Be Choosy About Clients

Be Choosy About Clients

You’ll take any client with a pulse when you’re just getting started. But as you grow you come to find that that’s not the best way to build a reputable business that has staying power and becomes known for stunning work. 

You’ll eventually need to be choosy about the clients you take on.

You're building your personal brand.  

I have 6 things I look for in any professional relationship. And even though it’s professional, these aren’t all that different than the basic qualities you might look for in a friend. These qualities aren’t too much to ask for because they have mostly to do with basic human dignity. 

If you’re interested in more than making a quick buck and you’re into the adventure of building a reputable business that people will send endless referrals to, then it’s smart to look for these qualities in any client you take on: 

1. Choose clients who are trustworthy. 

Slimy business people are everywhere. But honest ones are everywhere too. Trust is the most basic foundation for any successful business arrangement. Sure, your income depends on it, but more importantly, your reputation depends on it, and reputations have to do with associations. Since I don’t want to be associated with shady people, leaving such arrangements is an easy choice for me. 

2. Choose clients who will come trust you. 

Mutual trust isn’t always a given, but it is something that should be achievable. You may occasionally meet people who are totally paranoid and they read into things that aren’t there. They have this narrative in their minds that everyone’s out to get over on them. Maybe that’s because they’ve been burned a few times. Or maybe they do a lot of burning themselves and they’re projecting their own dishonesty on to you. Either way, it’ll never be a healthy business arrangement if you’re finding it hard to gain the trust of that client. Cut losses and cut ties. There are way too many people who can and will trust you to settle for those who can’t or won’t.    

3. Choose clients who will respect you. 

Again, we’re talking about basic human dignity here. Freelancers are usually subject matter experts who help businesses that have a need for that expertise. And even though the pop-mantra is “the customer is always right,” we all know that they aren’t always right. A good client will defer to your expertise and respect you for it. Which brings us to the next quality I look for...  

4. Choose clients who understand “lanes.” 

This goes for everyone. “Stay in your lane” isn’t just about pride, turf, silos, or a false sense of ownership over something. It’s about effectively accomplishing goals. If I play Center, I don’t snap the ball to myself, throw it and then run down the field to make the catch. I have one role and I play it for the success of the team.   

5. Choose clients who WANT to pay you what your worth. 

Miser is the root word for miserable. Don’t let misers suck you into their misery. There are plenty of penny-pinchers who love to make you dance while they stand there with their arms folded. If you want low-budget clients then you can always be another faceless freelancer on Fiverr. At least the terms at a place like that are clear. But if you go there for jobs, know exactly the kind clients you’ll get. But if your work is unique and worth your pricing, then be confident about it. Quality clients care enough about the quality of their business that they will gladly honor your pricing. They know that it doesn't serve them to cut you short. They want the best and they’re willing to compensate you for your time and expertise.  

6. Choose clients who will look great in your portfolio. 

If you want to build a great reputation you’ll want to take on clients who put out quality products and services. I choose clients that are worth bragging about -- the ones I’m proud to tell the world (wide web) about. Their business is a reflection of mine and visa versa. And even if the scope of their work only brings in a small percentage of my overall income, I see it as a form of compensation to have them in my portfolio. My business reputation will benefit from my association with them.   

Long Term Results
Being choosy about clients may mean a small loss up front. But you need to look at it as investment in the business you're building for the long haul. You're building your personal brand. The result of using these criteria for me has meant trading short term losses for long term gains. If you build smart, you won't have to beat down doors for business. It’ll come. Your reputation will grow and your phone will ring. Your quality clients will brag about you and their associations will reach out to you. You'll be doing less sales and more creative projects for higher profile clients, which eventually means higher income for you.

Mom Was Right: Multiple Income Streams

Mom Was Right: Multiple Income Streams

Sure, we got annoyed by the proverbs mom issued on the regular. She constantly said, “You need to make sure you have multiple streams of income from a variety of sources.”

Okay, she didn’t actually say it that way. She simply said, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Of course, she wasn’t the first one to say that. As far as I can find, that tiny pearl of wisdom has been around at least since the 1600s and there are likely variations of it dating even further back than that.

Yet, the adage is as relevant as ever, especially as it pertains to income. The key to financial security and freedom is to have many streams of income from a variety of sources.

I have never felt more free or more secure than I do today because of that age-old maxim. While many others were over there being completely paranoid, counting on “job security”, whatever that is, (aka one source of income), we were over here making a lot of safe money through a wide variety of income streams.

If you love your sanity -- and you want to keep it -- then you have two priorities: Security and freedom. And these days, anyone with an internet connection can have both. Anyone. You can build these into your life and business with complete integrity and you’ll never have to cheat or worry.

Let’s break ‘em down.

Security.

When you gather income from multiple streams, one may fail, but the others keep flowing in. In fact, some of these streams WILL fail. That’s life. But when that happens, your security stays intact because you’re drawing from a variety of sources. So don’t collect dollars. Collect income streams.

Tech and trends are always changing and that makes everything feel shaky. But only if you fall behind in the knowledge economy. The key is staying up-to-date and relevant. And anyone can do it but it takes effort. The information is there, you simply need to collect it. Knowledge is power in the knowledge economy and the leverage of knowledge always offers financial security.

Freedom.

Money can be bossy. It loves to bully worker-bees around all day long. And if you have all your eggs in the one basket of a job, then you cannot possibly be free. Your financial life and personal creativity will always be under the scrutiny and subjugation of the boss. You’ll be trading time for money and always under the watchful eye of a higher-up. That’s not freedom. That’s a form of servitude. Maybe it’s time for you to begin thinking of creative ways to make a break for it.

What are you good at? Surely there’s a way to monetize it. You can either slave away to build someone else’s dreams or you can start working for your own.

If you have a business idea, reach out to me. I know how to help you get it off the ground. Or, if you already have some things in motion but feel stuck, I can help you with that too.

 

2013 Called. They Want Their Website Back

2013 Called. They Want Their Website Back

It’s not a comfortable topic for a lot of business owners. Yet, it’s there. It’s the elephant in the room. Everyone sees it, but no one wants to talk about it. 

So how do we put this? 

It’s your website.

It was great back in the day. All the rage in 2013. It looked great and seemed to resonate with the market. It even seemed to do well in search. 

But things changed. Technology changed. And that problem never goes away. Tech and trends will always change and businesses that thrive are the businesses who keep up with it. They’re committed to staying relevant, no matter the cost.  

Why is a business website so important?

It says everything about the quality of your business. And that’s a great thing for a lot of businesses because they understand the irrefutable: Your website either says, “This business is on top of it; they’re up with the times.” Or, “This business is very, very, 2013.” Or worse. :(

But just like nearly HALF of all men over the age of 40, your business doesn’t have to suffer with low self-esteem anymore. And your business doesn’t have to underperform because your website underperforms. 

