Posts tagged ‘Exposure’

In Business, Are You a Sunflower or a Wallflower?

Sunflower or wallflower in businessBarbara Walters famously – or infamously – asked Katherine Hepburn, “What kind of tree are you?” in response to a comment from Hepburn. So now I ask you: In your business life, what kind of flower are you? Are you a sunflower or a wallflower? While it might seem that the correct answer should be a sunflower (the official flower of nudism, right?), the truth is that you can succeed as either type.

Tour any greenhouse or plant nursery and you’ll see that flowers and plants are typically classified as being most likely to thrive in one of three conditions: full sun, full shade, or part sun/part shade. The same is true for business professionals, I think. Some of us thrive with full exposure to the limelight, some of us do our best work when cloistered away from the mainstream, while still others (like me) do best with a mix of conditions. Knowing the difference can put you on the path to happiness and success. Let’s take a closer look:

Many businesses – particularly retail and highly competitive service businesses – need lots of exposure to lots of eyeballs just to stay alive, let alone reach for the sky. Owners of these businesses are often sunflower types, clawing for the sun and drawing energy from being in the spotlight. But even sunflowers can’t do it all. In this age of so much competition for attention and “mind share”, personal burnout can come early and hard for those who work too hard, try to do too much, and, well, climb too close to the sun. To attain and maximize exposure without inviting burnout, sunflower business owners should enlist the services of creative professionals to help them spread the word about their businesses. These creative professionals can add valuable perspective as they create ad campaigns and online content, as well as manage social media communities.

Other business professionals – the wallflowers – tend to be more comfortable out of the mainstream, out of the spotlight. These might include entrepreneurs running virtual businesses or other work-from-home enterprises. They might be artists. They might be artisans creating unique items for niche markets. Regardless of the creative process, a common characteristic for successful wallflower-driven businesses is that they are often best built and maintained through local referrals, word-of-mouth, or tight-knit online communities. No need for big ad budgets; just a small army of local and vocal fans.

And then there are the hybrids, those of us who seek the spotlight at times, but also need to retreat into a virtual cocoon to do our best work for our clients. We benefit from occasional moments in large groups, but also from professional strategic alliances, person-to-person networking, and social media prospecting followed by personal outreach. Creative and consulting businesses like mine do well with this mix, as do personal service companies.

So… Are you a sunflower or a wallflower? If your personal entrepreneurial and leadership style fit the exposure requirements in your industry, chances are you’ll be comfortable in that skin. If not, you should consider seeking help from others with the right personality types to augment your own. Regardless of whether you thrive in the sun or the shade – and regardless of whether your business is currently blooming or wilting – with the right approach you can, indeed, achieve success undressed!

Bob

Advertisements

Building the Staircase of Success

Success Undressed www.successundressed.com business success staircaseHalfway through the project it dawned on me: building a staircase is a perfect metaphor for the pursuit of success.

Why was I building a staircase in the first place? A little backstory:

My partner and I were hosting a family reunion for the first (maybe the last?) time. That meant countless hours of sprucing up the ol’ homestead. The staircase (the exterior variety) was necessary because our yard has an upper portion – a private sanctuary perfect for the practicing nudist – and a lower portion accessible only via a steep embankment. Because we didn’t want any kinfolk somersaulting down the hill, a staircase seemed prudent.

Hence the construction. Hence the metaphor. Hence these lessons:

Begin with the end in mind:

I had a pretty good mental image of that staircase before I started construction. Likewise, you should picture success in your mind. Does success mean money to you? Does it mean independence? Comfort? Being debt-free? Think of success as simply, but as specifically, as you can. Some people create a vision board of images that represent success. Not a bad idea. Visualize success. Dare I say, undress it?

Have a plan:

When building the staircase, I made numerous sketches. (It helped that I had a background in architecture before I became a marketing, content and design geek.) These sketches were detailed and to scale because building a staircase on steep terrain leaves little room for error. Same for your success plan. With your vision in mind, chart a course. Make it as exact as you can, but be open to revising your blueprint as conditions change and opportunities arise.

Be direct:

It would seem natural when building a staircase to simply go from bottom to top in measured steps. But considerations and complications arise. Do you need a platform at the top, a concrete base at the bottom, a landing in the middle? Likewise for success: Are there necessary bends or detours for education, training, or strategic partnerships? Figure out the most direct route with the fewest steps. Then build that path.

