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Posts Tagged ‘the brandbuilder’

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting at Smartbrief and SocialFish’s final #Buzz2010 workshop of the summer.

Before I get to the presentation, why not get warmed up with…

Making Sense of Social Media R.O.I. (Smartbrief)

by Rob Birgfeld

The chatter around ROI seems to be as loud as ever. What would you attribute this to? Are we at a pivotal moment for business proving value for social media activities?

The chatter around social-media ROI is as strong as ever for two reasons: The first is simply because ROI [points to] one of the most important questions an organization can ask before green-lighting a social-media program: I could spend this budget somewhere else — Why should I spend it on social media? Before any other questions can be asked, you have to start with “why.”

The second is that most social-media “experts” seem incapable of… (more)

and…

Does your Social Media Campaign Pass the F.R.Y. Test? (Smartbrief)

by Jesse Stanchak

“Money is money.”

That might sound like the simplest business lesson there is — the kind of thing most people understand before they even learn to read. But as  Olivier Blanchard noted at the Buzz2010 event (full disclosure: SmartBrief helped organize the event) it’s often the first business principle people ignore when they start talking about social media. Social-media gurus love to pretend that ROI stands for “return on involvement” or “return on innovation.” But it doesn’t. It’s return on investment — as in money.

Word of mouth is not money. Engagement is not money. Buzz is not money. Those things can all be gateways to money, but unless you can make the conversion, they’re all ultimately worthless. Only money is money.

Social media isn’t free. The time it takes to run a social-medial campaign diverts resources (time, talent, technology) from other activities. So it needs… (more)

and even the piece from Maddie Grant, over at Social Fish,

and the one from Maggie McGary.

Also check out the sort-of complete Twitter transcript of the event here.

Okay, so now, the presentation. The Social Media R.O.I. part starts on page 31, I think. Everything leading to that builds context. Not every slide will be clear without me narrating, but you should still be able to follow pretty easily.

The twist here is this: The presentation takes the Social Media R.O.I. narrative you have already seen and heard from me, and applies it to NFPs (not for profit organizations) and Associations.

Ah, so.

If the presentation doesn’t work with your browser, here is the link to the deck on slideshare.

I hope this helps. Feel free to share this with all your NFP friends and clients.

Disclosure: Social Fish and SmartBrief are clients – they hired me to speak at their event. I also sit on Smartbrief’s Social Media Advisory Board.

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Speaking at LikeMinds

Speaking at the #LikeMinds conference in Exeter, Devon, UK

Hang tight, kids. I’m trying to figure out what topic to open up with after my epic 10-day trip through the UK and France. I have hundreds of pages of notes bouncing around in my head and topics flying out of my… moleskine (what did you think I was going to say?) so it may take me a few hours yet to figure out where to start. And that isn’t even factoring in the pictures and videos I need to upload and edit. I am still in email management mode, and it may take a few days to sort it all out. 75 emails per day x 10 days… Yeah. I need interns.

Several things are certain though: Things are going to change around here.

First of all, expect less musings and more practical advice. The last thing the world needs is more abstract dreameries about brand management, new marketing, business 2.0, social media and the types of topics covered in this and other blogs of its kind. There’s plenty of that on the internets already and the last thing I want to do is add to an already overabundant pool of personal opinions.

Second, now that I have spent the better part of my stay in Exeter and London with some of the brightest minds in  business, brand management 2.0 and the Social Web (from Sky News, Edelman, Nielsen, the BBC, WC Group, 4 Walls and a Ceiling,  WorldEka, Limenoodle,  Red Cube, iLevel, tweetmeme, FreshNetworks, Sinuate, Optix Solutions, and Aaron+Gould, to name but a few on a list as long as it is brilliant) I have a much clearer understanding of the level of dicussion businesses need when it comes to preparing themselves for the next decade, particularly in the US, where the army of social media “guru” we’ve been lamenting about has been reaping a harvest of shameless crap on the backs of their unsuspecting clients.  For shame. Seriously. For shame. I hope there’s a special circle of hell for you if you fall into that category of a person.

