“If you believe relationships build business,
then make building them your business.”
Scott Stratten, author, UnMarketing
When a baby is born, the first thing he or she wants to see is the adoring face of its loving mother. Then, throughout our lifetime, we are conditioned as human beings to connect with happy, smiling and familiar faces whether we are a newborn baby, an elderly person in a nursing home or a business executive giving a presentation in a crowded convention hall. There is nothing more compelling in business or in life than a bright smiling face with an open attitude of warmth and acceptance.
If we have the opportunity to do business with a happy, smiling professional we know, like and trust, or another professional we don’t know anything about, we are most likely going to go with what we know. It’s the human connection that makes the difference.
Whether we’re in the business-to-business world or the business-to-consumer world, human interaction is ingrained in the fabric of everything we do. In our day-to-day dealings with clients, potential clients, vendors, and our professional peers, we should strive to make authentic connections so the people in our professional network know us, like working with us and trust us.
Zig Ziglar, the late great sales guru, said, “People will listen to other people they know, but they will do business with those whom they trust.”
What does it take for people to know, like and trust you? They need to know you care about them as individuals, not just as talking heads you are only interested in because they can further your business goals in some way. You establish the “know, like and trust” factor by asking them about things other than work and finding common ground. For example, I find that asking about a person’s family, where they grew up, upcoming vacation plans, or hobbies they are passionate about are all good conversation starters. By asking these basic questions, you are guaranteed to find something you have in common with virtually anyone.
People love to talk about themselves, and everyone loves a good listener. Being a good listener and giving the person you are talking to your full attention are important parts of the equation, too. Make eye contact with the person you are speaking to and treat them as if they are the only person in the room. Say their first name frequently. During the course of your conversation, also refer back to things they mentioned earlier to show you are really hearing what they are saying.
Like the business contacts we are working to connect with, we ourselves want to do business with people who we know have “got our back.” It takes a great deal of time to identify, build and maintain business relationships fortified by a strong foundation of trust. However, it is very much worth the investment. It’s kind of like building the “circle of trust” Robert De Niro’s character Jack Byrnes refers to frequently in the classic comedy “Meet the Parents.” Though future son-in-law Greg, played by Ben Stiller, eventually makes it into Jack’s circle of trust, you will find that, just like Jack, you cannot like and trust everyone. Aligning yourself with individuals that share your values, respect you as a business person, are competent in what they do, and are trustworthy themselves is critical to building a strong circle of trust that will bring you personal happiness as well as success in business.
In a world driven by technology, social media now plays an important role in building human connections. While it can never take the place of face-to-face contact, social media can be critical to maintaining and strengthening the connections you have within your professional and personal networks.
Recently, when I was leading a PR Boot Camp, an ad agency owner questioned whether social media is really worth the time or not. I responded, “How could it not be worthwhile to have an ongoing dialogue with your current and prospective customers?” If people want to read what you post, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or another social network, or to admire the photos you post on Instagram or Pinterest, how could that not be to your advantage?
Also think of it this way: thanks to social media, you can maintain a connection with many more business contacts than you ever could before. I travel a great deal to conferences, workshops, and networking functions throughout the country as part of my position as CEO. I always meet lots of great people with interesting stories to tell and professional experience to share. It’s one of the most gratifying parts of my job. Before social media, I could never make the time to maintain connections with all of those people. The occasional email, phone call, or holiday card was just not enough. With social media tools like Facebook and LinkedIn, I have established a community in which I can communicate with my “tribe” on a near-daily basis. When we do have the good fortune of meeting again in person, we can pick up right where we left off without missing a beat.
The takeaway from this article is that the ability to build relationships and make connections with people is one of the most valuable skills you can possess as a professional. Likewise, a strong circle of trust is the most powerful tool you can have when it comes to growing and sustaining your business. I encourage you to get out from behind that desk and get to know those you do business with on a personal level. Cultivate your network with the help of social media but don’t rely on it to do all the work. If you work at it consistently, your own happy, smiling face will begin opening doors where there were only walls before.
