Now that I’ve got your attention, sorry, this week’s blog is not about an erotic trilogy or a fantasy business mogul. Its about a real strategy that can make or break any customer experience and ultimately impact a brand.
Six months or so ago, at a charity fundraiser, I purchased a weekend getaway. It was a silent-auction item touted on the promotional poster as a “This is paradise!” stay for the weekend at a five-bedroom house on the beach on beautiful Anna Maria Island. Sounded great to me. Waterfront property, relaxation, and all in a vacation area that I had been to before and loved.
Soon after the function, I received a certificate in the mail with similar details about the house and their website.
Before I invited friends to join me, I visited the Realtor’s website who had donated the item and researched the property. The photographs looked awesome and the copy was even more intriguing than what was on the poster at the event. It not only said this was paradise but claimed this house was one of the finest beachfront properties on the island.
I was feeling good. I had helped a local charity and I was getting a gorgeous weekend retreat where I could relax and entertain guests.
Fast forward to this past weekend, the morning of my getaway, I decided to go back online to see what else I could learn about the house and the island. This time I just Googled the address and former guest reviews popped up.
To my shock, I read some very graphic and unflattering comments from other guests who had stayed there recently.
Here is what I read, “This place is a total dump”. “Old house, not maintained well”. “Very disappointed”. And if that was not bad enough, this one really got my attention, a former guest proclaimed, with several exclamation points, “This place has a serious roach problem!!!!”
OMG, what have I bought? And I’ve got guests coming from Houston in five hours to see paradise!
I immediately called the realtor to tell them about what I saw online and to remind them that the promotional materials and the website all said this was supposed to be paradise. Grant it, I have high-brow tendencies but to me, paradise means a sister property of the Ritz Carlton. Not a location where Chevy Chase filmed his last weekend from Hell movie.
In a frantic voice, I asked, “Do we have a Plan B?” And without my common sense contributing to the rant, I also said, “I don’t care what it costs, I’m not sleeping with roaches”
The realtor was very nice and put me on hold to check what was available. She got back on the phone and assured me they had other properties that I could rent for the weekend if the house I bought from the charity did not meet my expectations of paradise.
She also downplayed the negative guest comments I saw on the website. Saying those were from the craziest, grumpiest guests we’ve ever had.
She invited me to come by the office, pick up the keys to the place I bought, and if I didn’t like it, I could see other options.
I drove to the house at 827 North Shore Drive, called the Bean Point Shack. I assumed shack was slang for a very cute place. Well, it turns out, the crazy, grumpy guests were not off base at all and the name shack was a literal description.
In fact, their opinions were far more complimentary than mine would have been. This waterfront beach house, in paradise, looked more like a run-down, dilapidated, dangerously scary, no doubt roach-infested shack.
I returned to the realtor’s office and explained, “No, this place is not for me or my dog”.
“I’m sorry to hear that”, she said. “People do stay there and they like it”. I didn’t doubt her, as the many travel sites showed recently posted positive reviews on this place.
So we moved on to Plan B. She gave me keys to three different houses, none of which were part of the charity weekend offering. I selected a beautiful six-bedroom house, newly constructed, with a wonderful pool and walking distance to the beach.
At the end of the day, it all worked out. The charity received its contribution, I spent a little more money (good for the local economy), and my guests and I had a fabulous time in our vision of paradise. The realtor, was accommodating and focused on making me happy. In return, I would call them for future rentals but I would be very specific about my expectations.
The drama from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and the urgent house hunt, I could have lived without.
The moral to this story: there are at least fifty shades of paradise depending on the buyer segment you ask. To me, paradise means quality, luxury, bug-free, and with modern conveniences. However, to 47 other guests, paradise may mean camping, a roof over their head with electricity, sunsets, and being 50-feet away from the ocean.
If your standard of paradise is similar to mine, do not consider The Bean Point Shack. You will be disgusted.
This entire experience would have been handled so differently if only the realtor had better addressed market segments and managed the buyers’ expectations in their sales messaging.
Managing buyers’ expectations is a critical strategy in brand building.
Be as specific and transparent as you can be with promotional marketing content.
Call this paradise what it really is, not what it may have been 40 years ago under the influence of a tropical drink buzz. And don’t call it one of the finest houses on the island. Describe it as an original beach cottage, with no frills, and lots of nature.