Build on strong foundations:

Henry David Thoreau wrote that, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” I interpret that as meaning that dreams of success can only be made real when built on solid ground and with strong foundations. Anchor your success staircase firmly and your climb will be more surefooted. Your foundations for success could include training and skills development, a core team of strategic referral partners, a solid business plan and professional marketing.

Measure twice, cut once:

This is probably one of the fundamental tenets of carpentry. Taking an extra measure of care up front can save time and yield better results throughout your project (or throughout your journey to success). But beware of paralysis by analysis. The endless pursuit of perfection can scuttle your success.

Make sure your connections are strong:

My staircase is solid, man, solid. Not only did we sink support posts in concrete for the frame, we also used heavy-duty connectors, bolts and screws. Likewise in your quest for business success, you’ll want to make the best connections possible. Determine your best networks of prospects and align yourself with strong strategic partners. Help others succeed and they will gladly help you in return (especially if you ask).

Work with manageable steps:

Staircases are more easily built and scaled when the steps are reasonably sized and spaced. For success, know where you are going and be steadfast in your determination; but also be patient and deliberate. Rejoice in reaching milestones along the way, and use those achievements to energize you for the next part of your journey.

Install support rails:

Climbing the staircase of success (it’s not a ladder after all, is it?) will be easier if you have handrails to lean on. These can include your support networks of friends, family and associates; but they can also include your website, your branding, your marketing tools, your staff, your suppliers and customers. Install them firmly. You’ll need them.

The Bottom Line:

Success is a journey, but it is also a staircase that you will build and climb and build some more. But don’t be so focused on the construction that you don’t enjoy the climb. Take time to feel the sun and the rain and the wind on your skin, the boards beneath your toes. You’re a nudist, after all. What good is success if you can’t undress and de-stress?

Bob

Keep It Simple, Smarty

Naked Businessman Keeping it Simple for Success UndressedAs nudists, we’ve already figured out that architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was right: “less is more”. As entrepreneurial nudists designing, building and operating our businesses, let’s keep that lesson close to our invisible vests.

Simplifying your business can make it manageable, enjoyable to run, and attractive to prospects and customers. Make life a little easier for your customers and they’ll keep coming back and telling their friends about you.

How can you simplify your business for a more positive customer experience? Try these tips on for size:

Lose the baggage

My partner is always amused that I pack so much to go to a nudist resort for a week: towels, food, computer, books and magazines, sunscreen; an abundance of everything except clothes. Likewise, business owners often carry too much baggage into daily business life. We try to do too much in too little time. It can weigh us down like an overstuffed suitcase in each hand. What’s the fix? Ask for help when you need it, especially with those parts of your business for which others might be better suited.

Keep your elevator pitch short enough for a quick ride

Your elevator pitch is that 10- to 15-second answer to the question, “What do you do?”. Keep it simple. Keep it short. Keep it focused. Remember: too much information can overwhelm a prospective customer. During that initial meeting, don’t inundate the prospect by detailing everything you do or every client you serve or every success you’ve had.

Answer the Universal Question

Ever hear of WIIFM? It’s the ultimate question in the prospect’s mind: “What’s In It For Me?” Specifically, to turn prospects into customers, you’ll need to accomplish two things: 1) build rapport, and 2) let the prospect know what you can do for him or her better than anyone else can. Asking questions up front and focusing on the prospect’s needs (rather than on your products or services) can go a long way toward accomplishing both goals. And the likely result of maintaining an interested “servant” mentality is that you will answer WIIFM even if the prospect doesn’t come right out and ask the question.

Keep your “user interfaces” simple

Google, Apple and John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (publishers of the “For Dummies” books) have built global success stories by making sure their user interfaces are simple. Even though your business is most likely not destined for world domination, you still want a market leadership position. Knowing your market – and identifying your ideal client – is essential to making that happen. But regardless of the type of customer you seek, it helps to make your user interface as simple and intuitive as possible.

Just what IS a “user interface”? It’s any point where the prospect or customer “touches” your business. Any point at which your business bares part of itself in pursuit of a satisfactory customer experience.  Your company’s user interface(s) could be your website or your phone system or your salespersons or your customer-facing staff.

