Pinterest Boards to Boost Your Brand

    Pinterest Boards to Boost Your Brand

    As a growing number of consumers jump on the Pinterest bandwagon, the opportunities to use the social-media site for business have grown exponentially.  What is Pinterest? The bulletin-board-style social image sharing website is a relatively new social-media phenomenon, created just two years ago and rapidly became one of the largest online social networks.

    This is a short excerpt from a blog post written for Entrepreneur.com. Read the rest of the article here.

    Inspiration Breathes Life Into Branding

    Inspiration Breathes Life Into Branding

    One of the first things I do when I start working with new clients on their personal or business brand is to ask them to consider what mood or energy they consciously strive to bring to anything they do.  In other words:

    What is it that you can be counted on for in terms of your presence? Not what do you do (the description) or even the how (the mechanics) of what you do, but the way you do it.

    You can think of this as the style, the energy, the mood you bring to any situation you are a part of.  Clearly identifying and consciously practicing the inspirational aspect of your brand is key.

    For example, one of my highest goals is to always bring creative inspiration to my clients. No matter what I’m doing — be it a speech, a writing assignment, a consulting session or a strategic off-site — I aim to leave my clients with creative inspiration about who they are and what they do. 

    A good deal of the marketing and branding I see out there today is sorely lacking in inspiration. The marketing spin may be an accurate description of the service or product being offered, but it misses the boat in terms of the essence of the brand. 

    So how do you breathe inspiration into your personal or business brand and marketing? To begin, let’s look at a few meanings of the word and how your business might bring this into the way you express your brand in the world.

    To affect, guide or arouse by divine influence. When you think back on what your past and current clients say about you, what is their experience of how you have guided, influenced or affected them? What words and phrases have they used?  Consider integrating these into your marketing message.

    To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion. While this may seem like a high bar to reach, in what ways are you going beyond simply providing a service or product to enliven your clients? Learn how to talk about this when you present what you do.  Speaking to the higher ideals of your client (keep in mind Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) helps to connect them to the bigger purpose of why they do what they do.

    To stimulate to action; motivate. In what ways does your business get others into action? A big part of my brand is that I help entrepreneurs and executives overcome inertia and make their personal brand, goals and objectives manifest in the world.  How do you inspire others to go from talking, thinking and hoping to making something happen?

    To affect or touch.  Are your clients and customers ever deeply touched by what you do? If so, how? What is the difference that you make personally in the lives of your clients? Think about what you generate emotionally with your products or services. Is it peace of mind, confidence, certainty, love, creativity?  

    To stimulate energies or ideals. How do your clients or customers expand their thinking by working with you? The more you can articulate the specific ways in which you enhance and expand your customers’ world by what you do, the bigger an impact your brand has. 

    Remember, in the end, people do business with people they like and trust. By breathing inspiration into what you bring to your clients, you elevate your brand from business as usual to a higher plane of purpose — and that’s a marketing message you can take to the bank.

    The Challenge of Hiring Linksters

    The Challenge of Hiring Linksters

    Picture this: An 85-year-old company founder startled by the scantily clad intern sitting on his desk texting her mom or an angry parent calling to ask why her son’s schedule was changed, impacting the family’s summer vacation.

    Born after 1995 (age 17 and younger), Linksters, also known as “The Facebook Generation,” comprise 18 percent of the world’s population. Millions of Linksters and those on the cusp (ages 18-19) will be working in small businesses as office assistants, interns, busboys, lifeguards and camp counselors — and they are wildly different from the 20-something Generation Y employees who preceded them.

    “This group is characterized by the fact that they are still living at home, and, unlike previous generations, they are typically best friends with their parents,” say multigenerational workplace experts Larry and Meagan Johnson. “They live and breathe technology, are more tolerant of alternative lifestyles than their predecessors and are very much involved in green causes and social activism. Bottom line, though, is that they are still very young and inexperienced.”

    Larry and Meagan Johnson are a father-daughter team and authors of the new book “Generations, Inc.: From Boomers to Linksters — Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work” (AMACOM, 2010). They say smart small business owners need to learn about Linksters’ unique generational traits and how to keep these young employees engaged, happy and productive. Along these same lines, recent research from Robert Half International shows that nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of hiring managers polled said managing multigenerational work teams poses a challenge.

    Here are 10 ways to get the most out of your Linkster employees:

    1. Ride herd on them. They have short attention spans and lose interest if the work is boring. If there’s a way to incentivize task accomplishment, do it.

