DIGITAL INTEGRATION: LOOKING AT ALL YOUR MARKETING OPTIONS

binary-system-1543168__340Often people come to me asking for a website, or to have me talk with their team about social media best practices, or ask my advice about what their LinkedIn profile should say. While I am happy to help with all these various digital activities, I always encourage someone to look at the larger overall digital marketing plan. In fact, marketing integration is much more important than in “traditional” marketing because each element builds upon (and depends on) each of the other elements.

Is yours complete?

If you pour your heart into making a great website, but it gets no traffic, your efforts will have been in vain. If you’ve labored over just the right keywords, but you have no way to talk to your prospects once you’ve brought them to your site, you will lose a LOT of traffic.

Digital branding requires that you look at all the different possibilities and, based on your strengths, capabilities and assets (coupled with a solid understanding of your consumer), design a digital marketing plan just for your needs. Ideally, you’ll want to use many of the following elements in your plan:

  • A strong website: There must be a “home base,” someplace for consumers to come to be informed, to get involved, to be a part of your community.
  • SEO: This gets people to come to that magnificent website that you just spent thousands of dollars on
  • Social Media: How will you engage with your target audience? Go “hang out” with them (virtually speaking) and join the conversations that are inevitably happening about your industry, product or segment.
  • E-newsletters/other e-mail marketing: Offer content and continue to have an on-going dialogue with your current (and future) clients.
  • Blog: This allows for an in-depth conversation about topics of interest both to you and your target audience.
  • Mobile: Everybody’s on the move. If there is a way to stay engaged with your audience on that most treasured of all tools (their phone), everyone will benefit!

The good news is that integrating these is not difficult, but it does require some strategic planning on your part. If you’d like help with that, give us a call. We’d love to help.

BEACON BRANDING IN THE MIDDLE EAST

globe-1029209__340Earlier this week, a good friend of mine and I were asked to propose a methodology for a branding workshop to be conducted in Saudi Arabia. (Sidebar: In an email to me, my colleague quipped, “How far do you have to go to get work, right?” Too funny.)

Anyway, as we put together the proposal, it made me think that others might want to know what goes into a branding exercise, so I thought I would share some ideas with you. The following are some general tactics as to how I might approach a naming project. Of course, we would customize the process to a particular client for their particular needs, but there is always a general structure to follow when developing brand names.

Note: Any initiative important enough to warrant branding should not be approached with a “one-size-fits-all” mentality. It’s important to understand the resources you already have and what resources need to be pulled in for each individual endeavor. In addition, I always customize the approach based on the dynamics of the group and the elements that need to be generated.

In general, here are the areas that require exploration and evaluation (some before, some during and some after the workshop happens). I have implemented this process with other projects in a matter of two days, two months, or two years, depending on the complexity of the brand challenge and the client resources available to make the best decisions possible.

  • Review of Background Information
    o Review of brand/product
    o Develop/Understand Optimal Brand Architecture
  • Outline Workshop Objectives
  • Characterize & Prioritize Target Audiences
    o Demographics
    o Psychographics
    o Motivators
    o Rational & Emotional Needs
    o Current & Future Beliefs
  • Define Competitive Set
  • Prioritize Key Benefits & Unique Value
  • Identify Reasons to Believe
  • Clarify Brand Identity
    o Brand Heritage
    o Key themes/messages
    o Brand Values
    o Brand Personality
  • Solidify a Clear Brand Positioning Statement
  • Conduct SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
  • Brainstorm Viable Options (this would be a long list of names that telegraph the brand promise in a word, a few words, or an acronym)
  • Prioritize Optimal Brand Names with which to move forward
  • Ideate around possible taglines to best communicate the brand promise
  • Identify Executional Options and Appropriate Next Steps
    o Graphic Exploratories
    o Qualitative Research
    o Quantitative Research
  • Recommend the list of final strong contenders for a name which is then sent through appropriate channels for legal clearance
  • Finalize the optimal brand name/names

Hopefully, this can give you some inspiration for any branding endeavor you may be undertaking and, of course, if you’d like help with that, give us a call! Happy Branding!

