When people ask me for advice on how to brand themselves, I sometimes suggest they watch reality TV. I know… odd right? But a show like Married at First Sight makes it easy to illustrate a few points because I’ve found this show to be more open and authentic than other reality TV shows. If you’re in the process of building your own brand, this exercise can help.
Instead of focusing on what’s working or not with your own brand, detach a bit and pretend you’ve been asked to craft a new brand for one or two of the people you see on the show. After watching about 3-4 episodes and reading through the #MarriedAtFirstSight Twitter feed, ask yourself a few questions about the people you’ve seen:
- Of all the people I’ve seen on the show, which ones really intrigue me and why?
- What are they most passionate about?
- How would I like to interact with them? TV, Internet, Radio, Print, Podcast, Blog, Live Interaction, Talk Show?
- Do you find this person to be natural, friendly and open in front of the camera?
- Can you get a sense of who they really are?
- When are they the most open? The most guarded?
- When do they light up?
- I get a sense that they know a lot about ______.
- What other companies would I pair them up with?
- Who would I continue to follow on social media after the show ends?
- Who really causes me to have a strong reaction, whether angry, sad, happy, thoughtful, etc.?
By simply watching the show and asking these types of questions, you can really predict who has an exciting brand waiting to unfold, and who might fade into the background after a few interviews. But that’s not all – the answers to questions like the ones above have far-reaching impact. Using questions like these, I have developed:
- new marketing and sales goals
- eCommerce sites
- media kits and outreach plans
- product launches
- compelling show concepts
- speakers platforms
- intriguing blog, webisode, workshop/classroom and book content
- image and style blueprints
- studio/set designs
- identification and contact strategies for the best networks and partner brands/companies
- brand clarification strategies
- networking opportunities, etc.
So… now let’s get back to your brand…
This mini-exercise provides a few things to get your brain moving – but admittedly it’s sometimes difficult to do a proper for your own brand. Here’s where I’d suggest getting an outside party or focus group together to do an evaluation for you using whatever content or concept you’ve created so far. I think it’s important to have a new perspective, so finding a professional or unbiased analyst is ideal. If you have some followers, use your Twitter, Google or Facebook analytics data to get a sense of which content you produce that people resonate with.
Yesterday I was in the presence of a visionary. We began talking about one subject and found ourselves 2+ hours later in an altogether different place – with many stops along on the way. I enjoyed our conversation immensely. It’s what makes my line of work so interesting in fact – following a person’s train of thought and then distilling their ideas into a tangible product, brand or service.
That’s the key though – the distillation process. Where visionaries sometimes find frustration is in their attempts to create a website or a branding statement is when they attempt to include all of their ideas in one place. Sometimes this does work if it’s branded under a particular personality or larger entity. But what often ends up happening is that most people don’t follow, give up and move along. And that’s a shame – because there is so much to be learned by working with someone with an extraordinary vision.
If you are a person with many ideas and you don’t want to pick just one – here are a couple of quick insights to share with you:
- I was reminded yesterday by Ms. Toni that all of your ideas don’t have to be thrust upon someone during a conversation all at once. If people follow and remain intrigued then by all means go forward with the conversation. If not, back off until they have reached common ground once again. I loved her insight (and her home-grown tea)!
- This second issue comes up over and over with my clients – don’t let a single website be the place to dump every idea you’ve ever had without a clear delineation of your brand concept. Because even the best of us with the capacity to follow along a winding trail of thought will wonder what the heck you’re talking about. Instead consider your audience and then add another URL or sales page to detail and elaborate on your next idea. In this way you can capture the specific audience you want and then ask them to take the next step with you.
That’s it for now…
My daughter Kristen has just graduated from college with a degree in fashion design and has been tapped to design a line for a luxury sustainable wood eyewear company. (whoooohooooo!) And in a series of conversations over the past few weeks we touched on brand positioning – as each of the people involved is representing and nurturing their own emergent brand.
From my outsider view – the eyewear company has a high-end, green/sustainable, kind of edgy but meticulously hand-crafted eyewear product/brand. (It’s a pretty cool product and I would like a pair myself… but I digress…)
My daughter’s brand perspective provides a global design aesthetic with a focus on the melding of color, creativity and texture. So then in this collaborative environment, how can each new brand be positioned synergistically?
In this case, the eyewear brand should lead and the designer should follow because it is important that a new product company with a narrowly focused line not be diluted or eclipsed by a designer’s brand.
However, the benefit of bringing a designer in (which btw is a great idea for other micropreneurs to consider) means that the designer should influence and add to the product story. It then becomes a great angle for the product company’s marketing and sales materials – even for those launches with a limited time engagement. With proper handling even an emerging designer with a strong perspective can help craft the story for the product company. And the benefits for the designer will be numerous as well.
