I get asked by new clients, or even just casual acquaintances, is, “how do I get on TV?”

And I’m usually met with a blank stare or a really generic answer when I follow up their question, with my own, “why do you want to get on TV?”

Their answer is almost always one of the following:

1. I just want to get out there more
2. I need some exposure for our product/service
3. I’ve always just thought that if we got on TV, our business would explode

Getting on TV can do all of these things for you, but most people miss out on the fact that getting on TV, by itself, isn’t a very sound marketing strategy. In order to make you understand this, let me explain the two major forms of media to you:

1. Mass Media – Television, Radio, Newspaper
2. Targeted/Direct Media – Brochures, email newsletters, web sites, sales letters, CDs, DVDs or any media that you create and send directly to an audience that cares what you have to say (usually an audience you’ve pinpointed as good prospects or a list of people who have indicated that they’d like to learn more about what you do)

Mass media is great for building two things, credibility and awareness. Both of these things are great, but they usually don’t directly drive revenue.

Targeted/direct media is great because you can control how much money you want to spend on it and you can control when and where it goes. The downfall of direct media is you have to get beyond the skeptical viewer/reader because it doesn’t have the credibility of a message that’s been seen in a mass media format. Consumers and business owners assume that the information they see in the mass media is credible, they aren’t sure about direct media because it usually comes across as a marketing piece.

The Secret Formula for Media Success

This is the million dollar secret that everyone misses:

Get as much mass media as you can get, then promote your mass media appearances and content through direct media to your core audience of prospects and clients.

Mass media is an amazing thing for your career, but if you don’t use the media and convert it into a marketing piece that you can use over and over again, it’s really just an expensive exercise in getting your message heard once. And I’m sure by now you know what happens when people hear your message once—nothing.

And that’s the mistake that kills most businesses. They pay a fortune to try to get good PR, if they end up getting it, they wait for the phone to start ringing off the hook and the orders to start pouring in, but rarely does that ever happen. No one ever told them that getting the mass media was the first step and using the mass media to create credibility and marketing through direct media was the step that generates all the revenue. And similar to a boat that runs out of gas half way across the lake, the business with media and PR that doesn’t have enough sales to stay in business, doesn’t do much good for anyone!

Just remember the two step formula for success with media and you’ll be miles ahead of your competition.

JW Dicks (@jwdicks) & Nick Nanton (@nicknanton) are best-selling authors that consult for small- and medium-sized businesses on how to build their business through Personality Driven Marketing, Personal Brand Positioning, Guaranteed Media, and Mining Hidden Business Assets. They offer free articles, white papers, and case studies at their Web site www.CelebrityBrandingAgency.com. Jack and Nick have been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Newsweek, FastCompany.com, and many more media outlets.


Personal Branding Online: Dealing With Criticism

I talk about social media all the time in this space, and you’ve often heard me talk about the incredible personal branding opportunities offered by blogs and social media. But like most things in life, while there are great benefits to branding interactively over the internet, there are drawbacks. And in the case of social media and blogging, the drawbacks are the other side of the coin that makes those platforms so valuable to begin with—namely, the real time and interactive nature of conversation. Every business would love to have a “viral” campaign—a video or other promotional material that explodes in popularity and is viewed by millions of people in the span of a couple of days. Social media makes this possible. But it also means that negative feedback can be rapidly spread. So what to do when you see a negative blog comment or critical message via social media?

The first instinct for many people is to delete any negative comments if possible. But this is often a mistake. For one thing, if you do it often people will catch on to the fact that you are censoring feedback. And then everything positive that you’ve done is tainted. But even more importantly, a public criticism or complaint can actually be a great opportunity to win over customers and prospects. Because by publically responding to a complaint and fixing the situation, you’ve just sent a very public message that you care about your customers and that you will make things right.

Say you’re a restaurant, for instance, and a customer complains that your kitchen forgot to include chicken on his take-out salad. Take the opportunity to apologize and offer him something great—a free entrée on his next visit, perhaps, to make up for your mistake. I’d argue that such an exchange is even better than if he hadn’t complained to begin with. When you get right down to it, customers understand that everyone makes mistakes. Many businesses don’t care enough to make it right—but now your audience knows that you do.

The internet is a great platform for personal branding, but it does expose you to public criticism from time to time. If you or your company faces such a situation, remember to view it as an opportunity to impress your audience with your commitment to your customers. Apologize and do what it takes to fix the situation—you’ll be glad you did!


The Biggest Mistake Most Business Owners Make: Failure To Control The Conversation

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com. The original post can be found here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1748833/the-biggest-mistake-most-business-owners-make-failure-to-control-the-conversation

In this blog series we've covered positioning and how if you position yourself correctly you'll have no competition. We've covered how to build credibility, and I even gave you my million dollar secret for media success and our formula for the business trifecta. We've laid it all out.

But the third and final pillar of the Brand or Die triad is what ties it all together. To refresh you, the first two pillars are Positioning and Credibility. The final pillar is Community.

Here's the secret: when you build community, you build value. You can base a community off of anything. A community is a group of people who have some common thread. It can be based on geography, interests or hobbies, or even things you dislike. It can be anything that ties a group of people together and creates a common thread-- and what I really want the common thread to be is you. We'll get deeper into this concept in future posts, but for now, let's look at the best way to start building community.

Over 99% of people who visit your website will never come back. Why? Well we don't really know for sure, but we can assume they get distracted, they forget. The next time they search on Google someone else's info pops up first, which obviously doesn't help you build your business. So let's cover the biggest mistake that most business owners make.

They all make this very simple but costly mistake:

They don't capture the prospect's information the first time they arrive on the website (this holds true for brick and mortar businesses too, they don't capture the information of the prospect when they arrive at the physical location either).

So, in case I'm not abundantly clear, the majority of the time, more often than not, the only goal you should ever have for a first time visitor to your website is to capture their information by giving them access to something that will interest them enough to give you their most valuable commodity online besides their credit card, which is their contact information. Why?

So you can control the conversation.

When I'm speaking to large audiences, I'll often ask this question, "How many of you are looking to buy a car this month?" I get maybe one person, maybe two, depending on the size of the room. "How many people are going to buy a car in the next six months to a year?" I'll get 20 % of the room or so. Then I'll ask, "Who's going to buy a car in the next three to five years?" And all the rest of the hands go up. The point is that everyone in the room is a prospect for buying a car, but if I were only looking at who walked in the door today, my prospect list would be very small. This exact same concept holds true to your business. Not everyone is ready to buy right this second.

When someone visits your website they're interested in what you have to offer but they may not be ready to buy today. So it's our job to make them opt-in to your email list so you can control the communication, so that you can educate the prospect ... so that when they're ready to buy they know that you're the most trusted resource.

So again the only goal you should have when someone visits your website for the first time should be to capture their information. Then you can control that communication and you can use it to build a community of people who trust what you have to say and are interested in what you have to offer. This strategy will not pay instant dividends in most cases, because the reality is that many prospects just aren't ready to make a purchase yet. But instead of losing the prospect altogether, by controlling the conversation you can use their period of indecisiveness to build an irrefutable case that you are the best choice. When they finally are ready, you're in prime position to get their business. With time, you'll have an entire community of prospects engaged in conversation--and you can look forward to a dramatic increase in sales as they make up their minds and purchase your products or services.

We'll have more on community in our next post, but for now: are you capturing your prospects' information effectively?


Twitter for Personal Branding

You’re using Twitter, right? Or if you’re not, you’ve at least heard of it. In the last couple of years, Twitter has exploded in popularity along with other social media giants like Facebook and LinkedIn. Twitter represents a great opportunity for anyone with an internet connection to reach an audience virtually unlimited in size—making it the perfect personal branding tool. If you haven’t begun branding through Twitter yet, now is the time to jump in. It’s very easy to create your profile and get started—but below are some often overlooked tips to help you make the most of your branding efforts on Twitter:

1) Choose the right picture. The space for your picture on Twitter is small—so anything other than a closely cropped head shot doesn’t work well. Choose a picture that you’re happy with, and that reflects the brand you’re trying to build. If you’re a writer, for instance, a light-hearted and casual picture probably works well. If you’re a tax accountant, you’ll want to choose a more professional, serious picture.

2) Engage the community. Many people view Twitter as a great mechanism for sharing their thoughts with the world. And it is that—but here’s a reality: most people don’t care what you have to say. There are many thousands of Twitter users tweeting into a vacuum— don’t join them! Your focus needs to be on engaging other users. Join in conversations. Answer questions. Provide feedback. Soon you’ll be part of an active community, and you’ll have given the Twitter world reason to care about what you have to say. Which leads us to my next point…

3) Don’t be boring. It’s important that your Twitter account represents you and your business in a positive light. But it’s also important that people read your tweets. Mundane updates simply won’t get it done—don’t be afraid to display your sense of humor and share your opinions. If you can make your audience smile every once in a while, they are going to pay much closer attention to your future tweets.

Twitter represents a fantastic branding opportunity. There is a vast audience out there, and it doesn’t cost you a penny to get started. It’s hard to get more cost-effective than that! So make the most of the opportunity… get started today, and keep the tips we covered above in mind. See you on Twitter!


What Can Apple Teach Us About Branding?

Another month, another successful product release for Apple. As you’ve surely heard, Apple released their iPad 2 earlier this month amidst great fanfare. Sales have been brisk, and are expected to remain strong many months into the future. Here’s a question for you: how many other companies can grab instant media attention simply by announcing the release of a new product? Do Toshiba users breathlessly search the blogosphere for hints related to next year’s laptop model? How many people line up outside the Sprint store for the release of the latest BlackBerry smartphone? Clearly Apple is doing something that very few contemporaries can do. This success hasn’t happened by accident—it’s a result of a deliberate branding and marketing strategy. What can each of us learn from Apple and apply to our personal branding efforts? Read on…

1) Scarcity = value. Have you ever wondered why Apple always seems to run out of products after a new release? Surely the company that revolutionized the smartphone can figure out how many iPhones are expected to sell in their opening weekend—and can handle the logistics required to ensure that their stores won’t run out of stock. You’re right, of course. Apple could easily overstock their stores to ensure that everyone who wants a product can get one. But by deliberately running out of stock, Apple is able to create a perception of scarcity and value.

2) Not for everyone. Whether it’s pricing strategies or the decision to restrict iPhone usage to the AT&T network for several years, Apple sometimes seems determined NOT to sell their products to everyone. That’s counterintuitive, right? Why would any business limit their sales? The answer is that Apple wants their products to be seen as exclusive and valuable. Excluding certain market segments makes it clear that Apple products aren’t for just anyone—and that perception is in large part responsible for the frenzy that accompanies each product release.

3) Focused on adding value. Watch any Apple commercial and you’ll notice a theme—Apple doesn’t market their products by listing all of their features. Instead, Apple shows customers how their products can improve their lives. The iconic iPod commercials are a classic example—rather than talking about memory space, or sound quality, or the intuitive menu design, Apple emphasized how pleasant it was to be able to listen to your music at the gym, or on the bus, or when out for a jog. The focus isn’t on what their products can do—the focus is on how they add value to the lives of their customers.

You may not be selling a product or service as innovative as the iPad, but you can take these lessons and apply them to your brand. Create the perception of scarcity. Don’t offer your services or products to just anyone for any price—treat them as valuable commodities. And above all, focus on adding value to the lives of each of your clients or customers. You may never sell millions of products in a single weekend, but you can expect to see an increase in demand as your brand becomes more exclusive and more valuable.


Video: The 4 Letter Business Word That You NEED!

Personal branding expert Nick Nanton talks about the four letter business word that you need!

Check back often for more business, marketing and personal branding videos from Nick Nanton!


Personal Branding: Make the Most Out of LinkedIn

Facebook and Twitter seem to be the brightest stars in the social media universe, at least for the moment. But equally important from a personal branding standpoint is LinkedIn. In fact, when it comes to your career prospects, LinkedIn can have a much greater impact than either Facebook or Twitter. So today I’m going to share personal branding tips specifically aimed at LinkedIn… I hope you find these helpful!

1) Completely fill out your profile. You know that often-irritating little reminder on the right side of your LinkedIn home page, the bar that shows how “complete” your profile is? Don’t stop working on your profile until it’s at 100%. Many LinkedIn users don’t bother to do this—so not only will you stand out, but you’ll take advantage of every opportunity to build your brand.

2) Create a custom URL. LinkedIn allows you to customize the URL of your profile, so take advantage. You can set your URL in the Edit Profile menu. It will read www.linkedin.com/in/******. Fill in the final section of the URL with your name or your company name—whatever is consistent with your branding efforts. In addition to being yet another space to reinforce your brand, customizing the URL will potentially bring you more traffic from search engines. That’s because Google ranks LinkedIn profiles highly, and therefore searches for your name are likely going to return your LinkedIn profile towards the top.

3) Integrate your social media presence. LinkedIn allows you to add applications to your profile which can feature your Twitter profile and blog, among other things. Integrate everything you can and visitors to your profile are likely to end up checking out the rest of your internet presence.

4) Mingle. Don’t simply create your LinkedIn profile and forget about it. Join groups that are relevant to your area of expertise. Participate in discussions. Recommend colleagues and seek recommendations of your own. Actively participating on the site will expose you to other professionals who wouldn’t otherwise have connected with you. Just remember to stay “in character”—every single interaction should be consistent with your personal brand.

LinkedIn is a great tool for personal branding, particularly for professionals. If you haven’t joined the party yet, get started today. And if you already have a presence, make sure you’re taking full advantage of it!


VIDEO: From the Outside Looking In

Nick Nanton discusses the importance of looking to the outside in life and business to achieve success.

Check back often for more business, marketing and personal branding videos from Nick Nanton!


VIDEO: Personal Branding Expert Tip: Lessons from the 53rd Annual Grammy Award

Nick Nanton gives personal branding tips from the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards:

Hope you enjoyed Nick's personal branding take on this year's Grammy Awards! Check back for more personal branding videos!


Personal Branding Lessons from Lady Gaga

Attending the Grammy awards in Los Angeles earlier this month, I had the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the brightest stars in show business. While I’ve often talked about the importance of personal branding in the world of celebrities and entertainment, I was again reminded just how well Lady Gaga markets herself. Even in her glamorous world, Lady Gaga manages to stand apart from the crowd. And while she is a talented performer, she’s not the best ever. There is more to her rise to fame than simply her musical abilities. Below are some of the personal branding lessons we can all learn from Lady Gaga:

1) Live your brand 24/7. Everybody knows about the outrageous costumes Lady Gaga wears to award shows and her performances. But unlike many celebrities, Lady Gaga stays in character virtually all of the time. She doesn’t present herself as a performer who dresses up in goofy costumes from time to time, she instead portrays herself as a unique and creative artist who lives her entire life outside the box.

2) Create your own publicity. Lady Gaga is constantly in the news. Why? Because she puts herself there. Whether it is stunts, like showing up to the Grammy awards inside an egg, or controversial interviews, Lady Gaga makes sure she is always being talked about. The lesson? Don’t wait for branding opportunities to come your way—make your own opportunities!

3) Define yourself—don’t let others do it for you. The tabloid culture that surrounds celebrities leads to constant scandal. Whether it is drug abuse, racy video clips, or extramarital affairs, celebrities are constantly seeing their “private” lives spill into public conversation. Lady Gaga hasn’t had this problem—because she’s decided to define herself rather than let the tabloids do it for her. She’s been open about her drug use and other potentially embarrassing habits—and as a result, she has been able to frame those revelations in a manner consistent with her personal brand.

