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Some tough questions to ask yourself about your marketing for this year

1. What channel should I not be using this year?

Yes, you read that right. It’s not about adding an extra marketing channel to your arsenal in 2015, with all of the accompanying admin, energy, input and spend. What I suggest is exactly the opposite: paring down the number of channels you use.

Take an honest look at your platforms. Are they all equally effective? Do they all deliver convincingly, more often than not? Are there one or two you’re using because you feel that you ‘have’ to, like Twitter or Facebook? Are you diluting your efforts by spreading your marketing resources too thinly across too many activities?

Then, ask yourself exactly what your marketing needs to deliver this year. Be specific. Apply real-world numbers to the issue (like ‘25% more qualified online leads’) – not general visions (like ‘enhanced online lead generation’). You’ll find that, the more explicitly you state your objectives, the better you’re able to plan, and the more clarity you’ll have when it comes to allocating that marketing budget.

2. Where am I going to find an extra 2% of budget (over and above the requisite 5% – 7%) to spend on my marketing next year?

Well, read Tip #1 again. Because there’s probably at least 2% hiding there, in extraneous marketing efforts that are on your agenda because a) they’ve always been there, b) they kind of seem to work or c) everyone else is doing it.

Shave them. And then take that 2% and use it strategically. On something that’s relevant, makes maximum impact and delivers the best return on investment.

For example, spend the 2% on intelligent design and strategic copywriting. Find talented creatives who know their stuff and can help you and your business to look like absolute winners. Spend it on implementing a sustainable referrals system, where you actually come out and ask your satisfied clients to refer you, rather than waiting for them to do so. Or, hire an expert in search engine optimisation.

3. What am I going to say ‘No’ to this year?

Beyond saying ‘No’ to platforms that aren’t sweating for you (re-read Tips #1 and #2), you also need to say ‘No’ to things that demand attention, sap energy and don’t grow your brand. This is about attention capital: the idea that wherever your attention is invested, there is energy that is unleashed, which yields (or doesn’t yield) a return.

Now, attention capital is valuable because it is linked to time and is therefore scarce. So, refuse the so-so opportunities that will take time without helping you to achieve your objectives. Out-source or delegate things that are not ‘core’ to your happiness or success, so you can devote time and energy to things that are. Let go of guilt, which is more about other people than it is about you. And stop saying ‘I should’.

4. How can I give my customers more, for less money?

It’s an unfortunate reality that, when companies start feeling the sneaky pinch of recession, they start to look for ways to give customers less, for the same amount of money. On paper, this looks like a great solution. But it’s counter-intuitive – because, if you want real success in marketing, you need to give customers more, instead of less.

You need to be the winner, so that when scared companies stop marketing and dial back on service, they leave a vacuum that’s ready to be filled. By your business.

Ask yourself what you can do to make customers love you. Ask questions like:

  • What can I invest to make the customer experience so great that people want to keep coming back for more?
  • How can I surprise and delight my customers?
  • What do customers typically hate about my sector or industry? And how can I invest in fixing that by doing things differently?

5. What weekly activities am I going to use to turn my customers into brand ambassadors?

This question means: What are you going to do, every week, to get your customers to leverage their social and other channels to help you spread a positive reputation for your brand? For a start, take a deep breath. Because research shows that customers are five times more likely to talk about something positive than negative.

Then, pick up a pen and make a list of five specific and measurable things you could implement on a weekly basis. You’ll find some ideas here, here and here.

Good luck!

Four personal branding trends to consider in 2015

If you think that personal branding is for celebs like George Clooney, or bigwigs like Bill Gates, you need to think again! You are a brand.
So, before you market your company in 2015, you need to market yourself. Whatever people say about you when you’re not in the room, that’s the start of your personal brand. And taking control of it is the most important thing you can do for yourself in 2015.The same strategies that make celebrities or corporate brands appeal to others can be implemented by you. And you can build brand equity just like them. So, be four steps take a quick look at four key trends to get you ahead from a career perspective:1. Don’t use every single social media platform.Social media profiles are like a pre-interview, a modern-day CV, a ‘cultural-fit’ barometer. And the platform choices are exhaustive.

