Watch a passionate presentation that outlines the 5 steps to every sale and explains how social sales will evolve over the next decade.

In this article, Alfredo Lopez takes us through the misconceptions about social exposure and helps us see the true value of social ROI.

Don’t Ask: What is the ROI of Social?

While sales and numbers are important, I’ve come to understand that this may be the wrong question. We can get an insight into the flaws of this question if we ask it in a different way.

Instead Ask: What Is the ROI of Trust?

What is the ROI of trust? What is the ROI of establishing rapport with your customers? As Ted Rubin pointed out as far back as 2011, “If you want to continue to reach your market in this social media age, the marketing focus needs to be on building relationships, and metrics need to expand beyond ROI (Return on Investment) to include ROR: Return on Relationship™.”

When you’re talking social you’re not necessarily talking dollars and cents, though of course that’s included in any bottom line. Instead, the language of social is the language of relationships, and that cannot always be quantified. What metrics would you use to measure trust? What analytics would be sound enough to illuminate the returns on successful customer relationships? These questions are worth asking, but the answers are not easily revealed.

Any social media strategy must calibrate itself not simply to drive sales and increase earnings (though it includes these), but also to build and maintain relationships. This is social media in a nutshell: building and maintaining relationships that originate online, which in turn translate into real world value. Any other understanding of social media misses the point. So how do you get a return on relationship?

Three ways to drive ROR

1. Shut Your Mouth, Open Your Ears: The Art of Listening

You may have heard of this. It’s what you should be doing when you are not too busy talking all the time Mr. Talker. The real art of listening takes place on two different levels, and they are very different.

On one hand, there is the listening to what was literally, physically, said. That is to say, the actual sequence of words that were put together and communicated directly.

For example, a client who runs an upscale restaurant in Manhattan might ask, “How’s the social media campaign coming along?” It’s easy enough to understand the outer meaning of this: it’s a fairly direct question.

On the other hand, there is the subtext, or reading between the lines of what was physically said. To take our earlier example, the client has asked about the social media campaign, but might secretly be concerned about something else, or might have another question which he is hesitant to ask.

It’s important to be sensitive not merely to what is physically said, but also to what is said between the lines. You may consider: How did they say it? What was their tone like? What was their posture and attitude like when they asked? What was their emotional state? All of these are important considerations and are also part of communication and listening.

So why is listening so difficult? Here’s a partial answer: we’re too caught up in our own subjective thoughts, feelings, and daydreams. Sound familiar?

When you truly listen to someone, you have to get rid of your own preconceptions and all the thoughts that you have bouncing around on pogo sticks in your skull. All the subjective thoughts in your head are just extra noise that drowns out what is being said. Try listening to your favorite song while at the same time running the blender. Our listening is usually like that.


If you’re preparing an answer while someone is talking, you’re not listening to them. You’re listening to yourself.

Just listen. Don’t prepare an answer while the person is talking. Just listen. Don’t think of how you spilled your drink at last weekend’s cocktail party because the speaker said something that reminded you of that. Just listen. You have to be empty. You can’t take in what someone is saying if you are full of responses, ideas, rebuttals, and thoughts.

Social is almost all about listening. In the past, advertising and marketing had a ‘me’ mentality. It was all about my product, my service, or my personal brand. In the social age, it’s now about others. It’s a conversation, not a lecture.

2. Ask More Questions

Asking more questions is a powerful way to build relationships because it is fundamentally an act of humility and openness. It says that you’re looking to connect, and that is at the heart of all things social. This is the exact opposite of the “know it all” who stifles all conversation because he “already knows.” That is being closed, not open. Don’t be that person. Nobody likes that person.

Asking more questions helps build relationships with your clients because it shows that you are curious about them. There’s an idea! Other people exist! Shocking, I know. I spent some time in sales, and there was one very powerful question that, more often than not, allowed me to establish trust and rapport with clients. This is because questions open doors and further the conversation. The question was this: “What else?”

Try it.

Notice what happens when you ask this question. Rather than having listened to someone, and then preparing a response or rebuttal, you are actually requesting more from that person. This surprises people (in a good way) because they feel that they are being heard and valued. It’s a way of saying, “I’m listening. Is there more? What else do you have for me? What else do you need? What else can I help with?”

Asking more questions is the difference between buying something and being sold. If you’re being talked at, you’re being sold. If you’re being listened to, you’re more inclined to buy and thus enter into a relationship.

3. Quality Trumps Quantity: Less is More

Quick, would you rather have thousands of followers on Twitter or a dozen trustworthy clients? Would you rather have four quarters or a hundred pennies? In social media marketing, it’s best to go with quality over quantity. Appearances can be great, and I don’t think anyone would reject thousands of followers on Twitter, or thousands of ‘Likes’ on Facebook. After all, popularity breeds popularity. But behind appearances, there are often latent conflicts, and it’s best to go with quality.

Quality clients and quality engagement on social media will grow your brand and ensure your reputation into the future. You might not be as flashy as you’d like, and you may not go viral anytime soon; but step by step, as you lay down the foundation for a sterling reputation, you’ll be glad you went with quality. This is an art more than a science. As Robert Pirsig put it, “Art is anything you can do well. Anything you can do with Quality.” Focus on tailoring your content to those that already love you (your dozen clients) rather than expending needless energy chasing numbers and ghosts.


Quantity, mere numbers, can be fool’s gold. Gary Vaynerchuk has echoed this thought when he says that too many companies are looking for the knockout punch (going viral, or any version of that) when instead they should be throwing consistent jabs to set up the right hook. So much time and effort is lost looking for the social media version of ‘El Dorado,’ when instead, strengthening your ability to listen, asking more questions, and valuing quality clients, sets you on the path towards social media success. And that is the true ROI of social.

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Brian Geery explains why the structure of your question is as important as the question itself. Whether you are in sales or not, I think we can agree, sales professionals should stop asking these 5 questions immediately.

Asking questions is an important part of the sales process.

And contrary to the popular saying, when it comes to being a sales professional, there is such a thing as a stupid question.

As a sales consultant, I interview salespeople and observe them on sales calls in order to write sales playbooks. For the “sales questions” section of the playbook, I prioritize and categorize the best sales questions for that specific sales process.

Along the way, I have identified these five questions as some of the stupidest, and surprisingly, most common. So without further adue here is a list of five stupid sales questions you should never ask again.

1. What will it take to earn your business today?

First of all, it will take you not asking this question because it automatically makes you sound “salesy.” You are a sales professional; it is your job to do the selling. If the prospect were going to tell you what it took to earn their business then they wouldn’t need you, would they?

Besides, you should know: to earn a prospect’s business your product or service has to be a cost-justified solution to a problem the prospect is currently facing. Oh, and it has to solve that problem better than the competition.

Instead, you should ask questions that elicit information regarding their problems and the consequences of the status quo. For example: explore the problem’s impact on time, money, personal aggravation, or the growth of the business. Then ask about the decision making criteria, cost justification data, and the competitive landscape.

2. What do you guys do? How long have you worked there?

First of all, have you met my friends Google and Social Media? You can easily answer these and other questions with proper pre-sale research. You are doing pre-sale research on your prospects aren’t you? While these are two different questions, they are both in the same category of stupid.

I often take inbound sales calls because it gives me an opportunity to do some reverse prospecting. I listen to the salesperson’s approach, take notes, and then reach out to the company’s VP of Sales with some ideas for enhancement.

I am continually amazed at how many sales calls I receive where it’s obvious the salesperson hasn’t even glanced at my firm’s website, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, etc. Even before impromptu sales meetings, a quick search can give you insight on the person or company you are about to meet with.

3. Who else is involved in the decision making process?

Maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but a prospect may hear this question as, “Since you’re just an underling, who should I really be talking to?”

Why not flip the question like this, “Who, including yourself, should be involved in the decision making process?” This way you still get the information you need without potentially offending your prospect.

The structure of your sales questions is very important and underestimating the value of a properly placed question can cost you dearly in a sales setting.

