Category Archives: Branding

Reinventing Yourself Continuously Essential in a World of Constant Change

As an eternal optimist, I see change as an open door to learn and explore new possibilities. The reality is the world is changing at a much faster pace than in the past. If you want to stay essential and feel fulfilled in your career and profession, continuously exploring what is new in your field and how to evolve your perspective and skills is critical to your success.

stairway leading to an open door and blue sky

Embrace change as an opportunity. Avoiding change is a path to extinction as companies like Blockbuster and Borders learned when it was too late. No one wants that to happen to their career, which is why learning and change is such an important part of a personal branding plan.

For more tips on personal branding, check out my article 10 Ways to Manage Your Professional Brand, Reinventing as Needed.

Anticipating Where Your Field is Headed

What trends do you see in your profession and sector? How are technology and new ways of thinking disrupting your business? Ingraining an explorer’s passion will keep you nimble, scanning your horizon for opportunities and threats and seeking innovations.

Do you want to disrupt or be disrupted? Imagine if Borders had acted thoughtfully and promptly to buying and downloading books online when Amazon first started to become popular. What if they had created a clever, useful e-book reader early on? What if Blockbuster had anticipated that video stores could become yesterday’s news and figured out a game changing way to manage video streaming? Now the collaborative economy with success stories like Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft are disrupting traditional businesses starting with hotels and taxis.

What can we do individually to find intrigue in change and imagine how we can re-engineer our careers to take best advantage of the changes? And not be left behind as changes inevitably impact our profession and industries.

After all, creative individuals help drive the change and the innovations that disrupt and to put it more positively, improve, create and enlarge our worlds. Far better to be driving change than see it drive by us.

Find the mentors and network you need to help you learn and grow. And to be part of the change rather than having change pass you by. Don’t wait for a crisis to network, reach out regularly to interesting people you admire or who have expertise you can learn from. Connect people to each other and seek out opportunities to mentor others.

Watch for success stories and what you can learn from them. Businesses, nonprofits, and people who have expertise, skills and success you admire. Read up and reach out to them. What can you take from what you learn and apply it to your organization and career?

How can you update your skills or apply them to other interests you have?

A video store evolves to a cell phone repair store

A video store evolves to a cell phone repair store

10 Ways to Manage Your Professional Brand, Reinventing as Needed

You are your own career planner and coach. Gone are the days when we could rely on others to guide our career, waiting for the next obvious step on the ladder. This is probably for the best, since who knows best where your best interests and dreams lie than yourself? We are all responsible for our own destiny and careers.

In a world of constant change, we are likely to change careers multiple times. Which gives us a world of opportunity to use our strengths and skills to explore different fields and options.

fireworks burstBuilding your personal brand based on your unique strengths and passions is critical to success. What do you want to be known for? What do you care about?

How does your plan for your personal brand fit in with your organization’s goals?

Think about your strengths and weaknesses realistically and aspirationally.  Do you enjoy what you are doing now? What do you want to do long term? What do you need to get there? What do you need to learn?

Seek out how you can be truly helpful to others. Most of us don’t feel comfortable trumpeting our accomplishments (though summarizing them in a well articulated LinkedIn profile is certainly appropriate). Sharing useful information can highlight your strengths and abilities in the best way possible.

Reading advice that helps solve your potential customer’s problems is a much better way to convince them you’re awesome than your just telling them how great you are.

Continuously reinvent yourself. What trends do you see in your profession and sector? How is technology and new ways of thinking disrupting your business? Make sure you are constantly learning and staying up to date, especially in the areas you have identified as your strengths and what you want to be known for. Find trusted sources of information, follow thought leaders and experts in the field, and attend virtual or in person professional development.

Also check out my article Reinventing Yourself Continuously Essential in a World of Constant Change.

Find the mentors and network you need to help you learn and grow. Don’t wait for a crisis to network, reach out regularly to interesting people you admire or who have relevant expertise. Connect people to each other and seek out opportunities to mentor others.