Between Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Youtube, blogging, podcasts, vodcasts and webinars, it is hard to choose?

Many people don’t choose these days, taking on the burden to use most of these. But you really shouldn’t.

Decide which one or two or, at most, three will speak to your audiences. Where do your communities live? Go to them where they are. Invest there. Everywhere else is bound to be a time-waster.

2. LinkedIn only works when you take it super-seriously.

If LinkedIn is going to be one of your Top Three, you need to spend real time on it.

Start by leveraging your email inbox. If you’ve been using LinkedIn for a while now, chances are you’ve connected with most people you know/have worked with. That said, searching through your email contacts is a great way to find people who might have slipped your mind or who work in a different industry than they did before.
Keep your LinkedIn profile updated. It does seem obvious, but people tend to get busy and forget. Granted, you shouldn’t need to make major changes to the experience or education sections, but if you consistently update your work portfolio, you’ll keep connections clued up on what you’ve been doing.

Finally, use the LinkedIn applications that you can add to your profile to enhance it in different ways. You might want to add WordPress, which lets you sync blog posts with your LinkedIn profile. You could use the SlideShare or Box.net apps to embed presentations or videos. Or you could connect your LinkedIn account with Twitter, to either display tweets on your LinkedIn profile or share LinkedIn posts on Twitter.

Remember: you don’t need all of these. Pick one or two, and ignore the rest.

3. Come to terms with the fact that video is the new black.

About ten years ago you had to have a websites to be taken seriously. And you still do. But the game-changer these days is video. And putting them online.

The power of video is that it shows and tells. It allows you to deliver a complete communication that’s visual, relatable, and will build emotional connections with people who are making decisions about you.

A video bio projects your personal brand in a way that shows people who you are and what value you can deliver. It’s not a video version of your CV, in which you laboriously recite your credentials and experience, but a 3D portrait of you.

If you can get a colleague, a staff member or (ideally) a professional to video your next presentation or take a video of you sharing an anecdote, do it. If you’ve been interviewed on TV, get the producers to load the clip onto Youtube and share that. Use any decent-quality expression of yourself being a pro on film.

4. Decide, in advance, what you’ll say ‘No’ to next year.

Are you a chronic over-committer? This is not only bad for your health, your spirit, your productivity, but also for your personal branding. So, my advice is: in 2015, plan to say ‘No’ to things that sap your energy but don’t rejuvenate you. Here’s how:

If you’re asked to do something optional that you can’t commit to. Just say this: “I appreciate your thinking of me and I’m honoured by the request. But I don’t have time to give this my best attention right now. I think you would benefit from finding someone who can devote more time and energy to this project.”

Remember: By saying No to something, you’re saying Yes to something else.

8 ways to sell yourself

For entrepreneurs looking to start or grow a business, building a personal brand is especially important as people need to buy into you before they will buy into your business idea

Entrepreneurs need to understand the importance of personal branding because it can play an enabling role as they seek to build a professional reputation and grow their companies.

Personal branding is about understanding what makes you unique, identifying your greatest strengths and talents and finding ways to consistently communicate these to your target market. Once you’ve spent time developing your brand, you will need to actively market it.