HOW YOUR PERSONAL BRAND CAN HELP TO INCREASE YOUR BUSINESS NETWORKING SUCCESS

51TT2-2JGkL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_What’s the link between business networking and personal branding? More importantly how can a strong personal brand help you be more successful when you network with others? To answer these questions, get your hands on the new book out by networking expert Kathy McAfee (aka America’s Marketing Motivator) about networking that should be on every successful businessperson’s reading list. The book is titled Networking Ahead for Business: The Best Vehicle to Get More Customers, Make More Friends, and Create More Opportunities for Yourself and Others(Kiwi Publishing, 2010) I highly recommend it; everyone needs to read if they really want to turbo-charge their relationships!

Kathy and I have known each other for several years and have collaborated on many projects. Besides being a very savvy businesswoman, her expertise (networking) and my area of focus (personal branding) go hand in hand which makes collaborating with her a win-win for many of our joint clients. In the book, I am quoted in the personal branding chapter! If you’ve been following me for a while or have been to any of my programs, some of these concepts will be familiar to you. However, Kathy addresses the topic from the standpoint of how personal branding impacts your networking efforts. Here are some of the questions covered:

What is networking and why is it important? 

“Networking is fundamentally about building and maintaining mutually-beneficial relationships before you need them.” says Kathy “A strong personal brand will help you to attract more meaningful connections more quickly. A well-defined personal brand will allow other people to refer you, position you, and connect you to other people in their network. This is how new opportunities are created for you and others in networking.”

How can I express my personal brand when networking?

In order to showcase your personal brand and present the best possible you when you network with people, you’ll want to be mindful of a few “rules of the road.” Kathy defines these in her book as the”Spirit of Networking” which is helping others and learning how to ask for help. To be successful in networking, you must be willing and able to give back, pay it forward and help others be successful, not just yourself. (Note: these are wonderful qualities to enhance your personal brand.)

How do I get started?

Meeting new people for informal or formal networking is a terrific way to help you get more comfortable and confident in expressing your personal brand. Kathy encourages you to “be yourself” and to share different parts of your life, including your work, family, interests, hobbies, passions. These are all aspects of your personal brand and when shared will naturally draw more of the right people to you.

Buy the book!

Kathy-McAfee-jean-jacket-orange-scarfNetworking Ahead for Business by Kathy McAfee is available for purchase on-line through Amazon.com or directly from the publisher, Kiwi Publisher here:

You can also sign up to receive Kathy’s weekly Networking How-To tips by:

1) Becoming a Networking Ahead for Business Fan on Facebook

2) Signing up for her free e-newsletter at her website

You can learn more about the author and about networking at www.NetworkingAhead.com.

PERSONAL BRANDING AND THE BALLET

ballet-437990__340I have often said that when you are looking for clues to your true personal brand, you should look at those activities and qualities that you express naturally. Expressing your true personal brand should be as easy as breathing. When a company is looking to discover what is core to its brand, it looks for universal descriptions that everyone agrees on. Those are the underpinnings of a brand, and a good brand manager will build and evolve his/her brand on those foundations when expanding the brand. When you just do something and don’t even think about how or why you do it, you are expressing your core brand, and you will find that, throughout your life, you will find new ways to express that which is at the heart of your brand as well.

Dance is core to Ruth Vesenka Lewis’ personal brand, but her expression of dance is ever-evolving. A life-long dancer, Ruth performed as a professional ballet dancer in the Hartford Ballet, Berkshire Ballet and American Repertory Ballet Company for a career spanning more than 14 years. Currently, she is a choreographer for CONNetic Dance, a professional contemporary dance company, and Ballet Theatre Company. And she is a teacher at Hartford’s Ballet Theatre Academy, Ballet Theatre Company’s school. In recent years, she has choreographed Christina’s World, 1B, Under Blue Cover, Used To Be, and Sisters , and she assists with choreography of the Ballet Theatre Company’s spring production as ballet master.

