2017 was jam packed with a variety of new methods, theories and tools for spreading the word about a business. With the plethora of social sites, new apps and expert suggestions, I had my hands full. Especially since I make it a policy to never recommend anything to my clients I have not tried out myself. But there was one experiment I tried this year that produced better results than any social media campaign or speech I gave. It’s not a new theory, hot app or magical software. Rather, it’s a good old-fashioned core principle of business development that I have taught my clients for years. Click here to read it: This article originally appeared on Inc.com.
Earlier this week I went to a preview of the MoMA NYC exhibit Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends.
This extensive retrospective of the artist’s work–the first in the twenty-first century–is a celebration of his collaborations with other artists, dancers, and musicians. The exhibit, which opens Saturday, May 20th, 2017, presents 250 works from six decades of his career, and got my branding brain and marketing mind all aflutter with inspiration. Here are three simple marketing ideas worth mentioning:
1. Put a new twist on old technology
The creative approach: Upon arriving I was given the pro forma option of using a self-directed audio tour for the exhibit. But instead of the clunky CD player of the past, I was presented with the new MoMA Audio+ mobile guide, a sleek iPod device (replete with touch screen controls) that fit lightly into the palm of my hand.
The most unique thing about the player was that it went beyond the functional “press one to play the patter about the art piece” feature and instead created an interactive experience from the start with such features as emailing yourself links which recap your visit for the day and copies of audio descriptions for selected pieces in the exhibit.
The branding and marketing takeaway: Offering these features allows the museum to instantly capture not only your contact information–but scads of information about your preferences and tastes. In fact, they immediately send you an email thanking you for visiting.
Ask yourself: In what creative ways could we use our existing technology to enhance and expand the brand beyond the initial customer experience?
2. Create a new name and solve the problem
The creative approach: In 1953 Rauschenberg created a series of paintings known as the Red Paintings. The pieces incorporated elements of paper bags, fabric, metal, wood, mirrors, lights, and more. The artist noticed that rather than looking at the piece, viewers would stand in front of the work and argue about whether it was a painting or a sculpture. To solve the situation, Rauschenberg began calling the work Combines. “The next time someone asked me,” said Rauschenberg, “I said ‘Combine.’ After that no one asked.”
The branding and marketing takeaway: What you call things matters. I often work with companies who have struggled to come up with a name (for a company, team, product, etc.) that is both catchy and evokes meaning. While naming can be a complex process, sometimes a literal take on the topic (as with Rauschenberg’s Red series) does the trick.
Ask yourself: Is there something we need to rename that would make it easier to understand and more relatable?
3. Don’t get stuck in the old, instead let collaboration create something new
The creative approach: One of the most unusual collaborations in the MoMA exhibit is Minutiae –a collaboration between the artist and Merce Cunningham, an icon of American modern dance. Cunningham requested that Rauschenberg create a work to go with a performance he had choreographed–but didn’t want the piece to function only as a backdrop but rather be integrated into something the dancers could use. The result was Rauschenberg’s first free-standing “Combine,” an artwork that stood on the floor–rather than being hung–and that the dancers could move in and out of.
The branding and marketing takeaway: It’s easy to get into the habit of doing things the way they have always been done. Testing out creative collaborations–especially with those who have a different background, perspective, or talent than ours–can lead to out-of-the-box ideas, solutions, and creations. Rauschenberg himself was keenly aware of this dynamic.
Rauschenberg is perhaps most famous for his iconic silkscreens featuring a series of 150 images in various combinations for which he won the grand prize at the Venice Biennale in 1964. His response to this honor was to call a friend and request that he destroy the screens so he would not be tempted to repeat himself.
Ask yourself: Is there an unexpected partner we could collaborate with on a project, product, or process who could bring fresh ideas and a new way of looking at how we usually do things?
Art can be a powerful force of creative inspiration. According to art historian Jonathan Fineberg, author of Modern Art at the Border of Mind and Brain.