Effective brand building requires creating a network of raving fans who will support you and your organization in good times and bad times. This article by NMC Account Executive Greg Glynn talks about Red Sox Nation, which is a great example of a cult-like following for a brand. The book The Culting of Brands, by Douglas Atkin, analyzes how strong brands are built on the foundation of a strong cult of brand followers.
As a sports fan, I enjoy watching the success of a championship sports team at any level. What the Boston Red Sox accomplished in 2013 was completely different from any other championship sports team in history.
From a marketing perspective, there is a lot we can learn from their season. Based on the Red Sox success, here are 4 lessons related to their season that can help improve your marketing efforts.
1. There is always room for improvement
The Red Sox were the worst team in baseball in 2012 finishing with a record of 69-93. Their team batting average was .260 and their defense allowed more than 800 runs during the season. As a result, attendance plummeted and the team’s consecutive sell-out streak of 820 games came to an end.
In evaluating those numbers and the negative energy that the fans showed toward the team, ownership acknowledged that the current situation wasn’t working—they fired manager Bobby Valentine, cleared out the players and personalities that had high-price contracts and low production (not to mention eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse). In evaluating the statistics and sentiment from fans at the end of the 2012 season, the organization made significant changes and off-season moves to improve the quality of the players on the team, both on the field and in the community.
In marketing, we always need to be constantly evaluating what is working and what isn’t. The use of measurable tools such as Google Analytics, traceable phone numbers and data from Facebook Insights are just some examples of ways marketers can better understand the numbers that are important to us to decide what might need to change.
2. Adversity can be an opportunity
The tragic events that occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April marked a very sad day in Boston, but in typical Boston and New England fashion, the city rallied and the Boston Red Sox helped in the healing process and gave the city strength.
|Photo credit: boston.com|
It was just a few days after the marathon that the Red Sox returned home to Fenway Park from a road trip and superstar slugger David Ortiz addressed the crowd. He said “This is our (expletive) city,” as part of his speech to the fans. It was at that very moment that the team publicly addressed and acknowledged the adversity the city was facing. It was clear from that moment forward the team took on the mission to show the world the strength of the city, the state and all of Red Sox nation. It also led to the slogan “Boston Strong” which turned into the mantra for the team the entire season.
When marketers face adversity, whether it is an underperforming product or negative customer feedback, public relations crisis or sad emotional time for the company, it is important to find your inner strength and find the best way to handle the adversity. While it is never easy, in some cases it might be a defining moment for your business and a chance to demonstrate the passion behind your brand. In other cases, such as a company error or mistake, it means an opportunity to learn from what went wrong and take ownership of correcting it.
Just look at what happened in Boston and how the city rallied. Days after the bombing, The One Fund was created for victims of the Boston Marathon attacks and today more than $71 million has been raised through donations from across the country.
Days after the marathon, the Boston Red Sox organization stepped up and made a $100,000 donation to One Fund Boston and made several more contributions throughout the season through charity events and promotions that raised additional awareness and funds for The One Fund. They didn’t have to raise the money or organize the events they did, but they chose to and that showed their fan base and the world exactly how much the team supports its fans and the city of Boston.
3. Be unique
If you thought playoff beards were only for hockey players, you’re wrong. The 2013 Boston Red Sox proved they could pull off the bearded look and it became a part of their identity all season long. By the unique look, it gave this team an identity that will be remembered forever.
It was originally players Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and Dustin Pedroia that came up with the crazy idea in spring training to grow beards for the entire season. By mid-season, several other players had adopted the Paul Bunyan look and it brought the players fun-loving attitude to the park each night. The players had created a unique sense of chemistry around the beards and the fans of the team adopted it, as well.
The team ownership recognized the marketing opportunity to embrace the look and get fans involved. In fact, on September 18, the Red Sox as an organization hosted “Dollar Beard Night” at Fenway Park and all fans that came to the game with a beard could get a ticket for just $1.