Be honest. This will keep buyers expectations aligned with reality. From here, added pleasures will just exceed their expectations. Which is a good thing and worthy of rave reviews online. Or when the buyer calls about this type of property, assess their expectations in advance and proceed accordingly.
Don’t present a distorted image of your offering. This is just asking for upset customers and bad social media reviews. Which, by the way, remain online a lot longer than just a weekend.
Photo note: while chilling this past weekend, I read a really good book called, Magic of Impromptu Speaking, by Andrii Sedniev, which I will review in next week’s blog. For the record, I’ve not read Fifty Shades of Grey yet.
The news was sad. I know he and his team gave it their all. I could feel his pain in the letter he sent to his customers and friends, it was as if someone had died.
My friend lost more than money. His entrepreneurial soul took a traumatic hit too.
It’s never easy to pull the plug on a business you started. Especially when you are an eternal optimist, which most entrepreneurs are.
You cling on to hope. You believe in miracles. Your ego screams, “No freakin way can you bail and be branded a quitter”. Egos do not always give the best advice.
There comes a time in business, when quitting is the wisest action to take. Postponing it will just delay your next success.
If you do quit and call it a failure, know that failure is a temporary state and you control the schedule.
Winners quit every day.
The day you stop the train and get off is the day you are able to get on a better one.
- Don’t beat yourself up.
- Morn for a short period of time, after all, you are human.
- Reflect on what you learned and journal your lessons.
- Do the right thing concerning your responsibilities.
- Be grateful for what you gained, the experiences, the network of contacts, the knowledge, and you don’t have to give them back.
When we lose a friend to an untimely death, we often say they are in a better place. I believe my friend is in a better place too.
“I use Grammarly for proofreading because without TYPOS, I have less gray hair and then I look much, much younger*.”
(Read the entire blog to make sense of this opening quote.)
Of all of my skills and talents, proofing text is not one of them. In fact, if there were an award for the most consistent practice of missing those grammar gaffes, those punctuation oversights, or the spelling snafus, I’m sure I’d be a finalist.
I’m okay with this because I know I have many other valuable skills that these grammar gurus and spelling bee society members don’t possess.
I know these shortcomings drive my journalism-minded, editing buddies nuts. I’m okay with this, too. I do respect the English language. I understand that errors and bad writing reflect poorly on one’s professional image, and that’s not good brand-building.
Therefore, while I’m not convinced that the use of my time to master these skills is a good one, I do support tapping people and products that do proof well or can aid me in the process of just cleaning up my work. This is a worthy investment.
With good intentions, I still sometimes put out work with typos because even when I hire people with better proofing skills than me, they sometimes miss stuff, too. Then I get brutally scolded by the Monday morning quarterback proofers, and I pledge to do better.
As a serial bad speller and typo-misser, I do have private moments of joy when I see The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other credible news sources miss typographic errors, too, especially on the front page.
A new tool.
The other day, I got an e-mail from a company that requested I blog about their proofing product for some compensation, a $100 Amazon gift card. The only requirement is that I include a specific line of copy as the front of my blog post. They requested I insert this line of copy at the beginning of my blog.
“I use Grammarly for proofreading because . . . and fill in the blank with something funny.”
Sure, I can do that. See the first line of my post today*.
They also gave me a two-week trial of this Grammarly service, so, today, I’m trying it out, and I’m reporting to you my opinion about the offering.
Wait a minute.
If I’m getting a kickback, how can I be honest? I thought about that, too, so here’s what I’ve come up with. I’m inviting you, my readers, to share your most egregious typo nightmare on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Brandingdiva?ref=hl.
For an example: When I owned a PR firm in Houston, we once printed 2,500 brochures and misspelled Public Relations. Instead, we called it Pubic Relations, which is an entirely different service.
Win a $100 Amazon gift card.
This means you need to post on my Facebook page a typo you saw or let slip by. The most shocking, embarrassing, or just plain funny submission will get the $100 Amazon gift card Grammarly gave me. If it’s not transferable, I’ll buy you $100 of what you want on Amazon. The contest ends on November 1st, so don’t miss out.
My take on Grammarly.
