Saturday, February 27, 2010

Telling a Story to Build Brand: The Brady Bunch Had It Right

The other night when we were driving back home from appointments in the city, we started singing. Now you might not know this, but I do have a tendency to sing in the car, particularly on trips over an hour. There are several reasons why I like to do this, several of which, as you will see, are tied into my inner marketing guru:

1. for some reason, the acoustics are particularly good in my Mazda 323 and my somewhat thin voice gets amplified to almost a Joni Mitchell-esque quality (OK, I said almost...)

2. it amazes me how without thinking about it, almost instantaneously, I remember all the lyrics from the introduction to "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Petticoat Junction," "The Patty Duke Show," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," and a slew of others, as if I had only watched them yesterday. I remember the lyrics even more then words I had to memorize in school, like poems, or lines from a play, recipes, and even directions and passwords.

3. it amazes me that not only do I remember the words, but I remember every nuance of the tunes, and the images that went with them. For example, the tiny Minnow getting tossed at sea; the beloved Brady kids affirming each other from their hip media grid; Bill Bixby and his son (who was that guy again?) having meaningful beach walks to the tune (people let me tell you bout my best friend/he's a warm hearted person who'll love me till the end.)

4. it amazes me that the memory of the song inevitably leads to the memory of a specific episode, and some rather strong emotion tied into it, and then my husband and I are off recollecting, in rapid succession, the Brady's Hawaiian vacation; the way Mary Richards would wash her hair on Saturday nights; Laurie Partridge running for homecoming queen, just so she can make a point about women's rights, etc.

5. it amazes me that within a matter of seconds, the tag line, or pitch, is clear, and we get it: Get Happy...That's the Way We Became...You're Gonna Make It On Your Own...He's My Best Friend...Swimming Pools, Movie Stars...

So, when businesses are sometimes struggling to find their voice and branding, it's helpful to keep these old sitcom themes in mind. It's no wonder, for starters, that so many beginning bloggers are advised to tell their story and what's unique about them. Why? It makes them stand out, and it makes their brand "sticky."

It's also no wonder that those starting out or changing their business, should seek out tag lines that are resonant, catchy, and evocative. I recently attended a business seminar where participants had to recite their elevator pitches on stage, and in a roomful of about 100 people, over half of them had the worst time succinctly giving their pitch, in a way that was catchy, convincing, and clear.

I'm thinking my advice to them might be: go home and watch tv. The oldies station. Make sure your inner marketing guru is tuned in. And if you don't want to go back to the 60's or 70's, an episode of "Friends" will do. I'll be there for you has kind of a nice ring to it, don't you think?

Monday, February 22, 2010

What's Your Signature Move?

It's like Tolstoy said. Unhappy families are each unhappy in their own ways, while happy families are often alike. Similarly, companies that fail or struggle often are that way due to any multitude of variety factors. However, the success stories are often that way because they share in common one key trait. In addition to being good at what they do, they have certain signature moves or branding that stand out. Whether it's their logo, or what they publish, or the way that they tweet or deliver speeches, you know what company it is in one second.

Much has been written about Steve Jobs, for example, and how each time he launches a new product he wears his "uniform" of jeans and a black turtleneck on stage. Trader Joe's distinguishes itself from your typical chain supermarket by being anachronistic, touting the pirate ship motif and a retro chic look to its newsletter, The Fearless Flyer. I don't eat that much ice cream (OK, I eat a fair amount of ice cream), but every year for my birthday, Baskin-Robbins sends me a coupon for a free scoop, and I'm so there.

Social media expert Chris Brogan has a way of ending his blog posts by asking: What say you?

The Olympics are always an inspiration. Michelle Kwan, one of my all-time favorite figure skaters, had a signature move, the "change of edge spiral," in which she skated on a very strong forward inside edge and did a beautiful spiral, then changed to an outside edge without moving her extended free leg.

OK, so I don't know much about spirals and my triple loop is a tad rusty, but for my business, my butterfly logo has really helped me standout over the years. Every time I share it with someone, I get a positive comment. I don't have to explain what the butterfly means to me, (although I have - it's tied into clarity of expression), because it's more important at that moment that it has significance for the other person. Even though it's my signature, it still has meaning and resonance for others. Another signature move I have is creating customized packages for clients that can address their needs in specific ways.

