20
Nov

9 Things True Thought Leaders Always Do

9 Things True Thought Leaders Always Do

9 Things True Thought Leaders Always Do

Thought leadership is a form of influence and marketing. In today’s growth-hacking startup culture, thought leaders are more respected and recognized than ever before.

Entrepreneurs are movers, shakers, innovators, disrupters and creators. They don’t follow the beaten path; they blaze their own trail. With this kind of chutzpah, entrepreneurs possess the character and persona to become thought leaders — good ones.

Here’s what entrepreneurs need to know before assuming the mantle of “thought leader.” These are the nine things that true thought leaders always do.

1. Stay current on social media.

Thought leaders need to keep a pulse on the culture generally, and the tenor of their niche particularly.

A thought leader, for example, is going to know what #thedress is all about, and will probably even toss in a tweet or two for good measure.

Beyond the cultural flash-in-the-pan, however, a thought leader understands how to leverage the technology of social media to enhance her thought leadership influence. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ — all of these can push the thoughts of a thought leader farther, as long as she knows how to use them effectively.

2. Maintain a blog.

Ah, the blog. As an inveterate decade-long blogger, I have a hard time not singing the praises and virtues of blogging. It’s been my method for building business, spreading the word, and, I hope, becoming a force for good.

I know of very few thought leaders who do not actively maintain a blog. There are some very influential entrepreneurs without one. In spite of their leadership, however, they don’t necessarily purport to be thought leaders.

A true thought leader must have a platform for broadcasting those thoughts. The best platform for that purpose is a blog.

If you aspire to thought leadership, I recommend as a first step that you secure your spot on the web — yourname.com is best, but you can go for a variation of your name if you have a common name (Example: DaveSmithTheActor.com). One of the simplest online publishing tools to use is WordPress.

3. Voice their opinions.

One of the terms for “thought leaders” is “opinion leadership.” Thoughts and opinions go hand-in-hand.

This means that you must voice your opinions. Second, that your thoughts should influence others’ opinions on a given topic.

Being opinionated is often seen as the domain of rude or arrogant people. In reality, it is possible to be kind, generous and gentle, and still hold very strong opinions.

4. Say quotable stuff.

One of the reasons why thought leaders are so well known is because they say things that are jaw-droppingly true, strikingly clear, and oh-so quotable.

Guy Kawasaki, for example, has several powerful one-liners. People like to quote him because he speaks truth with a sizzle. Take this one:

“You can’t sit by the side of a river and expect a roast duck to fly into your mouth.”

And this one:

“Great companies start because the founders want to change the world…not make a fast buck.”

Such powerful and pithy quotations are powerful tools for spreading thought better and faster than you thought possible.

5. Possess a track record.

One does not become a thought leader out of nowhere. Such leadership must grow from the soil of hard work, true experience and moderate success.

You don’t have to found Google or publish a bestseller in order to join the ranks of thought leaders, but you do have to have some respect. Where does such respect come from?

It comes from doing the very thing for which you want to be a thought leader. For example, if you want to be a thought leader among social-media entrepreneurs, then you should have some experience starting a social-media company.

The moment you step onto the pedestal, people will start examining the base of the pedestal, asking, “How did you get there? What are your qualifications?”

Make sure that they see something true, worthy and respectable.

6. Speak at events.

The best thought leaders are well known for their excellent performance at big venues and other major industry events.

Such speaking events are invitation-only, but you can start small. Less popular speaking events are accessible to entry-level thought leaders. Local meetups, community colleges, and Google+ hangouts are excellent places to sharpen your speaking ability and build your speaker’s portfolio.

7. Have a personal branding strategy.

Thought leaders understand the value of personal branding. For them, they engage in personal branding for a specific purpose — not just to get an narcissistic kick out of life.

Their purpose is streamlined and intentional. Thought leaders use their personal branding to build entire businesses from scratch. A personal brand becomes more important than just a personal platform. It is a position of influence in order to back up their position of thought leadership.