On November 11th, there will be a showing of a dance Ruth has choreographed, an event that is the direct outcome of Ruth “breathing” (or expressing her core personal brand). I recently had a chance to talk with Ruth about the expression and evolution of her personal brand. I asked her how she expressed herself and how she is actively managing her personal brand in order to turbo-charge her career.

For Ruth, dance is simply a part of her life; she thinks in dance. She is currently working on choreography for a dance called M Theory. It is based on the scientific “string theory,” which seeks to unite quantum mechanics with general relativity. One particular aspect of the string theory is called “M Theory,” which links many seemingly disparate theories into one. M Theory (the dance) joins different styles of dance (specifically ballet, jazz and modern dance) together into one.

Ruth strives in this dance event to show the highest-quality creative expression with dancers who are capable of working in all three dance disciplines. One of her goals with this piece is to prove to the Connecticut dance community that there is amazing talent locally—not just in New York City. That’s why she is pushing herself with challenging choreography and coaxing excellence from the professional dancers in the performance.

Some corporate skeptics might say, “So, how does this turbo-charge her career?” Those who ask this question are not seeing the bigger picture. By driving this creative project, she strengthens her personal brand, which can have tangible benefits down the road. Among others, some of the tangibles she can immediately see would be:

  • More experience in choreography
  • Growth from the creative challenge
  • Increased skill in working with top talent
  • Highest-level exposure within the professional dance community

In addition, she will be able to use the video that is taken November 11th to the dance nationwide to other companies to perform. “I know this is great. I know others will want this.” She has the confidence to move forward with this project and trust that it will yield tangible benefits to her career down the road.

Question: How are you breathing? Do you have the confidence to express your personal brand in your own unique way? You should! How are you just naturally expressing your personal brand, and how can you actively manage your personal brand more clearly, more brightly, more authentically?

By the way: if you’d like to attend the free showing of M Theory ballet performance on November 11 from 12:30-1 pm, the performace is being held at the Ballet Theatre Studios located at 20 Jefferson Avenue in West Hartford.

6-WEEK TELE-SEMINAR SERIES ON PERSONAL BRANDING

Want to turbo-charge your career before the holidays?
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Are you actively managing your personal brand? Personal branding is such a critical topic—especially during these economic times! Are you worried about losing your job? Are you wondering how you can really make a difference in your office? Are you wishing you could be a leading change agent in your industry, someone everyone is talking about, someone really making breakthroughs in your field? Are you wondering how to make yourself stand out from the competition to your clients? Are you in the process of re-inventing yourself?

Then you need to be strengthening, CLARIFYING your personal brand!

This personal branding program has been designed to take someone systematically through a process for identifying and planning an individual’s personal brand. Anyone can do it, because all the steps have been broken down into manageable discovery modules. It is meant to help you discover your personal brand and map a clear path to evolve your brand to realize your full potential in any economic environment. No matter whether you work as a solo-preneur or in a big corporate environment, strong personal branding can make a huge difference in your career!

This deeply thought-provoking, business-oriented program has been designed to inspire greater personal performance, expand your unique value in the workplace and jumpstart your promotability within any organization.

Over the course of the six week program, you will learn:

  • What a Personal Brand is & how it can transform your career
  • How to discover your unique Personal Brand
  • How to develop an action plan to clarify your Personal Brand to others (Including tips for using tools like Facebook or LinkedIn to enhance your personal brand!)

Is this program right for you?

This program is intended for business professionals who want to supercharge their careers, whether as single business practitioners and service firm professionals, such as consultants, attorneys, and financial advisors, or corporate managers looking to solidify their positions and have a greater impact on their companies and their industries.

If you’ve heard me talk about personal branding and wished that you could dig deeper into the topic and get personal coaching for the development and expression of your personal brand, then this is the course for you!

