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      How To Grow Your Business’ Bottom Line With This Straightforward Task

      How To Grow Your Business’ Bottom Line With This Straightforward Task

      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. 

      Why Crafting Your CEO Brand Should Be a Priority in Your New Role as CEO

      Why Crafting Your CEO Brand Should Be a Priority in Your New Role as CEO

      Many, if not most, are surprised to learn just how necessary it is for them to create a strong CEO brand in their new role as the chief brand ambassador of their companies. Those who do catch on, realize that creating a CEO brand is a powerful way to position their leadership and build the brand of the business. Here are three important ways to pursue your personal brand as a new CEO. This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

      How To Turn Your Business From a Noun to a Verb

      Years ago I went to visit some friends who lived in South Lake Tahoe. As I came over the crest of the hill, the panoramic view opened up before me. White snowy mountains, a deep blue lake, and crisp green pine trees–I was hooked.

      So hooked in fact that I decided to buy a cute cabin in a quiet neighborhood a few short blocks from the lake. As part of my ownership obligation, I was advised by my local realtorto make my new home as “cabiny” as possible. The reasoning behind this was that renters apparently expect a Tahoe cabin to look, well–like a Tahoe cabin.

      When I inquired as to what exactly comprised this mountain-esqe decor, I was shown images of log furniture, pinecone ornamentation, and anything with a moose on it–moose placemats, moose lampshades, moose pencil cup holders, and yes, even a moose toilet paper holder.

      Despite the fact that no actual moose have been seen in South Lake Tahoe for decades, the moose theme is so synonymous with cabin life that my friend Lynette and I coined the term “moosey” as a kind of shorthand to represent all things South Lake Tahoe–decoration-wise, that is.

      Essentially we had transformed the word “moose” from a noun to a verb. For example, my cabin did not need an interior design update. Rather, it was in need of a moose-i-fication makeover and some moose-ing up.

      The slang name for this process is “verbing.” The official term, according to etymologists, is “anthimeria,” meaning a functional shift in the use of a word.

      Successful brands do this all the time. Google has now become so associated with the activity of searching the web that regardless of the search engine you may be using (Yahoo!, Bing, YouTube, etc.) the common expression is “I’m going to Google that.”

      Hoping to turn a noun into a verb in your business? Bear in mind that this requires a fair amount of fate–one communications professor, Scott R. Hamula of Ithaca College, says it’s “more aspirational than achievable and involves a lot of serendipity.”

      Regardless, here are three steps you can follow to help lady luck moosify (so to speak) your brand:

      1. Replace a sentence for the action with a single word.

      Brands that become verbalized replace sentences that represent actions with single words. For example, people don’t say, “I will Gmail that” because a word for that–“email”–already existed. They do however say, “I’ll Uber,” because prior only a sentence such as “I’m going to call a car service to get home from the party,” could convey the idea.

      Ask yourself:

      • What actions do people take when they use your service or product?
      • Is there a current word that exists for that? If not, is there a single word you can extract to represent the action?
      • Are you the first to bring this to market? If not, is there an aspect of what you are doing that is first?
      • Is there a way we can make our brand an “ing” so that it is a thing?

      2. Keep it to two or three syllables.

      A Skype call, Google search, Photoshop image, or FedEx package. All of these have one thing in common: They’re simple to say and contain very few syllables. In general the shorter and sweeter you can keep the term, the greater the chance you have that it will catch on.

      3. Socialize it.

      The more you can use your noun as a verb in your marketing collateral and conversation with your customer base, the stronger the possibility that it will become verbalized. For example, Twitter created and promoted the idea of “tweeting”–and now even presidents do it.

      One word of warning.

      Turning your company brand into a verb can potentially endanger the trademark, if it becomes the generic term for the product or service; i.e., Xerox (for copies) and Kleenex (for tissues). Barbara Findlay Schenck, coauthor of Branding for Dummies, points out that Rollerblade inline skates spends heavily to educate consumers that rollerblading isn’t a sport; it’s a specific brand.