Second, they engage in personal branding like it matters. True personal branding requires significant amounts of time and effort. It’s not some haphazard, second-thought, tweet-if-you-have-time approach.

Personal branding takes the same amount of time, cost and effort as it does to brand a business. And it’s just as important.

8. Have influential friends.

It’s hard to say whether having powerful friends makes thought leaders, or is an effect of being a thought leader. Chances are it’s both.

Make friends with people who will help you to become a better person. But don’t just leech off them. Give to them.

Friendship is a two-way street, and you have to do your part to prove that such a relationship is beneficial.

9. Think strategically.

“Strategy” is a word that’s often bandied about, but seldom truly understood, especially when it applies to thought leadership.

Many people want to be a thought leader, but do not understand its significance — what it requires of them, and what leadership in their context truly means.

In order to be effective as a strategy, thought leaders must be intentional about why they are engaging in thought leadership.

The answer to the why will influence the practice of the how.

Conclusion:  Thought leaders are generous.

In this article, I’ve focused on the characteristics of thought leaders that help to build and establish a brand and reputation. In so doing, I’ve left out a crucial component. Now is the time where I want to insist on a final trait that you will observe in every respected thought leader.

Thought leaderships are generous and giving people. They are generous with their time, their talents, their money and their advice.

I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as a respected leader who is rude and stingy. Leaders give intentionally and strategically, making sure that their generosity does not compromise their integrity nor denigrate the recipient.

If you aren’t yet generous, that probably needs to change before you can gain the respect of others.

What trait have you observed in thought leaders?

20
Nov

5 Steps to Build Your Personal Brand

5 Steps to Build Your Personal Brand

5 Steps to Build Your Personal Brand

Your personal brand is how you appear to the world. Therefore, it serves to reason that a strong brand is preferable to one that is unpolished and uninteresting.

Once people know who you are and begin to identify you with a specific area of understanding or expertise, you’ll be well on your way to becoming the go-to person in your niche or industry.

The question is, how do you become more recognized? How do you build your authority and your following?

If you’re looking to build your personal brand, here are five ways to go about it.

1. Understand and be your authentic self.

Imagine how hard it would be to build a brand around your “fake” self. You would have to act a certain way, appear a certain way, and say certain things, regardless of how you felt about it. Some professionals suggest going about building a personal brand by shaping and molding what others see, but this is exhausting to maintain in the long run.

Your brand should be a reflection of who you are. Do you know what you believe? What you stand for? What your strengths and weaknesses are?

Never forget — people connect with other people. If you don’t appear to be a real person, or if it just looks like you’re faking it, how likely do you think others are to trust you? Even if they do buy into your fake persona for a while, the slightest bit of inconsistency could prove problematic.

Building a personal brand is first and foremost developing an understanding of your true self, and then sharing that with the world. Take your masks off and don’t be afraid of being vulnerable.

2. Speaking engagements.

If you’re looking to build your brand, then you should be speaking on a regular basis. Naturally, this will mean developing your communication skills. If you speak in exactly the same manner others do, you will never stand out from the crowd.

Speak from a place of knowledge and power. Show that you know what you’re talking about, and answer questions in a way that serves your audience.

Show that you are confident. Some may criticize or disagree with you. The important thing is to remain open to feedback. Thank others for sharing their views, and if the points they raised were legitimate, determine how you can improve and do better next time.

Speaking engagements are opportunities to be seen and heard. Start small, and keep building. You may not land high-quality speaking engagements off the bat, but if you keep swinging, you’ll build your following and get invited to speak at bigger, more notable events and conferences. Buckle down and offer the greatest amount of value you possibly can everywhere you go.

3. Write thought leadership articles and participate in interviews.

Thought leadership articles and interviews establish your credibility. As with speaking engagements, landing the best opportunities takes time and effort, but if you remain open to what comes your way, pretty soon you’ll be showing up everywhere.

Take a look at the press coverage we’ve received to date. Anybody who regularly hangs out online should be aware of many of the brands listed there, but even if they aren’t, they probably know about publications and media outlets like Fox News and Time. This shows that others see you as an authority.