Explore different social media sites to see which are most relevant to your interests and needs. Having a presence with a strong profile and engaging with like minded people will benefit you with community, networking and reinforcing your personal brand. Just keep in mind what you most want to project as strengths and skills while engaging.

Emphasize conversation and sharing useful information rather than trumpeting how great you are or pitching whatever you are selling. Listen and learn the tone, style and jargon of each social media site before you start posting. Sites like Social Media Examiner provide great tips to help familiarize you and summarize the latest changes to the various social media sites.

Create and share content in your area or aspirational area of expertise. Use a combination of  sharing other people’s content (always crediting them!) and writing  your own. Be realistic about what you have time to create, such as tweeting tips, guest articles, your own blog, slide decks, webinars, and podcasts.

Connect with people online and in person. Starting with a strong LinkedIn profile, build a strong network. Find interesting online discussion groups, Check out related LinkedIn or Facebook groups, tweetchats (scheduled twitter chats on specific topics identified by a #hashtag), and webinars or Google Hangouts. Many professional associations  and universities host online discussion forums for their members or alumni. Periodically schedule in person time with key contacts.

How to manage the time crunch, aka when am I supposed to have time to do this, too?!? I shared tips for assessing what needs to get done versus things to let go of in my post Saving Time and Effort to Free Up Energy for What Matters Most.

10 Ways Prof Brand

Create Your Social Media Plan for Success

What is the best way to use social media to increase your organization’s revenue, and communicate with your current and prospective customers, donors, clients, members? Maybe you’ve been using Facebook or LinkedIn for quite a while but you’re not sure it’s doing anything for you. Is it worth the time? How do you know if you’re doing the right things?

You need a simple, straightforward plan for social media success. If you’re like me, you don’t want to spend months thinking through a complex plan that is too complicated to execute in the first place. You want to get moving and see action and results.

Here is my outline and tips for developing a clear social media plan that drives results.

mapping through a maze

Map these components out, involving anyone in your team who plays a role in your social media presence or you think would add value to your discussion.

 

Your Goals: What are the two or three most important goals you have for your social media presence? Do you want to increase revenue of a specific product(s), attract new members/donors, prospect for clients, build community with current customers?

Your Audience: Picture who you most want to reach and as much information as you can about them. Age range, preferences, needs, interests, etc. What kinds of words and expressions resonate with them? What are their biggest problems keeping them up at night that you can help solve or at least share some levity or understanding of? What do they care about? Which social media sites are they most likely to spend time on (as opposed to just having a profile and don’t visit regularly)?

What is the most important message, story and/or theme you want to articulate? Use a mixture of kinds of posts and messaging, that include serious, funny or tongue in cheek, behind the scenes, and very useful content that helps solve your customers/donors/members’ problems. Always keep your goals and brand in mind. Share content from other organizations so you have a wide mix not all egocentric about you. And minimize how much you post that is “salesy.” Only a small percentage should be sales oriented, the vast majority should use a useful content approach or sharing content from other reliable sources.

How does your messaging and social media goals fit in with your overall marketing, communications, and public relations plan for your organization? You want a consistent look and feel visually, as well as in message and tone. Your social media posts and communications should support and integrate with what you are doing through other channels.

Brainstorm images, videos, polls, and questions you can feature that reinforce your stories and messaging. Social media is very visual and interactive.

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Landmark Books to Inspire Your Leadership, Marketing & Planning for the Future

While I am an avid reader of a number of leadership, marketing and social media blogs, many of which are listed in my blog roll on my www.lisadanielpour.com home page, I also squeeze in time to read the latest books that I think will be pivotal to informing my thinking about the future. These are three recent reads that inspired my business planning and marketing strategy that I wanted to share.

Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype by Jay Baer
youtility-bookThis short book is a must read for re-thinking how you market and communicate with your current and potential customers, members, or constituents. The reality is we live in a very crowded marketplace with thousands of brands and organizations swamping our favorite social media sites, email in boxes, and every other route possible to our eyes and ears. Whether you are a company marketing a product or service, a consultant or other professional seeking clients, or a nonprofit trying to engage potential donors and volunteers, how do you stand out from all that noise?

Youtility gives you that path through providing absolutely usefulness and value to whatever kind of consumer you want to attract, reflecting your understanding of their wants and needs and ability to deliver solutions to their problems. As Jay Baer puts it best, “Youtility is marketing that’s wanted by customers. Youtility is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.”

I found Baer’s book invaluable in taking the concept of content marketing to the next level to thinking about how can I best help the audiences I am trying to reach so that the content and information I provide is compelling and really meets their needs. This is what sets you apart from the crowd. What will make the difference for your customers, so that you are truly helping them while reinforcing your brand and messages? Throughout the book, Baer provides creative, pragmatic examples of how different kinds of organizations from small to large are using Youtility to engage and help their audiences and what their process and results have been.

“If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life.” -Jay Baer

He walks you through a six-step process he recommends for building Youtility into your business after examining three key traditional approaches to building awareness for organizations and how the marketplace is completely changing. I highly recommend this quick read for anyone concerned about marketing or branding your organization or products/services for the future. Jay Baer is a marketing and social media expert and author of the popular Convince & Convert blog which I also recommend reading regularly.

 

Impact EquationThe Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

If you are planning to launch a new business, product, or service, this book is a great guide to help you map out your vision and pragmatic path to success. Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, successful entrepreneurs and social business leaders, share their experiences and formula for success based on the acronym IMPACT = C x (R + E+ A + T + E). The CREATE acronym stands for the attributes needed to create your impact that the authors walks you through step by step: Contrast, Reach, Exposure, Articulation, Trust, and Echo.

The Impact Equation provides the wisdom and insights Brogan and Smith have gleaned from their successes and working with their many clients. The attributes are grouped into four sections that give you guiding principles – goals, ideas, platform, and human element. The authors weave in many examples of how different entrepreneurs and organizations use these techniques and aspects to literally “create” their success.

While you’re reading the book it might prove useful to set up a simple chart or spreadsheet listing the attributes and jot notes about how you currently are or might plan to handle each aspect for your business, product or service. I read it right before launching my startup Gooseling’s first children’s app Cavity Dragons and found it very useful for checking whether we’d thought sufficiently through our vision and plan for both our business and the app.

Both Chris Brogan and Julien Smith have blogs and email newsletters (you can sign up for their newsletters on their respective web sites) that are great reads as well.

Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Ekaterina Walter
ThinkLikeZuck-bookThis book justifiably received a great deal of business buzz for delving thoughtfully into what made facebook and in particular Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership style so successful. But this quick read also explores other renowned business success stories in the framework of the five principles author Ekaterina Walter identifies as key to that success – passion, purpose, people, product, and partnerships. I’ve followed and admired Ekaterina Walter for several years, she was a social media leader at Intel until co-founding the branding/marketing firm Branderati.

“Passion + Action = Results” – Ekaterina Walter

Walter offers an intriguing inside look at the launch and evolution of facebook as a business as well as its impact on our lives and how Mark Zuckerberg’s strengths and challenges played a role in each stage of development. While Walter discusses the ingenuity and success stories of a variety of entrepreneurs (e.g. TOMS, CollegeHumor, Threadless, and Dyson), she also explores the vital role intrapreneurs play in organizations and shares examples. David Armano, Executive Vice President of Edelman Digital, defined intrapreneurs as “someone who has an entrepreneurial streak in his or her DNA, but chooses to align his or her talents with a large organization in place of creating his or her own.”

