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Be Who You Are

guest post by Ali Reynolds

“Well who are you?”– is what you’re probably asking yourself right now – “that you should get the opportunity to post about the topic on Andy’s Goodelife blog?” Well, I’m just a regular gal with some marketing experience and a good instinct for what people want to get out of their social (and other) networking and marketing experiences. My background is in music (vocalist and arranger), Events (DJ, Wedding Coordinator, Caterer, Florist), and most recently – Sales, Marketing and PR as an independent consultant for a variety of B2b Services (Legal, Financial, Real Estate) and currently the arts (Ballroom dance and Symphony organizations.) My husband jokes that there are less jobs I haven’t done than those that I have at some point in my previous experience. I have to agree.

Is there anything I wouldn’t do again? I honestly don’t think so because each job I’ve had, though diverse in nature and some tougher than others, has taught me something valuable along the way but the most important thing that I’ve learned is how to understand the motivations of people – mostly regarding decision making. Do we go for the ultimate bridal bouquet or stick with the budget we had chosen previously? Do we have the DJ play for an extra hour ($225 per)? Do we pick our dream wine tasting menu for our 25th anniversary reception or go with the “chipper chicken”? Do we sign up for the costly private ballroom dance lessons or stick with the slightly less indulgent group lessons for ¼ the price? People’s lives are based around decision making and I have found that they are more willing to be flexible about the decisions they make if they are given an HONEST, up front and straightforward proposal from the beginning rather than being given the runaround.

If the customer can understand the product – there will be no confusion and everyone will be happier in the end. This is why honest branding and a clear marketing message is so important – help your customers understand who you are and what you represent so they can talk about you and endorse you to their friends, family and co-workers. Referrals are gold and cost you nothing more than the time you spend to craft the message, and the time you put into developing quality customer service worth talking about.

So how do you parlay this idea into social networking and personal branding? Well, it’s simple really and there are a few helpful steps I’ve learned and applied to past clients that will assist in the process.

  • Decide Who you are and what you offer – You need to decide right off the bat how your business is a solution to a potential customer’s problem and who you are as a representative of it. Consider your personality, strengths and weaknesses, communication style and what the most relevant benefits of your product have been to your most satisfied customers. Make a short list of those benefits and think about how you can adapt those benefits to fit those unique needs your customers may have.
  • Come up with a brief, clear and concise Elevator Speech – a 30 second intro to who you are, what you provide and an example of how it has helped a customer previously. This elevator speech will be the brief basis to all other marketing materials and collateral you create from this point forward. Realize that the elevator speech is the online equivalent of your company or personal bio / profile online whether in twitter, facebook or myspace. Leave out any inessential details from these areas and reserve them to be included in other areas of content on your site later (blogs etc.) where they can be expanded upon and truly useful. Eliminate clutter and simplify whenever possible, more words do not equal more clarity.
  • Determine who your targeted market is – you might need to do some research or you may already have a great picture of who that is based on your current customer list. Find out where these individuals congregate online or in person, what they are interested in, what topics and other items may also be of interest to them based on their income level and lifestyle. Identify what kind of effort you will need to make to actually be involved in those places to get access to your potential customers. Decide how much time you are able to invest in the process and start working on developing content.
  • Get Honestly Interested in the topics your potential customers are following and start creating content about those topics that can drive traffic to your website. Don’t forget that people can tell the difference between a sales pitch (even a clever one) and something created by a truly motivated and curious writer who has a blog entry or video that they have twittered about (and most likely asked for retweets for). This means you get the opportunity to learn new skills, hobbies and facts on an ongoing basis – which can be overwhelming but is always more rewarding than watching rerun episodes of Golden Girls on a Friday night. Get off the couch and realize that these opportunities will make you easier to relate to for your future customers. However, if you still can’t generate some excitement within yourself to research the topic, hire some part time interns who can’t stop talking about the topics you are focusing on, and let them loose with some basic ethical guidelines. In no time, you’ll have traffic flocking to your site – coming from places you never imagined – all because someone’s enthusiasm was so genuine that it reverberated through the internet.
  • Don’t Fake it – even if you think you are missing out on the opportunity to capture business. Bloggers, foodies, Goodies, yelpers, twitterers and the video obsessed are a highly clever and communicative bunch. If word gets out that you posted fake reviews, staged fake events, paid for criticism (or lack thereof) or in any way compromised the integrity of the content about your product or service – you will be sacrificed without mercy on the alter of new media by people whose obsession with “the facts” allows no limit to the time they will spend online defending honesty. Anymore – the only real self-policing media left in the world with integrity is online. Everything else is pay to play or politics at best.
  • Be Multifaceted – this may seem to go against the “keep it simple” branding message in item # 1, however, what I actually mean is – different customers will relate to your product in different ways based on their age, income level, interests and family situation. So take the content you’ve created and roll it over into various forms of media to create synergy and appeal to more of your niche market of targeted customers in ways that will most quickly result in sales or referrals. You’ve already invested the time to create it – why not consider all the various ways you can make it work for you? The creative process is fun and you’ll have a great time seeing it work once you have set it in place. Create a blog entry, a video entry, a musical entry, a twitter post, some products they can buy, a comment section, a newsletter, a discussion forum, a place for people to upload their photos, videos, music, etc. and link everything to each other.
  • Don’t Forget who you are. So suddenly, your ideas and products have led to a wildly successful season (now that you’ve followed my steps of course!), and you decide you want to branch out. There is nothing wrong with expanding – but never forget the qualities that made you, your content and your product appealing to begin with. What are those aspects that made it special, that made it worth mentioning? Don’t be tempted to mass produce a lower quality product to try to capture a broader market – marketing to a broader market is MUCH more expensive and you will likely have to cut down on creativity, quality and customer service to survive. At the end of the day someone might buy a second rate, less unique product – but no one is going to be excited enough about it to tell everyone they know about it. The best way to grow is to plan strategically and reinvest your energy and profits slowly into one very closely related product at a time – a product that will also be of interest to your current customer base.

At the end of the day, honest branding and marketing is about self-awareness and integrity. Understand who you are as a person AND as a company. Know what you do well and what you don’t. Identify and focus on your niche market of consumers and sell them a quality product with terrific customer service and you will benefit from the free marketing “Gold” that comes only from the referrals that result when people have discovered something they are truly excited about.

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Wow, thanks Ali! Key post which really drive a few points home to me.

And, my dear readers, you want to see Ali in action, don’t you?  Here is her application video:

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You can catch up with Ali…

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