9 Hot Women Your Business + Brand Need Right Now

6.2.15HotList (Blog)

I’m going to be straight with you: stop trying to do everything yourself.

You know who you are: In an effort to “save money,” you sign up for every DIY course under the sun, thinking you’re going to have time to: perfect your writing, code your website, design your flyers, and everything else you need to do to run your business or promote your message. In addition to, you know, doing your actual work.

There’s definitely a time and a place to go it alone. Heck, I offer a self-study digital program that enables you to put together a clear, crisp brand strategy on your own – and folks love it. But savvy business people also know that no one can be an expert in everything. Why should you be, when there are fabulous resources out there? Not to mention that there are just certain things you may enjoy, like writing your blog or designing your materials, and some things that make you want to poke your eye out because it will take you three times as long to be half as good. Time better spent on the real, revenue-generating value you offer, whether that’s making your custom jewelry designs, working with paying clients or writing your next novel.

Folks often ask me for referrals, which I love to provide. This is not a zero-sum game. If someone helps me be successful, my responsibility is to mentor and share to help you, too.

If we can’t share our resources to lift everyone up, why are we even doing this “entrepreneurship” thing? (Tweet this!)

Enjoy my Hot List of 9 ridiculously talented people that will help your biz + brand shine bright. And yes, they are all women (#girlpower). You’re welcome.

Norma Maxwell of Connect Interactive. My website shaman. She has designed and built outrageously on-brand websites for me as well as many of my clients. She’s the genius behind my recent website facelift! Norma gets that your website is not just about good looks, but that it should speak to your target audience and represent your brand well – plus ensure a great user experience to achieve your goals.

Sarah Von Bargen: Sarah and I are long-time partners for many of my clients. She is the writing genius behind my SLICE Sessions. She loves to ghostwrite blog posts or eBooks – and she’s amazing at articulating your unique brand in a way that gets people excited and engaged. She has written a lot of great stuff for me over the years.

Tammy Martin of Martin Marketing: Tammy is a Facebook marketing expert for savvy soulful entrepreneurs. And not just about Facebook ads per se but how to use them to build a true sales funnel and lead your prospects down the path to purchase. She’ll help you build your following, your email list and generate crucial traffic back to your site – all while setting up both your ads and your unique landing pages, dealing with all the technology behind-the-scenes, installing all tracking pixels to make sure it’s working, and tweaking as needed. We had great results working together and I’m eager to work with her on more!

Alison Monday of Tiny Blue Orange: Alison is my website wizard and guardian. She is a designer and developer and ensures your site looks good and stays safe (she’s a techie at heart and is all about security, uptime, and performance). She helps me create pages, improve layout and has designed promotional JPG’s for me. She has also helped some of my clients build wonderful websites that required sophisticated back-end complexity and unique imagery.

Sandy Jones-Kaminski of Bella Domain Media: Sandy is a networking maven and LinkedIn ninja. She combines her expertise in how to network online or offline with her vast knowledge of how to use LinkedIn to generate leads, find connections, and get found by the folks who matter most. She has all kinds of social selling and networking tips and tricks that will change your business.

Anne Watson Barber of Almond Tree Social: Anne specializes in helping her clients boost the ROI of their websites via SEO, paid marketing campaigns, Infusionsoft eMarketing and other tools. As a Search Engine Marketing manager, she focuses on boosting conversions and traffic for large, complex websites. Fun fact: She was a News Editor for Wall Street Journal online before going freelance.

Social Media Gurus: These talented experts have been behind the scenes of some killer brands ranging from authors to consultants to restaurants and can help you develop a practical and powerful social media plan – and even ghostwrite and manage pages for you.

Karen Rosenzweig of One Smart Cookie Marketing

Tracey Warren of Ready, Set, Grow Marketing

Katie Kay of Virtually Savvy

And if you need a dynamic speaker to motivate your marketing team, liven up your next business event or inspire conference attendees into action, you can always enjoy my unique blend of branding and inspirational wit and wisdom but please check out these other fabulous folks as they are gifted presenters on their specific topics. Bookmark this post for when you need to find an amazing speaker for your next event.

Image Credit: Tomi Tapio K via Flickr

Marketing 101: The Music Analogy

I am often asked to explain the difference between brand and marketing, and  strategy versus tactics to audiences and clients. But today guest columnist Boyan Blocka, a writer, marketer and business consultant based in Vancouver, Canada, gives us a musical jam version of these definitions that are way more fun. His company, Kyosei Consulting works with clients worldwide. 

When meeting with first-time small business owners, it’s not unusual that their marketing-speak is a little bit blurred. To help everyone get on the same page, I sometimes introduce a music analogy as a sort of quick ‘Marketing 101.’ 

So, without further adieu, ‘Marketing 101: The Music Analogy.’