I ran this blog through their proofing app. The service can cost between $11.00 and $26.00 a month based on the length of your commitment.
It was an interesting experience. It’s easy to use, and the app caught a bunch of mistakes. Before they start reading your document, you are asked what style of work your document is, an academic paper, a creative work, or a casual communication etc.
Your paper earns a score from 0 to 100. Each mistake they pick up on, you get an explanation and an example of a similar situation with the corrected grammar, spelling, or punctuation.
On my document, they did flag some spelling errors that, in fact, were not errors but either slang or made-up names, two being their own product names.
They do point out that their app should be used as a second set of eyes and should not replace a human proofreader.
This service was helpful. But for me, it does not cure my lame grammar and spelling disease.
Proofit, another service they offer.
Okay, then, if you are someone like me who is a high producer of grammar and spelling errors, they provide another safety net or extra layer of checking. This service is called Proofit.
I also used the Proofit service to check this blog after I ran it through the Grammarly app. Proofit has a pay-for-mistakes pricing model. The worse your writing is, the more you pay, and the fees scale is based on your required turnaround time.
Instant turnaround: 2 US dollars per mistake
3-hour turnaround: 1 US dollar per mistake
24-hour turnaround: 0.50 cents per mistake
Charges are assessed only for changes made to your document. Their professional proofreaders review documents and correct only writing, spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. They don’t read for content credibility or validity. The interface is easy to use. They work around-the-clock. They provide a quote before they begin the project, and they guarantee their work.
In less than one hour, I had my document back. They corrected all of the mistakes in the tracking mode of Microsoft Word. My document, this blog had 51 mistakes in it after it went through the first online proofing app. Since they had quoted me a fee of no more than $38.00, they billed my credit card $38.00.
After I received the proofed document, I reran it through the proofing app and my score was 100!
I like what this companyis doing and recommend checking them out. They provide a couple of quality, low-cost, and around-the-clock proofing services for people like me.
We live and breathe technology. Smart phones, dumb text messages, notebooks, PDFs, videos, virtual meetings, cloud computing and all the “apps for that”.
All this stuff has certainly added convenience to our lives, however, its also created a society of gadget addicts. And Heaven forbid, there is no Internet connection for 10 minutes! Someone call 911 and order me a respirator. IT withdrawals are worse than needing a crack fix.
Technology has had a profound impact on how we function and communicate.
This new world order has also zapped the tangible factor in many business connections. The days of touch, hold in your hand marketing and ink on your fingers are gone. We are now a digital domicile. A planet of wifi, plugs, chargers and adapters.
We are all striving for meaningful ways to build lasting relationships in this highly competitive marketplace. Maybe it’s time for a little return of those long trusted tangible tools. You know the ones. Things you can feel, throw on your desk, touch with your hands, pin to your real bulletin board. Sorry Pinterest.
Here’s a novel thought.
No one else is doing it, the tangible stuff. This could be your way to stand out. Grant it, digital is cheaper than dirt but so are many of your competitors.
Do this stuff right and the results could be priceless.
I’ve been tooling around with these un-used opportunities and here’s my take on some classic tangibles. Heck, maybe its even the new black.
I just launched a five-card series of postcards and they were not the Walmart model of “low prices”. They were a significant investment for a small business. My total investment was $6,000 and that included, photography, design, printing, red envelopes, and 1st Class ladybug postage stamps (both the red envelopes and stamps are believed to bring good luck). Getting to a clean mailing list required an investment too.
Does snail mail still work?
Everyday, the average, busy businessperson receives around 300 emails and is bombarded with over 3,500 brand messages. So yes, they can work. I believe a few, well-done snail mail pieces can break through the noise and be noticed.
To date, I’ve only mailed two of the three cards and already I’ve gotten booked for a speaking event in January. The fee from this one event will cover 100% of my campaign expenses and then some. In addition to the booked speech, I’ve received 10 calls or emails from people that I’ve not talked to in years. The net effect, I’m back on their radar screen. Thank you snail mail!
Tangible business cards.
Are expensive business cards worth it? Over the years, I’ve written extensively on the importance of great business cards. Business cards are a critical touch point in branding. A cool business card is a surrogate messenger that reflects a brand image for pennies, compared to other useless expenses.