In a 2015 interview with NPR, Fineberg said that seeing “is inherently a very creative act, and you’re constantly revising what you think you see… Less than 20 percent of what we see actually comes from the eye,” he said. “Most of it comes from processing in the brain and the visual cortex, and that comes from memories, reason, emotion, and all kinds of other things.” His conclusion? Looking at visual images can supercharge your brain’s creativity.
So the next time you feel like you need a little mojo to get your creative juices flowing, take a break and peruse the works at your local museum. You just might find that there’s a little bit of Robert Rauschenberg inside of you, waiting to get out.
Ask any businessperson worth their salt to define “success,” and one of the most common answers will most certainly be “making money.” All enterprises strive to be profitable as part of the fruits of their labor. Money, after all, is what makes the world go round. So, it stands to reason that more money would be a worthy goal. Or is it?
Should money be at the heart of our business goals?
I sat down with my former client Lynne Twist, who was a guest this past week on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and is the author of the newly updated and re-released book The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life. Twist, who is also a fundraising consultant, says that while money is no doubt a way to measure productivity and ensure financial security, its place at the center of our business world may not be the best strategy.
“When we think of how we earn, spend and invest money as a carrier of our intention, we can see the often-obsessive devotion to money, profits, accumulations, market share and the grasping for more in a pathological, dysfunctional and unconscious light. When we make money itself the destination, we get confused,” says Twist.
Make money the fuel of your destination.
“On the other hand, when we know that money is the fuel toward that destination — a much higher purpose than simply the accumulation of wealth — we can create a healthy relationship not only with money but with ourselves. We can actually see that it’s our vision or mission that we are really all about, and that the financial resources are what support us in getting there.”
So how can today’s business leaders — who need to manage both short-term results and long-term impact — learn to think about money as a motor of purpose, rather than just a measure of success? Twist suggests starting with what drives you.
Find what drives you.
“If we look at what drives us, we find that it’s the doing of something, and doing it well, that often comes first for the most successful people. And a vital part of that is doing something fulfilling and meaningful, beyond just making the business successful,” says Twist.
She goes on to explain that when companies ground their business and business decisions in a deeper commitment, it often generates results that reach far beyond the bottom line.
“When the vision of the company and the service that we’re providing (and not just money) are the point, our financial resources become what allows us to achieve that. Then we have our attention on the right thing,” says Twist.
Set up an opportunity for service and contribution.
Twist says that business owners can also help their employees participate in a larger vision by creating opportunities for them to serve their families and community with such actions as:
• Creating a policy that allows for a certain number of paid volunteer days
• Generating HR policies that include thoughtful child care and family leave
• Creating a matching fund for employee charitable contributions
The meaning of money to Millennials.
Consider the case of companies like TOMS or Warby Parker, who began with social consciousness as an integral part of their brand from the beginning. In a world concerned with sustainability, they have both been hugely successful and stayed true to their deeper mission. This way of thinking about money and business that Twist proffers is particularly important as companies engage in the recruitment of millennials, many of whom hold contribution and community at the heart of their work-life goals.
“Today’s younger people are looking for career success with a soul. I think we’re in a new business movement that has service, sharing, collaboration and making a difference at the heart of it,” says Twist. “For everyone who strives to be among the best, their work is a representation of what’s in their soul. After all, what’s the point of your business if it, and you, don’t have a point?”
Last month a high-powered marketing manager called me and told me she was in need of personal brand consulting to brush up on her personal brand and prepare for a job interview she had coming up in New York.
In reviewing her resume, I saw that her history was stellar and her credentials were crazy good. Not to mention she looked like a well-put-together professional who could make anything happen. I wondered why she wanted to spend her time (and money) with me.
“I just want to make sure I’m presenting my personal brand as powerfully as I can so I’m as competitive as possible,” was her simple response. As it turns out, even those at the top of their professional game know that an up-to-date, well-polished personal brand is a distinct advantage when it comes to job interviewing and career management.
As employers gain almost unlimited access via the Internet to our personal histories, they also develop a greater demand for details about who we are beyond our business acumen. A professional personal brand consulting session can offer valuable insight (and implementation) in crafting your reputation.
