How to Create a Killer Digital Brand

What does your digital brand say about you?

If someone Googles your name, does the real you show up on the first page? Your digital brand is an integral component of your complete brand positioning, and must tell your clients and prospects why they should work with you and what you stand for in today’s competitive marketplace.

Your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what others say about you. This means your brand must go beyond just words; it needs to encompass all of your clients’ and prospects’ experience with you.

Learn How to Create a Killer Digital Brand and walk away with the ability to:

  • Know why clarity and positioning win the day
  • Nail a powerful brand voice
  • Tap into the magic of meaningful visuals
  • Identify low-cost, high-impact opportunities for brand engagement
  • Exploit the uninspired turtles in your region

My Ultimate Digital Gear Guide

Yes.ShoeFitts Marketing - My Ultimate Digital Gear Guide That is a picture of me. And yes, that is my dog aBoo. We are soaked. Quite soaked. We live in Portland, Oregon. So, of course we must navigate the rain on our morning walks. But, you’ll never find me with an umbrella. By birthright, Oregonians do not carry them. They are a sign of wimps; people afraid of a little bit of water. And, yes. It is blurry. (HA! You try to take a selfie with a wet 110 pound Newfie in the pouring down rain.)

What you won’t find me without is my rain gear: layers of waterproof and water-resistant jackets, pants and shoes. In fact, that is why keeping my morning walk ritual isn’t hard. The right gear makes getting out the door much easier.

The right gear makes all the difference.

Recently, I’ve been offering individual coaching on the world of digital marketing, helping people understand and harness the intersection of the web, marketing and the social world for their business or personal brand. Many times, after our three-hour session, people ask, “OMG! How do you know all of this stuff?” “Where did you learn this?” My answer? “Marketing is my hobby. I love creating. I love experimenting. And frankly, I have a genetic predisposition to tools. I love tools. (Thanks, Dad! This is likely why I have a belt sander and sand blaster in my garage.) Again…

My Ultimate Digital Gear GuideI know the right gear makes all the difference.

If you head out into the digital world with only an umbrella, you may look foolish – you may simply get soaked, or you may be tempted to give up and head right back inside. To help make your digital efforts a bit easier, I’ve created My Ultimate Digital Gear Guide. The guide lists some of my favorite resources for scheduling social, finding sharable content, building websites, creating visuals and quite a bit more. (Get your guide by downloading via the image to the left.)

 

How to Make Digital Marketing Work for You

Whether you do your own marketing, or you have a team of professionals supporting you, poorly planned or executed social selling efforts could be costing you clients and sales. In 2016, you cannot overlook the opportunity to outsell your peers. You need a workable digital marketing plan that is easy to follow and just takes minutes a day.  In this rebroadcast of the ShoeFitts Digital Institute, you’ll learn ways to:

  • Scale digital marketing to meet your sales efforts
  • Create a sustainable digital marketing plan
  • Discover ways to monitor and measure
  • Avoid antiquated practices that no longer produce results
  • Execute a digital marketing plan with the confidence and tools you need to succeed

How to Love LinkedIn: Five Reasons to Get Passionate About Social Media

Can you really grow to love social media? From the outside, social media appears to be a struggle. Too many compliance headaches. Too much time. Too few clients online. Too little return.

Many firms have shared with me they don’t know what they don’t know. Therefore they don’t do. This approach leaves many firms sitting on the sidelines, letting the digital world pass them by.

Newsflash! The Internet has disrupted the way we acquire information and interact with the world. It is shaping an entirely new idea of what’s possible in marketing, sales, business and our world of financial services. Responding to the digital demand is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.

Have you lost that loving feeling where social media is concerned? Do not despair. Just in time for Valentine’s Day I offer five reasons why you should stop being a wallflower and start dancing. The social sphere allows you to:

  1. Easily develop a personal brand: An optimized LinkedIn profile is a sure-fire way to solidify your personal and professional brand. The time it takes to optimize your profile will immediately pay dividends in better Google search ranking for your name and your firm’s name. And, don’t forget a professional headshot. Adding a professional photo makes you 14 times more likely to be found on LinkedIn.
  1. Be where your prospects are: LinkedIn reaches 37% of the U.S. population. It is particularly popular among college graduates, those in higher-income households and the employed.
  1. Accelerate connections: When I speak about using LinkedIn for financial advisors, I often say, “LinkedIn is the largest rolodex in the world.” Imagine the ability to tap into the power of nearly 400 million people worldwide? With a bit of ongoing effort to grow your network, you’ll begin to notice the connections within connections.
  1. Scale your top-of-mind efforts: Active profiles – those that share updates and interact – are more likely to be viewed. Think of it as a super simple way to stay top of mind with just the touch of a few strokes on your keyboard. Consider this tip from LinkedIn, “To be seen, you need to move, if you are camouflaged in the crowd, you will stay well hidden.”
  1. Lead the conversation: 74% of prospects chose the company that was first to help them along their buying journey. By consistently contributing helpful content on a particular subject, advisors can begin to lead the conversation rather than follow.