A global client recently told me their new, stand out from the crowd, two-sided business cards, cost four times as much as their old ones did. Not surprising to hear, they will likely be four times more effective too. This card is the first tangible point of contact to many business prospects and it screams their progressive, innovative brand.
Remember you only get one chance to make a good first impression.
Tangible, hand-written notes
Hand-written notes are more important than ever and they are becoming a lost art. Again, not a lot of people send hand-written notes. Instead, they take the non-tangible alternative of sending an email, blowing it off or worse yet, they send a lamo-text message. I’m sure, my relative, maybe, Emily Post, is flipping over in her grave about all of this.
We all can do this one. It’s in everyone’s budget. They will require a stamp though, so if you’re not sure what that is, Google it. Send a card, a thank-you note, or a relevant news article with a Post-it® note on it.
Take back some of those old trusted tangible tools. It’s in vogue. It’s time.
They put you to sleep, it’s a poor reflection on a good brand, and its just a down- right bad presentation, but they are still spreading around the globe.
I experienced one just the other day.
The saddest part of this story, these presenters were not first-time entrepreneurs committing a branding crime or a recent graduate new to the business world. These were executives from a large company, with resources, who should have known better.
Here’s a recap:
· The company is new to the market.
· Every move they make is crafting their brand with the local business community.
· They invited 50 would-be clients and referral sources to a very nice restaurant for lunch.
· An executive spent 30 minutes walking through a word-infested, bullet pointpacked, boring stock photoloaded PowerPoint presentation, covering what the company cared about, their goals for market share, their sweet spots for business and their strategies for growth.
· Then another executive followed with 30 more minutes of tranquilizing content with the same dreadful slides, same boring blah, blah, blah.
Nine ways to turn a speech into a brand-building event.
1. If an executive, or business leader, is not a great speaker, don’t let them speak or limit their talk time to one to two minutes.
2. Open every talk with something funny, shocking, or compelling that engages the audience within the first few minutes. If you need help with being funny, read Punchline your Bottomline by David Glickman, a fellow Floridian and my buddy. Although the book is no longer in print, you can grab a used copy on Amazon for pennies. Or hire David to punch up your materials.
3. Leverage stories.
4. Lose the bullets.
5. Highlight one to two big, important points only.
6. Use PowerPoint as an aid to help stay on your message course, not as a dissertation document.
7. Use simple, memorable graphics to back points or concepts.
8. Focus messages on topics that are relevant to the buyer and tell them what’s in it for them and the benefits.
9. Prepare and know your topic.
Speaking opportunities are powerful opportunities to make lasting impressions and build a brand.When you have a stage to show off your stuff, tell your story and leave a lasting impression to build your brand. Be grateful. Don’t waste the situation and don’t be dull and boring. That is worse than lice.
Age withers the human machine. It slows down the body and dulls the brain. As young as 35 your major organs start to decline. YIKES! For life-long achievers and supercharged entrepreneurs this can be a disheartening and brutal truth. There are two choices. One, surrender, join AARP and start drinking Ensure®, or two, you can fight it with the same passion that helped you be on your “A” game throughout life.
I’m taking option number two and will remain a relentless warrior against time.
For my body:
This means not looking at exercise as a chore, but an enjoyable event that is guaranteed to make me feel good. I love playing tennis, power walking and hitting the weight room, jamming to my favorite tunes. And it’s never to late to start. I was a total fitness slug and over weight until about the the age of 32, and didn’t start playing tennis until 40.
If you hate the thought of exercise, find some activity you enjoy. There are a lot of fun things you can do to burn calories that don’t require Spandex®. And if you think you are creative now, add 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, and your creative output will significantly accelerate. Research shows the creative boost from exercise can last for least two hours afterward. However, there’s a catch: this applies to the already physically fit. For those who rarely exercise, the fatigue may just make you want to nap and have creative dreams.
For my mind:
I just discovered Lumoisty, online brain training program. They have been running banner advertising on CNN.com. The video ads are extremely well done and advertising works, they converted me into a buyer.
The idea is quite simple. As your brain ages, it naturally looses some of it cognition performance. Your memory gets fuzzy, your attention span shrinks, and your problem solving skills get slow or even disappear. Their online games help you get mentally fit again. Like a muscle, with brain exercises you can reactivate the napping neutrons and get your cognitive brain function back.