4. Are you familiar with _________?

There are a couple problems with this question. First of all it is a closed-ended question. This means you are making it easy for the buyer to give you a yes or no answer. But, is that question giving you any new information or is it even necessary for you to make the sale?

This question can also put someone on the spot unnecessarily.

For example: someone recently asked me if I’m familiar with Drupal. I happen to have a basic understanding that Drupal is software used in website development, but that’s pretty much it. If I answer “yes,” I’m overstating my knowledge of the technology, and if I answer “no,” I feel like a dummy.

I suppose I could say “a little,” but why would you leave it up to me to answer your question in the exact way you want it. This is a perfect way to lose all of your sales momentum if you get the wrong answer.

Asking questions during the sales process is important but sometimes it is more important to skip a question and just explain what you are referencing as opposed to placing a hurdle or possible objection in your path.

5. What’s your budget?

First of all, what should their budget have to do with your pricing. By asking this question, you instantly make the buyer feel like your pricing is dependent on their answer. You also have to remember that buyers are often liars. They feel you are trying to game them when you ask this question so they will often use it as an opportunity to game you.

They may feel that answering the question puts them at a disadvantage when negotiating. What if they have not yet set a budget and then you force them to give you a ceiling? Again, be careful about when and where your questions come up. Asking a question like this at the wrong time of the sales process can be a sure fire way to end up with a dead lead.

Instead, when the time is right, ask how they intend on paying for your services. Phrasing your question this way assumes the sale, puts the ball in their court to ask you about your pricing or financing options and otherwise leads you closer to the close.

It also opens the door to start talking about their overall budget and what part of it they might be willing to allocate towards your services.

Executive summary

Questions are an important part of the sales process, but stupid questions are a sure fire way to trip yourself up on that path to making that sale. Think about the way you structure and format your questions before your next meeting so that they are second nature to you when sitting in front of your next prospect.

What do you think? Did we miss any stupid sales questions? Got one that really bothers you? Leave it in the comments below!



Image credit

 Movement over money.

Sean Smith explains why connecting with your consumer is important in a digital economy and why customer convenience is more important than price.

Read the original article on Medium

It used to be an age old solution in business to build a bidding war with your competition.

The lowest price would win, because convenience was on a level playing field.

Price is not necessarily obsolete now, but it matters far less to our inter-connected society than it used to.

Businesses like Amazon are putting others out of business left and right. Most people point at their prices, but that’s not really the case. When you look at the ease of convenience their services like Prime bring — giving next day or same day delivery for any of their products while also being cheaper than most of their competition — the competition doesn’t stand a chance.

People don’t have to leave their house to shop. Think about that. That’s an insane notion that only became possible in the last 5 years.

People care more about their time now more than ever, because now we see the possibilities of the things we can do with our day. Our days are getting longer, because things are getting easier due to technology.

Businesses that understand this will thrive, those who don’t adapt or find their niche in this new age of convenience and demand will dwindle.

No longer does price dictate the outcome of our pocket, we decide based off of our time.

“People don’t buy products, people buy better versions of themselves.”

As Belle Beth Cooper said best,

Ev Williams even mentioned that the best way to build a billion dollar business now is to “find a business vertical that hasn’t changed in 50-100 years and find a way to make it easier using technology.” This could be applied to hundreds of verticals, even online publishing, which is far from an ancient medium. Take Medium for example, this lovely online publishing tool you’re reading right now. I write here because it’s incredibly easy, it’s beautiful, it’s interesting, and the exposure makes it easier to reach my audience.

Uber took the cab industry and turned it on its head, starting with a simple app and some part-time cabbies running on their system. Now it’s worth billions of dollars with no signs of slowing down. SpaceX obviously didn’t choose an easy vertical, but they were able to achieve what only government associations were able to do to date, to dock a cargo ship to the international space station. This gave SpaceX billion dollar contracts from NASA to keep their astronauts supplied on the ISS.

There are “disruptions” to be made in thousands of verticals, you need only find that unique approach, take out the steps for the customer, and innovate.

In an environment where people are trying to “optimize” and automate as much of their life, and success as they can, those who help them succeed in this ambition will succeed in business.

This doesn’t bode well for business reluctant to change, but for entrepreneurs ready to build better services, this is a ground breaking time to live in.

“We help take the pain away” — this may be one of the best selling lines I’ve heard in a pitch for content marketing. It’s honestly what people want, whether you’re doing marketing for a business, or easing the pain of people dealing with a cable company to cancel their service.

People want their pain to go away.

The supply and demand curve has warped, it’s been turned on its head.

We’re all better for it too, because when people stop thinking about money, and instead think about what they can do with their time, we all move forward.

Movement over money.

A comprehensive guide to creating, sharing and nurturing viral content online.

Listen and read along as we teach you how to build a strong organic online presence.

People ask me all the time…

“How do you get so many people to your website?”

They want to know what I have done to increase my online exposure and how I get such got such a large audience in such a short amount of time.

Most of what I have done has been trial and error and even now we are constantly experimenting with different formats of content in an attempt to perfect our art, but there are a few things we have learned along the way that can definitely help you reach your online goals.

In this podcast…

We talk about the process of creating, sharing and nurturing viral content in some serious detail.

I invited Sean Smith to join me in this episode of RayDO (pronounced Ra-di-o) Uncensored. Sean is a prolific writer and you can find his work on a number of national publications including the Hufington Post, 99U, Moz and Medium.

I suggest you take notes along the way, as we dive deep into the process of creating, sharing  and nurturing viral content. You should also listen to the entire podcast for a deeper understanding of our entire content conversation, especially since the notes below are just an overview of everything we talk about in the podcast.

As always, if you find value in the podcast, please be sure share it with a friend, subscribe and grab us on Stitcher. That way you can get all of our newest content first.

2:50 – Skip the audio intro

I always like to let you skip the intro so if you don’t want to hear the lead-in to the podcast just skip to about the three minute mark. Just remember, a baby squirrel will get run over by a car every time someone decides to do this.

In all seriousness, the beginning of these podcasts is where I briefly explain what the show is about and I also give occasional updates on what we are trying to build here at If you are interested in getting involved or want to know more about what we are doing then I suggest you listen all the way from the beginning.

4:00 – A quick intro to Medium

I have enjoyed some recent success on Medium (especially when my article reached #1 on their top 100 list) but I think they are changing some of the things that made them great. I am working on on article about why I think they might have messed up big time but I have also had some great success by sharing some of my posts on Medium.

I am not sure whether the changes they have made recently will affect their long term viability as a social sharing platform but I think you should know about it as a content creator because after all, finding new places to showcase your work is a big part of increasing your audience and building a viral presence online.

6:15 – Starting a blog

The race to stand out online is on in full force and most people are doing it all wrong. At this point in the podcast we start diving into the theory behind creating, sharing and nurturing the content in an attempt to create a continual viral presence online.

These strategies, although helpful when creating any content online, are not intended to help you get one specific article to go viral. The internet is a finicky place and you should worry less about creating individual pieces of viral content and instead focus your efforts on always putting your best work out there for the world to see.

Once you start driving enough traffic (assuming the site is interesting) people will start spilling over into the other sections of the website. What we are hoping to teach you on is how to build a consistently strong arsenal of quality content and how to elevate your entire blog  so that everything you do has a chance at going viral.

8:05 – It starts with a title?

For me it all starts with the title. I get an idea and then it evolves in my head as a theory but I am never fully inspired until the title hits me. Sean and I both agree on the importance of the headline as well as why it is so important to think about getting the readers attention early on. On the internet, many people do judge a book by its cover so be sure that your blog titles are as thought out as the content inside of them or in the end you re really just wasting your time.

It would be like throwing a huge party and then forgetting to send out the invites. Not the proper way to plan a party right? So why would you take the same approach to creating your online content?

9:30 – The evolution of an article

Most great content is not a one and done proposition. In this part of the podcast we talk about letting the content sit on the shelf and why you should let your stories and simmer. I think it is important to throw down all of your thoughts and then sleep on your idea for a few nights. Then you can come back and clean up the content to make sure you are always delivering your “A” material. I do not know many people who do everything perfect the first time around so if you really want your content to go viral then you really do need to take your time and make an art out of writing your articles.