      Consider the trademark case where Windsurfer applied for a wind-propelled, surfboard-like apparatus patented in 1968. The term was presented as a verb (windsurfing) to describe the sport of sailboarding, and the courts found the mark to be generic and no longer protectable.

      If all this has your head spinning and you feel like you might need some time to step back and think about how to verbalize your brand, I’ve got a nice cabin in the woods that’s all moosed up and ready to go.

      This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

      Four Great Lessons From Broadway on Business and Life

      And the award goes to…

      On Sunday June 11th, 2017, the annual Tony Awards will take place at Radio City Music Hall. The Tonys (sponsored by The American Theater Wing) are as coveted by the Broadway set as the Oscars are by the Hollywood crowd.

      As an unabashed theater geek, and proud New Yorker, I try to see as many of the top-nominated plays and musicals as I can before the awards ceremony airs so I can vote in the party pool with at least some degree of credibility.

      But beyond the joyful magic of sitting in a dark theater waiting for the play to begin, I often walk away from these shows thinking about how some aspect of the play applies to my life — workwise and other. Here’s my two cents on the takeaways from a few of this year’s top Tony contenders.

      Dear Evan Hansen: Nominated for best musical.

      The plot. Awkward (and possibly on the autism spectrum) teenage boy weaves a web of lies with a good intention, which eventually (of course) gets out of hand.

      The takeaway. As the tagline for the show goes — “You will be found.” No matter how successful we may seem on the outside, everyone feels some degree of aloneness and isolation — often exaggerated by social media. In one poignant song, titled Waving Through a Window, the show’s Ben Platt (in the title role) faces a backscreen full of Facebook-type posts and sings…

      “On the outside, always looking in
      Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?
      ‘Cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
      I’m waving through a window”

      The bottom line. Commit investing a percentage of the energy and attention you normally put into your online life into more real-life connections. For example, instead of texting back and forth with a client or friend, invite them to lunch or pick up the phone — you’ll feel less alone and more seen. In fact, a slew of recent studies has suggested that there are direct links in some cases between social media use and isolation, depression and ill health. So forget about being online for an evening and go stand in a real line and see a play. You might just come out the better for it.

      Hello Dolly: Nominated for best revival of a musical.

      The plot. The classic role of Dolly Levi, matchmaker extraordinaire, is brought back to life with Bette Midler in the title role.

      The takeaway. 70-year-old short women can storm a stage and captivate an audience as well as any 25-year-old hottie in a cabaret getup. Oh, and by the way, the night I saw her she was overcoming a cold and not at her singing best — it made no difference at all. Her energy, enthusiasm and sheer onstage presence carried the day.

      The bottom line. You’re never too old to be a star — in your own life or at the office. There is something to be said for 6 or 7 decades of experience and passion, as many employers are rediscovering. The trend toward hiring retired seniors as greeters, customer service agents and more takes advantage of a valuable human resource. Considering a career change or new challenge? Don’t let your age be the determining factor.

      Sweat: Nominated for best play.

      The plot. The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, playwright Lynn Nottage tells the story of a group of friends who work together on a factory floor and whose friendships are falling apart due to economic and emotional issues.

      The takeaway. To know the world (and people) around you better, consider things from their point of view. Not a stunning realization, but Nottage has managed to show the subtle differences in how 8 different characters see the same situation — without judgement.

      The bottom line. Everyone has a story to tell — and that story usually explains a great deal about why they act the way they do. Curiosity about how others see the world can be the difference that makes the difference. A recent study even pointed out that considering how another person might be feeling in a situation (as opposed to putting yourself in their shoes) creates a better outcome for both parties.

      The Little Foxes: Nominated for best revival of a play.

      The plot. Consummate actresses Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon play sisters-in-law in Lillian Hellman’s classic 20th century drama, which takes place in in a small town in Alabama in the 1900s. The play, featuring characters struggling for control of a family business (and their own identities), was first performed in 1939.

      The takeaway. More than 70 years later, The Little Foxes is still timely and relevant. Even so, I don’t think the play would have been nearly as successful if not for the extraordinary range of flexibility exhibited by its female stars. Linney and Nixon regularly switch roles, each playing the other’s character on designated nights of the show — and both are so good that at various times during the performance I attended, spontaneous applause broke out after their razor-sharp deliveries of a line. Both have also been nominated as actors for a Tony as well.