In short, you, my readers, and companies wanting to improve their situation and their customers’ lives in the process all deserve better, and we’ve wasted enough time bleeding philosophy about market leadership, what social media XYZ is or isn’t or the value of effective measurement. We’re going to get down to brass tacks and talk about things that will make a real difference in your business.

Third, well… Hold on to you socks. We’re about to see how fast this V12 can really go. I have some pretty exciting announcements to make over the coming weeks.

Back in a bit with more. In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, you need to go check out all of the incredible content from the #LikeMinds Conference I attended in Exeter, England, including some solid videos and photos of several of the presentations.

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social-media-stats-and-demos-2008

The questions came up again and again last week on Twitter: Does anyone know how many people use Twitter? Which cities have the highest Twitter usage? Who exactly uses Social Media and where? What do we know about the demographics of Twitter users? (Etc.)

I spent all of five minutes researching the internets to find the answers to all of these questions and bring you what is probably THE most comprehensive aggregation of Social Media stats, demos and other factoids in existence today. (Yes, my right index finger even broke a sweat.)

If anyone ever asks you anything about Social Media statistics for 2008, you can just point them to this post. (You’re very welcome.)

Okay, so to start us off, here is the breakdown of the leading social media platform usage by country as of Nov. 2008. It’s a great snapshot of where social media is today: Not at all the one-size-fits-all model many of us might think. This map doesn’t show why platforms are growing the fastest – just which ones have the most users for each country. If you want to see the map in its full glory or see how it’s changed over time, go straight to its source: oxyweb.co.uk. The site gives you a great month-by month snapshot. (As you can see, Twitter still has a looong way to go – which may not be a bad thing. Quality over quantity and all…)

socialnetworks-global-nov081

Now that we’ve had a glimpse of each country’s SocMed platform prference, let’s have a look at specific demographics for each of these platforms, from Badoo to the inevitable YouTube. Courtesy of the brilliant and enterprising folks at Ignite Social Media, here is the definitive 2008 report on all things Social Media, from geographic and search traffic data to basic demographic info (age, gender, education and household income). This is a KILLER quick reference guide for all you marketing/agency folks out there trying to get under the hood of certain SocMed platforms. Below, the Twitter data. If the font is too small to read, download the report. The skinny: The most common Twitter user is male, aged somewhere between 35 and 45, is college educated and makes a decent living. (Mid-career professionals.) Specific demos aside, Twitter seems to have a pretty even appeal across gender lines and income brackets, which is a good sign.

twitter-visual-stats-2008twitter-numbers-2008

You can download the full report here. I’ve already printed my copies and covered my office walls with the pretty graphics. Thanks again to Ignite for having taken the time to put this document together. Impressive work.

Another report you might want to look at is TechCrunch/Hubspot’s State of the Twittersphere, which also provides us with some interesting factoids about everyone’s favorite social media platform:

twitter_user_growth_q4-2008_hubspot

For example, did you know that 70% of Twitter users joined in 2008? That 20% of Twitter users have joined in the past 60 days? That the average user has only been on Twitter 275 days?

Or how about this: The most popular days of the week to Tweet are Wednesday and Thursday. An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 new accounts are registered each day. Only 5 percent of all Twitter users have more than 250 followers.

Great stuff. Check it all out for yourselves here.

If you are looking for microstatistics like fluctuations in Twitter usage in the last seven days – or peak Twitter usage times, look no further than TweetRush‘s little dashboard:

twitter-rush-hourEvidently, people are busier at work in the morning than they are in the afternoon. Hmmm…

Now for bragging rights: Since Twitter seems to be exploding all of a sudden, many cities around the world are vying for the #1 Twitcity spot. Well, don’t just wonder where your homestead ranks, find out! Twitterlocal serves you the Top 30 Twitting cities (arranged by sheer volume of tweets) and also allows you to search for tweets in specific areas. As I write this post, the top Twitter cities around the world are Tokyo (JP), NYC, San Francisco, Los Angeles and London (UK). Here’s the list:

twitter-cities-top-15

Bear in mind that this list is generated by twitter update volume during a 24 hour period and NOT by net Twitter user per city. The two are quite different. (Don’t go thinking that Tokyo has 37,212 Twitter users.)