In addition to that, here’s an example of an interview I’ve done, covering one of the topics FE International is most known for; selling websites.

Getting an “in” with the media, online publishers and publications can prove challenging. However, it is a powerful way to show that you know what you’re talking about. Every outlet you build a connection with increases your brand authority.

4. Build your online presence.

Do you know how you’re appearing and coming across online? This is something you’re going to want to monitor on an ongoing basis, and improve upon whenever and wherever possible.

Do you have social media profiles? If so, are they fully fleshed out with all of your information? Do they present you in the best light possible, and make you look professional? Are you using high-quality professional photography? Are you interacting with others and sharing their content?

Do you have a website for your personal brand? One of the best ways to rank in search for your name is to build a website. This gives you considerably more control over your online presence than social media. It can’t hurt to add new content to your site on a regular basis, either. You can get a domain with this GoDaddy coupon for just 99 cents – so there’s no excuse to delay. Try to buy your own name if you can.

Don’t forget to Google yourself regularly to see how you’re coming across, how others might be perceiving you, and what they’re saying about you. You’ll have a tough time building a great personal brand without making a real effort to monitor and tweak it.

5. Remain a student of your industry.

No matter how well you know your industry or area of expertise, it would be wise to remember that things are changing at a faster rate than ever before, and you have to stay up-to-date with the latest changes and trends.

It takes time to build your personal brand. If you fail to stay relevant, all of your effort will be wasted. If you don’t want to be discredited, then you’ll want to keep a steady supply of articles, trade journals, blogs, and books on hand.

It also pays to learn new things, develop new skills, and to expand your knowledge. If you’re not growing, then you’re stagnating, and that’s the last thing you want to do as an entrepreneur.

Odds are you already know how important it is to stay on top of your game, but a friendly reminder never hurt anyone.

As you begin to sharpen your personal brand, the right opportunities will start coming your way. People will begin to see that you’re know what you’re taking about, and they’ll invite you to be a part of their stories or news pieces.

However, don’t forget how important it is for you to have accomplished something yourself. You can’t talk about what you haven’t done, because that will take away from your personal brand. Be open about your shortcomings and weaknesses. This will make you all the more human and relatable.

20
Nov

The Steps to Corporate Identity Design & Development

The Steps to Corporate Identity Design & Development

Developing or refining a corporate identity is a five-step process that aims to clearly define what your brand stands for: its goals, its personality, the emotions you want people to experience when they come into contact with your brand, and a clear conveyance of that identity through a positioning statement. Here’s what you’ll need to create to do that:

Step 1: Vision Statement

A vision statement describes what you want your company to become in the future. It should be aspirational and inspirational. Ideally, the statement should be one sentence in length and should not explain how the vision will be met. (Don’t worry, that’ll come later.)

When developing your vision, keep these questions in mind:

  • What are your most important products and services?
  • What products and services will you never offer?
  • What is unique about doing business with your brand?
  • How would your customers describe your brand?
  • Where do you want your company to be in five years?

To give you an idea of what you should end up with, take a look at JetBlue’s vision statement:

JetBlue Airways is dedicated to bringing humanity back to air travel.”

Step 2: Mission Statement

A mission statement defines the purpose of the company. It should be simple, straightforward, articulate, and consist of jargon-free language that’s easy to grasp. It should be motivational to both employees and customers. When crafting your mission statement, keep these tips in mind:

  • What are the specific market needs the company exists to address?
  • What does the company do to address these needs?
  • What are the guiding principles that define the company’s approach?
  • Why do customers buy from you and not your competition?

To give you an idea of what a good mission statement looks like, take a look at The Walt Disney Company’s:

The Walt Disney Company’s objective is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products. The company’s primary financial goals are to maximize earnings and cash flow, and to allocate capital toward growth initiatives that will drive long-term shareholder value.”