Add to this problem that Google laid down the gauntlet on websites that aren’t responsive (mobile-friendly). Google only wants the best search results for people who use search. And since people are overwhelmingly using mobile devices to find businesses, Google puts mobile-friendly websites up top.    

Isn’t it time to make your website pop again? 

Why not see to it that Google won’t have to bury your website on page 2 (or worse) anymore. It can be attractive to Google and attractive to your market. Because your market is an attractive woman and she’s very picky. She only picks businesses that perform.

GrowMyLocalBiz.com is here to help you fix this. And we can’t use money as an excuse anymore because a new site is just too affordable. Don’t let your website languish limp while your marketplace chooses other businesses because their websites ROCK. 

Let’s make YOUR website ROCK and take the GROWTH of your business to next levels.  

Narrow the Focus

Narrow the Focus

Whether it’s personally, geographically, or demographically, I’ve learned time after time that narrowing the focus eventually leads to major gains in business growth. One way to look at growth is to think in concentric circles. We see this pattern in growth everywhere in nature...

Start where you are. Then watch your life and business expand like concentric circles -- just like we see in a ripple of water. Or tree rings. Or plants. And yep, all the great bands we love started in a garage somewhere.

Success leaves clues. If growth in nature starts small -- in a central location -- and works its way out, then maybe that’s a great clue for business growth.

In fact, it is. When we splay out prematurely, we become mediocre at a lot of things. The needs at the core suffer. But when we narrow the focus, we discipline ourselves to dominate in one area before we move on to the next challenge.

This is a very systematic, linear, and sequential approach to business growth.

I know it’s frustrating at first. But as you master business in the smaller things, the payoff eventually comes.

One example in the geographical arena of narrowing the focus comes from a business owner of a local cleaning company. She found that her geographical circle was too big. Her splay stopped making sense, so she made some intentional changes to tighten her business reach. Now instead of taking just any job in the county, she narrowed it down to 3 zip codes. This way she can actually do more jobs because her teams aren’t always spending precious time driving. She started by printing out a map of her county’s zip codes and tightened her reach to 3. At first, it seemed like she was turning down valuable work out there but eventually her time was maximized.     

Now she can replicate that model when she’s ready to grow beyond those 3 zip codes by creating new hubs, and eventually a replicable franchise model.

What’s true for local businesses as it relates to geography is also true of other business types as it relates to demography.

Eventually you can appeal to a larger audience with a more diverse product line, but start with one thing and make it amazing!  

You will also find that this helps you eliminate some things from your task lists. Narrowing the focus is more than an idea -- it’s a discipline that should seep all the way down into your daily habits. Lose the fluff.

So start where you are. Narrow the focus.

We hear the word “hyperlocal” used a lot in this sense. But local doesn't get any more hyper than inside your way of thinking. Sometimes the idea to narrow the focus has to start in your mind -- a thought shift.

Success leaves clues. Narrow the focus and eventually expansion will be the payoff.

A Lasting Business is Built on Integrity

A Lasting Business is Built on Integrity

Integrity is the quality of being completely honest. A quality that can seem rare and a bit old fashioned. Some might even call it naive. Or weak.

But integrity also has to do with being sound in construction. Strong. "Structural integrity" is kind of a big deal. Especially if you're on a bridge. Integrity matters.

Businesses that are willing cut corners in the currency of honesty to increase profit really aren’t all that smart and they certainly aren’t strong. They're shaky. They’ve become weakened -- compromised -- by esteeming money over honesty. And any financial gain achieved by dishonesty is a house of cards that almost always crumbles in time. Tick tock. 

Integrity is deep and inner. Anyone can say they have integrity. But true integrity transcends claims. It has everything to do with the internal character of the leader(s) in any given business. 

The old Shakespearean adage, “to thine own self be true” was never intended to mean, “Do whatever you want, regardless of how it affects others.” Though that’s what it seems to mean for a lot of people today. You’ve heard it: “Eff everybody, I just gotta be true to myself” -- words sometimes spoken when a person is treating others badly and justifying it by “being true” to themselves.

But in Shakespeare’s quote from Act 1 Scene III of Hamlet, Polonius says, “This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any man.” 

If you’re truly true to -- or within -- yourself, if truth really lives in you and drives you, you can’t be false to any other human because you’d be a lie within yourself. Truth to self means truth towards yourself. And a willingness to stand under the scrutiny of truth when it’s applied to you.

That’s integrity. It’s doing the right thing even when no one’s looking. It’s doing the right thing even if it means losing money. It’s doing right even if people consider you old fashioned, weak, or naive. 

And a business built on a foundation of truth and integrity is unassailable. It’s unable to be attacked, questioned, or defeated. It will stand when it comes under scrutiny. It’s strong and it’s built to last.  

Sometimes this means slower growth. But wouldn't you rather be slow and steady than quick and shaky? Isn't it better to not have to constantly worry and look over your shoulder and cover your tracks and remember all those lies? Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth you won't have to remember anything.” It’s exhausting to live lies.

It doesn’t matter if other businesses seem to be getting away with lies, making money hand over fist, and profiting by cheating. It’s short-sighted and unwise and it will always catch up to them. They are miserable, paranoid, and destined to lose big sooner than they think. Don’t follow their path. Call it Karma, call it reaping and sowing, call it whatever you want. It’s simply the way life works. Tick tock.

So build your business on the unassailable foundation of integrity. And if you do, I’ll be first in line to do business with you. 

Your Website is Your Business Card

Your Website is Your Business Card

Digital marketing is the new traditional marketing. Sure, I still have business cards. But the glossy side only has one thing on it: My web address. The backside has my tagline, phone number, email address, and yet again: My web address. 

So what’s in your wallet? 

Fact is, most people will never see my business card. Only those I meet face-to-face will ever lay their eyes on it. Before they chuck it in some drawer, my hope is to direct them to my REAL business card: My website. 


What does that say about the importance of a website? I guess that depends on how much you value your business. If you see your business as vital, the quality of your website will reflect that. 

Like it or not, your website says a lot about your business. And if being relevant in business is important to you, your website will be an outstanding reflection of that.

You’ll love it when people tell you that they saw your website. There's nothing worse than having to make excuses, again, when people say to you, “Yeah man, I visited your site, but….”  


And that’s also why it’s especially important for your site to be “responsive” -- beautiful and functional across all devices -- desktop, tablet, and phone. Especially phone. I mean, you wouldn’t want your business cards going to print with a 2-point font. Right? 

There are more than 315 million smartphones and tablets in the United States. The number of users who are primarily using mobile to find businesses has grown past 60% and that number is growing daily. The mantra for web design is no longer “mobile-friendly”; now it’s “mobile-first.” Not being optimized for mobile also affects your ranking in search engines. This is one area where your business simply can’t afford to fall behind. 

I mean we’re talking about your business, for crying out loud. Your website is your most precious digital asset. It's the FACE of your company. So make it the best business card ever.