So what about you? What's your signature move?

Friday, February 19, 2010

6 Life Lessons Entrepreneurs and Businesses Can Learn from Olympic Figure Skating

Keep your eyes on the prize. Don't let anyone or anything distract you from your goals.

A lot of flourish at the expense of substance will be seen through.

If you have a glitch that stops the show for a bit - like your shoelaces coming untied - fix the problem quickly and move on. You'll be admired for grace under pressure, and for remembering the exact place you left off.

Assess the risks of falling. Others may remember your one fall instead of your numerous wins. But even more importantly, what will you remember?

Inconsistency doesn't work. If your jumping pass should disintegrate, spend more time figuring out why instead and less time apologizing.

The reward of being yourself is: you.

Photos: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Friday, February 12, 2010

Video: View Copyblogger Brian Clark's Keynote from Affiliate Summit West

Since I attended the Affiliate Marketing Summit East in New York last summer, I've been on the inside scoop getting the latest updates and info. I thought I'd share this video of Brian Clark's Keynote, in which he talks about new media, old media, the fact that today's publishers don't really "get" digital media, and how they're still time for us to make our entrepreneurial mark for those of us who do get it. I've been a fan of Copyblogger for years, and enjoyed his great blog posts on social media, techniques in copywriting, and insights into online communities.

Brian’s companies produce millions of dollars in annual revenue thanks to a mix of online educational content and direct response copywriting, and Copyblogger is read by over 67,000 people. Brian is also the co-founder of DIY Themes, creator of the innovative Thesis Theme for WordPress; the Teaching Sells interactive training program; and the creativity blog Lateral Action.

I hope this video inspires you...enjoy!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Surfing the Web for the Latest Twitter Resources

There have been some excellent resources online lately highlighting some of the new Twitter features as well as applications. I have been exploring them on my own between projects, and found some new and interesting "twists" on Twitter. Here's a snapshot of what my web surfing has yielded:

How to Market Your Business with Twitter Lists
An excellent post by social media Guru Cindy King on ways to use the new Twitter Lists feature to tune into online conversations, follow other people's lists, brand your own business better by creating interesting lists, and find out what some trending topics are in specific niche areas just by clicking on a list that you follow. You don't have to be followed back. I particularly liked the embedded video by San Diego social media expert Amy Porterfield that demonstrates how to create new lists, add folks to the list, and also follow others' lists. How cool is that?

4 New Mac Twitter Apps You May Have Missed
In late January, Mashable posted a quick news story on 4 new apps worth noting, which include: Itsy, a mini application that lets you search, tweet, view replies, etc., without a large footprint. This is good to know since many of the apps like Tweetdeck seem to use quite a bit of memory. Twitt is featured, which offers customized themes; Echophone shows conversation histories and has a drag and drop feature to upload photos; and finally, Yoono, which allows you to post updates across multiple platforms. This last one particularly intrigues me as I'm always interested in aggregators, so I'm going to try it out soon.

Review of Twitter Marketing EBook

There are so many social media books out there, it's hard to choose which are the best resources. Over on Twitip (I love that name), there's an excellent review of Marko Saric's book, Twitter Marketing: How to Go Viral on Twitter. For under $20, the reviewer Jade Craven writes, the book is an excellent value, and contains great information on how to tweet, personalizing your profile, tips on promoting yourself, and increasing your followers.


This program is still in beta, but when it comes into its own, I think it has great potential, and it has some unique search feature you definitely won't find on Twitter itself. The program automatically filters for recent updates from all your followers, shows all their geographic locations, and how many followers they have. As of now there is no other program that allows you to search your followers. Above is a screen shot of my account when I typed in the search term, "San Francisco." I think this will come in handy for some of the event marketing I am doing.
Not it's not a mouthwash! This directory of great Twitter lists is a great tool that for some reason still appears to be under the radar for a lot of people. I discovered it a few months ago, and find myself wandering over to the home page now and then, just because it's such a great time saver. You can search Tags by topic or category, do a people search, and you can add your own lists so you can impress people with your creative list building. Go for it.