4) Continually reinvent yourself within your brand. Wearing an outrageous costume is great, but it only holds attention for so long. Many celebrities find their “look” and then stick with it. But Lady Gaga is constantly changing her appearance—to the point where she makes headlines every time she appears in public! She stays true to her central brand, but she evolves quickly to avoid growing stale.

Lady Gaga is a marketing phenomenon. But to those who are serious about personal branding, she is more than just a curiosity. She’s a master at personal branding, and if we’re smart we will all pay attention.


The Business Trifecta and the Secret formula for Media Success

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com. The original post can be found here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1727569/the-business-trifecta-and-the-secret-formula-for-media-success

In today's post, as promised, we're going to reveal the secret formula for media success. But, before we get into that there's three things you have to do to grow your business--media, marketing, and PR.

Let's cover how many people make the same avoidable mistakes. A lot of people spend a ton of money on creating media. Let's look the example using video. A business will hire a video production company. They'll spend oodles of money to try to get a great looking video and then when the final video is delivered, they are often in a bind. They're now out of money and they don't have a plan for what they're going to do with the video to get it into the hands of the people they want to see it.

Or, a business will hire a marketing firm but they won't have any media or PR to help the marketing firm get the message out. Or, lastly, one of the biggest mistakes I see is when people hire a PR firm and they don't have any media or marketing to back up the PR.
So here is the secret. we call it the "business trifecta" for growing your bottom line. You've got to have a healthy combination of media, marketing and PR in every single thing that you do. Not just one of these elements.

Let's look an example based on what we do for authors. We put together books where we guarantee best-seller status. One of the things we do is we produce a great hardcover book. That takes care of the media element. Then, we help market the books and we guarantee best-seller status. We actually handle the marketing to get the books to best-seller status and we teach our authors more than 30 ways to use a book to grow their business. Finally, we put out press talking about how they the authors just hit the best-sellers' list, and another one that the author got signed to a publishing deal. In essence, these authors get everything they need--media, marketing and PR, all-in-one. This example is really not designed to be a blatant pitch for what we do, but it's one of the few examples I could find of an all-in campaign.

The point is that in everything you do to promote your business you need to have a plan for media, marketing and PR.

Okay, now that you understand the business trifecta, we'll reveal our secret formula for media success. Another important distinction is that there are two types of media--mass media and targeted media. Mass media is, for the most part, considered to be made up of television, radio and newspapers/magazines. Mass media does two amazing things for you: it builds credibility as well as awareness. Now, the thing that most people forget when they are plowing ahead with big PR budgets to get into mass media is that "you can't eat credibility or awareness," i.e. they don't usually generate revenue without some form of direct solicitation for business. That's where marketing comes in.

The second type of media is known as direct media. This is the kind of media that, typically, you create and most importantly you are in charge of where it gets distributed.
Great examples of direct media can be seen in websites, direct mail, newsletters, magazines, flyers, CDs, and DVDs, just to name a few. By distributing this media to an audience you select, and by you being involved in the creation, you can directly solicit business with it through sales copy and a "call to action", and you can make sure people see it as many times as you want. Therefore it becomes a form of direct marketing. The problem with direct media is that it lacks any real form of credibility.

When you are soliciting someone for their business, they immediately put up their guard because people love to buy but hate the thought of being sold because they have had experiences in the past that ended negatively when they made a bad purchasing decision. So, increasingly, consumers look to third party credibility in the form of testimonials and product reviews, but there's another form that works great too, and that's where the secret formula comes in. The best solution for this credibility issue can be found by combine the two forms of media, mass media and direct media.

So here's what you do. You try to get mass media--television, radio and newspaper/magazines--the fastest, easiest way you possibly can. Then you take your direct media, the stuff you can spend as much or as little money as you want on it and as much or as little time as you want on it, but you can control it, and you insert your mass media credibility in the direct media. So, for example, the next time you send out a sales letter or a mail piece, or you send out an e-mail or an e-zine, you now have the credibility of being in mass media to insert in it. What happens when someone comes to your website or they see your mail piece, it effectively if not bluntly says, "You may have seen us or our products recently on NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX affiliates or in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today or Newsweek."

Now let me ask you this, do you think that won't get you taken a little bit more seriously? I can tell you based on literally hundreds of case studies, it absolutely will get people to pay closer attention to you and what you have to offer.

Our point here today is you've got to take mass media credibility--television, radio and newspaper/magazines--and insert this credibility in your direct media. Make sure you don't make the mistake of spending all the money you can on trying to get on TV, trying to get in the papers or trying to get on the radio without a plan for using this media in conjunction with direct media for your marketing. If you fail to use these two types of media together, then you'll always fall short of the results you could have had.


Have You Defined Your Personal Brand?

What do you stand for? What is your personal brand? I’ve spoken and written plenty about the subject—now it’s time for you to perform a self evaluation. Ask colleagues or friends the following questions (if you’re not comfortable asking them, do your best to answer them honestly from their perspective.)

1) Describe my personality in three words.
2) What are my most valuable skills?
3) When you hear my name, what single word comes to mind first?
4) What makes me different from everyone else?
5) Describe my attitude in one word.

Make sure that you ask several people these questions so that you can develop an accurate picture.

The answers to these questions will paint a strong picture of the personal brand you’ve been broadcasting. Look at the results—are they what you would have hoped for? Do coworkers and other friends recognize the skills that you want them to recognize? Is their perception of what makes you different what you’d hoped it would be?

If the answer is yes, congratulations! You’ve just confirmed that the efforts you’re making to brand yourself are working. That doesn’t mean you’re done branding, obviously, but it does mean that you are on the right track.

If your survey returned mixed results, you know you’re doing at least some things right. Focus in on the areas in which you aren’t conveying the traits you’d like to be conveying. For instance, let’s say you want to be known as a great problem solver, but nobody listed that as a descriptive trait. Begin brainstorming ways in which you can begin emphasizing that aspect of your personality. That could mean blogging about challenges you’ve overcome (obviously you need to do this subtly—blatantly telling the world “I am a great problem solver!” won’t help anything) or it could mean helping others solve problems of their own. I use Twitter to share my passions with my followers—take a look at my profile and it won’t take you long to realize that I’m into music, marketing, and writing, among other things!

And if the feedback you received wasn’t at all what you hoped for, don’t despair. You’ve got plenty of time to redefine your personal brand. Take a look at past blog entries and articles that I’ve written for some tips to get you headed in the right direction.


Be a Movie Star: Using YouTube for Personal Branding

When it comes to personal branding, there aren’t very many tools more powerful than YouTube. For a viewer, seeing your face and hearing your voice is much more impactful than simply reading your tweets or Facebook updates. On the other hand, branding through video requires more knowledge and time than simply using Twitter. And it can be intimidating—putting yourself out there for the world to see isn’t easy. Here are some tips to help you get started on YouTube:

1) Invest in good equipment. Nothing will sabotage your videos as quickly as poor sound or visual quality. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but make sure that your setup allows for a sharp picture and clear audio.

2) Don’t ramble. You want your videos to be crisp and to the point. Most people aren’t interested in watching you ramble on about every topic under the sun. If the purpose of your video is to give motivational tips, do so! It often helps to have an outline or a script prepared to help you stay on task.

3) Don’t stare down the camera. It’s a common tendency to ‘glare’ at the video camera while recording. Try and soften your look—pretend that you’re looking at a friend instead of the camera.

4) Minimize distraction. Be careful about your background—you don’t want much going on behind you. People walking around is a definite no-no, but even something as minor as a interesting picture on the wall behind you can cause the viewer to focus on the background, not on you. Also, be careful about wearing shiny jewelry or other distracting accessories. You’re the star, not your wardrobe.

5) Cross-promote. A great video on YouTube isn’t going to do you much good unless people see it. Use your other social network channels, including your blog, Twitter, and Facebook, to promote and share your video.

6) Reshoot. If you aren’t happy with a video, shoot it again. And again. There is no reason to upload a video that you aren’t completely happy with. A successful video could be seen thousands of times—so make sure you spend the time and effort to perfect it before sharing it with the world.


The Importance of Consistency

One of the challenges of personal branding is staying focused. As we’ve talked about in the past, an effective brand is focused on a few traits or qualities. When you think Rolex, you think “expensive, high quality timepiece.” If Rolex sold cheap watches, their brand would be destroyed. Imagine the impact on the Wal-Mart brand if they began selling high end, expensive furniture. Or imagine if Taco Bell began selling hot dogs. In each of these cases, a strong, focused brand would be weakened by trying to do too much. The key to a strong brand is focus… and that goes for your personal brand as well.

If you’re hoping to build a strong personal brand, the first step is identifying the traits and qualities that you want your brand to consist of. For instance, maybe you’re going for “young, focused, witty marketing professional.” Once you’ve determined these qualities, you can think about driving them home. The key here, once again, is focus. Each interaction that you have is an opportunity to broadcast your personal brand—and that means you have many, many opportunities on a daily basis to stray from the core of your brand. Do your best to avoid sending mixed messages—if you’re trying to establish yourself as a dedicated and hard working employee in the mind of your boss, don’t contradict yourself. Don’t spend 15 minutes Monday morning complaining about how tired you are, even if your boss doesn’t mind—or is complaining himself. Stay focused on your message.

For many, the toughest part of establishing a personal brand is the realization that they can’t be an expert on every subject. Just as Rolex would destroy its brand by offering a watch for $19.99, you’ll destroy your brand if you try to be everything to everyone. If you’re a tax consultant, be an expert tax consultant. Don’t try to be a real estate advisor, stock market guru, and foreign policy expert—even if you are knowledgeable in these areas. A well rounded personality is great, but a well-rounded personal brand is meaningless.

The key to establishing your personal brand is consistency. Determine what you want your brand to stand for and resist the temptation to be an expert in everything. Focus on the core of your brand and drive it home… over and over and over.


Personal Branding Through Facebook

When it comes to personal branding through social media, most professionals gravitate towards LinkedIn and Twitter. Despite the fact that Facebook is the dominant social media platform, LinkedIn and Twitter are often seen as better suited for personal branding. This is in large part due to the perception of Facebook as a “Family and Friends” network. While LinkedIn and Twitter are certainly great platforms for personal branding, Facebook can also be used effectively for this purpose. Below are several tips to help you get started:

1) Don’t hesitate to be “friends” with colleagues. OK, this one is a bit complicated—there are many professionals that prefer to use Facebook only for personal activity. This is understandable… after all, most of us keep our business life separate from our personal life. But if you are committed to branding through Facebook, you’ll have to commit to connecting with other professionals. And once you’ve made this decision, remember to keep your activity professional—especially when it comes to pictures and videos you post.

2) Show your “other sides.” LinkedIn and Twitter don’t give you much of an opportunity to show off your family. Facebook is a great place to project the sides of your life that colleagues and clients wouldn’t see otherwise. Pictures of you and your family are a great way to add to your brand—instead of being one-dimensional, your contacts will begin to see you as a well-rounded individual.

3) Display your sense of humor. Facebook is a great place to share links, quotes and videos that make you laugh. And doing so is a great way to show off your sense of humor. It’s difficult to do this on LinkedIn, though you can do it on Twitter. But Facebook makes it easy—for instance, if you post a video, your friends can view it in Facebook instead of having to follow links to outside locations.

4) Demonstrate your expertise. Obvious promotion doesn’t work well on Facebook. However, subtle displays of your expertise can be very effective. If you read an article featuring breaking news in your industry, post a link to it! Add a sentence or two of commentary, and you’ll be sending a message to your readers that you’re knowledgeable and plugged in to current developments in your field.

While Twitter and LinkedIn seem to be the top platforms for personal branding, Facebook should not be ignored. Take some time to familiarize yourself with it before you jump in, and follow the tips we’ve covered to get started in the right direction.


Defining Your Personal Brand

I devote a substantial amount of time talking about personal branding in this space. However, I’ve realized that though nearly everybody has heard of personal branding, many people aren’t clear on exactly what it is and how it is defined. A great way to understand the concept is as follows… when somebody hears your name, what pops into their head? That’s your brand, for better or for worse. Try a few examples: when you hear the name Michael Jordan, what do you think? Competitor? Basketball player? Winner? How about Nelson Mandela?

Obviously Nelson Mandela and Michael Jordan are better known than most of us. But everyone has the opportunity to develop and project their personal brand in the context of their own life. As an employee, your personal brand will go a long way in determining your career trajectory. What does your boss think of you? Are you motivated and determined? Or maybe you’re the guy who is easily distracted and has trouble finishing projects on time… if that’s the case, you need to rebrand yourself ASAP!

So has your brand been predetermined for you? Not at all! The great thing about personal branding is that it’s an ongoing process. If you aren’t happy with your brand, you can change it! If you’re pleased, you can reinforce it and expose it to new audiences.

So how do you determine what your brand should be? Ask yourself “what do I want to be known for?” Maybe you want to be known as a brilliant programmer, a great dancer or an insightful business analyst. Mix in your personality—do you have a great sense of humor? Or maybe you’re proud of your laser-like focus. You should have a theme emerging—something like “talented, motivated financial guru with a great sense of humor.” That’s the core of your brand. Branding can be more than just your professional life, however. Are you a family man? A mother? A devoted spouse? These elements of your personal life also play an important part in defining your brand. Take this information, think hard about what you want to be known for, and distill it down to a handful of words. That’s your personal brand!


Conan O’Brien: Social Media Success Story

I talk often about the importance of social media for marketing and personal branding, so today I thought I’d share a success story… Conan O’Brien. Whether you are a fan of his show or not, you probably remember what happened to him early in 2010. Conan had just taken over The Tonight Show, but NBC executives were concerned with his low ratings and decided to replace him with Jay Leno. Conan wasn’t allowed to appear on TV for 9 months—a length of time sure to destroy his public visibility and marketability. Soon after, O’Brien signed a deal to host a show on the cable channel TBS. At that point, it looked as if Conan was going to have to be content with being an afterthought to late night hosts such as Leno and David Letterman. Fast forward to last Monday, when Conan’s show debuted on TBS with a massive 4.2 million viewers—more than both Leno and Letterman. How did he pull this off? In large part, his success was due to an aggressive social media strategy.

Faced with the reality that he could easily slip from memory over his 9 month layoff, Conan and his advisors launched a massive social media campaign that included a presence on Twitter (he has over 1.7 million followers), Facebook (well over 1 million fans), and Youtube (nearly 4 million views to date). Not only was Conan active on all of these platforms, but he took the time to put together great material. For instance, not long after being fired by NBC, Conan composed this gem of a tweet: “In three months I've gone from network television to Twitter to performing live in theater, and now I'm headed to basic cable ... My plan is working perfectly." His constant presence across the social media spectrum allowed him to stay very much in the minds of his target audience despite his long absence from TV, and this presence directly contributed to his strong debut on TBS.

While most of us don’t have our own TV show to host, we can all learn from Conan’s use of social media. An effective social media plan that includes well-crafted material and a constant presence can work wonders for your personal branding and brand awareness. You may never have 1.7 million followers on twitter, but you can effectively communicate your personal brand to the followers that you do have.


The Rise of Internal Evangelists

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com. The original post can be found here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1695023/the-rise-of-internal-evangelists

In our last blog on FastCompany.com, we talked about putting some personality in your marketing, but we wanted to expound a bit due to some questions we got. This whole concept fits in very well with the new transparency movement, which you've undoubtedly heard a lot about recently, because letting people know who you really are is an important part of transparency. But you might be saying, "Well I'm not a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, or (insert what you do here) so that won't work for me." Or, "but I run a large company, and it's not just about me." What we want to share with you today is the fact that this same exact concept also works really well for big companies too, not just for solo practitioners and small businesses. Corporations can use this concept to create what we call "internal evangelists."