11:30 – The structure and flow of the article

Sometimes you should just spit out all of your thoughts and then look at them on the screen and work on the structure and flow of the article. Then you can start moving pieces around and assembling the article in the way that makes the most sense. The structure of your article is important and you need to hook the reader early, especially online.

Blogging Tip:

You should be telling two stories through the course of the article and also make sure you are formatting it properly for online distribution.

Story one: Should be told in the headlines and subheadings. Consider this the top level story. A fly by of your high level ideas if you will. People are really impatient online so you need to make your article easily skimable while also trying to suck the reader in and get them to commit to reading the entire story.

Story two: Should be the article itself. This is the long form version of your story. This is where you can dive in and let your work shine. The other benefit to formatting your content like this (besides the value that long form content brings you in the sense of SEO) is that it makes long form content digestible. You can deliver more information in one place and not overwhelm the reader with a page that looks like it was copied and pasted from an encyclopedia.

15:05 – Delivering value to the reader

In order for your story to have a chance at going viral, there has to be a strong story line. At the end of the day, if your story sucks then no one is going to listen, read, watch, etc. You should make an attempt to educate and entertain your reader while telling that story. Think about the stuff that engages you online and then try to mimic and copy that approach but be sure to make it your own along the way.

You can use metaphors and other creative writing practices to give the reader some creative liberties while reading your work. This allows the reader to make your story their own and it allows them to create the environment in which the story takes place inside of their own head. You allow them to paint for themselves the vision that you are trying to share and then you put yourself in the perfect place to entice the reader to actually share your story.

17:06 – Leave the story up to the reader

The point that we are trying to make here is that getting something to go viral online becomes more about getting the reader to attach their emotions to the blog than just writing something interesting. Most businesses, entrepreneurs, etc. just want to pitch their products on their blog, but they forget about connecting with their audience in an emotional way. They forget to give something to the reader in the form of digestible value before asking for the sale.

Business blogs would be well served to understand the concept of connecting with their readers and should strive to turn their website into a place where their customers come to not only hang out but learn from you. Think of it as if you were building an online lobby for creative thought.

19:33 – Reading is the ultimate virtual reality

People can immerse themselves in your words. When they watch video they see the exact vision of what the person who created the art wanted them to see. But, when you are reading someones words or listening to their voice, the reader gets to become the artist. This leaves you with a beautiful opportunity as the author, to connect on multiple levels with your audience. It allows you to reach directly into the heads of your readers and paint with your words.

You also have to remember that it takes time to build an audience and a following online. You have to be willing to invest the time and hone your skills as not only a writer but a self promoter of the things you write. No one is going to read your early articles so don’t feel bad when you publish something and no one reads it. It happens to all of us when we first start out. You should use this early part of your online development process to test your writing style and keep experimenting with different techniques in order to find out what is going to work best for you.

23:25 – Building Credibility online

You can expect to spend as much time online building credibility in what you do as you do creating and distributing your content. In order to have the best chance to stand out online you need to find people in your area of expertise and start sharing content, connecting and engaging with them on their websites, blogs and social platforms. You need to connect with your readers, not only through your writing, but inside of your interactions as well. Building real relationships with your readers is important to maintaining a viral presence online and you should make it a top priority to respond to all of the comments made on your website as well as the social media sites that you are active on.

24:50 – Become an expert

You have to know what you are talking about before anyone is going to listen to you online. It is easy for anyone to start a website but that does not mean that everyone with a website is an expert. You should make it a point to become the best at whatever it is you are trying to explain to your audience. You have to prove to them that you know what you are talking about by being able to do what you are telling them to do for yourself.

If you doubt yourself or are making things up as you go in an attempt to fill up space, then your reader will not only know that you are faking it, but you will also destroy any small amount of credibility that you might have built up until this point. You must believe in yourself but that does not mean you need to be a tyrant when talking to your audience either. You need to know that what you are talking about is right and then find creative ways to relay that to your reader.

26:15 – Having actual authority vs. thinking you have it

Finding credibility online and building an overall viral presence on your website becomes a process of getting involved in the existing conversations online. This is a piece that many people forget about when trying to build their own blog from the ground up. Whenever you want to get other people involved in your conversations, then you should look for places where people are already talking about the things you are trying to talk about and find a way to get involved in their conversation. Do not be so naive that you think people are going to rush to your website when to talk about what you want when they are already in the middle of that discussion somewhere else. Instead, you should learn how to hack those conversations and become someone that they look to for advice on the issue. Then you can start funneling that conversation to your website and separate yourself as a thought leader in that category.

34:30 – Getting involved

If you are a regular listener then please join the conversation. We have a lot of people who come to the site more than 5 times a month and I would really like to get to know those people better. I want to know why you come to the site so regularly and what we can do to make that experience better for you. Please take a moment to reach out and leave me some feedback about your experience on the site and with this podcast, etc.

We are really trying to make this about the consumer experience and we want to build it into something beautiful for our readers and listeners.

37:05 – Remaining a student

Make sure that you are always learning. You should always think that other people are smart too and that other people can teach you something you mifht not already know. You should become a sponge and then regurgitate that info to your audience in a way that they can relate to or understand. The best teachers are always learning and the beauty of the internet is that it can easily become a medium by whitch information can be passed from one person to another and that is helping all of us learn at a really fast pace. More so than ever before.

Podcast correction – In the podcast I mention that we have shown up more than 100,000 times in Google search results but that number is actually closer to 1.3 million. Turns out I had some filters applied to the webmaster tools and that was restricting the results. Talk about a great mistake! 

38:25 – A few final tips

Here is a link to the learning platform that Sean was talking about at the end of the podcast.

As we wrap up the podcast, here are a few final thoughts from both Sean and I that will help you take some steps towards building a viral presence online.

Get in the habit of reading your writing out loud.

Seriously, this has been one of the best things I have done for my writing. It allows me to write as if I was actually speaking to someone which is important because when someone reads your work, the concepts could be entirely new to them. You cannot assume they know the things you know, or that they are thinking like you are thinking. It is up to you as the author to make sure that the flow of your work makes sense and reading your work out loud is one of the best ways to do just that.

Leave internal cliff-hangers.

When you tell your story, leave something for the reader to discover later in the writing. This will ensure that they remain engaged throughout the entire post. It can be difficult to learn at first but as your writing style matures you will get better at teasing out the hooks of the articles early on in the content and use them to drag the reader throughout your work in the exact manner which you intended. When you learn to do this then you can really have a chance at building something special online because it really does become about more than just reading a blog article at that point.

Get creative with the article structure.

Start from the end and then bounce around. Or in the middle then to the beginning. Don’t just think that your story has to go in chronological order. A little confusion for the reader is a good thing. Again, this is like leaving little hooks throughout the article. Things that draw the reader in and keep them around until the end.

Explaining The Importance of Content Marketing

A content engine is a website that drives web traffic by delivering quality, easily consumable content, on a regular basis. Many new-media websites like the Huffington PostUpWorthy and BuzzFeed could be classified as content engines, and almost all of them are driven by advertising revenue.

Most commercial content engines drive revenue from selling advertising, sponsored posts and other advertorial content. They often employ a number of staff writers but also drive a large amount of traffic from content contributed by independent bloggers, journalists, etc.

While the content contributor gains credibility for having such a large site link back to their website, there is little compensation for contributing to these larger content engines. Sure, the exposure is good, and yes, it might make you feel good, but at the end of the day ask yourself this, “What do the content creators come away with?”

Corporate content engines?

Many businesses are adopting a formalized content marketing strategy in an attempt to build a larger online presence. It’s really the best way to stay competitive online anymore, and the content marketplace is only getting harder to penetrate.

Actually, thanks to the proliferation of concepts like inbound marketing, and companies like HubSpotMozCopy Blogger and others, having a content marketing strategy is no longer optional. It’s almost as if content marketing has become a mandatory part of having a real chance at competing online. And the more it evolves, the more difficult it will become to stand out from the crowd.

Preparing for the Future of Sales

Companies who can build the best corporate content engines are going to become the new leaders in the world of digital sales.