If you do want to see a Twitter user count by city or state (and actually find Tweeps there) look no further than Twellowhood. Great map-based tool, so you can zoom in and out, pan in every direction, etc. The tool is still in beta and only includes North America (US and Canada) but look for it to extend to every country very soon. Great way to visualize/search Twitter usage geographically, and even dig deeper into who the users are. (If only phone books could be this well designed.)

Twellowhood - Zoomed-in on South Carolina

Twellowhood - Zoomed-in on South Carolina

For a metrics-obsessed guy like me, this is far from enough, but it will at least help you guys get started next time a friend or client asks you to give them some idea of who does what where in the Social Media space.

As always, please feel free to add more info, data and sources to this post via the “comments” section of this post. And if this inspires you to dig up even more data and publish your own Social Media reports, that will be a very good thing.

Have a great day!

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orangecoat-olan-mills-style-holiday-postcard-2008-small

Sorry folks, I know this has nothing to do with brand development, marketing or social media, but… oh wait, it does! (I’ll come back to that.)  Truth is, I wanted to post this because it made me laugh outloud. And I laugh every time I see it. If you don’t know these guys, it probably won’t be as funny to you, but if you know them it’s priceless.

Check out the full post here.

Oh, and about the brand/marketing/social media thing: One of the many things that sets Orange Coat apart from other web design firms is the fact that they can blend humor with flawless design better than most, and this card is a testament to that. They may make it look easy, but trust me, it isn’t. Turning ideas (yes, even goofy ones) into reality is easier said than done, but not so much for them.

I love it: Taking the most boring, cliche Christmas season tradition in the world and turning it into a conversation-starter? Brilliant.

And as for the Social Media angle, the post has all of Orange Coat’s Socmed particulars (yay Twitter).

I don’t mean to shamelessly plug my friends today, but after seeing this, how could I not? 😀

Transparency Note: I do not currently receive any remuneration from Orange Coat or any of its agents, but this post may earn me a beer or two. Or three.

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brown2109b

800 posts into this little journey, you are still my ‘ingredient X’.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for giving this blog purpose.

Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone.

🙂

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28-tweets-later

As my good friend Phil Yanov asked me rhetorically last week: “What were all of these self-professed social media experts doing two years ago?”

(What… all 16 million of them?)

Let me think… Oh yeah, they were word-of-mouth marketing experts, weren’t they? Or were they viral marketing experts? I forget.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m pretty psyched that social media tools and channels are finally getting a lot of mainstream attention, but the SocMed “expert” epidemic is raging completely out of control. I haven’t been bombarded with this much bullshit since male enhancement spammers reached critical mass back in 2003.

If you want to talk to real Social Media practitioners who can actually help you, look no further than these folks:

Amber Naslund

Mack Collier

Francois Gossieaux

Chris Brogan

Valeria Maltoni

(Yeah, there are many more, but this list is a good start. And if you can’t afford their services, they’ll hook you up with someone solid and reputable who can actually help you, not just cash your checks and run.)

It’s hard to tell the real thing from the posers these days, so BE CAREFUL whose services you retain. Just because a Marketing firm or ad agency claims to be in the Social Media sphere doesn’t mean they actually are. (Odds are that they aren’t.) Anyone with access to Google can pass for an expert these days, especially if there’s money in it for them. Don’t fall into that trap.

One last piece of advice: Next time anyone introduces themselves as a social media expert, do what the rest of us do: RUN!