WATCH VIDEO with Nick Nanton: The Rise of Internal Evangelists

Look at it this way, if you were to take your entire staff of let's say a hundred people, and you were to train them well, (this is the key, training them well up front) and then set them loose on the Internet and social media. What do you think that would do for your business? We know it might sound scary but, if you set them loose with the knowledge they have, here's what would happen--you would create your own Wikipedia of sorts for your business and your industry with a bunch of personalities who would go out and reel in the business of people who connect with that they have to say. Your sales team isn't going to be able to connect with everybody. They will likely only be able to making meaningful and lasting connections with a small portion of the market that you could be serving. For example, if you are in the tech industry, your sales team might not connect at all with decision makers at other companies who have backgrounds as coders or graphic designers. But, what if you could match up a coder, with a coder? Get the point?

If you would set the knowledge free that's in the minds of the employees that are working with you, you would be creating internal evangelists, people who work internally for you and spread the word about what your company does to the outside world, by doing this more prospects will come across your employees' information and will create bonds with new potential clients that you might never reach on your own. We all know that consistent, relevant content drives traffic online and the beauty of this type of system is that the knowledge your company will be spitting out on a regular basis will be voluminous if you have 20, 30, 50, or even a hundred employees out there using social media and the Internet to push and let people know about you. This works even better if you can teach them to display their expertise, and show their personality, like we discussed in two of our previous blogs. This concept can absolutely make your business explode.

Another key point that we want you to understand is this concept works in any way, shape or form. Let's look at a quick example, back on the small business side, of someone you may not normally consider as a small business owner--a dentist. So, if you went to a typical dentist's Web site, what would you see? You'd likely see a bunch of stock photos of random smiling people.

You've seen these types of photos on all the stock photo Web sites, but here's the thing, they are useless when trying to build a relationship with your prospects. All you are showing them is some random people! 99% of the time these aren't even people who the dentist has ever worked on! What a mistake! These Web sites, with random photos on them would not let you in at all to who the dentist is and why you might want to choose them as your dentist. Compare that to a dentist who has used some of the tactics we've talked about in our previous posts, who is displaying their personality and expertise.

Now, let's say you you're new in the community and you didn't really know anyone but you needed to go to the dentist. So what you would most likely do is hit the search engines and look for a dentist in the area? That's also where your potential clients are starting, but we digress. In our example, let's say the search engine delivers two Web sites that seem relevant to you and are in a close enough proximity that is convenient enough for you.

The first one, we'll call him Joe Dentist. He's got these random smiling people on the front page and his office hours, maybe a phone number, perhaps a map to his location--but that's probably it. The second dentist, who we'll call Jane Dentist, who has perhaps been reading our blog, has a big button encouraging you to download a portion of her bestselling book that happens to be about the exact issue you're experiencing. She's got video of her being interviewed recently on the local news, or even just a video of a friend or patient interviewing her. She's blogs regularly about things her patients would be interested in, she's got articles that cover common myths about what is and isn't good for your teeth, all searchable so you can find what you want when you need it. She's got press releases too! The first one is on how she was just named top small business in her community and the second one talks about how she just filled her 10,000 cavity.

Now, let's stop and ponder: which dentist are you going to want to go to? The boring guy or the lady who you now not only feel is amazingly qualified, but after watching some of her articles and videos you actually feel like you know her?! The first guy you probably couldn't pick out of a lineup!

If you want to take it even further, to a level of sharing your hobbies and affinities with your potential clients, you can become even more magnetic. Let's talk about the dentist who likes Harley's and he post pictures of himself taking Harley tours up and down the East Coast and he has a link to his local Harley Club. It may not be for everybody, but the people who are into Harley's--where do you think they're going to go?

To ping on the concept of allowing your employees to get involved on more time, you should note that Twitter recently started allowing accounts to have "Contributors" because there was a big debate on whether or not it was misleading to have multiple employees tweeting from a corporate account. So, Twitter came up with the concept of having group accounts and they now allow contributors to tweet from group accounts, so they can amass more follower, but each contributor is able to be identified.

Twitter accounts used to be associated with just one person and it was tricky for big corporations who wanted to amass lots of followers, but had multiple talented people who wanted to tweet, but now you can have multiple contributors inside your company, again let me point out that they need to be good hires who are well trained, who can go out and become evangelists for what you do to the outside world. A great example of this concept is Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. Zappos allows all of their employees (more than 1800 last I heard) to get on Twitter in the name of Zappos, with one goal--to help customers get the best customer experience possible.

When I stopped and asked Tony if he was afraid about what they might say, or what the rules were for social media he essentially said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "We don't have any rules for social media. We just hire right and we fire fast if we need to." You've got to give your employees some room to be themselves, and you've got to let them display their expertise and let them get out into the world in ways that they normally wouldn't in a typical corporate structure. If you do that, your business will grow in new ways and your business brand will come alive based on the way your employees are out interacting in ways that you could never do on your own.

In case you missed our point, these strategies work for everybody, everywhere and you can use them in any business. But you've got to display your expertise and you've got to show your personality and you should really consider letting some of your employees get involved too. Who knows where it might lead!


Does Your Business Offer a Payment Plan?

In this economy, lump-sum payments are becoming more and more difficult for people to swallow. Often it isn’t the actual cost of something that prevents a person from purchasing a product or a service but the inability to cough up a large lump sum up front to pay for that product or service they want.

After more than three decades, even Disney (the family Mecca) has expended its branding strategy to include offering a family-friendly payment plan for Florida’s season pass holders. Gasp $275.84 to purchase a seasonal pass for Disney, ouch. But $15.74 per month to take the family to see the Mouse any time they want, now that’s something to think about. That’s what, three lattes a month?

Do you have a product or service in your business that carries a hefty price tag? Could your personal branding benefit from offering payment options? If your choice is no client or a client who pays monthly, I bet the answer is yes. Even our branding agency offers payment plans for services. Think about it dental services, coaching plans any high-end product or service your business offers that might be easier to swallow in a monthly payment form. Like Disney, you can even require a down payment to cover your upfront costs (Disney charges $87.33 to initiate the payment plan above) and then a monthly fee moving forward.


Personal Branding: Building Your Brand With Video

In our last blog, Personal Branding: A Great Picture Can Go A Long Way, we discussed the importance of consistently using a quality photo of yourself to help build the foundation of your brand – not to mention a good first impression. Now, with that in mind, just imagine how video can build upon that!

The age-old quest for small businesses has been to separate themselves from the pack, and offer a new and unique experience to their customers. With personal branding, we recognize that building your business around your personality can be the most unique attribute you have – you are the only you! Use your personality to let people get to know you. Once people get to know and like you, the more likely they are to do business with you.

Using video on your website and across social media platforms can be the single most effective way to showcase your personal brand. Daily, Weekly or bi-weekly videos of you sharing your expertise allows people to see you in action. It allows you to control your message, share information, and create unique value for your customers. Think about it – if you are a specialist in real estate, for example, why not share your expert advice on finding the right property or offer a daily tip on selling your house.

Things like this provide a valuable service for people interested in buying and selling real estate. Once your customers find that you are providing them value, and they get to know you and your personality, the chances that they do business with you in the future increase dramatically.

In a recent post on Mashable.com, it was reported that Gawker.com founder, Nick Denton, discussed how video is the future of online media. Nick talked about the demand for more TV-like online products and how the future will be in video, with text being the way to add context and detail to the media.

I couldn’t agree more…we advise our clients to produce and post as many videos as possible, and compliment them with informative and consistent blogs and articles. All of these tools together will help build a personal brand, let your customers get to know you, and ultimately turn to you when they need an expert in your field.


Personal Branding: A Great Picture Can Go A Long Way

If you want people to know you, they have to SEE you!

Choosing the right photo of yourself and using it consistently can be one of the easiest and most effective things you can do right now to provide a foundation for you personal branding strategy. Here are a couple tips on using the right photo to represent you and your personal brand.

Quality Matters

The easiest way to instantly lose credibility with prospective customers or clients is to showcase an unprofessional photo. When I visit a new website, or even a twitter page, the first thing I look at is the photo. It bothers me when I see professional people using unprofessional photos. I instantly think that if they didn’t take the time to present themselves professionally, why would they take the extra steps necessary to impress me as a client?

Now, professional doesn’t mean “stuffy.” You want your photo to represent you the way you are, but in a clean and clear way. For example, if you are a corporate lawyer, an executive or a financial advisor, etc., most people would expect to see clean-cut with a suit and tie. If you’re personal brand is to be a “financial rock star,” then maybe you’re dressed more loosely, etc. The attire doesn’t really matter – it just needs to match your personal brand and should always be professional. The cost of getting a professional photo can pay dividends in the long run. You know what they say about first impressions!

Be Consistent

With so many places online to represent yourself, it is extremely important to be consistent with your photos. Once you get a professional photo shoot, I suggest choosing 2 or 3 of your favorite, preferably with the same background and/or attire. This way, you can spread these images out across twitter, facebook, linkedin, etc without using the same photo, but keeping the same theme throughout. I would also suggest these photos being the same ones that are used on your website.

You want to be consistent with your photos in the same way you are consistent with your marketing message. Using a quality photo to build your personal brand is the first image and impression that people get of you. It’s easy to do, and it could mean the difference between a “walk in the door” or just a “drive-by.”


Personal Branding Tip: Put a Little PERSONALITY in It!

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com. The original post can be found here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1687239/personal-branding-tip-put-a-little-personality-in-it

Many people who we come into contact with have amazing personalities, in person, and then we go check out their content (their blogs, articles, videos, books, etc), and it's totally flat and stale--or what we often describe as very institutional or corporate feeling.

We're going to tell you to do the exact opposite. That is not at all what your clients and prospects really want. They want to know who you really are. Think about it this way, the way that you connect with people is really based on a scale of how much you can relate to them, i.e. how much they are like you. For example, if you are a 35 year old housewife, and a 25 year old stockbroker with no kids who works 80 hours per week tries to give you advice on how to raise your kids, how do you think you'd take it? Probably not real well. Agree?

So, if you want to build your personal brand and be perceived as an expert by your audience, ultimately your expertise has to align with your personality and who you're trying to connect with. Although scary at times, that means you have to let people in on who you are. We've heard it said before that it's 10 percent what you know and 90 percent the other stuff. We're not positive that ratio is exactly right, but it does a great job at making the point that "people have to know you before they'll listen to you." That's what my friend James Malinchak says and we agree. People have to know you before they'll be willing to listen to you because if they don't know who you are then they don't know if they should take your advice. So, you've got to let them in. That also means you can and likely need to show them your quirks and idiosyncrasies. Some experts choose to get into politics, religion and everything else, that's totally your call whether you want to go that far or not, but it is important for you to know that the more polarizing you are, the more magnetic you will become to those who are like you. It's a really interesting phenomenon that through the things you say and do, the more you let people know who you really are and let them into your innermost being, the more they'll either see themselves or see they're not like you.

And the more polarizing you are, the more you'll push some people away too, but the people who identify with you will be even more attracted to you. If there's any personality that you are aware of right now that you cannot stand, and you can't possibly understand how they have the following they have, it's because of this rule. There are people who feel like them and the more polarizing they are the more they're drawn to them.

We want you to focus on showing more of your personality. You can do this online and offline. We have lots of great online tools that will allow you to get started instantly.

Facebook, for example, is a great tool because you can share literally anything on Facebook--videos, links, pictures, blogs, articles, anything you want. And people can start to understand who you are, even if the information you are posting is not anything that you created on your own! By sharing content that appeals to you, you are becoming a curator of content, and that content will appeal to others who share the same interests with you, people who are like you. That's ultimately what you're doing on Facebook for your circle of friends-- you're showing them things you think they'd be interested in.

Another great tool is Flickr.com. Flickr is a really neat social photo and video sharing service. I (Nick) don't usually go to Flickr.com and post a lot of photos, but I use an application called Posterous.com anytime I take a photo or a video on my iPhone and I email it to Post@Posterous.com and it automatically posts the photo or video on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and just about any other social network that I want to post it to.

Sometimes I'll post funny pictures or videos of my kids. Sometimes I'll post a video from a seminar I'm attending or I'll link to a blog I really like from Mashable.com of FastCompany. Why? Because when you let people see parts of your everyday life and it allows you to start showing another dimension of who you really are. You give them bite-sized glimpses of your personality.

We call these "personal hooks." The more you're willing to share who you really are with people, the more personal hooks you throw out. If I (Nick) tell you that I used to play tennis for four hours a day in high school, that I got recruited to go play tennis in college, that I love the Florida Gators, but not as much as my wife because she's only missed like eight home football games since she was seven years old, (she even goes to the games where the gators play teams like "Upper Lower Northeastern Southwestern State" and those are the games I'd stay home from!). If I told you we have a five year old son, and a two and a half year old son, and that my two and a half year old broke my LCD TV last month and my new iPhone this month, you'd then realize you probably shouldn't give my two year old your electronics, but you'd know much more than that!

The more I tell you, the more you're going to know about me and you're likely going to find something that you're interested in too that you can use to connect with me, something that gives us some common ground, and that's ultimately my goal and when building your personal brand that should be your goal as well. You've got to give people reasons to want to like you, reasons they'll be attracted to you, think they're like you and ultimately trust you and do business with you.

We're going to share one last secret with you in this post that will help you share your personality while also helping you convert your personality into sales. This is the formula for what we call an "Origin Story." You should use your origin story a lot. You're going to recognize the format from your favorite Richard Simmons infomercial, or something similar, but here's how it works. We're going to a weight loss infomercial style example, because it's an easy one to follow and to recognize the core elements of what you need.
Here is an example of an origin story for an expert in the weightloss realm:

"Hi, I'm Jim and I'm 6'2", weigh 140 pounds and I'm built like a brick and I get more dates than I've ever gotten in my entire life. I used to have my life, but now I absolutely love every moment of my life."--Part 1 is you tell them who you are now.

This next part, you need to use these magic words or something similar, "but it hasn't always been this way." These words allow you to connect to the rest of the world because the first part of your origin story where you show how happy and fulfilled you are, can make a lot of people want to shut down and stop listening to you because you just sound like another successful person bragging about how successful you are.

But when you say, "But it hasn't always been this way." Their mind starts to turn back on and they think, "Wait a minute." Then you tell them how much you used to be just like them. Again, in our example, the story would probably go something like "I used to be 500 pounds. Used to use my exercise bike in the bedroom to hang clothes from. I used to feel like people were always laughing at me, it was hard to get out of bed every morning, didn't have the confidence to get a date, I was lonely." You're now telling your audience the part of the story that they can identify with.

You tell the audience all the ways you used to be just like them. Then you move to the third part of your origin story, the secret.

"Until I discovered _____" Now, the audience is dying to know the secret. The secret, of course, is usually the product or service you're promoting that can help them overcome their issue, their "point of pain."

In our example, this next part would look something like this: "Until I discovered my 10 step formula" or "Until I discovered this new product." You tell them whatever it is that is the secret to solve their problem, which is followed up with the magic words, "And now I can show you how you can do the same thing."

So, to recap the 4 part formula for your origin story:

1. You show the audience how successful you are, which actually can build some resentment because your audience will think, "That's what I want to be, but I'm not. This person must be special, and I'm not, so now they're just bragging and rubbing it in my face, so I don't like this person."

