Networking in the sky. How to turn a seat mate into a good connection.

Screen shot 2011 01 29 at 6.34.25 PM Networking in the sky. How to turn a seat mate into a good connection.

Today I flew to Houston on Southwest, one of my favorite airline brands. I was escaping the invasion of pirates in Tampa Bay. I live in a high rise and on Saturday my balcony will have a direct view of over 500,000 mostly drunk revellers.  I enjoy this celebration called Gasparilla about every other year. This year I was passing and headed to H town for a big city fix.

As I boarded the plane, I was auditing all the brand touch points as I just got hired to speak to an international airline in February. I noticed a lot more that I usually do – from the ticket pocket, to the checkin line signage, to the gate tunnel walls, carpets, uniforms and the seat magazine and laminated promo card on the changing Rapid Rewards program. All on-brand, same SW story, all 500% consistent. Good job Southwest.

As I enter the plane, I scope out my seating opportunities should I, in fact, decide I want to chat with my seat mate. I’m always very strategic with this due diligence.  No crying babies, no people preparing and eating their dinner next to me and no live animals, especially birds.

What I do look for are business people and if there are none, which is rare, then I default to a George Clooney look a-like.

Why the effort? Because I have met many new clients, new friends and even once an investor on an airplane. I don’t always work the row, sometimes I do just pass out, think, read or work.

But just to make sure I’m ready if an opportunity sits next me, I always:

  • Have a several business cards
  • Dress professional when I fly
  • Practice good phone and technology etiquette
  • Avoid garlic and other strong foods before the flight (they may keep away vampires, a client too)
  • And listen more than I talk

If it’s appropriate , I get a card and keep my word if I promise a follow up.

More from Houston later. My battery is low and my cables are sitting on my desk in Tampa. Can you say Apple Store on Saturday?

For more in the sky lessons, view: JetBlue gives you four inches, but…

How I earned the #1 spot on Google

Screen shot 2011 01 04 at 10.50.57 PM How I earned the #1 spot on Google

My wish list for the Branding Diva is fairly simple: make my projected profit numbers, live a high standard life, beat most of my opponents in tennis, have fun, stay healthy and earn the #1 organic search result on Google. The first five I mastered and was not surprised. The last one (a pleasant surprise) happened this last quarter.

I earned the #1 spot in Google results under Branding Speaker.

So how did I do that?
I did not invest any money with an SEO specialist or ranking company.
I did not call Google and beg.
I did not do the search result dance around a bonfire.

Here’s what I did.
The 10 steps that got me the #1 listing on Google for Branding Speaker.

  1. I did my own keyword research.
  2. I added as many of these keywords into my web copy as I could.
  3. I updated my meta tags.
  4. I secured my URL for more than three years.
  5. I tagged all my images with ALT tags.
  6. I wrote relevant keyword content and posted it everywhere, creating links back to my site.
  7. I set up and tagged all of my videos on YouTube which is owned by Google.
  8. I repurposed every piece of content I ever wrote and posted it everywhere.
  9. I set up all of my social media that link to my site.
  10. I set up RSS feeds on my site.

If it worked for me, it can work for you. Good luck!

For more on how to get search results, view: Making history in Saudi and 5 lessons from the experience.

Are you missing a great opportunity magnet?

That all depends on whether you’ve given much thought to and taken action on  your personal brand.

I interviewed my buddy and fellow personal branding expert, Dan Schawbel, for his insight on the this powerful business subject. Dan believes a strong personal can attract both business and career opportunities like no other magnetic force. Click the image below to watch the interview.

Read on for Dan’s added thoughts on the topic of personal branding.

The Importance of Personal Branding: How to Stand Out in Today’s Opportunity Market
Stay relevant or stay unnoticed.
You need to be relevant to be desirable in the marketplace, and you should prepare yourself for the careers of the 21st century. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 60% of all new jobs in the 21st century will require skills that only 20% of current employees possess. You need a sense for what skills are important in your chosen industry, and which ones might be significant in the future.

Find your niche– you have to specialize. Being a generalist will help you adapt to new jobs because the market changes all the time, but specializing will make you more desirable to hiring managers. In fact, 71% of hiring managers are looking to fill “specialized positions” while 61% of job seekers considered themselves to have “broad skill sets”. Companies are looking to hire experts in their fields to solve real business problems. Become an expert in an in-demand field and you will have leverage over the recruitment process, make more money, and securing a stable position. Once you’ve chosen your field of specialization, you can become an expert by getting a second or advanced degree. Schools like DeVry University and its Keller Graduate School of Management offer specialized bachelor’s and master’s degree programs focused on high-growth career fields. You should do some research online to find flexible and affordable opportunities to dial in your personal brand niche.