Ask yourself: Do these points of contact satisfy or frustrate? Does your website answer the WIIFM question with a minimum of searching? Does your phone system simply and intuitively lead callers to the right person or answers? Do your salespeople listen actively and offer solutions based on the prospect’s needs? Does your frontline staff make the customer feel comfortable and important? If you’re not sure, ask your customers. Make necessary changes to simplify and enhance their “user” experience.

Be easy to do business with

You – yes, you – are a user interface. Are you easy to work with? Are you often thanked for going the extra mile? If so, you are blazing a trail toward success. I’ve now done three projects for AANR; I’d like to think that this is due in part to being easy to work with, a partner committed to the best results and a positive working relationship. If you are not getting repeat business and referrals, maybe you aren’t going far enough to serve and satisfy your customers. Play nice. Put the customer first.

The Bottom Line:

Remember the acronym, KISS: Keep It Simple, Smarty. Simplicity almost always creates a better environment for customer acquisition and a more satisfying ongoing working relationship. Less is more. It’s the way of the nudist, and the path for the business owner to enjoy…success undressed!

How have you simplified your business? Be sure to comment!

Bob

Good Naked vs. Bad Naked: The Bottom Line on “Top of Mind”

Good Naked Bad Naked Success UndressedIn a 1997 episode of the Seinfeld sitcom, Jerry and the gang wrestled with the notion of “good naked” vs. “bad naked”. What does that have to do with business? Well, that same critical eye might be applied to marketing exposure, specifically to the concept of “top of mind” awareness.

If you’re the marketer, of course, being “top of mind” is a good thing, right? If you’re the marketer’s target, however, too much information is, well, TMI. So where’s the middle ground? How can a marketer — and that should include all business professionals — create awareness that’s generally respected and positions the sender as a trusted product or service provider?

Provide Inherently Valuable Content

The emperor may have no clothes, but content is still king. In fact, in today’s barrage of information, the thoughtful crafting of content is more vital than ever. Think of it this way: with so many information channels — from print to electronic media, from visual to auditory, from experiential to subliminal — each of us must turn on filters. We must weed out anything that doesn’t seem important, relevant and timely. The marketer, of course, would love for every email to be opened, every direct mail piece to generate a response, every ad to be viewed and every word of every article to be read. Reality, of course, demands more reasonable expectations. Industry standards for email “opens” are generally between 15 and 20 percent. Successful direct mail response rates typically run in the one to two percent range. Your print ad’s success depends on many factors: design, placement, frequency, etc. Want to improve your chances of making strong connections? Be relevant, timely and interesting.

Here’s how to make that happen:

Respect Your Audience

Especially for a service-oriented business, while it’s certainly appropriate to remind people of the business you’re in, what often works better than the hard sell is providing information, tips, and relevant guidance based on your experience and expertise. Remember, you’re asking your audience to grant you little corners of their lives, if even for just a minute or two with each message. Make sure your content respects them, values their time, and rewards them for that privilege.

Know Your Audience

To craft successful messages you must first understand your targets. By segmenting your overall contact list of friends, family, acquaintances and associates into meaningful sub-groups, you can enhance relevance by sending different messages per segment. For example, you could classify your contacts as Suspects, Prospects, Key Prospects, Allies, or Clients. A “Suspect” might be an acquaintance, friend or someone who could benefit from, but has not demonstrated a near-term interest in your product or service; while a “Prospect” could be someone who has either expressed some interest or could be perceived as potentially needing your product or service in the not-too-distant future. A “Key Prospect”, on the other hand, would be someone who has both express interest AND has a near-term need. “Allies” would be those persons who could influence others to utilize your product or service (Allies can, naturally, also be called “Influencers”). “Clients,” of course, are just that, but can fall into one of two camps: current and former. Obviously, as interactions, interest and relationships change, your targets can move into different segments over time. It’s great to be able to move your targets from Suspects to Clients, but recognize that not all of your contacts will — or even should — make that journey.

Choose Your Media

What’s the best way to connect with your targets? In person? By phone or texting? Via email or Facebook? On the printed page? Some or all of the above? Knowing yourself and your audience — and most importantly, understanding their media preferences — should give you a sense of which platforms are most appropriate. Keep in mind that as your media platform changes, so should the scope and tone of your message; whereas in a print article like this I might have roughly 800 words to play with, Twitter will limit me to 140 characters. Choose your media and your messages wisely.