    2. Provide them with job descriptions. Linksters need clear direction about what you expect. This includes basics, such as when you expect them to arrive, number of hours they are to work and duties of the job. They are used to being told what to do, in detail and explicitly.

    3. Treat them like valued coworkers. Linksters are used to a steady diet of connection and communication from family and friends. If you have a company party, be sure to invite them. Same with meetings, where appropriate.

    4. Lead by example. Linksters are still trying to figure out how to act and behave. They will look to older co-workers and managers to shape their workplace identity and demeanor.

    5. Orient them to the obvious. Be specific about expectations that may seem apparent. For example, teenagers are used to having their parents cover for them. Make sure they know the consequences of showing up late, taking lunch breaks that are too long or texting on the job.

    6. Welcome them with open arms. Let your people know the Linksters are joining your team, and ask everyone to welcome them. Pair Linksters with buddies — good role models with good work ethics. Call Linksters the night before their first day. Remind them of dress code, arrival time, items to bring, traffic, snacks and water, where to park, whom to contact once they arrive and quitting time.

    7. Know what songs are on their iPods. Young people have a language that’s distinctly their own. Make an effort to get to know their culture.

    8. Create micro-career paths. If you have a young person manning the cash register, give her other tasks that help her understand different aspects of the business from time to time. This keeps her challenged, engaged and feeling valued — and sets her up for more responsibility.

    9. Re-examine your uniform policy. Part of being young is having a heightened interest in how you look. Are you asking your Linksters to wear embarrassing uniforms? Are they comfortable? Are they outdated? Try to remember what being a teen felt like.

    10. Thank their parents. Linksters are young and may still live at home with parents. Invite their parents for a visit, call, express appreciation for raising a great kid and thank them for helping to get your young employee to work on time, well rested and prepared.

    Have you hired any Linksters? How has that worked out? We would love to hear your comments.

    Why Your Personal Brand Wants You to Take Time Off

    Why Your Personal Brand Wants You to Take Time Off

    I recently returned from a conference that was wall to wall with smart, successful, type A movers and shakers from the worlds of government, academia, business, entertainment, the arts, sciences, publishing and social profit.

    Being around all those high-powered brains made me mindful about how our personal brands — be we small business owners or award-winning academics — can benefit from vacations and time away to rest and renew, regroup and redefine who we are today.

    These folks — as busy and in demand as they are — were for the most part not checking their iPhones under the table every 10 seconds during a speaker’s talk, and many were essentially off the technology grid for a few days. In short, they gave themselves the luxury to step back and think about the way they and others walk through the world, personal brand and all. In contrast, consider two studies out this June. The first from Career Builder.com determined that:

    • Three in ten workers contact work during their vacations.
    • Twenty-three percent of workers reported at least once having to skip the family vacation to work, while their family went without them.
    • Thirty-seven percent of employers say they expect their employees to check with work while on vacation.

    And even for those who manage to wrangle some time away, how they spend it can have an impact on the degree to which they refresh.

    Another survey by Cambria Suites reported that of all the respondents who have ever taken a family summer vacation, 65 percent of Americans say there is “nothing better.” However, 24 percent say they usually need a vacation upon returning from the group getaway.

    This may be in part because that same research showed that kids ask their parents “Are we there yet?” an average of nine to 13 times during a seven-day trip, depending on the ages of the kids involved. As enriching as these family trips are, they can sometimes occupy our brains in ways that may not fully allow us to contemplate the bigger pictures of our lives.

    Here are a few good reasons why taking the right type of time away might just be the best thing that ever happened to your personal brand.

    Keep your personal brand fresh. Exposure to ideas, activities and other people outside your usual circle can stimulate your brain, give you perspective and provide you with an opportunity to learn and grow. Even activities that may seem irrelevant to your personal brand have the potential to grow it by broadening your horizons. In addition to being content worthy of tweets, blogs and other social media, those stretches make great small-talk starters, jumping-off points for deeper conversations, and fodder for presenting new ideas. Some ways to start the conversation include:

    • I learned something interesting about myself this past week.
    • I want to tell you about a new experience I recently had.
    • I met a really fascinating person recently, and they taught me…
    • I had an idea while away that I wanted to share with you.

    For example: Last December, my husband and I tried out snuba diving on the island of Lanai in Hawaii. I’ve never been able to scuba dive since my claustrophobia has always gotten the better of me. But snuba diving involves shallower dives using all the usual equipment required for breathing under water, but places the air tank, connected via a long tube, on a float on the water above. The whole experience left me exhilarated, empowered and with a great metaphor to use with my marketing and branding clients about the power of finding options that utilize the best of both worlds.

