You’ve heard me preach ad nauseum that your brand strategy informs everything your business does, inside and out. Even when it comes to how you thank your clients, customers or partners. You can refresh yourself on some good reasons to thank your tribe–and a few insanely clever ways to do it.
It’s important to remember that any “thank you”–from clever emails to thoughtful handwritten notes–says something about you and your brand. It’s yet another touch point to reinforce your brand message and vibe.
Once you determine your brand strategy, you can easily brainstorm brilliant ideas for a “signature touch” you can use as a unique thank you gift. If your brand is playful and whimsical, maybe you can send customers a mini-Slinky, a retro candy box, or for the truly quirky, a Japanese candy box! My friend, publicity expert, Melissa Cassera uses decadent language about salted, gooey caramels and other guilty pleasures, so it was no surprise when a thank you gift of caramel marshmallows arrived on my doorstep. It was just so her. And that made it special.
A creative brand signature touch can generate buzz and leave an unforgettable impression. (TWEET THIS!)
It can light up your packaging, email signoff, or perhaps your event outfits (maybe you are the “purple suit lady?”). There is a wonderful case study in my book Branding Basics about a Los Angeles psychotherapist who stands out in a very crowded profession because she uses lemon imagery in everything from her business name (Lemon-Aid Counseling) to her website to her office décor to even lemon-shaped notepads for her clients. She is now known for this.
Whatever you choose, just make sure it’s consistent with your brand and doesn’t confuse your audience! If my savvy, conservative and super-smart financial planner sent me that Japanese candy box, I’d be like, “What the….?!”
Early on in my business, I started sending Chukar Cherry gift boxes to clients and partners as a way to show my gratitude. Irresistible chocolate covered cherries, delivered in a bold, neat red box–and from a Seattle company, where my business started? What could be more Red Slice?! Fresh. Delicious. Fun. BOOM. In addition, “giving back” is an important Red Slice brand value, so every year, my clients get to choose a charity and I donate on their behalf as a holiday gift.
Do you have a signature touch? Oooohh….please share it in the Comments below!
The other day, I was talking to a fellow business consultant about our worlds. A friend had connected us as “two power women” which I was pretty honored by and this woman, for sure had the power gene in spades and I instantly fell in love with her over the phone. She was bold, fierce and knew exactly what her value was in the market. Confidence (not to be confused with arrogance, my friends) is sexy.
She admired the way I’ve packaged up my consulting versus my coaching offerings, which led us to commiserate about how people confuse the terms consultant, coach and contractor.
Such misunderstanding forced me to tactfully point out to a really difficult CEO many years ago that he was paying me to be a consultant, not a contractor. He wanted to go down a path that was in stark contrast to our team’s findings and experience, and so we parted ways.
So what’s the diff? Keep in mind these are not legal definitions for tax purposes, but thoughts on how to be mindful of positioning yourself:
A consultant is an advisor. She researches and uses specific tools and processes to recommend a strategy or course of action. You are paying for that recommendation. Whether you choose to reject or implement it is up to you, and part of the contract should state how much back and forth or “tweaking” is done to that recommendation. It also means a consultant may or may not choose to continue working with a client on a strategy they feel is the wrong direction. Some consultants will go on to implement the plan they come up with for you, but some do not. For my clients, I offer discussion and tweaking of my SLICE package while we’re engaged on the project. After that, they can do with it what they want. It’s not an endless loop.
A contractor is someone you hire to do a specific task based on their expertise but ultimately, your orders. They implement an existing plan or activity. Run these campaigns. Manage my Twitter account. Create the flyer with this copy. They are very valuable and while many contractors call themselves this from a legal/tax standpoint, and offer both strategic advice and implementation, the understood business arrangement is that “you do what I say” and he or she is essentially an order-taker.
A coach is a mentor, a guide, a sanity-checker, a sounding board. Someone who can offer a framework to talk through your specific ideas and plans and then you, as the client, are responsible for taking action or not. The onus is on the client to come prepared with an agenda, discussion points, key questions they want to hash out. A coach does not necessarily produce deliverables for you unless that is the arrangement or they choose to share a tool, article, or perhaps, research something for you. But like a psychotherapist, there are no “action items” for the coach after each session.
If you offer professional services, be mindful of how you position yourself. Your title is a branding decision. I call myself a “Brand Strategist” to really drive home that if you need someone to create a detailed tactical marketing plan and execute it, I’m not your girl.
Your job title defines your brand position. Make a smart choice to ensure the right expectation of your work. (Tweet this!)
Look through your website. What do you call yourself? What could this lead prospects to believe you do or do not provide? Are you finding yourself constantly re-hashing your core competencies? The problem could lie in your job title or messaging.