Need help creating an optimized LinkedIn Profile? Or are you ready to take the social world by storm? Stay tuned for news about my social selling bootcamp. Coming later in March!

Three Simple Ways to Tell Your Brand is Stuck in Groundhog Day

Most companies spend time on their brand when they launch their business. They might focus on their logo and possibly a brochure, leaving the heaving lifting of messaging, value proposition and brand experience to a later date.

Fast-forward ten years. While their business has changed – significantly – many firms still have the same logo, same visual branding, and are still without a value prop or client experience plan. They’re doing the same thing over and over again, with the same messaging, wondering why they’re not getting different results. They’re stuck in a branding version of Groundhog’s Day.

The Groundhog Day movie provides some great lessons that can be applied to branding, and how to create a meaningful brand. After living the same day over and over again – some estimates put it at about 12,395 days – Phil (Bill Murray) learns secrets from the town’s residents, seduces women, steals money, gets drunk, drives recklessly, and gets thrown in jail. And he tries to manipulate Rita (Andie MacDowell) into loving him. After multiple times attempting suicide, only to wake and relive the same day, his experiences change him. He learns French. He learns how to play the piano. He befriends everyone in town. He saves lives and helps people. And eventually he is a changed man and wins the heart of Rita.

While originally panned, Groundhog Day is now considered a self-improvement parable teaching the need to look inside oneself and realize that the only satisfaction in life comes from turning outward and thinking about others rather than concentrating solely on one’s own wants and desires.[1]

Wowza! That is exactly the basis for a brand.

When we work with organizations to develop their brand and brand messaging, we often ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “What is it that you uniquely do to help people around you – your clients and your community?” Answering these questions, along with 50+ more, provides the basis to create a meaningful, differentiated brand.

These questions, this outward facing consideration should be revisited every years. Your business has changed. The world has changed. They way we all buy has changed. As such, your brand must change. Has your brand evolved, or is it stuck?

Here are Three Simple Ways to Tell Your Brand is Stuck in Groundhog’s Day:

  1. You think a logo is a brand. Brands encompass each and every experience people have with you and your organization.
  2. Your collateral and website feature old, out-of-date photos – possibly including the same guy on the front page as your competition. Your retiree images are limited to just people golfing or following passive past-times. (Even worse, most of them look like they’ve been taken from a Cialis commercial.)
  3. You don’t have a value proposition that resonates in today’s marketplace – or no value prop at all. (Read this research by Mass Mutual regarding the need for a value-prop to succeed in today’s marketplace.)

If any of these points apply to you, or if you are ready to take your branding out of Groundhog’s Day, read Create a Magnetic Brand, Build Margin. (Yep. A powerful brand does build margin.)

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[1] Source: Thank’s Wikipedia! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundhog_Day_(film)

Create a Magnetic Brand, Build Margin

Several years ago, I attended my second National Speakers Association Annual Conference. My objective for attending was to rub shoulders with successful speakers and take away a handful of ideas to jump-start my speaking practice. Hence the first evening, I stopped at the lobby bar for a beverage and a bit of mingling.

While enjoying my Grey Goose and soda – with three limes – I met Chris Mercer, CEO of Mercer Capital. Chris is one of the leading business valuation experts in the country and author of a plethora of books for business owners. Being a 401k nerd, I questioned him about Employee Stock Ownership Plans and the challenge he sees in valuing firms. (Seriously?! Who would discuss ESOPs over cocktails? Obviously, a geek like me.)

I very much wanted an expert opinion on a theory that I’ve long held: An organization that builds and executes an effective brand brings additional margin to the bottom line. Of course, I already knew the answer, “Yes.” But Chris said, “No.” So, I bought him another drink.

Let’s back up and lay some groundwork. You’ve likely seen marketers and brand experts trot out Starbucks, Apple, Coca Cola, or Target as examples of well executed brands. And, many large multi-national organizations do track their specific brand equity. In fact, the firm Interbrand tracks brand values and the associated changes in brand value from year to year. As an example Coca-Cola retained the No. 3 position on Interbrand’s esteemed annual ranking of most valuable global brands for the second consecutive year. Coke’s 2014 brand value is estimated at $81.6 billion, up 3 percent from 2013, more than four times that of the nearest beverage brand on the list.

Many advisors and small business owners don’t have the necessary capital and staffing to compete on a global level and therefore likely have zero brand equity to discuss during the sales process. Hence, Chris’ answer.

However, after some additional discussion, we came upon the answer I did want to hear: “Yes, in a way, a powerful brand can bring more margin to the bottom line.” Because a well branded organization increases the perceived value of their services. I’m going to say that again: an effective brand and well-executed brand can help increase the perceived value of services. (Thereby eventually bringing greater margin to the bottom line.)

Unfortunately, many local and regional advisors neglect their brand. They see their brand as simply a logo slapped on a business card, brochure and website. Your brand encompasses the full experience your prospects and clients have with you and your firm; from how you answer the phone to the quality of your business card and everything in between.

Your brand can be an intentional piece of your business development effort. As an example, we recently redesigned the ShoeFitts website. It was the third iteration in as many years as we have been in business. The ShoeFitts Creative Crew expanded the use of the pimento red color specifically to imply sophistication and power. Now we are evaluating our client onboarding and welcome process because first impressions last forever. In fact, we have an ongoing audit of our brand and client experience. As you move into the New Year, consider an audit of your visual and experiential brand; here’s a starting point: Brand Touchpoint Audit.

Lay the Ghost of Compliance To Rest!

Boo!

Don’t let the ghost of compliance haunt you this Halloween. It’s time to dig that grave and lay the ghost to rest.

Sound a bit ghoulish? A trick instead of a treat? Not to worry.

I know many people fear using social media because of compliance concerns. Whenever I speak or train on the issue of social selling, the worry and barrier I hear about most often is compliance. But this isn’t 2006 (when I first started teaching folks about the social space). Even the SEC acknowledges that YELP exists.

Happy Halloween!

To help you get over your compliance fear, I’m giving away my Mastering Compliance module for free. Frankly, my intention is that you’ll find it helpful, entertaining, and encouraging. Encouraging enough to compel you to take the plunge into the full eCourse, Social Selling for Financial Advisors.

However, let’s not go there right now. Just take the Mastering Compliance course. It’s free. It’s short. It’s pretty much everything you need to create a solid foundation for moving your social selling forward. Because, if you’re not using social as a piece of your sales puzzle, you’re missing out. Social media and social selling are not hard or frightening when you understand and implement some simple, thoughtful guidelines.

There is tremendous selling power in today’s digital marketplace with 1.5 billion global social media users spanning all generations and demographics. This collective group, known as Generation D (digital), includes some 75 million investors with over $27 trillion in assets.

You know that cold calling sucks. And studies show that more than 90 percent of the time it flat out fails. Yet, you also know you want more warm leads.

Lets lay the compliance ghost to rest. Join me in Mastering Compliance. I make it fun, interesting, and helpful. Even better, it’s free! Just like Halloween candy.

Forget social. Focus on Sales.

 

Ten or so years ago, at the beginning of the social craze, the marketing rally cry was “Join the Conversation!” Experts pointed to the benefits of brand engagement, community interaction, and the once in a lifetime opportunity to go viral.

Value in the social world was associated with followers, likes and retweets. Frankly, that put a lot of folks off. How does this rah-rah cocktail party atmosphere create sales? Sprinkle in the regulation and compliance issues we face in the financial services industry and for most of us, social was a non-starter.

Even now, a fairly large group of financial professionals are only able to have a static LinkedIn profile. Guess what? Even if all you do is maximize your profile and use LinkedIn to help grow your connections, you can rock your sales with Social Selling.

Social Selling 1

When I speak and teach on the world of social, I start with LinkedIn for a variety of reasons:

  • A LinkedIn profile is easy to create and maintain
  • The pace is more manageable than Twitter
  • The site is very Googleicious (meaning it aids in search engine optimization)
  • Over 30 percent of American adults with annual household incomes over $100,000 use LinkedIn (check out this source for more amazing LinkedIn stats)
  • More than 300 million people have a LinkedIn profile; one out of three professionals on the planet has a LinkedIn profile
  • Business people use the site, and 35 percent of users access LinkedIn every day
  • Finally, most broker/dealers allow for, at minimum, a static profile!

I know, some of your are saying, “but what about compliance, Sheri?” My response: Don’t let compliance get in your way of some awesome competitive information; just create an optimized LinkedIn profile, run it by compliance, and then do what you can to grow your network.

In other words, pretend LinkedIn is a series of rolodexes. You don’t need to do the social stuff. Do sales instead. Then dive into the Advanced Search function. You can always take your activity to the next level, but for now, don’t worry about doing everything.

Take baby steps. Because, frankly, if you don’t engage just a little bit in the digital space you will get left behind in the dial-up world. Like it or not, some of your competitors are taking full advantage of Social Selling.

So don’t bury your head in the sand and hope social media goes away. Don’t point to compliance worries as a barrier. Do make the leap and try out the waters. I promise, you won’t drown in the deep end of the social media pool!

What Content Do I Share?

Wow! Thanks for all your recent comments and questions about social selling! Many of you are ready to up your social engagement and start rocking your sales. Along with this enthusiasm, I am hearing one resounding question: “what content do I share?”

This is an excellent question, and one I cannot answer, but can help you answer. First, sharing content is not about selling; it’s about building a relationship by sharing your smarts. The content you share needs to speak to the needs, concerns, and worries of your connections. In other words, what do they care about?

Second, remember the digital noise is vast, so you need to take this opportunity to provide real tangible help. The more you help, the more trust you gain, and the more likely you will out-sell the competition.

So, now you’re thinking, great, Sheri, but this sounds like a lot of work! Not really, once you understand there are two types of content: stuff you create, and gems you curate and share. Both are important and you probably want to do a little of both.

Curating content is all about sifting through good resources to find worthwhile information for your connections. In addition to any news feeds you already receive, consider creating specific searches through Google Alerts, Newsle, Feedly, and Mention. As part of the sharing process, be sure to add a sentence or two about why the topic is important; you don’t want to just send along a link without some type of commentary.

Creating your own content can consist of sharing blogs, updates, tweets, special reports, white papers, etc. Admittedly, creating blogs can seem overwhelming! There is nothing quite like a blank Word document or update screen to stop all creativity. However, the creative process can actually help you focus on the needs of your connections (and sometimes we lose sight of that emphasis).

One trick that helps me is the old fashioned approach; I get out some paper and pens and do a little mind mapping to take a kernel of an idea and flush it out into one or more articles. For instance, if I want to share some LinkedIn ideas, I can start with “LinkedIn profiles” at the center of the page and then add all the key profile components around the core phrase. I might draw pictures, numbers, or use words—it doesn’t matter; whatever gets my brain engaged and thinking creatively.

Sharing content is a key component to social selling because it helps solidify your thought leadership with your connections. It doesn’t have to be a grind; in fact, the process can help keep you current with trends and news, and help you regularly address your tribe’s issues and cares.

It’s okay to start slowly until you get the hang of sharing content. Maybe try for a couple curating shares per week and one or two blogs per month. Just get going and then be consistent!

 

Want to Avoid the Social Media Time-Suck?

Social media offers a great way to connect with people and is an integral part of social selling. Yet, if you’re not careful, you can fall down the rabbit hole into the social media vortex. Luckily you can avoid this time-suck with some careful planning, nifty online tools and even some no-tech tricks.

Make a Plan – A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of crafting a social selling plan just as you would any other sales or marketing program (if you missed it, check out Don’t Know Where You Are Going?). Be sure your social selling plan clarifies your social media platforms, who you are trying reach, and how you can best meet their needs.

Nifty Tools – While a personal touch is sometimes more desirable, you can provide ongoing content or value-add material in a scheduled manner. What’s more, some scheduling apps also offer tracking and monitoring so you can easily determine which posts are hits or misses with your followers.

    • Buffer – Whether you have one or several items to post, consider using Buffer to schedule and automate your content. The app works with LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and lets you schedule the days and times you want to release each post.
    • HootSuite – Manages your social selling posts in much the same way as Buffer. The app also lets you search feeds and keywords, plus monitor tweets, responses and messages.
    •  Freedom – Sometimes the Internet is too enticing! Freedom lets you block all or part of the Internet for a predetermined time. Regardless of your device, you can set the length of the block and work offline without interruption.
    • Anti-Social – If certain sites (ESPN, Google News, etc.) are cutting your productivity, Anti-Social lets you block any site for as long as you like.

Say No or Disconnect – Remember, you need to make your connections quality connections, so be deliberate! In Filling Your LinkedIn Restaurant with Quality Connections I wrote about this in more detail, and as I mentioned in a recent Friday Tip, you can easily disconnect with unwanted LinkedIn connections.

No-Tech Tools – Sometimes the best methods for managing your time are the easiest! For instance, consider using a kitchen timer to limit the time you spend on any activity that impedes your productivity. I am also a big proponent of scheduling my daily tasks each morning. Use whatever list-making device works for you—I favor giant sticky notes—to stay on task.

There are a slew of other apps and schedulers to help you out; the key is to not get overwhelmed. Make a plan, get help and you’ll be maximizing your social media interaction, and your social selling productivity, in no time.

Want even more help with social selling? Check out my new eCourse Social Selling for Financial Advisors; sign up now to get the inside track on the course offerings and early access to the program!