Brand = Musical Style

I liken brand to your unique musical style. It determines ‘what and how’ you play (ie. market yourself) and is heavily influenced by your intended audience. Just like a unique musical style, your brand sets expectations in the customer’s mind, well before you even play your marketing piece.

If you think of Apple, you know their style well before they even touch their first keynote (pun intended). Hence, just like you know what Jazz sounds like without needing to know the name of the song, it’s easy to pinpoint Apple’s brand with only a few clues or even spot a brand copycat! 

Of course at this point, if my clients and I stay stuck in brand minutiae – I quickly plug my peer Maria Ross and her book ‘Branding Basics for Small Business’ (second edition now in print!) – but I digress… (Editor’s Note: Aw, thanks Boyan!)

Campaign = The Concert

A campaign is to a marketer what a concert is to a musician. Campaigns (just like good concerts) piggyback on and speak to current trends and audience preferences – all with designs to move an audience emotionally. So when companies measure and tweak their marketing based on user metrics – in rough musical terms, really what they’re doing is practicing their set and honing it to better get a rise out of you.

Marketing Piece = The Song

The actual marketing piece is the song that’s played. Carefully scored and crafted, drafted and re-drafted, a marketing piece must live and breathe the spirit of the brand and be consistent with the goals of the campaign it serves.

Strategy = The Hook of the Song

Next is strategy. Psychologically, strategies are like hooks (or catchy riffs in music parlance) used to capture the ear of the listener. The key differentiator of a strategy (versus, say, a tactic) is that strategies are as powerful today as they will be a hundred years from now. They’re timeless. A common example of a strategy is the use of ‘a free offer’ to tempt a prospect to try something new.

Strategies stem from an understanding of human behavior, memory, cognitive bias and effect. And, just like a good hook in music, they work reliably regardless of the instrument of delivery – be it ebook, web, television or lemonade stand. Have a listen to these unconventionally played pieces here and here and see if you’re still moved by their memorable hooks.

Tactics = The playable parts of an instrument

Finally, that lands us on the most contentious of all areas for me – tactics. Tactics are like the keys of the piano. They’re the trending ‘bright shiny objects’ of the moment. They’re social media sites. Neato metrics. Cool ways to link, friend, like, post, photograph, etc. … but they’re not everything – and they don’t work forever.

Use tactics in the right order with the right timing (informed by your strategy, campaign and brand) – and you have marketing music. Hit tactics too hard, randomly, repeatedly, or all at once – and all you get is noise. (Tweet this!

A good thing to remember next time your Social Media person is emphatic about playing ‘Twitter, Twitter, Little Star’ one more time!

Photo credit: Jason Eppink on Flickr

What other fun marketing analogies do you love that help you keep it all straight? “Marketing is like ________” Please share with us for fun!

What’s your brand position? 5 moves you can try

What do yoga, the Kama Sutra and brand strategy have in common?

It’s all about the right positioning. (Tweet it!)

When your brand finds the right position to attract the right target customer, it’s like star-crossed lovers meeting in the rain at the Eiffel Tower. It just works. There’s connection. There’s magic.

But what does “positioning” really mean? And how do you land on the right position for your brand? Positioning is not just about ensuring you speak to the right buying drivers of your ideal customer or client, but also about how you stack up against alternate choices.

Think about it in terms of brands you know: Does Porsche really position itself in the same category as a Volkswagen? Are they speaking to the same needs of the same target audience? Heck no. In a past post, I shared how brand analogies are a useful way of wrapping your arms around where your brand plays in the market.

Let’s discuss some broad-brush options – there are nuances to all of these. One is not “better” than the other, as there are markets and customers for everything. And you can offer a few of the same things, but what is going to be your Lead Offer? How do you primarily want the business to be positioned in prospects’ minds?