The competition is relentless. The economy has created a tough job market for most individuals, especially inexperienced college graduates. There are currently 2 million unemployed college graduates, and companies are hiring 22% fewer graduates. Our country is becoming more educated with about 40% of Americans having college degrees. Having a college degree is extremely important for building a foundation for future success—a general bachelor’s degree is a great entry point, but having advanced or second degrees is a way to make yourself stand out and advance your personal brand.

Interpersonal skills are becoming more valuable. A brand requires a personality if it’s going to be distinctive. Your personal brand needs to be personable and attract positive attention. Organizations are starting to place a higher value on interpersonal skills (communication, teamwork, organization) and cultural fit, instead of technical skills and experience. A new survey by Right Management shows that 31% of companies feel that organizational culture and motivation fit is important, while only 12% are for technical skills, and 11% are for relevant experience.

Perception (how we present ourselves) is king. It’s the little things that count, whether you’re in an interview, or interacting with people online. A CareerBuilder survey states that 67% of hiring managers say that failure to make eye contact would make them less likely to hire a job candidate and 38% said lack of smile. People will judge you on small things that make a big difference.

For more on Dan and  a copy of his new personal branding magazine visit his website too.

Screen shot 2010 11 01 at 11.17.32 PM Are you missing a great opportunity magnet?

Dan is the author of the #1 international bestselling career book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing). Me 2.0 made the New York Times summer reading list for job seekers, was one of three social networking books recommended by Shape Magazine, was the #1 career book of 2009 by The New York Post, is a #1 bestseller in Japan, and is also being translated into Chinese, Korean, and French. Recently, Dan was named to the prestigious Inc Magazine 30 Under 30 list.

 Are you missing a great opportunity magnet?

Does your business card scream “I’m broke, clueless or stuck in 1980″?

1980 fashion Does your business card scream Im broke, clueless or stuck in 1980?

Tuesday I attended a networking event. I met many interesting entrepreneurs and business professionals. I was also blown away by the number of butt-ugly, unprofessional and down right cheesy business cards that were passed out.

If you are seven years old and selling lemonade,  OK, I’ll cut you some slack. But if you are or expecting to sell at least $10,000 of good or services in year, you need to invest in an effective business card that best reflects your value, quality and expertise. Business cards are often the first impression a new contact gets and the lasting impression that is filed for future connections.

Buying a preprinted template is a big mistake no matter what industry you are in.  It implies you the smallest potato you can be and most buyers will not be turned on by this status as most are looking for experts with a history of success.

Even if this means skipping a meal to pay a professional to help you, your business card is one of the most important branding touch points.

4 must do moves to make sure your business card is working with you, and not against you.

1) Think differently
How can your card stand out from the pack of totally boring ones? Size of card, material that it’s printed on or does it have a scent?

2) Keep copy concise and compelling
A business card is not intended to be a book. In most cases,  your company name, your name, a graphic mark, your web site, email and phone is enough. Give them a reason to go to your website to learn more.

3) Use typefaces that are relevant to your brand
Society is conditioned to associate type with many brand attributes. A typeface can communicate innovation, creativity or a blue leisure suit from 1980. Select the one that best articulates your brand.

4) Leverage the white space and the back of the card too.
Sounds conflicting? Don’t fill every inch of the card with stuff. White space is good. This is the most cost effective way to communicate a quality  and upscale image. Think of an old yellow pages add vs. a stark Neiman Marcus ad, I rest my case. Use the of back of the card too.  Consider a simple image, a provocative question or your web address.

Investing in a memorable, on-brand business card is not an option. If you are a startup and you can only launch with two tools for your new business, make them a killer business card and a website. Then let your product or service carry the load until you can do more.

If you are interested in other ideas, check out an older blog on the subject of business cards and branding.

 Does your business card scream Im broke, clueless or stuck in 1980?

How social media can generate sales. 5 avenues to new customers.

Screen shot 2010 10 19 at 11.25.34 AM How social media can generate sales. 5 avenues to new customers.

According to a recent survey by Pew Research, the commercial use of the Internet among Americans continues to grow: 58% of US adults say they conduct research online about products and services, up from the 49% who said so in 2004, while roughly one-quarter (24%) have posted comments or reviews online about products they buy. (thanks to MarketingProfs for posting)

I am one of the 58%. I am a research nut who conducts online searches for both personal and professional products and services several times a day. I came across two companies yesterday while conducting online research. One of them is now a contender for my business. The other, sadly, lost terribly.

