As a business, whether you are self employed as a one-man operation, or have more of a structure consisting of employees, your marketing efforts will consist of branding you as an individual as well as branding the business you stand behind.

Creating a brand that is one of being company centric rather than consumer centric can be considered  self promotion and can lead to a poor reputation. Your reputation is the track record of your brand.

The purpose of branding is to create a favorable image of either you or the company in the minds of your target market. In other words, what sort of impression do you want to create ? This public persona could be a number of characteristics such as the following:

  • An authority or expert in your field;
  • A resource or the “go-to guy” for anything and everything people would want to know about your industry or niche;
  • A person or company that is environmentally sensitive or socially responsible;
  • A company or individual that supports certain causes;
  • Quality and craftsmanship go into every product.

As you craft your branded profile, you want to identify with the demographics and  psycho-graphics of your target market.  Put out marketing pieces that are in alignment with those characteristics as you develop a brand.

Look at the larger corporations and how they brand themselves. Most associate their products with an aura — a mood or a feeling, often using symbolism or association to link their company and products with something that people identify with.

Advertisements of automobiles often show a middle aged man driving a convertible down a twisting highway. They are not saying how great the manufacturer is or how many colors the cars come in. Rather, they put the customer in the state of mind of owning a car, having fun driving one, havinga the sense of freedom and independence. They are not selling the horsepower of the car or other features, they are creating a feeling in the prospects mind that they want to associate with the car and the company.

So as you go about your marketing strategies, are you skipping the branding and going for the close all too often? Are you meeting people and turning your conversation into a sales presentation? If so, that is the brand that you are communicating. This is a complete turn off for most prospects.

Certainly, upon meeting someone, you engage in pleasantries, and give them your 30-second infomercial telling them who you are and what you do, but to then start to pitch them is a no-no.  The impression you are creating in their mind in that of:

1) Not caring about them

2) Being self centered and all too important

3) Assuming they could use your product or service before even engaging in any meaningful conversation

Branding is part of the sales process. Ideally, a prospective customer will have heard of or seen some of your marketing tactics and formed an impression. It could be anything from being the “neighborhood expert” or hearing you as a guest speaker on a radio show or being the one people refer on message boards as the “go-to” guy.

In this next generation of Web 2.0, people are not responsive to blatant self promotion. Its like a walking billboard. Nobody wants to talk to you because their sense is that you are only interested in you, your product and getting them to buy something.  People want to talk about them. The “what’s in it for me” is so important. Banner ads are not as effective as text links because there is no branding (other than repetitive exposure of a logo).

People don’t think they can “sell” or be in sales, but they actually are selling all the time. People constantly sell there ideas and need to be persuasive, convincing, etc.  Just because they don’t have a product to sell does not mean they are not engaging in the process of selling.

Before you can offer how your product or services can help someone, would not it be appropriate to find out how it could help them? To do that, you must engage them somehow, either through conversation or just sharing in general what are the benefits and allow them to decide if they have the need or want to learn more.

Inexperienced sales people often fail to go through the progressive steps in the sales process. one of the first being rapport building. If someone has not formed an impression of you or your brand, one that is favorable, trying to close them too soon will most often fail.

Part of the inexperience has to do with being impatient. They feel that if they don’t pitch their product or service right away, the customer will disappear and the opportunity will be lost.

That is how a simple business card or brochure or website address can serve to maintain contact with someone you first meet, create a neutral first impression (not being pushy) so that you can follow up and build a relationship over time, all the while building up your brand.

If you create a brand around you as a “pushy salesperson” nobody will want to engage with you for fear of being sold to.  They will also not refer you to their friends.  You will not build a positive reputation.

There is a balance between letting your prospective customers know that you are in business having certain products and services that may help them and getting in their face from the start trying to get them to buy — right here, right now.

Website Design: 10 Lethal Mistakes To Avoid

Most websites don’t work.  When we land on a website, we want to know immediately if we are in the right place.  We look for a clear sign or message that we are on the right track.   If a website’s purpose is not conveyed within the first 7-8 seconds, the chances the visitor will click away is certain.

Most sites do not appear to have a clear focus that is communicated simply and directly.  An effective website combines three things: provides what the user is looking for, is easy to find that information and provides a return on investment to the website creator.  In other words, it works for both the visitor and the website creator.

Here are 10 of the most blatant website design mistakes or (sins if you prefer) to ponder.  You may want to compare your website and see if you are making any of these website design mistakes. These mistakes do not necessarily apply to a sales website or a shopping website which is a single purpose, point of sale type of design.

Website Mistake  # 1 – Glorified Online Brochure
Website serves more as an online brochure and does not solve the problems the user is looking to find on the site.

Website Mistake #2 — Does Not Communicate a Clear Identity
The site does not immediately explain what you do and what you can do for the visitor. In other words, the website name is vague and the tag line is either non-existent or is equally confusing as the website name.

Website Mistake #3 — Hard to Navigate
Site does not show a clear view of how the site is organized with clear navigation and top level categories.  Here, the visitor has to fish around for what they think may be hidden somewhere within the site.

Website Mistake #4 – Poor graphical layout
The site must be aesthetically appealing and professional.  Your brand image and the content subject matter should be reflected in the look and feel of the graphics.  A photography site without any pictures on the home page would be a real turn off and would not meet the brand of the site. Further, graphical blunders like using giant font sizes with multiple color and a busy background will just appear very amateurish.

Website Mistake #5 — Failure to engage the visitor.
Leverage the fact that you have visitors by capturing their contact information so you can stay in touch with them and invite them back. Offer a free report or ebook or newsletter in exchange for their information.

Website Mistake #6 — Information Overload on Home Page.
Too much information crammed into too many tables or columns on the home page is the opposite of keeping it simple and uncluttered. Provide bits of information that will entice the visitor to “learn more”.  Always have a path for the visitor to follow and tell them what and where to go next.

Website Mistake #7 – All Hat and No Cattle
Website content is not valuable nor relevant to what the visitor is searching for.  Flashy graphics and flash intros are ignored by search engines and looking cool may not impress the visitor as much as the quality of the content you provide.

Website Mistake # 8 — Website is static.
Once a visitor gets a handle on what you have to offer and reads what they are looking for, why would they return? You must provide fresh content that makes the site new and compelling.

Website Mistake #9 -  Has to many advertisements.
Banner ads and adsense and other cleverly disguised links to buy something are all just distractions to the visitor.  Not only do they clutter the page, visitors ignore them and only hurt your first impression.

Website Mistake #10 — No contact page or About Me page.
You must make these pages easy to find. People want to know who is behind the site. People want transparency and authenticity. They also need to know how to contact you using a Contact page.

There are many more potential mistakes a website can possess including slow loading pages, dead links and outdated page width.  Browse the other posts for more tips on proper website design and useability issues.

Certainly, upon meeting someone, you engage in pleasantries, and give them your 30-second infomercial telling them who you are and what you do, but to then start to pitch them is a no-no.  The impression you are creating in their mind in that of:

1) Not caring about them

2) Being self centered and all too important

3) Assuming they could use your product or service before even engaging in any meaningful conversation

Of course it would be best if the other person actively pursued you instead of you being the one to presumptuously think that they are indeed interested in what you do for a living.

By focusing on the other person and asking them their name and what they do or where they live and so on, you are showing interest in them. This is how to start off a conversation. Allow them to go on about themselves. Just listen and don’t be impatient for “your turn” to talk about you.

People will subconsciously start to develop a liking for you if you pay attention to what they say and genuinely listen to what they are saying. You will be deemed a good listener. Not because you heard what they were saying, but because you kept your mouth shut while they were talking.

Once we do get asked about our profession or business, we must be careful to not go into ‘selling mode’ where what you say is boilerplate. People have built in ‘Bull Sh_t meters’ and can sense when you are not being authentic.

This authenticity is what people value because it is a complex set of words, phrases, thoughts and feelings that you convey which gives the listener a deeper glimpse into your core being. This is a form of sincerity and honesty that can only be delivered from the heart.

People who have the reputation of being good liars or cons have the ability to pretend to be authentic and that is how they deceive people. Some people however, are just too gullible and don’t have a sensitive radar. They don’t pick up on the subtle signals or body language.

Knowing the idiosyncrasies of human psychology is powerful stuff.  Not to be able to manipulate, but to become who you must be in order to win friends and influence people in a ethically based, principled manner that is intended to truly be helpful to the other person.