The Bare Bottom Line: A Ten-Step Action Plan

So…in the context of the information above, here’s how you can best expose yourself (think good naked “top of mind”) to your targets:

1. Know yourself (what you’re good at and why targets should contact you when they need your product or service)

2. Determine your key branding messages

3. Identify and regularly contact your targets by segment

4. Determine the right frequency of these contacts by segment

5. Determine your best communications vehicles

6. Plan and carefully craft your messages

7. Work your plan

8. Get help if needed (it can save you time and money)

9. Follow through

10. Believe in yourself

Easy? Of course not. But if you need help or advice, contact me. And stay tuned as we continue to strip away the mysteries of branding, marketing communications, and… success undressed.

Bob

Expose Yourself, Create Ripples, and Leave Footprints

Hi. I’m Bob. I’m a marketing guy and a nudist. You might say I know a thing or two about exposure.

Water Footprint www.successundressed.comI’m also a small business owner and, statistically speaking, I know that there are thousands of you who own small or medium-sized businesses, or own and operate nudist clubs, or simply care about others who struggle to succeed in a competitive marketplace. Believe me; I face those same challenges every day. That’s why I wanted to do this blog. For you. For me. For us.

But before we begin navigating those challenges and charting a course to success, bear (bare?) with me for a little backstory…

I’ve been an AANR (American Association for Nude Recreation) member for several years, and in 2010, I had the honor of being chosen by the organization’s leaders to assist with the redesign of AANR.com. The website project was a great opportunity to help AANR strategize, visualize and realize a more empowered use of technology to expand connections with current members and clubs while also reaching out to the nude-curious. I also produced an explanatory video to introduce the new site to AANR’s extended leadership. Because I was able to work with AANR in these ways, I became more attuned to AANR’s vision and its challenges. I recognize the issues of those in the business of nudism, and I strongly identify with nudists who own and operate businesses in mainstream markets.

Now, back to our program…

AANR Home Page 04302012One of the problems facing the small business operator today, nudist or not, is knowing which way to turn with branding and marketing. Frankly, there is too much information available. What’s my solution? More information, of course! But here’s the difference:  I’m going to share with you some insights into branding, marketing, business communications, graphics and Web design that have their foundation in something we know, love and share: nudism. You are reading the first in what will be a series of posts, and perhaps even an e-book, showing how you can “Use the Lessons of Nudism to Shamelessly Build Your Brand and Market Your Business (in an Age of Exposure and Transparency).”

Make no mistake: success can be elusive. The information, tools, methods and skills necessary to achieve it are moving targets. It helps to remember that success isn’t really a destination; it’s a journey. So let’s get started with some fundamental principles to start us moving in the right direction:

Expose Yourself (as a Professional)

If you carefully, proudly and expertly provide solutions to your prospects’ needs, you will become known as a trusted professional. Professionalism is about performance; it is not about looking the part because you are dressed to the nines (perish the thought!). Nonetheless, even if you are an outstanding solution provider, you can still struggle to succeed. Probably the biggest obstacle to being perceived as a professional lies in poor communication skills. Nobody’s perfect, of course (not even word processing spell checkers are foolproof), but in today’s fire-first-aim-later culture, yours is an uphill battle if you struggle to communicate as a professional. Keep in mind, however, that you don’t have to be an expert communicator to share expertly crafted communications. The most professional thing you can do in business is to recognize your limitations and hire experts in those areas to help you look your best. If you are not an excellent writer, hire a freelancer to ghostwrite for you. Can’t spell your way out of a paper bag? Hire a meticulous editor. Does your logo or business card look amateurish? Hire a skilled graphic designer. (And yes, I’m available for all of the above. Want to learn more? Contact me!)

Create Ripples

Effective marketing takes many forms, but the idea is always to create thought-provoking influence, or ripples, that lead to establishing a customer relationship. For many smaller businesses, well-crafted “drip marketing” via continuing value-added communications can build awareness and, over time, create long-term profitable relationships. We’ll “dive in” to the pool of marketing tactics as we continue with this series.

Leave Footprints

If you act professionally, continually share information your targets will value, and delight them with a job well done when given the chance, you will leave indelible footprints along your business path. If this is your goal, it can also be your business legacy.

So it is with these principles in mind that we begin our journey. It won’t be easy. Never is. But with the focus and clarity to be found in our common passion – nudism – we can cut through the unnecessary layers and ultimately achieve… success undressed.

I’d love to hear about your business challenges. Wanna start or join a conversation?

%d bloggers like this: