Is Your Web Content Compelling?

Feature-Oriented Content

Back in the day (when exactly was that)? advertisers would go to great lengths to tout the features of their product or service. Their goal was to convince you that the quality of their product or service was superior. Think of how excited you got when you read the product’s promotional literature. It probably sounded like a technical owner’s manual. An owner’s manual tells you about the details of a product.

Feature-oriented language reminds me of the old television show, Dragnet, where the police would say, “All we want are the facts, ma’am”. Features = facts. Feature-oriented content is telling someone about something. Not very convincing, in fact, it’s downright boring. Feature-oriented content is what’s known as ‘tell’ content. “Let me tell you about X, Y and X features of my product of my service. Where’s the compelling sales message?

Benefit-Oriented Content

Towards the end of the early years, some creative advertising writer thought that advertising messages should focus, not only on the features of a product, but, also on the benefits of the product they are selling. And so, benefit-oriented content came flying in to the mainstream. Benefit-oriented content answers the question, “What’s in it for me, the customer?” Benefit-oriented content sells, not tells. This type of content convinces customers that your product or service will help them. Customers want to know what your product or service can do for them.

Use benefit-oriented content on your website, brochure, or any other printed material. Start with a short headline. Try to use less than seven words in the headline. Next, write a few sentences of introductory content followed by a bulleted list of benefits. Use as few bullets as possible in order to keep your message clear and concise. Always put a call-for-action on the bottom such as Call Me, Email Me, Go To My Website, etc. Don’t use gratuitous graphics or stale free clip art.

Here’s an example of how features can be turned into benefits. This example is taken from Varidesk’s (the manufacturer of stand-up work desks) promotional content I found on their website.

Example of Promotional Content Used by Manufacturer of Stand-Up Desks

FeatureBenefit to Customer
Patented two-handle design coupled with a spring-assisted boost-enabled lifting mechanismMakes moving from sitting to standing quick and easy
Desk works either standing or sittingPerfect way to increase energy, your health, and productivity
No hardware needed to secure desk to workstationEasy to install

The Benefits column definitely answers the question, “What’s in it for me”.

Now it’s your turn. Think about your business. In the left column, list three features of your product or service. On the corresponding right column, turn each feature into a benefit.

What Product or Service Do I Sell?

Feature                                                                     Benefit to Customer
1.1.
2.2.
3.3.

 Now that you’re comfortable features into benefits, get to work on re-writing all your promotional content.

What’s The Difference Between an Elevator Speech and a Power Message?

Today I’m going to discuss power messages and elevator speeches. The topic of topic of elevator speeches is covered in my post called Does Your Elevator Speech Stop at the Right Floor?

If you’re self-employed and your business relies on referrals from colleagues or others, you’ll want to have an elevator speech and power message. Your elevator speech is aimed at those people in a position to refer business your way. Your power message is what you say to potential customers or clients. Your power message generally takes place on the phone.

Why do you need both an elevator speech and a power message? You  might ask yourself, “Why can’t I say the same thing to both referrers and prospective clients? Use your power message when a potential client wants to know what you do and how you can help them. Focus on what you do within the context of what is in it for the potential client or customer. Your power message is less scripted than your elevator speech.

What do you say if a prospect initially asks you how much you charge? I call this type of prospect a ‘shopper’. First, do not answer the question. Second, do not launch into your power message. Ask a few benign questions such as, “What are you looking for? Have you talked to others in the same business?” If you are unable to redirect the conversation back to the other person, then quickly land the plane by simply stating your fee (or a range of fees). Try once more to turn the conversation back to the customer. Shoppers shop for bargains. You are not a bargain-basement store.

Is it okay to use jargon in your power message? It depends on who the customer is and how much knowledge he or she has about your business. It may be fine to use some jargon with a customer who knows your business. If you have a customer unfamiliar with your business, the moment you start to use jargon, you will lose the customer’s attention. The conversation automatically shifts back to you instead of focusing on the prospect’s needs. See my post Here Comes the Jargon Police.

Now it’s time to write your power message. Aim your message at the person most likely to purchase your product or service.

Here’s an example of a power message used on the phone.