What the program entails

This six-week tele-seminar series helps you identify and clarify your personal brand through a five-step process:

  1. Explore: In Week One, we make sure that everyone is clear on what we mean by personal branding and why it is important
  2. Discover: Week Two focuses on a process of discovery where we learn about who you are right now
  3. Clarify: By Week Three, you will be eager to define who you want to be, building upon the foundation outlined in the Discovery Phase
  4. Create: In Weeks Four and Five, we use the goals you outlined in the Clarification Stage to create a plan to communicate your personal brand boldly and effectively
  5. Evolve: Week Six brings finalization to an action plan for expressing your personal brand now. However, this program also recognizes that no one remains the same. By planning the areas in which you want to grow, you will evolve purposefully, expanding in the ways that you want to grow.

I’m so excited to bring you this course, because I believe that it is critical at this time to help people clarify their brands in order to do the most meaningful work possible and actually thrive in this economy!

Sign up now! The next tele-seminar series starts in the first week of November, so click here to register. We can’t wait to help you!

BRANDING STRATEGIES IN ACTION

4259d2cb7121d97d6695096e4849cec2Most entrepreneurs really need to focus on personal branding, as oftentimes, they are their business. I’d like to introduce to you Christine Kalafus, the principal designer and owner of Stitch Design Studio who has learned about branding her business and herself from me (in person and through my newsletters & blogs). I recently asked her about what she had learned and how that knowledge contributed to the success of her business (growing from a home-based business to a commercial location). It is an excellent example of how executing the strategies discussed here can be put into action.

Read this story and you will find that Christine embodies these concepts:

  • Be clear about who you are, what you have to offer, and who your target audience is
  • Be confident that you have something amazing to contribute
  • Be connected to key influencers who can help you and whom you can help
  • Be dynamic in ever adding to your brand

Christine paid her way through college as a licensed insurance agent and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design from the University of New Haven. She was successful in the insurance industry, which made it hard to quit. Sometimes, excellent pay and benefits can cause inertia that can keep us from fully expressing our personal brand. Nine years after college, by then married and the mother of 3, she made the leap to pursue her passion. For three years, she apprenticed and worked for an in-demand seamstress who had agreed to train her.

But she still felt that she had more to offer, so she signed up for a class at the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center. (That’s where she met me; I have been teaching as adjunct professor for branding and marketing there for several years). “That’s where I learned about focusing on one thing; you can’t be diverse. You have to understand what your specialty is because that is what is going to carry you.”

She started working out of her house, networking with others and doing great work. She was in a new town but word quickly began to spread about her upscale designs and accessible nature. “I remembered our conversations about networking, partnering with people and the importance of prominent placement, and that definitely helped me build my brand. Through my networking efforts, I had the opportunity to design a window treatment for a set of balcony doors in a new space in an upscale, New York-style hair salon that catered to the same type of high-end clientele that I was trying to attract. As an immediate result of that work, I got five new clients who also referred me to others as well. Aligning with the owner of the hair salon was really a big break for me. She turned out to be a key influencer, as hairdressers are like bartenders—they know everyone in town! This woman is a successful business woman who is very well-respected in the community. That really launched me as a newcomer in town.”

When an opportunity came along for a fabulously inexpensive retail space, she had to overcome fears about taking her business to that next level. But she made the space her own, immediately putting fresh flowers out front and making sure her sign was just the way she wanted it to be (being authentic and expressing her brand naturally!). The adjacent storefronts had been vacant, but the power of her brand attracted other businesses to soon fill those spaces as well.

Christine is continually looking for ways to expand her brand and find more ways for people to engage with her. She has recently added event marketing to her brand-building activities. She now offers one-and-a-half hour sewing classes to teach girls the proper techniques for how to sew. She is branching out and trying new ways to build her brand by getting the moms in the door. Christine admitted, “When I first decided to have the classes, I wasn’t sure if it would do anything for my business, but I thought, if I don’t try, I’ll never know.” As it turned out, the mom of one of her first students had just moved to the area and needed her entire house to be redone.

