Building a Business Brand

This month I read the book The Brand Mindset by Duane E. Knapp.  Like the book I read last month, it was written almost 20 years ago, but many of the concepts in the book shed light on the brand discussion that we’re having today in ways that I don’t think we’re really embracing it.  It’s also of note that almost all of the brands that were profiled in the book are still in business today, and had already been in business for many years when the book was written.  Let’s take a look at few of the topics of the book and how they can help us with branding today.

Let’s start with what branding is.  Branding is important because it can help differentiate one company from another.  A brand reinforces that a business is more than their individual products or services.  It also can help us as business owners better understand and communicate with our ideal customers.

One of the interesting things that was brought up in the book is something that is typically more connected to the hospitality industry (hotels, theme parks etc.) than businesses as a whole, and that’s the idea of calling a customer a guest.  When you call them a guest you’re given the opportunity to treat them in a specific way, a way that you may not treat them if you just see them as a customer.  A guest means they’re welcomed and honored, and you’re there to make their experience a great one.

All of this is true.  Branding is very important as it reveals the business to your customers (guests), hopefully showing them a business they can identify with and can meet their needs, wants and desires.  However there’s another side of branding that’s a big opportunity, and that’s how you can create your brand to teach the people you connect with how to treat and work with you as a business.

Think about it this way: when you’re a guest at a hotel or even in someone else’s home you’re usually a little more respectful of their stuff, you are a little more polite, and you work harder to make sure that everyone is on the same page (asking about the potential of upgrades or extra towels or what hours there are snacks/beverages available etc.).  So if you want people to pay a fair price for your products and services, build a relationship with you to buy from you multiple times, not just rant online when something goes wrong, buy from you again even if/when something goes wrong, tell others about your products and treat you/your employees with respect, that’s something you could help establish and educate your potential customers about through the branding you develop.

What does your brand say about your business?

Together We Stand

Today being Memorial Day has me thinking about others. Yes, I’m thinking about the men and women of the military, but I’m also thinking about the bigger picture of everyone else that we share this world with. This got me thinking about what does military vs. everyone else in the US look like?

Well, a 2016 article states that less than 10% of the US population was a veteran (approximately 20 million people) and another article shared that approximately 1.3 million people were in active duty in 2016. Those numbers don’t sound very big, but what they don’t talk about are the men, women and children who are immediately related to someone in the military (by blood, adoption or marriage). Data from 2015 says that over 5 million people were considered immediate family to active service people, so doing very generous math, that means that possibly one third of the US is related to someone who was or is in the military. And if you go beyond the immediate family circle that number grows again.  And beyond that, even if you don’t have anyone in your family who is or was in the military, there’s a strong likelihood that you know someone who is or was in the military or someone related to someone in the military.

Since the draft ended in 1973, these men, women and their families have volunteered to stand up for each of us throughout the world.  Representing us, protecting us, and standing in for those who can’t stand up for themselves.  Just like we make choices each day, they chose to join the military, not knowing how they’ll make an impact or if they’ll be required to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Today as you honor and remember the men and women who have sacrificed for our country I encourage you to think about how respectful you are of that sacrifice. Are you working to build relationships with others and a future we can all be proud of or are you helping create a world that will require more men, women and families to make sacrifices for the rest of us?

A Summer of Victories

We’ve arrived at the weekend of the unofficial arrival of summer, Memorial Day weekend. As I was thinking about the next few months and what we could do with them and the hopefully great, warm weather we’re going to have, I thought I’d share a few ideas for what you can do with your family and your partner to make the most of these next few months.

One of my favorite things about the summer is all the fresh, local healthy food. Not only is it great to eat more of the fruits and vegetables that are so good for us, it’s also great to be able to support local farmers. It’s also a great opportunity to talk with the men and women who grow the food and get their recommendations on how to eat and prepare foods that you may have struggled with in the past.

It’s also a great opportunity with the better weather to be able to get out and go places. Everyone loves to travel during the summer, so why don’t you introduce the kids to some of the places and things you did when you were their age? You’ll be able to show them some of the places you’ve talked about and do different things than may be what you typically do for vacation.

Or, why don’t you finally conquer that to-do list? Get your finances from the first 5 months of the year in order for tax time next year. Move your investments to the other organization you’ve been wanting to switch to. Get signed up for that class you’ve wanted to take. Start working with that fitness trainer. Clean out and organize your basement, attic and closets. It may not be the most restful summer, but it will leave you satisfied at the end.

Finally, if you’re someone who’s always on the go, summer is an important opportunity to slow things down, take time for you, work on renewing and rejuvenating and rediscovering who you are and what you want to do with your future.  Don’t feel guilty with not being on the go all the time.

What will you do with this summer?

Ready for Ideas?

I’m a supporter of change in many aspects of our lives. I think we resist change because we can’t always see the benefit or think it will be too difficult to make a reality. As business owners it’s partially our job to help make change possible and doable for the rest of the world. A great example is the Uber/Lyft companies of the world who have changed how people move around places, also doing more for keeping drunk drivers off the road than has been done in a long time because it’s easier and less expensive to get a ride than going with a taxi or limo service.

This week Amazon had their annual meeting and all 12 resolutions that were brought before the board failed. While it may be typical for there to be a back-and-forth before any resolutions are adopted by a board or company, it got me thinking about how sometimes ideas aren’t that good and businesses rush into things before it’s time or without proper support. Sometimes we get what is a really good idea but don’t think through both or all sides of it and how it would affect others.

One of the recent reports I heard was about workers wanting to be paid on a more immediate basis and not every 2 weeks. While I totally understand the desire behind this idea, many in the business world would have to make some big changes to make this possible. Why I’m not sure this will easily be able to be brought about is because the business world isn’t paid on a daily basis. We often wait months for the full contract fee to come through, we don’t all pay suppliers immediately, and we use credit as much as the general population does. So the financial end of the business world will need to speed up and be more on-time than it currently is if that’s to become a reality, which wouldn’t be a bad idea for businesses or people.  The whole other side of the conversation is lack of planning and lack of funds saved for periods where the finances are a little short, which isn’t a conversation we’re going to get into today.

The point is there are lots of great ideas being brought to light every day. Many have to do with making sure that our people are better cared for, and that everyone has a voice, both of which are very important. But before we jump into something that we aren’t prepared for or the world isn’t prepared for, maybe we should do some back-and-forth before trying to launch to the world.  What ideas are you working on that could help make positive change?

A Million Reasons to Get Smarter About Money

Today is ‘Be a Millionaire Day’ so I’m sharing some insights from those who are millionaires (and richer), on what we can all do to increase our bottom lines. Some or all of these may be things you’ve heard before, and that is because they’re the things that people consistently do to increase their wealth.  I don’t know what your financial goals are, maybe that’s not a million a year, maybe it’s $500,000 a year. 1 million is just a number, the number that matters is whatever number makes you and your family feel financially secure.  Let’s talk about how we can all get to be more financially secure.

Earn more.
I know this sounds silly, but if you want to become a millionaire you have to make changes or do something so that you can make more money. You can’t get to the million dollar level if you don’t earn more.

Have multiple streams of income.
This is fancy language to basically say don’t have all your eggs in one basket. Have a job/career you work primarily plus one or more other sources of income. If you’re not ready to start your own business you can do things like web design, social media management, a webstore, or write and sell books on the side until you’re ready to something more/bigger.

Get better with money.
Don’t avoid the money conversation, take time to make sure that you know where your numbers are, what you’re spending, what you’re making, what your needs are, what your future goals are,

Don’t blow it all on luxury.
Many millionaires say that while they spend money on luxury items and experiences, it’s not something they did right away nor is it something they do in excess. They’re always more focused on making money than spending money. In line with this would be making sure to live within or below your means, not above them.

Never stop learning.
This is one of the biggest keys to becoming wealthier. It’s hard to increase your income if you don’t have anything bigger or better to bring to the table. Start with an online course or webinar or summit, many of them are free. If you don’t think you’re in a career that has a lot of future potential, maybe it’s time to get a whole new education and go back to school. Take time each day to read educational material online and learn from those who are in a position you respect or wish to gain.

It starts small.
Start with one college class or one raise or one extra assignment/job or 5% invested/saved each month or one less purchase. It’s way more likely you can earn the money than it will fall in your lap.

So what will you do today to get closer to your financial goals?

Giving Love a Chance

As I was thinking about the topic of love today I got to thinking about one of the greatest challenges and opportunities with love, something that we don’t always remember: love doesn’t give up. Do you believe that love will always come back for more, always be there when you turn around, always be something you can reach for, always stay with you and always be there to guide you?

Love isn’t something you wake up with one day and don’t have the next. If you do it wasn’t love. Love won’t allow you to give up on someone no matter how irrational it may seem. Love also won’t allow you to give up on yourself and your dreams. Love is here to stay.

The issue comes in because we’re so persistent in trying to keep love out of our lives or not working with love and the changes that life brings and being committed to love and our significant other. We’ve refused so many times and in so many ways to allow love to have the role it should in our lives. It’s not easy to let love in our lives, in fact it takes a lot of work, change and communication (I know, 3 big favorites for just about everyone). But when it comes down to it, love’s enduring qualities are always worth it.

Are you truly giving your love with your partner a chance? We’ve all been hurt before but hurt is part of the human experience, just like love is. But if you don’t give love the opportunity to work in your life you’ll never know the amazing blessings and opportunities you’ll have because of it.  If you and your partner need to sit down this week and talk about your love and how you’ll move forward together in your relationship I encourage you to do that.  The longer you wait to talk about it, the harder it will be to fix it and get you back to a point of thriving.

Accessibility Awareness for Success

One of the things I love most about running a business in this day and age is the ease of getting information to people in a whole variety of ways. For example, it’s easy to translate text into another language with just a few clicks and have it be a fairly accurate translation. All of the technology has also helped create incredible strides in leveling the field between those who have disabilities and those who don’t. Since today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about some of the ways we can be more sensitive and more proactive about making sure our businesses and information are accessible to more people.

Video is an easy way to take people places they can’t go and also provide an experience with your words that isn’t possible through some of the software that will read the text for you. But for those who can’t hear, it’s disappointing and frustrating that so much of the world is going to video and away from text. The recent changes within browsers that are blocking auto play videos or blocking the sound from videos has actually done some really good things for accessibility, because companies are now including text within the videos, allowing more people to experience the video (and improving on what closed captions could do). Including a transcript with the video is also helpful for those who prefer or need the text.

I love writing, and I think that writing is one of the best ways to reach many people because it can be easily translated or read by software. But when text is within a graphic or there is no text, there’s no way to translate that text or read that text with a software. For photos on websites it’s helpful to include a sufficient title/name with the photo so software can read the photo. For photos on social media an example of what you could do is like what some of the Guide Dog social accounts do, wherein they include a sentence at the end of the written part of the post explaining what the image is for those who can’t see it.  Make sure that the text on your site isn’t within a graphic and can’t be translated or read, or that the text that is within graphics/images isn’t important.

One of the newer innovations are all of the audio devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo. These devices talk to you, do searches for you, play music for you, play games with you, and find all kinds of information for you, with only your voice in control. Yes, these devices make things easier for everyone in terms of accessibility, but they also help unite people and provide a uniform experience in a way that hasn’t happened in the past for those with sight or physical disabilities.  For many businesses this is a new world, but there are companies getting involved in and using the devices for their businesses, and opportunities to learn about and grow into.

While Global Accessibility Awareness Day is really about technology, it’s a good reminder to businesses that there are people with various disabilities, things that they may not take into account when designing their store or creating their products/services. There are laws with regards to being required to provide accessibility, so today is a great opportunity to go ahead and check that your business is compliant, and even supportive of equal access for everyone.

Smarter Words for Success

I love words. They’re all around us: they’re what we speak, what we read, what we hear and what we think. But when it comes to communication there are some words that people use that aren’t the best choice or don’t say the best thing or hinder your confidence from building and success from happening. So today I thought we’d take a look at some phrases that are best left out of your vocabulary, especially in situations of careers or success.

No Problem:
This is one of the ones that really frustrates me. Most often you’ll hear this where a ‘you’re welcome’ could have been said, or an ‘I’m glad I could help.’ It makes it sound like your question or need could have been a problem and they’re not really all that thrilled or even satisfied to have been able to help you.

I’m Sorry:
This is a phrase we absolutely should use more often, we aren’t always willing to apologize when we’re in the wrong. However, it’s also used to apologize when there’s no need to apologize, for example when you’re sharing your opinion. You’re not sorry that you’ve got a different opinion than someone else (or at least you shouldn’t be), you just see it differently or don’t agree.

I Hate to Bother You/Sorry to Bother You:
The issue first is that you’re assuming that your question is going to be a bother, or that you’re being a bother. If you have a need or a question, there’s no need to feel guilty for asking about it or getting the help you need, and there’s also no need to apologize for needing help, we all need help at one point or another. Instead, after you’ve had your question answered or gotten the help you need, if you feel it really was a bother or they went out of their way to assist you, you can say something like ‘I really appreciate all your assistance.’

I would encourage you to think about the words you’re using. Are they closing doors and relationships that could be great ones? Are they unnecessarily limiting you, your options and your future? Do they place blame where blame isn’t due? Do they show that you’re confident, that you’re willing to work, that you believe in yourself and that you’re a capable human? Take even one day this week and really think about the words you’re using, the impact they’re having, and if there are words that would be more empowering or positive for you and those you’re talking with.

Celebrating Moms Who Live and Love

With Mother’s Day just a few hours away I wanted to share a quote with you from Mahatma Gandhi that I feel really speaks to the best that moms can be:

“Where there is love there is life.”

We’ve talked in the past about moms that are that because of biology only, that they have no influence on their offspring after they were born or their influence was so negative that as soon as possible the child (adult) has no more contact with her. That’s not the mom I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the best moms, the moms that we have fond memories of, that helped shape us, helped inspire us, and have taught us valuable lessons that help us live and thrive. It’s these moms that I want to celebrate and thank today.

Moms aren’t perfect, no one is, but moms teach us something that can help us see beyond the mistakes and learn to forgive in most situations; that something is love. When we learn to love the world opens up to us. It gives us the strength to forgive others, to be the better person, to choose relationships that are good for us, to do our best raising the next generation (and caring for the world that we leave them).

There are lots of different ways you can live, different experiences we can have during our lives. What matters most is that we choose to live and love above all else. I believe if we choose life (for ourselves, others and the planet we share) and love everything else will work itself out and we’ll be happier and healthier. I’m thankful for the moms who live love day in and day out, who helped us get to this point in our lives. I encourage you to give back to a mom you love this Mother’s Day.

In the Business of World Domination

I read an interesting article recently about SEO, and specifically about how significantly you can increase your traffic by incorporating a more global approach. I’m all for going global, I’ve worked with clients on every continent in the world except Antarctica. Technology has allowed us to work with people around the world, creating fantastic partnerships and mutually beneficial opportunities. It means that we’re able to better communicate things like medical research and shave years if not decades off of illnesses that would do or are doing a lot of harm to the world.

One thing this article brought up was the suggestion of having the site offer translation options. I visit sites all the time that aren’t in English and use browser translators or cut and paste portions into Google or another translator and it just doesn’t cut it. There’s a lot that gets lost in translation. So if you really want to go global you really need to have the site properly and authentically translate into the appropriate languages, with the assistance of a native speaker. But thinking about this brought me to the point I really want to talk about today, and that’s the question of if it’s worth doing or thinking before jumping in.

I absolutely could have my site be translated into multiple languages. However, I primarily offer advice, so what good will it really do me to translate my site into languages that I don’t speak, to reach customers I can’t communicate with? For low ticket offers I certainly can (and do) do some translating back and forth and it will probably be sufficient, but I won’t commit to a year-long consulting/coaching package with someone that I can’t speak easily and comfortably with because I won’t be able to work with them as well as I would like.

The point is, there are tons of things you can do, tons of things you can invest in, tons of ways you can spend your resources, but they don’t all make sense for your business. As I read in another article, “It doesn’t make sense to spend a dollar to save 30 or 40 cents.” So this week I encourage you to be proactive about growing your business and better reaching your customers, but think before just jumping on an opportunity and make sure it’s a good investment for your business.