8 Smart Way to Grow Your Business in 30 Days

8 Smart Way to Grow Your Business in 30 Days

Far too many startups and small businesses lose market share by neglecting simple ways to get—and keep—a competitive edge. Why? Moore’s law is one good example; it’s a commonly accepted observation that technology changes every 18 months. The rules are constantly changing. The old adage “if it’s not broken, leave it alone” could very well leave your business in a vulnerable and unprofitable position.

Here are eight smart tips that will help your business grow in today’s changing and highly competitive digital marketplace.

1. Local SEO.

How does your business rank on all three of the major search engines? Yes, all three: not just Google, but also Bing and Yahoo. Your competition is on page 1 of all these, and usually with local listings, and that’s where your market is spending their money. Search engine optimization (SEO) requires some basic knowledge and if you’re too busy to learn it you should hire someone to do it for you. You won’t bank until you rank.

2. Go mobile.

Is your company website mobile-first? Notice I didn’t say, “mobile-friendly.” Websites have to be mobile-first. “In early 2014, the landscape in which businesses operate changed forever when Internet usage on mobile devices exceeded PC usage,” according to Search Engine Watch. The sheer number of people using mobile to find stuff is growing daily. Not being mobile-first may also affect SEO. WordPress, a free and open-source content management system and Weebly, a drag-and-drop website builder, are two platforms that are built with mobile in mind.

3. Optimize website content.

Does the language, style and tone of your content resonate with your market? Your company website says everything about the quality of your business. Take extra time to get this right, or hire a good copywriter who knows a bit about your industry. Search engines favor a lot of authoritative content. So do smart consumers who are looking for your products and services.

4. Create fresh company blog posts.

It’s not uncommon to see a business website with the latest blog entry dating to 2013. Nothing screams that you’ve reached a new low of irrelevance more than that. Fresh content says you are an up-to-date voice in your niche. Be a fully engaged influencer in your market by keeping those timestamps fresh.

5. Tweak sales copy.

Sleaze is pervasive in the digital marketplace and click bait is everywhere. Smart consumers want to know if you’re for real. Sales copy designed to compel customers has to feel genuine and not “salesy”. The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing at all. Well-written sales copy will establish your business as the best solution out there for savvy consumers—the ones who will reach for their wallets and keep you in business.

6. Overhaul social media content.

Do we really have to talk about this? Yes. Social media takes thought and commitment. Social media ROI can’t be measured after a few haphazard months of selfie posts. Honestly, #whocares. Sounds harsh, I know, but your customers care more about how your business benefits them, than it does you. Inspire your market to engage with smart content and heck, they might even share it. Beef up your brand through a solid commitment to quality social media content.

7. Prioritize email marketing.

Keep building your email marketing list and treat it like gold. Smart email communication that consistently brings actual value to your audience is the most effective way to boost business with an audience that has taken time to opt-in.

8. Write and distribute engaging content.

Like this one. I take time to write articles for legit business voices like YFS Magazine because it helps me build influence. The payoff is that content marketing generates more awareness for my business pursuits. Write solid pieces on niche topics that add value to readers and it’ll pay off for your business over the long-haul.

Should You Get an Artificial Intelligence Website?

Should You Get an Artificial Intelligence Website?

I love technology. If there’s something out there that makes life or business easier, faster, less expensive, more efficient, or even more fun, I want to know how it can benefit me.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. Speech recognition or auto-correct are a few ways we see it emerging on our smart phones. And I think we all have awkward stories about how something didn’t come out quite right, leaving you with some splainin’ to do. 

Many people in my industry knew it wouldn’t be long before AI made its way into website development. The idea is pretty basic: Instead of a developer building your website, software creates it by leveraging certain rules of logic.

Companies like the Grid and Mopro have launched AI website creation packages. Mopro starts at just $200 a month, complete with a “human” to help assist you with your site, because after all, AI isn’t the end-all-be-all. You’ll need a mediator. It also turns out that this human also happens to be a salesperson who wants to hear about all your goals, because $200 per month is just a start. The sky’s the limit with upsell potential. 

Here’s how it works. The user only needs to make a few limited choices with the AI interface. The interface then focuses on 4 basic things: branding, color, layout, and type. 

  • With branding, you get to decide how much the site should be driven by your choices and/or how much it should be driven by any existing content you have.
  • For the color of your website, you simply upload an image and the software creates a palette for you based on it.
  • On layout, you can decide what you’re looking for – a minimal site with limited content, an editorial site with lots, an artistic design, etc.
  • The font pairings are put in place, then you simply decide on tone.

Pretty cool, huh? Yes. Technology is very cool.  

But you still need to decide if it’s right for your business. It could be an easy solution for some small business niches that can afford it and are willing to pay for the extras they’ll certainly need beyond the sexy starter package at $200 per month.

And yes of course there are still more questions you’ll need to ask to determine if it’s right for you. Here are some things that I would consider to determine if it were right for my business.

1. How dynamic is your business? 

Some businesses will do just fine with a set-and-forget-it site that will only require occasional updates. A static web presence is sufficient for them. But businesses that are dynamic and evolving and find themselves tweaking their site just about every day because they’re super responsive to their market require a higher level of up-to-the-minute control than others might. AI won’t help them.  

2. How creative is your business?

My clients are businesses that range from restaurants and vineyards to plumbers and locksmiths. Some of my clients would no more want a software program to make their website than they’d want a computer to paint a painting for them or write a song for them. These are also the types that don’t eat at McDonalds, drive stock Corollas, live in cookie-cutter townhouses, or use Chromebooks. They are creative and they love all the control and creativity that the human experience offers. So this would never work for them.  

3. What is your competition doing?

Are you in the kind of business niche where you have to consistently stay on top of the competition? Then you know all too well how crucial it is to have command of your website. You need a human touch that sees and responds to the competition regularly.  

4. How much are you willing to endure a salesperson?

Some people are willing to the endure a high-pressure timeshare salesperson for a few hours to get a free vacation. Others not so much. Are you willing to be in a situation where the human mediator between your site and you is a salesperson? A salesperson who is working no doubt for a commision and is likely working with hundreds of others. Can she or he really know about the specifics of your niche market, your locality, your client’s needs, and all the nuances of your business? Are you okay to be another “number” in a webmill that’s cranking out as many of these as possible?  

Final thoughts

The challenge with the AI approach to websites (beyond questions of SEO, performance, integration with other systems, etc) is that we lose control over things that are dear to us. 

It’s entirely possible that AI is the right choice for you. It’s also possible that it’s almost right, just not yet. Maybe it’ll never be quite good enough. There are some things that technology simply can’t replace. At least not yet. 

Of course, you might be thinking that I would naturally be somewhat critical of any new technology that uses software to perform a service that I offer, like web development. But my philosophy is that a business does well to use whatever works best for the business. Business is sacred. If it’s good for you, then by all means, do it.