    Play with your personal brand. Time away, whether it’s for a conference or a cruise, invariably brings us face-to-face with new people who will predictably ask us, “What do you do?” Since we presumably never have to see these people again, it’s the perfect opportunity to try out a new way of talking about or expressing our personal brand. The ability to experiment with new ways of being — with very little at stake — can get us out of the rut of who we think we are and allow us the freedom to explore another side to our personal brands.

    Learn from how others present their personal brand. In the same way that relative strangers can provide you with a place to try out your personal brand, being around others lets you learn from how they present themselves. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, so listen for how others share their ideas, present their accomplishments, or describe their passions. If you see something that inspires you and feels authentic, incorporate it at will.

    One of my recent lessons in this area came from listening to the humble way a much-lauded and awarded particle physics scientist spoke about the power of teams — not individuals — to create breakthrough results.

    So the next time you sit down to plan a weekend away or a summer vacation, remember: it’s not just your body and brain you’re rejuvenating but also your personal brand — it deserves a holiday too.

    Karen Leland is a best-selling author, marketing and branding consultant and president of Sterling Marketing Group where she helps businesses implement modern marketing, hone their business and personal brands, and create winning content. For questions or comments, please contact her at karen@sterlingmarketinggroup.com.

    Use An eBook To Build Your Brand

    Use An eBook To Build Your Brand

    Amanda Hocking, the 26-year-old current indie queen of eBooks, was rejected by so many New York publishing houses that she decided to go the entrepreneurial route and put out an eBook instead. To date, she’s sold more than 500,000 books and made more than $1 million dollars. The movie rights to her popular “Trylle Trilogy” series have been acquired and, a few weeks ago, she closed a US$2 million deal for her four-book “Watersong” series with (yes, you guessed it) St. Martin’s Press — a traditional publishing house.

    While Hocking’s paranormal romance novels are probably not what the typical entrepreneur is looking to publish, the best-practice business point is that eBooks are now a viable way of building your brand and getting word out about your company and expertise.

    Here are the basics: An eBook (electronic book) is an electronic document that can contain text, images, audio and video. They can be viewed on a personal computer, smart phone, PDA and eBook reader, such as a Kindle, and are sold through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and dozens of other outlets.

    Depending on the length and content of the eBook, they sell from between 99 cents and $99. But the current rage is pricing eBooks at the lower end of the spectrum for around $2.99, or even giving them away for free as a promotion.

    The five best reasons why you should be writing an eBook, beyond the immediate financial return of book sales, include:

    • Increases name recognition for your company and personal brand, as well as drives traffic to your Web site via links from book excerpts, free samples, reviews, newsletter distribution and blog mentions.

    • Introduces you to potential customers looking for what you offer via press releases about the book, an Amazon listing and book reviews from bloggers.

    • Provides a perfect free, downloadable giveaway on your blog to entice visitors to sign up and give you their contact information.

    • Makes a great calling card to send before you meet with a potential client to show your knowledge, expertise and point of view.

    • Forces you to develop content you can then repurpose for marketing collateral and turn into podcasts and Webcasts.

    Oddly enough, the easiest part of eBook publishing is getting the finished product up and running for distribution. Many can be uploaded with just a click of a few buttons. But where most entrepreneurs face a challenge is in finding the time, or having the writing chops, to craft the eBook in the first place. Even if that’s the case, it’s no excuse, since there are scads of eBook-savvy small businesses whose sole purpose is to ghost write, edit, design and publish your eBook.

    Still not convinced? Consider this: According to the Association of American Publishers, Americans spent US$440 million dollars on eBooks in the first quarter of 2011, and the Book Industry Study Group found that one in four Americans reads eBooks — and that’s a whole lota brand to be built.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    Now Is Good Time To Turn Your Passion Into Profit

    Now Is Good Time To Turn Your Passion Into Profit

    It’s risky starting a small business. No arguing about that. If you’re already out of work in this tough economy, however, and you have a little money saved so you don’t need to worry about your lights getting turned off, this is a perfect time to start one. Many large businesses; Microsoft,Google and General Electric being three examples, were all started in recessions.

    To weigh in on the topic I asked my client Christy Strauch and author of the new book Passion, Plan, Profit: 12 Simple Steps to Convert Your Passion into a Solid Business to give me her take on starting a small business in a tough economy. Christy is president of Clarity To Business and has worked with over 300 small business owners, from artists to real estate agents, helping them do what they are passionate about — and make a profit.