2. "But it wasn't always this way" and you tell them how you used to be just like them.

3. "Until I discovered" which then makes the audience perk up because they see that you aren't that special, you just found the secret, and of course now they're dying to know.

4. "And now I can show you how you can do it too." This shows your audience that you really aren't any different from them, you just found the secret they haven't found, and now you are willing to share it with them too. They'll love you and they'll be willing to pay for your secret if it relieves a great pain in their personal or professional life.

There you have it. That's the formula for the origin story. It will allow you to show your personality as well as the reason why your audience should listen to you and follow what you have to say.

To recap: Show your personality, let people know who you really are, utilize an origin story and your business just get bigger and better.


Personal Branding Tip: Choose To Be Different!

I love when I come across a story that shows a business thinking outside the box when it comes to their marketing.

I recently heard an interview with one of the members of the band Cheap Trick. The band was preparing to do a string of 9 shows in Vegas where they will play the entire album of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, along with some of their own popular hits. This is interesting enough on it’s own, but what really stood out to me was a little interesting and humorous exchange at the end of the interview.

When asked about their new album, front man Robin Zander proclaimed “Right now we have the number one 8-track in the world!”

8-track? Did I hear that right? The host was laughing and asking the same question. It turns out, while he knew this was pretty funny, Robin was serious! Their latest recording, called “The Latest,” is available on CD, as a digital download, and yes, as an 8-track!

Being involved in personal branding with our branding agency, this got me thinking about niche marketing and how personalities and businesses can use quirky and unorthodox branding and marketing methods to add to the desired perception of their brand.

I think this was a brilliant idea by Cheap Trick. I’ve always believed that when planning your marketing strategy, it’s always a good idea to see what others are doing, and do the opposite! Now, I’m not saying that you should neglect some of the more obvious forms of marketing – advertising, email campaigns, direct mailing, etc – but find that niche of your industry that you can also try to serve as well.

In this case, Cheap Trick has offered an 8-track release (at a premium price, no less) for those who still prefer the format (yes, there are people like that!), and it has also created a buzz about the release. It’s a talking point in interviews - and it gets people talking! They’ve always been known as a fun and upbeat rock and roll band, and this only helps to increase that perception – it bolsters their personal brand even more.

The music business is certainly a crowded marketplace – much like many other industries. Think of ways that you can separate yourself from the noise and stand out when it’s time for you to push a new product or service.


Personal Branding Tip: Forget What YOU Know

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com. The original post can be found here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1682547/personal-branding-expert-tip-forget-what-you-know

Watch the Video Blog from Nick here: Personal Branding Tip: Forget What YOU Know

In my last blog for Fast Company, I explained to you that you have to display your expertise and all the ways you could do that.

But I've had a bunch of emails and posts that have asked me, "But, Nick, where do I begin?" And here's where you've got to begin. You have to forget what you know. Now before you go off saying I'm crazy because I told you before to "get out of the business you're in" and now I'm telling you to "forget what you know", here's what's important--you devalue the things that you know, because you know them so well. That's important, let me say that again:

You devalue the things that you know, because you know them so well.

What I want to encourage you to do is forget what you know and start thinking about what your audience knows--their knowledge set is very different from yours. You don't know where to begin because you think everyone knows what you know, it feels like common sense you know it so well, but it's not! When you're want to display your expertise, you've got to start from the beginning. The most profound information is the stuff that's simple, basic and easy to comprehend and most likely, you've forgotten about it because you know the basics so well! But think about it, if you want to learn about a new subject, you've ALWAYS got to start at the beginning, we all just forget there is a beginning when it's somewhere in our distant past or our subconscious mind.

Forget about the complex stuff, you're trying too hard! And start valuing the stuff that you know. I'm going to ask you to focus on starting from the beginning, of course progressively take your audience on the journey to where they need to be, but start from the beginning. Nothing is too basic. Start from the beginning so they can understand it too and that's what is going to make the biggest impact in their business.

So, forget how much you know, teach people the basics and you'll have great success displaying your expertise.

Share your comments with us below!


Personal Branding Goes Gaga

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com. The original post can be found here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1679211/personal-branding-goes-gaga

Not satisfied with the small screen any more, reportedly Lady Gaga is looking to move to the big screen in what she hopes will be the next blockbuster music movie even though there is no script, producer, director, or plan.

The slight negative tone to this blog is not to diminish the music star's ability to keep her career in the news and everyone guessing, "what's next"? Does anyone know, may be the better question.

Naturally, an announcement of a potential movie deal is a long way from the appearance of one and hints of movies give Gaga and company many opportunities to continue to stir the press machine as more information is leaked to a willing press and fan base.

From our brand positioning perch, we naturally applaud the next expansion of the Gaga brand but would hope that someone in the Gaga camp thinks strategically and doesn't just jump from project to project without focus. There is clearly lots of money to be made from her growing brand and fan base, but at some point you have to make decisions on direction if for no other reason than to solidify what you have. This is not to suggest that Lady Gaga go conservative, heaven forbid the disastrous affect of that. On the contrary, it is an urge to focus and fill in the core of your brand base, making it stronger and ready for bigger challenges. Movies are coming but in the meantime, keep cranking the music machine and building your core fan base.


Are You a One-Hit Wonder?

Many of you know that I have been involved with music my whole life. I’ve learned that the music business is pretty much like any other industry. A lot of the same strategies we use with our branding agency, I used in one way or another managing bands and artists over that last several years.

I’ve always tried to help others, whether it is in music or other areas of business where developing a personal brand is key to long-term success. I’ve always asked if they want to be a “one-hit wonder” or a “hall of famer.”

Remember these gems?

1974 - “Kung Fu Fighting” Carl Douglas
1983 - “Too Shy” Kajagoogoo
1992 - “I’m Too Sexy” Right Said Fred

All of these were massive hits, but the artists eventually faded into obscurity. As you can see, this is a phenomenon that has been around for decades.

So what does this have to do with personal branding?

Well, ask yourself if the decisions you are making are geared toward instant (and possibly fleeting) success, or the long-term success of your business or personal brand.

Take blogging for example. There’s nothing wrong with blogging. (You’re reading one now!) But are you ONLY writing blogs or “tweets?” When was the last time that you wrote a special report or an article series about something in your area of expertise? Ever write a book? Are you consistently producing contents in different formats, DVD, CD, printed information products, digital products and more?

It all comes down to the music analogy: Are you releasing singles or albums? How about a concept album or box set? Are you touring?

What else could you be doing to solidify a career in the business? Or, you can just sit back like 99% of the bands I’ve ever worked with and wait for “a big record label” to come along and catapult you to success…which can happen, but just remember…he who gives the success, can usually take it away with the touch of the button-- or the lowering of a budget.

These are all things that can have lasting effects on your client base, as opposed to a quick thought here and there. Try to think of ways that you can create valuable content for your clients - information that will be a reference for them whenever they need your expertise.

All of us would like to have the “smash hit” right away – and perhaps it’s easier than building a lasting career. Take a look at artists and businesses that have been able to avoid the “one-hit” wonder label. They have lasted and thrived because they are always looking at the big picture. They are always thinking of new ways to build their brand and offer their customers (or fans) interesting, relevant and lasting information.

Are you a “one-hit wonder” or a “hall-of-famer?”


Tony Robbins’s Personal Branding “Breakthrough”

This blog was originally posted and featured on FastCompany.com. The original post can be found here: http://www.fastcompany.com/1675170/tony-robbins-perosnal-branding-breakthrough

By Nick Nanton, Esq. and JW Dicks, Esq.

If you missed Tony Robbins's new mainstream premiere of Breakthrough, his new reality TV show, you missed the evolution of the blending of infomercial, reality TV, and soap opera.

While these adjectives describing Tony Robbins's new show could be viewed as negative, we don't intend them that way. It is the representation of the re-launch of Tony's career in personal development and the launch of a new and powerful blended medium. Had this show been an infomercial, there would have been a strong call to action for viewers to buy the hot product Tony was selling. This may have resulted in successful front end sales followed by following up the sale with offers for additional products and services under the traditional infomercial format.

In the new media, Tony's production company has mixed reality with message and created fans instead of buyers. While this may have a slight delayed effect in product sales, that delay will undoubtedly be outweighed by a strong new fan base for the entire spectrum of Tony Robbins Experiences including product sales as well as high end events and personal coaching at price points that might have seemed unattainable prior to the new show's launch. Make no mistake, this show will be a commercial success--perhaps even on the front end from ad sales, but it will be also undoubtedly be a success for Tony Robbins Productions, the producer of the show, and the mix of Robbins's products and services that will be revived as well as newly created, all at the same time.

First, from a reality TV test, the show was good. Great production, good story and the people were unquestioningly real. From Tony's prospective, he too is to be congratulated because he recognized that in the new economy (arising post Great Recession), the focus will be on credibility as much as celebrity. People are tired of what they see in the news and the "BP BS lie detector" will become a new method of judging what people and companies say about their products and services. If you aren't transparent from today on, you won't pass the public BS lie detector test and you will get raked over the coals by your prospects and customers for anything your try to "sneak" by them--publicly we might add. On the other hand, if you are able to pull off what Tony Robbins did last night, which is to set up the next sale at the expense of a short term gain, the world will be your oyster.


LeBron, The Media, and Your Message

By FastCompany Expert Bloggers Nick Nanton & JW Dicks

Companies must take control of their own brand message and use their own media to do so when possible. LeBron James' control of ESPN's own show, to announce his jump from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat NBA Franchise, was as strong of an in-your-face illustration of the point as you can make.

James told ESPN who would interview him, when they could pop the question on his choice of teams, which sponsors would fill the hour long show, and perhaps more importantly, where the money paid for the sponsorships would go. Like it or not, and many journalists don't, this is just the beginning of high profile sources taking control of a news event. The bigger the story, the more control the newsmaker will have--and that means content control, revenue control and residual spinoffs. Whether you like the way it went down or not, take a look at the opportunity it presents and think about how you could leverage this kind of coup using your personal brand like LeBron did on a local, regional, national, or industry level.

In a world where athletes and celebrities now have their own direct relationship with fans through social media channels, they can not only deliver the news, they can bring the eyeballs to watch the announcement. When the fans have fun and the media and the celebrity make money, who is to complain except the purist--and that cat is out of the bag.

Even though you may not have superstar status in your own market, don't miss the point that this same formula can also be used in other ways. Local announcements of sports events or celebrity appearances can be used to create your own media appearances where you act as host, agent, deal maker, or sponsor depending on the role that best helps to elevate your personal brand. Use of news to expand your brand is not a new idea, but it's taking on a new form that offers lots of opportunities.


Are You Using The Media? You Should Be.

Did you know right now there are journalists sitting at their desks wondering what’s new that they can write about? It’s true. Having worked with a number of journalists over the years, I can’t tell you how many times I have been told that the information I just provided is exactly what they needed to meet a deadline. Journalists, like potential clients, are at the mercy of the information they find. When information comes to them, it makes their job easier. Easier job = happy journalist.

So what does this mean to you? It means that if you are marketing and branding your company, you need to know what journalists are looking for and be ready to supply it. Maybe it’s information about a grand opening, a new product or service you are now offering or an expert opinion – find out what they cover, and when you have the right stuff be there to supply the information. This is where working with a branding consultant comes in handy – branding agencies often have the inside scoop on what journalists cover.

Of course, this does not mean you should flood anyone’s inbox with press releases about every single thing that happens in your company. But it does mean that you should research who covers what in your area, see what kind of articles they write, and when you have something that fits, don’t miss the chance to offer your information for their next assignment.


How to Choose Your Avatar

No, we are not talking about picking a movie time here, but if you saw the movie, then you know that an Avatar is a representation of yourself.

Wiki says, “An avatar is a computer user's representation of himself/herself or alter ego, whether in the form of a three-dimensional model used in computer games, a two-dimensional icon (picture) or a one-dimensional username used on Internet forums and other communities... It is an object representing the user.”

Now that we have that straight… Choosing the right avatar to represent your personal brand is just as important as selecting a logo for your company. Perhaps more important in the world of social media because that is what people see every time they correspond with you on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

As a branding agency, we know the importance of being selective in choosing the right avatar for our various social media communication. Here are some of our top criteria in the selection of an avatar.

  1. Don’t use a default avatar. Nothing screams newbie like selecting one of the default images as your avatar – make it personal.
  2. Pick one avatar for all communication. No, you aren’t stuck with this avatar for life, but you should be consistent. Twitter, Facebook, your blog, forums – they should all get the same avatar. (Hello, this is your online branding strategy.)
  3. KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid. Remember, your avatar will often appear smaller than a half inch. If you have a busy background, it is hard to see what’s going on.
  4. Make it interesting. Don’t go crazy and break tip #3, but your avatar should be attractive, interesting and/or fun. Make people want to hear from you.
  5. Logo or Photo. Depends. Personal branding – photo. Company branding – logo.

Alright, so those are our tips. Wanna see what we do? For our branding agency, we each have our own avatars to represent our voice. Look for us online.


Put Your Best Image Forward

One of the most important personal branding tools is a professional photo. Please note that I said professional photo; the image you use for your personal brand should be taken by a professional to ensure that you are portraying the right image.

There are photographic styles for every image, but a quick snapshot taken by your friend with poor lighting, a busy background and other people in the image is probably not the best image for your brand. A friend in the publishing industry tells the story of a famous actor – I dare not name – who was to appear in a magazine. When a request was made for the actor’s photo, he sent a picture of himself at what appeared to be a cocktail event with his arms around other partygoers. It was an all-around terrible photograph. A second request was sent for a better picture; the actor’s rep informed the publication that it was the best picture available. What? Surely, this is an exaggeration? I am afraid not. The friend made do with the image, but it was a poor representation.

While you may not have a magazine knocking today, what if one calls tomorrow? Are you ready? If not, it’s time to get a professional picture taken. A branding agency (like Celebrity Branding Agency) can steer you in the direction of an appropriate photographer (and other branding strategies to get those magazines and clients knocking).

Now, before you go deleting all of your party pics and family photos. There is a time and a place for those snapshots – think social media. Go ahead; share your favorite pics on Facebook, your blog, etc., wherever you connect with your clients on a personal level. But when it comes to the image for your brand, let a professional help you look professional.


Mickey Mouse, The Personality Brand

In a recent New York Times article by Brooks Barnes, it reported that the Walt Disney Co. was going to take a risky step of recasting Mickey’s image for the future, adding, “Disney has quietly embarked on an even larger project to rethink the character’s personality from the way he walks and talks to the way he appears and how kids interact with him online.”

This acknowledgement by Disney of the importance of “thinking”, about how a personality brand is perceived on many levels by your audience, is a lesson we all need to keep in mind. Clearly Disney is concerned about brand reception and its effect on a brand with $5 billion in annual merchandise sales. Your company’s brand might not have billions at stake but what you do have is just as important to you.

Brand reception by your audience, no matter how big or small, must always be a concern and mixed messages can be as large a problem as bad messages. This is one reason that we encourage clients who have businesses driven on personality brands to be consistent not only with the verbal messages they are conveying to their audience but the more subtle messages as well. Brand reception is particularly important in the age of Facebook and other social media sites where some brand personalities might relax too much. Yes, it is important to let your personality come out and let your client/customer base know who you are so you can create a stronger bond. This is one of the strengths of building your business based on personality branding. However, you must at the same time be cautious to realize that you are being watched by your clients and the messages you are sending must remain true to the brand you are building or someday you may have to, “rethink” the direction your brand has taken.


