Yesterday was the TEDx Mile High 2016 event. The theme – Make & Believe. It is there that I encountered Richard Cooke and his instruments that have no wrong notes for the second time. Richard and his team create outdoor instrument parks for all ages and abilities.
Discovering a Hidden Gem
I wouldn’t really have believed it was possible to build an instrument with no wrong notes except for my first encounter with one of Richard’s instruments in Centennial, CO. I was at the playground with my daughter and I heard this wonderful improv music coming from the other side of the playground. I craned my neck to see past the play structure to see an 7 year old making the music.
Well of course my daughter and I had to go try it for ourselves. It was intriguing at first and then plain captivating. I got to connect with my 5 year old by making music together. She is only now learning the basics of reading music. But with this instrument – it didn’t matter. She could just listen to her inner music and use the instrument to play it for the rest of us to hear. What an incredible gift to receive both from my daughter but also from the maker of this instrument.
A Commonly Overlooked Element of Branding
So what in the world does this have to do with branding and marketing? EVERYTHING. At the core of every brand should be the authentic story of the founder. For Richard his personal journey with music is what drove him to innovation. He had an intense drive to express what he felt and heard inwardly when he was a child but could not easily express outwardly without an enormous amount of practice and discipline. His drive turned into a completely new kind of instrument and a profitable business.
From Good to Great
Richard Cooke is a Grammy Award winning musician. That seems pretty great, right? But there are plenty of exceptional musicians. That’s not what makes Richard especially valuable. It’s his story. It’s one everyone one can relate to. He brought his unique story and passion to his profession. And look at the results. He has awards in multiple fields from music therapy to professional organizations. He’s been featured on multiple TV shows and his music parks are installed nationally. He has brought the joy and freedom of playing music from the soul to thousands of people who otherwise would be too intimidated to find the right notes or even try. He has bridged the gaps between race, gender, age, and economic differences. Now THAT is what I call great.
Your Unique Story
What if we all have gifts we were uniquely designed to share with the world? And what if when we choose to blend in and suppress those things that make our journey unique we are actually withholding something the world needs?
Make no mistake, being your authentic self and intentionally choosing to infuse your business with your unique story requires focus, discipline and bravery. There is no set course to follow. There is the chance of rejection and failure. But what if you have something important to share? What if that “something important” is what takes your business from good to great?
Taking an Honest Look
In my experience the only thing stopping most of us is fear. Fear comes in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. But if you boil it all down it’s all just fear. Let me suggest that the opposite of fear is love not courage. That may sound strange at first but think about it. Consider some of the fears you’ve overcome. More times than not it was probably love. Kind and encouraging words from a friend or loved one. Perhaps it was a mentor who showed you the way one step at a time.
If you want to move from good to great you must do it out of love. Love for others and self. To be clear on two points. One, I am not talking about singing Kumbayah in a circle where we all drink the Kool-aide and talk about peace and love.
I mean acting out of a sense of purpose to serve others because that is fundamental to the human experience. Mutual respect and service to each other is primary to our personal success because that is when we become our best selves.
Two, self love is very different from selfishness. Self love recognizes and values your unique traits and naturally wants to share those with others. Selfishness hides and hoards what it has from others.
Consider a less obvious source of selfishness. We all grumble about the short comings of others we encounter in life. Examples are not difficult to find and it is easy to blame and point fingers. But what if not being yourself fully is just as bad as those who commit the more obvious offenses? What if not being yourself is at it’s core selfish? Isn’t that the source of all offenses people commit?
Sharing Your Story
Stop for a moment and consider. What makes me unique? Why am I in business for myself in the first place? How does that make me especially good at what I do and what gift do I offer to my clients or customers. Does your brand express your story? If you want to make the leap from good to great it should.
We will be posting more stories about business owners who are boldly sharing their stories. And tips and tools for telling your own story through your brand.
First impressions matter both in person and online. They can mean the difference between getting your foot in the door with a potential client or having it slammed in your face. So when I read PhotoFeeler.com’s latest article “New Research Study Breaks Down ‘The Perfect Profile Photo'” I decided to put it to the test.