I worked with a fitness studio to create a new marketing program. One objective of the marketing plan was to get prospective clients to call the studio for a complimentary training session. The owner was targeting men over age 50 who had metabolic syndromes (Metabolic syndromes are clusters of conditions – increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels – that occur together, increasing risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. (www.mayoclinic.org).

“My name is Meg B. and I’m the manager at Fitness Strength & Training in Any City, USA. I have been a personal trainer for the past 11 years and have a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State in Kinesiology. I’ve worked with people who are diabetic, elite athletes, and many weight-loss clients. Fitness Strength & Training is a unique fitness studio because you receive a personalized exercise experience, nutrition coaching, and most importantly, accountability. All of our training sessions are conducted one-on-one in semi-private rooms to eliminate dis- traction. We help people realize their true potential as we coach them towards a healthier lifestyle. “I’d be happy to offer you one complimentary training session. Also, I’d like your contact information so I can send you our newsletter.”

The above power message contained three parts:

  1. Information about the trainer
  2. Information geared to helping the client
  3. A strong landing or closing

This power message is only 126 words. She said what was needed and stopped.

A power message is not as structured as an elevator speech. Meg clearly articulated the goal of training: a healthier lifestyle. It’s the “What’s in it for me (the client)” part of the message and she smoothly, in a self-assured way, landed the plane.

Here are some do’s and don’ts concerning your power message.

  • Don’t tell the caller what you don’t do
  • Frame all conversations in a positive way
  • Your power message should be modified to fit your website, online business presence, other online professional listings, or additional promotional information.
  • Practice your message. Write it down and say it out loud.
  • Have someone listen to your power message. Ask him or her to give you feedback. Ask for one thing he or she liked about your message and one technical suggestion he or she might have for you.

Having a strong power message will make you a more powerful businessperson.

 

For more tips on elevator speeches and power messages go to http://www.criticalconnectionsbook.com

YouTube or MeTube?

According to Tad Friend, writing about YouTube in the New Yorker in 2014:

“YouTube was adults with camcorders shooting kids being adorably themselves. It was amateur hour. Nowadays, YouTube is alarmingly professional. It has millions of channels devoted to personalities and products, which are often aggregated into “verticals” containing similar content.”

Who would have predicted that a revolution in digital communication could have such a profound impact on how we connect with people. And, who would have predicted that the way we conduct business would drastically change? And, to make things even more convoluted, the capabilities and functions of digital communication change almost daily (well, not quite daily).

Tad Friend suggests that YouTube is alarmingly professional. However, the pipeline for cute baby and cuddly cats videos will never get shut off. Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook, just to name a few have expanded their capabilities. Twitter, besides having the ability to link to other (content) sites, is now a platform to receive breaking news. You can set up your own Twitter business page, too. Pinterest now has a blogging feature. Instagram is now a good place to find recipes. LivingSocial has moved away from a deal-of-the-month platform to a promoter of concerts, festivals, and other events.

For those of you data junkies, check out some data I found about YouTube from their website.

  • YouTube has over a billion users — almost one-third of all people on the Internet — and every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views.
  • YouTube overall, and even YouTube on mobile alone reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.
  • The number of hours people spend watching videos (aka watch time) on YouTube is up 60% y/y, the fastest growth we’ve seen in 2 years.
  • The number of people watching YouTube per day is up 40% y/y since March 2014.
  • The number of users coming to YouTube who start at the YouTube homepage, similar to the way they might turn on their TV, is up more than 3x y/y.

Taken from: https://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this information and you don’t know what to do with it, you’re not alone. Some folks take this data ‘with a grain of salt.’

However, if you’re thinking about using YouTube videos as a vehicle to promote yourself, your product, or your service, ask yourself the following strategic and operational questions:

Strategic Questions:

  1. Producing a YouTube video is not about you (MeTube) and how great your product or service is. It’s about sharing information with your customers and addressing critical customer problems. Will the video address your customers’ most critical questions?
  2. Who exactly is my audience?
  3. Why do I think YouTube is the best way to communicate my message?
  4. How do I make sure the video is seen by my customers/prospects?
  5. Do I have compelling and fresh content that my customers need?
  6. In terms of producing a video, have I considered how much time, energy, and money it will cost?