Here is some background. I am looking for a new washing machine since mine has decided that it no longer wants to clean my clothes. At this point, I don’t want to search by features, colors or price. I need to know which ones will fit into the predetermined and unalterable spot for the washing machine. All the major and local appliance stores’ websites offered the same search parameters: color, price, most popular, highest rated.

I went to Google and typed in “appliance by size.” The results listed, among others, a site that “aims to make it as easy as possible to find the products that fit your space – be it furniture, home electronics or even large appliances. You can find all the products you need for your new apartment in a size-friendly search environment.”

Great! I thought, that’s exactly what I’m looking for, so I went to the site and entered “washing machine” in the search box. The auto-fill suggested the following: combination microwave & wall ovens, convertible dishwashers, countertop microwave ovens, double wall ovens, waffle irons (aside: how big do they get?), and wall air conditioners.

When I typed in “washing machine,” I received the reply “no entries found.” What I did find was that I was annoyed that the site didn’t work. I would have been happy to spend lots of time on the site looking for what I needed. This might have provided them some ad revenue and perhaps some affiliate income if I purchased on line. I likely would have highly recommended the site if it worked. Instead, I went back to the google search results and found Kudos to them on a website well done! Not only is the site super easy to navigate and search, (they allowed me to search by appliance size!) but they have also embraced social media. The highly informative and engaging social medial channels are FREE and cost them only their time to assemble and post content. Under the AJ Madison Community umbrella, they have the following channels and descriptions listed. From the AJ Madison site:

Facebook: The AJ Madison Facebook Fan Page is updated every day with the latest deals and product specials. The AJ Madison Experience (found under the “Boxes” tab) presents a simple, ever-changing interface with deals and links to the site, while Shop AJ Madison allows you to browse and buy from our entire site, all while logged into Facebook. Become a fan today!

Twitter: For information about promotions, as well as general appliance news (and some surprises), follow us on the official AJ Madison Twitter page (@AJMadison). On average, we tweet several times a day, and deals are normally announced in the morning.

YouTube: We periodically update our YouTube channel with new informative product videos. In the near future, we’ll have a steady stream of content and new videos to keep you apprised of the latest appliances and how to use and maintain them.

Tumblr: Every weekday, we update our Tumblr page with information on a new “just-in” product. This is a supplement to the New Products RSS Feed, with our own views on the featured appliance thrown in for good measure.

Flickr: Each week, we showcase a new product from the AJ Madison showroom on our Flickr page, giving you original images and in-depth looks at our newest appliances. Subscribe to our Flickr stream or follow us on Twitter for the latest updates.

Appliance Authority (blog): You’re on AJ Madison’s Appliance Authority blog right now! We update our blog several times a week with how-to guides, top rated product spotlights, buying tips and more. Check back here every weekday for a new post, or you can also follow it via this RSS Feed.

Google Buzz: We’re proud to be one of the first companies on Google’s new Buzz network. Though we’re currently experimenting with this brand-new platform, Buzz integrates all of our other profiles (Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and more), and we add daily deals, news and information right from our Brooklyn office. If you’re a Buzz or GMail user, or just generally curious, visit our Buzz profile and follow us today!

And, it gets better! I tweeted, “@AJMadison I love your website! So well done and informative. If I still lived in NYC, I’d be purchasing my new washing machine from y’all.”

In less than an hour, they responded, “Thank you, friend! We still deliver to your neck of the woods.”

By being on top of their social media channels, they created a direct, personal, immediate dialogue with a potential customer that lives 800 miles away. That kind of responsiveness makes them a top contender for my business.

Key takeaway points:

1. If you sell a product or service that people are likely to research, write rich content and reviews and create lots of search parameters that will attract researchers to your site.

2. Leverage social media channels. Distribute all that great content through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc.

3. Monitor those channels. Read and respond to potential buyers. Read and contribute to discussion boards and forums in which your products and or services are the subject. Become a trusted authority.

4. Provide solutions. I tweeted that I would buy from them if I lived closer. They responded, “no problem, we can do that.” I went back to the site and saw that FREE DELIVERY was offered to my zip code on the item I was considering.

5. Read the bad stuff, too. You might find that unsatisfied customers posted their complaints online. If possible, try to reach out to them and resolve the problem. Research shows that customers who complain and are satisfied with how the complaint was resolved are up to 8% more loyal than if they had no complaint at all.

 How social media can generate sales. 5 avenues to new customers.