As Walter says, “Organizations small and large need intrapreneurs. In an era of constant change, not one single company can afford complacency. True disruption happens when entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well within an organization. And that spirit is cultivated and spread by intrapreneurs–those on the forefront of change, those passionate enough to activate the principles discussed in this book within their own organization.”

Ekaterina Walter also has a must-read blog and writes regularly for Forbes, Fast Company, Huffington Post, and Entrepreneur.

Integrating Social Media into Your Overall Marketing and Organizational Goals

People often ask me questions about how to “do” social media right as if it is an amorphous separate new task we need to do well to succeed, disconnected from the other things an organization does.

network combs ball imageSocial media is a powerful platform and tool to build community, interactively communicate, and share useful content that supports what we do. However, social media doesn’t exist in a vacuum. To be most effective, it is critical to use social media strategically to meet the goals and mission of the whole organization.

How you use social media should be integrated into your organization’s marketing and PR plan, along with your other communication vehicles, which all serve your strategic goals. Social media and more traditional marketing efforts can reinforce and support each other, for example in spreading your key messages and promoting products and services. Your emails can share content from your web site/blog and encourage people to “like” your facebook page or highlight specials only available on facebook or twitter. Your posts on facebook and tweets should drive traffic to your web site and share content related to your goals.

gauge_markingMeasuring and regularly reviewing how the different approaches and tactics are doing allow you to make changes on the fly to get the best results. My related article featuring tips for getting the most out of social media with limited time and resources offers highlights on using the most common social media sites for which purposes.

Social media especially lends itself to marketing and public relations but there is more and more emphasis today of the value of becoming a social business from leaders such as Brian Solis. They discuss the  impact of social media and this new age of transparency and easy interactive customer/constituent communication on the organization as a whole. In this previous post I shared ideas about how social media can be used for various sectors of an organization such as HR, customer service, crisis planning, product development, and knowledge sharing.

How do you use social media to meet your organization’s goals and mission? 

 

Is Solving Your Customers’ Problems the Focus of Your Products & Services?

Are you solving problems for your customers, clients, and members or focusing on your organization’s needs instead?

While it can be tempting to wax poetically about how wonderful our products, services, and organizations are, our customers, clients, and members care about what they need, not what we have to offer. What are they worrying about? What aggravates them? How can we make their lives easier? Save them time and money?

Genie's magic lampKeeping up with what your customers want and need and how your organization can solve their problems is pivotal to success. What that answer is inevitably changes over time. That’s why evolving offerings and services continuously to meet changing needs that you regularly gauge is so critical. And letting go of what isn’t resonating anymore.

Once you have found great solutions to your customers’ needs then it becomes much easier to use clear consistent messaging and engaging story telling to spread the word about the benefits of your products and services.  Which kinds of customer problems you are going to solve flows from your mission and what you hopefully have already identified as your organization’s unique competitive advantage.

No matter how zippy or eye catching our slogan or graphics, if we are not taking care of what our customers need, someone else will inevitably step in who will.  What steps are you taking to solve your customer’s problems and communicate what you are doing to help them?

 

Does What You Say Match What You Deliver?

cup with array of colored pencilsDo your messaging, mission, stories, and actual customer/member/donor experience align? It takes enormous effort, creativity, and time to deliver your mission, use effective messaging, and make it come alive through compelling stories. But it means nothing if the actual experience your customers, members, or donors have does not match the expectations your story creates.

Listening to your constituents through as many channels as possible including social media and market research offers a critical window to how your organization is really doing.

Get insights and feedback from front line staff who communicate with your customers, members, or donors on a daily basis through phone, email and your social media outlets to make sure you understand people’s perceptions, impressions, feelings, and experiences.

Does the reality people are experiencing match what your marketing is promising? If not, what do you need to do to change that?

The Power of Storytelling to Communicate Your Message

Nothing stirs the imagination like a great story, making them the ideal tool to make your organization’s mission, message, and product benefits truly come to life. Whether you are a nonprofit making your cause resonate with donors and volunteers or a small business capturing the attention of potential customers and clients, stories paint the picture of your message in the most compelling way possible.