Emerging technology is also why I offer a wide variety of business growth services and solutions. If web development gets done better by software than by me, then you can always feel free to contact me for all of the other things you might need to grow your business. The security of any business is found in the diversity of its offerings and its ability to adapt to emerging technologies.

But no matter what, I’ll keep you up to date on all the latest technologies because that’s what I love to do.

Digital Marketing: Done Right, It Can't NOT Work

Digital Marketing: Done Right, It Can't NOT Work

Digital marketing is a huge piece of the growth puzzle. While it will never completely replace a handshake and good old-fashioned face time, it has firmly established itself as a MUST for solid business growth.

By digital marketing, I mean everything -- from a strong, mobile-first web presence with a compelling brand, attractive content, and clear, obstruction-free calls-to-action, to SEO, email strategies, and a strong social media push to drive traffic to your amazing website.

There's just one caveat. It takes time, commitment, and consistency. If you will commit to digital marketing with a no-turning-back attitude it can't not work. It will render measurable results and consistent ROI.

One of my clients, for example, made the commitment almost a year ago. Her goal is to increase her profit margin and grow out of doing the field work herself and grow teams so that she can devote herself completely to running her business.

Today, her customer base has almost doubled, and that's after just one year of a strong commitment to her digital marketing efforts. She's doubled her clients and grown her work force, and is successfully making the transition from working in the field to working in the office and actually running a business -- for a change! Take a look at her website. 

So yes, constantly improve your product, get out there and shake some hands, ask people for referrals, and attend networking events. But also stay committed to digital marketing for the long haul as a key piece in your business growth strategy. It's all about hooks in the water.

I love to see businesses GROW. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the tangible evidence of growth for my clients. This passion gives me skin in their game and I can't rest until results come.

Staying on top of tech and trends is what gives entrepreneurs the leverage they need to increase profits from their efforts. A fresh approach to digital marketing will transform businesses and business owners and give them increasing passion and motivation for what they do.

Stop Marketing. Start Branding.

Stop Marketing. Start Branding.

Even if you’re in the used car business, your business isn’t a used car and should never be sold like one. Your business should be seen as sacred and an expression of something truly great. 

No one would argue that sales and marketing are important elements of business. But they are still just elements. Branding, on the other hand, is the communication of who you are. It’s your story. It’s the humanization of your organization. 

Most humans don’t want to be on your pitching agenda. They don't like tactics like false scarcity and "limited time only" claims that are arbitrarily pulled out of the sky. They deserve -- and want -- dignity. That desire is core to the human experience.

Branding is establishing and maintaining a personalized connection with your fellow humans in the global marketplace. Even if your endeavors are highly localized. Because increasingly, any given locality is made up of numerous cultural expressions. Despite changing trends, technology, and cultural differences, humanness remains to be the one thing we all have in common. So as businesses, we have to ask: How does our story connect way down deep into the most primal aspects of human existence?

I know this sounds all very deep and philosophical. But actually it’s pretty basic.

Okay, so my headline is hyperbole. And while I hope “Stop Marketing” got your attention, we all know that you shouldn’t stop marketing. But “Start Branding” means that branding should redefine how you market. Not only should branding take priority over marketing, it should inform all of your marketing efforts.

This is why branding is firmly founded in storytelling. Story is still king. Humans have been telling stories since the dawn of time and no technology will ever replace the power of story. It's how we connect. We may be on the brink of autonomous cars. But we'll be in those cars telling stories.

So let me share a story that illustrates what I’m talking about. Jessie Newburn is a friend and a super-smart woman who really understands the power of story. She posted this on her Facebook timeline yesterday:        

I witnessed today something I’d never seen ... and never knew existed. I’d popped into the Apple store, in an emergency when my ios update sent my phone into an unrecoverable tizzy. There was a huge crowd of people. OK, so it’s spring break. Kids, moms, dads are at the mall in throngs. But then one of the Apple employees at the back of the store shouted out for all to hear. She said that one of their employees who had been with them for two years was leaving today and moving on to other things in her life. She thanked her for her dedication and service, wished her well and then invited us all to “clap her out.”

YES, CLAP HER OUT. We clapped — colleagues and customers — for a couple/few minutes as she walked out, hugging various friends and colleagues as she left. Wow! Now, that’s some company culture. And while I was utterly pleased that The Geniuses hooked me up with a solution to my problem (and another non-Apple problem that had plagued my desktop for months), and while I was happy with their service and support, I must say I was equally happy to witness and be part of a job that’s more than a job, and a company that’s more than a company.

 

Did you catch the enormity of this? It didn't cost a penny. It had nothing to do with technology. It transcends culture and trends. Something as simple as clapping for a departing employee shows the human side of what could otherwise be thought of as a faceless company. Everyone in the store that day saw that Apple values the human experience.

No one would argue that Apple does marketing especially well. But Apple seems to have branding down too. And it flows all the way down to the sales floor. People may forget about the latest features on the new iPhone, but they likely won’t forget the way the company applauds their team members -- even as they make their way out the sales floor door. 

If you’re a small business owner or a solopreneur or simply thinking about a startup, remember this: While branding might render soft ROI, it also renders hard fortification for a business that will endure. It’s strategic and smart. It deserves your energy, thought, and a chunk of your budget.  

Why I Still Blog for Business

Why I Still Blog for Business

Blogging may seem like yesterday’s word and a trend gone by. You may even have heard of it spoken of pejoratively, as in “Oh. You’re a ‘blogger.’ Oooookay.” But blogging, beyond the hobby sort, is smart business. And income from blogging can be good.  

I got my start as an entrepreneur in web development, which naturally led to SEO and consulting. But my passion has always been writing content, specifically for businesses. So my business model today is offering websites for a low cost, with every intention to garner recurring income through SEO and content creation. Yep. “Blogging.” Websites, SEO, and content creation work together for businesses that want to grow. Sprinkle in social media... and voila. You have yourself a business. That’s why almost every website I develop has a blog component. That’s why I still blog for business. 

Here are 3 more reasons.   

1. Blogging is smart for SEO.

We all know that there plenty of people peddling SEO out there, and many using so-called “black hat” tactics to get their clients to rank. But Google is constantly changing and is on to unscrupulous ways to game their system. Google is smarter and that’s why the next car you own may very well drive itself. The most legit way to make it to the top of search is by demonstrating to Google’s bots that you have a ton of authoritative content. Google has one mission: To be -- and stay -- the king of search and the way they do that is by rendering the best search results for the user. Google wants to render authoritative results that will be most relevant to search terms. Of course there are a lot of other factors that go into SEO, but content is still -- and will always be -- king. Googlebots are constantly scouring the web to determine what sites are the most relevant to users and the businesses that are always adding new content make their way to the top.     

Even if you aren’t a great web developer, you could still make a living pitching blogging services to businesses who already have websites but still want to rank in search.