28_tweets_later_man_running

Have a great Wednesday, everyone! ;D

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meetingsad

#32: Dead-end meetings in drab, poorly ventilated conference rooms.

#33: Inexcusably bad coffee.

#34: Petty office politics.

#35: The futility of hope.

#36: The blockade of all social media apps.

#37: Cubicles.

#38: Windows XP.

#39: The day Dilbert stopped being funny.

#40: Monday morning whippings/team meetings.

#41: Unapologetic backstabbing.

#42: TPS reports.

#43: 15+ bullets per slide.

#44: Fluorescent lights.

#45: The imposition of artificial limits.

#45: All talk, no walk.

Life on the outside is GOOD!!!

😉

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imgmainiconsallb

Great observation about design on Presentation Zen (hat tip to What’s The Beef?):

Design is about many things. Above all, it’s about clarity, and intentions and about putting yourself in the position of the end users (or the customers, students, audience, etc.). When designs are not well thought out, even though it may all look good from our point of view, users get frustrated, confused, or even angry. Anyone who has used a poorly designed user interface on a mobile phone, for example, or gotten lost while following the signs on the freeway in a new city understands these feelings. And anyone who is squinting to see a figure or read a quote on a PowerPoint slide is experiencing a bad design of sorts. I always say the lessons are all around. I love examples of poor design, even for the simplest of things, because they are occasions to learn.

When you first sit in the driver’s seat of a car, push the ON button on a computer for the first time, check into a new hotel, look for information on a website, make your way to the cash register, connect a new media player to a laptop, snap a new lens onto an SLR camera, or lace up a fresh new pair of running shoes, it doesn’t take long to figure out how much time the designers actually spent using the type of product they designed.

When I get behind the wheel of a BMW, I know immediately that the team that designed it loves to drive. And I don’t mean just drive to work and to the store. I mean drive. As in… for fun. For thrills. Thirty seconds into using a Mac for the first time, the Apple design team’s passion for great user interfaces is also pretty obvious. Clip into a Look pedal, slip on a pair of Rudy Project Rydons, Squeeze yourself into a pair of Hincapie Sportswear bib tights or pull the cap off a Mont Blanc pen, and you will immediately feel the same thing.

Great design delights. Great design triggers smiles and compliments. Great design invites repeat business. Great design generates great word-of-mouth recommendations, endorsements and reviews. Great design is ALWAYS a win for everyone.

And bad design sucks.

For the third time in a week now, I found myself in a checkout line at my local Target store, and experienced the destructive power of bad design. Target painstakingly designs its stores and advertising to be inviting, upbeat and cool. I love shopping there because I know I’ll find something cool and inexpensive to buy for my house. So from ads to store design to product selection, Target is 100% conscious of the importance of great design, right? But then you get to the checkout, and it all comes crashing down. Here’s how: For some reason, a good deal of items at my local Target seem to come without bar codes. (As impossible as it may seem in this day and age.) And without a bar code, the cashier is completely helpless a checkout. If the item can’t be scanned, the purchasing process grinds to a complete halt. To get it started again, you need a price check: The cashier has to put on her blinking light and call a supervisor. The supervisor then has to stare at the product for five minutes to confirm that there indeed is no bar code anywhere on it. The supervisor then has to call someone on her little radio. That someone has to go to the back of the store to find the item, copy the bar code numbers from the shelf tag, and radio it back in – or write it down and walk it back to the front of the store. Meanwhile, the six families standing in line behind you are ready to beat you over the head with their $19.99 welcome mats and seasonal plastic tumbler sets. If you were in a hurry, forget it. What seemed like a simple, convenient little “oh hey, I’ll just buy it while I’m here” purchase turns into a “damn, I could have just gone to Wal-Mart instead” swell of regret.