Many accountants, lawyers, and other service professionals use stories to show how their insights and advice make a difference in their clients’ lives. Rather than touting a product’s benefits in the usual traditional ways, creative businesses illustrate them with vivacious, humorous tales or powerful, touching stories. Hospitals share heartfelt, moving testimonials from patients of how their doctors saved their loved ones. Stories are spread in as many modes as possible including social media, ads, videos, podcasts, articles, seeking media coverage, and encouraging people to share them. Vivid, active images reinforce the message.

At my previous association we shared stories of how four young professionals in that industry made a difference in their communities and how membership in the organization helped them get it done. This unique next generation membership campaign met our dual goals of membership recruitment and retention while showcasing the incredible contributions these professionals were making in their field and to their communities.

Mark Howarth, founder of Invisible People TV, talks about the creative, high impact story telling strategies he uses to convey the real life challenges of homeless people  in the February Chronicle of Philanthropy Social Good podcast hosted by Michael Margolis, founder of the consultancy Get Storied, and nonprofit expert Allison Fine. Mark says in the podcast “we have to have a personal connection… When you look at a social crisis like homelessness you think, it’s too big, I can’t do anything about it…but if you…get to know that person, you [feel]… I’ve got to do something.”

How have you used stories to convey your message or convince  your customers or members  they should use your products or services?

 

Articulate Your Unique Competitive Advantage to Stand Out from the Crowd

award medalHave you articulated the most compelling benefits your organization and products offer that differentiate you from your competitors? Clearly communicating your unique competitive advantage and using it consistently is key to gaining the attention of potential customers, members, and donors.

People are busier than ever and have short attention spans to decide if your message, product, or organization is worth their time. There are so many organizations and messages to sift through, it is critical to make yours stand out from the crowd. Know the competition and how your products and services can truly stand out and be different – what is your niche?

Look carefully at what the competitors your customers are likely to consider are offering and how they position themselves. Think about how your products and services compare and what your unique positioning is. Be sure to focus on benefits to your customers or members – not features. It doesn’t matter what you think is great about your product or service if it’s not important to your customers.

Clear messaging can persuade your prospects that your offerings will meet their needs if you have carefully crafted your wording and taken the time to really understand their motivations and challenges. Show them how what you have to offer is the solution to  their problems. This is the core of branding that can deliver the call to action you need – whether it is a lead, a sale, a new member, or a new donor.

Small businesses and associations can use this strategy to effectively compete with large companies or associations which by definition tend to have broad offerings and appeal to wider rather than targeted audiences.

What is  your competitive advantage?

Are You Appealing to Your Customers’ Needs Or Your Own?

When you promote your organization, products, and services, do you emphasize how you deliver unique value based on your customers’ wants and needs…or do you list features that showcase your organization’s strengths?

graphic of plastic dart on targetIt’s the benefits vs. features issue. Superlative marketing features laser focus on benefits that appeal to your most important current or potential customer, member, or client segments. What do they need and want? What is most important to them?

The more you know about your audience, the better tuned in your marketing and product development will be.

It’s always tempting to list all the fabulous features you offer, but shopping lists aren’t compelling. How many products, services, or organizations offer the same things you do? What is unique that your customer needs that your brand delivers?

This is true whether you are a professional marketing your services, a small business promoting your products, or a nonprofit serving members, donors, and constituents. Membership organizations need to ensure you are delivering the services, programs, and benefits your members truly value so that even in tough times their membership is so compelling they can’t afford to leave. Nonprofits have the challenge of meeting your current and potential donors’ needs while ensuring your programs and services fulfill your mission and constituents’ needs.

Have you stepped back and looked at your marketing and branding lately to see if it really speaks to your customers’ and constituents’ needs rather than from your organization’s perspective?