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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?

 

 

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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!

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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!

 

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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!

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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!

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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

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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!  

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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! 

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

 

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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!

 

 

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

 

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!  

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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.

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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!

 

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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?

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

 

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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!

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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.

 

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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?

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!