A month before Christmas, your impromptu purchase of a $19.99 Michelin windshield wiper has caused a ten minute gridlock at register number nine on a busy Saturday afternoon. Because someone forgot to apply a bar code to a product, and also because the cashier and her system aren’t set up to identify the product without the precious bar code. In that one simple omission, every bit of great design that Target has spent millions of dollars to integrate into its brand evaporates. Not only for me, but for the six families standing impatiently behind me.

The lesson: Design thinking isn’t limited to products. Systems also require great design. And everything is a system. Your entire company is a system. Your customer service department is a system. Your warranty department is a system. Your checkout area – whether physical or electronic – is a system. Great systems are based on great design, and great design is based on observation: Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes. Understanding what they like or dislike. Finding ways of delighting them, or at the very least, fulfilling their specific needs.

If you’re a CEO or other C-level executive, how often do you look at your own company’s processes from a customer’s point of view? How often do you call your own 1-800 number with a problem or question?  How often do you go into a store to buy your own products “incognito” or try to return them through normal channels when they fail?

How much time does your company actually spend walking in the shoes of your customers?

Great design doesn’t start with a cool creative type sketching ideas in a posh studio. It starts with real world insight, out there where your customers and users live.

Want to be a great executive? Want to understand great design? Start by joining your customers.

Happy Thanksgiving week, everyone!  🙂

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1064986364_30cf5cb8a1b

So, I have this client. Great little company. Enthusiastic owner. The most engaged, talented, fun staff you’ll ever meet. A great market presence. Good numbers. Good prospects. A bright future ahead. Seriously. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re definitely better than average.

Anyway. This morning, I walk into the big guy’s office, and he’s having a conversation with one of his managers about a problem he’s having. One of his promotions isn’t working. It isn’t bringing in the volume of customers he expected. He’s frowning. He’s shaking his head. He leans back in his chair and sighs. “I’m at a loss with this one,” he says.

So… I throw an idea at him. Just… you know, my usual speak-before-you-think type deal. Total improv. And, luckily, for once, it turns out to be pure genius. (Whew.)

Since he usually has a tough time digesting new ideas, I really expect him to give me that look that says “how can I politely tell this guy to shut up and go bother someone else,” but instead, the look is more akin to a shocked stare, and maybe for the first time since I’ve known him, the expression on his face is starting to look a lot like he’s thinking something like “damn, that’s actually a really good idea.”

Ironically, he says to me “Damn, that’s actually a really good idea!”

Somebody pinch me.

Without getting into details, the solution involves inspiring his customers to earn good karma points by trading in something old that they aren’t using anymore for something new that they will use.

Yeah. I know. It isn’t rocket science… but as simple as it is, it’s never been done in this market, and it will work. There is absolutely no way that it won’t. By its very nature, the industry that the client is in lends itself to this so well that it’s amazing no one ever thought of doing this in Greenville until now.

They simply bring in their old product, buy a new one, and get 30% off. The old product will then be sent to non-profits and charities that help underpriviledged athletes, soldiers, and the homeless. Clean out your closet or garage, save some major cash on your next purchase, and earn good karma points by helping somebody out.

It’s painless, fast, fun, and rewarding both financially and spiritually. It’s a no-brainer. Even if only 5% of the client’s customers decide to participate, the campaign will be a success, but we expect well over 30% right from the start.

Incidentally, word-of-mouth will play a big part in spreading the good word, so we’ll be monitoring that, which should be interesting.

On the client’s side, the financial benefits are clear, but there’s also this: From a PR standpoint, this is a newsworthy program, so they can expect to get some great exposure out of it. Positive exposure. Probably for years to come. This is the kind of program that can help them bring other local and regional organizations together to help.

It will also make shopping at his stores more than just a shopping experience. We’re talking about strengthening a community which is already enjoying a deepening sense of purpose.

What we’re talking about here is a movement. A small and very targeted movement, sure, but a movement nonetheless, with extraordinary potential for growth.

