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Branding 101

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In our world of more choices than ever, your brand is super important. You may only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention and make them want to learn more.

Branding is your #1 secret weapon for success – your edge for standing out among the competition.

Your brand defines who you are, what you stand for, and what you offer. It’s about creating your identity so that the clients you want to attract “get you” in a glimpse.

Your brand not only makes you recognizable, it also works on an unconscious level as an emotional attractor – drawing people toward you. Our choices are always influenced by – and often driven by – emotions, more than rational thought.

Your visual identity is as important as your brand message – each aspect of your brand touches a different part of your potential client’s decision-making process.

That’s why your brand is so important – it markets before you before you even lift a finger.

Taking the steps to clearly define your brand message, values, look, and feel – before you start your website, your logo, your flier – will save you enormous time and effort in the long run. You’ll start your marketing engine right away and lay the foundation to attract your ideal clients.


Creating a Culture of Failure?

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This stopped me in my tracks. I just saw a video of Randy Komisar. Randy is a new kind of business leader that’s being labeled “Virtual CEO.” He’s worked at Apple, LucasArts Entertainment, Crystal Dynamics, Claris Corporation and GO Corporation. He also teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford and is the author of a best-selling book The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living.

Komisar talks about how Silicon Valley is not defined by its success but by how it deals with failure. Whenever you’re working in innovation, experimentation, taking risks to do what hasn’t been done before, there has to be a tolerance and understanding of failure.

Komisar  says if you really want to create something new you have to cultivate a “culture of constructive failure,” which he defines as “the ability to tolerate failure, proceed with your career, do it again, and take your experience and cash in on it as an asset.”  In most business, when there is a significant failure, the business stops, but in Silicon Valley and for savvy entrepreneurs, failure doesn’t stop them.  Komisar’s own experience is that you learn more by failing than by working in a successful business. He views past failures as an opportunity to develop character, solidify esprit de corps in a team, and create tools to deal with future business challenges.

I think this is worth highlighting right now because in our current milieu of so much transition and no one really knowing how we’re going to lift ourselves into a stable and growing US and world economy, we have to keep in our vision the importance of taking risks to innovate in our own business.  We have to take the risk to grow even in this insecurity because this is what will create a different momentum forward. But to do that, we also have to be smart – and this means understanding that failure is part of the process, and the most important thing we can do is very consciously take the lessons learned to help us move further forward. The kinds of risks many of us have been willing to take in the past may not look as exciting or potentially worthwhile as they did 15 or 20 years ago. But if some of us small business owners and entrepreneurs aren’t willing to step out and take risks –appropriate to this time of course – we’re not contributing to regaining the health of our economy. The only thing that I keep seeing is that, in light of the fact that no one has the answers, creating the change that I want to see is really up to me – and the way I approach my own business today matters in a much bigger picture than just my own little life.


Marketing Has to Be Central from the Start

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Many small – and large – businesses make the mistake of not putting enough resources into marketing from the start. It may not seem necessary as you’re developing your product or service, and perhaps even reaching your market easily. But for any size company, if you don’t create a solid marketing plan from the start your business will suffer. You may max out the market you’ve been successfully reaching for years, or not stay up to speed with the best communication vehicles, or maybe you’ve had a marketing plan but didn’t consistently hone it in relation to the constantly changing digital opportunities. You may not even see it for awhile, but somewhere down the line you’ll find that you won’t be able to maintain a steady pace though the ebbs and flows of the business cycle.

I’ve seen this often in small businesses who are putting all their resources into getting off the ground. But I’ve been surprised to find out how many big businesses also fall into this trap. As I read several case studies, I found that the main reason big businesses don’t provide enough resources for marketing is simply because the decision-makers don’t grasp the long-term implications. Other functions have priority at a given time and marketing seems like an extra. Resources go to creating a product or expanding a product line, finding the right distribution channels, seeking capital, etc. I’ve seen businesses allocate resources to their sales department and still not adequately fund marketing. But it’s hard to sell a product that’s not marketed well.

So even though there’s more capacity in our digital world today than there ever has been on relationship building with one’s customers, and more innovative ways to do it, many businesses are still lagging behind. And the businesses that don’t move forward are losing competitive ground. But the good news for small business owners is that they are poised to take advantage of so many of the current opportunities. Operating on a small scale, they have more flexibility than they often realize, and can take advantage of a huge variety of low-cost options while creating marketing plans that build in continuous change.