Operational Questions:

  1. Who is going to write and produce the video?
  2. How long should the video be?
  3. Should I embed my video in my website?

My job is to ask you the tough questions. Your job is to make an informed decision as to whether you should use YouTube as a way to promote your business.

Does Your Elevator Speech Stop at The Right Floor?

5 Tips to Make Your Elevator Speech (ES) More Impactful

You have an idea of what you want to say in your ES. You feel confident that your talking points are solid. Your introduction is brief. Your statement about what you do in terms of what’s in it for the person you’re talking to is succinct. Your statement indicating how passionate you are about what you do is precise. And, your statement or two that ends the conversation is clear.

Here are some ways to fine-tune your ES.

  1. Think of your ES as your business card in action. Most likely, you will want to modify or refine your elevator speech based on who you are talking to.
  2. Use plain English, not professional jargon. Don’t hide behind jargon. If you are talking to someone in your professional community, tone down the jargon and remember to use mostly jargon-less words. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression.
  3. Practice your ES out loud in front of a mirror. No matter how painful and embarrassing it is, you should practice your ES in front of a mirror. If you really want to experience terror, try practicing it in front of your spouse or child.
  4. Be prepared to improvise and adapt on the spot. Consider having two or three variations of your ES depending on who you’re talking to.
  5. Land the plane, smoothly, safely and quickly – Don’t drag your ES on and on. Once you start repeating yourself, then it’s time to end it. Quickly decide what kind of follow-up you want: exchange business cards; ask for a meeting; ask for the name of someone else who might be helpful.

Don’t despair, It’s OK to use your elevator speech on an escalator.

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

House of Cards?

QUICK QUIZ

Question 1: How many of your own business cards do you have in your wallet, purse, or brief case? If you have less than five, hurry up and put more in your wallet, purse, or briefcase. Or, have more printed.

Question 2: How many of your business cards do you have laying around your house or office? If you have fewer than fifty, go online now and order more.

Question 3: YES or NO. 
I have up-to-date business cards. If you answered No, you know what to do.

So, what’s the big deal about business cards? Along with having a prepared elevator speech, you should always have up-to-date business cards on hand. And, here’s an example of why.

I recently, attended a networking event. I met a lawyer who specializes in working with small business owners on legal matters. He was the perfect referral source for me. I wanted to follow up with him and at the end of our brief conversation, I asked him for his business card. He fished through his wallet and found a crumpled up, dog-eared business card. He took out the card and said, “Oh, my phone number changed, and so did my email address”. He scribbled his new contact information on the back of his card and handed it to me. I then thought twice about contacting him. There must be other lawyers with his specialty who don’t have crumpled, outdated business cards. I did not contact him.

You know what they say about first impressions. Is this the kind of first impression you want to make?

You can drive yourself crazy reading articles on the Internet about what to include or exclude on your business card, whether to purchase or use free templates, which fonts to use, etc.

6 tips for creating a legible and succinct business card

  1. Put your contact information on one side only.
  2. Use one or maybe two different fonts. If your customers are over the age of 50, pump up the size of the font.
  3. Put the least amount of contact information on your card. Do you need to put your landline, cell, fax, email address, mailing address, website, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram logos on the card? Is it necessary to put an inspirational phrase on the card? Less is more.
  4. Make sure any graphic you use does not overshadow your contact information.
  5. Even though you get price discounts when you order larger quantities of cards, buy small quantities. You never know when your contact information might change.
  6. Before you go ahead and print your business cards, have a friend look it over. You’ll be surprised at, in the rush to print the card, glaring typos are made.

If you have any doubts about what your card should say and how it should look, check out other people’s cards. You might get some good ideas.

 

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

Top Ten Words to Avoid

Here are my Top Ten Words and Phrases to Avoid when writing anything. In my opinion, these words and phrases hold little or no meaning to the reader. I notice when some people write (especially their resumes or bios), they tend to use these words. It seems like the writer can’t concretely articulate their message, so they use these words and phrases as a default.

I have to admit I use some of these words or phrases, some of the time. Nobody’s perfect.