Perhaps the most rewarding thing to come out of our meeting wasn’t so much that the client loved the idea and that we’re going to be doing something very cool for people who could use our help and that the business will be strengthened as a result. Those are all great, and it’s why I get paid the big bucks, but there’s more. Once we hashed out the basis for a plan, the client looked at me and said “you know, I’ve always wanted to do something like this. After all these years, I’m finally going to get to do it.”

I didn’t get all choked up, but I wasn’t far from it.

Whenever you can get a business owner to suddenly feel engaged in his business the way he used to be when he first started, you know you’ve done your job. To see the excitement in his eye and to hear the emotion in his voice when he said that was more rewarding than everything else.

If only every meeting could be that way… Wow. Wouldn’t that be great.

Every company can find its salvation in good-karma projects. Every organization can inspire its members, clients and customers to see them as more than a business if they step up and become more than just a business.

You already know the ABC of selling: “Always Be Closing.” There’s nothing wrong with that… but I think that we can probably retire that one and replace it with a simpler, less formulaic, and infinitely more effective and rewarding little motto:

Always Be Inspiring.

I’ve never, ever, ever seen it fail.

Have a great Thursday, everyone.

PS: Let’s see if I made it with no typos in the title and no math snafus today. 😀

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olivier-blanchard

100 90 years ago today, the German Empire unconditionally surrendered to France and her allies in a small train car near the French town of Compiegne.

WWI, dubbed the war to end all wars, was finally over. Human cost: 40 million casualties and 20 million dead.

Twenty million. To give you a sense of scale, if you live in the South, that’s equal to the populations of South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama combined. If you’re up North, that’s equal to the total population of New York City today. If you’re out West, that’s about 2/3 the population of the entire state of California. Serious numbers.

Nowadays, people in the United States observe this special day simply as “Rememberance Day” or “Veterans’ Day,” but those of us who still remember stories from grandparents who fought in WWI – people like my grandfather, who enlisted in the Dragoons at the tender age of 16, – November 11th means a little bit more. You probably won’t see a whole lot of greeting cards dedicated to November 11th. Most people won’t observe a moment of silence during their busy day to remember and honor the fallen. But if you can, take a moment today to give some thought to the last 100 90 years. To the distance we’ve traveled since that cold November morning when the entire world truly believed that they would not see another war in their lifetimes. That perhaps their children and their children would never see war again. I wish we could have proven them right.

I wonder what the people of that time would think if they could get a glimpse of how much the world can change in just a century: Television. The internet. Smart phones. Precision-guided bombs. Crocs. Rap. SUVs. Video Games. Starbucks. Microwave ovens. Laser hair removal. Vintage T-shirts. Heelys. The NFL. Fast food. Diet food. Snack food. Energy food. Dog food. Viagra. Breast implants. Credit cards. Iraq. Wall Street. Medecins Sans Frontieres. The United Nations. Bullet trains. Ramen noodles. Heathrow Airport. WordPress. Microsoft. CNN. Twitter.

I wonder if they would would grin at the progress we’ve made, or cringe at the sight of some of the mistakes we continue to make every day. Probably a little of both.

Days like today help us make time to think about continuity. They help us make time to think about the sacrifice that men and women made for future generations. They wanted a better life for us all. They wanted to build a better world. A world, I imagine, of prosperity, peace and good will. Days like this help us make time to consider our role in that endeavor. In that legacy. 100 90 years later, what specifically am I doing to make this world better? What’s my contribution? How do I measure up against the expectations of our forefathers? How do we all measure up?

It’s humbling to look back at history and connect the dots.

So today, I want to ask you a few simple questions: If you run a company, what’s your contribution to the world today? Do you create jobs? Do you create opportunity? Do you improve people’s lives in some way? Is your legacy balance sheet in the positive? If not, shouldn’t it be?

Today might be a great day to take a few moments to think about the role you play in the world. The role your company plays in the world.

Today might be a great day to ask yourself what you could do better.

To the countless Americans, Brits, Canadians, and other volunteers from around the world who helped France defeat Germany not once but twice in my grandfather’s lifetime, I salute you. I probably wouldn’t be here today had it not been for your sacrifice.

Even if you’ve never met a WWI veteran, even if no one in your family fought in The Great War, remember these folks today and every November 11 from now on. You’ll be better for it. 😉

Have a great Veterans’ Day, everyone.

Pictured above: Captain Olivier Blanchard in 1935, still in the French Cavalry, stationed somewhere in North Africa. He would go on to fight in the second world war… and survive again. (The Germans just couldn’t kill that man, no matter how hard they tried.) He died of natural causes at the age of 89, leaving behind a wife, a son, and grandson named after him – who would later move to the United States, start a family of his own and launch a blog about silly things like marketing, business development and building remarkable brands. Go figure. I rarely remember my grandfather on his birthday, but I always remember him on Armistice Day.

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doug-benc-getty-images-b

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post on adopting a leadership attitude. (If you can’t see the above image on your RSS reader, click here. The picture pretty much IS the post.)

Okay, so… Check out the two boxers in the image. Which one do you want to be? Which one are you most acting like today?

Be honest now.

I know that everyone wants to be the guy on the right… but are you actually acting like the guy on the right? Are you thinking like the guy on the right? Are you running your business like the guy on the right? Have you connected the dots between the image and the words?

I received a lot of emails, tweets and comments about this yesterday, many from business owners who were a little stressed out by the outcome of the presidential elections, so I think it is important for everyone to take a deep breath and take inventory of what is and what isn’t: Fear of what may come – any kind of fear for that matter – is not something business leaders can afford to fall prey to, especially now. Fear is distracting. Fear distorts reality. Fear immobilizes. Fear is the enemy of progress, innovation and growth. Fear is the enemy of success. Your success. Don’t let fear, especially fear of the unknown creep into your brain. Just don’t.

Repeat after me: “Fear, go away! Go on now, shoo!” 😀

When in doubt or cornered, focus on what you can control. Focus on what you know. Focus on what you can see and affect NOW: Bringing more value to your customers. Increasing traffic to your website or stores. Improving customer service. Improving employee morale. Building strong user communities. Finding better ways to engage with your customers, boost customer loyalty, and build the foundations of a stronger brand. There are ways you can cut costs without cutting corners. There are ways to cut costs and keep all of your staff employed. There are ways to cut costs and actually grow your business. Find them. Every problem facing your business today is either an opportunity for you to leap ahead tomorrow, or an excuse to fail. Do not let your fears and worries distract you. (And if you have to stop listening to talk radio for a few days, by all means, do.)

Keep your focus. Feed your confidence. Dare to be bold. Take all of the things that have made you successful until now and use them: All of your strengths. All of your skills. All of your knowledge. Making your business successful in the coming year is going to require the kind of commitment, focus and courage that turns ordinary people into champions, soldiers into heroes, and managers into leaders. This is your challenge, and as long as you truly embrace it, you will not fall short. I promise you.

None of us can afford to be distracted by negative thoughts about what may or may not happen a year from now. Be in this moment. Work in this moment. Kick ass in this moment. Then let this moment stretch into the hours, days, weeks and months ahead until either a) the economy is healthy again, or b) you’ve realized that the economy doesn’t matter because you are not at its mercy.

Look up at the boxers one last time. The choice you are facing is simple: Be the guy on the right side of the image, and you’ll do great. Be the distracted guy on the left, and you won’t. The choice is 100% yours: Stay focused.

Have a GREAT day, everyone!

Incidentally, for those of you who inquired over the years as to when the brandbuilder would finally become more than a blog, guess what: With so many small businesses reaching out these last few months, the time has finally come for me to roll up my sleeves and help companies build better futures for themselves full time. More details on the what, how and when very soon, but yeah, I am VERY excited.

My name is Olivier Blanchard, and I approve this message.

Original photo: Doug Benc/Getty Images

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