  1. PRICE: Price is a good choice if 1) you can achieve volume and 2) you are targeting an audience that cares about price as a buying driver. The fine jeweler Tiffany & Co. doesn’t position based on price, because that’s not why people buy from them. They buy from them because of elegance, cache, and luxury craftsmanship. Walmart, however, positions itself based on “lowest prices” because of their target customer and their volume and reach. Positioning based on low prices has its drawbacks: this strategy attracts the least loyal customers because if they find a lower price elsewhere, that’s where they will go. Someone can always undercut you, and it’s hard to defend long term. Plus, you may not attract the customer or clients you really want.  Competing on price has a tendency to “cheapen” your brand and perceived value. Some people may avoid you thinking your low price says something about the quality.
  2. QUALITY:  This positioning is not about price but about value. This message will resonate for people who are not as price sensitive but care about results, aesthetics, or craftsmanship. This position works if your products or services do indeed deliver the highest quality. If you tout high-quality products, they better last. If you are a life coach competing on quality, you’re going to have to have some strong testimonials and success stories to back up this claim. Price becomes a non-starter if you are leading with a quality position.
  3. EXCLUSIVITY: This position is about scarcity and limited access, as well as cache. It works if you offer a limited amount or only take on a certain type of customer or client, which can be can be perceived as higher value. Again, price is not an issue – and in fact if it’s too low, it could raise red flags.  A club with a expensive VIP wait list. A pricey seminar with limited spots. An event planner who only takes on four celebrity weddings a year. This strategy means you may well be targeting a very specific niche of client or customer – so your  customer list needs to reinforce this position. Many high-end designers or stylists employ this strategy. With this strategy, you are looking to attract people who want to be “in the know” and appealing to their sense of jealousy or aspiration. They are more attracted to you because it could be something they can’t have!
  4. SERVICE: Are you all about the customer experience? Do you respond within 8 hours? Do you offer a 100% money back guarantee? Do you customize your consulting offerings based on each client’s needs? Do you offer an amazing concierge service? How do you go above and beyond? Nordstrom combines a quality positioning with a strong customer-service component. So does Zappos. In my book, Branding Basics (2nd Edition) I included many case studies from small businesses that combine a quality position with one of dedicated customer service. Be careful, though, when combining low price and quality service: It’s fine to offer both – Walmart doesn’t necessarily want their employees to be rude to customers, right? But “best quality” and “lowest price” can often contradict each other and confuse two different buying drivers. Again, what is your “lead” position – who is your target market and which do they care about the most?
  5. PERSONALITY:  You can position based on your brand voice, look and feel. How do you you talk and act – and thus, WHO you are talking to? Are you the quirky, playful, whimsical one? The trusted, conservative one? The edgy, innovative one?  Again, choose wisely as the personality you position yourself around should map to the person you’re trying to attract and speak to their buying drivers.

Offshoots of a personality-based position include social good: positioning your business not as the best quality, or cheapest price or most exclusive but as the one that benefits a good cause. Tom’s Shoes positions themselves this way to appeal to a certain buyer who is driven to buy based on social responsibility.  They may not make the best quality shoes, or even talk about how much they charge. But they are leading with their social good message.

Another offshoot  is thought-leadership: is your business, founder or CEO a visionary or does the market look to your business as a bellweather? Think of Tony Hsieh (Shay) from Zappos talking about excellent customer service and “delivering happiness.” Steve Jobs and Apple. I once worked with an IT consultancy client. What they did was not unique but the CEO was an amazing man with an impressive military background and strong values. We combined a thought leadership strategy with a brand voice strategy to make his company stand out from the competition. This may not work for you in the short term or until you achieve scale and reach, but it is something to think about.

OK, great. You know you need a positioning strategy. How do you choose?

  1. First, take inventory of your strengths and attributes which are authentic to what you can consistently deliver.  It’s not the time to pretend to be something you know you can’t possibly deliver. What do you do well, or if you’re rebranding or launching, what will you do well?
  2. Now, identify those attributes that are most
    1. Relevant (does your target ideal customer care? Does it speak to how and why they buy?)
    2. Unique (none of your competitors are positioning this way or going after that particular buying driver. We call this “whitespace” in the market)
    3. Compelling (which ones will generate buzz and align with your company’s culture and personality?0)

Once you land on your position, you can communicate it through all your brand messaging, customer touchpoints and even look and feel.  Kismet. Connection. Ease.

Want guidance in determining your brand position, strengths and voice? Check out my self-paced digital course MOMENTUM Pro!

Photo credit: Bozdoz, Benjamin J. DeLong, Flickr

How is your brand positioned? To which target audience and buying drivers do you most appeal? Are you struggling to determine your position – maybe I can help? Please share below in the Comments!

It’s here! 7 reasons to love Branding Basics for Small Business, 2nd Edition

It’s a….book!

In what will prove to be the second most exciting Spring birth for me (our son is due in May), I’m pleased as punch to share the launch today of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget, 2nd Edition (2014, Norlights Press) with all of you.

Even if you benefitted from the first edition, I invite you to check this one out in paperback or eBook format and let me know what you think.

Here are 7 juicy reasons why your brand and your business will get a boost from what’s inside:

  1. Content marketing as the new sales model: Since the first edition in 2010, content marketing has exploded on the scene and everyone is trying to figure it out. The book includes brand new sections on what content marketing is, how it benefits your business and increases your sales, and tips on what to create, how to share it, and time-savers for getting it done.
  2. Insights from your favorite excerpts: You’ll hear from Alexandra Franzen on how to weave magic with words; Sarah Von Bargen on making blogging easier and more fun; Sandy Jones-Kaminski on tips for effective networking to grow your business (even if you think you hate it); Jay Baer on effective social media; Amy Schmittauer on how to build a doable social media plan; Ann Handley, editor of Marketing Profs on content marketing tips; DJ Waldow on how to tackle email marketing to create a loyal tribe; and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur himself, Mike Michalowicz about not just pursuing passion before profit but how to get to know your customers intimately. They share wonderful stories and generously gave their time to help you reach your business and brand goals.
  3. Fresh new case studies to inspire you: TCHO Chocolate, Blue Bottle Coffee, Happy Herbivore, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Taylor Stich and more. All examples of small businesses started with passion and purpose that create loyal fans and killer brands without multi-million dollar marketing budgets.
  4. Social media made simple: I expanded the social media “how-to’s” section in Part 3 to include how to build a plan, how to manage your time and how to create delightful content that doesn’t keep you chained to your computer 24/7.
  5. To blog or not to blog: New content talks specifically about blogging, how and why to consider it part of your mix and ideas for posts when your creative well is running dry.
  6. Launch Week bonuses: Purchase a paperback or eBook format, send the receipt to info (at) red-slice (dot) com by April 7 and get your free digital bonus swag bag of business-building resources from experts you love, including worksheets, tips and an entire book from CRAVE’s Melody Biringer! More details here.
  7. A FREE teleseminar on April 2: If you read this in time, you can still sign up for my free launch week teleseminar, 5 Clever Ways to Boost Your Brand Online. Sign up here NOW as those on the call will have a chance to win 1 of 3 free signed copies or 1 of 3 free Red Slice Brand Bootcamp digital courses ($197 value)

Feel free to Tweet the love today or find other promo posts on this handy page. I’d be honored.

Thank you for your support as this 2nd edition went from idea to reality. I really hope you enjoy it and would love to hear what you think, so let me know once you’ve finished it or feel free to post an online review. Thanks!

The Good “If” and the Bad “If”

“If” can be a powerful word.

I recently watched a documentary about a football coach who lost his parents and sister in a car crash. Years later, he was still blaming himself. “If I wasn’t playing in that game, they wouldn’t have been in the car to come see me and maybe they’d still be here.”

This comment made me so sad for him.

The bad “If” is when you use the word to lament the past. When used to berate yourself over things you can’t control or change, “If” can lead to damage and torture.

“If I had taken that other job, I would have been happier.”

“If I had not spent all that money on that trip, I’d have the money to buy a new computer.”

“If only I’d been home, he would have survived the stroke.”

This is neither helpful nor productive. True, we need to learn from our mistakes so we don’t repeat them, but 9 times out of 10, this type of “If-ing” is just ridiculous. How can you predict the future? How can you think you can stop a speeding train or the death of a loved one or an unexpected layoff? You can’t.

I think we do this to fool ourselves into thinking we have control over certain events. But the truth is we don’t. All we can do is prepare for the future as best we can with the information we have at hand. That’s where the Good “If” comes in.

Good “If’s” are those that help you plan for future opportunity:

“If I buy emergency supplies, we’ll be safe during the power outage.”

“If I plan all my errands, I can make the most efficient use of my time today.”

“If I create a strong brand and marketing plan now, I can reach my business goals this year.”

See? Much more productive, proactive and useful.

“If” looks much better in front of you rather than behind you (Tweet this!)

Be mindful of how you use the word “If.” Those two little letters can cause a whole hot mess of despair– or they can open up infinite possibilities.

Photo credit: TheNext28Days on Flickr

Your Big “If”

If you create a strong brand and marketing plan now, you can reach your business goals and create a loyal following. Let me help! Please sign up now for Brand Bootcamp, a self-paced and stress-free way to build a strong brand strategy and bring it to life, with more ease, confidence and clarity. 7 videos, a fun Playbook and tons of advice from yours truly. Hurrah!


Which wine would your brand be? (Feel free to sample a lot just to be sure)

If your brand were a vegetable, what would it be?

I know, sometimes brand strategy questions can seem esoteric and ridiculous. I mean, really, what the heck does asparagus tell me about how I can make smarter marketing decisions and attract more customers, sales and word of mouth?

But creating a brand analogy for ourselves can often help us make smarter decisions for our business. (Tweet!)

The only 2 questions on which I really ever probe clients in this vein are “If your brand were a person, place or fictional character, what would it be and why?” and “You are the (BLANK) of your industry” which usually ends up being something car-related. For example, we’re the “Porsche of our industry: fast, sexy and super expensive” or “We’re the Jetta of our industry: Fun, reliable, approachable and not too flashy.”

These exercises can really help you make sense of how your brand “stacks up” in a potential customer’s mind. As I talk about in my book, Branding Basics, you want to be intentional about where people slot you in their mental file drawers. Creating such analogies can help you wrap your head around determining the right tone, visual style and even brand voice for your efforts.

So here’s a fun Slice of Adventure for you today:

Given my love for all things wine, think about “Which wine would your brand be and why?”