      The bottom line. Don’t let yourself be typecast by your own competencies. Getting stuck in what you do well can be a trap. I continually hear successful executives, entrepreneurs and business owners complaining about how bored they are with what they are doing. Stretching yourself beyond what’s usual is a good way to grow and find your learning edge.

      As always the Tonys promise to be an entertaining (and sartorially spectacular) evening with emotional speeches and occasional sentimentalism. But beyond the fanfare, the shows on Broadway this year can bring new life to some old ideas — you just have to open your eyes wide enough to see them.

      This article originally appeard on Inc.com.

      Three Branding & Marketing Lessons You Can’t Afford to Miss from MoMa

      Three Branding & Marketing Lessons You Can’t Afford to Miss from MoMa

      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.

      This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

      The Surprising Connection Between Your Soul & Money Might Surprise You

      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?”

      To learn more about Twist’s philosophy, check out my podcast with Lynne Twist about The Soul of Money in your life. This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

      5 Personal Brand Tips To Keep Your Career Options Open

      5 Personal Brand Tips To Keep Your Career Options Open

      Explore Your Options copyThe Week of April 4th Is Explore Your Career Options Week

      If you want to keep your career options open, be aware that a strong personal brand on social media can help or hurt.

      According to a recent CareerBuilder.com poll, 52 percent of employers use social networking sites to research candidates, and 35 percent of those same employers reported that they were less likely to interview job candidates who didn’t have an online presence.

      In addition, 51 percent use search engines to dig up details on a job candidate. So that picture of you chugging back a beer on your Facebook page may not be such a good personal brand move for your future career prospects.

      Take advantage of all your career options by making sure your social media is up to par with these 5 easy, but often overlooked, tips.

      #1. Show some teeth, and instantly become smarter and more likeable.  

      In one study a profile picture on social media with a smile with teeth visible increased the perception of someone’s competence, likability and influence. A closed-mouth smile, however, had about half the impact on likability, and showing too much teeth (a laughing smile) increased likeability but reduced perceived competence and influence.

      #2. Avoid the 5 deadly online career killers.

      51 percent of employers chose not to hire a candidate based on their social media content. As obvious as these faux pas sound, the most common reasons for knocking a potential employee out of the running include:

      • Provocative or inappropriate photographs
      • Information about candidate drinking or using drugs
      • Candidate bad-mouthing previous company or fellow employee
      • Poor communication skills
      • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc.

      Some of the most outrageous examples taken from real life include: someone posting a photo of a warrant for their arrest, including links to an escort service, posting dental exam results, bragging about driving drunk (and not getting caught), posting Sasquatch pictures the person had taken, and featuring a pig as a best friend.

      #3. Get on the first page of Google.

      Enter your name into Google, and see if you come up on the first page. If not, you are probably one of the 50 percent of people on the site who don’t have a complete LinkedIn profile. To get to the first page of Google with your name, bring your LinkedIn to “all star” status by making sure you have:

      • A profile photo
      • Your current position
      • 2 past positions
      • A summary
      • Your industry and zip code
      • Your education
      • At least 50 connections

      #4. Claim your name.

      In the gold-rush days, would-be wealthy miners placed stakes in the ground to mark off their territory. In the digital era, everyone needs to stake their claim —to their name — and own as much of their digital brand territory as possible.

      In practical terms, this means registering your name as a URL to protect your self (and your reputation) from others claiming your username and potentially damaging your image and reputation.

      With 850 million active websites on the Internet, many names are already spoken for. If your exact name is taken, try getting a URL with:

      • Your first initial and last name
      • Your first name, middle initial and last name
      • Your first, middle and last name
      • A hyphen between your first and last name

      #5. Get off the first page of Google.

      What pops up when your name gets put into a search engine? To stay on top of your online personal brand, set a Google Alert on yourself and receive an email when you’re mentioned on the web.