Here are three specific ways you can use personal brand consulting to help you create a personal brand that will show your stuff in the best light possible and land you that perfect job — from secretary to CEO.
Give Your Bio a Bold Makeover.Most bios I see are a too general and rambling to pack any punch. The key is to create a fully fleshed-out bio that highlights the accomplishments from your entire career, not just your present position. Beyond the usual information about your education and employment, here are a few things to consider including when crafting your bio:
- Significant or high-profile books, articles or blogs you have written
- Presentations or speeches you have given and for whom
- Interviews you have given on TV, radio or print media
- Relevant degrees, awards, certificates or honors you possess
- Name-recognition companies you have worked with
- Projects you have worked on that make you a thought leader in your field
I had one client whose bio was solely focused on his current work as an executive coach and totally ignored his past as a high-profile attorney, in which he had been interviewed by The New York Times, Rolling Stone and the Washington Post. I gave his bio a makeover that more accurately reflected the depth of his background and increased his credibility and personal brand.
Polish Up Your LinkedIn Profile. With your bio ready to roll, next up is updating your LinkedIn profile. Having a fully fleshed-out summary, a professional headshot and at least 10 recommendations and listing major positions held is essential. According to one Lab42 survey, leading activities on LinkedIn are
Industry networking (61%)
Keeping in touch (61%)
Co-worker networking (55%)
LinkedIn’s own Global Recruiting Trends report for 2016 shows social professional networks have become a major source (73%) of quality hires. One of my clients was the president of a 40-person financial firm and had no profile picture and only a one-paragraph summary on his profile. I did a LinkedIn profile optimization with him, and within a week he was being contacted with offers to speak at industry events — a good place to be seen by potential future employers.
Create Credibility With Content. There is no doubt that content marketing is a great way to build your personal brand. Being out there as an expert in your field can give you a leg up on the competition. Make a list of relevant top industry or business publications and blogs, and brainstorm article topics you might write about. Not a great writer, but still have something to say? No worries. You can hire someone to ghostwrite the article or post for you.
One of my clients is a brilliant speaker but can’t translate that knowledge into text. I simply interview him, write up a draft, let him review and make changes and presto — a blog post is born. Even a single, short blog post placed in the right media outlet can greatly increase your personal brand and get you seen by potential employers.
If at this point you’re feeling overwhelmed and wondering where you are going to get the time to do all this personal brand building, not to worry: The nice thing about wearing so many hats is that you have the ability to hire a personal branding consultant to organize them for you.
This article is copyrighted by Karen Leland and cannot be reprinted in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the express written permission of Karen Leland.
Karen Leland is President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. She works with individuals, businesses and teams to enhance their business and personal brands. Her clients include LinkedIn, American Express, Apple, Marriott Hotels and others. Her ninth book, The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand, is due out from Entrepreneur Press in May of 2016.
Lately I’ve been realizing that small and insignificant, but necessary, items eat up a significant portion of my worktime. For example – counting the amount of characters or words I’m using when composing something. Character limits are all the rage these days. For example:
• Pinterest gives you 500 characters for a description
• Twitter 140 for a tweet
• Title tags have no limit but only display 70 characters
• Meta descriptions have no limit but only first 155 characters are displayed in Google search results
• Description tags on LinkedIn longer than 225 characters will be truncated (oouch)
• Facebook only displays the first 300 characters of a description
• Online contact information is often limited to a certain amount of characters or words
While I recognize the necessity of limiting would be Leo Tolstoy’s from trying to turn their Pinterest profile into War and Peace, it can be very annoying to craft the perfect tweet only to discover it’s 6 characters over the limit.
So if you’re tired of cutting and pasting or checking your word/character count every ten seconds to insure that you stay within the prescribed limit, check out one of the these many free services on the web. Just type in your text, click and there you have it, your total word or character count. Here are a few to check out:
www.lettercount.com/ A bonus with this site is they provide a whole how to on writing with fewer letter including a recommended reading list of great authors who wrote short.
www.charcounter.com/ This site lets you count with or without white spaces.