The Top Ten Words and Phrases to Avoid are not jargon words. Jargon is defined as “special words or expressions used by a particular profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.” Jargon is “technical talk.”

Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Behavior
  2. Opportunity
  3. Concern
  4. Utilize
  5. In-depth knowledge
  6. Extensive experience
  7. Process
  8. Heavily involved
  9. Move forward
  10. Wide variety

 How are you going to eliminate using all or some of these words or phrases?

Now you’re aware of these words and phrases, take the opportunity, to use your extensive experience and in-depth knowledge to move forward while utilizing a wide variety of alternative words and phrases. Yikes!

 

There’s lots of tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

Here Comes the Jargon Police

PLEASE NOTE

In order to make the most out of reading this post, you’ll want to download  and print it. Why? I’ve included a fun exercise for you, so you’ll want to write down your answers.

Sometimes, I take on the role of a Jargon Police Officer. In this formidable position, I monitor my client’s and workshop participant’s use of jargon. Jargon includes all of the special words or expressions that are unique to a business, profession, or group and are difficult for others to understand. Jargon is “technical talk”.

I’m especially on guard when my marketing workshop participants use jargon:

  • On their website
  • On printed promotional or educational literature
  • When they give an elevator speech to a potential customer or referrer

When you use jargon, there is a chance that the person listening to you will not understand what you are saying. And chances are, that person is too polite to ask you, “What are you talking about?” This is not a good way to make a first, second or third impression.

However, there might be times when you want to use jargon. Whether you’re talking ‘shop’ with a colleague or giving a presentation to your peers, using jargon and technical terms makes sense. But, it’s still best to keep the use of jargon to a minimum, no matter what type of situation you’re in.

At a local networking event, I overheard (eavesdropped) a conversation between a psychotherapist and a lawyer. It seemed that the lawyer might have clients with emotional or relationship problems. Perfect match? Not quite. The therapist said to the lawyer, “I provide a solution-focused approach in counseling and therapy, drawing from a variety of tools such as hypnosis, NLP, EFT and EMDR”. The lawyer looked perplexed. He probably said to himself, “What the hell is this person talking about?” The jargon police would have had a field day with this therapist. I restrained myself and walked away.

Here’s the problem with jargon. We’ll use the psychotherapist talking to the lawyer as an example. As soon as the psychotherapist blurted out “…hypnosis, NLP, EFT, and EMDR”, the conversation shifted from talking about the needs of the lawyer…which turned the conversation into didactic teaching mode (the therapist would explain each of these therapeutic techniques), resulting in making the ‘conversation’ all about the therapist. This is not good.

When building a business relationship, it’s not all about you; it’s about making a connection with your customer by focusing on their needs. This therapist was too busy explaining what therapeutic methods she used and never made a personal connection with the lawyer.

As you move deeper into a conversation, and when the other person asks more probing questions, the chances of slipping into jargon mode are much greater.

Time to Test Your Use of Jargon

Here’s a chance to eliminate jargon from your vocabulary when talking to prospective or current customers.

Example of Jargon Used by a Management Consultant

 Read the example below of how to substitute common words or phrases for jargon. This example shows how easy it is to eliminate jargon from a management consultant’s vocabulary.

 

Here are 5 jargon words or phrases unique to a management consultant’s industry or business.

Substitute a non-technical, common word or phrase for each jargon word or phrase from the left column.

Brand equityName recognition that might result in increased sales
Out of the boxCreative thinking
Above boardTo be honest and open
Scope creepA project that expands beyond it’s original goal
Pain pointA critical consumer need

 Your Jargon Buster Exercise

List 5 jargon words or phrases unique to your business or industry

Take each word or phrase from the left column and substitute a non-technical, common word or phase

1. 
2 
3. 
4. 
5. 

 What You Learned

List three things you learned from the Jargon Buster Exercise:

  1. _______________________________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________________

Three Key Points To Know About Using Jargon

  1. There is a time and place to use jargon. When you’re talking ‘shop’ with a colleague or giving a presentation to your peers, using jargon and technical terms makes sense.
  2. A potential customer can’t get to know you if you’re conversation is riddled with jargon.
  3. Check your website, promotional literature for jargon and change the jargon to common words or phrases.