Whether you are in a corporate situation or an entrepreneurial venture, you can leverage the same branding principles Christine exemplifies. Ask yourself, “How can I put these concepts into action in my own business life?” If you’d like, we’d be happy to help you answer that question. If you would like to find out more about Christine Kalafus and her luxurious soft furnishing creations, visit www.StitchDrapery.com or her blog at http://homecouture.wordpress.com

HOW ARE YOU CREATING BRAND RELEVANCE?

Sun-Life-FinancialSun Life Financial is a fairly unknown insurance company that has been around for 144 years. They have recently launched a campaign to expand their exposure, using humor to try to build relevancy with consumers. There are some very funny ads about “the Sun Life guys,” two company advocates who are traveling the country to try to convince various people to change their names to somehow include “Sun Life.” It’s a really fun campaign that executes on some very strong branding principles: You can check out their ads here.

The campaign is creating relevancy where none existed before. Among other things, the two guys try to convince the Florida tourism board to change its name from the “Sunshine State” to the “Sun Life State” and to convince KC and the Sunshine Band to “KC and the Sun Life Band.”

Humor works well here, because insurance is boring and an unbelievably low-interest category. By aligning themselves with something totally random they are building relevancy with their audience. It doesn’t matter that they are not talking about how stable the company is or how secure their holdings are (although they do manage to weave those solid points in to the commercials in the end). Their strategy is to build awareness, and that’s what this campaign does.

There is also a social media campaign that is closely tied to the commercials which shows more places where the they have tried to convince others to alter their names. They are very consistent in the execution of this campaign, which has video, digital and print that is all reinforcing their primary strategic messages. You can check out the campaign particulars at the Get To Know Sun Life website.

Last week, I conducted a training session for their employees to inspire them to think differently about their personal brands. This is a company that is in the process of strengthening its corporate brand and felt that it is important invest in its people, to help them strengthen their personal brands. There was a wide range of titles, responsibilities and experience levels in the room, but everyone walked away thinking more clearly about how they can express their brands more fully in their jobs.

So in looking at your personal brand, how are you creating brand relevance with your desired audience? Look for ways that may, at face value, be totally random and impossible, but may in fact make strong strategic sense. Build rapport and commonalities to help further a desired relationship with a desired client.

And don’t think for a moment that if you are in a corporate staff position that you do not need to think about this! We all have clients. They may be internal clients, a boss or another department that we serve. Look to build relevancy and points of commonality in order to strethen your brand!

CREATIVITY AND BRAND COURAGE

Do you have the guts to build your brand?

Branding takes courage, because it requires that you make some hard decisions about what you are…and what you are not. The decisions about what you are not are the hardest to make. You have to be willing to wrench away what is not serving you in the long-term development of your brand and sometimes, that can feel like you are cutting off your arm.

But take heart. You can find the courage to build your brand magnificently, by looking at examples from other areas of life.

Architecture. Editing. Gardening. Sculpture. Music.

What do these creative endeavors all have in common? Minimalistic courage. The courage to declare what they are not.

Less is more: My husband is an architect and a big proponent of the “less is more” concept made famous by Mies van der Rohe. You need to use this concept in building your brand. Your brand doesn’t need to be all things to all people. As a matter of fact, the more your brand tries to be all things to all people, the more you will water down your brand message. Be single-minded in your focus, and that will clarify your brand.

Use The Red Pen: Haven’t you ever struggled with an email communication and finally found that deleting one extraneous sentence made all the difference in the world? The resulting missive was crystal-clear in its communication and just exactly what you wanted to say? The same applies to your brand. Be crystal-clear in communicating your brand to your target audience by editing out what doesn’t need to be said.

Focus Your Energies: In gardening, you “dead-head” spent blooms and prune your flowers of the smaller, less significant buds in order to direct all the energy of a plant to creating fewer larger (more stunning) blooms. Do the same in your own business or your own brand. If you are a corporate brand manager, ask yourself, “What product groups are really not conveying our core brand message? What lines are draining our resources, taking away from our energies for where we want to go, not where we have been?” If you are an individual, take stock of your daily activities and ask yourself, “What am I doing that is draining my energy and distracting me from where I want to go and who I want to become?”