10 Apps to Advance Publish on Twitter
A recent post had a useful listing of 10 apps for advance posting on Twitter, including favorites like SocialOomph and Tweetlater, and some new apps on the block, such as Tweet Funnel and Future Tweets.
There's also Tweet-U-Later,, and others. Don't worry about the punctuation, just try it.

What are your latest favorite Twitter apps, and what if any have impacted your business the most?

Monday, February 08, 2010

For Business Owners: 6 Tips for Communicating with Consultants Effectively

There are hundreds of blogs posts, links, e-books, ads, and web sites focused on connecting consultants with clients. Yet relatively little is written about how we can best communicate in the prospecting stage of the relationship to make sure that the deliverables are clear, the goals defined, the timelines established, and that the relationship will be a good fit.

From my experience on the service provider side being a communications specialist, I have worked with a wide variety of entrepreneurs and business owners and they have all had a range of communication styles when explaining what they need. Some of them talk around the specific problem they are having because they may not be certain what it is yet. Some are so focused on the deliverable that they may not be seeing the big picture. In other words, what they say they want may not quite be it. Others may be so rushed that all they have time for is a quick e-mail that barely describes the project, and then want us to take it from there. Yipes!

On the consultant side, we can do a lot to help guide clients in how to work together most effectively and offer effective solutions and possibilities. Does the client really want a new brochure, or is the real problem that their web site content needs improvement? Do they need to be doing a new video, blog post, and newsletter every week, or is the real challenge the integration of these tools into a cohesive message?

There is quite a bit of mutual education that goes on between client and consultant, particularly in the face of a complex or involved project. Clients might need education on how specific tools and programs work, and what realistic results they might expect. Consultants need to educate clients on their budget, work style, and any specifics relative to their institution or work. In the case of writing, a style sheet should be provided to serve as a guideline to the consultant. If other relevant people are involved in the project, the consultant should be introduced to them.

Clients as well, can follow these 5 guidelines when communicating with prospective consultants before hiring them and signing contracts:

  1. The What before the How
    Define your goals clearly and don't get too caught up in the process at the initial stages. A good consultant will point you to the best way to achieve your goals, and will let you know if they specialize in the area you are looking for. For example, instead of saying, "I need a new blogging program using Blogger," state what you are really wanting. "I want to expand my online brand and presence with a blog, and I'm looking for the best platform that suits my needs," for example.

  2. Be Honest, Clear, and Realistic About Your Deadlines
    Don't tell your consultant that you're in a rush with your project, and then take off to the Caribbean for 3 weeks. Conversely, don't say that you're flexible with deadlines and have several months to work with, when in reality you only have a few weeks.

  3. Communicate the Relevant Information about Your Business
    You do not need to relate every detail about your business to the consultant, nor do either of you have time for this. Focus on the relevant details, such as: what goals you are and are not achieving, your audience and desired audience, major accomplishments, and major challenges. If it is relevant, you can also communicate about recent projects that did or did not work well, and provide your view on why those outcomes happened. This can provide valuable background information to marketing consultants looking to get a feel for your business and future strategies.

  4. Expect detailed contracts or agreements from consultants, expect to
    have to sign them, and expect to pay an initial deposit.
    Business owners who may not have worked with consultants before, or who perhaps are working with a friend of a friend or someone who has referred them, may think an informal e-mail or a friendly "smoke signal" means all is good to go. Not so! A written contract or agreement protects both parties, and is an absolute must before moving forward. A good contract defines the terms of service, the fees and payments agreement, the deliverables, and any other conditions or preferences deemed necessary to finalize the relationship. It also provides a useful reminder of the details or stages of the project, which can come in handy for a longer or more complex project. A contract can also help illustrate the detailed phases of a project that the client might not know exist until that point. If writing services are involved, for example, the contract will specify how many revisions are included with the fee, which is very important for clients to know. I have heard many unpleasant stories of consultants having to turn in multiple revisions or even variations of the original project, costing them valuable time they had not anticipated. Regarding budget, whenever money and fees are involved, a contract is also a must, and it is considered standard practice to pay a deposit amount (usually half the full amount) at the time of signing.

  5. Spend the time at the outset to discuss the details - it will pay off later on.
    A little extra time spent at the outset of a project will pay off greatly later on. Rushing your needs will only confuse the consultant. Most consultants like me offer a free hour to listen to you. During these times, I make it a point to get my notebook out, keep quiet, and save my comments and questions for the end. If your prospective consultant offers this option, make good use of it.