The 4 Steps
Here is the headshot I’ve been using and the four steps I took to improve my results.
Who would have thought smile lines make a difference. Well here’s to middle age I guess. Apparently when you activate the muscles that are used to create those smile lines we as humans actually recognize on a subconscious level it as a sign of authenticity and friendliness.
When your face is all someone sees they want to be able to see it completely. A jawline is essential to defining what you look like in person.
Dale Carnegie writes in his book How to Win and Influence Friends that smiling is a primary way of making a good first impression. I actually did another test using Match.com to see just how important a smile can be. The results were shocking. The profile with a smile and looking at the camera netted almost 400 views in a week, while the profile without a smile and looking away didn’t even net 100 views in the same amount of time. You can see before and after photos here.
According to the Photofeeler article formal is better. I was skeptical living in Denver where jeans is a staple in most professionals’ wardrobes. I hail from the midwest where ties and suit jackets are important so when I first moved to Boulder I got nick named “Holly” as in “Hollywood” because I was ALWAYS overdressed. But hey, I thought I’d pull out my pressed white blouse and black jacket.
The Impressive Results
Well sheesh. Who would have expected such a boost?
Competence: 28% improvement
Likable: 5% improvement
Influential: 23% improvement
Wanna do your own test? Visit Photofeeler.com – it’s free. And in case you are wondering I am NOT getting anything for promoting photofeeler. I just happen to think they have a great service and they are based out of Colorado. Community within the small business world is essential in my opinion.
So I was reading an article about how to measure progress when I stumbled upon a useful hash tag: #productivityhacks. Turns out I am not the only one who gets overwhelmed by their todo list. There were some rather helpful ideas shared so I decided to share my own should they be helpful to someone else.
First I identified the primary source of the chaos. I can schedule and prioritize just fine but I still wasn’t getting all the important things done. Truth is – I procrastinate. But why? I am far from lazy. I noticed there were always some things I just wouldn’t want to tackle. For me they all had the same theme. They were administrative tasks. Administrative tasks suck the life out of me. Unfortunately they are a reality.
So I got busy testing all manner of apps for my laptop, phone, desktop. The trick was finding apps I knew I would stick with over time.
Here were my basic requirements:
- They had to be easy to understand and use IMMEDIATELY
- Available on multiple devices and would sync with each other
- Either free or close to it
Here are the ones I found most useful.
Free & Low Cost Apps Solutions
Sometimes just taking a break isn’t enough for me to switch gears and have enough energy to take on those administrative tasks. Oddly, I found using fitbrains (developed by the creator of Rosetta Stone) often will do the trick. It is designed to exercise your brain in different and very specific ways on a neurological level.
I don’t know about you but a lot of emails stay in my inbox because I have to take more steps before they are ready to be deleted or filed. The trouble is my inbox was so full important emails were getting lost.
Sortd. allows you to give your emails a home in multiple todo lists until they are ready to be filed. Seriously, I’d marry the developer of this one. It is so well designed I reach zero inbox status on a regular basis.
[br]When I do take a mental break and look at various social media apps its really easy to spend too much time. But with Buffer at least I can capture interesting posts I want to share with my audience with a single click and Buffer automatically schedules it to be delivered based on a calendar I set up. I cannot stand being essentially spammed by someone who posts endlessly. This tool lets me do all my research at once and then leave it alone.
While I am handing out marriage proposals I’d marry these developers too. Thank you! So many of the CRMs available are either crazy expensive and way more than I need or they are cheaply designed and pretty much useless. Hubspot gets it right. They offer a free package to the small guys and offer add ons for more powerful tools when you need them.
Receipts & Mileage
Quickbooks Small Business www.quickbooks.intuit.com
Quicken has finally figured out the importance of user centered design. For years I struggled with their software but not anymore. The mobile app automatically tracks my mileage. It connects and syncs to all my bank accounts and cards automatically. It’s easy to assign a category and attach a picture of my receipt straight from my phone. I take a snap shot and throw it away instead of having a graveyard of receipts in my car and laptop bag. Hallelujah!