In a world where information is the only currency that matters moving forward, it becomes imperative to start thinking about how you can effectively leverage your personal story in order to grow online sales.

The problem for most companies is that it becomes quite a challenge to create enough content to make an impact online. After all, how is Bob the plumber going to compete against Business Insider when it comes to telling stories about building a business. Even if Bob has a better story to tell, he just stands no chance against a publishing house of that size.

The truth is that it takes a concerted effort to build a content engine, and most business just aren’t up to the task. Not because of a lack of effort, but because of a lack of understanding.

Many businesses simply do not understand how specialized an art getting noticed online has become, and they often underestimate its importance to the future success of their digital sales strategies.

Why is content so important?

Google and other search engines are getting smarter every day. Search engine optimization has changed completely and now revolves around the contextual and social relevance of your content as opposed to the number of keywords you can stuff into the post.

This empowers the individual content creator because it give them an opportunity to leverage their online influence in ways that were never before possible. It allows creatives to leverage their content as a currency of online influence. Something that will gives creatives a leg up in a world dominated by corporate agendas.

Which is exactly why we are building a collaborative content engine here at Something we are calling a Circle of Influence.

What is a collaborative content engine?

A collaborative content engine is basically a content collective. You might even say its like communism for online capitalist.

It is a website where content creators come together to share their work with the world as well as each other. A place where competition for quality content is intense and creativity is considered a Currency.

Think of it as an online art gallery for digital entrepreneurs.

By pooling our creative resources in this manner, we can create a powerful Circle of Online Influence which will then work together to cross-promote each others products and services inside of an inbound marketing masterpiece.

“Think Yelp meets Medium. With a Chamber of Commerce and a Mall of America mixed in.”

Because of the demand for quality content, a marketplace like this would allow the individual content creators to connect with consumers who are searching specifically for their solutions.

Imagine if, instead of just blogging for yourself, you joined a network like this, and took those powerful posts and put them to work for you and a community of collaborators? What if the content creators could then be compensated directly based on the quality of their individual content as a percentage of the overall influence of the entire network.

What if we created a place where content could finally be king, and the creatives were the true commanders of credibility. What if we just cut out the middle man and empowered the creative entrepreneur?

How can I get involved?

Right now we are in early development and planing phases of building this collaborative content engine.

We are looking for early adopters to help shape the future of this online Circle of Online Influence.

We need producers and curators, commentators and maybe even a few player haters. is going to be a completely collaborative project, built around the idea of exploring the power of our combined creativity. We’re looking for people who are interested in helping us conceptualize and test the concept, and then to come together and execute on those ideas.

So. What are you waiting for?


In this episode of RayDO…

Jerry Banfield joins us to talk about building a presence online and whether you should hire a professional or try to do it yourself.

1:15 – Rated “R” for Raymmar

Why some of these podcasts have been a little crude in the past and how this is all a learning process online.

2:30 – Meet Jerry Banfield

Jerry has a large organic search presence on YouTube and is a monster at getting  ranked in search on YouTube and Google. He helps clients manage their online advertising campaigns and optimize sales from paid advertising.

Many people have recently asked me how I approach building a presence online so I thought I would give you some insight on how you can take our knowledge and use it to propel your website to the next level.

4:15 – It started as a personal blog

I explain a little about the beginning of and the problems we have faced while transitioning the site from a basic online resume, to a full fledged content-engine. Do you pay for advertising? Do you use social media? Should you hire someone to help build your online presence? All of your questions about building an online presence will be answered in this podcast.

9:00 – The who behind the what

Companies segment themselves from their audience through their brands and their products, but I think that more companies should start letting the world see a more personal side of the operation in order to really stand out online.

11:05 – The difference between organic or paid traffic

Before moving too far into building your presence online, you should understanding the basic difference between organic and paid traffic . Your focus should be on creating organic traffic but once in a while, you might want to pay for a few ads to give your content a boost. Personally, I like to focus on building my presence purely organically, while Jerry thinks paying to spark some of that sharing is a smart strategy. What do you think?

 16:00 – What is a keyword?

We discuss the basic context of understanding keywords. Both long-tail and short-tail keywords. We discuss how to target them inside of your content so that Google and the other search engines can properly index your work.

You need to learn how to speak to Google but also understand that Google is getting very smart at understanding and reading what we write. Their artificial intelligence is getting good at reading the article much like a human does, so make sure it makes sense to you as an individual reader and not like some piece of keyword bait for a robot. You need to focus on writing for a real audience, not for Google, but, you must also understand Google in order to be as effective as possible in optimizing your website content and building your online presence.

19:00 The shift that is happening in Search Engine Optimization

We dive a little deeper into SEO and some of the trends we are seeing across the web. We are creating the future of SEO and how you think the game is played is not how you should be playing it. This is where the crux of our podcast theme comes into play, as we discuss whether you should do these things yourself or whether you should hire a pro.

21:12 – Agencies who steal from their customers

How do you know who you can trust when looking to hire online help and how do you decide who to pay when-and-if you do decide to hire someone to help you build your online presence. So many companies claim to know what they are doing and they do a good enough job of making it look like they know what they are doing, but there are a few ways to tell. (We give a few specific resources later in the podcast.) Me? I like to look at what they have done for themselves. Why would you want someone to build you a beautiful web presence when they have not yet done it for themselves.

24:03 – Is there a magical price you have to pay in order to get a good website?

Jerry tells us about a presentation he sat in on once where they said that you have a worthless website unless you spend more than $30,000. We discuss whether there is any merit to that statement or whether it is complete garbage.

25:40 – Vetting the agency

Look at the work. Look for them to be doing for themselves what they say they can do for you.

26:50 – Resources for learning to build an online presence

Hubspot – Visit their website, subscribe to their blogs and get your inbound marketing learn on.

Moz – The online leader for search engine strategy and beautiful content on understanding SEO

Copyblogger – Copy writing for the creative entrepreneur. Tips and advice on writing strong online copy.

29:58 – Paying people what they are worth

It is very easy to overpay when it comes to online advertising, exposure and presence. There is a reason that the people who know what they are doing  charge a lot of money. Sometimes we just trust people who have the storefronts and brick and mortar locations so even though they might not be the best, people seem to trust them to do business.

34:02 – One of the tools I use – Alexa Traffic Rank

Alexa has a chrome widget that I use which allows me to quickly rank each website I explore. It allows we to vet and explore a companies online reach and help you determine whether or not the person you are hiring actually has any real online credibility.

 35:59 – All that matters is what happens when I get to your website

The battle we are seeing with business owners and their attitudes towards the web sometimes. Cost per conversion, online sales are so much less expensive than selling

37:30 – It is a closed store when someone wants to visit

And that is stupid as a business owner. Some of these Buffoons are in big offices, charging lots of money and delivering shit work. Just because someone has a beautiful storefront does not mean they know what they are doing online.

43:10 – The corporate counter culture

What we are seeing as trends in the business world and how the workplace is evolving to a more results only work environment. We are going to lead the charge in changing the way that businesses do business.

47:45 – Jerry Stumbles into my master plan

This was seriously unplanned but after my mini rant, Jerry literally stumbles into my master plan. In a nutshell, he states my vision for and how we help lead that corporate counter culture and how we can make sure that we are always delivering beautiful products and getting things done. #DoWork

51:10 – Don’t be afraid to try something new

Building an online presence is like tuning a musical instrument more than building a house. It is something that has to be constantly tweaked as opposed to just built once and done. Online collaboration and exploring with content is a smart thing and our final point is talking about trying new things online.

Sometimes showing some of your flaws and making yourself vulnerable can be beneficial in the long run.


In this episode of RayDO: Brian and I talk about the sales process, discuss the benefits of LinkedIn and how to make sales personal again.

I am trying a new format to publishing the podcasts. The first number is a time stamp followed by a headline of what we are discussing at this point in the podcast and then the text is a further discription or explination of what is happening in the podcast.

1:40 – Leveraging Linked In

I hate LinkedIn and Brian tells me he has had some recent success with it. What do you think about LinkedIn as a social tool?