Is your brand a peppery, spicy Zinfandel? Are you a crisp, clean Sauvignon Blanc? A bold Cabernet Sauvignon that can take on any hearty dish or complex meat with ease? A more exotic, quirky and harder to find varietal: a gentler yet berry-filled Carménère? Or perhaps a complex, eclectic blend such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape?

Maybe your brand is a rustic and traditional Chianti. Or an effervescent, bubbly, and high-style Champagne!

And don’t forget winemaker brands, either: Are you a mass market Mondavi or Yellowtail or a more affluent Silver Oak? Perhaps you’re even an exclusive, rare, luxury Chateau Lafite.

If you have a good grasp on who you are in relation to your competition, you can make much smarter decisions about content, voice, pricing and visual style so you attract the right people with the right message at the right time.

Creating a “brand analogy” helps you walk, talk and look exactly how you want (Tweet this!)

So now it’s your turn: think about your brand voice, personality, style, target audience and price point and tell us in the Comments below, which wine are you?

14 Secrets to Selling $4 Million: How to Find Digital Success Using Old-Fashioned Values

I adore today’s guest post from Beth Marbach of Downtown Gal. She spent 12 years building a $4 million designer shoe resale business on eBay. Her story has everything: Scrappy moxie, digital prowess and a health dose of good old -fashioned values that catapulted her to success. Whether your business is online, in an office park or on Main Street, you will devour these 14 secrets which Beth was kind enough to share. Enjoy.

In 2001, I was an executive recruiter, and I wanted out. Desperately.

On the side, I started selling books, CDs and DVDs on eBay. With time I moved onto selling dog jackets. My profits on books were $4 to $6; my profits on canine apparel were $19 per jacket.

It was when I spotted a $49 pair of Coach Boots at DSW, which I bought and sold that very evening for $149 that my whole life changed. Twelve years later I had earned $4 million selling designer shoes online. The lessons I learned along the way were many. I honed relationship, business and marketing skills amongst many others.

Here are 14 such lessons I feel were some of the most critical to the success of my business.

1. Make Study Sheets

The success of my business was critically dependent on the monthly trips I took to various designer shoe outlets around the country. I made these trips to purchase shoes, but I also made them to solidify and grow relationships with store personnel.

See, my revenue was determined on the quantity and quality of shoes I could access, and as I could not be in all places at once, that access was greatly determined by the store personnel who thought to call or email me first (before any other reseller) when new inventory arrived.

To help support me in this, I made laminated spreadsheets which included basic information such as store names, phone numbers and addresses. These spreadsheets also included names of all store personnel (which I had met to date), and any information which would be helpful in both personal and work related conversations.  Prior to going into every store I studied these sheets and directed conservations accordingly.

2. Call Ahead

Spreadsheet studying and traveling across the country all prove to be futile if, when you arrive, your favorite sales person has the day off. To prevent this from happening I always called ahead to make sure when I arrived, they were waiting for me.

3. Know the Best Days of the Week to Shop

I was not a store’s average customer. I did not go in and purchase a few pairs of shoes. I went in and made purchases up to $10,000. To do this, I needed the undivided attention of store personnel which meant I needed to go on the slowest shopping days of the week – Monday and Tuesday. 

4. Inexpensive Branding Can Work

My branding did not come from a high priced design shop but from a few hours of my husband’s time with Photoshop. Likewise, my business name was not derived from expensive brainstorming sessions but was simply borrowed from what was, during my single days, my Match.com handle – Downtowngal. (Editor note: See? Told you building an irresistible brand on any budget was possible!)

5. Hire Effectively by Hiring Creatively

Having 100s of pairs of shoes to photograph, inventory and ship required assistance. I hired super smart high school gals, paid them more than the mall and kept them happy by letting them listen to whatever music they wanted.

6. Consider Office Space Very Carefully

Storing 100s of pairs of shoes in a basement and working for 12 years alongside them might seem less than ideal, but doing so saved me $1000s of dollars annually (or 10s of 1000s of dollars over 12 years).

7. Know there is More than One Way to Get Supplies (and Just about Anything Else You Need)

The price of shipping supplies was always a challenge. As a cost savings work around, I utilized the clean (and in good condition) shipping boxes from my local grocery store and daycare center. I then invested 2 cents per branded sticker and placed one on every box I shipped.

8. Become an Expert

95% of what I sold was shoes, and within that I focused on a small handful of designer brands. Developing my niche allowed me to use my time effectively (which was very important when you have two little kids), provided me focus on the key relationships to develop and provided me the ability to increase revenue in ways that would not be feasible had I attempted a broad product line. (Oh, and it greatly reduced daily insanity, so there is that too.)

9. Please Your Accountant

With the enormous number of fraudulent designer shoes in the marketplace, it was critical for me to keep all receipts in the case the legitimacy of my inventory ever came into question. More often than you might imagine customers asked for proof that shoes they purchased from me were legitimate. It was always good to have that validation readily available.

