Archive for the 'Branding' Category

Six networking tips for International Networking Week — plus a bonus one

This is International Networking Week. I know – I’m excited too!

But before you head out, help me recognize two world-class leaders for first making networking a thing, and then for making it a big thing.

On February 23, 1905, lawyer Paul J. Harris got a handful of friends together and founded Rotary, the world’s first civic club. Initially, his goal was just to grow his practice. But Harris soon realized this could be big because Rotary clubs caught on and, you might say, went viral. Now after over a century of international success, 33,000 Rotary clubs around the globe meet every week to network. And millions of people worldwide have benefited as Rotarians have delivered on Harris’s founding principle, “Service above self.”

Three-quarters of a century later, Dr. Ivan Misner also had a rather parochial idea that caught on around the world. What began simply as a plan to meet other professionals in order to grow his consulting business, rather quickly became Business Network International. Over 30 years, 7,500 worldwide chapters and millions of business referrals later, the BNI watchword is “Givers gain.”

After more than a half-century in the marketplace, more than 25 years as a Rotarian, and almost 20 years as a friend of BNI, here’s what I call the Networking Power Question: “What can I do to help you?”

There are two fundamental reasons Rotary and BNI caught on and have endured:

1. Networking is the professional version of the naturally gregarious nature of humans – we just like doing it;

2. Done right, the headwaters of networking is a commitment to what’s best for the person on the other side of the handshake. And after a century of organized practicing, we know the awesome power of putting others first.

Now, let’s get your International Networking Week off to a successful start by considering these networking thoughts (NT) that were inspired by my friend and networking goddess, Andrea Nierenberg.

NT #1.  Make eye contact

Clearly the cardinal sin of networking is not looking the person you’re talking to in the eye.  Nierenberg says you should be able to remember the color of the person’s eyes that you just met.

NT #2.  More ears – less mouth

This is an old adage, but it’s an essential NT for most of us. You’ll be more likely to impress someone by your interest in them rather than the other way around. “Tell me about your business,” and then, “Tell me more.”

NT #3.  Smile – a lot!

Ladies are usually better at this than men. But the smile must be genuine, and is best accomplished in combination with NT #1. You don’t have to grin guys. Just turn up the corners of your mouth a little.

NT #4.  Firm handshake

Men are usually better at this than the ladies, but don’t turn it into a wrestling match. And guys, when you’re shaking the hand of a lady, it’s the opposite of dancing: let the lady lead. Ladies, that means offer your hand first and give ’em a good squeeze.  No one likes a dead fish/limp elbow handshake.

NT #5. Elevator speech

This is your very short and concise response when it’s your turn to talk. And unless one of you is actually getting on an elevator, be thinking about NT #2, and follow your little pitch with a sincere inquiry about them. “Now, tell me about you.”

NT #6. Successful networking benefits all parties

Enter any networking opportunity with NT #6 on your mind instead of “What’s in it for me?” and your networking success will increase exponentially. Remember the legendary Rotary and BNI mottos, “Service above self” and “Givers gain.”

Here’s a bonus NT from Misner: “It’s not netplay, it’s network.”

Make it your personal goal to become a professional networker. And then watch success come and play in your backyard.

Write this on a rock … Face-to-face networking is the original social media.

Small business brand value is more than the Q factor

Have you noticed that every new on-air person hired by a TV network looks like a soap opera actor? They’re all young and pretty. We’re left to think that non-beautiful people need not apply. That is, unless you’re familiar with a certain marketing measurement.

Marketing Evaluations Inc. is the proprietor of a marketing metric used extensively to hire on-air talent.  It’s called the Q Score, and it’s as rude as it is simple.

A prospective anchor is presented to an audience who is asked to give one of two answers: I like or I don’t like. Responses are graded based on the numeric Q Score.  Above 19 means you’ve “got Q.”

Never mind credentials, if you can read a teleprompter and have Q, you’re hired.  Below 19—fuggedaboutit.

Could the Q factor be involved in perpetuating the marketplace myth that owning a brand is the exclusive domain of big business?  After all, if only the young and beautiful possess the best TV journalism credentials, why wouldn’t we believe you can only have a brand if you have a sexy national television campaign?

Since most of us would be guilty of giving an “I like” score to a pretty face, it follows that we would also be foreclosed from thinking a dowdy small business could actually own a real brand.  But here’s the truth about branding, and it’s good news for small business: Owning a brand is more than having Q.

Most experts will testify that a brand is established when a product delivers a desirable feeling.  Pleasure, happiness, security and yes, even pretty are examples of how a brand might make us feel. A brand’s value and power are established when it consistently delivers on our feelings and, increasingly in the Age of the Customer, on our expectations.

If people were influenced only by things that have Q, churchgoers would only attend big, beautiful churches, and yet tiny churches abound. Like religion, brand loyalty is also a very personal thing, which is more good news for small business. Getting close enough to customers to discover their individual expectations is one of the many things small businesses do better than big businesses.

So it’s resolved: Owning a brand is not the exclusive domain of big business. And when it comes to actually building brand value, small businesses have the edge.

Big businesses may be good at brand Q, but small businesses are better at what really counts: building brand value. Our challenge is in believing this truth about ourselves.

Write this on a rock… Your small business’s Q is measured in brand value as defined by customer expectations.

Who is writing & telling your brand story?

The last time America had two grassroots protesting groups gaining critical mass simultaneously was when women’s suffrage and prohibition shared the national stage.

A hundred years later their 21st century successors are the “Tea Party” and “Occupy Wall Street.” And like their indignant forebears, the new kids on the block have just enough things in common that they’re often compared to each other, in spite of the fact that they’re really quite different, including, as you will see, in non-political ways.

Both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (OWS) believe that the objects of their indignation are broken and must be reformed. Essentially, the Tea Party wants to make the Federal government more fiscally responsible, while OWS demands that 21st century capitalism include elements of social justice. And in some cases both groups are itching for the same reform, like ending taxpayer bail-outs and restricting the influence of lobbyists. But here is where they diverge.

Protests by the Tea Party helped it resurrect and assume a legendary brand. But their actions were quickly polished into a cogent brand story that is being leveraged within the existing political process. As proof, in less than two years the Tea Party told their brand story sufficiently to elect enough members of Congress to significantly influence the national policy debate.

OWS protests have also created a compelling brand. Consequently, it has acquired one of the best forms of business serendipity – free PR. But, as reported in a recent article on, the lack of a cohesive message – caused by demands that range from Tea Party-ish to Utopia – has prevented the crafting and delivery of a successful brand story. Unfortunately, as the article concludes, the OWS story is being written and told by others.

Our online research supports the foregoing appraisal. When we polled our audience about which group will have the greatest impact on the 2012 elections, Occupy Wall Street came in at 11%, while 89% thought the Tea Party would stir things up the most. A companion poll asked if either movement was “Good for America.” Over 80% said yes to the Tea Party, while only13% favored OWS.

Regardless of which ideals you align with politically, as a small business owner you must take a lesson from how the two groups manage their brands and brand stories. One is finding success by writing and telling their own story; the other one – not so much.

Who’s writing and telling your brand story?

I talked more about telling your small business’ brand story today on The Small Business Advocate Show. Take a few minutes to download or listen.

For more great SBA content, click HERE!

Small business brands in the 21st century

There was a time when most people thought having a brand was just for big companies - you know, like the Nike swoosh. For years, I’ve been telling small businesses that they have a brand, too, maybe even more than one.

But for small businesses, our brands are less tangible. The thing that makes customers remember us is more about the experience they have with us, including the relationship they have with our employees, the way we customize our products and services to their individual requirements and, just maybe, the fact that we remember them every time they connect with us.  Yes, my friends, these are the critical, often intangible, elements of a small business brand.

Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about the intangible, emotional, impressionable brand concept with long-time Brain Trust member and world-class brand expert,  Tom Asacker.  Tom reveals how your attitude about your business and behavior around customers is also part of your brand and what compels customers to do business with you - or not. You can find Tom, his many books on branding and his work at

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to this important conversation about what small business branding looks like in the 2nd decade of the 21st century. And, as always, be sure to leave your own thoughts.

Listen Live! Download, Too!

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