2. Blogging establishes you as the guru.

One of the best ways to keep adding content to a business site, perpetually, is a smart, well-written and optimized blog that makes you the guru in your niche and tells Google’s bots that you’re the best choice for organic search. Of course a thoughtful blog also garners respect for businesses in their given niche. But even if only a very few people read a website’s blog, Google’s bots read it, regularly, and reward the site for it by placing it at the top of search. I simply tell my prospects and clients this: “Digital marketing is the new traditional marketing, and shoppers use search. So if you want to be the guru -- the best choice for shoppers -- you have to be the best choice for Google.” 

3. Blogging is creative.

There are at least a million things to write about for any business client: Products, process, events, business or industry history, trends, innovation, progress, business growth, promotions, and I could go on. Even in the most “boring” niches have much to write about. Yes, I write for “cool” clients like restaurants, but I also write for plumbers, locksmiths, and cleaning services. Blogging is as fun as you make it. Since I also dabble in photography, I add that as a component to my blogging by going on location for local businesses with my Nikon DSLR. Then I optimize these gorgeous images for search. Content is more than written words. It’s imagery. It’s video. (YouTube is another great way to rank businesses in search.)

So call it whatever you want: Blogging, freelance writing, ghostwriting, content creation, whatever. The bottom line is that blogging can increase your bottom line. I know it has for me. And that’s why I still blog for business.  

7 Ways to Know if You're a True Entrepreneur

7 Ways to Know if You're a True Entrepreneur

There are a lot of reasons people go into business for themselves. You’ve heard all the common sentiments. They want to stick it to the man. They’re sick of office politics. They aren’t getting paid what they’re worth. They want to make their own hours, be their own boss, write their own ticket, build their own dreams.

No doubt, these are all great reasons to go it alone. But they really aren’t sufficient by themselves and simply having a few reasons like that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re built for the long, relentless road of business ownership. The common reasons may be good prompts early on, but surprises come and things eventually change.

Being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone. There is a definite mindset, a sort of DNA that seems to run through the veins of those who make it. It’s hard, it’s scary, rife with letdowns and seasons of dark doubt.

That said, it is the path for some. The only path. It’s for the bold ones who have an insatiable appetite for risk. They love the rugged terrain of the unknown.

Here are 7 ways to know if you’re a true entrepreneur.

1. You have a product or service that solves a problem.

You bring something to the table that people need or want because it solves some issue for them. Small cleaning companies have the potential to grow into national franchises because dirt is a problem for a lot of people. Someone somewhere thought, “I can take care of that for people. And it’ll be worth every penny they spend for my services because I’ll do it exceptionally well.” Guess what. If you run that business right, it’ll grow. Your business will only go under the day dirt cleans itself.

2. You have what it takes to run a business. 

Continuing on with the cleaning company example… It’s one thing to be able to clean a kitchen; it’s another to run a business. We all know Sally. She she started a cleaning business but never managed to graduate from toilet brushes. She has what it takes to get a few customers but she doesn’t have the mind of an entrepreneur. At least not yet. Sally basically built a JOB for herself but she never really made the transition into full-fledged business ownership because she hasn’t taken the right steps to grow it.

3. You have a sacred obsession for success.

It’s all you think about. You may work 40 or 50 hours a week or more, but let’s face it: Your mind never stops working. You’re always thinking about growing it. And other people don’t get that part of you. They think you’re crazy. They worry about you. But whatever. You’re wired for business growth and success and you don’t give a rip about what any other single human on earth thinks about that. You have a made-up mind to succeed and grow your business. And you’ll wade through a sea of blood to make your business dreams come true. See, for you, it’s a sacred obsession. It’s your moral responsibility to succeed. Your business is no elective; it’s a required course. And your dreams will come true because you said so. That’s all there is to it. That seems to be the disposition of true entrepreneurs. It’s who they are. They can be no other.

4. A true entrepreneur has unshakeable hope.

Politicians sell hope. But to you hope isn’t a commodity that anyone else on the earth can give. To you, hope isn’t merely optimism; it’s the certainty that something makes sense. And being an entrepreneur makes perfect sense to you. It makes perfect sense for you. So you stopped waiting on someone else to give you hope or the illusion of “job security” — whatever that is. You are hard-wired to be an entrepreneur and IT WILL WORK OUT because it’s your destiny and that’s that.

5. A true entrepreneur isn’t afraid of competition.

It’s like a crowd running from a bear. You don’t have to outrun the bear. You just have to outrun the others. Competition jacks you up and you love it. But this isn’t a game for you. It’s your life. It’s win or die. In fact, you aren’t satisfied to merely compete because you have this internal need to dominate. So you go hard and you go long and you do everything it takes to subdue the competition.

6. A true entrepreneur gets over the fear of sales.

Just getting started? You probably don’t have a sales team. Yet. Until you do, you are the sales team. Say it with me: I am the sales team. Like it or not, sales is the lifeblood of your business. But this isn’t a sales JOB for you because you don’t do jobs. You realize that sales is business and business is life. And because you believe in your product or service, sales becomes a natural extension of the true you and it’s not an act. In fact, sales is the most authentic thing you can do. You can be real because you really believe that you have the best widget in town. You have your elevator pitch down and you’re ready to offer it anytime, anywhere. Closing deals comes especially easy because you aren’t selling just anything. You’re selling the reason you get up so early.

7. A true entrepreneur is a lifelong learner.

A lot of successful entrepreneurs never finished college. Or even high school in some cases. Some successful entrepreneurs can’t even spell entrepreneur. But that doesn’t mean they ever stopped learning how to grow their business. They’re always ready to learn something new, whether that’s reading or listening to audiobooks or taking courses or having a coach or a consultant (or both) to help them along the path to growth.  

Do these traits describe you?

Then you are well on your way. And please listen, when I use the metaphor of DNA, I’m not saying these traits can’t be learned, because many people do learn them. Many people have backed into entrepreneurialism through sheer desperation. They had nowhere else to turn and they became entrepreneurs out of a complete place of desperation. They may not have always had the mindset of a business owner, but they do now and they’ll never turn back.

Are you a lifelong learner? Click to instantly download the free ebook.

3 Ways to Build a Timeless Brand

3 Ways to Build a Timeless Brand

Typical marketing communicates how products benefit consumers. But timeless brands do more than that. They understand the depth of the human experience. They solve human problems. They improve human experiences. They endure through the meaningful ways they communicate. 

Here are 3 things timeless brands do. 

1. Timeless brands connect emotionally
Even the stoics among us are driven by their feelings and can be swayed by perception. Tech and trends may change, but human nature doesn’t. So a timeless brand seizes on the reality that people aren’t in the market for products as much as they are for experiences. Smart brands make their touchpoints less about product benefits and more about quality of life. While their products may have many “objective” benefits, the subjective and emotional connection is what ultimately makes their messaging work. Think about how brands like Southwest and Progressive build a human connection and present themselves as down-to-earth and approachable. In what ways can your marketing build emotional connections? Figure that out and you’re on your way to building a lasting brand.       