 

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

Tale of Two Clothiers

It was the best of times for Beth. And, it was the best of times for Allie and Jenny. Two different retailer clothiers with two different approaches to marketing their business. Both in the start-up phase. Both on their way to becoming successful. Beth, Allie, and Jenny are in their late twenties. Beth is a mother of three and Allie and Jenny are in a long-term relationship. This is the story of their fledgling businesses.

First, a little background about Beth. Beth and her husband, Adam, lived in a New York City suburb. When Adam was offered a job in the Washington, D.C. area, they jumped at the opportunity and moved. At that time, Beth was working as a personal shopper at a top New York City department store. Eight years earlier, Beth attended fashion design school. She had the experience and credentials needed to succeed in business.

“If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

When Beth first moved to the Washington, DC area, she looked at the demographic profile of her community and found the population of young couples was growing at a rate above the national average. In her community, there were no clothing stores for women in their 20s and 30s to buy, as Beth put it, “spunky modest clothes”. She knew this group of women cared how they looked. She was referring to Jewish women who want to dress modestly yet stylish.

Beth thought there might be a market for spunky modest clothes for women. So, she instinctively did what any good marketer would do. She reached out and asked questions. Beth asked a number of young women what problems they have finding stylish modest clothing. She asked what kinds of clothing they would like based on their religious standards. The answers were all the same. There was no place to get this type of clothing. Then she asked a more specific question regarding what type of apparel they couldn’t find. The answers were again consistent. They wanted tops, skirts, and dresses. And, they wanted reasonable prices. Beth knew price would be a key factor in determining whether women would purchase her clothes. The women also said the clothes found in department stores and online were not modest enough.

Beth took a deep breath and announced to Adam, “If I don’t do it, somebody else will”. And that’s how Beth started.

Beth made the decision to open a “store” based on what she knew, what she heard, and what was missing in the market. Beth found a gap and was going to fill it. Her store would be in the basement of her house. She applied and got a wholesaler business license. She was officially in business. The first agenda of business for Beth was to attend a fashion trade show in NewYork City. She knew exactly what types of clothing her customers would buy. She carefully sifted through the clothing designer’s merchandise and found just what she was looking for.

“I don’t believe this can happen.”

That’s what Adam said when the first box of clothing arrived on their doorstep. Boy, was he wrong. She placed her order for one large box of clothes. Three weeks later, she purchased seven boxes.

Beth’s first customer saw Beth’s bare bones Facebook page. Beth does not remember how the customer found her on Facebook. The customer told Beth she never heard of Beth’s store but, “really liked her clothes”. When Beth checked her Facebook page, she found most of her friends were from the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.

Beth knew enough about her customers’ shopping behavior that she had to:

  • Price her merchandise at least 40 percent below department stores
  • Accept American Express, in addition to the other major credit cards. Beth knew she would be paying higher processing fees and many stores do not accept American Express
  • Make it easy to shop by offering convenient hours as well as the ability to schedule a private appointment.

She quickly found out that taking American Express was satisfying a critical need for her customers: convenience. Beth made sure to tell her customers, “don’t leave home without it”. This was an important selling point.

Online Strategy – One Step at a Time

Beth was not in a rush to jump into the world of social media to promote her business. She had a basic business Facebook page. She wanted Facebook as her only online advertising vehicle.

Beth decided to hold off on creating a website. She did not want to spread herself too thin. After all, she wanted a lifestyle that would allow her to spend time with her family as well as run a business. To be on the safe side she purchased a domain name.

Keeping it Personal

In Beth’s community, word-of-mouth about anything was a powerful force in terms of influence. One satisfied customer told her friend, who told her friend, etc. What happened? Her primary source of referrals came via word-of-mouth. Beth did not purposely craft a word-of-mouth marketing strategy. Beth was unwittingly creating buzz for her store.

After being in business for six months, Beth was contacted by a group of women who sold jewelry, cosmetics, and other women’s items. They banded together to open a pop-up shop. The location, for this one-day event, which drew more than 100 women was held in one woman’s house. Beth considered this opportunity a success for her. As an added benefit, Beth was able to get the names and email addresses of all of the women who visited the shop.

Pop-up shops are temporary retail spaces. Open for one day or several weeks, they range from selling a single product to hosting a private event. On a bigger scale, think of those stores selling Halloween stuff, which pop up in early October and disappear a few days after Halloween. This particular group of retailers set-up a one night pop-up shop. The organizer of the event took responsibility to promote the event. Beth sold all of her clothes and took orders for more. This was a total marketing success.

Soon after the pop-up event, Beth decided to expand her marketing efforts. She rented a booth at a local fund raising event. She was the only retailer selling stylish clothes. Once again, she was able to sell clothes and expand her reach into the local and surrounding communities.

Beth has taken the concept of providing excellent customer service to a new level. From a marketing perspective, she is building and maintaining relationships. She prides herself on her personal approach to her customers’ needs. She invites customers to her house to try on clothes. She makes every effort for her customers to feel special. Beth constantly exceeds her customers’ expectations. She goes to great lengths to sell eye-catching wrappings. She’s open late in order for her customers to shop after work. Customers can make appointments. Beth has a no-strings attached return policy. According to Beth, this liberal return policy is unheard of in her community.

During the holiday season, Beth sent boxes of chocolate with thank you notes to her top ten customers. This customer appreciation gesture goes a long way in building and maintaining relationships.

Beth decided to do something special for her customers and prospective customers. She set up a backyard event in the early evening at her house. At the event, Beth provided refreshments and soft drinks. She assigned Adam the job of starting and maintaining a fire pit. And, of course, she displayed her latest styles. She sold plenty of clothes that evening. Besides telling her customers, Beth only used her Facebook page to promote the event.

I advised Beth to keep a database of her customers and prospects. Building the database can be as simple as creating a spreadsheet and listing the customers’ name, street address, city, state, zip, email, items purchased, date of all contacts, and how customer found about Beth’s store. I suggested that as her business grows, she might find more categories for her database.

Let’s review Beth’s journey, so far. She:

  • Identified her primary target group
  • Recognized a need
  • Found a way to fill the need
  • Slowly rolled out her marketing program
  • Set up a reward program for her top-tier customers
  • Initially relied on word-of-mouth referrals
  • Focused only on Facebook for her online presence.

I asked Beth what her marketing plans were for the near future. She was straightforward and said:

  • Build a website
  • Open a brick-and-mortar store
  • Expand my reach to cover the entire country

When I asked her what her merchandising strategy would be, she unflinchingly said: I want to expand to a one-stop shop selling maternity clothes, shoes, tights, and accessories. I want my customer to walk out of my store with a complete outfit.

Beth took an old-school approach to promoting her clothing business. She did this in part because the demand for her clothes spread like wild fire via word- of-mouth.

 

The Other Clothier

Allie, my daughter, and her partner Jenny live in Brooklyn, NY. They both have day jobs. Jenny is a marketing manager for an online marketing research company and Allie works as a fashion photographer at a retail clothing chain.

A bit of history: They like to shop for clothes. On the weekends, they would comb department stores, boutiques, and specialty clothing shops looking for the right look. But when it came time to find the right style and the right size, their shopping experience would fizzled out. They would leave these stores empty handed and sometimes empty hearted.

“If you want something badly enough, you just have to do it yourself.”

One day, while eating brunch in their apartment, Allie blurted out, “We need to work on some kind of creative project”. Jenny was taken aback. “But we have good jobs!” Allie then reminded Jenny about how frustrated they got trying to find clothes they like. The clothes they found were too feminine, too masculine, too boring.

Putting on her marketing hat, Jenny said, “Why not, instead of selling menswear which fit into feminine style and visa versa, we offer styles which are slightly adapted to fit women. They came up with the idea of being a retailer of “contemporary fashion for women seeking clothing that blurs the line of modern masculine and feminine style”.

After talking to their friends, Allie and Jenny realized they weren’t the only ones who were looking for such clothes. Other clothiers were selling this type of clothing but Allie and Jenny wanted their personal touch to be reflected on the clothes they sold.

Crowd Control

In order to get their business up and running, they turned to the Internet and used crowdfunding to finance the initial stages of their business. Crowdfunding is a way to obtain small amounts of money from many people. There are hundreds of crowdfunding platforms. Two of the most popular are Indiegogo.com and Kickstarter.com.

According to Forbes.com:

“Each (crowdfunding) campaign is set for a goal of an amount of money and a fixed number of days. Once the project is launched, each day will be counted down and the money raised tallied up for visitors to follow its success. Instead of traditional investors, crowdfunding campaigns are funded by the general public.”

Allie and Jenny’s goal was to raise $10,000 from their crowdfunding campaign to be used to start building their online store. The campaign yielded $12,500. Perks, offered to those who contributed money, ranged from receiving a limited edition tee shirt for a contribution of $30 to a personalized styling session with Allie and Jenny for a contribution of $400.

Online and On Target

How were Allie and Jenny able to raise that amount of money in 34 days? You guessed it, by using social media: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Buzzfeed, and their existing barebones website. I was surprised to hear Jenny say they didn’t have the time and energy to put into using lots of social media platform.

Allie and Jenny’s Tumblr page features photos that range from their line of clothes to personal photos of Allie and Jenny. After one year in business, their Facebook page amassed more than 3,500 Likes. They Tweeted more than 2,600 times. On Instagram, they posted more than 900 times and have 6,400 followers. They pinned more than 520 times on Pinterest. After an article appeared on a Buzzfeed post that was linked to Allie and Jenny’s Instagram platform, their Instagram followers doubled in just a few days.

I asked Allie and Jenny why they did not use SnapChat. Allie said they like to control the quality of the pictures that appear in public and they cannot do it on SnapChat. Jenny firmly stated teenagers primarily use SnapChat. Teens are not their market.

In terms of generating buzz and capturing email addresses, Pinterest was the least effective platform for them. Allie said Pinterest was a good way for most retailers selling clothing, accessories, and those selling household goods to get business. However, they claimed their market is not active on Pinterest, but is active on Instagram and Tumblr.

Allie and Jenny, as sophisticated marketers, understood that online and social media platforms were not the only way to sell clothes. To introduce their online store to their potential customers, they used social media to promote a runway fashion show in a bar in New York City. They attracted customers and got the media attention they were hoping for. During the first year, they were interviewed by six fashion style blogs and five online fashion news e-zines (online magazines).

Up Close and Personal

The runway fashion show was a big hit. In addition, they rented a table at a one-day local street fair and sold enough clothes to cover the cost of the table rental fee. They were not pleased with the idea of selling at a street fair. They realized most of the shoppers were looking for bargains. Their line of clothes was far from bargain priced.

Allie and Jenny were invited to sell their clothes at a night market – an informal bazaar or street market held at night, usually featuring music and boutique vendors. The cost to rent a table to display their merchandise was $175 a night. They decided to display most of their clothing, but only sold accessories. Allie and Jenny knew that since there was no place to try on the clothes, they’d be better off just selling accessories.

They posted the event on Facebook and sent emails to their list of customers and prospects. More than 400 people attended the event. They made a small profit and more important met face-to-face with their target market.

Allie and Jenny are proud of their website. The feedback from friends and customers has been consistent: it’s bright; it shows off clothing in a clear way. The use of models helped potential customers see what the clothes look like on a person; and, the photography was creative.

Allie and Jenny have two long-term goals for their business. The first goal is to open a brick and mortar store in New York City. The second goal is to design their own line of clothes and sell them wholesale to retail stores. Good luck, Allie and Jenny!

Lessons Learned from Beth, Allie, and Jenny:

  • Beth, Allie and Jenny had a clear vision of what they wanted before they started doing business.
  • They started small and slowly increased their product line.
  • They had a clear understanding of the purchasing habits of their respective markets and made the buying process as easy as possible. Remember, a key selling point Beth used was to make sure her customers knew she accepted American Express.
  • They are continually looking for and purchasing new styles, which fit their respective markets.
  • They knew that in order to keep their eye on the market, they had to communicate regularly with their strategic relationships. Allie and Jenny via social media and Beth via word-of-mouth and personal connections.


As of this writing, it’s still the best of times for the two clothiers.

 

A Revisionist History of Branding – Part 2

Personal branding is a combination of marketing and promotional activities you do to influence how others see you.

In my previous post, I wrote about the history of branding from a cattle rancher’s perspective. Here’s an example of how one woman used a combination of marketing activities to influence how others see her. Rose is a lobbyist and well-known advocate for low-income housing in her state. She wanted to establish connections with state legislators and their staff with the goal of passing legislation to assist low-income families seeking affordable housing. In order to achieve her goal, she wanted to be seen as the go-to person in the state for any issue related to low-income housing.  Rose wanted key legislative decision makers to associate her name with low-income housing.

How did Rose initiate the personal branding process? First, she wrote a series of white papers based on her research on low-income housing. Second, she scheduled short, in person briefings with individual legislators and their staff to discuss key policy issues regarding low-income housing. Third, she started blogging. This was very easy to do because Rose would blog about different aspects of her research. She had tons of content to share.

What’s the difference between what Rose did to brand herself and what she did to promote her services? Nothing.  It’s the same thing. Don’t get trapped into thinking that branding is some mystery panacea for your business wows. Call it what you want, I’ll call it establishing and maintaining connections with customers as a way to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Rose was successful in helping pass critical legislation that funded low-cost housing by:

  1. Having data to support her position and sharing it with key decision makers
  2. Blogging on a regular basis
  3. Cultivating and maintaining relationships in the state legislature

Good work, Rose.

I encourage you to read books and/or articles specifically related to personal branding. Don’t be shocked, you’ll find hundreds of them.

A Revisionist History of Branding – Part 1

It started out in the old west. Pioneers were settling the land. Cattle ranches started popping all over the landscape.  In those days, beef was in high demand. Ranchers knew that raising cows was a great way to make a living. As a result, many ranchers grew big herds of cattle (did you know that twelve or more cows are called a flink?). Eventually, the ranchers’ flinks became so vast that the ranchers found it next to impossible to contain their own flink in one area. The cow’s grazing meadows could not be fenced in.  Cows wandered off and wound up intermingling with other rancher’s cows.

Two problems arose. First, ranchers didn’t have a way to identify their own cows from their neighbor’s cows. And, second, ranchers didn’t have a good way to protect their cows from poachers, unless the rancher could find and shoot the poachers. Ranchers needed a distinctive and easily recognized way to identify their own livestock. This would be a foolproof way to prove ownership of their livestock.

So, what did the ranchers do? You guessed it. They used a branding iron and branded their cows (today, in the state of Nebraska, there are more than 15,000 unique brands used by livestock owners).

By now, you’ve probably figured out what all of this has to do with branding yourself and your business. The ranchers represent your business (or a corporation).  The cows represent your product or service. The meadow represents the vast marketplace. Commingling has to do with the competitiveness of business environment. The actual brand represents your businesses unique identity.

Branding & Personal Branding

My intent here is to give you a quick look at branding and to stimulate your thinking so you are prepared to venture off and start branding your cows. Entrepreneur.com defines branding as, “the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products”.

Most branding strategies are designed for large corporations who are competing for huge chunks of market share.

From a strategic perspective, here are some thing to know about branding:

  • Most of what is written about branding focuses on branding for corporations
  • Most branding strategies focus on product branding, rather than services branding
  • A brand can be created by using a:
    • Name
    • Logo
    • Symbol
    • Motto

My definition of personal branding is “a combination of marketing activities you do to influence how others see you”. You influence your customers and referrers by presenting a positive image of yourself. You’ll see how personal branding and marketing as the management strategic relationships are one in the same.

Let’s get closer to home.’ Branding is not about using spin doctors (spokespersons who you hire to give a favorable impression of you to the public) or publicity agents to manage you as a brand. I’m referring to how you package yourself and projecting a positive image in the eyes of your customers.

Personal branding is a combination of marketing activities you do to influence how others see you.

Here are two things you learned reading this.

  1. A flink is a group of twelve or more cows.
  2. My definition of branding: A combination of marketing activities you do to influence how others see you”.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of A Revisionist History of Branding. You’ll meet Rose, who used a branding strategy to her advantage.