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The Unexpected Question That Shook My World

This is a story about an opportunity I very nearly missed. (It may have happened to you too)

It was a chance to do something exciting that I almost didn’t take.

Because of fear, low confidence and a kind of disbelief.

It was conference given by an industry I knew little about. I was the keynote. A beautiful location, nice people and great food.

The keynote was a success – everyone loved the storytelling and they could see the relevance and feel the excitement of the possibility that powerful stories create.

It was at the party on the last night of the conference. On the beach. He was tall, well-dressed and quite charming. He sought me out. Then he asked me the question that floored me.

I was taken by surprise, (I think I even blushed) I was not prepared, I didn’t even think it possible.

You see he was the CEO of a large, successful company. And he was very taken by what I had said on the conference stage.

What did he ask? Why was I shocked? Why did it change the way I saw myself, my work and my entire business?

Well, he asked if I would consider coaching him. Until that moment, I never believed that the CEO of a successful multi-national company would want ME to coach him.  I thought, if I had never been the CEO of that kind of company, well how could I possibly coach him?

It was mind-blowing.

You see, my storytelling, my expertise and my presence was what attracted him.  And when I thought about it, they are truly my strengths.

I realized, I actually don’t need HIS expertise, I need my own.

I have that, and so do you.

What I had done, without even realizing it, was tell a phenomenal story that established my credibility and illustrated my expertise and that was what had impressed him.

(and yes, I did coach him, he was the first of many clients holding titles like CEO, President, Senior VP etc. – a real breakthrough for me!)

The key to all this is the story.

I had worked for quite some time on my story.  Now it comes naturally, I don’t have to think about it.  And you can too.

Stop worrying about impressing other people, about saying the right thing, about being and sounding like other’s expect you to.

Stop following the standard marketing blueprints and scripts that have you sounding like everyone else.

Start telling your story.

That’s what people want to hear.  That’s what they remember.

Your Story is the single most powerful asset you have to explode your business and attract amazing clients.

Lisa Bloom

About Our GE Network Expert - Lisa Bloom

Lisa Bloom is a highly professional and accomplished Storyteller, Professional Certified Coach (ICF) and Training & Development Expert with more than 20 years experience working in public and private sectors, high-tech and financial services environments. Lisa helps entrepreneurs de-stress the marketing, build their business with confidence by finding their success story at http://story-coach.com.



 
  


Branding Yourself in 3 Words or Less

From over 25 years of experience in marketing, copywriting, conversions and online business, I can easily tell you that one of the most difficult tasks for people when it comes to marketing is defining their differences. In fact, at Marketing Words, we have a questionnaire all new clients are asked to complete. Among others, it contains the question, “What is the single most important unique competitive advantage (UCA) you offer?” What answer do we see above all others?

None.

Nothing.

It is left blank.

Or a question mark is inserted in the space.

That’s because the quest to analyze how you are different or better than the competition is a mind-numbing process for most people. Coming up with a short, impactful phrase that immediately lets others know what their strengths are and how they outperform the competition is like digging a ditch with a teaspoon.

What about you? Ever struggled to figure out how to position yourself in a crowded or competitive market? It’s tough, right? After all, that’s why people hire expensive brand experts and agencies. That’s where thought-provoking statements like:

• Brilliant Craftsmanship
• Ambitious Results
• Pioneering Solutions
• Nimble Creativity

… come from.

It’s not difficult to define your UCA if you get to know yourself. It’s even easier if you get other people to help!

4 Easy & Effective Ways To Define Your Branding Statement

#1 Read

Do you have testimonials on your website? You should. Go back and read through those right now. As you do, take notes about common themes or phrases that repeatedly pop up. Here are a few from the Marketing Words testimonials section:

• quality
• creative
• conversions
• results
• partner
• expert
• advisor

From this list (or synonyms for these), what two- to three-word phrases can you come up with?

• Expert Conversions?
• Creative Advisor?
• Inspired Results?

The more words you add to your list, the more options you’ll have to explore until you find just the right phrase.

#2 Ask

Don’t have testimonials? Get some! Call or email your clients and ask them to take five minutes of their time to provide a short statement about you and the work you’ve done with them. Or, if they aren’t comfortable or don’t have time, they can simply jot down five to 10 words that describe you.

#3 Think

Be completely honest with yourself. Nobody else is around looking over your shoulder. Think about your own impressions of you at your best. We tend to focus more on our weaknesses than our strengths, but when you’re on your A game and all the planets are aligned, what awesomeness comes pouring out?

Use these fill-in-the-blank statements to prod you in your thinking.

When I work on _________________________, my _____________________ really shines through.

I get stellar results with ________________________ when I focus on _______________.

It is in my nature to be ______________________ when I concentrate on _____________.

I almost always get compliments about _______________________________________. Clients say I’m _____________________________________________________.

#4 Learn

One of my all-time favorite business peeps, Sally Hogshead, goes even deeper using a systematic approach to uncovering your exceptional qualities. Sally explains, “I was that expert. I’ve created brand messages for some of the biggest brands in world. Companies paid me handsomely to find the perfect words for their brand.

“Imagine if a focus group of 100,000 professionals describes who you are at your best. Then, a branding expert (that’s me) selects the best descriptions of you. You end up with the two or three ‘closer words’ to position yourself. These two or three words would be like a tagline for your personality.”

You could attract your ideal client more easily and:

1. Develop a specialty
2. Become famous in your niche
3. Exceed expectations in one particular way

Karon Thackston

About Our GE Network Expert - Karon Thackston

Karon Thackston is President of Marketing Words (http://marketingwords.com), a full-service copywriting agency specializing in web and search engine copywriting. She has over 25 years combined experience in marketing, advertising, copywriting and SEO copywriting. Karon has a strong understanding of the processes involved with creating successful advertising strategies.


superchargeimage2

Article Contributed by Diana Smith

In the year 2014 most businesses, regardless of their size, have relied on technology solutions for advancement of their businesses and no different it will be in 2015. In fact, if nothing, all entrepreneurs are advised by experts to rely on technology for strengthening of their marketing, product development, and customer engagement activities.

The best way to drive relative advantage over competitors is technology adoption. This is especially true if you are in business with computer and Internet technologies. Even though it seems like your business is technology enabled, you may be missing out on new, fast-evolving technologies. These technologies can be the main trigger in supercharging your business, regardless of its size.

Here are some strategies you may want to look into.

Strategy 1: Embrace Social Media and Expand Your Sales

Owing to the internet, we can now easily communicate with people all around the world with just a few clicks. Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and similar have given us the power to interact with our business partners and (potential) clients more easily. Also, they make for great business vehicles. What can rapidly enhance a company’s branding and visibility is adopting an effective social media strategy – communicating with your audience around a direct message or offer, and drive traffic to your website. Naturally, for this to happen, both content and design need to be worth driving traffic to!

In order for companies to supplement current sales efforts they need a social media strategy and focus, and this should be their primary vehicle for all sales activity. Social media is an effective method of marketing over the Internet as print advertising is losing ground to the Internet. Plus, they cost very little.

Once you decide who your target audience is, you need to identify the online communities and platforms where your potential customers spend time. The next thing you should do is create a strategy owing to which you’ll manage to engage with their interests. Further, you need to offer them useful, compelling content and something they can’t get anywhere else.

Strategy 2: Adopt New Technologies to Streamline Your Business

Most private businesses, no matter whether they are small or big companies, have adopted technology — they have created user-friendly websites, call centers and online catalogs and they use financial systems from QuickBooks to Oracle. Naturally, they have also streamlined inventory management. Other evolving uses of technology that are adaptable to small businesses and large businesses are adopting are:

  • For marketing and product promotion – real-time, on-demand video (especially on tablets)
  • Customer care to “re-personalize” their customers’ experience and online customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Tablet-based systems for employees to provide instant, one-to-one responses to customers’ needs
  • Minimizing of the up-front investment through subscription-based software as a service (SaaS), providing all kinds of services on a “pay by the drink” basis

Strategy 3: Take Your Business into the Cloud

The “cloud” is probably the most significant technology paradigm shift for private companies. It delivers hardware and software services via a network. It also offers a range of shrink-wrapped solutions which are amazing at reducing a small business’s capital investment in technology. The cloud is also incredibly cheap storage.

With tablet computers being used to take and fulfill orders and manage automated systems, it is so easy to already see the benefits.

Strategy 4: Spend the Money to Create Something New

This is the era of innovation and in order to succeed you need to create something memorable yet practical for your target group to use. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a mobile App or some entirely new technological breakthrough, as long as it’s original and functional and customers can get it at a good price. Think about it – the offline world relies on good old steady business looking for the improvement of their customer service, storage spaces, warehouses, relying on forklift hire instead of the buy, at least till their business grows. You are in the online world and you need to take a step back and think of what can be done in the virtual realm that will make you special in comparison to somebody else.

Whichever field of technology-based strategies you pick, make sure you give your best to endure and succeed!

About the Author
Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to business and marketing.


best-boss

Article Contributed by James D. Burbank

In order to expand and improve your business, you have to invest, carefully and smartly. Furthermore, if you want to make continual progress, every part of your company has to progress to. You have to work on yourself the most, as well as invest in your employees; after all, it is you who do the majority of work. Therefore, a proactive approach is the best way for your company to develop. To reinforce this idea, we provided a set of options how to invest and reasons why investing in your employees is a beneficial thing to do.

Time Investment

The first step you need to take is to talk to your employees. Open communication and a timely feedback is of great importance. You will be able to see if anything  needs improvement, if your employees are critical thinkers, are they good at solving problems on their own, do they cooperate and communicate effectively. All of these characteristics are important in making your employees a team and you will know at all times which areas can be improved and which further steps you need to make, meaning what type of training your employees, that is  your company, would benefit from. Additionally, when your employees see that you spend your time with them regularly, they will know their work and opinion is acknowledged.