Your Direct-Mail Campaign is Only as Good as Your List

We talk a lot about technology because it's new and sexy, but sometimes it's important to refocus on the basics. The basics may not be as sexy, but they have built great businesses for years and are still working for branding and marketing in the new economy.

Even in our highly digital world, branding consultants will tell you that the direct-mail campaign is still one of the most important tools in a branding agency’s bag. But even if you plan the best campaign, if your campaign doesn’t reach your intended recipients, you might as well throw your cash out the window.

When your mail piece arrives at the post office, it is feed into a machine to read the address and give it a barcode for delivery. That’s right, a machine. There is no guy in the backroom assigned to reading every addresses piece of mail that comes through the PO. Since you are dealing with a machine, you have to think like a machine, so while Florida, Fl, Fla, FL. and FL all mean the same thing to a human -- to a machine reading a bulk list only one of these is correct. What does that mean? It means the other labels could delay or completely prevent your piece for ever reaching its destination. It’s true. (Wondering which one is correct? The two-letter state abbreviation in capital letters, no period.)

The problem with lists is that often the person entering the information is copying and pasting from another location. Sometimes that information is up to postal regulations, sometimes it is not. So, it is important for the person creating and maintaining your lists to know what is acceptable and what is not.

Here are some more pointers from USPS about addressing your mail:

• All capital letters
• No punctuation
• At least 10-point type
• One space between city and state
• Two spaces between state and ZIP Code
• Simple type fonts
• Left justified
• Put the attention line on top -- never below the city and state or in the bottom corner of your mailpiece
• If you can’t fit the suite or apartment number on the same line as the delivery address, put it on the line ABOVE the delivery address, NOT on the line below
• Make sure your labels are straight -- mail processing machines have trouble reading crooked or slanted information
• Words like “east” and “west” are VERY important

Learn this lesson now, friend. Otherwise you could loss a good portion of your list before you even get the mail out the door, and what will that do to the statistics for your personal branding?


Get Your Business in Shape

Maintaining your personal brand is a lot like maintaining your personal appearance, except instead of looking like a slob at the grocery store, if you don’t maintain your personal brand you won’t make money. Actually, since you need money to maintain your personal appearance, perhaps personal branding is even more important, although I guess this is where the chicken and the egg comes in…

Here are 3 branding strategies to do this week:

1) Hit the weights – While you may not work up a sweat, take a moment each week to exercise your mind and learn something new to help you build your business. Whether it is keeping up with the latest and greatest in your industry or checking in on your favorite branding agency (hint, hint) to see what new tips it has to offer, never stop learning. And when you learn something worthwhile, don’t hesitate to put it into practice immediately.

2) Check the mirror – It happens in every business overtime voicemail messages become stale, links on web sites aren’t updated, furniture becomes tattered, minor mistakes slip past… But while any single one of these items don’t mean disaster to your image, when all the little slips add up it begins to look like you don’t care enough to keep it together. Go through your business with a fine-tooth comb. Follow the path of your client and check each detail. If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, start at the beginning to set things straight.

3) Smile and say “Hi” – Never underestimate the power of staying in touch with current clients. Many marketing strategies concentrate on gaining new clients, which we all need, but it is also just as important to stay in touch with old clients. For many people, your services or products may very well be out of sight and out of mind. Don’t loose those customers you worked so hard to get in the first place. Send them an email, create an e-newsletter, place a phone call – just stay in touch with the gold mine of people you have already convinced to be your customer. They are one of your most valuable assets, don’t let them go stale.


Behind the Scenes At Disney

Our Company does an event a couple of times per year and part of it is a “behind the scenes” look at Disney and an education on how they do the business magic they do so well.

One segment of the tour is a visit to the “underground” part of the Magic Kingdom - the tunnels below. On tour, the very knowledgeable guides explain in detail some of the “insider” points of what Disney does and the thought process that goes with it.

On this particular trip the guide told us about Disney’s Pin trading. For those of you who don’t know, Disney borrowed the idea of trading Pins from the Olympics when they observed people from different countries using it as an ice breaker to make conversation and connect with each other. Disney then created its own pins for guests in the park to trade with Disney employees or “cast members,” as they prefer the term. Obviously, in order to trade a pin you had to buy one and thus a new product line began to the tune of what is now a $100 million a year industry with its own events, including cruises.

The Pin trading venture is a whole study itself in the process of creating new verticals for your own business - but today’s lesson is perhaps more important. Our guide pointed out excitedly that it really wasn’t the pins that were important; it was in her words, “all about the opportunity to build a relationship with our guest.”
I doubt the guide thought of this on her own, and if she did Disney should certainly give her a raise and a bigger job, for the point is dead on. A sale, no matter what the product, is an opportunity to create or continue a relationship with your customer. The sale will not last. The relationship can. The true value of any sale is not today’s value but the lifetime value of that customer today and tomorrow.


Texas and Australia Collide!!…???

It's hard to believe that 1 week ago last night, Thursday night, I was in Austin at South By Southwest (SXSW), the biggest music festival in the U.S., rocking out to one of the bands I represent, "A Day to Remember." These guys have been tearing it up recently. Their most recent release hit #21 on Billboard's Top 200 records in February of this year. You can check out some video of them on youtube, there's lots of them out there! Be forewarned, they rock pretty hard and heavy :).

But the story I'm going to tell you about actually happened exactly a week ago, on Friday morning, at one of the biggest brunches you can be invited to, the BMI SXSW Brunch. BMI administers royalties to songwriters and music publishers all over the world to names like Aretha Franklin, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Shakira, Kanye West, Mariah Carey and about a million others. They always have GREAT music at the brunch, and you've rarely ever heard of anyone who they invite to play. They are usually artists who BMI is recognizing as "rising stars."

I was eating my brunch and having a mimosa, chatting with some industry friends that I usually only see once or twice a year at events like this, when this guy came on stage. I heard about 3 notes and instinctively reached for my Flip camera (if you don't have a Flip, do yourself a favor and go to Amazon.com now and buy one!). I couldn't believe my ears. The vocals were amazing. I had to look at the program to see his name and I found it. Then I went on my iphone to Twitter and "tweeted" that I had just heard a great tune from a new artist named "Guy Sebastian". I recorded a better video of him from a bit closer up and then went on my way for some more meetings and to see a few more of my artists play.

I left a few hours later because I got a call from my wife informing me that her and both of my little boys, Brock (4) and Bowen (16 months) were all sick. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say it was a bit of a "cookie toss" lol. But as I was at the airport, I logged onto my email and I saw that I had a bunch of new Twitter followers. I wasn't sure why, but I had to shut down my computer and board my flight. When I got home, everyone was asleep, so I updated my Facebook account and posted my videos from SXSW and posted an update on Twitter that I had just uploaded the videos. Then I went to bed.

The next morning, I had about 50 Facebook friend requests. And I also started seeing the messages. Messages all about Guy Sebastian. Well, it seems that I wasn't aware that Guy is from Australia and he won the first season of Australian Idol and had gone 6x Platinum in Australia. WOW. That's impressive. And it made me stop and think back to 2 concepts I always teach when I'm speaking:

1. The only people who need to know who you are, are your target audience. I often give an example of walking through the mall with one of my bands, and how the teenagers freak out, and the parents have no idea what the commotion is about. But it doesn't matter, the target audience, the teenagers, know exactly who they are! And the same applies to your business. You don't need to be a Celebrity to everyone in the world, just your target market that would be suited to hire you and pay for your services.

Well, Guy's fans in Australia knew EXACTLY who he was, and I can tell you that you all will too very soon. This guy is too good. Check out some of my videos (and become my friend on Facebook! at: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/video/video.php?v=138863210116 ).

2. When you join the conversation that is already occurring in people's heads, they take notice. It's the old concept that we are all on a "Moving Parade" through life. As we move through life on our "parade," our wants, needs and desires change, and we take notice of different things as these wants and needs change. Ever notice how you start thinking about getting a new car, and all of a sudden you start hearing about 100 car commercials on the radio every hour, and you start seeing all sorts of promotions on financing for cars, etc. Well, it's because you are subconsciously paying attention to them on your "parade."

The value in this concept is that your prospects and even your clients are often distracted as they move along their parade. You can try to "interrupt" them and get them to notice you, but it's SO much easier to get noticed if you join the conversation that is already going on in their minds. Right now, no matter what business you are in, you could gain a lot of attention from talking about the things that are on top of people's minds at this moment: Barack Obama, The Federal Bailout, The Recession, Bad Economy, Income Taxes, Spring, etc. There are lots of things that are already on people's minds right now. If you talk about those things, and relate what you really want to tell your clients and prospects (about your product or service or whatever else) to what's going on in their minds, they will take note much faster.

Obviously these Australians were already talking and thinking about Guy Sebastian and when I mentioned his name, they caught wind of it like wild fire. My posts hit their message boards in a matter of hours and they were all stalking me to learn more! Well, you see, it seems as if Guy is recording a new album in the US and the Aussie population is dying to hear it, so even a glimpse of a new song, which I gave them, is what they're dying for! So by joining that conversation, I became very relevant to a whole new group of people, across the world no less, that now were interested in what I had to say. Think about how you can become relevant to the audience that you really want to pay attention to you, and start hopping in the conversation. I think you'll be as stunned as I was, when you hit the right note!

That's all for now! I'm off to Chicago to speak at a conference next week for the Senior Living market, for two of our clients, Traci Bild (www.TraciBild.com) and Richard Seppala, "The ROI Guy," (www.YourROIguy.com). I'll be sharing the stage with Bill Rancic, winner of Season 1 of the Apprentice with Donald Trump. I'm sure I'll have some more stories for you soon!

Feel free to email me or post comments on this blog to let me know how the above lessons have applied to your marketing!


All You Need in a Video (Part II)

In my previous post "All You Need in a Video" I talked about the fact that a heartfelt video that connects with your prospects and clients, regardless of production value, is all you need in order to connect with your audience.

Well, here is an example of me taking my own advice (notice that the birds weren't added sound effects! they were just part of the background, and I was still able to get my message across!)

Here is a link to the video: http://www.celebritybrandingyou.com/cby-video/


Celebrity Branding You™ – Isn’t He Just Talking About Personality Driven Marketing?

I was being interviewed on Inc. 500 CEO, Chris Hurn’s Small Business Success Strategies series, last week and he asked a question that I answer all too frequently in person, but I’m sure many of you have never heard my answer.

What he essentially asked me is, “How is Celebrity Branding® different from personality branding, and the long-standing concept of a personality driven business?”

While I can’t summarize everything that Celebrity Branding® includes in one short article, let me tell you one of the main differences. The main difference is in the magnitude of focus and commitment you give to your positioning. You can have personality in any brand. But Celebrity Branding® is taking your personality and making you the focus, not the back-story for your product or service. Once you make that switch, you develop a system of marketing that is centered on you as the celebrity expert, which separates you from your competition. No longer is your product or service a commodity that anyone can supply. To get what you are now offering, the client or customer must utilize you and your business.

Let me give you an example to illustrate the difference.

Let’s assume we’ve got two different financial planners that are in the same market. It doesn’t matter whether their customer base is local or national, what matters is that they compete for the same customers.

Financial Planner 1 has his photo on his business card, has ads featuring his image in several publications that his target audience reads, and his website also has his picture on it. This financial planner understands that “people buy people,” so he has put his picture on his materials so that people can identify who he is. This is personality branding.

Financial Planner 2 has some or all of the things that financial planner 1 has. These things are a great start, but she also realizes that the true value of Celebrity Branding® is to create devoted fans out of her prospects and clients. And she realizes that while having her photo on her marketing materials is a great start, ultimately she must connect with her audience in order to turn them into fans. She has to let her audience know who she is (and include some details about her “real” life outside of work, when appropriate), what her expertise is, why she’s an expert, that she’s constantly at the forefront of her industry, and just how she can help her prospects and clients. You can’t get any of this across with a photo alone! You’ve got to take the time to develop methods to communicate with your audience.

If you want to create true Celebrity Expert status, you’ve got to show your audience why they should listen to you. You’ve got to display your expertise to them and create a personal relationship in order for them to develop an affinity for you and what you do.

The difference is huge between the value of these two financial planners to their audiences. If you want to develop Celebrity Status, you’ve got to create a system for communicating with your clients and prospects. Clients should obviously get more of your time than prospects should, but the key here is to develop some methods of communicating with your entire audience that you can replicate through the use of systems.

Marketing systems for Celebrity Branding® involve multiple facets of “touch points” with your customers. Utilizing an email system that allows you to write one message and send it out in a manner that makes it look personalized to your list, instead of a generic blast, developing an ezine which contains specific content rich information about you and your business, physical newsletters that allow people to hold and feel your business in their hand, or a blog that allows you to keep in constant contact with your audience via multiple forms of social networking and social media are all examples of new ways to reach your client and create the relationship that both bonds and builds. It is this level of commitment and focus that allows you to take your brand to another level beyond even your closest competitor.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter what you include in your marketing system, the key is that you actually have a marketing system for building a relationship with your fan base. Additionally, the system should incorporate a method, or methods, to continually drive the relationship forward, whether you have the time to literally speak with every person or not. This is what we mean by Celebrity Branding®, and you can see that it is much more than people realize -- which is why it is so powerful. Take a look at your current system for prospecting and follow up communication with customers and see how you can better optimize your system to create a Celebrity Brand, rather than just a personality driven business. As always, if we can help, you know where to find us.


Somewhat like on American Idol, “I’m going to Hollywood!”

I'm heading out to the GRAMMY's with my wife and my business partners tomorrow. We're really looking forward to it and we're actually staying right across from the Kodak Theater where they film the Idol finals. We even got invited to Ne-Yo's after-party. We'll let you know how that goes...

Anyhow, as I was packing, I was reminded of the last time I flew on a plane, a few weeks ago when I was coming back from France. I had so much time on the plane I actually ran out of things to do, watch, read etc, so I resorted to the airline's shopping catalogue...in german.

I saw an image very similar to this one:

nickblog-pic-small.jpg

Now I can tell you, I would be willing to bet that the first time that the tobacco companies in the EU were told that they would have to start using this label on their tobacco products, they probably weren't really excited about it. We can be they felt blindsided and had a lot of emotions. This is a very far departure from the cigarette commercials of old that used to have Doctors giving testimonials on the benefits of smoking (seriously, here in the U.S. too). I know what you're thinking, "Wow, I sure am glad that I don't have to deal with that in my industry. That would really kill my sales." But instead of just dismissing the notion for a moment, let's play it out in our heads.

Many of us rely on the way we are doing things right now, and assume that nothing will change. We find strategies that work, and rightly so, they become easy to rely on-- you might say as easy to rely on as testimonials from Doctors when selling cigarettes-- but, at some point, something will change, that will affect one of your key strategies.

I know, I know, the people who relied on cold-calling consumers to sell products didn't think that the "Do Not Call Registry" was a real threat...until it became law

and yes, I know, I know, marketers who were sending out faxes, like they were going out of style, never thought that fax broadcasts would be banned...until "junk faxes" became illegal

I'm also sure that those of you who have started to discover text messaging in your marketing, are also not excited about some recent propositions for businesses to start paying a "tax" on each and every text message they send out marketing their products and services. This free media, is about to become not so free.