2. Timeless brands tell meaningful stories
Ask yourself these questions: Has your business fixed something that wasn’t previously working for you? That’s a good story. Has your company “given back” in any altruistic way? That’s a great story. Has your enterprise created a solution to a problem? Did you create something where there was a void? Are you willing to be transparent in areas where your competitors typically keep secrets? These are all examples of great themes for brand-building stories. Meaningful narratives are far better than tired product claims. Kind of like how Willie Nelson’s beat up old road-worn guitar is more believable than a spankin’ new guitar off the shelf with all the options.   

A local Maryland winery that I do marketing for is run by 3 young firebrands who are bent on doing the unimaginable: “Putting Maryland wine on the world map.” Now, if you know anything about wine, you know that’s a great big vision. Maryland has just 70 wineries. Compare that to 4300 in California and like 27,000 in France. See, while there isn’t anything about Maryland soil or climate that prohibits fine winemaking, let’s face it, the Old Line State isn’t historically known for noteworthy wines. So the story this young Maryland vineyard is telling is compelling. Why? They’re creating something where there’s a void. They’re establishing something where it hasn’t been firmly established before. They’re making a brand that is determined to rewire common thinking. Theirs’ is a story that kicks against history and defies stereotypes. Sure, Old Westminster Winery & Vineyard is building a timeless brand because word on the street has it that their product is exceptional. But more: Their story is exceptional.                

3. Timeless brands don’t sell. They educate.
It’s one thing to have a product or service that solves a problem or meets a desire. It’s another thing to establish yourself as a trusted authority. That’s why enduring brands build for the long haul and they aren’t all that interested in short-sighted gains. They understand that no one likes to be pitched; but everyone wants to learn. So they invest by building the currency of trust to cultivate lasting relationships. Brands that consistently impart value to earn the trust of consumers tend to keep those customers for life. 

Another one of my clients is a restaurant with 8 locations. A large factor in their stunning growth has to do with offering a lot of helpful information on nutrition. They blog about it. They retain Monica Reinagel, a wildly popular nutritionist. They developed a nutrition calculator for all their offerings. They also educate their customer base in the art and science of flavor. All these efforts demonstrate that they are all about educating. The result: Nalley Fresh has lines going out the door. 

Craft messaging that endures
Connecting emotionally, telling meaningful stories, and educating in the marketplace are 3 surefire ways that businesses build timeless brands. Do it in longform and make it fit on a napkin. Whether it’s a book or blog post, documentary or Vine, long advertorial or 3 words on a landing page, choose language that connects emotionally, tells stories, and educates consumers. That’s how your brand will survive trends, market fluctuations, and tech developments. 

Know Your 'Why' in Life and Business

Know Your 'Why' in Life and Business

If you own a business, it’s good to understand why you do what you do. Maybe you've heard this described as "knowing your why." It’s even better to write your why down and refer to it when difficult decisions need to be made. Having a solid, thought-through business philosophy means that your practical affairs are guided by set principles.   

To inspire you to know -- and write -- your why, I thought I'd share the guiding principles at Grow My Local Biz. You might have different values, but whatever they are, you'll benefit big by writing them down in a format similar to this. It's easy and you'll find the exercise super helpful.

So here are the 6 guiding principles at GrowMyLocalBiz.com.

1. Build enduring client relationships

We’ve all heard sex sells. We understand why. We get it. But a sexy sale, like external beauty, doesn’t always last long. If you want clients or customers for life, the appeal needs to be substantive and not merely superficial. We view building business relationships as a long-view process with long term goals. While flashy and splashy looks great on the surface, without integrity beneath, it’s just skin. 

For us this means no-pressure sales. We prefer the power of attraction over hustling a sale. The allure of our product is based on the quality of the product itself, not on our ability to push people into buying. We want clients to choose us because we’re the best choice and fit for them. We want to earn business. Relationships built this way are reciprocal and enduring. 

So we never reduce people to “prospects” on some “hit list.” We want to market in a way that gives everyone dignity, establishes trust, builds solid relationships, renders lasting results, and keeps clients for life. You can read more about that here.     

2. Creative partnerships

Creativity is a natural human drive that gives life a sense of meaning and purpose and business is a creative venture. Building a business means building something sacred, something great. Even businesses that seem mundane on the surface are expressions of creativity. CNBC’s Blue Collar Millionaires gives us a peek into how people got creative rolling up their sleeves and forged a path to wealth by meeting very ordinary needs. 

Thriving relationships is another primal human need. They aren’t always easy but they are necessary and working to make relationships win-win experiences is a fulfilling endeavor.

Sometimes creativity and relationships clash. But working through those times is also an exercise in creativity. And while relationships sometimes end due to creative differences, we prefer to see that as the exception and not the rule. 

When creative partnerships are flowing in a profitable direction, each person finds their unique role, and contributes to benefit the vision while staying in their lanes. It’s work that requires a measure of humility but it’s always worth it. We value creative partnerships.

3. A brand is more than an image

Andre Agassi famously said, “Image is everything.” But think about it. In middle school some of the girls stuffed their bras. Pads and hair extensions can improve an image for a day but come bedtime it's all just socks and wigs. Everyone concedes that “branding” a businesses is about image in some ways. But brands and businesses that last are built on truth and substance.  

When tasked with branding a startup or rebranding a struggling business, the best approach is to do the heavy lifting of soul searching and values discovery. Build a brand based on your values, align them with market research, and then connect the dots and tell your story. Not just the story of how you got here, or how your business benefits you, but how your business benefits your market. Even a compelling company history must tell the story of how the market was the beneficiary.    

4. Technology: YES. 

Tech and trends are a blur. So it’s keep up or die. It’s no longer survival of the fittest; it’s survival of the fastest. Status quo is out; fluxus quo is in. But being up on tech doesn’t mean always jumping on the latest tech widget; it means using what works best until something works better.

Many businesses view technology as a threat. We prefer to see it as an opportunity. But it's only an opportunity when you always have contingency plans to meet the inevitability of change. So a lot of energy and time is put into studying the latest tech tools for digital communications.

5. Trust is the highest form of currency

Integrity is the quality of being completely honest. A quality that can seem rare and a bit old fashioned. Some might even call it naive or weak. But integrity also has to do with being sound in construction. Strong. "Structural integrity" is kind of a big deal if you're driving on a bridge.

Businesses that are willing compromise in the currency of trust for a quick profit aren’t all that smart and they certainly aren’t strong. They're shaky. They’re weakened by esteeming money over honesty. Any financial gain achieved by dishonesty is a sandcastle that crumbles in time and the tide always rolls in. Trust is the best currency and money will follow if trust comes first.       

6. Business is sacred

Maybe you’ve heard this a time or two: “It’s not personal. It’s business.” The expression speaks to the bigness of business; that it’s higher than any single individual because it serves a greater good -- a purpose, a solution, a mission. Business is sacred because it meets the needs of everyone involved, provides income, fuels the economy, and gives life purpose. You can read more about why business is sacred here.   