2:40 – Internet Marketing Is Secondary is really just a passion project. It is really just a playground for me to explore my ideas and test my theories about life and sales online.

It is less about selling anything in particular and more about exploring the ideas behind sales and how it interacts with the world around you. However, as we dins out later in this podcast, there is a bigger strategy at play here and eventually you will see the whole picture of what I am trying to do.

3:30 – Are Corporations Evil

Is evil exclusive to corporations? Or are they just groups of people making decision on your behalf?

Why the games being played in the media and elsewhere are just disingenuous and focused on manipulating people to fit an agenda. Whatever the agenda may be, we all have one and we all walk around trying to force it on the people around us. Whether we like to admit it or not.

5:20 – Change Something

Not happy with where life is headed? Then do something about it. Pretty simple really.

7:00 – Selling Business to Consumer (B2C)

We start talking about my experience in sales and how I ended up in Florida and how I came to be who I am and my quest to find enlightenment.

Car sales can be dirty so we talk about and dive into how some people might be taken advantage of in that type of buying situation. I also reveal a little bit about my evil side with relations to sales and why it is important to be an informed buyer.

11:40 – Is There A Road Map To Making Sales?

Breaking down a bit of sales theory and dissecting the myth that you can follow a certain number of steps and somehow arrive at a sale.

The truth is there is no magical number of steps to a sale but there are certain things that must happen in each situation before a sale can be made. Learn about creating a closed loop sales strategy as opposed to living inside of an up-then-down sales cycle.

14:00 – Making Sales Personal Again

It is ok to let a little personality shine through online. How to get creative as a small business with a small marketing/advertising budget.

15:03 – Is Anyone Actually Listening

Please let me know what you think about the podcasts in the comments below. Be sure to grab us on Stitcher and be sure to leave us a show review.

We are trying to build a community of like minded thinkers so this is all an adventure. I cannot know what you think if you do not share your thoughts so please take a moment to let me know what you think (even if you hate it) so we can keep making it better.

16:10 – What Do I Do With This Website

What do I do with all of this. What do I do with a website that started out as a place for me to share a few ideas to the world and has turned into a viral content engine online? How do I deal with the increase in traffic and the strategy behind that transition.

Correction – During the podcast I said we publish 4-5 articles a day but I meant a week and that obviously varies based on our schedule. 

17:15 – It Really Is just Me Building All Of This

Everything you see on (for the most part) was built by your truly. I have really just been laying the foundation for what is yet to come. There are many things yet to come and we are really just getting started.

18:40 – An Organic Sales Engine

I give you a taste of my master plan for what is to come on You may want to go back to the 17 minute mark here so you can get the context of what I am doing with the website and how you can get involved in the circle of influence.

20:49 – Separating Sales From Serivce

Have we detached people from the buying process? When corporations focus on people instead of products then we might see a change in the way the world thinks about the corporate structure that seems to be getting such a bad reputation right now.

22:08 – An Introduction To SMART Marketing

Sales and Marketing as an ART – Attract new business, Retain existing customers and Transcend the competition. An introduction to the sales model we are working on.

23:40 – Are Some Companies Too Big To Succeed?

Understanding your customers. Why are some companies better at understanding their buyers and how some companies can get it and others don’t.

Why you should understand your buyers persona long before you start selling anything. Take a look at this guide to building a buyer persona and then listen to this podcast to get a deeper look into the personality of the people who buy your products.

28:30 – Creating Influence

A deeper taste of the master plan in world domination. How I plan on leveraging my Circles of Influence concept to drive real change in the world.

The influence of media and the draw of the power that comes with it. We are basically building a media company here that will influence ideas all across the world. People are either watching for two reasons. Either they think I am going to succeed or because they are waiting

32:00 – More about LinkedIn

We wrap up the show by diving deeper into LinkedIn again and I realize mid sentence, that they have just made some major changes to their user interface. I admit that LinkedIn is actually trying some new things and trying to make it better.

34:00 – Stealing Content

The trade off between generating original content and the balancing the relationships I have with some nationally syndicated websites.

How using Evernote and If This Then That can help you automate your contact management

What If: You could take a picture of a business card 
Then: automatically add that contact information to your phone and send them an invitation to connect on LinkedIn?

The purpose of this article:

Is to show you that it is possible to take a picture of a business card and have a series of automated events take place that will invite the person whose business card you just scanned, to connect on LinkedIn.

Disclaimer: I love Evernote!

If you follow my blog then you know I am a premium Evernote user and I have written articles in the past about how I use Evernote to improve both my professional and personal workflows.

I do not work for Evernote, and I do not receive compensation for writing these articles. I really just think it is a great app and I think it is something that can make your life better so now you know.

Optimize your networking

Once you set up this Evernote/IFTTT networking workflow, you can take a picture of a business card and have it sync the contact information to your phone and then automatically send them an invite to connect on LinkedIn.

If you are a sales professional or do a lot of networking, this is something you could be using every day to increase your overall networking efficiency.

There are other solutions to scanning business cards and keeping your contacts and sales leads organized but for the consultant or small business owner, it would be difficult to get this kind of customized workflow and automate the process for less than $50 per user per year.

Take a picture of a business card with #Evernote to connect on #LinkedIn

Highlight any text in this article to tweet it directly.

What you need to get started

  • Evernote Premium: You can use the business card scanning functionality with the standard version of Evernote but I think they limit the number of business cards you can scan unless you upgrade the premium account. You can read more about why I upgraded to Evernote Premium or just take my word that Evernote is worth the money for this feature alone.
  • Smart Phone**: I use an iPhone so I am not sure if this works on Android devices but I know that Evernote, IFTTT and LinkedIn are all available on Android so I do not see why these instructions wouldn’t work across other platforms as well. Don’t hold me to that though.

* IFTTT is optional and only necessary if you would like to use step two of this tutorial. 

** The instructions in this article are based on the iPhone interface so please excuse any differences that might arise on other smart phone interfaces.

Step #1. Evernote Settings – Save Scanned Business Card Information to Contacts

Reminder: The business card scanning function is an Evernote premium feature. This walk-through assumes that you are using Evernote Premium.

Settings > General > Camera > Business Card > Save Contact Info To Contacts

A: On the mobile version of your Evernote app go to the Settings tab.

B: From your Settings screen, click on the General tab.

C: Click the Camera tab from the General Screen.

D: On the Camera screen click on the Business Card tab.


E: From the Business Card Screen, select Save Contact Info To Contacts.”


(F) Optional – Connect Evernote Directly To LinkedIn

I got really excited when I found out that Evernote allows you to connect your account directly to LinkedIn. This means that when you take a picture (scan) a business card, it will try to reach out and find the person on LinkedIn and verify that all of the information is up to date and accurate and it even gives you the option to connect right from inside Evernote.

However, I was looking for complete automation. I literally wanted to take the picture and be done. It would have been easy enough to stop here but why not introduce you to a web app that you should be using anyway. Enter “IFTTT.”

How to scan a business card with Evernote.

*** You can stop here if you want – You can connect with someone from directly inside the Evernote App. You can go into the contact note and view or connect with the contacts profile directly from the contact note but again, this requires an extra step. Since I only scan the business cards of people that I want to connect with, I wanted a solution that would literally let me scan the card and automatically have an invite to connect be sent to the user. It is up to you how to use the workflow but either way is probably better than what you are using now. If you want to, you can stop here and everything should work fine but if you want to take it one step further go ahead and keep reading. ***

Start getting rid of those ugly stacks of business cards you have sitting on your desk. #YourWelcome

– Highlight text to tweet it –

What is IFTTT

From the IFTTT website: 

IFTTT is a service that lets you create powerful connections with one simple statement:


IFTTT is pronounced like “gift” without the “g.”

In other words… IFTTT lets you connect multiple apps (online software) to each other through their custom recipes, so that when something happens on one channel (Trigger), it causes something else to happen (Action) on another channel.

It is a very interesting and diverse productivity tool and definitely something worth taking some time to learn more about.