Lumosity has over 40 million users exercising their brains and seeing impressive results. Their research shows after 4-weeks of brain exercises, you can achieve a 10-20% increase in cognitive functions. Those functions contribute to a better and happier life.
I signed up over the weekend, and I started today. It was challenging. Some of my scores were pretty pathetic. It took around 30 minutes for four exercises. The cost for an annual subscription is $5.82 a month. They offer family plans, too.
All of the brain exercises are designed like games you play on your digital device. After taking a quick test, Lumosity designs a custom brain training program based on your current functions and your areas needing improvement. They recommend, to achieve optimal results, you exercise your brain 2-4 times a week. They also offer reminders, so you don’t become a slacker. The personalized dashboard shows your progress, which is very cool. I’m going for the three times a week plan and will keep you posted.
I can definitely see the logic behind it.
Use it, or lose it!
Yeah, we all know that but when sales are not happening, how does one get around this rejection-ridden routine?
My buddy Jeffrey Gitomer, the modern day Godfather of selling, shares this answer along with many other unbreakable laws of selling in his new book by the same name.
I’ve known Gitomer for nearly 10 years. Throughout my speaking career, he’s been a close friend and a consent source of inspiration and influential ideas. He’s direct, can be brash, but walks his talk. From selling T-shirts out of his car in New Jersey, to an international best-selling author, this guy knows how to sell.
His new book, 21.5 Unbreakable Laws of Selling, comes out today. I’ve read an advance copy, and if you need to sell more, I recommend you get a copy, too. If you’ve read any of his other books, this one is like his greatest hits, a compilation of his finest tips, plus it addresses how social media has changed the sales playing field, too.
Here are three points from his book:
- Your belief system is the root of your success and bane of your failure.
- Laughter leads to listening.
- Ask before you tell, and you won’t have to sell.
Get a copy today, September 3rd on Amazon, and you’ll get a bonus link to tons of free stuff from Jeffrey and 40 other top business leaders, motivators, authors, and educators, too. I am one of those authors. The giveaway from me is an ebook on creativity.
It’s easy, after you order your book on Amazon, send your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org, and receive hundreds of dollars worth of downloadable e-books, white papers, articles, videos, reports, and chapters of best selling books being offered by today’s top sales, marketing, publishing, communications, public relations, and business growth leaders. See the full offer HERE.
Password annoyance ranks up there with people who are clueless to cell phone manners and pesky black flies.
All three can make me cranky.
The later two may be hopeless, but the passwords management may have a new solution. It is an app called PasswordBox and is worth checking out.
Basically this freemium service lets you easily save and store your passwords so you don’t need to remember them.
Depending on how many passwords you have, it can take a little time to set up. But once you set it up, it syncs to all of your devices, allows access to your accounts, saving you time and aggravation. It will also changes the look of your browser. If that bugs you, like it did me, you can disable this feature by going to the bottom right of your screen and changing the option.
Got a team member or significant other that needs access to some of your passwords?
Not a problem. PasswordBox allows you to share select passwords with others you trust. And, if your trust withers, you can delete them from your share list.
Leave the planet?
PasswordBox offers a legacy service where your passwords are provided to assigned members of your family, or those in charge of your estate, etc. This is done by simply having them mail a death certificate to PasswordBox’s corporate office.
PasswordBox is similar to Dropbox. Users can store up to 25 passwords and sync across all devices for free before being prompted to upgrade to a premium account. A premium account has unlimited password storage for $1 per month, billed annually.
If a dollar is out of your budget, you can earn a free for life membership with unlimited password storage by referring friends to PasswordBox. Once five referrals have been accepted, you will automatically receive a free for life membership. I like that.
8 marketing truths
Almost a year ago, Chip (short for Chipolte) entered my life. A long-haired, kind of crazy, very co-dependent Chihuahua straight from the local SPCA.
So, how does a former homeless pup turn into a very upscale canine that now demands only the finest things in life? The pet industry knows how to market, and brand, doggone well.
Whatever the business category, we all can learn from these simple marketing truths.
1) Sympathy sells
Consumers have big hearts. Rescuing a needy, lonesome animal from a well-positioned brand, the SPCA, as a non-profit, savior of little souls shelter feels good.