Whichever of these sites you use, to tighten your text do the following:
• Substitute longer words with something shorter. For example instead of saying using beneficial say useful – a savings of 4 characters.
• Remember to take into account any hashtags or URL’s you plan on including, so you don’t use up all your characters on the message itself.
• Shorten your sentences, but make them complete. That’s the challenge, to sound smart and snappy all at the same time.
• Remain keyword rich. A limit on words or characters is no excuse to just throw keywords to the wind. Pick at least one and place it in your text.
Believe it or not, just using a simple tool such as a character counter can shave minutes off of the time it takes to compose a tweet or write a Pinterest description.
And in a world where 140 characters can make or break a news story, every minute counts.
For more time management tips check out my book Time Management In An Instant.
For more tips on using Pinterest check out my new book Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Guide to Pinterest for Business.
Karen Leland is the best-selling author of eight business books and president of Sterling Marketing Group , where she works with executives, high-end entrepreneurs, small businesses and Fortune 500 companies to build their personal, team and business brands.
In today’s crowded media landscape, businesses are continually on the lookout for ways to stand apart from their competitors. Enter surveys, a cost-effective method to promote brand awareness. A survey worthy of media attention is more than just a few questions randomly asked. Instead, it’s a carefully crafted instrument that, when done right, can make the media sit up and take notice. Here are a few suggestions for making your survey something a busy editor will want to pick up publish.
Use a combination of questions: “A common belief among people who use PR for coverage is that they have to ask quirky and zany questions,” says Nathan Richter, a senior PR pollster at Wakefield. While a few creative questions that grab an editor’s initial attention are fine, they need to be balanced with credible ones, which compel an editor to cover a story. For example: when online discount travel service Travelzoo.com sponsored a survey, they asked people more creative questions, such as, “Would you be willing to stand on a cross-country flight in order to save 50% off the cost of the airline ticket?” But they also asked more traditional market research questions, such as, “Do you expect to be traveling more or less than last year for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday?”
Avoid obvious commercial messaging: Many PR executives and business owners assume that it’s OK to make their pitch a commercial message, so long as they put survey data behind it. “Not so,” says Richter. “If company X wants to be branded as the ‘hip’ company, they don’t write a press release with a headline that reads, ‘Survey shows company X is the hippest.’”
Instead, make your release about the bigger picture of the survey and the story behind it. The idea is that by being the sponsor of a great story — not the star — you will achieve media coverage and visibility with your target market.
Emphasize the scientific: As more businesspeople include surveys as part of their PR strategy, they are turning to do-it-yourself tools to accommodate their needs. But whether you conduct the survey yourself or hire a professional firm to conduct it on your behalf, to be credible, it needs to be conducted in a scientific manner. To emphasize to the media that the survey your company conducted is based in proper research protocols, Richter suggests it include:
- Name of the research vendor
- Margin of error
- Dates the study was conducted
- Sample size used
- Methods used in conducting the survey
Remember, the press and media are constantly on the lookout for relevant and timely surveys that they can “hook” a story around. Provide them with a well crafted, properly researched and interestingly reported study or survey and your company could find itself swimming in ink.
While on vacation seven years ago, entrepreneur Rico Elmore couldn’t find a pair of sunglasses that would fit on his not-so-small noggin. Elmore’s hefty-head experience spawned an ah-ha moment, and today he is the proud proprietor of Fatheadz Eyewear, a company that makes oversized sunglasses and extra wide eyewear for folks with large heads.
Always looking for ways to innovate, Elmore has recently been using mobile marketing, and QR codes in particular, as part of his plan to engage customers.
QR codes (Quick Response Codes) are commonly aimed at mobile phone users. If you have a camera-equipped smartphone with a QR code reader, your phone can scan the image of a QR code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network or open a web page in your phone’s browser.
“In early 2011, I was flipping through an outdoor retailer trade publication when I saw a QR code in the magazine,” says Elmore. “I thought it was very cool and decided to look into how we might start using them in our marketing.”