You can use it to connect with more than 100 of your favorite apps and they are always adding more so go ahead and get creative. Take a look at some cool recipes here and learn more about using IFTTT to connect your favorite apps.

Step #2 – How To Use IFTTT

You can use IFTTT from a computer as well as through the mobile app but we need this to connect with your phone contacts, so for this example I will once again use images from the IFTTT iPhone interface.

Once you have the IFTTT application installed on your phone, log into the app and create a recipe that directly invites every new contact to connect on LinkedIn.

Create The Recipe

Creating a recipe is easy. In the IFTTT app, just (A) click the little recipe bowl in the top right corner and then (B) on the plus sign as your IFTTT feed slides to the left. Once you get to the next screen, (C) click on the plus sign to start a new recipe. Create-a-new-IFTTT-recipe-connect-to-Evernote

Select A Trigger

Every time you create a new recipe you will need to set the initial trigger. For this example we are going to have IFTTT invite someone to connect on LinkedIn every time (A) a new contact is added to our phone. If this is the first time that you are IFTTT access to your contacts, then you will need to (B) authorize access to the app.

*IFTTT is a stand alone application so it interfaces easily with other apps and allows you to connect to all of your different channels with a single click in most instances.

Connect LinkedIn

Once you have connected your contacts app with IFTTT then you can (A) tell it what you want it to do whenever the initial channel is triggered. For this example we are going to find the the LinkedIn channel and (B) select the option to invite someone to connect every time a new contact is added.

Once you click the finish button the recipe will activate but don’t worry, you can test it, edit it and pause it at any time from right inside the mobile app.


Happy NetworKING

You can set the app to send you notifications when the recipe is triggered or not, totally up to you but either way, once this workflow is set up it will invite all of your new contacts to connect on LinkedIn.

Since the first step was to have Evernote save your scanned business cards into your phone contacts these two apps will now work in sequence to invite all of your business card contacts to connect on LinkedIn.

Another great tip: is to add personalized notes for each contact within the contact note itself. You can set up a format for doing this and just keep a running timeline on all of your interactions with the people that matter. So many people spend a lot of money on CRM systems but this is a solution for any consultant or even small business for that matter, but that is for another article. Feel free to share your favorite Evernote hacks in the comments below.

Do you use Evernote, IFTTT or any other software to help your networking efforts? Let me know about it or share your favorite IFTTT recipes in the comments below. 

Your Life is a lie master

“You are doing sales wrong!”

Highlight any text in this article to Tweet it or share on Facebook.

It took some time to get him warmed up…

But Brian has a good mind for sales and helps me discuss and explain some major sales concepts and how they relate to life. We briefly mention his bio but feel free to learn more about Brian Geery and his work.

With 20+ years experience in the world of sales, Brian has worked with fortune 500 clients and been published in the Wall Street Journal along with many other publications. Join us as we discuss the world of sales and many of the other issues below.

What is a VP of Sales?

Someone with sales leadership responsibility. We talk about understanding the sales process and how to fine tune your sales engine. While Brian is still a little cold I throw him on the spot and ask him to pitch me while I pretend to be a customer who really just wants to throw him out.

How do you think he did? Let me know in the comments below.

Will door-to-door sales ever disappear?

We talk about my time in door to door sales and how to make a five minute friend. We talk about how I learned to sell on demand and the process that the company used to make us sales machines.

I think that door-to-door sales are on their way out but Brian claims they might hang out a little longer than I think. Which of us do you think is right?

Brian flips the script

Brian flips the interview and asks me about my business and how I have grown my online presence. He asks me about the three technologies that I think were most important in helping me get my blog off the ground. Here are links and descriptions of each technology and how I use them.


Learn more about WordPress 

The largest open source content management system on the internet. It is easy to use (there is a learning curve) once you get the hang of it, and can allow you to update your website easily, post new blog articles and evolve digitally. The core files are always being updated and there are numerous plugins that can help you do what you need to do.

There are some other low-cost website builders online but WordPress offers you the most scaleability and diversity of options. For the non-developer, non-coder out there, this is the perfect place for you to get into the web building world.

I plan on writing a comprehensive WordPress write up, along with my favorite plugins but for now, know that you need it and it could make your life much easier.


Download Evernote

I wrote an article here where I talked about my favorite features and why I upgraded to Evernote Premium. I still think it is the best, free or paid, note-taking app on the market.

The way their web clipper works with my web browser along with their email functionality has really helped improve my workflows and productivity. It will help you stay organized and keep track of everything.


What is IFTTT

I just mentioned this briefly in the podcast but it is an application you should know about since it lets you connect different applications and set triggers for different functions.

For instance, I have IFTTT set to ask a contact to connect on LinkedIn when I scan an Evernote business card. There is life-hack article coming on how to do this but for now know you can do it and go explore their website and create your own recipes.

Social Media:

I think as a whole, Social Media is the third most important tool I use online. I use Social media as a tool and although I am active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, I hate Linked In. I still use it and have a profile but I am not really finding it useful and that might be partly my fault. It just gets really hard to manage all of these channels and mediums by myself. Maybe soon I’ll be able to afford an assistant.

How to steal ideas

Brian calls it “Liberating” the idea but I call it stealing inspiration and I am not shameful about it. Brian asks me about my viral online explosion, I talk about stealing inspiration from all over the internet and talk about how I got my website to the top of Google in so many different categories.

I expose a little more of the big picture of what I am trying to build and talk about the fact that the whole world is socially engineered. Whether for good or evil, it just is because that is how we work.

One of my biggest challenges will be to help you understand the simplicity of these systems and how they are all interconnected. After that, it is up to you whether to use the powers for good or evil. Whether to chase the dream and be the best you possible or will you sit on the sideline and think about what might have been?

None of This is About the Money

I have no desire for massive amounts of money. Although I wouldn’t hate it or turn it away. My primary motivation is the elimination of the word “no” based a lack of a funding mechanism.

I make enough money to live and I am reinvesting every dollar I can into the infrastructure of in order to increase the quality of the content we deliver on a daily basis. I also want to start introducing you to the other companies that I do business with as well as the creative people that I surround myself with.

As we grow we will also be looking for new ideas on how to bring other people with us. Stay tuned for how you can get plugged into the RayDO network.

Part Of It Is About The Aesthetics

We wrap up the show talking about my connection with Steve Jobs and how I see a lot of his character traits and flaws in myself. I talk about my desire to keep the website clean and fresh but also understanding the need to try and monetize it soon.

At one point I even mention my plans for monetization briefly as we talk about how I plan to grow to the next level of social commerce. I explain the concept of building a trusted network of amazing individuals. People who we help get off the ground and help find their way online.

I hope to take amazing people and help them follow their dreams. I hope to give them a platform to change the world. I give a huge “thank you” to all those who listen and follow us so closely. We really do appreciate your support.

Apparently Brian had a hot date…

Or something like that because he jumped off the mic quick. We will definitely ask him back to talk more about sales but he was a fun guest and we hope you enjoyed him.

Make sure you subscribe to, grab us on Stitcher or iTunes and make sure you hang on. This is going to be a bumpy ride.

Are you doing something amazing with your life? Something the rest of us should know about? Tell me about it in the comments.

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No matter what stage of business you are in, you should focus on your brand now!

What is your brand?

Find it tough to answer that question?

Your brand is everything.

If you don’t have a well defined brand, purposely thought-out, clearly articulated and wrapped around researched buyer personas, then you have nothing.

If not you should stop what you’re doing instantly and read this article.

In this post I’m going to teach you why you should focus on branding first using sailing as a metaphor. I’ll also link to extremely valuable resources to help you define your brand.

Of course if you’re reading this odds are you’ve already started a business. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve been doing it for years. Does this article still apply to you?

Of course!


Because you can instantly change the course of your business and choose a direct tack that will lead you where you really want, and need to go.

If you could have another chance at a fresh start with your business it should begin with researching, architecting and building your brand. Though, many entrepreneurs (including yours truly) tend to be the ready, fire, aim type in which case you’ve probably already built a business that works to a certain extent. That’s awesome! I’ll get to you lot in a bit.

So why work on branding first?

Simply put, a brand isn’t just who we are, it’s who we want to become.