Do you have #productivityhacks to share? Please comment and share.
Here’s a taste of what the DIY Branding Workshop looks like in action.
So this week I found myself needing a reliable mechanic for my second car. I consulted Yelp. One place in particular caught my attention. Then I started reading the positive reviews. Now I was more interested. Then I read a negative review and the owners comment. He actually apologized and offered to refund the money spent. That was worth a phone call to see if they had time in their schedule.
So here are the three things that got my attention beyond the obvious good reviews:
They had 37 reviews and still had 4.5 out 5 star rating. It’s easy enough to get a handful of good reviews but statistically speaking more reviews means more accurate.
They had a picture of their entire staff out front dressed in their brand’s “green” t-shirts including the business owner’s wife and kids and token dog. The picture showed personality. The staff appeared genuinely happy and they looked like a tight knit group. Then with the dog and family they appeared respectable and trustworthy. This place is a family owned business. I respect that. Then to top it off the bright green t-shirts popped up my phone’s screen.
They offered a special deal. These guys knew one of my primary pain points – cost. I do not enjoy spending more money on repairs then my wardrobe thank you very much. They made it a little easier to choose them over 100’s of other options.
Important Take Aways:
- Social media is a powerful extension and expression of your brand. When leveraged intentionally it can attract and get business you otherwise would never find through traditional networking or marketing.
- In today’s market its critical to be transparent and yourself. Bringing your unique qualities to your brand is actually an asset. Don’t be afraid to show a little personality.
- It’s extremely important to get into your audience’s shoes. You need to know what really matters to them and how you can improve their life.
Look Out World – Here Come Our First Workshop Graduates!
Wow, we had fun this weekend. What a great group of small business owners. We are so proud of them all!
We recently met a local SEO company we think you’ll love – Level Up Consulting. They are passionate about supporting small businesses and contributing back to the local business community. Hear what some local Denver businesses have already said.
Kyle Bishop Joint CEO at Horizon Cross-Cultural Center
“Liz is on the cutting edge of internet marketing. She knows how to get sites ranked on page 1. If you are not getting enough clients from your website, Liz is the person for the job!”
Marian Bragg Director at ING Solutions
“Liz comes highly recommended for expanding your business, increasing your bottom line and achieving success in your industry. Her knowledge and skills assist businesses with necessary leverage over the competition.”
Misty Persinger VP Sales Marketing at Merck Consumer Health Care
“When it comes to Search Engine Optimization,Liz is very talented and extremely knowledgeable. She is very helpful and passionate about what she does.”
Katie at Designer Guidebook has compiled a great list of low cost stock imagery.
Quality images are critical when it comes to attracting and getting new business. But it can also be very expensive. Here are a lots of alternative low cost options to explore.
- Death To Stock
- Start Up Stock Photos (Yes, it’s really CU okay!)
- Life of Pix
- Travel Coffee Book
- New Old Stock
- Designers Pics
- Little Visuals
- Negative Space
- Crow the Stone
- Libre Shot
- Fancy Crave
- BigStock (Offers a 1 free image per month plan with card on file.)
Guess what! Gretchen is getting interviewed live tomorrow morning on the Experience Pros show on AM 1690 KDMT. Tune in at 6:15 am. It’s supposed to be a 10 minute interview. She will be sharing some useful branding and marketing tips for small business owners. You watch the archived show here. The Un-Think Branding interview is at about 1:15
- Glance at your website. What 3 words jump out first? Are these the most important words for a viewer to see first?
- Ask a grade school child to view your website for 1 min. and then describe your service or product. They should be able to at least get a basic understanding. If not, you’re probably in trouble.
- If all the words were missing on your website what service or product would viewers think you offer? The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is especially true on the Internet. Your images should be carefully selected with the intention of helping to tell your business’ unique story.