Sometimes we get so mired down in the day-to-day minutiae of our businesses that we forget the higher purposes for them. We get discouraged and feel disillusioned. It’s then that we need to remember that our drive shouldn’t come from the fires we put out, but from the greater vision we had for why we got into all this in the first place. When we know our "why" we tend to keep our eyes on the big picture and that gives us motivation to keep going.

The Best Marketing Doesn't Feel Like Marketing

The Best Marketing Doesn't Feel Like Marketing

Raise your hand if you love being pitched. Right. Nobody does. If you’re like me, you’re choosy about where you want to aim your dollars. You don’t want to be hassled or hustled into a sale. You don’t want to feel like you’re being “targeted.” You’re a person not a prospect on some sales dude’s “hit list.” You can smell that sleaze a mile away.

Now think about this in your role as a business owner. You need to market your business. It’s a fact of life and as much as you may dislike it, it’s vital to your business.

But you can market in a way that gives everyone dignity. It’s a way that establishes trust, solid relationships, lasting results, and keeps clients for life.        

Here are 6 ways the best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.   

1. The best marketing establishes trust before asking for business.

Much of marketing is reputation building. Before a single dollar changes hands, you’ll need to invest in a higher form of currency: The currency of trust. Trust is currency that transcends money because you can't put a dollar value on it. Build trust and the money will follow; it’s never the other way around. Sure, you know that everyone will adore the features of your product or service. But if the essential foundation of trust isn’t there, many people will buy your widget elsewhere. Simply put: Don't pitch marriage on your first date.     

2. The best marketing establishes you as the guru.

I don't know about you, but with a thousand sellers to choose from, I’m looking for the one who knows their stuff. Because I’m not just buying a thing; I’m buying the think behind it. So if I hold that standard to things I buy, how much more should I hold it to things I sell? As much as I’m going to buy the guru, I need to be the guru. If you can create a marketing strategy that establishes your business as the go-to in your competitive marketplace, you’ll get more market share and you’ll never, ever have to resort to cheesy hard sell tactics.      

3. The best marketing builds a tribe.

The great benefit that comes from building trust is building a tribe. Because you have the best product or service based on credibility and notoriety, you’ll invariably develop a tribe of loyal people who use you and only you. And guess what? They’ll do all the proselytizing your business will ever need. A happy customer will tell their friends and contagion will commence. Now that’s an unstoppable sales force. And they work for free because you invested in the currency of trust.   

4. The best marketing is conversational. 

Conversation -- not confrontation -- is what wins hearts toward your business. Hard sell is by its very nature confrontational. But human to human marketing in the real world forgoes monologue and loves dialogue. Engagement. It works in tandem with the personalities involved and fosters growing relationships. On a first-name basis. Yep. It’s work. And this benefits businesses in more ways than sales. Businesses actually learn what it takes to get better through the process of engagement with their market. It’s built-in late-game market research that gives you the precious insight to tweak and make any needed adjustments to your product or service.     

5. The best marketing is human and conveys togetherness.  

Prospects are people, not projects. They aren’t hills to conquer; they’re relationships to foster. If you’re marketing things right, you’re building partners, not just numbers. Business is sacred and it must be built on togetherness in an economy where trust is the currency. I’m creating a business that’s built to last when I value making friends more than acquiring clients.

6. The best marketing tells inspiring stories. 

The cultivation of solid business relationships almost always leads to stories worth telling. The concept of “tribe” is built on the power of story. Not just the amazing story of how your business came to be (as important as that is), but the redemptive story of how your business met real life needs. This is business with a face. A beautiful, human, happy face. Story is still king. And great stories create an overarching narrative that establishes your business as in touch and human.

How to Grow Your Facebook Audience

How to Grow Your Facebook Audience

Successful business for the long haul requires building your audience. The bigger your audience, the more influence you’ll earn. Establishing yourself as the go-to guru for your target market is the way to build a business that’ll sustain lasting results. And this means giving a lot of your expertise away for free for a good while.

There is no get-rich-quick success in social media if you want to establish yourself as a lasting brand with integrity and substance. People know sleazy when they see it and you don’t want to be numbered among all the fleeting purveyors of opt-in bait out there.

Your business will thrive on social media when you determine to do 3 things: Stay committed. Stay consistent. Stay current.

Your simple daily to-do list to establish brand on Facebook.

Once you’ve setup your Facebook Page with the look you want and all of the correct information in the About tab, here’s what you’ll want to commit to:

1. Promote your Facebook Page by spending $5 a day for awhile. 

You can’t buy likes but you can buy targeted exposure that leads to likes. So make sure you target your niche with Facebook’s simple targeting tools. You can garner up to about 1200 likes in about a month or so. You can probably get a few hundred of those free by simply inviting your Facebook friends to like your page.

2. Update your status at least 2 times a day.

After a few weeks, begin to study the Insights tab to see when your niche audience is viewing most. Send those updates at those best times. You can also schedule posts in advance.

3. Engage with anyone who comments on your updates. 

Engagement communicates accessibility and shows the world that you’re human. H2H Marketing (Human to Human) is the most effective way marketing works in digital spaces these days. Gone are the days of faceless monologue brands. The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.

4. Make sure your status updates offer things that are free but convey value to your niche. 

This can even be a link to a helpful article from another trusted business source. Even though you’re linking them to another business, you’re establishing yourself as a helpful source of information.

The anatomy of a great post…

  • Post a picture. Images engage visual people. And images with quotes are even better. Create an image with a quote and your web address using PowerPoint or Google Slides then save as a .jpg to a folder and upload it to your Facebook post.
  • Add a little more text to your status update. It’s been shown that photo posts with more than 80 accompanying words get twice as much engagement as shorter posts without a picture. You read that right. More than 80 words. But don’t write a book.
  • Punctuate your posts. Did you know that posts with question marks perform 23% better? See what I did there? #Hashtags garner 60% more interaction. Even something as simple as an exclamation mark does 2.7% better! So always add punctuation to get #results.
  • ALWAYS add a link to your website. This is the opportunity to drive traffic to your primary business platform. Think of social media as a peripheral means to aim your target audience to the main stage of your business.
  • Link to your blog posts. Write at least one great blog post a week and use it as your status update during peak traffic times.
  • Add a video. Is there a helpful video that will help your growing audience? Share it.
  • Paid Post Boost. Got a blog post that you’re particularly proud of? Write one compelling blog post a week and boost that post for just $10 a week. That’s lunch money well spent.

Follow these steps every day for a year then look back and see how your audience has grown. Building on a foundation of integrity, your business will earn a good reputation and a loyal audience who will happily buy your products or use your services. 