Step 3: Essence

Say, what? That’s right, your essence. This sounds fluffy, but seriously, you need to develop an “essence.”

The essence of the company speaks to the intangible emotions you want your customers to feel when they experience the brand. A brand’s essence is the representation of the company’s heart, soul, and spirit, and is best described with one word. When defining the essence of your brand, consider these points:

  • When your customers experience your product or service, what emotions does the encounter elicit?
  • If your brand were a person, how would you describe its personality?
  • Check out this SlideShare: “The 9 Criteria for Brand Essence.”
  • Read this blog post on cultural archetypes.

Here are some great samples of brands’ essences:

  • Volvo is “safe.”
  • Disney is “magical.”
  • Lamborghini is “exotic.”

Step 4: Personality

Just as with humans, a brand’s personality describes the way a brand speaks, behaves, thinks, acts, and reacts. It is the personification of the brand: the application of human characteristics to a business. For example, Apple is young and hip, whereas IBM is mature and set in its ways.

What personality do you want to put forth when people experience your brand?

  • Are you lighthearted and fun?
  • Are you serious and all business?
  • Are you down-to-earth?
  • Are you playful or matter-of-fact?

Step 5: Position or Value Proposition

A brand positioning statement, or value proposition, is a one- or two-sentence statement that clearly articulates your product or service’s unique value, and how it benefits customers. It must define the audience, define the category in which the brand exists, cite a clear product or service benefit, set your brand apart from your competitors, and instill confidence the brand will deliver on its promise.

When crafting a positioning statement, consider:

  • To whom are you speaking? (Target market, demographic, and persona)
  • Which market segment does your product or service serve?
  • What is your brand promise? (Both rational and emotional)
  • Why is your product or service different from the competition, and why should your customers care?

For instance, Warby Parker has a great brand positioning statement:

Warby Parker was founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.”

(Read this blog post for more examples of inspiring company vision and mission statements.)

To help make this easier for you, we condensed these questions into a checklist that you can reference during this process:

branding checklist

20
Nov

the marketer’s guide to developing a strong corporate and brand identity

The Marketer’s Guide to Developing a Strong Corporate and Brand Identity

Written by Lindsay Kolowich | @lkolow

brand-1

Chances are, if someone mentions GoPro, you think of a super-sturdy camera for the adventurous.

Why’s that? Because GoPro has done a good job defining its brand. Great brands like GoPro are easy to recognize. Their missions are clear, and they foster that customer loyalty all businesses crave.

A brand is one of the most valuable assets of a business, and it needs to be carefully crafted to ensure it properly and authentically represents the business.

Crafting a brand is a shared endeavor, though. Customers, employees, blog readers (sound familiar?), and anyone who interacts with a business has a role in shaping the brand, which is why we’ve created a very short survey to see what HubSpot means to you. Because what it means to you will help us deliver on your expectations. (We’ll get to that a little later in the post.)

Do you know how your brand is doing? Does your business have a brand identity?

If it doesn’t, or your brand isn’t as strong as it could be, follow along with this post. Branding may seem like a fluffy concept, but we’re going to try to put some structure around it so any marketing team can get started defining their brand strategy.

For more tips about brand identity development, download our free branding guide here.

What is brand identity?

A brand is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or service as distinct from those of other sellers,” according the American Marketing Association. Your brand identity is the representation of your company’s reputation through the conveyance of attributes, values, purpose, strengths, and passions.

It includes what your brand says, what its values are, how you communicate its concepts, and which emotions you want your customers to feel when they interact with your business. As Jeff Bezos says, “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

The Brand Identity Prism

To help illustrate brand identity with a more holistic view of a brand, an internationally recognized corporate branding specialist named Jean-Noel Kapferer created a model he called the “Brand Identity Prism.” The Brand Identity Prism illustrates six aspects of brand identity: physique, personality, culture, relationship, reflection, and self-image.

Image Credit: Salman Abedin

According to the model, the synthesis of each of these elements is what drives a brand’s success. Here’s what each of them means:

1) Physique is the recognizable, physical aspect of the brand.