Keeping all receipts also helped quarterly taxes go quicker, ensured I received maximum tax benefits and made my accountant quite happy. (Happy accountant = Happy business.)

10. Categorize Your Customers

Keeping detailed records on my customers including their gender, designer preference and shoe size allowed me to easily contact people when I received shipments in which they might have interest. Sometimes I could even sell shoes to them before I had to take the time and expense to put them on eBay.

11. Consider Online and Offline Inventory Acquisition Options

The majority of the shoes I purchased were from brick and mortar stores; however there were times where I could buy shoes directly off their website. To make this process efficient, I bookmarked 20 stores, which I knew carried the designer shoes I desired. Every morning I would go through these links, purchase desirable footwear and have it shipped directly to my house.

12. Be Nice to Everyone. No Exceptions.

The sales folks at the designer outlet stores were underpaid, overworked and rarely appreciated. I found the simple act of bringing a goodie along – calling and taking coffee orders before I arrived, buying nice chocolate as gifts or bringing in a fruit basket significantly differentiated me from other resellers who, I might add, were frequently downright ruthless to store personnel.

Who wants to call a jerk to give them the heads up that new inventory has arrived?

No one.

Who wants to call the woman who is nice to them every time she sees them, brings them coffee and gets to know them so well she is invited to their wedding?

Well, that is how I built my business. It is also how I made an enormous number of wonderful friends.

13. Thank People the Old Fashioned Way

When I was growing up my parents made me send handwritten thank you notes when someone extended kindness towards me. When I received a shipment from a reseller who thought to call me first, I did the same. Within that note I included a $25 Starbucks gift card. For one quick note and a small gift of coffee, I was always one of the first resellers they called.

14. And Keep Thanking Them. All of Them.

I certainly wouldn’t have a business without the designer outlet personnel I befriended over the years, but I also wouldn’t have a business if it weren’t for the UPS drivers, the folks at the post office, my staff and of course, my customers. Christmas time at DowntownGal Shoes meant it was “thank you” time.

To my UPS drivers and post office friends I gave wonderful holiday cakes and popcorn tins, the gals I worked with could pick any pair of shoes they wanted, and the sales associates at the designer outlets would receive a  Starbucks gift certificate (with a higher value than the normal $25 cards I gave throughout the year), a card and a photo of my family. And regardless of what time of year it was, I included a free shoe shine kit for my customers with every purchase.

In the end, I found that although we live in a society that drives very hard towards the big things; it is, in fact, the little things that guarantee we get there.

About the author: To learn more about Beth Marbach, and her 12 year saga selling $4 million dollar of designer shoes on eBay go to: http://downtowngal.com/

Photo credit:  geishaboy500

Your Call to Action: Which ONE tip will you put into practice to boost your business this week? Please share in the Comments below!

Your social media lifesavers: 6 people you need to know

Social media. Do those words alone cause a panic attack and drowning sensation? How the heck can one human being possibly keep up with the constant onslaught of blogging, tweeting, posting, Pinning, connecting when you have a freaking business to run?

If you’re like most people, you’re doing one of three things:

1. You’ve doubled-down on a few networks and use them all the time
2. You’re killing yourself trying to be in 50 places at once – and not seeing any ROI
3. You’ve opted out completely because it all just gives you a headache

Building your brand awareness online is vital in today’s marketplace. Why? One, customers expect you to be available online in some way, shape or form (I’m still reeling from a woman with no website because “I don’t want the wrong people finding me. I get enough business through referrals.” Um. Okay. How long will that last?) In fact, I’m dubious of any business these days who doesn’t have any real-time online presence. Makes me think they are fly-by-night.

Two, you need to prove you are relevant and current. That you keep up with trends. And three, there’s just good old fashioned lead generation. You can find and connect with partners and potential clients or customers more easily and cost-effectively if you blog or play in social media.

If you’re trying to keep your head above water when it comes to social media, then grab a lifeline from these 6 people you absolutely need to know to make your life easier.

Sarah Von Bargen: Sarah is a brilliant copywriter and master blogger. We partner on many of my SLICE sessions and part of what she delivers is practical advice on your content marketing strategy. Read her small business blog (or her very fun personal blog which gets over 11,000 readers a day!) and consider one of her sessions to get your blog working for you, not against you. She’ll even share ideas for how to promote your posts effectively in other channels to get more readers. Check out this recent post on avoiding social media overwhelm. Brilliant.  Follow her: @yesandyes

Amy Schmittauer: I’m loving the fresh, practical advice this “Savvy Sexy Social” gal is dishing up, especially when it comes to using video effectively. Sign up for her weekly videos where she gives you entertaining and practical advice on all things social media, whether it’s Google +, Twitter or her sweet spot, creating videos. Amy makes everything seem doable and easy and doesn’t overcomplicate. Love that. Check out this recent post on how to make cheap awesome videos. Follow her: @savvysexysocial

