“No honey, we can’t get business cards for the cats!”

Mantra: I will capitalize on my personal brand, I will...ohhhh, squeaky mice!

These words cheerfully greeted me from my computer screen when I staggered out of bed to check up on what happened on Twitter last night. The first thing I did was laugh (really, really hard) at the mental picture of what my three furry feline monsters would do if I handed them a stack of business cards. Tooth marks would definitely mark them as theirs!

The second thing I did was scroll down the screen. Apparently, cats aren’t the only ones dipping their feet in the business card pool. There were dozens of posts featuring creative card ideas and clever new swings.

Then there was the woman who suggested exchanging mommy business cards should be standard etiquette for play dates. This one stopped me in my tracks. Business cards? When my kids were little, contact information for other moms was scrawled on napkins or paper doilies and slapped up on the fridge. I found the concept of entire business cards with the name of the mother and child and their contact information laid neatly out both intriguing and oddly frightening.

Once upon a time, business cards were reserved for salesmen and high level executives. Now we’re seeing them everywhere, from mommy bloggers to job seeking college kids. Cats might be a new one, but somehow I don’t doubt that there are a number of show pooches out there with their own calling cards, carefully cultivating their personal brand.

So let me ask you this. How far is too far when it comes to promoting your personal brand? Is the easy availability of business cards leading us to overdo it, or are we just seeing the newest trend? Will business cards soon become as commonplace as cell phones? What do you think?

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Robin Hood was a crook. A criminal. A scurvy, scheming, stealing thief that crept around in the night taking things that didn’t belong to him.

So why is Robin Hood one of the most well-known and celebrated heroes of children’s literature? Why, in a country that celebrates peaceful protest, do we love the way he didn’t bother trying to reason with Prince John? Why do we hold him up as someone to be respected and admired instead of someone who should be spending the rest of his days rotting in a dank, dark cell far away from civilization?

Sure, he did all the wrong things for all the right reasons.  But more importantly, he had personal branding down to an art form.

He was the man with the chutzpah to do what he felt needed to be done, his way. He didn’t ask for permission. He certainly didn’t sit around waiting to see if torturing the acting king was going to come back in style. He made his plan, he followed through, and he never hesitated to do the unexpected.

That’s a Marketing Plan We Can Learn From

It’s easy to pull our punches when we step out on the market because we’re afraid of what people will think. To avoid taking chances because we don’t want to be viewed as “extremists” (which means a lot more than just blowing up a building). But by choosing to walk down the middle of the road, are you really doing the right thing?

Or would you be better off channeling your inner Robin Hood into your marketing technique and letting your chutzpah pave the way?

Those Who Mind Don’t Matter, and Those Who Matter Don’t Mind

Once you’ve decided to subscribe to the Robin Hood school of marketing the question becomes not whether you should, but how far should you go? How much chutzpah can you put into your marketing before you start stepping on too many toes?

Ask yourself this. Who do you want to be? WalMart set themselves up as the company that draws a hard line against high prices. That’s what they’ll always be remembered as. That’s the image their chutzpah made, and they’ve stuck with it. What kind of image do you want to make for yourself?

Let that image be the hard line when it comes to your marketing, and stick to it. Carefully brand it. Cultivate it. Those who need you will be glad you drew the line where you did. Those who object probably weren’t going to give you their business in the first place.

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Do you tell her what's in the box, or make the wrapping pretty and wait for her to find out on her own?

With the huge amount of information available on the Internet these days, marketing professionals have a new hill to climb they’ve never had to deal with before. They need to decide whether they’re going to inform their customers or entertain them to get the best return on their investment.

Doctors often lament the over abundance of information on the internet and the role it’s played in turning all of us into over-informed hypochondriacs. They’d rather patients have a minimum of information at their fingertips and make an active effort to seek out more from specialists in the field than going on the Internet and getting that information from every Tom, Dick and Stacey.

That’s kind of where today’s marketing professionals are. They want to make sure they’re catching their customers’ eyes. They want to be entertaining and fun and become the name their customers remember at the end of the day. But they also want to make sure their customers are getting their information from them instead of some random person on the internet.

So should your marketing materials inform or entertain?

I recommend going for a mix. Make it fun, but make sure they know who you are and what you do. More importantly, let them know what they’re going to get from deciding to choose you. But don’t hammer the point. Keep it simple, and give them the information they need to come to you. They will. Sooner or later, they will.

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classical musicians, coda, personal branding

Beethovan. Mozart. Wagner. They knew the importance of their coda. Do you?

When you sit down and talk about developing your personal brand, does it ever occur to you that perhaps the hard-core corporate view isn’t the best one to take when investigating something so deeply personal? Maybe branding isn’t the term you’re looking for when finding a way to translate yourself and your business into a tangible entity through printing. Maybe what you should be focusing on is finding your coda.

What is a Coda?

All of you musicians and English majors out there are all too familiar with the coda. It’s the ending of a piece, be it literary or musical, the finale, the conclusion. And if it is truly the beginning and the ending that stay with us when we walk away from a piece, your coda is the final impression that your clients, your partners and your colleagues will have of you and your business.

Your coda is what’s going to define who you are in the minds of the people you meet.

Creating Your Coda

A coda is a deeply personal thing. The implication, the final piece of you that people are going to carry with them when they walk away, is somehow deeper and more intimidating than the idea of creating a personal brand. “Branding” feels commercial, but the relationship you build with your customers isn’t going to be based on a commercial platform. It’s going to be deeply rooted in their thoughts, impressions and yes, feelings about you and the code of service and ethics you’ve created.

Breaking the Coda is a Death Knell

If the coda is the lifeblood of your business, then misinterpreting that coda is the death knell for the harmonies you’ve created between yourself and your customers.

I have to share a story here. Several years ago I moved and, because of our new location, had to sever ties with a service provider with whom I personally had been doing business with for a number of years. I’d always been impressed with their speed of response, the courtesy of their customer service and their willingness to do what it took to make sure their customers were taken care of, so it was with great regret that I made the phone call that would sever our ties.

I was regretting it a great deal less when I got off the phone with an overly zealous sales retention specialist. He went so far as to attack me personally when I said that I had enjoyed their service, but as they didn’t service our new locality I was going to have to move on.

They. Didn’t. Service. Our. New. Locality.

So here we were, a company I really liked that simply didn’t offer service in my new area (they’d warned us it was a possibility before we moved) and a sales person who believed I should continue paying my monthly bill even though I was going to have to seek out a new service provider anyway. We were at an impasse.

This man was this company’s coda.

You Only Get One Chance at a Coda. Make Sure You’re Doing It Right

A single employee. A single Tweet. A single, careless slip of the tongue. Small parts of the whole that can create a coda that drives your customers away rather than drawing them in. You only get one chance at a coda, and that coda should echo through every aspect of your communications with your customers.

Including your printing.

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Have you ever looked, really looked at an iceberg? Look at the tip, the sides, the broad base before it dips into the ocean and out of sight. Now, I have a question for you, and I want you to think about it very, very carefully.

What is that iceberg made of?

The heftiest part of the iceberg is the part you'll never see.

I heard that. You rolled your eyes, didn’t you? It’s pretty obvious that an iceberg is made of ice. H2O. Frozen water. From top to bottom. The composition might be slightly difference from top to bottom, but at its heart it’s still ice.

So if your marketing plan is just the tip of the giant branding iceberg, shouldn’t it have basically the same composition all the way through? That single concept is where many companies go horribly, horribly wrong when developing a multi-channel marketing plan for their business.

Before you try and create any kind of marketing plan, sit down for a minute and think about how you want people to see your business. What’s your brand? Where’s your voice? What do you want to say? That message, that brand, should carry over into every phase of your marketing plan for your business. Take Campbell’s “Mmm, mmm, good.” It’s on every piece of marketing they do. The Gerber baby. The GAP logo (which I have on excellent authority has been put back where it belongs as the imposter they tried to implement was run out of town).

Find your brand. Find your voice. Then build your multi-channel marketing iceberg.

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I don’t often do a fly-by blog post, but I recently stumbled across an amazing article written by Joel Rubinson and published in his blog on market research (http://blog.joelrubinson.net, if you’re interested). Since I know most of you don’t sit around stalking market research blogs, and that anyone involved in sales, branding, customer service or any marketing position absolutely HAD to see what he had to say, I’m going to keep my own input short and sweet today and recommend you shoot on over to Joel’s blog to find out if your brand has a cold, wet nose!

Click Here to read “Does Your Brand Have a Cold, Wet Nose?”

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If someone slapped the words “small business marketing”, “small business branding” and “small business advertising” on a chalkboard and told you to differentiate between them, would you be able to do it? Or would you sit there with a baffled look on your face, eyes slightly squinted, going “Aren’t they the same thing?”

Give yourself a huge pat on the back if you looked at that last sentence and thought, “Are they for real?” If you’re among the many who thought they were talking about the same thing, don’t plop that hat of shame on just yet. With the way people are teaching these concepts these days, it’s no wonder you’re a little confused. As long as you understand what a brand is-and that it isn’t nearly as flexible as the elements of your marketing and advertising campaigns-you’re going to be just fine.

What is Branding?

Your brand is the intrinsic personality of your business. It’s not what you are, it’s who you are-or rather, how your customers perceive you. Think of trying to change your brand like trying to give yourself a complete personality makeover. It can be done, but it’s a long, messy process, not everyone’s going to be convinced, and the end results aren’t always pretty.

What am I Talking About?

Where is all of this coming from? The idea of the small business makeover is being widely popularized throughout the business world. You’re being told that you have to make your business “hip” and trendy to mesh your small business branding practices in with the rest of the world. When I was combing the news the other day looking for some fun stories and tips to share with our Twitter fans…

Don't be too chicken to break out of your shell...but don't be too chicken to be yourself either.

Wait. You are following us on Twitter, aren’t you? If not, take a second to swing by twitter.com/eastridgeprint and do just that. Stop by Facebook.com/eastridgeprint and friend us there too. We post daily trivia challenges, fun facts for your business and links to great news and information every small business owner should know. Now back to our story.

Anyway, while I was flipping through the news I came across the woeful tale of a handful of KFC franchisees . They were suing the franchise for full control of their marketing campaigns. Why? Because KFC corporate was attempting to hop on the health food bandwagon and re-brand their company around their undoubtedly healthier but not nearly as well known grilled chicken sandwich.

Since they’re not going to be changing their name from Kentucky Fried Chicken to Kentucky Grilled Chicken, you can see the problem.

Haven’t seen the story yet? Click here to check it out at BusinessWeek.com.

It’s okay to move and groove with the times. You should constantly be developing new products and services to reach new product markets and the changing demands of your clientele. That doesn’t mean you need to give your entire company a virtual overhaul. You heard it in grade school. All you have to do is be yourself!

That’s how it works with your brand. You can pick up some new skills, expand your capabilities, just like you did when you joined the soccer team to keep your best friend happy even though you could have cared less about that little white and black ball (but you really, really didn’t), but you’re still the same at heart. Keep the heart of your business the same. Everything else will follow.

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Good morning! Hopefully by now you’ve had a chance to grab a cup of coffee, shake the sleep from your eyes and dig in to your daily to-do list. I know that list seems impossibly long sometimes, but hang in there. You’ll make it eventually!

Today marks the 9th part of our 10 part series on integrating your offline marketing campaign with your online/email marketing campaign and was inspired by a video I watched yesterday of a conference hosted by Tony Robbins. Most of you probably know the name. Business Mastery? If you don’t know who he is, check him out.

Are you pleasing the right people?

Anyway, I was listening to one of his guest speakers and he said something that struck me hard-to make a name for yourself you have to step on some toes. All right, so that wasn’t exactly how he phrased it, but this is a family friendly blog! Rated G, or at least PG-13. The point isn’t how he phrased it, although it did make me laugh. The point is, he was right.

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”  Bill Cosby

Too often as marketers we believe that the secret to success is to make everyone happy. We bend over backwards trying to maintain our reputation, soothe hurt feelings to keep our good name and give away hundreds in freebies to curry favor with our customers. That’s all well and good, but when do you have time to build your image when you’re so busy living up to the image everyone wants you to have?

You can’t win a war without engaging in a skirmish or two!

Too often I see people whose online/email campaigns are full of life and zest, but their offline direct mail campaigns fall flat  on their faces as they fall all over themselves to be politically correct. Are you appealing to a different audience? Absolutely not! So why launch two totally different strategies to appeal to the exact same people?

I’m not saying you have to go out of your way to anyone that isn’t going to use your business. I’m just saying be true to yourself. Stay true to your goal in your online/email marketing and your offline marketing campaigns, and don’t be afraid to step on a few toes to get your point across, and you’ll have the momentum you need to launch your brand the way it deserves to be launched.

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