It includes the logo, color scheme, packaging, and the online spaces and communities. If we’re talking about Coca-Cola, it’s stuff like the logo, the cursive font, the shape of its flagship glass bottle, and so on.

2) Personality is the brand’s character.

It’s how the brand communicates with the outside world. This might be expressed in a certain writing style or voice, design style, color scheme, and even by way of celebrity endorsements. Coca-Cola’s personality is happy, playful, refreshing, and all about sharing and having a good time.

3) Culture is the value system and basic principles on which a brand bases its behavior.

There is an intimate connection between a brand’s culture and its organization. Coca-Cola’s culture is based around socializing and sharing.

4) Relationship refers to the relationship between people that a brand might symbolize.

One example would be a relationship between a mother and child, or among friends. Coca-Cola symbolizes an equal and friendly relationship among people in a community.

5) Reflection refers to the reflection of the consumer; in other words, the brand’s most stereotypical buyer.

While a company might have multiple buyer personas, this is the “top” type of buyer. For Coca-Cola, this might be 15-18-year-olds who value fun, friendships, and sports, although Coca-Cola’s target audience is much broader.

6) Self image is the consumer’s ideal self.

It’s kind of like a mirror the target persona holds up to him or herself. Marketers and advertisers can draw on their target audience’s self image to direct their strategy and approach. A Coca-Cola drinker, for example, might see him or herself as social, communicative, and the type of person who seeks adventure and pushes boundaries.

Now that you have a better idea of what brand identity is, let’s talk about how it applies to your branding strategy.

Determine Where Your Company Sits in the Market

Before you attempt to define your brand, you need to do some exploration. Take a long look at your company to get a clear picture of its purpose and place. The familiar SWOT analysis can help, actually. Here’s what each letter of the acronym stands for:

  • Strengths: Characteristics of the business or project that give it an advantage over others.
  • Weaknesses: Characteristics that place the team at a disadvantage relative to others.
  • Opportunities: Elements that the project could exploit to its advantage.
  • Threats: Elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business or project.

When you do a SWOT analysis, you should involve everyone in your company, as well as some of your best (and worst — yes, your worst!) customers. This can be done with a simple survey that asks questions that get at the four points in the SWOT analysis. Or if you prefer, it can be achieved with an in-depth research survey and audit that looks at your brand awareness, usage, attributes, and even purchase intent. They are typically performed by an outside firm … but more on that later. You can also download our SWOT analysis template.

However you gather the information, once you get it, you should be able to sit down with your marketing team and clearly state your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Once you have a clear understand of your SWOT, it’s time to define your brand.

 

20
Nov

How to build a strong brand

How to build a strong brand

A key element of strategy planning should involve the development of your brand and how you would like to be perceived.

When designing a brand strategy, this is the first question you should ask:

What is your unique selling proposition?

Consider all aspects of the marketing mix and examine what makes your business unique and attractive to the consumer. If these factors lead to a competitive advantage then you have determined your Unique Selling Points, or USPs. These USPs are major contributory factor to what makes your business successful, so should form the central theme to your brand strategy. Most brands concentrate on several of the most powerful and easily communicated proposition benefits in order to create a clearly understood brand message.

Brand values

USPs are why customers are currently buying your products and form the basis of your company ‘brand values’. However, brand values should constantly evolve to suit changing market conditions and should also reflect your forward looking business strategy. Once these are established, it’s important to ensure that your customer experience reflects these values in every aspect of your business. This means tailoring every element of the marketing mix to project your brand values – from the staff you use, the products you produce, the messages on your advertising, and even the way you handle complaints. Building a respected brand can take a lot of hard work and you’ll need the commitment from your employees and stakeholders to make it happen.