      This way you can look and see who is talking about you — and what they’re saying. If you don’t like what you see, take steps to make changes before they do damage. This can include:

      • Requesting that old (or undesirable) photos be replaced with new ones you provide.
      • Getting outdated, unfair and inaccurate content off the first page of your search results by writing desirable new content (blog posts, articles, etc.) aimed at specific keywords and posting status updates that drive older, less desirable content (which features those same keywords) farther down the list.

      So the next time you get an itch to post that selfie of you doing something questionable at the company holiday party, think again. Instead post a piece on the importance of gratitude for the season –  it might just get you hired for the job you have always dreamed of.

      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.

      3 Ways Voters Assess A Candidates Brand

      3 Ways Voters Assess A Candidates Brand

      3 Ways A Brand Is Assessed

      3 Ways A Brand Is Assessed

      It was a banner night for Bernie Sanders, who at 55 percent handily beat out Hillary Clinton to win the New Hampshire primary. Bernie was able to hit this home run because of his consistent personal brand and on-point message to millennials. But he was also able to get there, in large part, because it was only a two-horse race. Unlike the Republicans, who — at eight contenders — have quadruple the number of players.

      Consider Trump. While the winner at 35.3 percent, did not exactly score a mandate. When seven other people are splitting the vote, it doesn’t take much to reach the top of the heap. That’s not to take away any kudos from Trump’s brand, impressive win, popularity or strategy.

      In fact Mr. Trump’s strategy of putting the other Republican candidates on the defensive, so they double down in an effort to protect their flanks, seems to be working. At least it’s working to keep his colleagues in the race. But I have to wonder, watching all this, “Are they just staying in it for the sake of their egos?”

      Although South Carolina is a different animal than New Hampshire, you have to question whether the Republican Party needs to get its act together, decide to be a team, and reduce the playing field enough to let a true favorite rise to the head of the pack.

      Let’s face it: Any successful politician (or businessperson for that matter) needs a healthy dose of ego to do what needs to be done. But when it gets to the point where it’s damaging the team, has it gone too far? And an ego gone too far is not a good quality in a President, or any leader for that matter.

      In what’s certain to now become a very expensive race to run, some of these Republican candidates might want to consider cutting their losses and giving their votes to a more viable candidate as we move on.

      At this point in the race, I believe political substance will start to trump (no pun intended) style. Not that style won’t matter, but as the race moves, so will the voters’ decision meters. Three aspects of the candidates brands will impact the box they check in the polling booth.

      Personal: How does this candidate align with my personal views? Some voters put aside all considerations of domestic and international policy and vote along the lines of their values. For example: Evangelicals are often one-issue (e.g., right to life) voters.

      Local: How do I think this candidate will deal with the significant domestic issues we are facing? Take, for example, the chord Sanders has struck with college students regarding economic fairness and educational issues.

      Global: Do I believe this candidate has what it takes to handle the global issues facing the world today? This is where Hillary has a real strong suit, but for some reason has not been taking advantage of it. Allowing Sanders to define the narrative around the “progressive” label, she has so far missed her opportunity to convince the voters most concerned with global issues that she is the one.

      Because I’m always interested in how these things translate into everyday business, I think a parallel can be drawn between how voters choose their candidate and how customers choose their providers.

      1. How does this company align with my personal views? Customers today are more concerned than ever with the degree to which a business matches their values. Issues such as sustainability have become fulcrums upon which purchase decisions rest for some customer groups.
      2. How do I think this company will deal with me when I have a personal issue that needs attending to? For example: A company with an excellent reputation for standing behind their products and services is often the provider of choice for customers looking for a stand-up company to support with their dollars.
      3. Do I believe this business will do the right thing in the face of a major problem? In other words, will these folks act quickly to fix a f…up of their own making? Companies that have shown a history of taking responsibility and moving to make amends and repairs with speed and grace are often the winners in the reputation game.

      Whether you are candidate running for political office or a business pitching for patronage, you would do well to remember that people vote for you (in the ballot box and with dollars) based on the three critical criteria of your brand – personal, local and global. Your best ground game is to be a winner in all three.

      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.