A brand is a goal on the horizon. If running a business is sailing a boat on uncharted waters then defining a brand is choosing a rich and abundant port to end your journey.

Without a clearly defined brand you’re destined to spend your seafaring life fighting tropical storms and drifting East and West, lost at sea. When a major wave comes over the bow in the form of a new competitor in your market who is stealing share left and right you won’t know how to respond or why you should in the first place.

After the tumultuous fight is over and you wake up to a red sunrise you know the challenges aren’t over and you’re not even sure why the hell you’re floating out here all alone anyways.

If you’ve felt like this in business then you’re like so many others. The good news is you can actually start this process whenever you like and reap the rewards immediately. Of course the longer you take to define your brand the further out to sea you’re planning to go before finding yourself lost.

Imagine instead you have a clearly defined brand in place. You’ve studied the globe and chosen a rich port in a tropical climate half way around the world. A country where the people will happily take you in, exchange goods with you, entertain you and care for you for the rest of your days.

So how do we get started?

The first step in branding is to clearly define your buyer personas.

Go back to your captains quarters and imagine spinning the globe daydreaming where you’d like to end up. What kind of people do you want to spend your life with as a sailor at port?

These are the people of your personas.

Why should we define personas?

Traditional marketing called for a brand that was simply creative or clever. Something memorable and perhaps cute. Then companies became clever through the guerrilla marketing era and began crafting brands that separated them from their competition, creating a clear gulf.

An example of this is seen during the rise of Intel. Prior to what some of us remember as the Pentium 1, computer microprocessors were named with numbers like 186dx, 286dx, 386dx, etc. At that time there were literally thousands of manufacturers of these processors and they were all scrambling to gain market share. When Intel announced the Pentium 1 processor 90% of the market disappeared seemingly overnight and were never heard from again. That’s the power of a good brand.

The past 60 years has seen the branding geniuses of Ogilvy & Mather and other admen, the tactics of which have been tirelessly played out.

While traditional branding still exists and thrives to this day we have access to deeper amounts of qualitative data on consumers and businesses allowing us to build more detailed profiles than ever before. Now our brands can be made to represent an umbrella that houses multiple personas that are served by the brand.

Ultimately you need personas nowadays if you want to succeed online and furthermore if you’d like a tight and relevant brand.

How do we define personas?

Right now you’re on your home continent unable to do business with this distant culture. So first you need to get in touch with them (carrier pigeon perhaps?) and survey them as a stranger from faraway lands. You need to find out who they are, what they value, what they’re like, what they want and need, what is their day-to-day life like?

These are all elemental questions in buyer persona development.

You shouldn’t start by asking your existing clients and customers these questions, because they’re right here lost at sea with you. If you just want more of this lost at sea business then define your personas that way, but seldomly will those who are lost provide good direction.

Instead you should start by surveying people who you think would buy from you, but whom don’t know you and aren’t familiar with your brand. These are the people in this rich port across the blue.

The reason you want people who don’t know you is because they’ll give you the most accurate descriptions of what they value, their pain points, triggers, contentions, etc.

I’m very interested in the work of Adele Revella at Buyer Persona Instituteas a consultative body for defining buyer personas. Their process for defining personas seems to be the most comprehensive, sophisticated and thoughtful while remaining very accessible in a world rife with industry jargon.

We’re currently sending clients to them for consulting and pursuing certification as buyer persona consultants ourselves.

Their 5 Rings Of Buying Insight™ methodology is bulletproof for defining personas and without getting into too much detail they are as follows:

· Priority Initiatives: Why do some buyers choose solutions like yours and why are some buyers happy with the status quo?

· Success Factors: What specific results do these buyers expect to see from buying your solution?

· Perceived Barriers: Why do your buyers think your solution won’t work for them?

· Buyer’s Journey: What details does a buyer consider throughout the process of deciding on a solution like yours and where are they impacted in this process?

· Decision Criteria: What does your buyer consider to be the most important elements about your competition’s offering and what are their expectations for each element?

If you learn by example then take their Example Buyer Persona and replace the info in each section with your own. Here are some more example buyer personas from Inbound Marketing software behemoth HubSpot.

For surveying your audience it’s best (not to use carrier pigeons) to use a manual process such as finding 3-5 people that might buy from you and asking for a detailed interview.

If you’re unable to easily track down a few people that you think may buy from you, or if you’d like a larger data sample then it’s possible to use a survey tool such as Ask Your Target Market (AYTM) to do the heavy lifting and sourcing participants in your survey.

Heck, you could even try Google Surveys, but I’m not as familiar with their ability to handle non-consumer related panels.

We’ll be using surveys later in the process of further defining our brand so keep those handy.

Once you’ve taken the time to develop your own personas, it’s time to craft brand messaging around those personas.

How do we start building a brand identity and messaging?

Now that you know a few things about these people from far away you understand they’re an entire culture. We just have to figure out where exactly we need to go to meet them, and what specifically we need to bring.

To do this I recommend starting your brand research with a SWOT analysis or Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats.

If you’ve ever sailed (or seen Captain Phillips), then you know the captain and the crew perform ship-wide inspections before leaving port. Everyone on the ship checks every part to make sure there is no crack, no broken jib or pirate gate that could pose a threat. All the engines, rudders, sails and lines need to be carefully checked to make sure there are no weaknesses. The team is assembled and assigned parts of the ship where theirstrengths can be leveraged. Maps are drawn out and weather patterns are scanned to determine opportunities for smooth and fast sailing.

How do we do a SWOT analysis?

So as in a ship ready for maiden voyage, you need to assemble every member of your company in a completely open discussion with dry erase boards, Internet access for quick fact-checking and reference, and plenty of time to cover all the bases. Then begin the SWOT analysis checking for each of the following:

· Strengths: These are internal elements that give you a competitive edge. Always compare strengths against competitors apples to apples, not your recent improvements to previous states of the company. Anywhere you’re perceived as outpacing a competitor is considered a strength. Examples of strengths may be highly unique talent in the design department versus boring designers in your niche, or a negotiator on your team who happens to speak multiple languages.

· Weaknesses: Call on the most negative and critical person at your company for weaknesses. I jokingly say negative because I’m an optimist to a fault. So in many cases someone’s just being realistic when I call them negative. You don’t need an optimist to point out your weaknesses, they’ll take it too easy on you. Examples of weaknesses may be a shoddy customer service department for a fast growing company, or a failing infrastructure due to poor maintenance protocols.

· Opportunities: This is where an optimist can shine. We’re looking for temporal or time-related opportunities where agile decision making is key. If a gap opens up for a moment this serves as an opportunity. Intel seized the opportunity to name the first microprocessor something memorable and push the hell out of it. From our sailing allegory, consider this the man in the crow’s nest looking for tailwinds to push us in the right direction.

· Threats: Threats are just the opposite of opportunities. Again think of a person in the crow’s nest looking for icebergs and storm clouds ahead. Examples of threats may be a declining trend in proprietary technology such as Sony Memory Sticks, or environmental factors that wreak havoc on your company such as floods or tornadoes, also strong competition from larger brands or low price competitors.

The SWOT analysis exposes all the hidden details about our business and brand and allows us to lay all the cards on the table in front of our company internally. If you’re truly forward-thinking about your management style you’ll then allow your team to start addressing all of these issues by giving them autonomy to be creative and find a fun solution for each one.

Now you know where your company is positioned in the market and you can begin crafting your brand messaging around your persona’s and your SWOT analysis.

How de we define the brand?

There are ultimately 5 steps that will lead us to a well defined, bullet-proof brand. You’ll hear them called all kinds of different things and we have our own sexy name for them, but they pretty much work the same way no matter who you ask. When faced with a difficult question in each of the 5 steps below, reference your Buyer Personas established in the previous steps to find good answers:

· Vision Statement: The Vision Statement describes that port on the distant horizon. This is what you want your company to become in the future. Ultimately this should be one sentence long and not explain howthe vision will be met, we’ll get to that in a bit. What are your most important products and services and which ones will you never sell? What is unique about doing business with you and how will people describe your business? Where do you want to be in 5 years?