    Q. Is now a good time to start a small business and turn your passion into profit?

    A. Yes! The ironic truth is that a successful small business is actually less risky than having a job. When you are employed, you have essentially one customer: your employer. All your risk is concentrated in that one customer. You have to make very sure your one customer is happy, all the time.

    Q. But turning a hobby into a small business is risky too?

    A. It is, but when you own a business, your risk is spread over 25, 50 or even 100+ customers. If one gets upset, or moves, or leaves for some reason, you have all your other customers to fall back on. Your risk isn’t concentrated in one person. The trick then is to get your business to the point where it has a diverse group of customers, not just a few. Luckily, cultivating relationships with customers is what we do best in small businesses.

    Q. If you think you want to start up a business, no matter what the state of the economy, waht should you do first?

    A. Go out and start talking to potential customers. Do these five things:

    1. Tell them your plans for your business and see how interested they are.
    2. Sell your goods and services to them and get their feedback.
    3. Do pilot programs and get feedback.
    4. Test your products on customers and get feedback.
    5. Did I already say, “Get feedback?”

    Q. It seems like starting a new business, especially now might create a bit of pressure?

    A. “Pressure” is in the eye of the beholder. If you like your products and services and enjoy delivering them to people and getting paid, it might be time to apply a little “pressure” on yourself and start your business.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    Are You On A Bridge To Somewhere?

    Are You On A Bridge To Somewhere?

    In 2009, my hubby and I downsized from a 3000 square foot house to a 1600 square foot townhouse.

    When we made the move, dishes were carefully wrapped, boxes were packed and stacked, and big burly men with arms the size of hanging hams came and transported the stuff of our life to a new location.

    Once moved in and I still had things that I didn’t have room for (or need) in our new digs. Every day, I managed to fill at least three huge green garbage bags and two boxes for goodwill.

    Not to mention that I think I have handedly paid for at least one industrious plastic worker’s kid to go to college — owing to all the plastic storage bins, organizational trays and snap shut boxes I had purchased to store and organize my remaining belongings.

    I was in awe at the industriousness that the plastic mavens have applied to creating clever ways to store, organize, manage and track stuff. I had made six trips to The Container Store, two trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond and three trips to the Ace Hardware.

    In the middle of the big move we went to dinner with some good friends. We wanted to share about the transition we were going through and tell our tales. It turned out to be the perfect antidote to the chaos of the moment.

    Over the course of the evening the four of us talked about the process of letting go of the old stuff and what if’s in our lives and embracing being on the bridge in between the old life we just left and the new one we were in the process of creating.

    “But the bridge is such a scary, uncertain, out of control place,” I said.

    “It is,” said my friend. “But it’s also an opportunity to let what’s next evolve on its own. To have the fun of letting things organically take shape. Setting goals is great, but there is something to be said for trusting the process,” he said.

    As I listened, I could see that while I was on the bridge (and I will probably be there for a while), it was not a bridge to nowhere, but a bridge to somewhere — somewhere fun and exciting and challenging and scary. One thing for certain: it’s going to be the best organized bridge anyone’s every seen.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    When Downsizing Is Rightsizing

    When Downsizing Is Rightsizing

    During the process, I sold off 10 pieces of furniture; donated over 200 books, assorted dishware and clothing for Goodwill; thrown out a small dumpsters worth of garbage and cut my candle collection in half. All of that and I still had many days worth of sorting and clutter clearing to go before the big daywhen we moved.

    My husband and I were facing a downsizing. We sold the house we’d owned for the past 12 years and were moving to a rental. Were we forced to sell our house in a fit of foreclosure? No. But like many of our fellow citizens we were swept up in the irrational enthusiasm of leveraged real estate investments and a mortgage that looked liked it was too good to be true – and it was.

    And while I now see that downsizing as a necessary step and nested opportunity – it had not been easy. Facing our fiscal choices and just confronting the amount of stuff (from houses to housewares) that we had bought, collected, been gifted, picked up at conferences, purchased at other people’s garage sales and one way or another acquired, had been painful at best and gut wrenching at worst.

    Twenty years ago I took a financial course where the instructor said the goal was sufficiency. I’ve often thought of this as the three bears method of money and stuff – not too much, not too little, but just enough to have a sense of freedom and things working well. I’ve never forgotten that concept. I only wish I’d made a little bit more of an effort to live by it over the past 10 years.