Friends & other nice people can be crooks too

crookimage Friends & other nice people can be crooks too

There should be a new song, “Who let the moochers out” because they are everywhere. They are friends which are the worst kind, because they manipulate you, because they are your friend. And then there are  strangers you meet networking and they are super, friendly, nice folks too.  I ran into three this week. They want your time and expertise, but don’t want to pay for it. And HELLO!!!, this is what you do for a living.

They are no different than another crook you learn about in the media, except they are stealing from you.

Many service providers face this ugly group often. Some of us fold, because we feel guilty about sticking to “we are in business to make a fair profit in exchange for value we deliver”,  or sometimes we feel sympathetic, because these moochers cry “I’m poor (that’s not your fault) and others convince themselves that this giving of time and talent will translate into new business (sometimes it does, 80% of the time it doesn’t), and others like me, will just say NO! and stop the time sucking, energy and value wasting drill and get back to business.

Here are the clues friends and other nice people don’t value your stuff enough to pay
They want to meet for lunch. In the invitation chat or call they don’t offer giving you anything back like: leads for your business or even indicate they may buy your services in the near future. But they do stay focused on what they hope to get from the lunch, your expertise at no cost to them.

You tell them you are happy to meet for a small consulting fee and they back off, even when your fee is less than a round of golf or a few bottles of wine. If a company or professional can’t shell out a couple hundred bucks, this is big red flag.

You tell them about a low cost investment, an ebook or service that you offer that is in line with their goals and they don’t buy one. If a company or professional can’t shell out 10 or 20 bucks, this is big red flag.

Please don’t get me wrong, giving is good, generosity is golden, but not knowing the difference between a moocher/time and talent crook and a flat out homeless business person, is a crime.

If you truly believe a friend or contact is interested in buying from you (they have the money, they are a decision maker and they value you) then it may be worth giving a bit, before you ink the deal, but when you put out some fairly low cost investments and they don’t move on it, it usually means they don’t value you.

It’s also important to note that there is a big difference in someone who has no money and someone who does not want to part with their money. After nearly 28 years in business, I learned to spot the tire kickers from the buyers.

If you do a great job in communicating your expertise and knowledge and they don’t buy in to a small fee or product, you are asking for trouble.

You and I both know expertise and experience are not free to acquire.

Here’s a great clinching question.
When a friend or stranger wants a couple hours of your time, before your shell it out and do the pre research on their issue and tap into your brain which you invested thousands to be so smart. . .

Ask the moocher if they’d give you $500 of their product before you begin your free session or maybe ask them to contribute 2% of their weekly pay to this project or your favorite charity.

If that does not  help you say NO!  Just think about the five other things you could be working on that will earn you revenues while that time/talent crook steals from you.

Thinking about starting a consulting practice so you can earn what you are worth?

Tired of giving free speeches? Get paid to speak.

 Friends & other nice people can be crooks too

Food pushers, product pests and hard-selling smotherers.

All annoying,  all unnecessary, even if you work on commission.

My good buddy, international sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer said it best, “People don’t likes to be sold, but, they like to buy.”

You know who I’m talking about, it’s likely one of your relatives, I know it’s one of mine. They are always pushing food on me, try this, eat this, have some of this. The more I say “no thank you”, the more they push, the less I want it.

Does it make me want to try the food? Heck no. It aggravates me, same goes for pushy sales people.

I understand in tough times, we all want the sale, but instead of pushing, try pleasing, providing value and supplying pure helpfulness.

4 pleasurable ways to get customers to want your stuff instead of running from it.

  1. Share a tip or secret about your product or someone else’s.
  2. Send an unexpected handwritten note with a special offer, personalized and just for them.
  3. Randomly offer a free trial or sample of a service or product with no strings attached.
  4. Add a bonus gift to a small purchase.
 Food pushers, product pests and hard selling smotherers.

Relationship marketing worth more than direct selling?

In today’s business world, networking is all the rage, everyone is communicating via some sort of social media platform, joining groups and forums of one kind or the other.  So much energy that used to focus solely on sales has now been refocused on “creating relationships”.  Does it work?  Is it worth it?  Have we lost sight of creating revenue and increasing the bottom line?

“I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half” (John Wannamaker) I think that many people still feel this way  and is one of the reasons that new methods of generating business has been created.  Networking is not new, it has been around for a very long time, probably as long as there has been commerce, what is changing is how we network ourselves.   When I lived in Las Vegas and ran a marketing company I used to go to various “meet and greets” to meet and socialize with other business owners and executives, today I can do this without leaving my office, and I can meet new people thousands of miles away just as easily as those that are around the corner. The goal in relationship marketing is not to sell a product or service, but to sell yourself, to make yourself desirable in terms of others wanting to know you.  Unlike traditional sales relationship marketing is looking to create a lifetime relationship with someone who will buy over and over, and will keep coming back because of the relationship they have with you.  It’s about brand awareness not just focusing on a one time sale and moving on, and it takes more time to build this relationship than it does to make that one sale, but in the end the return on investment is substantially higher.