Good news is that I can help! If you’re struggling to position your offerings or clearly articulate what you do and why you’re different I’ve got so much more to share with you. Check out MOMENTUM Pro to learn more!
Image Credit: Erin Berzel Photography, erinberzel.com via Flickr
Starting a Twitter account and sending five tweets a day is not enough.
Requesting connections from everyone you’ve ever worked with on LinkedIn is not enough.
Sending a daily email to your subscribers is not enough.
I mean, sure, those things can work for you. But not if you’re not doing them right.
Most companies, from one-person shops to global corporations, now recognize they need to get busy on social media. And in that same vein, many companies (from one-person shops to global corporations) do things on social media that make me smack my hand against my head and cry out, “Whhhhhyyyyy can’t you get out of your own way?!”
Are you engaging in any of these four behaviors on social media? If you are, I’m guessing you are not seeing the results you’d like. You’re not attracting new fans, your content is not being shared – and you’re not generating clicks, sales or new donors–depending on what you desire.
Saboteur #1: BUY! BUY! BUY!
If all you’re doing is using your social media account to push your products, you may as well stop wasting your time. Social media marketing is about engaging your potential customers. You want to woo them over time and deliver exceptional value so when they are ready to buy, they will turn to you. This means posting content they care about, not content you care about, and inviting interaction. Remember, social media is not a billboard, it’s a conversation (more on this below.) They don’t want to be sold to….yet. You are in the courtship phase, so try to keep your content relevant, interesting, and valuable about 85% of the time. Can you offer advice related to your offerings, feature success stories, share interesting articles? This is why blogging or podcasts are so great, as it gives you valuable content to share that is not solely about sales. Once you prove that you offer value, then you can push “product” the other 15% of the time. But do it gracefully, tactfully. If you offer enough value the majority of the time, your audience will not mind the occasional plug for your products or services because they will already be raving fans. Don’t be that brand that constantly screams at your audience to buy. What’s intriguing or worth sharing about that if I don’t trust you well enough to want to advocate for you?
Saboteur #2: I, Robot
Social media is S-O-C-I-A-L. Would you go to a neighborhood barbeque or cocktail party and use unnatural jargon, talk about yourself in the third person or act stiff and formal? Of course not. You shouldn’t do that in social media, either. You need to speak like a real human would to other humans. This is how you create a connection and engage your audience. Be clever. Use slang. Reference pop culture. Curse a little, if that is who your brand is. If you can, have those posting on social media be transparent, speak in the first person, and share personal experiences. Speak the language of your audience. People relate to people, not a soulless brand robot. Customers will want to interact with, share and stay loyal to a personality, not a pitch.
Saboteur #3: Automating Customer Service
I know, I know. Many larger companies have to scale and cut costs somehow. But it’s painful when you get a Tweet response to a complaint and it’s blatantly obvious the reply is from a bot and not a real person. Especially if the response has nothing to do with the actual issue. Virgin America and Jet Blue do a phenomenal job of reacting quickly and personally to any issue you raise on Twitter. Follow their accounts to get a taste for how your social media customer service should be working. And yes, as with all useful tactics, it requires time and investment.
Saboteur #4: One-Way is the Only Way
Once again, social media is social. You can automate a lot of your posting but you are still responsible for jumping in and interacting with your fans and followers. You don’t have to do it everyday, but someone has to do it. There is a publishing house I follow that automates all their Tweets and every single one promotes one of their books. That’s it. There is no other valuable content being pushed out (see #1), no engagement or interaction, no questions for folks to chew on. Not even any shared articles or interesting advice. It’s so obvious this is just a “set and forget” strategy and this is why they are not seeing any return on their effort investment. You can’t just push out your agenda like a billboard and expect to be shared, clicked or enjoyed. Share interesting posts. Thank folks for Re-tweets (but you don’t need to do this every single time, as it makes for a boring stream!). Give shout-outs to customers, connect folks you know to each other, promote what other colleagues have going on, pose questions, start a Twitter chat or Google Hangout. There are lots of ways to interact with your followers. But you have to jump in there and do it every now and then.
Bottom line: If you are doing social media “wrong” you may as well stop wasting your time and focus your energy elsewhere. There are plenty of other ways to build a business, but if you want to see true ROI, avoid these landmines. (Tweet this!)
Which of the above is the greatest “A Ha!” for you? Have you found a clever way to work around some of these saboteurs like a stealthy ninja to ensure your social media shines? Please share in the Comments below!
Apple challenged us many years ago to “Think Different.” But are you stuck in a mindset rut? Sometimes this can happen when we focus solely on our role, business or even industry.
You’re networking with people who do what you do. You go to the same places. You read the same books. You’re looking at what everyone else in your industry is doing – and it all looks the same. It’s no surprise that when you surround yourself with sameness, you’ll naturally fall into a creative void.
But there’s a way to shake things up.
Change your habits, experience new things & watch the ideas flow. (Tweet this!)
For many years, I was a management consultant, working with Fortune 500 companies. Then I worked as a consumer-focused Marketing Manager for Discovery Networks. Then I became an Account Manager for an ad agency, and finally did an 8-year tour of duty in the dot.com and Silicon Valley tech scene before launching my business.
Bouncing from process design to event planning, from B2C to B2B, from communication planning to PR, from agency to client …these experiences ended up creating my biggest secret weapons. I see the whole picture. I connect dots and articulate themes that others can’t see. I can now take the best of what I’ve seen in one industry or business model and apply it to another to turn things upside down. The humor and fun I learned while marketing consumer networks like Animal Planet and The Discovery Channel? I applied that kind of human voice and vibe to B2B tech marketing to great success. The sales process and lead generation best practices I honed as a technology Marketing Director? My smallest entrepreneurial clients love that insight to not only build their brand, but to structure their pipeline and business development.
Even being an actress has added dimension to my current work. I’m able to tell stories, evoke emotion and create drama for my clients’ brand strategies and messaging. And of course, that skill enables me to light up a conference stage and delight an audience.
If you’re bored with your approach, tired of how “we’ve always done things around here” and new ideas just aren’t coming to you, sounds like you need to shake things up. Here are 4 ways you can shift your thinking and generate creative business ideas – not to mention contribute to your mental well-being:
Ditch the bedside business books: When my nightstand is piled high with business or management books, I find I’m less creative and imaginative. Not that they don’t have their place for learning important strategies (ahem…I know of a really good one on how to build your brand….), but try something completely different. Light up sleepy parts of your brain, perhaps with a memoir, historical non-fiction, dramatic fiction, moody detective novels…hell, even a juicy romance novel.* Point is, you’ve got to exercise all parts of your brain and imagination in order to come up with fresh ideas. And movies count, too: You may just find your next brilliant business tip or sexy new marketing promotion from a spy thriller.
Immerse yourself in the arts: In 2013, I took a 5 week sabbatical to attend an exclusive acting intensive through San Francisco’s famed America Conservatory Theater. From 9 am to 6 pm – and even later at times – I sat on the floor and took notes from acting masters (on real paper!). Created art with my body during movement classes. Tapped into the raw, true voice that emanates from my gut, not my head. Let go of self-consciousness during improv. Tested my strength and agility in combat fighting. When I returned to work, I was exhilarated and approached my clients’ work with fresh eyes. Creativity poured out of me and I never felt more alive. Being in plays or doing short films has the same effect for me: I am surrounded by people who think, act and express in ways that folks in my “regular” works never would and it energizes me. Instead of going to your next networking event, go see a play with a friend. Make a date to wander around your local art gallery on a Sunday afternoon. Take an improv class. Sign up for a pottery workshop. Flex your artsy muscle and expose yourself to a radically different world outside of your “business box.”
For the love of Pete…UNPLUG!: Guilty. I admit it. I’m never without my phone within 1 foot of my body and panic if I can’t find it. My husband says my tombstone epitaph should be, “Where’s my phone?” because I ask it about 100 times a day. But seriously, guys. It’s time for a Digital Detox. Let’s stop crossing the street glued to our phones. Let’s step away from the laptop for a day (a week, a month…) Look up. Open your eyes. Connect to others around you at the coffee shop or grocery store. When was the last time you people-watched at the airport and invented fun back-stories for the strangers who pass by? Do you want to get new ideas? Then you have to experience life, connection and reality. Start with one afternoon you designate as “tech-free” and see where it takes you.
Move your body: My good friend, Melody Biringer, Founder and CEO of CRAVE and a serial entrepreneur, swears by “business meeting walks.” This was one of my favorite ways to connect with her. Walking miles, we’d work out business challenges and come up with brilliant new ideas. I always had a fresh perspective on my work after our walks together. Go for a hike. Take your dog for a walk. Swim, Bike. Dance. Do yoga. When you move your body, you give you mind the break it needs to generate new ideas later. I make time every week to go to Crossfit and spend mental energy focused on my strength and agility. Start with a 15-minute mid-morning walk every day, regardless of where you work (I’m sure you can walk the halls or around the parking lot if it’s not the nicest setting). Shut the door on the boring conference room and take your next one-on-one meeting on the road as a stroll in the park or downtown.
What about you? What shakes up your thinking and enables you to come up with fresh new ideas for your business? Please share in the Comments. Or let us know which one of these tips you’re going to follow ASAP!
*In full disclosure, some links may be Amazon affiliate links where commissions are paid. But that’s a win-win if you decide to check out these great reads!
Image Credit: Wilerson S Andrade via Flickr