Within 60 days, Fatheadz had integrated the use of QR codes into their campaign involving the ongoing sponsorship of race car drivers.
“For all of our sponsored drivers, we give them a ‘Hero’ card they can autograph and give out to their fans,” says Elmore. “We put a QR code on the back, and when the fan scans it on their mobile device, up pops our web page.”
Once on the website, fans can see information about their favorite race car driver, including which sunglasses they wear — and buy them. Elmore says the QR code campaign has increased web traffic by a whopping 10 percent.
What’s next? Elmore says he plans on expanding the use of QR codes to prospective retailers by printing them on business cards and other marketing collateral and then linking them to product videos on his site.
Dan Hollings, an expert on mobile marketing, says that video is one of the most effective uses of QR codes.
“The key is to create a short video (under three minutes) about your product or service or some useful information relating to your product or service,” says Hollings. “Then post the video on your website, YouTube and Facebook and link a QR code to it that brings the visitor to the video. It’s as simple as that.”
Even though QR codes are relatively simple to set up and use, many small businesses don’t know where to begin. To start, check out Qr.net and createandtrack.com, just two of the hundreds of sites that offer QR code creation.
Once you’ve created a code, Hollings says you can then easily link it to a video, your website or a podcast. Once you know where you want to send your potential clients, the next step is to promote it. Publish your QR code on your business cards, flyers, DVDs, brochures, mailers, signage or any other material you give to potential clients. Hollings says he’s even seen them placed on complementary coffee mugs at conferences.
Still feeling a bit shy about bringing QR codes into your marketing mix? Get your feet wet by using one yourself. Now that you know what to look for, you’ll see them everywhere. So download a QR reader on your smartphone and scan away. Who knows, you might just end up with a pair of your favorite racecar driver’s sunglasses.
Has your small business been doing anything with QR Codes or other forms of mobile marketing? We would love to hear your comments.
“Ruby Sparks” Reminded Me That Persuasion Marketing Sucks
“Yup, instead of changing himself, he’s going to try and change her.” That’s what my friend Randy turned to me and said during a pivotal plot point in the new film “Ruby Sparks”.
Now I don’t want to be a spoiler and give the big reveal away, so I’ll stay away from the details, but suffice it to say that the scene that followed was painfully hard to watch.
Why? Because, as Randy so pithily put it, what we all do when faced with a person or circumstance we don’t like is try to change it or them. As fruitless as this exercise often is, we are sometimes so fixed on our point of view, being right or getting what we want, that we continue to waste vast amounts of time, emotional energy and even psychic efforts trying to force the situation.
Although “Ruby Sparks” deals with this dynamic in a one-on-one romantic relationship, I see this played out daily in my work as a branding and marketing consultant and leadership coach.
I observe high-powered entrepreneurs, C-suite executives and marketing managers attempting to get others to tow the line and do what they want them to do. I’d be less than honest not to suck it up and say I’m just as guilty of this fruitless exercise in trying to force the outcome I want from time to time as well.
But I’m not as bad as I used to be. Over the past year, I’ve actually made a conscious effort to learn to stop persuading and start inspiring, to stop trying to make things happen and leave more room for allowing, to say what I want and need authentically and vulnerably, but then let the chips fall where they may. I’m far from perfect at this, but I am evolving.
I think this evolution is also at play in the larger world of branding and marketing. Old-school marketing was about persuading clients, pushing them as to why they should hire you or buy your product. New-style marketing is about inspiring potential customers to come out and play, pulling them toward you — of their own free will.
As luck would have it, besides seeing the movie, I happen to be reading a fantastic book called “Igniting Inspiration: A Persuasion Manual for Visionaries” by John Marshall Roberts.
“I view persuasion as a fading 20th Century art for those who don’t yet know how to grasp and apply the basic laws of human inspiration,” says Roberts. “Does this mean persuasion is somehow ‘bad’? No, but it’s just not as much fun as inspiring, and not nearly as effective. In the end it all boils down to this: persuaded people do things because they are seeking some extrinsic reward. Inspired folks do those same exact things because they intrinsically want to.”