You must have the ability to reach and connect with people as individuals in order to get them to take action and you need to be able to keep their business for a lifetime, relationship marketing means that you have to adapt to your customers as individuals (

At the end of the day every business is trying to sell its product or service, this has not changed, but think about it, it is much easier to sell to someone you already have a relationship with than to sell to a complete stranger and that is what relationship marketing is all about.  Creating relationships may not affect the bottom line in the short interim but in the long run the ROI is much higher and that is what relationship marketing is all about creating and maintaining lifelong relationships that will pay off over and over.

 Relationship marketing worth more than direct selling?

Assertive marketing, strategic networking or sleazy SPAM?

spamimage Assertive marketing, strategic networking or sleazy SPAM?

Where do you draw the line and decide what is honest to goodness marketing and networking, and what is invasive, obnoxious and sleazy SPAM?

It’s a hard call.

I get lots of email from people I know damn well  I’ve never opted in to their email list. Plus they even use a respected email service that claims to be spam free and still my in box is stuffed full with unrequested messaging and junk. I’m starting to question how spam free they are. I’ve used company for several years called Feedblitz. In fact, I just became an affiliate last week. This means if you sign up for their service, Oddpodz will make a commission. However, my recommendations are always based on my experience with the company, the small are a bonus icon wink Assertive marketing, strategic networking or sleazy SPAM? Whatever service you use, do your homework, because switching providers often requires having your community re-opt in and you can loose some long time followers.

Back to Feedblitz, I was attracted to their service because your blog is the feed/content for your email. I’ve learned many people still prefer mail over RSS feed. They do a good job, and don’t tolerate list dumping or spamming. And if you have an issue you get to speak to real person.

I often wonder, did this happen because of  some business group I joined and they sold their list, or did this company get my biz card and randomly add me to their email pool or did they buy my name from a list broker,  in any case, 99% of the time I’m annoyed because fundamentally I hate spam and any relative or form of it makes me cranky.

The other side of the coin. As a business owner who is trying to build a market of followers and customers, I’ve considered buying lists. I understand the math behind if you reach out to 10,000 people and offer something of value, 5% may join in your party. Is that a bad thing?

Can you say direct mail? Since I’ve been on this planet, I’ve been introduced to many a worthy businesses and products via an ice cold piece of direct mail.  I know my name was purchased some where down the line in the marketing and capitalism world of business promotion. And I’m cool with that. I know I can also choose to chunk the uninvited mail into the trash at any moment.

Here’s my take on the subject of uninvited, no permission email marketing.

Buying an email or snail mail list is OK if you reach out with a valuable offer, one or two times.  And as  long as you provide an easy, clear way to opt-out at any point.

If you don’t provide the opt-out option and you Ignore the recipients request to stop receiving your stuff, then you deserve to get the worst computer virus ever and get struck by lightening too.

Be honest with the people you reach out to. Don’t tell them they signed up, if they didn’t. That just adds to making the world feel crazy, when they may not have lost their mind yet.

Love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

  1. Have you purchased lists? Where?
  2. Did you get a good return?
  3. What email service to you use?
  4. Where is the best place to report spammers?
  5. Are you still using snail mail?

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Guest blogging is win-win relationship between bloggers and blog publishers because the publisher of blog gets fresh and free content for their blog, helping it to grow. In addition to creating external links, guest blogging also helps you the increase readership of your blog, and builds your credibility (the more your name pops up in a Google search on credible websites, the more perceived credibility you will build). And all this also build your brand (if you are choosy where you are blogging….. which you should be because where you post reflects your brand. Everything affects your brand).

BlogSynergy is the for blog owners looking for guest bloggers and right now it is a FREE service! With BlogSynergy, blog owners can get free content for their blog, allow their readers to contribute to the blog, and get a fresh diversity of perspectives for the content. Bloggers can boost their exposure and get relevant high quality links back to their website, gain some exposure and hopefully some visitors too. By signing up on BlogSynergy you create a profile, include sample blogs, link up your blog, and select the categories and audiences you can write for or are looking for writers for.

To set up your page, visit BlogSynergy today. To get organized and strategized on a SEO plan for your biz check, out our ebook Search Engine Results Ta-Do List.

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