During the World Series, there were even women wearing pink beards, kids wearing colored-on beards and, during the championship parade, even “Wally the Green Monster” was wearing a beard. Needless to say, it caught on with everyone and became a distinctive quality of this team that fans will never forget.
4. Build an emotional attachment to your brand
While this lesson sits at number 4 on the list, it is one of the most important. Branding is a lot about emotion, and the feeling people have about your product and the values of the company.
After the events that took place at the Boston Marathon, the Red Sox players and ownership stepped up and helped the city handle the sadness and adversity by showing their passionate commitment to the community, and in the process, created a strong affinity for their brand because they became immense emotional leaders for the city, region and country. During the course of the year, the team honored several of the unsung heroes, as well as the victims and their families, which showcased the passion of the players and ownership during what was a very, very difficult time.
Visually, the Red Sox brand also became a part of the city’s strength. After the marathon, the team wore patches with the team logo and the word “STRONG” under it the rest of the season. The team put the same logo on the 37-foot-high Green Monster and mowed the logo in the outfield grass for the World Series. All of these were constant visual reminders of what was motivating this team and that this season was bigger than baseball.
|ESPN.go photo. Credit: ESPN|
The emotional climax and perhaps most moving moment that many fans (and non- baseball fans) will remember is when Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes stopped the championship parade in the streets of Boston at the finish line of the Boston Marathon (where the bombing took place just seven months before) and placed a team jersey with the phrase “Boston Strong” and the number 617 (area code in Boston) on it over the World Series trophy as “God Bless America” played over the loud speaker.
This was a powerful moment for the Red Sox brand. At that very moment, it wasn’t what the Red Sox had done on the field that fans were cheering for, they were cheering because of how that moment made them feel.
You might not be able to put a championship ring on your finger like the Red Sox, but you do have the opportunity to find new ways to engage your customers and make them feel a stronger emotional connection to your brand.
I wrote this article for the Central Maine Morning Sentinel’s Business Journal, which came out earlier this week. Jen Libby, our graphic artist, created the infographic to illustrate the five steps.
Many people in business think of social media as a distraction or as something that’s just for kids; others think it is a waste of time. Some even wonder how anyone in business even has time to spend on it. If you are in one of these camps, my question to you is this: how can we, as small business owners, afford not to spend time on strengthening relationships with our current and prospective customers?
Data shows that people who follow brands on social media are likely to buy more products and services more often than those who are not connected. Furthermore, they are more likely to share their enthusiasm about a brand with their own family and friends. That kind of endorsement has the same power as word- of-mouth marketing, which is the most powerful kind of marketing.
Younger people are less likely than ever to believe anything they see, hear or read in advertising, which makes even more of a case for using social media to market your business. Ask a 25 year old if they are more likely to buy a car based on an ad they saw on TV or a recommendation from a friend on Facebook, and guess what the answer will be?
You may not want to spend time on social media, but if you are trying to sustain the growth of your business, you need to find an employee or a professional who will help you engage in this kind of marketing. It’s just a fact of life today: a social media marketing strategy is essential for any business, whether you are selling cars, financial services, farm-fresh vegetables, or fishing equipment.
The dramatic sea change that has occurred in the marketing industry over the past ten years means that we now build brands by engaging people who are interested in having an ongoing relationship with us, as opposed to creating campaigns that promote or sell your business in short campaigns. People don’t want to feel like they are being “sold to” online. You are better served by having a large number of people who are interested in an ongoing dialogue with you than spending a lot of money on an ad campaign that is short-lived.
Furthermore, social media helps your search engine optimization. Google Plus is an often overlooked platform, but it’s worth paying attention to the social media platform created by the number one search engine.
by Paige Calahan, Content Advocate, SocialMonsters
Think fast: Why do most new small businesses fail? According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), the top reasons are lack of capital, poor management of credit and lack of experience. This last point may be the most daunting. After all, how do you get experience other than trying and sometimes, failing? Sure, everyone knows the basics—solidify a business model, order business cards and execute a marketing strategy—but it’s impossible for a novice business owner to know how to fix every problem that arises. If you’re a savvy small business owner who just doesn’t have much experience, learn from the experience of others. Here’s help to secure capital, stay competitive and win customers.