I'm not here to be "Mr. Gloom and Doom," but I do want to remind you to be conscious of the fact that things always change, and sometimes when you least expect them to, so be sure to have a plan B and continue to test new and different methods of reaching your market, even when things are going great with what you are currently doing!


It All Comes Down to This…

I’m writing this at 5:50am at the Nashville airport, getting ready to hop a plane back to Orlando. I arrived yesterday afternoon to watch our client Johnny Bulford www.johnnybulford.com compete in the finals of the Colgate Country Showdown. It’s kind of like American Idol but it’s only for country music and it’s been going on a lot longer! It’s in its 27th year! Artists like Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, Leann Rymes, Billy Ray Cyrus and many others got their career starts in the Showdown.

There were thousands of local and regional contests that all culminated in the final that was hosted last night, by Leann Rymes, with the top 5 winners from the final 5 regions. Johnny was the winner from the Southeast region. Anyway, Johnny WON last night! So big congrats to him and we’re looking forward to lots of big things from him!

I’m heading home now for about 24 hours and then I’m off to Cannes, France for MiDEM, the world’s largest music festival for a few days. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Anyhow, I was talking with a good friend the other day and he was confiding in me that he was working with a non-profit and couldn’t figure out why the division he was working with wasn’t doing quite as well as all of the other divisions. All divisions were located in different parts of his town, but the division he was involved in just hadn’t been performing up to par.

We went through the usual excuses, the location wasn’t right, the community wasn’t as involved, etc. but when I asked the right questions, we both got the light bulb over our heads.

Between this division and the others, it was the person running the division, we’ll call him Tom for now, that was actually the problem. When you’re involved in a business that requires community support like most non-profit, philanthropic, businesses do, you’ve got to get the community personally and financially invested. Which you might say is even tougher than being a consumer business in the retail market, because while you have to get your customers to buy into what you’re doing, there is usually a correlation between how much your product or service meets the needs of your target audience and how many actually decide to give you their money. When you are looking at a philanthropic model, this usually isn’t the case.

The problem we discovered was that Tom, the guy responsible for the mission and direction of the division, was not compelling to his audience. Everyone liked him, but at the end of the day, they had no burning desire to rally around him, help fund Tom’s project and ultimately to be recognized and embraced by Tom as a contributor to the cause. The other division leaders on the other hand, were seen as pillars in their communities that everyone loved seeing, knowing, speaking with and being recognized by.

This makes all the difference not only in the non-profit sector, but in your business as well. So, think about it, are you allowing your prospects to get to know your personality well enough to be compelling to them? If you’re not, a few quick changes will take your business to new heights in 2009!


ALL YOU NEED in a video!

I wanted to show you a video from none other than LeAnn Rimes. I went to her website because I'm actually going to be in Nashville on Thursday where she'll be hosting the finals of the Colgate Country Showdown on TV and one of our clients is in the Top 4 and is competing for the title. I'll let you know how it goes!

But, in any event, check out the video she has up on her site:

http://www.leannrimesworld.com/splash/splash_wicc.php

It's to promote her song, "What I cannot Change." What I want you to notice is that even big stars don't always spend lots of money and time to get a great quality video up online. Many of us hide behind the fact that we can't get into the studio, cost etc, in order to get a video up. We all need to take a lesson from this video, it's heartfelt and connects with the audience. She's got her hair up and you can tell she's "just like you and me."

This is ALL YOU NEED in a video! So, get out there with those FLIP cameras and start recording! If you don't have a FLIP camera, just go to www.Amazon.com and type in FLIP Mino.


Building a Business on the Back of your Blockbuster

In the past several months I have been traveling the country and meeting with many highly successful business owners and entrepreneurs, including several "household names" that you would certainly recognize if I mentioned their names...but that's not the point of this blog. The point is that I'm going to teach you how to avoid making the big mistake that most people make at the height of their success.

These celebrities, at one time or another, had millions of dollars media (radio, television, internet and newspaper), F-R-E-E media, talking about them and giving them publicity because what they had to offer, whether it was simply an entertaining personality, answers to a burning question the fans wanted to know, or the answer to a common problem the world is facing, was in high demand. And that's a wonderful position to be in. The problem is that 99% of them never planned for the next phase of their career. Whether it's an athlete, actor, musician, reality television star or any other personality that gets some media coverage, the simple truth is that in all but the rarest of circumstances, their current method of making substantial dollars is going to change. And likely it's going to change before they even know what hit them.

If these celebrities and "talking heads" had taken the time to use the media they were given to create a funnel of interested prospects that they could sell products and services to, then they would be in a totally different position than they are in today.

Here's an example.

Too Tall Jones is an amazing college basketballl player. It doesn't matter what side of the court he is on, every time he lobs a ball up in the air he scores. He is so good that the media just can't stop talking about him. He gets interviewed daily in every national newspaper, radio station, television market and even the biggest internet blogs. He is the MVP of the year and he's about to get drafted into the NBA and finally make some money. He signs with the NBA, with a big signing bonus. He is making more money than he ever thought possible. He is a blockbuster hit for his team and the league as a whole. But, as his lifestyle grows, so do his expenses, and as ridiculous as it may sound to the rest of us, he's basically getting by with great cash flow but not building up his wealth at all. He's spending all the money he earns. He's really helping out his family, his friends, and even some charities with huge gifts, but he's not putting any money away. He'll do that in a couple of years.

Fast forward to season 3, just after he put whatever money he could get his hands on into a big real estate investment that looks like it's going to turn sour, he gets injured and he will never play basketball again. He gets dropped from the team, and even Hi-Top brand shoes pulls his endorsement. Then, as expected, the real-estate deal goes sour and his last millions are lost and gone forever.

What happens? He could use the notoriety he built to land a good job where he can build a customer base on the back of his star power and how great of an athlete he was. He could go coach high school or college basketball. There are any number of things he could be doing, but, he certainly won't be making the kind of dollars he was making, or could have been making. Why? Because he now has to start all over in a new business.

What could he have done? While he was really getting some press during the first years of his professional career he could have been building his a business on the back of his fame. A few examples would be a membership-based website where fans would pay monthly fees to see videos of his technique and strategies so they could learn to be as good of a player as him, and where fans could connect with other die-hard fans so they could discuss their favorite plays he made, and favorite games of all time. He could have been selling DVD sets and workbooks on how to be the best player on the court and he could have even been building a list of fans online by offering them a free online video or basketball card or whatever, just so he could build his own business off the back of the fans that were trickling in based on the free publicity he was getting. Even if he was charging $10 a month, if he had several thousand fans paying to get access to his site and his videos, or paying to get the new plays of the month in their email or mailbox, he could have built up a consistent stream of income that was not reliant on the team cutting him a check.

But he didn't. And he certainly is not alone.

When things are going great, we often don't take the time to plan a few steps beyond our current success. We don't take the time to build a list of our own fans so that if circumstances change beyond our control, or if we want to change them ourselves, we don't have to start from scratch because we have a list of fans who are anxious to connect with us and hear what we have to offer next, that they will come along with us.

And while you probably aren't lucky enough to be getting media coverage without paying for it, if you have a large influx of customers and prospects that are coming to you because they like what you have to offer, whether they learned about it from an advertisement or from a friend, you should be capturing the hearts, minds and contact information of those fans and starting to test market other things to them. Do you realize how much profit you could stack onto your business if you just sold another product or service to your existing clients and prospects without having to go out and find new people to sell to? The numbers are staggering. Take a few moments to think about what they could do for you and I'm sure you'll quickly start writing down your plan to build a business on the back of your current Blockbuster hit.

--


Do your clients think you would wash their kids in your kitchen sink?

What do all of these images have in common? Keep reading and I’ll tell you!

As I was driving into my neighborhood a couple of weeks ago (before I moved into our new house, which is tiring to even think about, and why I didn’t get a chance to send you this sooner!) I saw a sign taped to a stop sign that read:

College Babysitter
555-555-1212*

*(actual number withheld to spare the poor kid)

Now, it doesn’t take more than about 4 seconds to find your own punchline, but if you’re like me, the first thing your mind conjures up, is probably something like one of the above pictures, or this:

No one gave this “well-educated” college kid the first lesson in marketing! You’ve got to make your message CLEAR and it’s a huge mistake for you to leave room in your message for the consumer to come up with their own objections in their mind, before you even get a chance to sell them on your product or service and why you’re the best for the job.

So, while I’m sure it took a lot of effort for this college kid to write out these words without any text messaging abbreviations (like Nd BBsttr? Txt Me), it would have helped to take a few more minutes to type out a message that might actually get someone to call you that is looking for a babysitter instead of a dogsitter. Here would be my suggestion:

Responsible College Student with 3.99 GPA NOW interviewing for babysitting opportunities for the summer.

555-555-1212

Call today, before my schedule fills up for the entire summer!

*Resume and References Available on Request

Isn’t that a little better? It’s not as much copy as I usually like to write (and I didn’t even make the prospects call a recorded hotline to see if they could follow directions!) but it at least makes it a bit more appealing for parents to call the number to check out the opportunity. Once you get them live on the phone, then it’s much easier to get the job.

The lesson here is don’t take shortcuts when trying to get your message out there. Sure, there are times when you only have a few lines of text, but don’t be lazy, analyze every word to see what needs to be there, what gives the wrong impression, and what doesn’t give the prospect enough information to qualify themselves. If you follow these simple steps, you’ll be ahead of 99% of your competition.


Meeting With George Ross

I am writing this blog on my flight back from New York City after some great meetings. I flew up yesterday to speak at the New York/Northern New Jersey chapter of Glazer-Kennedy Insider’s Circle on my book tour to promote Jack and my new book, Celebrity Branding You. You can check out some pictures here:

http://tinyurl.com/6kvog9

When I finalized my trip to New York, I decided to take up George Ross, Donald Trump’s Lawyer and Chief Negotiator as well as his board room co-star on The Apprentice, on his offer to visit him at his office next time I was in the city. So I emailed George and we set up a time to visit yesterday morning.

You can see a picture of George and I in his office as well as a short 2 minute video I recorded after our meeting by clicking here:

Photos: http://tinyurl.com/5peokz

Video:

In the short video I reveal a marketing lesson that George and I discussed that you may not be aware of but it’s a great way to isolate yourself from the current economic situation and gives you a tip that you shouldn’t be ignoring in your business.

George and I disagreed a bit on a few issues, but it was a healthy discussion and I am sure George and I will continue to stay in touch and even debate a bit here and there. Hey, we’re lawyers, what do you expect!

Another profound comment that George made, which I think will be useful to you is the fact that:

1. he has been practicing law for over 50 years
2. has been teaching a course on negotiation at NYU, one of the greatest educational institutions in the world, for many years, and
3, has been involved in negotiating some of the biggest real estate deals in history for that past 30 years alongside Donald Trump, who is one of the biggest Celebrity Experts in the media today

but until he got on the Apprentice, no one really cared. He was known in small professional circles and certainly to those who were looking to do a deal with “The Donald,” but he certainly wasn’t known to or revered by the general public the way he is today. Now, George is a very highly sought –after (and highly paid!) lecturer and speaker brought in to many organizations and conferences to reveal his art of negotiation. And the funny thing is he’s no better at it than before he was on the Apprentice! Before, his target audience just didn’t know who he was or what he was great at.

The key point here is: his credentials are secondary to his celebrity status. To paraphrase his own words, he said its awful peculiar how sitting at a board room table sparring with eager young minds once a week for a few months a year, at the right hand of Donald Trump has completely changed his life and gained the respect of the American public as a whole. Isn’t it neat what kind of credibility you can have virtually “assigned” to you just by being in the media with the right message at the right time? I agree and its one of the strategies I teach when I’m lecturing on Celebrity Branding®™. I encourage you to think about how you can reach out to your own audience in a similar way to increase your visibility, your demand and your fees.

By the way, if you’re looking for a way to get the George Ross/Apprentice effect in your own business and personal life, shoot me an email at Nick@CelebrityBrandingYou.com. Jack and I have found a way to guarantee that 20 business owners and entrepreneurs will be seen on NBC, ABC, FOX and CBS as well as seen in USA Today, The Wall St. Journal and Newsweek all within the next 12 months.

Alright, that’s about it, hope you have a great rest of the week. As for me I’m heading off to St. Lucia with my wife for our anniversary this weekend. See you when I get back!

Dedicated to bringing out the Celebrity in YOU!

Nick


A Funeral Home that has Members and the Secret to Moderate Success

As I write this blog post I’m sitting in the exit row on an airplane
coming back from my second trip to Baltimore this month (I also had to
go to Cleveland for 2 days which was even more interesting!). The guy
sitting next to me was looking for some calculus homework help…fate
obviously placed him in the wrong seat! I could have spent the entire
duration of the flight convincing him to throw in the towel and take
up something useful, but hey, I can’t save everyone. Oh well…

I can assure you the marketing conferences and meetings I have been
attending have been well worth the trips or you would never get me to
leave my wife and 2 sons to go to any such place! And yes, for those
of you who are wondering, I spend a lot of time and money on personal
development and coaching every year. As a matter of fact, I will
spend well over $30,000.00 this year on seminars, coaching and
information products. I can also tell you that since I have more than
tripled my spending on these items the last 3 years, my income has
tripled as well. Just a quick gut check: are you dedicating the time,
effort and resources to develop your skills so you can make more
money? If you aren’t you should be!

In my travels, I often run into business owners who are caught up in
comparing their businesses to local or national competitors in their
industry. While this can be an effective way to measure some things,
it is also a guaranteed way to achieve moderate success. In order to
achieve extraordinary success, you have to look to extraordinary (or
even “unorthodox”) methods. You’ve got to get outside of what
everyone else is doing in your industry and find some successful
methods that are working in other industries.

*For one example of this, check out Lowe’s Supercenters (yup the
hardware store!) monthly publication Lowe’s for Pro’s this month where
I was interviewed and gave some secrets for unorthodox marketing
practices for landscapers. I can assure you I have never marketed
anything for a landscaper, but the principles I revealed can and
should be used in every business. For a copy, email me.

One of my favorite examples is from a friend of mine, Scott Mueller
who I saw today, who runs a funeral home business. Scott came to a
lot of marketing meetings absolutely green with envy that he could not
do what most other smart businesses are doing: creating what we call
“Continuity Income” in their businesses. For the uninitiated,
Continuity Income is income built on recurring fees like monthly
membership fees, subscription fees or any other fee that you can
charge on a recurring monthly basis. It’s the greatest way to make
money…from the first of the month when you open your doors, you have
made a profit and you just have to be on the lookout for ways to grow
your continuity income and not lose the members you already have. It
sure beats “pay to play” business models where customers come and go
as they please, without being tied to the business in any way or
possibly ever spending any money with you again! Which, by the way,
is the fastest way to a mediocre business that is more of a job than a
profit center. But I digress…

Scott was determined to find a way to grow his profits so he set out
to be the first Funeral Home with Continuity Income. And I will
definitely hand it to him, what he did next was brilliant! Scott
realized that a funeral was really just a stop on the journey that a
family has to embark on, whether it is convenient or not, when they
experience the death of a loved one. What happens before and after
the funeral is a long, often painful, process for many families filled
with fear and worry. Scott realized that what families really wanted,
besides a comforting funeral service, was a way to heal and recover
from the loss of a loved one. So Scott created the only Guaranteed
Family Recovery program. Now Scott’s customers are offered the
opportunity to join a paid grief counseling and recovery program that
walks the family through the recovery process before and after the
funeral. The results have been amazing. Not only in profitability,
but also because his clients are now MUCH more satisfied customers.
Scott now provides a full solution to the problems his customers are
facing.