    Even so, I can’t help but feel grateful. I know many people who have lost much more. This move and the subsequent shedding of much of the stuff that has been hanging around my life sucking up time, energy and money is my opportunity to declare a sufficiency ‘do over’ and begin righsizing. It’s a chance to retool my goals and priorities and spend more of my life on the things that matter most to me.

    If you’re tempted to judge me too harshly as a disgraceful example of over-consumerism, I challenge you to open a few closets and drawers in your own home (or worse take a good hard look into the belly of the beast known as your garage) and tell me what you find. More than likely there will be an abundance of things you thought you wanted and needed but didn’t.

    The pressure to buy now, pay later; stay on top of the latest trends and own what’s being touted as the next tony thing, is a strong one in our culture. It’s a problem facing our nation as a whole, not just a group of catalog crazy, sale enticed individuals. It’s a battle that takes constant personal vigilance to fight. One – if we stay on top of it – we can often win, and are bound by circumstances to occasionally lose.

    Oh and just in case that trip to the garage inspired you to do a little rightsizing of your own stuff, here’s the method I used from my book Time Management In An Instant: 60 Ways to Make The Most of Your Day.

    Do a ‘T’ scan

    Moving in a logical direction (right to left, top to bottom, front to back) Scan the stuff in front of you and as you come across each item, assign it a category and act accordingly.

    Trash – This is an item that no longer works, you no longer need or you no longer like. It has outlived its usefulness and is ready to make the journey from your office to the wastebasket. Action: Throw this out now! If the item is still in good working shape put it in a box to be given to charity.

    Treasure – This is an item you need, you like and/or you use. It belongs exactly where it is. Action: Don’t do a thing. Leave it as it and be glad you found it.

    Hot Hint: If the item is one you want, but just needs to be repaired ask yourself if its worth the time and effort to fix this item or would it be better to replace it? If the answer is repair it, schedule a specific time to take care of it within the next week.

    Transfer – This is an item that you want to keep, but does not belong in the location where you found it. Action: Put the item in a box for transfer to its proper place when the sorting session is over.

    Temptation – This is an item that you feel conflicted over. Part of you wants to keep it and part of you is not sure you will ever use it. To help decide ask yourself:

    Do I have more than one of these?
    How useful will this really be in the future?
    When was the last time I used this?
    Is this something I need to keep for legal reasons?
    What is the worst thing that could happen if I get rid of this?

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    Need To Recharge? Get Rid Of What’s Weighing You Down

    Need To Recharge? Get Rid Of What’s Weighing You Down

    In 2009, I sold my house, found a new place to live and helped my husband get prepared for his back surgery.

    Oh and by the way, I cleaned the house, took the dog to the groomers and somehow managed to fit in my day job and pen a few columns for the web sites I write for. I was exhausted.

    Looking back, I can only think of one other year (early first marriage, bad divorce) that was as traumatic, upsetting, scary and plain old hard as this one had been. I couldn’t wait to wave goodbye to 2009, and I don’t think I’m alone.

    In the face of 2009’s adversity – financial and otherwise – I also had a serious realization – I needed to recharge. Not the typical have a massage, take a weekend away, spend quality time with family, kind of recharge, but a life-recharge.

    The opportunity to step back and reflect on my first 49 years and discover what passions and possibilities might occur over the next few decades. To achieve this life-recharge, I knew that the first thing I needed to do was get rid of what has been weighing me down with stress during the day and waking me up with worry at night. And that’s just what I’ve spent the past few months doing.

    I started with something that while it may seem insignificant and small, changed my whole world. I downsized my technology. I got rid of all phones but my cell phone. If friends, family, potential clients or telemarketers want to reach out, there’s only one number they can call. More importantly, there is only one voicemail I need to check.

    Next, I moved on to tackle a problem of technological clutter that had been vexing me for years. I got rid of all my computers, except for one MacBook Pro lap top. No more wondering if this file was on the office computer, while that one was on the home computer. I sync it all with my iPhone and where I go, so goes my one and only computer. And yes, I do regularly back it up.

    Now that I had tackled a few smaller items, I was ready to move onto an item that would score me big points on my life-recharge project. We sold almost all our real estate. With the exception of some investment property in Florida (don’t ask) we managed within a six week period of time to sell two investment homes and our main residence. The day I signed those papers I lost a bundle, but could feel my batteries stirring in my soul.

    My husband and decided to rent and since our up and coming rental was a condo, 1/2 the size of our former house, I had more to purge as I pursued the path of the life-recharge project – one weighty item at a time.

     This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.