Show Yourself the Money
It’s often challenging for failed business owners to accurately pinpoint where they went wrong—which makes sense, since if they knew what wasn’t working, presumably they’d have fixed it. That said, lack of capital is consistently cited as a problem that can lead to the downfall of even the most hardworking new small business owner.
This is a knot of a problem with a few different threads, but one of the easiest solutions is making sure you have access to the best business credit cards to give yourself cash reserves for long-term funding. When choosing a card, consider the most popular options that business owners prefer, and compare the various benefits offered. Do you plan to travel a lot? Choose a card that maximizes your mileage rewards and gets you free trips, faster. Do you conduct a lot of business lunches? Seek a card that gives you extra bonuses for dining or any other business-related expenses. By staying on top of your credit and choosing the card with perks that best fits your needs, you can access resources while building your business in ways that a simple loan simply can’t provide.
Management is Key
Once you’ve got your assets squared away, you need to appropriately manage the income and expense streams that flow in and out of your business. Use technology such as accounting and time-tracking software and email management tools. Automate most of your financial planning and decision-making to free you up to focus on developing your product and listening closely to your customers about what’s working and what they’d like to see improve.
Your goal here is to stay on top of your expenses without spending too much time wading through spreadsheets. After all, every minute you’re tied up at the desk is a minute your competitor might be out there snagging a customer that could be yours. Invest in systems you trust and credit plans that give you freedom and peace of mind. Then focus on acquiring new customers and meeting their needs with excellent, memorable service.
Stay Focused, Not Fearful
Finally, while it’s good to keep a clear head about what your competition is up to, remember that at the end of the day, your goal is to do right by the people who are handing you their hard-earned cash: your customers. Listen closely to what your customers need—it’s one of the hallmarks of any successful business, no matter the size or the budget.
For years now, I have had a slight (actually, a major) obsession with reading marketing books, and listening to great marketing speakers like Shel Holtz (who inspired me to start this blog in 1999) and Scott Stratten, owner of UnMarketing and hilariously funny keynote speaker.
The UPS man has gotten tired of driving up the dirt road where I live to deliver the packages from Amazon.com, so I’ve taken to ordering books for my Nook or my iPad because then my obsession becomes my own dirty little secret.
Well, my friends, yesterday I had the ultimate honor of speaking with a marketing superstar and NY Times bestselling author, Gary Vaynerchuk. He is the author of “Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion,” which is a book I gave my college-age son Craig so he could imagine a future where he wouldn’t work in a cubicle pushing papers around once he graduates.
Now Gary has a book coming out called “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.” His premise is that all of us marketing people are still using the techniques we learned in 2004, except it’s now 2013. The jab, jab, jab part refers to how we must give, give, and give on the Web, meaning we need to share, share, and share some more, before we make the right hook which is a sales pitch or an offer of some kind. We only make the offer once we have shared and connected with our audience, so they know, like and trust us.
So why was The Maine PR Maven speaking with one of the greatest business book authors of the modern era, you might ask? I have the honor of handling media relations for a conference coming up in January called Predictive ROI Live , hosted by Stephen Woessner at the Ritz Carlton in Orlando from January 28 to February 1. I’ll be working with Gary and the other speakers to help them connect with some national media outlets for interviews prior to the conference.
In January, I am going to be giddy with excitement to meet Gary Vaynerchuk, Don Yaeger, Dr. Flint Mclaughlin, Darren Hardy, Scott McKain and Avinash Kaushik from Google at this prestigious event. You might want to consider joining all of us marketing gurus down there in Sunny Florida. Will I see you there?
Yesterday I received an email announcing that Nancy Marshall Communications had won an award. This is the email I received:
On behalf of the Small Business Institute for Excellence in Commerce, I wanted to let you know that Nancy Marshall Communications has been recognized as a 2013 Maine Excellence Award recipient. Our panel of industry executives and consultants oversees an annual survey commissioned by the SBIEC on various industries and determines which companies meet and exceed the industry benchmarks that have been set forth. Nancy Marshall Communications was one of those selected this year.