2) Everyone is into digital
Now that I’m the proud co-parent of Chip, my radar screen picks up everything that can make me an even better dog owner. A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal featured a woman who trains dogs to use apps on an iPad. Digital technology enables rapid relationship building, too. When I shop at one of Chip’s favorite pet stores, Wag, upon entering the place, they snap Chip’s photo. He instantly appears as the big star of the day on their Facebook page.
3) Luxury is alive and well
What haute dog doesn’t like to be pampered? Mine sure does, from staying at dog-friendly hotels like the Ritz-Carlton, to hanging at the just for pet spas with massages, peti-cures, designer perfumes and wearing the latest fashions (see the above shot of Chimp sporting his new life preserver/swim jacket).
4) Personalization is good for the ego
Maybe it’s my ego, or maybe it’s Chip’s, if you can monogram or engrave my dog’s name on anything, we’re in. After all, what dog doesn’t need a few branded travel bags, or some sterling silver dog bone bling?
5) Niche segmenting has never been stronger
Who said there are enough cable TV stations? One more niche channel just debuted it’s called DogTV. For five bucks a month your dog can watch commercial free, color-corrected for dog vision, programming, with no violence or barking dogs which can cause anxiety. What a deal.
6) Hallmark has it right
From greeting cards for and from pets to holiday themed toys and gift wrap, too, holidays are relationship building, publicity producing and sale-generating machines for many businesses.
7) Mental health is big business
Chip has some social issues. I have hired an anger management coach Angelica of Courteous Canines for him. I give him Zen pills to calm his nerves, and seriously thought about swapping his water for a premium tequila.
8) Packaging can change anything
OK, another small admission, Chip was not the prettiest dog in the pound. Not a problem, with today’s sound marketing skills and technology, good lighting, art direction and a little Photoshop, any product can be transformed.
Do you need more on insight dogs can give us? Check out a good book, What My Dog Taught Me About Life.
Being stumped is an essential part of the creative process. Step beyond discouragement.
For the past 6 months, I’ve been thinking about my next book. I want to travel more globally, and I want to expand my speaking topics from pure branding to a message of motivation, self responsibility and personal empowerment.
As a keynote speaker and consultant a published book can open lot of new doors, generate new streams of income and be a platform for a plethora of media interviews that can help me meet my new goals.
This past week I believed I came up with my next big idea and title, something that I could sell to an international publisher. I drafted a 2 page summary that I had planned on sharing with my last publisher who has the first publishing rights on my next book.
I ran the idea by an editor, a former acquisition editor for Simon & Schuster, I’ve worked with on my last two books, Brain Tattoos and Brand Turnaround. She liked my idea and did a search on the premise and not much showed up with other published books. I was feeling really good about my idea, and I was anxious to start writing my proposal and get this puppy going.
As I was reading my draft summary one more time before I hit send, I tried a few more different key words and phrases similar to my topic and Holy Crap!, three books showed up. How could that be? I researched this topic several times and nothing showed up and now I see three, by credible authors on my big idea.
My balloon felt deflated. My big idea shrunk to a tiny crumb. I was so bummed. For a couple of days, I wallowed in my disappointment. Then a light went off in my head. I’ve been reading a really good book on creativity by Jonah Lehrer called Imagine. The book uncovers how big ideas get hatched, how innovation happens and how creators come up with killer stuff. Lehrer contends being stumped is an essential part of the creative process. And this state of hitting a wall helps lube creativity. He cites many cases of before the “brilliant next big thing” was a dark hole that seemed too deep to get out of.
I convinced myself his concept had merit. I also revisited the New York Times best seller list of books, and there was the proof. Nothing is new. Nothing is original. The winning horse prevails because they find a new way to spin an idea. They present it from a different perceptive. And they are resilient and don’t give up. For every best selling book on success, leadership and happiness, there are thousands of equally as qualifies works that never even get printed because those authors gave up.
I’m not going to give up. I’m going to go back to the drawing board, research the three similar books I found and find a way to present this idea in a compelling, different and better way.
If you are working on a project and got a little push back too, join me and leverage that temporary setback and invite your creative will to find a way to keep moving forward. I’ll keep you posted on my journey.