If Scott hadn’t taken the time to study some other industries and
innovate, then he never would have had this breakthrough. I encourage
you to look for ways to interact with and study what’s working in
other industries and to look for ways to innovate in your own
business. It’s the only way to create an extraordinary business with
extraordinary profits.

If you’d like to challenge Jack and I to find a way to add continuity
to your business, just email us at info@dicksnanton.com. I will post
our answers to the best challenges in my next blog.

P.S. – Our book, Celebrity Branding You, is coming out in bookstores
nationwide within the next 30 days and I’m going on a mini book tour
to launch it. I started the tour in Orlando on June 11 at the Rock
Your Business Power Lunch where I was given the honor of smashing a
guitar! It was quite a thrill. You can see pictures HERE.

If you live in Pittsburgh or Las Vegas, here are some details on the
next couple of events. Come on out and say hi!

June 24 – Pittsburgh, PA
4:30PM-6:30PM

Up A Notch Marketing Seminar
The Pittsburgh Marriott City Center
112 Washington Place, Pittsburgh, Pa 15219
Contact Kathy for details @ Kathy@upanotchmarketing.com

June 26 – Las Vegas, NV
11:30AM-1:30PM

Glazer-Kennedy Insider’s Circle, Las Vegas Chapter Meetin
Antique Mall
1495 E Flamingo
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Contact Richelle Shaw for details at richelleshaw@gmail.com


Are you relevant?

I hope my subject line didn't make your heart skip a beat because you thought I was being rude, but my point is that this should be the exact question you ask yourself when trying to communicate with your "audience" of prospects and customers.

If you can stay relevant, and integrate current events, pop culture and news items that your prospects and customers are paying attention to into your marketing, your message will be much better received and it will be more likely that your audience will act on your message.

If you have been reading my posts and articles for the past few months, you'll notice that I have posted several times about American Idol. It’s currently the biggest show on TV, and I have found several ways to relate it to what I'm talking about. If you haven't seen those posts (as well as my CORRECT prediction for the American Idol 2008 Top 2 Finalists, David Archuletta and David Cook more than 9 weeks ago!) you can view those here:

The Idol Factor

American Idol 2008 Picks

Ok, so now onto the even better news. The better news is that relevant chatter can have an even bigger effect than the one you expected! Because I have been talking about American Idol and making predictions, I got quoted last year in the Arizona Republic Newspaper on my thoughts on the career of last year's American Idol winner, Jordin Sparks. And just this week, I was quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune on what I thought about David Archuleta's prospects for a successful career. And the interesting thing about this article is that my quote is not in the company of hacks or has-beens. My quote is right alongside Julianne Hough, winner of Dancing with the Stars, 4 Time Grammy(R) Award Winner, Erykah Badu, and the late, great Waylon Jennings' son and popular musician, Mason Jennings as well as a who's who of industry pundits. All of this took place because I was relevant.

And because I am here to show you how I use these strategies to continue the Celebrity Branding® process to get you more clients, here's what else I did: I had a press release written about my quote in the Salt Lake Times. You can view it here:

Orlando Music Lawyer Nick Nanton Speaks Out on American Idol Finalist David Archuleta

Now the first thing you might ask is, "who cares about a quote in a newspaper? Is any news outlet really going to pick that kind of press up? No way!" This is a great question, and you're right, no major news outlet will pick this story up, HOWEVER, it is important to note that online traffic is driven through key words and getting press syndicated online is much easier to do than getting it picked up in a major news outlet. That press release will be picked up by literally tens of thousands of websites through online syndication. (If you want to know how to do that, send me an email and I'll tell you). And every time its syndicated, it includes my key words as well as, the most important part, a link back to my website. Now this link is important because people can now link from the article back to my website, but the even more important factor is that there will now be tens of thousands of websites syndicating my press release that will have a link back to my website, and will be giving Google a "vote" that says, that site is so good I'm going to send my visitors there! This is huge for Search Engine Marketing and for getting great organic rankings (non-paid rankings in Google.

Notice that the subject line contains Key Words I was trying to get attention with: Orlando Music Lawyer (I use this to attract entertainment clients) as well as using David Archuleta's full name in the subject line. And guess when I released it, May 20th, the day of the final performances. And guess when I'm releasing this blog? May 21st, the day the new American Idol winner will be crowned. Coincidence? I'll let you decide.

Just so you don't have to think it through, lets recap the lesson that can be learned here:

In the past week, the week of the American Idol finals, I have been quoted in a major newspaper along with other celebrities on a subject that is extremely relevant in pop culture (not to mention to my audience of musicians and songwriters who are interested in hiring me to represent them), I had a press release sent out on the wire and posted to my websites on the day of the final American Idol performances and I posted a blog on the day the American Idol for the 2008 season is crowned that discusses the same subject matter. I have also used the key words: David Archuleta, American Idol (no less than 14 times!), David Cook, Jordin Sparks and Orlando Music Lawyer within this post. Do you see a pattern here?

Stay relevant and use keywords online to drive your audience to you. Its one of the most magnetic strategies you can find for attracting people to you.

And now, since I know you've all been waiting for my American Idol 2008 pick for the winner, here it is (drum roll please).........

And the Winner of American Idol 2008 will be: DAVID.

If I was smart I would stop there, but I can't help but try to keep my prediction train rolling. I really think David Archuleta will win (he has the teeny bopper vote on lock down), but I think David Cook will sell more records. I'm more confident that David Cook will sell more records than I am that he will come in second place, but there you have it. And I promise, this is the last you'll hear from me about American Idol-- at least until it becomes relevant again.


The Power of Connecting

During this time of constant media coverage of the impending Presidential election, I am constantly reminded of the words of Dr. Frank Luntz, world-renowned professor, political consultant, and author of the book Words that Work.

In the book, Dr. Luntz discusses the “Beer Factor.” He says that, although many factors weigh into electing a President, one of the most important things a candidate can do to create a loyal following is to sit down and have a beer with potential voters. Bill Clinton was wildly successful due to his charisma and an overwhelming majority of people found him interesting whether or not they agreed with his past. Thus, he passed the Beer Factor test.

The underlying principle here is that he had the ability to connect with people. This principle is one of the pillars on which the concept of Celebrity Branding® stands. The reason “people buy people” is that a person can engage you more concretely than an inanimate object, logo, or slogan. When was the last time you really wanted to have a beer with Nike? What about Donald Trump?

If I had said Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan, your answer would likely have also been yes - but these are not the business minds at work at Nike. They are hired personas Nike chose so that consumers could connect better with the Nike brand. But that is a lesson in itself: a company without a Celebrity CEO has to hire someone else to fill the role.

So our question to you is: Even if you could hire Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan, why wouldn’t you also want to leverage your own Celebrity status to get people to connect with your business? We know that it’s much easier on your budget, not to mention the fact that you can control yourself much better than you can control a third party. Just think about what might have happened had your company hired Michael Vick to promote your product. Pretty scary, huh?

You have the power to connect with consumers based on the fact that you share similar traits. We all know that you can’t connect on a personal level with every consumer and, arguably, you shouldn’t try, but you’ve got a better shot at it than anyone else. You know more about your product or service than anyone else and you probably have a great deal more passion for what you do than a Celebrity who just shows up for a paycheck.

Take advantage of this fact! People love to learn more about other people, which is why Celebrity culture has dominated the newsstands and television outlets for years. Take the chance to let your audience know more about you. Take the chance to connect. Let your audience know more about your hobbies, your family, your favorite foods, favorite places to vacation, and even some of the stuff you’re not crazy about talking about. All of these little facts, as insignificant as they may seem to you, make you human and allow others who have similar feelings to connect with you in ways that create much stronger bonds than if they were just reading corporate rhetoric.

Connecting with your consumers breeds much higher customer loyalty and, when leveraged correctly, much higher transaction sizes and profits.


Start the Conversation

It always amuses me when I go to a group meeting of some kind (like
the last one I attended in Nashville - The GKIC SuperConference - in
early April) and people walk up to me out of the blue and say things
like "Hey Nick, how are you? Are the kids doing well? How have
things been since that record deal you just negotiated? Is the band
doing well?" This may sound like idle chatter, but what makes this
exchange so fascinating is that often I have never spoken a word to
this person in my life. Seriously.

What I have done is started a conversation with them through blogs,
articles, press releases and newsletters. I have literally written my
way into their heads and started a one way conversation. What then
happens, is when I see them, they are eager to fill me in on their
side of the conversation. Its as if the flood gates have finally
opened for them and they can finally tell me what has been on their
minds for months! And what normally ensues is a great conversation
that allows us to get past the normal process of getting to know
someone and earning their trust, even though this is the first time
I've ever really met the individual.

Better yet, a lot of times I get direct business or referrals out of
these conversations.

The point here is that you have to take the opportunity to start the
conversation with your prospects-- and even your existing clients. I
actually just contributed to an article for a very prominent website
that offers business advice to contractors in the residential and
commercial construction industries about unconventional marketing.
What I told the reporter was that a printed newsletter (yes one that
is actually printed on paper and delivered by the mail man!) is the
most powerful marketing tool any business owner can have.

I gave an example that even in an industry like landscape maintenance,
not only will you get more clients, but you will retain more clients
as well just by "starting the conversation" with clients and
prospects. Stop and think about it for a second-- do you ever get the
chance to stop and chat with your gardener or lawn maintenance
personnel? Do you know if they have kids, that they have hobbies and
what they would advise you to do to keep your lawn and garden looking
great with just a few small tips? I would guess the answer is no, but
I would also guess that if you actually knew who this person was you
probably would feel a bit of loyalty and wouldn't go out looking for
another vendor based solely on price. This is a very simple strategy
that consistently yields amazing results.

And before you go and write off the idea of doing this because it will
take too much effort, don't be ridiculous. You could simply write a
letter every month in microsoft word and send it out to your clients
and prospects. The tools you use to start the conversation to not
have to be complex, costly, full color and glossy or made up of any
other preconceived notion that you already have. The content is much
more important than the look. Not that a great look isn't also helpful,
I'm just suggesting that you not get bogged down in the details, just
get started!

So, the next time you are looking for a new way to drum up clients,
increase customer retention and transaction size, just remember, all
you have to do is start the conversation. Myself and the rest of your
prospects will be ready and waiting.


Why YOU Are Such an Important Part of Celebrity Branding®

I spoke at the University of Florida’s Music Law Conference just a few weeks ago and the topic of discussion that surfaced (as it always does) was, “Where music is headed and is there a solution to stop piracy and free digital downloading?” When I gave my answer, there was a puzzled look on many faces, not because it was a profound answer, but more likely because it was an “I knew that!” kind of answer.

The computer has made many things possible and many common tasks easier. But every sword cuts both ways, and the fact that digital data can be perfectly duplicated has wreaked havoc on many industries. Even though many industries have felt the effects of this phenomenon, one of the most high-profile industries that has received much of the media attention regarding this issue is the music industry.

My answer to the question was that the solution to this problem is what it always has been -- there is only one YOU. By that I mean that you can only be in one place at one time, period. You can record a moment in time and duplicate it all you want, but there is a unique and special allure to seeing a celebrity in the flesh. Sure a photo is great, but getting the chance to stand next to you and talk to you is a totally different experience that no perfect copy can recreate.

Most people haven’t taken the time to notice that the live-concert industry has been making money hand-over-fist throughout all of this controversy because nothing takes the place of being in the same place at the same time as the celebrities on stage performing for you. That’s the reason Live Nation, the largest concert promoter in the world, has been able to dominate the industry and grow into a multi-billion-dollar entertainment behemoth. The recent news that Madonna signed a deal with Live Nation instead of a traditional record label caught many of us in the industry off-guard, but in hindsight it should have been obvious! In its own words,

“Live Nation is the future of the music business. With the most live concerts, music venues and festivals in the world and the most comprehensive concert search engine on the web, Live Nation is revolutionizing the music industry: onstage and online.”

You’ll note that even though Live Nation has an online presence, its main focus is to exploit the offline concerts that it promotes.

So, what does this mean for your business? Well, there is only one YOU. Everything else is relatively easy to copy. A great product, service or process is pretty easy for your competitors to duplicate. The imitations may not be perfect, but they are usually good enough. The one factor that you can control, that has the ability to magnetically attract customers like nothing else, that no one can duplicate is your presence in the business.

No one else can speak to customers in print ads, on the radio, on television and in person the same way you can. No one can connect with the same individuals you can. And most importantly, no one can control how you make your customers feel quite like you can… NO ONE!

So, the best way to avoid what has happened to the music business is to put yourself out in front of your business. Use your unique qualities, qualifications and life experiences to connect with consumers and you’ll quickly see how your competitors will scramble to try keep up, but they won’t ever quite be able to.


The Idol Factor

About 30 million viewers tune in to watch American Idol each week. With significant interest and business in the music industry (and for a touch of guilty pleasure) I tune in each week and play "Armchair Record Exec" along with my wife, Kristina. I have even taken a stab at playing some "Fantasy Idol" and picking the winners. I had a good run at it last year but alas Sanjaya Malakar staying on the show led to my demise because I continued to pick him to get the axe each week, but much to my disgust (and my Fantasy Idol ranking) he stayed much longer than any of us expected! But I digress...

The interesting thing about American Idol is, if you watch from the beginning of the season through the first few weeks of auditions, you can clearly see who is talented and who is not and you can usually see why the judges would let certain parties through to Hollywood week. Once you hit hollywood week the "It" factor becomes even more evident. But once the hopefuls take the mainstage, as the top 24, its funny how often I hear myself saying "This guy/girl needs to pack their bags and head home! They are a one trick pony and they already played out the one song they know how to sing in auditions to get to this point."

The point is that you really only get clarity on who deserves to be there, when you can line up all of the talent at once and COMPARE them. When you can do this it becomes obvious who the best are. This is something that very few of us get to do with the opportunities in our lives. Whether it be investments, business opportunities or even the chance, which I take on every now and then, to pitch a client to the major record labels for a record deal.

When I hear someone sing for the first time in my board room or at a live concert, I can tell if they are talented or not. But, even if I think they've got a shot at making it, what I don't have access to is a place where I can conjure up everyone else at that moment who is going to be making a run at it during the same period of time. That info would make life much easier wouldn't it?

Well, that's a tall order, but the real question is: Are you taking the time to lay out all of the opportunities in front of you so you can find the real hits? If not you're spending a lot of time and energy on opportunities that just may not be hit material. They may look like great opportunities, but they may not look so great next to a couple of other opportunities.

So, take the time to review what's in front of you, do your research and make sure you are spending your time on the things that will reap the greatest rewards...not on a business that Simon Cowell would call "self-indulgent" or a waste of time.

****
And now what you've all been waiting for, here are my 2008 American Idol Picks for who I think will make the top 5:

(There may be some variance here for sure depending on the song choices and how well the contestants can reveal enough personality to cut through the clutter and take the focus off of their voices. But its a bit early to tell that at this point)

1. David Archuletta (and I think he will probably win if he can stay humble)
2. David Cook
3. Michael Johns
4. Carly Smithson
5. Brooke White


The Secret Summit of Million Dollar Marketers

I just returned from a meeting that you probably had no idea existed. I had heard rumors of this meeting taking place in the past, but this time I too got the call to attend.

The meeting took place in a midwestern town that was practically in the middle of nowhere. I assume this is because it was very inconspicuous and no one there would recognize the celebrities who were present, 20 of the best marketers in the world to be exact.