Further details on this selection can be viewed on our website including the press release that was produced for this occasion. To review the award and download the accompanying press release please visit www.sbiec.org and enter the Reference # PPFAC7 on the top right corner of the page. Or you could directly go to the page by clicking the link below.
*Our Media Division will be able to assist with any request for edits in the business name and/or industry specification to be reflected on the physical award as well as adding a personalized company description on the press release. They can be reached at email@example.com.
(This is an award-only notification from the SBIEC but If you wish to not receive any further communication from me please reply to this email with the subject REMOVE.)
SBIEC – Annual Survey Team
Now the first hint that this might be fake was that there was no comma after Nancy in “Dear Nancy.” This might seem like a small detail to you, but legitimate award organizations pay attention to the little details.
So I Googled the name of the organization: Small Business Institute for Excellence in Commerce, and came up with a series of posts about the fact that this is an “award for sale.”
I found this post from www.madebymark.com to be the most helpful:
“The truth: the scammers at the Small Business Commerce Association don’t have a clue about who you are. They don’t care what your business has achieved. Why? Because all they really do is buy old mailing lists and fish for suckers.
If you go to their website and enter your award code, you’ll discover what the scam is all about: claiming your award will cost you between $57 and $150 dollars. For that, you’ll get a badge for your website and a cheap plaque to hang on the wall. Got more money to throw away? They’ll produce a video for you, too — for a price, of course.
The award isn’t a badge of honor … it’s a sign of gullibility. Don’t feed their greed by falling for scams like this one.”
So I am happy to announce that Nancy Marshall Communications has won a fake award, and luckily I was able to rely on the ever-helpful world wide web to learn that it was indeed a fake.
Last weekend, my mother’s side of the family got together for a family reunion in North Brookfield, Massachusetts. That’s my mom, Martha Woods Briggs, in the chair in the front. She is 80 years old and in great shape.
The clan that got together are the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of her brother Larry and her sister Phyllis, both who have passed on, unfortunately.
Here’s what I learned about myself at the family reunion:
- I come from a family of highly outspoken and opinionated people.
- All of us are outgoing. I don’t think there’s one shy person in the bunch.
- We are all fun loving people. We love to laugh. We are all highly verbal…sometimes even speaking all at once!
- We have intelligent, accomplished members of our family who are all leading interesting lives.
- One of my cousins, Robert, has become a German citizen, married a German woman named Edina, and has raised three children in Germany. He speaks five languages.
- His sister Phyllis is an actress who appears in movies and TV shows on a regular basis.
- My cousin Tom Woods is a Ph.D. biologist.
- Two of my cousins, Rosie and Phyllis, are grandmothers already, with beautiful grandchildren, even though I can’t imagine being a grandmother myself, because my two boys are a long way from being ready to get married!
The most important thing I learned is that I am proud and happy to have such a big, lively, loving family, and that I have a lot of cousins to love and who love me! I am so glad my mom and I went to the family reunion. I am sorry that my own two brothers, Walter and Donald, were unable to attend, but hopefully the next time they will come and join in the fun.
Recently, I’ve heard many of my women friends talk about how much they’ve enjoyed reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In,” so I decided I better get on the bandwagon and read it, too. The chapter about “Seek and Speak Your Truth” seemed especially worthy of a post here. The reason this quote resonated with me was that I was accused of being too emotional on the job back when I was in my 20’s, and I was told it was a “woman thing.” That hurt me, because I cared so deeply and passionately about doing a great job that I sometimes would get emotional about it, but I don’t think that was a bad thing. Today, as an employer, I will take someone who is emotional but passionately committed to their career over someone who is unemotional and uncommitted.