Education

Technical improvements, a new, modern equipment and accessories boost any kind of business. However, if the employees do not follow, there is no real progress. All of us absolutely have to continue to learn in order to stay on board the progress space ship. Things develop so rapidly that if you fail to adapt to them instantly and continually you will certainly fall behind and never be able to join again. Therefore, what you found out communicating regularly with your employees has to be implemented without delay. Organize regular trainings in the areas that require them. It will cost money, but will return even more.

Rewards

Rewarding the best employees is another smart investment. It does not have to be anything too expensive, do it according to your budget. A financial bonus, free days or a paid vacation, for example, are a great way to show your employees that you value their contribution and show them that additional efforts should be awarded. Be fair and honest with this and base your decisions on real actions, not on your preferences. This kind of honest approach and genuine appreciation is a great productivity boost and creates a healthy competitive atmosphere which, in return improves communication and cooperation.

Closing word

Hopefully, the reasons stated above are enough to make you realize how important it is to invest in your employees. Remember, it is not the machinery you own or the buildings and company estates; it is the people that are your most valuable asset and a matter that need your undivided attention. You cannot invest too much in them, anything you do invest will return multiplied. Also, make sure these investments are continual and monitor the effect they have in order to know which employee investment area needs more attention at certain times.

About the Author

James D. Burbank has had experiences on both sides of the boss-employee relationship. He has had amazing business education experiences with Upskilled that have helped him immensely. You can find James on Twitter too – @jburbank2019


finances-pic

Article Contributed by Aline Vedder of Spotcap

Good financial management can mean the difference between setting your business on a course for success and watching it become insolvent. Spotcap has compiled a checklist with the most crucial advice for successful financial management.

  1. Keep up with your finances

Small businesses often lack a clear overview of their daily, weekly, and monthly numbers and financial trends in their organization. Solid cost accounting is crucial to track your company’s cost and the basis for getting a clear view on your cash position. Understanding your liquidity position is paramount to managing your finances effectively. Spend the necessary time keeping track of your cash position, and if you lack the financial skills, hire an accountant. 

  1. Take advantage of government incentives

Most countries offer some form of incentive to attract and foster startups; however, these benefits may vary from country to country. Ireland, for example, has attracted many European companies with grants, a low corporation tax of 12.5%, seed funding, and tax reliefs. Startups should contact their relevant government agency for information on the financial support available to them. It is well worth going through the lengthy registration process for a government grant, because this can be a crucial first source of financing.   

  1. Seize different funding opportunities

The reality is that most SMEs will experience financial turbulence at some point and struggle to expand their business. Many studies report that access to financing remains one of the most critical, if not the foremost, constraint faced by SMEs. However, online platforms and financial technology have fundamentally changed the application process for loans. Small business loan platforms, crowdfunding, and angel investors enable entrepreneurship at an early stage. Leverage the opportunities of short-term loans to seize investment opportunities.

  1. Keep costs low

You received funding? Congratulations! The work doesn’t stop there; it is important to remain cost-efficient and invest the funds you have strategically. Bill Gurley and Marc Andreessen recently criticized the fast cash burn in the IT industry, which might ultimately lead to another IT bubble. Entrepreneurs should heed their advice and make good use of their funding with good budgeting processes. Having an oversight of your cash position helps you identify where you need to cut costs.

  1. Use apps to organise your finances

Apps like Expensify, Chargify, and Indinero are simple, useful tools to help you keep your finances in check. With these Apps, you can convert photos of your receipts into neatly formatted reports, manage online product subscriptions, track your current financial situation, and receive budget suggestions for the future by integrating information from your bank and credit card accounts.

  1. Restructure your debt

Approximately 40.000 small businesses close their doors every month in the U.S., mainly due to the enormous burden of debt they have accumulated. Startups that find themselves in financial straits should try to negotiate preferable terms with their creditors and set up a plan to get out of the debt trap. Additionally, companies should constantly be on the lookout for different financing opportunities to reduce the reliance on single sources of debt.

About Spotcap:

Spotcap enables small business owners to grow their business by providing fast and flexible financing. The company has developed a sophisticated and dynamic decision process assessing the real-time performance of businesses to grant short term loans. Spotcap was launched in Madrid in September 2014 and is led by Toby Triebel and Jens Woloszczak in Berlin. The team – currently consisting of 35 credit and online experts – plans to expand its service both geographically and across products. Spotcap is backed by Rocket Internet – the world’s leading global internet platform outside of the US and China. Read more about Spotcap: www.spotcap.com



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GetEntrepreneurial.com is a small business blog dedicated to providing business advice and resources to our community of aspiring entrepreneurs. Our specially hand-picked panel of GetEntrepreneurial.com Network experts regularly contribute entrepreneurial content and professional tips for small business owners worldwide.