Amy Porterfield: This social media strategist is the queen of cracking the Facebook nut, and she’s charming, approachable and knowledgeable to boot. I took one of her digital programs and, while normally a skeptic . I got so much value out of it, I couldn’t believe she didn’t  charge more. She comments on many other social media channels, but Facebook seems to be her sweet spot. Check out her extremely useful Resources page if you’ve ever wondered, “Is there an online solution that will help me do x?” Follow her: @amyporterfield

Sandy Jones-Kaminski: Sandy is a networking queen who – literally – wrote the book on it. She has mastered how to use social media  – and LinkedIn in particular – not just for effective networking but for more sales, more business opportunities and more leads. I’ve seen her literally work on someone’s LinkedIn profile and that person received two fresh leads the next day. No joke. She offers everything from workshops, to consulting to spot-audits of your profile. Follow her: @sandyjk

Karen Rosenzweig: Karen is a personal friend and a social media colleague, who specializes in restaurants, food businesses and hospitality – but she consults with any solopreneur or small biz to assess, create and/or manage their social channels more effectively for more customers, more sales and more buzz. I actually consulted with Karen when my book, Branding Basics, was published and she helped me use Twitter effectively to reach the right influencers and build buzz for the book when I had no clue how to use what is now my favorite channel. She also does group trainings. Follow her @karenrosenzweig

Tracy Warren: Tracy’s specialty is handling the day-to-day social media efforts of the business, acting as a ghost writer/marketer.  She offers coaching and page creation – as well as ongoing management (hurrah!) for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Biznik.  Her focus is primarily on small businesses, solopreneurs and other organizations who just want someone to take things over and get it done, including non-profits, events, and even brick and mortar businesses.  What I love about her blog is her clear, easy, uncomplicated advice for your social media efforts. Follow her @readysetgrow

Photo credit: Pipistrula on Flickr

Now it’s your turn! Which social media gurus make your life easier with practical help and advice (not just theory)? Please post your suggestions and a link in the Comments below. And also, let us know your greatest tip for managing social media overwhelm.

What should I blog about? 5 inspirations to spice up your content marketing

Does your cursor blink at you, taunting you to come up with something witty and profound for your blog or other content marketing this week?

Our creative wells can all run a bit dry sometimes. And when we’re trying to deliver quality content to our readers, friends or connections, the pressure to create something brilliant can often send our muse packing. (Look, there she goes, hightailing it out the door like someone who did way too many tequila shots and doesn’t want to be reminded of what she may have done at the bar last night.)

When you’re stuck in neutral and want to write a great blog post, create effective content marketing or even just post Tweets that go viral, here are some ideas to lure your muse back in – at least for a cup of coffee and a bagel.

  1. Answer common questions: Seems simple, but I’m sure there are the same ten questions you always get about your business, book or project that everyone always asks. Why not turn each one into a blog post or create a weekly Q&A video, answering reader questions? Marie Forleo releases a Q&A video every Tuesday for entrepreneurial women. While her videos often branch out to other topics or interviews, they still tend to start with a question she’s been asked many times. What questions do your customers or clients always ask? Start documenting them and plan for a blog post series, video or podcast.
  2. Add a spice of pop culture: The Holy Grail of PR is to talk about something topical or celebrity-related. Spin your area of expertise into a commentary on the latest hit song, blockbuster movie or media superstar and add some pizzazz and fun to something that might be a bit dry. One of my best viral blog posts was one I did on “Four Powerful Business Lessons from James Bond and Skyfall“. And this one I did about the fall of Lance Armstrong’s brand.
  3. Revisit or clarify your Brand Strategy: Craft a strong brand strategy and think about what you stand for, why you do what you do, and what your customers really care about. Chances are it goes beyond just your products or services. Is there meaning in your message where you can highlight something related to your business? Brainstorm on a white board every possible topic related to that mission or vision. If you are a nutritionist, what other areas do your clients care about? Why do you do this work? To help them survive a dreaded holiday party? To better deal with family criticism and expectations? To boost their self-confidence? Open the aperture and think bigger about your audience’s needs and what benefits they get, use cases they might encounter or related challenges they may be having. This recent interview I did for Social Media Today, in advance of my conference keynote this week may help.
  4. Showcase other experts: You may not have anything witty to say this week, but I’m sure there are others in related fields who do. And who doesn’t love hearing another voice from time to time? Interview other experts or feature guest posts, as I’ve done with marketers, entrepreneurs and rockstars that I admire – and heck, you may even learn something in the process. My Slice of Brilliance columns & videos, like ones  I’ve done with Betsy Talbot of Married With Luggage about how to woo your audience with great content or a guest post from digital strategist Linda Rubright on better SEO in just 5 minutes a day were extremely popular and well-shared.
  5. Recycle and repackage: Not everything you do has to be completely original. Sometimes, people like to learn in different ways. Maybe you can turn that popular post from last year into a podcast, with fresh updated information. Perhaps you can take a great presentation you did and turn it into a Top 10 tip sheet. Don’t assume your content is “once and done.” It’s still valuable and important for all the people who didn’t know you or know about it the first time it ran, so just repackage it and tie a different color bow on it.

Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt, Pink Sherbet Photography, Flickr

What is your biggest headache when coming up with great content each week? Where do you find inspiration for your blog posts, videos or podcasts? Please share on the Facebook page!

Which idea should you start on next? A handy worksheet for you…

Do you find yourself drowning in great ideas but unable to implement any of them because you’re either paralyzed by choice or you’re too stuck on fighting today’s fires?

Yeah, me too. Creativity is awesome until it starts to overwhelm you. (Tweet this!)

Today’s guest post comes from Michelle Nickolaisen, creator of Bombschelle. Michelle makes systems/productivity/organization/all that incredibly boring sounding stuff incredibly NOT boring so that you + your biz can reap the rewards.She’s worked with six figure business owners behind the scenes and helped them take their business to a new level without stressing out about it. She also teaches, consults and helps organize product launches.

Michelle believes that “organized” and “creative” can co-exist in perfect harmony. Read on for her practical advice on combing through the ideas in your head and determining which ones can/should be actioned:


One of those problems-that’s-kinda-good-to-have is the problem of too many ideas. On the one hand, it’s something of a blessing to have all of these ideas zipping around your head like hyperactive kittens with a ball of string. On the other hand, it can also be headache inducing and give you the paralyzing fear of not knowing which idea to start on next. If you’re paralyzed, you’re not taking action; and if you’re not taking action, those ideas don’t end up doing any good.

How do you pick one idea to start on next? For those of us who have this problem, it can be incredibly difficult to put one on the backburner. We want to work on everything at the same time and create amazing things, but that’s not always possible (and can often just lead to not finishing any of the ideas you’re working on – especially if you’re not a meticulous planner).

The secret is to look to your priorities to show you which idea to work on next. This might be fairly obvious and sound like a great idea, but can be hard to carry out in practice. So instead of just telling you that and leaving you hanging, I’m going to show you a process for figuring out what, exactly, your priorities are right now, and how that fits in with the ideas running around in your head.

Go ahead and download this worksheet to help you with the process, and grab a pen & paper. (Alternately, you can just write through this without the worksheet. Whatever floats your boat!)

Write down all of your current ideas that you’re having trouble choosing between. You don’t have to write down the idea in intricate detail, but enough so that upon referring back to this, you’ll know exactly which idea you were speaking of. After you write down all of your ideas, go back through, and for each idea write down two things:

  • What you’ll get from working on the idea and bringing it to fruition. Money? Pride? Fun? Respect? Two or three of these? Whatever it is, write it down.
  • An approximate estimate for how long it will take you to complete this idea. Be realistic, but try not to give yourself too much wiggle room. Think about your current and upcoming commitments, how much free time and energy they’ll leave you, and how flexible all of these things are.

After you finish that, set it aside.

We’re going to zoom out now. Think about what you want to be doing, how you want to feel, and what you want to have in the next one, three, and six months. (Otherwise known as your goals – but thinking of it in these terms can bring things into super-clear focus.) Write this down, in detail.

Look at what you wrote down, and pick out the common threads – usually there will be two or three. These are your top priorities for the next several months. Now, keeping these priorities in mind, skim back over your answers for what you’ll get from working on each idea. And then figure out which idea matches best with your current priorities – and can be completed within the next 1-6 months. If there’s more than one idea that suits the requirements, choose the one that you’re most excited about, or that you can finish first – this’ll build momentum that can transfer over into working on your other ideas.

(Of course, it is possible to be working on more than one thing at once! And many people do it incredibly well. If you’re one of these people, you can use this advice to help choose which idea to make your top priority, letting the others take more of a “back burner” status – working on them when you have the time, energy, & inclination to do so.)

In the meantime, you need to do something with the ideas that you aren’t working on at the moment. Part of the reason we can have such an inordinately hard time choosing one idea to work on is that we feel that by doing so, we’re abandoning the other ideas. If you do something that ensures you can come back to those other ideas later, you’re a lot more likely to be able to commit to working on this one idea for now. The best way to do this is to just take your descriptions of the ideas that you’ve already written and store them somewhere – whether online or off. They can be the start of your idea garden, and you can add new ideas as you come up with them.

In case you missed the link above, you can download your worksheet here. And follow Michelle @_chelleshock

Photo credit: Lamantin on Flickr

Can you relate to drowning in good ideas? How do you decide which to choose? Which one insight did you glean from this article? Please share in the Comments!