Example brand values: Zurich

We demonstrate total customer dedication Our starting point is the needs and expectations of our customers
We’re pioneers We innovate continuously and explore new options with creativity
We excel in all we do We aim for the highest quality, particularly in activities with the greatest value potential
We encourage everyone to contribute Every employee counts
We act with integrity We test every proposed action to see whether it is proper and reflects standards we can be proud of

Remember, a brand exists in the mind of the consumer. It is the intangible sum of thoughts and feelings about a particular company, service or product. A company can steer how a brand is perceived by never has full control.

“A brand exists in the mind of the consumer”

A brand is be represented tangibly by branding, which allows the customer to easily identify a product using an identity which sometimes formalised in a corporate identity document. This can include the colour scheme, logo, slogans, typeface and can go into depth of how these all work together. Successful branding focuses on the company brand values which should be obvious from the promotional materials.

“Brands are powerful influencing tools”

Brands can be very powerful influencing tools, but only once they have been established – and it can take time to build up the necessary trust. When a customer has made up their mind it’s often very hard to persuade them to think differently.

Benefits of a strong brand

  • It will add value to a company
  • Requires less persuasion for consumers to use other products from the same brand
  • Can ensure a lasting customer relationship due to trust
  • It aids recognition in a cluttered marketplace
  • Has the ability to command a premium
  • Allows differentiation between very similar products, for example still mineral water
  • Can attract merchandising contracts
  • Leads to the perception of quality

There are two core elements to a strong brand – emotional value and practical value. Get these two right and your brand will quickly grow.

However, a brand can be damaged much quicker than it can grow – five things that will quickly damage your brand include:

  • Untrustworthy behaviour
  • Concern about public safety or health
  • Poor customer service (at any level)
  • Obvious company financial difficulty
  • Poor quality products

Get the balance right and your business will go from strength to strength.

Final words

If you still doubt the power of a successful brand, consider Evian mineral water. All bottled mineral waters are essentially the same product – they’ll all quench your thirst and taste pretty much exactly the same. However the strength of the Evian brand in the UK means they can charge significantly more than the cheapest alternatives. This ability to charge more due to a strong brand is known as brand equity and is a valuable contributing factor towards the value of any business.

20
Nov

The Basics of Branding

The Basics of Branding

Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. But what exactly does “branding” mean? How does it affect a small business like yours?

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.

Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can’t be both, and you can’t be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.

The foundation of your brand is your logo. Your website, packaging and promotional materials–all of which should integrate your logo–communicate your brand.

Brand Strategy & Equity

Your brand strategy is how, what, where, when and to whom you plan on communicating and delivering on your brand messages. Where you advertise is part of your brand strategy. Your distribution channels are also part of your brand strategy. And what you communicate visually and verbally are part of your brand strategy, too.

Consistent, strategic branding leads to a strong brand equity, which means the added value brought to your company’s products or services that allows you to charge more for your brand than what identical, unbranded products command. The most obvious example of this is Coke vs. a generic soda. Because Coca-Cola has built a powerful brand equity, it can charge more for its product–and customers will pay that higher price.

The added value intrinsic to brand equity frequently comes in the form of perceived quality or emotional attachment. For example, Nike associates its products with star athletes, hoping customers will transfer their emotional attachment from the athlete to the product. For Nike, it’s not just the shoe’s features that sell the shoe.

Defining Your Brand

Defining your brand is like a journey of business self-discovery. It can be difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It requires, at the very least, that you answer the questions below:

  • What is your company’s mission?
  • What are the benefits and features of your products or services?
  • What do your customers and prospects already think of your company?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

Do your research. Learn the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective customers. And don’t rely on what you think they think. Know what they think.

Because defining your brand and developing a brand strategy can be complex, consider leveraging the expertise of a nonprofit small-business advisory group or a Small Business Development Center .

Once you’ve defined your brand, how do you get the word out? Here are a few simple, time-tested tips:

  • Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
  • Write down your brand messaging. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes.
  • Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business–how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
  • Create a “voice” for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. You get the gist.
  • Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
  • Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don’t need to be fancy, just consistent.
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you–or refer you to someone else–if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.
  • Be consistent. I placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip I can give you. If you can’t do this, your attempts at establishing a brand will fail.