Marshall’s book clearly delineates a three-dimensional view of human nature:
The material dimension of human beings. This includes the body and all material things in the universe. These things are brought to the mind via the five senses.
The mental dimension of human beings. This consists of thoughts, feelings and ideas. These thoughts — especially the re-occurring ones — tend to occur within a specific context (usually not conscious), based on certain hidden assumptions.
The spiritual dimension of human beings. This is the pure potential we all have. It’s the source of intelligence and life energy and underlies the material and mental realms.
Roberts’ very on-point point is that if we view our customers, clients, co-workers and others from the material plane, we see them as objects to manipulate and will engage in actions to pursue or, even worse, force the outcome we desire.
However, if we think about these same people from a spiritual dimension, we realize that speaking to bigger truths, larger purposes and deeper insights results in inspiration.
Just think of the last time you were forced to do something.
How about persuaded?
Now how about inspired to take an action?
I’ll bet the price of a movie ticket that the qualitative difference between how you felt about doing whatever it was you did changed substantially based on which of the three areas your answer falls into.
So how do we inspire? Pretty much in the same way that “Ruby Sparks” protagonist and novelist Calvin Weir-Fields (played by actor Paul Dano) discovers in the film. We allow other people to be who they are, and address our actions to that higher part of them. That’s easier than it sounds, especially when we live in a business world chock-full of the persuasion-as-power model.
One side note: Calvin’s brother (played by the always-captivating — and sexy — Chris Messina) has a scene where he encourages Calvin to turn toward the dark side and try and make Calvin’s love interest, Ruby, do what he wants. The point being that it’s important to surround ourselves with people who recognize the value of building our branding and marketing on inspiration, rather than persuasion, if we are to have any hope of succeeding.
Wondering if your brand needs an inspirational brush-up? I’m holding a contest for a free 30 minute Lightning Strike Strategy Session to the five people who email me with a compelling case for why they need to crank up the inspirational language and message of their brand. To apply, fill out the contact form on my site and let me know your business, your brand, what your inspiration goal is and why you think your brand needs some inspirational polish.
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. Apply to win a free 30 minute Lightning Strike Strategy Session by filling out the contact form here and letting Karen know why you think your brand needs some inspirational polish. For questions or comments, please contact her at email@example.com.
Anyone who has ever sweated over the phrasing of an email subject line has probably longed for a magical marketing solution that would tell them which combination of words would shoot their open rate through the roof. Well the wait is over.
The Advanced Marketing Institute offers a no-cost Headline Analyzer that calculates the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) of a headline. The program uses special algorithms to quickly compare the words of an email headline with the words from the EMV Impact list. According to the company, the list measures words in three specific categories:
Intellectual Words effective at offering products and services that require reasoning or careful evaluation,
Empathetic Words, which bring out strong positive emotional reactions in people,
Spiritual Words, which have the strongest potential to influence people at a deep emotional level.
“As you know, reaching your customers in a deep and emotional way is a key to successful copywriting, and your headline is unquestionably the most important piece of copy you use to reach prospects,” say the fine folks at AMI.
Using the Headline Analyzer is straightforward and simple. Just enter up to a 20-word headline onto the form on their site; select a category from the dropdown menu, such as Arts & Entertainment, Business & Professional Services, Food & Dining and more; and then click “submit” for analysis.
Zip, bang, boom — you are instantly rewarded with a score from 0-100 that tells you how emotionally impactful your headline is. According to the company, professional headlines contain 30 and 40 percent EMV Words, and the best of class headlines have 50 to 75 percent EMV words. One hint: If you can keep your headline to five words or fewer, your chance of scoring higher is increased.
If you come out below the magical number, you can then try again with other words until you get the score you’re looking for. For specifics on how to improve your EMV rating, the company offers a sign-up for a newsletter with tips and techniques.
No plug-and-play analyzer is foolproof, nor is it the be-all, end-all of the topic, but the EMV tool is a good place to start, and worth the few moments it takes to see if your headline has at least a touch of the marketing magic you’re looking for.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.