  6. Don't change your deliverables midstream.
    Think through your goals well enough beforehand so that by the time you have a proposal in front of you, it reflects what you truly want. Be aware that if you make changes, your consultant will require written amendments to the contract that you both sign off on. This is to benefit both of you, and is standard protocol. If you have an entirely new project that stems off your current one, or variations that you did not expect, it's best to establish separate timelines and agreements on these.

    I'd like to hear from anyone else, either on the client or consultant side, who has tips to share on creating effective working relationships, as well as any pitfalls you managed to avoid?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

5 Lessons Bloggers Can Learn from AllStar Yoga Teachers

Over the weekend I attended the 7th Annual Yoga Journal Conference in San Francisco (video forthcoming), and while I learned a lot about yoga, I learned even more about some of the communications basics I hadn't thought about in a while.

I attended 2 intensive workshops, both of which were about 3 hours. That meant the teacher had an hour and a half class to lead, as well as about an hour and a half, yes that's right, talk. I have to admit that I really wasn't accustomed to sitting that long in a yoga class -- to just listen without moving. Ironically, this is what yoga in the end is supposed to help us do. Welcome the stillness.

Gradually, I overcame my temptation to drift, and in both workshops I noticed that the audience, some teachers themselves and the rest of us students, were quite transfixed by the instructors. We watched them, took notes, laughed at their funny anecdotes and validated their sadder stories. We thought about the ideas presented to us, created images when the seeds were planted, closed our eyes, opened our eyes, held onto the landscape of their life experience as they presented it to us. While all the while, we were to translate concepts for ourselves. Flexibility. Stability. Primitivism. Forms. Poses. And the famous chakras.

Of course, I started thinking about social media and writing, (you know me...), and realized that their actual classes notwithstanding, these teachers in their elocution had all the elements of what we find in power bloggers. In short, they did what we as bloggers need to do everyday to "validize" (I made up this word for now) our space and that of our audience. Here are the 5 lessons I learned from this experience, that really came out of nowhere, as sometimes the best lessons do:

1. Be Unique in Your Authenticity.

We've all heard about the importance of authenticity in social media, but it wasn't until I attended these workshops that I realized a deeper knowledge of what authenticity really meant. It wasn't so much about the fact that these teachers had originated their ideas, but rather that they had made them their own through their voice, style, and branding. They told a story the way no one else could. They used examples from their lives to illustrate a point, that only they could originate. When you read a really great blog post, or several, it's just that way. The blogger is not only conveying their authenticity, but they are doing it in a unique way.

2. Be Passionate.

The teachers conveyed a definite passion for their life's work. They convinced their audience that not only was there no other choice for them but to teach yoga, but one teacher even stated, "if I don't do my yoga everyday, the world is in trouble." Truly great bloggers also convey a similar sense that they are passionate about what they are doing. There is often an immediacy to their writing, even though they may have labored over their post for hours.

3. Know and Connect with Your Audience.

The teachers spent a great deal of energy making sure they were connecting and being understood by their audience before going on to a new idea or thought. One teacher repeated every few minutes, "do you get what I mean?" If there was the sense in the room that an idea was not clear, the teacher would rephrase her thought in some way until she sensed their was clarity. Similarly, great bloggers know their audience, and communicate in a way that they can make the best connection. That means knowing what words to choose that will resonate the most with readers, what kind of images will be the most powerful, and what style and tone will also be the most effective.

4. Tell a Good Story.

There's nothing audiences and readers like more then a good story. Or a few. Stories serve as great icebreakers, and also give your audience something to identify with, so that they have a context in which to view you. Great speakers, like great bloggers, always discuss some kind of transformational experience they had that was a turning point in their lives, and that's how we relate to them.

5. Be Funny.

A little humor goes a long way, and it's not easy to do. The teachers I had were each humorous at times, in distinctly their own way. Audiences love to laugh, and giving them a story they can chuckle over fosters a stronger community as a whole. Humor is also a great equalizer.

Now that you've seen my yoga/blogger analysis in action, it's your turn. Any parallels from your own life you can draw upon? Does your yoga teacher inspired social media relevant thought?