5 Tips for for Marketing a New Business on a Shoe-string Budget

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I’m often asked what you can do to begin promoting a new small business if you can’t spend much on marketing. Our hyper-connected world offers so many opportunities that we didn’t have 20 years ago. Here are a few things you can do that don’t take a lot of time, don’t cost anything, and will start to create visibility right away:

1)      Create a Facebook business page. This is very similar to creating a regular Facebook page. (If you don’t already have your own Facebook page, this is a good moment to get your own page up and start connecting with friends and colleagues.) People are using Facebook more and more to search for businesses so it pays to create a page for your business, plus you can connect with other businesses and groups that may be helpful for future networking. Make sure that if your service or product is not mentioned in your business name, you include it in the first sentence of your description so that it comes up in searches.

2)      Share your new business page with all your friends and colleagues on Facebook. This will appear on their Facebook pages and all their friends will also be able to see the link to your new business page, so this is a great way to network through your friends’ networks.

3)      Contact local media. Newspapers and magazines generally like to support local businesses. If you know how to write a press release, you can send it to the editors. Or you can send them a short paragraph about your business with a bio and photo. It’s important to follow up with a phone call – editors get so many emails, it does make a difference to make the personal contact, and it’s great relationship-building for the future.

4)      Offer something for free. If you’re selling a product, create a give-away or discounted item that you can offer on your website or directly from your business. Always make sure to capture email addresses from people who want the give-away. If you’re selling services or programs, you might think about offering a free lecture at your local library or community center. Or you can offer a virtual event such a conference call through Make sure that the information you give is easy-to-understand and relevant to your audience.

5)      Email announcement – let everyone know. When you’re launching a new business, this is the time to send an email out to everyone. Most people plan to email clients and business associates, but often skip over friends, family, and clients from previous businesses that may be in a different industry. Remember that this is an announcement, and that gives you the opportunity to let everyone know. The people who know you are your best network, not only as potential clients, but they will also be most likely to recommend you to their friends. Make sure to write a short description of your business that they can share with others. You may want to word the email to friends and family a little differently as it will be more personal. This is another good opportunity to offer some kind of discounted product or service for a limited period of time to celebrate the launch of your new business.


Evolutionary Marketing

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I knew I had to start off my blog on this topic – only because I’ve been immersed in studying evolutionary thought for over 20 years and I continue to experience over and over in so many arenas that looking at any topic through the lens of  “evolving” gives it a new slant and opens the door to all different kinds of creative approaches. I really think this is the leading edge thinking of our time.

Whatever you’re looking at, you see it as part of a whole process that started somewhere and is going somewhere and is constantly in motion. Very different from our usual starting point to ending point orientation. That has to be there too otherwise you couldn’t make concrete goals. But an evolutionary approach is much bigger than just that. And because it’s bigger, it brings more dimensions to the table, which brings more possibilities for the project, which brings more creative thinking, which makes everyone evolve in the process, which opens up more possibilities for the whole business, and on and on…

An Evolutionary Marketing approach is one where you address any project – whether it’s launching a business, building a website, refreshing a brand, expanding a traditional marketing program into social media, etc. – within a much bigger perspective of the business, where the business lies in its industry, where the industry lies, where people’s needs are moving, what’s happening in our global society, and where we as a human race are headed. Sound like too much to bite off?  Well, I would say in our fast changing, global, volatile world today, if you want to be succeed, you have to frame everything in the biggest context possible.

I googled “Evolutionary Marketing” before I started writing, and found that my friend Sam Rosen of Thoughtlead and 4-Good Marketing had already posted a blog on this. Touché to you Sam for introducing the term! I want to credit Sam’s great discussion about whether this is just another buzz word or a real direction in marketing. He makes an important point about our responsibility to come to the marketing table, not just with profit/business motives, but with an eye to evolving our values and business practices, which I wholeheartedly agree with:

“’Evolutionary Marketing’ is a term I’m fond of using. It focuses on integrating two areas of marketing: first, understanding how marketing tactics and strategies have evolved over time, and using the best ones in the appropriate places (I’ll elaborate more below); and second, acknowledging that, as marketers–and that doesn’t just mean professional marketers, but also entrepreneurs, thinkers, artists, consultants, and anyone else involved in spreading a message, product, or service–it’s our responsibility to create a better, more conscious future, not simply to cater to the lower impulses of our human nature and go ‘the easy way.’”

One last thing… Evolutionary Marketing by definition has to be constantly changing and evolving, so anyone can jump into the conversation any time and take it forward.