4 Reasons to Consider Your Business 'Sacred'

4 Reasons to Consider Your Business 'Sacred'

Maybe you’ve heard this a time or two: “It’s not personal. It’s business.” The oft-repeated expression speaks to the bigness of business, that it’s higher than any single individual because it serves a greater good -- a purpose, a solution, a mission. 

Sometimes we get so mired down in the day-to-day minutiae of our businesses that we forget the higher purposes for them. So we get discouraged and feel disillusioned. It’s then that we need to remember that our drive shouldn’t come from the fires we put out, but from the greater vision we had for why we got into all this in the first place. So if you’re feeling beat up and ready to quit, I’d like to offer you a bigger-picture reminder.  

Here are 4 reasons why you should consider your business “sacred.” 

1. Your business is sacred because it meets a need.  

More often than not, businesses are created because there’s a problem that needs solving. Cleaning companies will be in business as long as there’s dirt. Construction companies will be in business as long as humans need shelter. Plumbers will do well as long as pipes leak. Security companies will operate as long as humans behave badly. Marketing companies will prosper as long as long as businesses need business. Even businesses that provide a luxury fill the perceived need of desire or want. At least for people who can afford it. Business is sacred because as long as humans have needs, businesses will meet those needs.   

2. Your business is sacred because it provides income. 

Everyone needs to make a living. From the top down, businesses provide income to everyone involved. And while some individuals may benefit more than others in a given business, everyone benefits some. Sure, the guy that works “way downstairs” may not make as much as the CEO, but businesses will succeed as long as they can provide a way for families to be fed. Your business is sacred because people need to eat. Even if you’re a solo act and the only one at the table, your business is filling that need.

3. Your business is sacred because it fuels the economy.

How often have we heard things like “America is built on small business” or some sentiment similar to that? Your business is sacred because in some small part it makes the world go ‘round. And the aggregate of all the businesses make up this thing we call the economy. And the economy is the lifeblood of localities. Yep. Your business is a pretty big deal after all.  

4. Your business is sacred because it gives you a purpose. 

Humans need a reason to live. We need to build things. For whatever reason, building something makes some sense of existence. It gives us a reason to live. It’s comforting to know that there’s a purpose for our place here and if you’re an entrepreneur, you get a very real sense of purpose in life.

Your business is sacred. So don’t feel discouraged. You’re meeting needs, providing income, fueling the economy and living for a purpose. So why not take your business to the next level? Let that same passion that got you started in business fire up your commitment to grow your business.

Download my free eBook to learn more. No email opt-in required. 

 

Keep Your Marketing HUMAN

Keep Your Marketing HUMAN

Your “brand” is what sets you apart. It’s describes who you are. It’s the communication of your business values. It’s more than imagery or a motto or a logo. It’s the you that you want everyone to see. But even more: It's the you that you want everyone to experience, know, and love.

But mostly, your branding must be H2H: Human to Human. The human approach to branding means authenticity, approachability, and fun. Those once walled-up, fortified brands that sat comfy in towers of power are realizing that the human touch is what works, and thanks to social media, this looks more like a conversation than a monologue.

The best marketing doesn't feel like marketing. Here are 4 ways to keep your brand human.

1. Be real

Institutions are just things. But a brand that excels today lets down the guard and welcomes interaction and thrives on engagement. Acknowledging that business is a blur that’s constantly changing, new brands admit that they ain’t got it all together. See what I did there? Because after all, they’re human, too. So while not perfect, they want you to know that they’re always striving to improve. And guess who makes that possible? You.

2. Speak humanese, please

Lofty business lingo is out; colloquialisms are in. Wait, what? I meant to say everyday talk is in. Cultural gems that you might see in the Urban Dictionary are common fare now. And it isn’t about being hip. It’s about being accessible.

3. I feel you

Brands that are aware and responsive to real life needs are the ones that get business. They empathize. They know you’re busy. They know you’re hungry. They know you’re strapped for cash. They know you want to lose 10 pounds. Because after all, they experience all those things too. They feel your pain and they’ll let you know they do.

4. Put a face on it

The personification of products works. What comes to mind when you think Progressive Insurance? Flo. She’s a person. She may be an actor, but her quirky shtick makes her approachable. She’s real, she’s funny, and you want her over for dinner. And you might even buy her insurance. Because she’s not a company. She’s a working girl.

As you brand your business for 2016 and beyond, remember H2H. Be authentic, approachable, and above all -- fun.

Download my free e-book to learn more

Stop Hitting Snooze on those Business Plans

Stop Hitting Snooze on those Business Plans

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” ― Picasso

The only problem with snooze is that time will still march on without pity and without you. I
won’t bore you with a discourse on the brevity of life. What I’d prefer we all do is make the
most of what we have. And sometimes that simply means forcing ourselves to begin if we
ever hope to see a breakthrough.

Often, the most powerful thing you can do is simply start. We can analyse ideas to death. If
snooze doesn't murder your goals, over-thinking sure can. I've seen hyper-analysis go on
and on in committees and boardrooms ad nauseam successfully accomplishing nothing
but the slow death of what otherwise could have been monumental achievements in
business.

The truth is, most plans have a window.

See, in life, not only do we have the game clock -- our lifespans -- but we also have the play
clock -- the amount of time that it takes to execute a great plan.

Miss the window and eventually your plans will: 1) stop making sense for your business, or 2) cease to be relevant due to emerging technology, or 3) atrophy and that sucking sound is all your
passion going away.

Snooze is a bad idea. It’s a new morning. Just start. Sometimes the power of start is all the
fire we need to get on the road to growth in business.

How to Create Momentum

How to Create Momentum

Staying stuck is a choice. There are always ways to get unstuck if you want to bad enough. One wise old friend put it this way: “Mark, you gotta have a want to.”

I can’t remember where I heard it, but let me offer a thought that helped me get unstuck:
“We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of
thinking.”

Another way to put it is this: New actions create new attitudes. Our minds have a way of
talking us out of doing great things. We have limiting beliefs. But they are unfounded.

Successes in smaller achievements leads to successes in larger achievements. That’s
momentum. We create momentum by starting small, or what some like to call “low-hanging
fruit.” Doing the easier things creates momentum and the encouragement to take on the
harder things.

So think of ONE small thing that you can do to grow your business today. Something that’s
entirely doable. A simple example might be writing an email to a client or to your client
database. Or writing a blog to share on your social media platforms.

Now go do it.

Okay you did it. Seeing how easy that was, make a goal to do it on a consistent basis,
perhaps daily, or whatever makes sense for your business niche. Make it a non-negotiable
habit, and don’t look for immediate results. See, the point is that you set up a new habit
and you stick to it. 

You may not see immediate results for your business, but know that the residual benefits are:

1. The long-term health of your business
2. You’re living your way into a new way of thinking
3. You're posturing yourself to take on bigger challenges

Old-think has to pass away for new-think to have its way. So you successfully lived yourself
into a new habit. Now what?

Rinse and repeat. Next!

List some next steps you can take, new goals to accomplish.