I think there are other cases where mature companies can take somewhat of a back seat and exist more as the platform. Take the Target and Neiman Marcus collabo for example – a rather brilliant program all the way around. They sought to bring in hot leading designers to launch “affordable chic” lines for the following impressive design roster:
Alice + Olivia, Altuzarra, Band of Outsiders, Brian Atwood, Carolina Herrera, Derek Lam, Diane von Furstenberg, Eddie Borgo, Jason Wu, Judith Leiber, Lela Rose, Marchesa, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Philip Crangi, Prabal Gurung, Proenza Schouler, Rag & Bone, Robert Rodriguez, Rodarte, Skaist-Taylor, Thom Browne, Tory Burch and Tracy Reese.
In this case, all of the brands were well known – and each lends its own credibility and depth to the experience. It also broadens the reach for both Target and Neiman’s. The lines are introduced to an entirely new entry-level market and presumably as they mature (read: have more disposable income) they will seek out the true luxury buying experience with Neiman Marcus.
Ahhh…. yes, balanced collaborative branding takes a considered approach but as in these two cases, it can be a brilliantly executed experience for everyone involved – including the consumer!
A portfolio career can be defined as having a collection of projects that provide you with your active income sources. Portfolio careers are a great choice for those with a wide range of interests. Whether those interests are in the type of work you want to do, the industries you want to work in, or the people and companies you’ve developed relationships with over the years. Having a portfolio career means that you are never reliant upon just one source of income – and should one source dry up, you can go about replacing it with a bit more peace of mind knowing your other project revenue streams are intact.
So how do you create a portfolio career? You start with the portfolio itself. A portfolio is a book highlighting your expertise. It should be designed to be opened and shared with the people you wish to connect with. It shows your best work, your ideas, your creativity and diversity. To create your online portfolio to highlight your career and the opportunities you want to pursue – consider these 3 critical factors:
- Register your main website and give it a name that will stand the test of time – this is a must if you don’t want to spend money and time re-naming your site later. Your site name should be as versatile as the projects you intend to pursue for many years. Picking your main URL with a singular focus in mind defeats the purpose of a portfolio careerist’s pursuits. Use this main site to collect examples of your work and projects, clients, promote your services, classes and events, and provide your reader with high-level/global understanding of what you do. As your interests change and your portfolio blossoms, the page names, navigation and content should be edited to reflect your next career strategy.
- Then go about creating additional URLs to highlight your skills for providing service or sharing ideas in various markets. If for example your main page is named XYZMarketingServices.com, and this year you decide you would like to narrow your focus to marketing for the food and restaurant industry – then your secondary marketing pages should be named and designed to connect with the best customers in that target market – for example GoodFoodieMarketing.com. Any advertisements that you create to target your market should then link to these distinctly branded secondary pages.
- Understand your point of overwhelm and plan accordingly. Anyone that works independently and juggles their own clients, deadlines and opportunities in various stages of the sales pipeline knows that stress is definitely not limited to people with 9-5 jobs. Therefore, build your income sources wisely. Instead of taking on 5 clients – take on 2, and then create other leveraged, residual or passive income streams. At first these income streams may be more like a dripping faucet, but with time each can be nutured to grow to the point where you don’t have to pursue new clients unless you want to.
It never fails… publicity, press release generation, and media placement topics are the first things my new clients want to discuss with me. But I have yet to find a new client who is actually ready for PR the first time we meet.
It’s easy to understand the thought process and the lure of publicity though… They think “If I get enough visitors to my website, I’ll be famous and rich.” But so much more goes into the virtual business process ahead of engaging the press.
Here is my condensed list of the top 9 areas that need to be on point before sending out a single press release:
- Ensure you have someplace to send them. This seems obvious, but many clients simply want to have the press call them directly. Umm no. Your virtual platform needs to be available and ready for visitors. Make sure you have your…
- If you want to talk with the press, set up your electronic media kit. Very often one media placement leads to additional placements. The reporter or producer that you didn’t initially contact will need more information, so make sure that your media kit is where they’ll find all the information they’ll need about you, your company and your services/products.
- Make sure you have a social media presence and a plan for routine communication and engagement.
- Is your back-end covered? Can the server that hosts your website handle a large amount of new traffic? You don’t want to find out it can’t handle the traffic after your press release has been sent out.
- Do you know where the traffic is coming from, what they’re reading, how long they are staying? If not, set up an analytics system to track important data so you can begin to test and segment your visitors and understand their needs.
- Anticipate a bunch of new visitors and make sure you have a unique offer tied to an autoresponder that will follow-up on all leads.
- Ensure you’re talking to all of your visitors. Not all of your readers will be customers, some will be potential partners, affiliates, or even the competition. How do you handle each of these segments? What do you want to tell them? What is your screening process?
- Create a launch plan. A press release should be one component of your overall communications strategy and launch plan, not the entire strategy.
- Because all of your press releases should have a call to action. I strongly recommend creating a unique sales landing page, mini-site or squeeze page. What is the point of sending the press release? Have something to say AND ask them to take the next step.