Here are some easy ways for entrepreneurs to build their personal brands for career success:

  1. Write a brand positioning statement for yourself: What sets you apart from everybody else? Know it, own it, believe and embody it!
  2. Build or expand your digital footprint: When you ‘Google’ your name, what comes up? Being constantly associated with a specific area establishes you as a leader or expert in that field. Find places to comment, share, speak on the topics you know most about. The Questions area of LinkedIn is a great place to showcase your expertise. Why not have your own website that showcases your product – you? Maximise the opportunities that being online affords you.
  3. Pick a few attributes you want to be known for and demonstrate them at every opportunity: Establish a track record of competence in your field and reinforce it at staff meetings, management meetings and networking opportunities by sharing your thoughts, asking smart questions and engaging with people in a meaningful way. This will keep you top-of-mind for related projects.
  4. Focus on great service: This includes interactions both within your organisation with colleagues and employees, and externally with your customers. Be reliable, communicate and deliver on promises you make.
  5. Love what you do – it shows! Passion is your personal brand’s fuel and it’s contagious. Let your energy motivate those around you.
  6. Have a global perspective: there is opportunity to learn, gain new perspectives and information at every turn and you will be surprised when that information can be used. Make sure you invest in yourself and in broadening your perspective, whether it’s through reading, training or mentorship.
  7. Challenge yourself: Step outside your comfort zone; learn new things; keep a record of your experiences and the things you have learnt. Challenging yourself will ensure you remain fresh and don’t stagnate.
  8. Develop a personal visibility campaign: Think about platforms you can use to market your personal brand, whether that means facilitating a workshop, developing a keynote speech, submitting articles to professional journals, getting active on social media or joining an industry body.

Does your personal brand resonate?

You’re working to develop your personal brand, but have you tested whether it really resonates with others?

As the year draws to an end and you reflect on everything that has happened during 2013, spend some time reviewing your personal brand and how effective it is.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Did you get headhunted?
  2. Were you offered a promotion?
  3. Did you get selected for a high-profile assignment/project team?
  4. Were you recognised by your peers or superiors for your contribution in the organisation?
  5. Did you move forward in your career?

If you answered ‘no’ to all of these questions, your personal brand may not be resonating with other people.

What does it mean when your personal brand is resonating? Firstly, it means you are visible and that people are starting to notice you and your work. They start to notice the work you are doing in a particular area and see you as something of a specialist.

If your personal brand resonates, you also have credibility — a certain gravitas attached to your name, otherwise known as the ‘X-factor’.

If your personal brand resonates, there is an air of confidence about you and people want you on their team. They see you as adding unique value and having impact.

Personal brands that resonate also get talked about favourably. In essence, you start to build a sales force of people that are out there singing your praises.

How to build a personal brand that resonates

If you feel your personal brand is not resonating with your target market, or if you just want to do a better job at building a personal brand that attracts positive attention, start off by taking stock.

Get feedback on how you are perceived (relative to how you would like to be perceived). This could be as simple as having a few conversations with people whose opinions you value, asking them: “What do you think of me? And what could I be doing better?”

Once you understand how others see your personal brand and you have a clear picture of how you want it to be seen, take action where appropriate to ‘close’ the gap. Identify a few-high impact strategies and begin working on them so you can hit the ground running as you tackle the next year.

Take your LinkedIn profile from awful to awesome

Your LinkedIn profile is one of the most accessible ways for people to find out about you, which means you need to perfect it

In today’s digital world, your LinkedIn profile has become a vital personal branding tool.  Crafting a great LinkedIn profile gives you an opportunity to capture the attention of decision-makers and to stand out from the crowd.

Here’s how to improve your LinkedIn profile today:

  1. Your LinkedIn headline. Your headline is your personal brand’s tag line. It’s the first — and possibly only — description of you that many people will see, so make it count. To write a great headline, start by asking your friends and colleagues how they would describe you in a headline, including the value you add through your strengths and skills, and what makes you unique. Make a list of these suggestions. For example, “IT support manager and trusted Mac expert” or “Experienced admin assistant who never misses a deadline”. These will provide a useful starting point. Then, make sure you include relevant keywords that your target audience will be searching for (for example, if a hiring manager is looking to fill a finance role, he or she will be using specific keywords like “accounting”, “payroll” or “market analysis”).
  1. Your LinkedIn photo. Make sure you include a photo of yourself, as this boosts the likelihood of people viewing your profile exponentially. Choose wisely. Go with an appealing photo that strikes the right image and professional tone for your industry and niche. Don’t let a bad or inappropriate picture be the reason you miss that million-dollar partnership.
  1. Your LinkedIn summary. A good summary should outline what your professional niche is, while highlighting your unique skills and specialities. Open with a personal positioning statement that lays out who you are, what key skills you provide, and a unique differentiator. Write in first person to engage the reader. Remember, the point of developing a personal brand is to position yourself as an expert in your field. The more you list and, especially, prove your skills, the more credible you become to your target LinkedIn audience.
  1. The experience section. Don’t just outline the roles and responsibilities you’ve held – highlight your key successes by adding quantitative results (for example, “I led a team of 46”, “This intervention saved the company R600 000” or “My team completed the project two months ahead of the deadline”).
  1. The education section. Bolster your professional image by expanding on activities and achievements during your academic career. Career switchers and young professionals should highlight school or university projects and leadership experiences that underscore skills they can transfer from their academic career to their professional career.
  1. Request recommendations from associates, both past and present. When it comes to your LinkedIn profile, this is critical validation of you as a professional. Try to have at least three to five listed from the most influential people in your circle.
  1. In order to make the most of your LinkedIn experience, join groups that are in your niche and interact with the other members. This is the best way for people to get to know you.
  1. Extra tips. Customise your public profile link with your name (for example: linkedin.com/in/JoeSoap instead of za.linkedin.com/pub/JoeSoap/9/684/50a/). Make sure your profile is 100% complete – this adds credibility. Incorporate key words related to your personal brand wherever possible, which enhances your visibility. Remember to add skills that are relevant to your industry.

Stop damaging your personal brand!

You have a personal brand, whether you think about it or not. Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. It’s how your colleagues, associates, friends and acquaintances perceive you.

You might think that your personal brand is in good standing because you work hard and produce good results, but you may be surprised to hear that a successful personal brand goes far beyond technical excellence. When it comes to personal branding, everything counts. Here are five ways you may be unintentionally sabotaging your personal brand:

1. Not paying attention to how your personal brand is positioned. You might be falling into this trap if you have never really thought about your personal brand before, or if you’ve just assumed that the way you want to be perceived is actually how others are seeing you. Often, there’s a gap. Minimising that gap requires conscious effort. You need to have a strategy to position your personal brand so that you are known for the specific traits you want people to recognise in you.

2. Being inconsistent. I often tell clients that consistency is better than occasional flashes of brilliance. I’d rather hire someone who produces good work every time than sometime who occasionally gives me a brilliant result but lets me down 90% of the time. Think about areas of possible inconsistency in your career. Do you make great emotional connections with people at networking functions and then never follow up? Do you occasionally forget to show up for meetings? Examine your behaviour, communications and interactions and ensure that you are consistently portraying your personal brand in the best light possible. You need to consistently deliver on what you promise to build a successful personal brand.

3. Not identifying and targeting the right people. You can’t build an effective personal brand if you have no idea who you’re targeting. Think about your objectives and then identify the people who can help you to achieve them. They are your target market, whether it’s your peers, your boss, the EXCO team or a recruitment company. Once you’ve defined your market, start to plan how you can make a great impression, show them the value you can deliver, and find ways of consistently demonstrating your personal brand attributes to them.

4. Neglecting opportunities to embed your personal brand. The effort you put into marketing your personal brand will only yield results if it’s relevant and makes an impact in your target market. Every interaction is an opportunity to embed your personal brand, from how you behave at a networking function to the way you respond to emails. Make sure that you see every situation as an opportunity to demonstrate your personal brand promise.

5. Always being a sheep. Copying what your competitors are doing is not enough. Effective personal brands stand out from the crowd by packaging their unique strengths and talents in a way that delivers value to the target market. This may mean you need to take a stand on certain controversial issues. As long as you can back up your argument with credible information, expressing your opinion may offer you an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and be seen as distinctive.

© Donna Rachelson. All Rights Reserved.