I don’t know for sure how many total there were, but I do know there were at least 3 private jets at the airport from the members of this group. All that to tell you that this was not a vacation or some gimmicky trade show, these guys were collectively worth hundreds of thousands of dollars an hour and we met for two full days.

I learned about all sorts of new business ventures and consumer trends that are going to take the world by storm in 2008. I learned that in these “hard times” consumer electronics giant Best Buy sold more televisions leading up to the Super Bowl than they ever have before. We even looked at the driving force behind both political parties and what was taking place behind the scenes in order to mount a successful 2008 presidential election campaign.

But what I was really fascinated by, is that fact that no matter what industry these marketers specialized in (including real estate, which is arguably in a very tough position), the fact remains that there is PLENTY of money to be made in this market.

We all hear talk of a recession and it seems like every news channel on television is predicting that “the sky will fall” at any moment. But what makes these marketers so successful is the fact that they don’t listen to anyone, including the news. They find ways to make money in any market. And there’s really only one secret to that: Find the point of pain for the consumer and find a way to meet the need.

It doesn’t matter what economy we are facing, there are always needs that need to be met. And depending on the market, the needs change. If you sit in a corner and sulk about how the world no longer needs your product or service (even temporarily) then you are going to feel the pinch of a tighter economy. If on the other hand, like these uber-successful marketers, you are willing to adapt to meet the needs of the consumer then these times are no different than any others. You still stand to make a fortune (and possible more of a fortune than in good times when everyone else is competing in the market too).

So the next time you hear anyone talking about how the sky is going to fall or that a recession is coming, just be sure to smile and nod while you laugh inside…mostly because that’s one less person competing with you for consumers’ money.


What’s old is new again!

Continuing on the theme of one of the articles in the Dicks & Nanton Business Growth Report (if you aren’t getting it…you should be! So shoot us an email to let us know!) I wanted to take a minute to look at how “cyclical” opportunities can create astronomical revenue for your business.

Let’s look at an example. It seems if you slap the word “organic” on any product these days you won’t be able to keep it in stock (and you’ll be able to charge about 10 times the price for it!). You can look at many industries from food to cosmetics and you’ll see that if organic products aren’t already the fastest growing sector, then they will be very soon.

What is Organic? Well there are about a million different definitions online but lets look at a simple definition in the food industry:

Food produced without artificial or chemical fertilizers or pesticides. (source: thefoody.com/glossary/glossaryo.html)

Translation: food grown the “old fashioned” way. Organic food has become a new craze but if you were able to communicate with your great-great grandmother, she would tell you that you’d be a fool to try to grow food any other way. It was just the way things were done back then…and now it’s the hottest thing you can do.

What was old is new again.

And here are just a few examples of other industries “bringing back the old school” and making a killing doing it:

1. Custom Made Clothing – http://www.makeyourownjeans.com/
2. “Vintage” T-shirts - http://www.revolveclothing.com/DisplayProduct.jsp?product=TRUNK-WS252&c=Trunk
3. Vinyl Records - http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1702369,00.html
4. New Cars that look like their “classic” predecessors - http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2005-06-27-mustang-usat_x.htm

And those are just a few examples.

The Point is, What’s Old is New Again!

So, take a look back in the archives of your business or industry and see what you can “bring back” and charge higher prices for!

Come up with some examples, send them to me and I’ll post them.


What Lance is doing that you aren’t.

When Lance was the only one in his office who was single, his “friends” got together and decided to help him out. So they put up this billboard.

Oh yeah and they made him his very own website as well:

http://www.datelance.com/

While this is a pretty funny prank that ever so timely in the month of February, what I want to call your attention to is how clear the message is here: Lance is looking for someone to date (or at least his friends are looking for someone for him to date!).

And while some might argue that he must have a strong desire to be miserable (that was a joke), lets assume that he’s looking for someone to enhance his life.

In dating we look for someone who is capable of enhancing our lives and fulfilling a portion of our personal lives that we are not capable of fulfilling on our own.

Now why don’t we do the same thing in our businesses? There are so many opportunities to find a great business “match” or as they are more commonly known: Joint Ventures (JV).

Finding the right JV can allow you to:

- reach an entirely new group of people for little to no up front cost
- leverage the relationship that another business has spent a lot of time and money creating with their customers and monetize it for your own benefit
- offer products and services to your existing customers that you don’t have to take the time to create or service and still make money
- Expand your business into new territories
- And so much more!

And this is just a very small list of things I wanted to outline just to get you thinking about these JV opportunities. There are thousands of other benefits, but you get the point. The opportunities are endless.

So, like Lance, why don’t you go out and try to find a great match for your business? Who knows, if you tell your friends they may even put up a billboard for you.


Product Placement and the Football Playoffs

Thanks to ad-eliminating “Tivo” and other fast forwarding DVR’s, expensive television ads are hurting and returns on investment are falling.

To counter attack the loss, advertisers and the people that sell to them are creating new and different ways of placing your product directly in the main event. This is referred to as “product placement.”

This weekend while both working and watching the football playoff games I had turned my attention to the post-game show. “What to my eyes did appear” but Jared …the spokesperson for Subway, giving live advice to all of the sports announcers about which one of the subway sandwiches sitting on the table would be the best for them to feast on. Yes, Jared was wearing his Colts game jersey and that did offer a little tie-in between the Subway sandwich and the game, but what it was all about was pure advertising and everyone got it because you could not click away fast enough.

This is the future of advertising and learning how to ask for it, apply it, and take advantage of it will offer some big rewards for sellers of ads and sellers of products. Each of us needs to be on the lookout for new ways to create product placement opportunities. Television shows are one opportunity for product placement but movies, sports events, concerts and perhaps even newscasts will all offer new opportunities to present your message. The new ads will be more effective for a while and your audience will be more receptive to your message because the ad won’t look like the traditional and disliked advertising.

Game On!


Could this be the ABSOLUTE BEST Holiday Promotion We’ve Ever Seen?

Well, we've all been bombarded with millions of marketing messages this holiday season. But if you're like the rest of us, you still haven't finished buying all of the gifts you need. Well, the promotion we're about to show you is quite possibly the most ingenious holiday promotion we've ever seen.

What started out looking like a normal greeting card, turned out to be sheer genius. Click on the links below to see the Best Holiday Promotion Ever!

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The conclusion to my story…

Last time we discussed how I was speaking with a sales person on the
phone and right as I was warming up to her and asking her to tell me a
little bit more about her services and fees, she “flipped the switch”
and became a sales drone losing all hope of connecting with me and
making the sale.

If you didn’t get a chance to read that, you can click here to read
it. Now for the solution:

What should she have done? She should have told me “the story.” She
should have taken the time to understand what I was trying to
accomplish and then proceeded to paint me a picture about how much
better my business would be 1, 2 3 and 6 months from now because I was
smart enough to invest in her marketing system. She should have told
me success stories about other clients who had used her services and
had skyrocketed their sales. She should have made me like her so much
that I couldn’t say no! These are just a few of the things she could
have done.

But instead of making me understand “the story” and see how I could be
a part of it, she mindlessly read features off of a piece of paper.
What a waste. Are you making the same mistakes? Are your sales
people trained to tell “the story?” Whether you talk to people over
the phone, in person or even a fixed medium like direct mail or
newspaper ads the concept is the same. If you’re not telling the
story, I suggest you walk over to your sales department and anyone
else who has direct contact with customers right this moment and make
a few changes.

And if you don’t have a story or you don’t know how best to tell it,
give us a call and we’d be glad to help.


A Sales Story…with a Sad Ending

I took a call this morning that I was actually rather excited to take. We are marketing some medical products for a client of ours who is a physician and I got an interesting inquiry about marketing through an online community of physicians. This could be a great supplement to the other forms of marketing we are doing.

So I took the call and a pleasant sales woman and I began to discuss how she could help us market our producs. From the moment I asked her about the different “packages” she turned into a sales drone. I could tell she was literally reading word for word off of a sheet of “features.” She must have gone on for 5 minutes just listing feature after feature after feature, which as you know if you’ve spent any time at any of the courses I teach or reading any of my blogs and newsletters, features are useless, I need benefits! But that’s a subject for another day…

In any event, what happened is that first off, she didn’t know her information cold. If you are going to sell me something you’d better know what you have to offer and be able to recite it twice backwards in your sleep or face down at your favorite local “watering hole.” Take your pick which angle you prefer, but you’ve got to know this stuff inside and out.

But to get to my real point, she went from being an interesting human being during our “howdy do’s” to a lifeless piece of paper. She just took the most effective sales medium known to man, person to person selling, and reduced it to the equivalent of a pre-recorded voice message.

So, now that I’ve identified the problem, what should she have done? Be on the lookout for my next blog in a few days and I’ll tell you the answer.


How to Attract More RSS Subscribers – For Real (from Daily Blog Tips)

This is a great article about how to attract more RSS Subscribers. You can read it by clicking on the link below:

Daily Blog Tips

For those of you who don’t know what RSS is, here’s a link to “Feed 101” from Feedburner, the best in the biz!
Feed 101


REVEALED: The 1 Trick That Will Let You Fire Your Marketing Agency and Keep More Money for Yourself

Jack, my law partner, and I have had this ongoing dialogue for the past year or so about which word is better:

1. Attorney
2. Lawyer

What we do know is that lawyers prefer the “high-brow” word Attorney and so many of them use it in their marketing too. In their opinion, it increases the perceived value of their services.

What we didn’t know is whether the general public felt the same way or not. We both had a hunch that the word lawyer was more commonplace, and therefore a better keyword for us to use in our online marketing and pay-per-click campaigns.

Now, one year later, WE KNOW WHICH WORD IS BETTER. Let me tell you how we found out:

We used a keyword tool to find out what people are searching for. You can try out the Overture Keyword Selector Tool Here. What it told us was that in the context we are using, people search for the term “lawyer” at least 25% more of the time than they do “attorney.”

There it is the answer for the ages. The important question you need to ask in the online world -- or the offline world -- is “What Key Terms Connect with the Maximum Amount of People?” Well, thanks to pay-per-click advertising, now you know without all the esoteric junk that a marketing agency will feed you in order to run up your bill. 10 minutes of searching will tell you instantly which term is better.

Now, go ahead and give it a try, but set a time limit, because I’m warning you this is really addictive. Oh, and make sure you actually get some work done today!


Big Profits From Little Changes

Periodically we always take a fresh look at our product lines and those of our clients to see if any can be slightly altered to its advantage. Use a list like this, of eight ideas, just to run through quickly in your mind. One big change a year can make a huge difference in your bottom line and sometimes without adding very much in additional overhead. Those changes are Power Changes because they make such a big addition to your income stream.

#1) Can you “plus” a product, service or business you have? "Plussing" is adding something to a current product you currently have, to create something else. Look at the beverage industry and all of the flavors of Coke that have come out in recent years. How about the many flavors of water? What will be added to our water next?

#2) Can we can “minus” the product, service or business? In the information business, we do it all the time when you take a book and break it up into chapters or special reports.

#3) Can you change with size adjustment? Look at the restaurant business and see how different sizes are altered. Chick-Fil-A’s are much smaller than McDonalds stores and frequently don’t allow inside eating (I still refuse to call it dining). How about the trend in multiple franchises operating in the same store?

#4) Can you take an item and change its use? This is always fun to play with. Have you ever seen items thrown away by one business only to be use by another. Wine barrels are one. People cut them in half and came up with flower planters. Railroad ties became landscape dividers and parking retainers. One of the big ones today is ocean storage containers. If you are in a big shipping port area, you can buy them for a small amount compared to what you might pay for business storage containers in other cities.

#5) Can you change it with color? Just think about the variations in phone colors when black was the only color a few years ago.

#6) Can you change its market? The phone industry comes immediately to mind again. The new Iphone is a phone, camera, gps, email, internet and more.

#7) Can you make a price change? Just look at what “residual income” pricing models have done for business where their customers have accepted it. Info businesses offer subscriptions, software companies offer data feeds, and now, even medical products and services use monthly membership plans.

#8) Can you resurrect the old? I love my convertible but until Iacocca brought them back to life at Chrysler you couldn’t buy one.

These are 8 quick ideas to keep handy and use when you feel a change is needed to your bottom line.

Utilizing this type of 'creative thinking" grouped on a checklist helps you look at a given product, service or business from many different perspectives.


Getting Clients Online – “Show and Tell”

One of the biggest fears for most people who are thinking about doing business with you online is that they don’t know you personally, and want to make sure you aren’t trying to scam them. The best way to remove this fear from site visitors is to literally take it back to elementary basics “show & tell.” By this I mean you should both show and tell visitors who you are.

Tell them about your company:
a. when it was founded
b. where you are located
c. who the principals are
d. who the core management team is
e. who some of your customers are
f. what you do

Show them pictures of:
a. big events that you have attended (trade shows, symposiums, seminars)
b. your Office
c. your products
d. key executives
e. recreational activities and events with clients and staff members

These are just a few examples, but just remember to treat them as if they were walking into your office for the first time. What do you have in your lobby that tells clients who you are, what about your office? Do you have pictures on your desk? Do you have diplomas on the wall?

Just remember that clients on the internet cannot see these things, so try to show them in the best way you can. Make sure they know that you are real people and that will clear a huge hurdle in getting business in the online world.


Is Your Business Extraordinary?

It drives me nuts when I go into a business and I have a chance to look around for more than 5 minutes without someone noticing me or asking how they can help. I usually laugh, leave and chalk it up to stupidity. But you know what drives me REALLY nuts?! When a business serves me, but they do it just like everyone else.

When you go to the store and buy something, what happens next? I’ll tell you. 99% of the time the answer is NOTHING. You can buy a television, groceries, a car, or anything else you so desire and 99% of the time they let you walk out without thinking twice and if you’re lucky you may get a half hearted “thank you please come again.”

So, you can imagine how I felt when I got a thank you note in the mail at my house from a high end shoe store about 3 days after I bought a pair of shoes. I’ll tell you how I felt, I couldn’t wait to go back and buy another pair of shoes! (and I actually did just that.)

You see, some smart salesperson thought about the fact that sending a simple 4 or 5 line thank you note, was enough to make that sales person stand out in a crowd over the hundreds of other salespeople I’ve bought shoes from in the past. And even though it is a very small gesture, it shocked me so much that I now look forward to going to buy shoes from this store. I now have a mental “sweet spot” when I think about this brand of shoes!

Can you imagine how much one of the big companies would pay to have this little sweet spot in my head? And do you think any of them thought that they could have it for a 41 cent stamp and a couple of hand written lines? I doubt it.

Is your business just like every other business? Are you doing anything to set yourself apart? If you’re not, you should be.


Riches In Niches

While we are all inclined to say that “our business can help anyone” is that really the smartest path for your business? Lets look at a simple commonplace example.

If you are having knee problems, do you go to a family practice doctor, or do you go to an orthopedic specialist? Well, I go to the orthopedic specialist and I would guess most of the rest of America does too. And you (or your insurance company) usually pays more for a visit to the specialist. This is just one example of many that I could discuss, but you get the point.

You see, we’ve been taught in today’s society to go see experts. And we’ve also been preconditioned to pay these experts more for their services. This is a perfect example of Niche-ing. While you may be tempted to be a generalist so you don’t turn clients away, I challenge you to look at your business to see if there are any segments of your business that are causing you problems, and get rid of them. Narrow down your expertise and serve a niche. You will be surprised to find, like many of our clients have, that when you focus on a specific niche, business is actually easier to find.


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