This is how Sheryl Sandberg explains it in the book:
“Sharing emotions builds deeper relationships. Motivation comes from working on things we care about. It also comes from working with people we care about. To really care about others, we have to understand them — what they like and dislike, what they feel as well as think. Emotion drives both me and women and influences every decision we make. Recognizing the role emotions play and being wiling to discuss them makes us better managers, partners, and peers.” (Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, Knopf, 2013, page 88)
Working with others is difficult at times. There are highs and lows of working with a team but knowing how to motivate and lead others is a key to success. Sometimes we joke and say our jobs would be easy if it weren’t for the people, but of course we all know that you need people working as a team to achieve success at work. This book is a great read because it encourages women to ‘go for it’ both professionally and personally, as I feel I have throughout my career in PR. It takes the perspective that we no longer have separate personal lives and professional lives, but that we really have one life that includes work, family and friends. We’ve got to constantly make choices that are right for us. Sometimes we make mistakes but as long as we learn from them, then we’re better off the next time we are confronted with a difficult choice. It’s not easy, and nobody else can make the choices for us.
I highly recommend this book. Let me know what you think about it.
I saw this blog post about personal branding and asked the RiseSmart people if I could share it with you here.
Original post published by Dan Davenport – Aug 13, 2013
Effective career management involves managing a brand, and that brand is you and your workplace accomplishments. If it helps, think of your career as one long brand campaign that will evolve over time but always has the consistent goal of presenting you in the best possible light.
A brand in essence is a promise of a certain level of performance. Great brands have high expectations attached to them, and everything associated with a great brand reflects those expectations.
What do the things associated with you say about your personal brand? Seemingly small details add up to a big overall impression. Here are 10 ways to improve your personal brand.
1. Your written professional bio
Less formal than a resume, this document describes your professional value proposition (PVP). It tells readers what’s in it for them by letting them know how you benefit them. When they read the PVP, they know why they want to hire you because they know how you will be an asset.
2. Your elevator speech
This is the spoken version of your bio. Can you sum up and explain your PVP in 30 seconds or less? If not, practice, practice, practice until you can. Give this real thought, because often it is the first impression you make on potential employers.
3. Your self-description
Can you sum up your PVP in just two to four words? Great brands can, and you should be able to do so, too. Aim to intrigue listeners enough to want to know more about you. Saying “I’m a forensic accountant” is boring. Saying “I’m a numbers detective” is much better.
4. Your business card
Even if you are not employed and are in the middle of a career transition, you need a business card. You can get 500 cards online for little to no cost. Make sure your contact info is on the card and on the back, your brief self-description.
5. Your appearance
Do you look professional during job interviews? Are you well groomed and dressed appropriately for the organization? It’s amazing how many job candidates sabotage themselves by ignoring these basics.
6. Your behavior
Do you act professional during job interviews? Do you avoid chewing gum or interrupting the person speaking to you? Take a good look at how you behave. Your actions should always reinforce your PVP, not take away from it.
7. Your own domain name
Find out whether your first name, middle initial, and last name can be strung together as the address for a website. Use a domain registrar like GoDaddy or Active-Domain to find out if it’s available. If yes, register it, or some variation of it. Free or low-cost services like Weebly and many others can help you build a professional looking website and host it. Make sure that website address is also on your business card.
8. Your social media profiles
You want a business profile on LinkedIn. Then you want to assess your non-business oriented profiles on other sites. If there is anything that might embarrass you if a current or potential employer finds it, do your best to clean it up. On Facebook, for example, you may want to unfriend connections that have posted dubious comments or other material. Who are you following on Twitter? That says more about you than you may realize.
9. Your photo
Make your headshot photo consistent across the Internet, including your personal website and your social media profiles. This photo is a professionally taken headshot of you alone, dressed in business attire and smiling.
10. Your voice
Consider starting a blog. You can make it part of your personal website. Commit to posting at least once a week and choose intelligent observations or articles as the basis for your discussion. The point is to establish you as a voice on the web that people in your industry or field find interesting enough to read regularly.
With regular attention and persistence, your personal brand will become known for quality and even innovation, making you a desirable job candidate or valued employee.