SCOT SIMMONS, BRAND WHISPERER

OK. So why not? There’s a Horse Whisperer, a Dog Whisperer…there’s even a Ghost Whisperer. The name is meant to connote one’s ability to “speak” to the named entity in a language only it understands…and thereby achieve a level of cooperation and performance previously thought impossible (or at least improbable).

I can do that.

I’ve seen many things throughout the course of my 35+ years in the world of words, writing, marketing and yes, brands. And although the verb “branding” didn’t come into vogue until, ohhh, maybe fifteen years ago, it has been misused, misinterpreted and undervalued for much longer. There is a marked tendency for business owners to confuse product with promise, maximum effectiveness with mere presence.

A brand is not a product. It is a promise. One that your customers expect you to keep.

Brand effectiveness is not determined by how many times and places you can throw your logo. Brand success is a “how,” not a “what.”

As a Brand Whisperer, I put clients in touch with how to stay in touch…how to make a brand connection and sustain that engagement with consistency, value and trust.  What it takes is defined goals, assessment of what’s working and what’s not, and strategies for keeping the brand message (promise) on track, on target and on course for the future.

When was the last time you actually gave thought to what and how your brand…not your business…was doing? Do your clients have a clear understanding of the intangibles you provide them and why they should trust you over your competitors? Are you yourself contributing to client confusion when it comes to conveying your own vision? Are you delivering 100% on your promise? Could you do better in the delivery department?

I can help. When you’re ready, give me a whisper.

HOW DOES A BRAND MEAN?

Freshman year, UCSB. English 1B. The first book I bought for the class was entitled How Does a Poem Mean? The author, John Ciardi explained in his introduction that the title he has chosen is not intended in any way as a verbal trick. He is “interested rather in “How” the poem means, how it goes about being a performance of itself.’

So it is with brands. To an entrepreneur, the how is more important than the what… because the what is just a label. The how is everything else.

• A brand is a promise…kept. More than just a name, it is an assurance; a reason to believe.

• A brand tells your clients and potential clients more than what you sell. It tells them what you stand for.

• A brand engages consumer trust and creates emotional connection. That connection has the power to transcend price  wars and competitive offers…and your occasional oversights or mistakes.

Why is this important? Because in a boundless marketplace, brands rule.

• Brands build name awareness

• Consumers stay loyal to brands – without the need for promotional incentives

• Retailers provide brands greater visibility because brands drive sales. And brand owners don’t need to launch

NEW! offerings…they leverage the brand to grow the business.

Just a little thinking out loud. After all, that’s how a blog means. Til next time. What are you thinking out there? Would love to hear more about brands and blogs and business matters. Take a shot. I’ll listen.

WHY YOU NEED A WEBSITE: A BROCHURE JUST ISN’T ENOUGH.

Millions of users are turning daily to the web when they need a specialized service. As I’ve said before, if you’re not there when they are, you’re simply not a service option. All service-oriented businesses — including attorneys, doctors, financial consultants, entertainers, realtors and, of course, content providers — should let potential clients know that they have a choice (and that you are their best choice).

For a small business, a well-designed web site is a great way of instilling confidence and presenting you as a professional, and if you so desire, making you look bigger than you actually are. Selling in cyberspace is much cheaper. It’s a good way to supplement your offline business. Providing secure online ordering is very affordable. And a web site does so much more than any 3-fold brochure will do.

WHY YOU NEED A WEBSITE REASON #3:
BECAUSE it can make you famous

Your web site or web page can be the vehicle that gets you noticed, gets your story to the world, gets the word out that you are different – and  better — than those other so-called professionals who claim to be the best in YOUR field. Anybody anywhere who can access the Web and hears about you is a potential visitor to your Web site…and a potential client.
And then there’s THE MEDIA. You won’t get Newsweek magazine to write up your local store opening, but you might get them to write up your web page address…if it is something new and interesting. You also might get local publications, e.g.  805, to bite on a “local kid makes good” story or a mention in a “Best of…”- type article that will plug your business/brand into the awareness grid of a multitude of readers.

Every kind of business needs the exposure that the media can bring.

Consider this: the Media’s main product is information.  They can get it more quickly, more cheaply and more easily on-line. Digital images can be acquired (cut) and inserted (pasted) in place with a few keystrokes. Digital text can be edited and output on tight deadlines. Your web page can provide all this.

Lastly (for now)…having a web address allows you to add sound, pictures and short movie files to your company’s info to serve, instruct, inform (and amaze) your potential customers. No brochure will do that.

Think on these things, my friends.

WHY YOU NEED A WEBSITE: CULTIVATING AN OPEN DOOR POLICY

Incoming metaphor! Your website home page – or single web “id” page or blog page — is the front door to your business. Casual viewers, service seekers, potential partners can open that door to you…and discover the essence of your service, your operational philosophy, your Unique Selling Proposition.

Yeah. I know. “Salespeak.” But that is, after all, what we’re talking about.

We sell ourselves every day…whether we intend to or like to or even want to. Part of the deal…the rules of survival…even for us “creatives.” Especially for us creatives, actually, because most times we have to work harder at it in order to get results.

Know what I mean? I know that you do. Open the door.

WHY YOU NEED A WEBSITE REASON #2:
BECAUSE it can connect you.

Business is connection. From connection comes trust. From trust comes EVERYTHING.
Handing out your business card is a proven essential element of generating new business…and having a website is like passing out your business card every hour of the day, every day of the week, to thousands (maybe millions) of potential clients and partners. It says “This is what I do and here’s how it can benefit you and this is how you can reach me” – and it says it all the time.

In addition, as a change-up alternative (or reinforcement, if you will) to attending mixers and dinners and speed networking and lunches and “pass the mike” breakfasts, you can opt to gather information about your customers and prospect for potential customers by using online forms and surveys. This is not to downplay the value of active networking. But occasionally letting the leads come to you can be a welcome break from doing the “ shake hands and pitch” circuit.

Just a thought. More later.

WHY YOU NEED A WEBSITE: ARE YOU KIDDING?

Americans are spending more time online. In fact, studies show that roughly 80% of us now spend as much time online as we do watching television. Pretty compelling statistic…tells you a lot about our culture, our communication, and our commerce.

Most importantly, it gives us — entrepreneurs, craftsmen, business professionals — a very clear picture of where our audience is and how to reach them.

The “them” is  27 million (and growing). And they’re not just computer nerds or techies or trekkies anymore…they are your customers.

Get a website. Get online. Get a life.

If you still need convincing, here’s another reason why you should Since the Web has several very good search programs, your interest group will be able to find you, or your competitors.

WHY-YOU-NEED-A-WEBSITE REASON #1:
BECAUSE your potential customers already expect you to have one.

In order to succeed in today’s world, you MUST have an internet presence. There are billions of internet users – a few million of which live in the U.S. – with more and more logging on every day. It is truer now than ever before: If you don’t have a website, you don’t exist. Chances are, if a potential customer can’t find your website, they won’t find you. But they just might find your competition.

A website can create a powerful first impression. Consider it your new storefront. The front door to your business. And consider this: it is always OPEN, always working for you. That’s 24-hour service without requiring you to put in a 24-hour day.

I know…you’ve tried.

There is no more nine-to-five. We’re all on different schedules, driven by different priorities, shaped by different obligations. Availability and accessibility can make all the difference– the critical difference between being seen and being left behind. And that alone makes having a website vitally important to any business, organization or individual.

More to come…

5 REASONS TO WRITE A BLOG

Want to hear a story? Of course you do. Everybody wants to hear a story. The facts they can Google, but the story, your story, your take, your opinion on any given topic or discovery or service or occurrence —  is what readers want. And isn’t that wonderful, because you can give them all those things…in a blog.

1.    Everybody isn’t doing it. Actually, according to David Meerman Scott, author of  “The New Rules of Marketing & PR” only about 30% of the population are writing blogs. That can be a big number or a small number, depending on how you choose to view it, but the point is, there’s an opportunity there for the individuals who actually act on the desire to differentiate themselves from the pack – either personally or professionally or both.

2.    You don’t have to do it yourself. No time? No discipline? No writing comfort zone? That’s ok, hire a blogger to fill in the gaps and make you a THOUGHT LEADER. All you need is a product or an idea or a story to tell…and the inner drive to tell it. And by the way, we all have a story to tell. Sometimes it just takes someone else to (painlessly) extract and package it.

3.    It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. A blog can be added to your existing website or can be your website – for relatively little cost expenditure – especially when you consider the number of potential customers your message can reach every day, every time, everywhere.

And there are writers out there (like me) who will harness the power of the written word to present your thoughts, ideas, stories in format, on schedule, and on the money – for less money than you’d think. Check it out.
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BLOGGING: A LITTLE TRUST IS NICE

If you decided to write a blog, what would you write about?

The internet has given us the one key element that our long-entrenched advertising and pr systems traditionally reserved for paying customers…ACCESS.

Up until not that long ago, the only way to get a quality message out to a potential client or acolyte or end user was to pay for the service — hire an advertising or pr agency, buy billboard space or convince a journalist that you had a story that was really worth telling. And then they told you when you could tell it, where you could tell it, how you could tell it.

Those days are over.

Now we all have a story to tell…and the stage to tell it on. No more filters. No more middlemen. No good ol boy networks holding the strings. Let the readers and the surfers and the buyers decide!

I mentioned the concept of Thought Leader in the last blog and that is what’s really going on here.

You have the opportunity to position yourself as a leading authority in your field — whether it be Real Estate or Reality TV or Real Solutions to Wealth Management (and everything in-between).

You have the platform upon which to build a relationship with your brand; to fulfill the inherent promise of being close to your customer base; to clearly, personally, effectively present and delineate and extol the virtues of your product or service or view to THE WORLD.

You have the chance to present the human side of your company or endeavor…and to achieve that most sought after of entrepreneurial imperatives: TRUST.

So what are you going to write about first?

WRITE A BLOG, LEAD THE WAY.

Let’s talk about blogs. Why? Because they’re everywhere. Because in a very short time, blogs have managed to demonstrate a very long reach. Because virtually everyone is either doing them, having them done, or dreaming of doing them. Even stiff, staid, conventional corporate America has managed, in it’s own special way, to embrace the concept.

And because I write them. There is that. Yeah.

Blame the internet. It’s made it possible for us all to tell our story — or a story — to the world. It’s the reason that we are looking away from the newspaper and the printed page and various glossy pubs and looking toward online news sources, kindles, YouTube and SnotR and facebook and Linkedin and Twitter and, yes…wait for it…BLOGS for information, and inside stories, and content of every subject, size and color.

In the business arena, a blog can fulfill the promise of getting you close to your customer base – not necessarily the existing one, but the potential one. The one that’s out there waiting…to be wooed, to be convinced, to be assured. The bursting-with-potential base of not-yet-believers that wants to trust you.

Put bluntly, a blog can go a long way in convincing prospects that you have a brain in your head and a thought in your mind. In fact, a blog – one that is in-touch, targeted and focused – can do a lot toward positioning you as a THOUGHT LEADER.

And in these times, when everyone is scrambling to differentiate themselves from all the rest of the contenders, being recognized as a THOUGHT LEADER can be a very good thing.

All for now, but stick around. More to come.