See Your Brand Vision: Have the courage to hack away that which is not serving you or your brand. When Michelangelo looked at a block of marble, he “saw” the form inside, waiting to be released. His job as the sculptor was to hack away, peeling back the marble that was not part of the form. Because he had a very clear vision of what the form was, it was easy for him to eliminate all “unnecessary “ parts of the marble. Have the courage of Michelangelo and chip away at anything that is not serving by developing a very clear image of your brand future. Anything that isn’t contributing to that future needs to be eliminated.

Harmonize: There is a fine line between streamlining and becoming a “one-trick” pony. Really take the time to identify what is the noise and what is the music of your life. When a two year old bangs on a piano, it is a noisy (although perhaps energetic) affair. A musician wants to create melodies and harmonies, not noise and dissonance. So s/he will start with a main idea (the melody) and add other notes to support and enhance the song (the harmonies). There are lots of notes, but the composer is still discerning in his/her choices. Not all notes are there. Choose the right notes for your brand. What will harmonize with your brand most effectively?

Branding is a creative effort and requires you to express both courage and creativity. Anyone who has heard me talk knows that I am an advocate for being bold in your branding efforts. You cannot take a “halting and half-way” position in building your brand. Be bold. Be brutal. Be creative. Be courageous.

Brand yourself, your company, your products courageously.

“BE YOUR BEST”

bonfire-1867275__340Summer camp rocks.

You spend all day doing every fun activity you can possibly think of wanting to do—rock climbing, canoeing, hiking, waterskiing, soccer, tennis, sailing, “rocks & ropes,” lacrosse, basketball, kayaking, 24-hour games of “capture the flag,” woodsman adventures, roasting marshmallows for S’mores, arts ‘n crafts, and archery. What more could you want out of life?

Those activities also teach important life skills along the way, skills like teamwork, trying new things, facing challenges, camaraderie, overcoming fears, building friendships and physical mastery of various sports.

My son goes to a camp in Maine that structures its activities and programs around four pillars, one of which is the concept of “Be Your Best.” On Friday nights around the weekly “Council Fire,” the counselors impart wisdom by discussing this principal within the context of the daily fun they are having.

But this principle also applies to your branding efforts. “Be Your Best” is about trying your hardest, doing your best in everything that you do. At camp, this translates into orderly cabins ready for daily inspection and striving for excellence in all activities. For your brand, it means putting your best foot forward constantly improving what you bring to your marketplace.

At camp, counselors are careful to encourage a spirit of friendly competition, one that builds campers up without denigrating the others. In corporate programs that I give, I talk about being professional as a key ingredient to developing a strong personal brand that furthers your business success. You can work to “Be Your Best” in your client dealings, in your presentations and your management of your teams, all the while still honoring the others on your team. Respect your talents (as well as others) and honor the fact that you do things in a unique and wonderful way.

So if you ever went to camp, think back to the days around the Council Fire as you are thinking about building and delivering your brand….and if you never went to camp, just pull your laptop up to a fireside and read this blog post to get the same feel!

CORPORATE REBRANDING AND YOUR EMPLOYEES

tie-690084__340It seems a lot of companies that I talk with are undergoing a rebranding process. This can happen for many reasons, such as:

  • Acquisitions of or mergers with other companies requires a “folding-in” process of many products, services and brands under one umbrella
  • A company entering new markets
  • New product/service introductions
  • New management
  • The strategic plan calls for an investment in branding

When this happens, a company needs to invest not only in external efforts to establish the new brand in the hearts and minds of its customers, consumers, investors, suppliers and other members of the external community, but also with its most valuable internal base, its employees. These are the people who will have to embody the brand day in and day out, so wouldn’t it make sense to ensure that they have a strong understanding of that branding strategy and how their individual efforts contribute to that?

In fact, this is an excellent time to consider an exploratory of this interplay between company and personal brand.