Here are some example Vision Statements:

San Diego Zoo will become a world leader at connecting people to wildlife and conservation.

NPR with it’s networks of independent member stations, is America’s pre-eminent news institution.

Smithsonian is shaping the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world.

· Mission Statement: The Mission Statement is defined as the purpose of the company. Mission statements should be simple, clear and concise.Don’t use industry jargon and focus on motivating people inside and outside the company. What are the specific market needs for the company to answer and what does the company do to answer them? What guiding principles define our approach?

Here’s a great example Mission Statement from Google:

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

· Essence: The essence is the intangible parts of your company that you want people to feel when they do business with you. The essence of the company should typically be defined with one word. What do people experience when they interact with your offering? Check out this great deck on the 9 Criteria For Brand Essence.

Example essences from a great HubSpot article include:

Volvo = safe
Disney = magical
Lamborghini = exotic

· Personality: This is what makes a brand really human. Personality is all about the behavior of a brand. This can be difficult as there can be too many characteristics you’d like to consider, but try to keep it simple. Think, are you smart and helpful? Are you polite and curtious? Are you deep and creative? Are you fun and easy-going?

· Unique Selling Proposition: The USP (Value Proposition or Brand Positioning Statement) is probably the most important part of the brand identification process. You’ll want to keep it down to a sentence or two that clearly describes your offering’s unique value and how it benefits your personas. This statement should define the audience, category of brand, offering benefit, differentiate brand from competition, and confidently assert the brand will deliver on it’s promise.

Consider the following for your USP; Whom are you speaking? (think persona) What market segment does your offering benefit? What’s your brand promise (rational and emotional) What makes your brand different and why should your personas care?

Here are some examples of good Value Propositions:

CampaignMonitorEmail marketing software for designers and their clients.

BaseCampEasy cloud project management software for companies.

How do we put it all together?

The final part is to put all of this together in a way that makes sense and works seamlessly across your marketing media.

I recommend creating a single Branding Guidelines PDF document that has all of your personas and branding work in the order we built it here. Then share this document with everyone in your company to make it absolutely clear what your company is and does. These are the captain’s orders.

Through the process of designing your logo, you’ll pull from this document and actually add to it once the logo is finished.

When designing your new site, you’ll be better able to architect content and map out pages because you’ll be trying to aim content at your individual personas and you’ll use your brand messaging to answer their needs in the most concise way.

When creating ads you’ll be targeting specific pain points for your personas and you’ll be able to segment campaigns to your various different personas.

Blog articles can be written to answer concerns your personas may have and bring down their barriers to entry.

As you’re sailing across the wild blue yonder you’ll notice that when challenges come up like new competition or outside threats, just hold your bearings true with your branding and personas and focus on your customer’s needs and you’ll be able to pull through.

Over time, your brand may need small revisions just like a rudder needs frequent adjustments to steer the ship straight. Before you know it you’ll feel the heat of foreign latitudes, hear the sound of unfamiliar sea birds and commerce bustling in the port of your dreams. Your business will then become what you once imagined it to be.

This article is a deep dive on the topic of branding originally covered in Who Wants A Powerful Inbound Marketing Plan For Free?

Jeremiah Smith runs SimpleTiger, an Inbound Marketing agency focused on helping businesses grow on the web through lean, simple marketing.

They specialize in SEO, content marketing and driving conversions through your site. Hit recommend below and follow me on Twitter

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Keep these 12 tips in mind at your next networking event and see if you don’t start to see a huge increase in overall networking effectiveness.

I attend a lot of networking events as a young entrepreneur.

Most of them are local networking events put on by the chamber of commerce, young professionals organizations, or any other number of community events that I think might be good exposure for me or seedling company.

There is a time and place for the cold call or pressure pitch, but effective networking involves so much more than trying to perfect your sales pitch or make your next sale in a room full of other business people.

Networking is all about building real life relationships and creating credibility in the brand of you! Social networking is good but real world networking is still the real king. At least for a little while longer.

So if you are someone who is always looking to learn more, meet new people and build your personal network, then here are 12 tips that are field tested and battle approved to help you generate more leads at your next networking event.

1. Work the room

I know first hand how cliquey these things can get, so make sure you aren’t just showing up to talk to friends.

You want to make sure you are moving from conversation to conversation and group to group in order to meet as many new people as possible.

I’m not saying you can’t stop and chat with friends, clients, and other familiar faces but you should make sure you introduce yourself to a few new people at each event and make sure to make it around the whole room at least once.

2. Quit selling for a few hours

It wont take long to start being avoided like the plague if you go to networking events with the intent of selling people every time you talk to them.

Make it a point to get to know people and find out about what they do.

Be sure to ask a lot of questions. People always love to talk about themselves. What better way to make a five minute friend then to let them tell you everything about what they do.

3. Set a goal

Before the event you should have an idea in your mind of how many new people you want to talk to but be realistic.

Under no circumstances are you allowed to just walking around, randomly handing cards to everyone you see. Maybe meeting one person is an accomplishment for you. Good. Now you know. Start there and then work your way up as your networking ninja skills start to progress.

4. Talk to a stranger

You can see them wandering around aimlessly at almost every networking event.

Maybe you have even been that awkward person who is trying this networking thing out for the first time yourself.

Don’t be afraid to go up and talk to a random stranger, introduce yourself to someone new or pull someone in to your little group conversation. A friendly gesture like this goes a long way in the new persons eyes and is a signal of leadership to those around you!

5. Sometimes one is plenty

Just because you have a plan to meet a few new people doesn’t mean that if you meet one top level prospect you have to disengage from them in order to continue networking.

You should continue every conversation with anyone you think might be a good contact for you to make, even if it means chatting with them the entire event. You never know when you are going to hit it off with your next new client, referral source or heck, maybe even a new friend.

6. Keep a hit list

You should always have a number of top prospects in mind and know what they look like in case you get a chance to bump in to them at a networking event.

I’m not telling you to stalk anyone, that would be weird. But you won’t find a much better setting to approach someone you are interested in meeting than at an event where people are supposed to meet other people.

It is especially valuable if you have tried to reach out and contact them before. Maybe you have tried the old school unannounced visit at his office, a lead letter, email or a phone call but have not been able to get through. The networking event is a perfect setting to help them put a face to the name and possibly drive them to answer the next time you call.

7. Break up a clique

Don’t be afraid to approach the person you want to introduce yourself to, even if they are in a group talking to other people.

I’m not suggesting you to walk up and interrupt, and you should use your judgement when you think people might be having a private or personal conversation, but it would not be out of line for you to walk up, join their circle, and when appropriate introduce yourself.

8. Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself

If you are talking to someone and you feel the conversation is going nowhere or does not give you the opportunity to interject then don’t hesitate to excuse yourself and move on to the next conversation. After all, not everyone you want to meet, wants to meet you, especially if they are engaged in an intense conversation or chatting up one the people on their own hit list.

There is no reason to stand around in a group of people trying to meet someone if they are intentionally ignoring you or just leaving you out of the conversation. Walk away and meet someone else but don’t give up on them, you might just have to find a better time to approach.

9. To drink or not to drink? 

Me? I like to enjoy a brew almost anywhere, especially after work at a social networking event.

There is nothing wrong with having a couple drinks, but make sure you don’t cross that line. You know the line I am talking about.

Take it from a guy who’s made that mistake for you, try not to make an idiot of yourself in front of all these new people you have been working so hard to meet.

10. Be selective

There is such a thing as a serial networker.

You can easily fill your entire calendar with any number of networking groups, breakfast clubs, networking lunches and after hours events. It’s ok to explore different networking opportunities but focus your attention on the ones that actually give you an opportunity to network with people who can increase your overall influence and social reach.

11. Know the staff

Get to know the people that organize the events. The chamber staff, the committee volunteers, board members or anyone else that helps organize the networking events. They will be invaluable to you if you decide to get more involved or ever have any questions at an event. They are always willing to help and they usually know everyone in the room.

Not to mention it doesn’t hurt that you were nice to them when they are sitting around deciding which pictures make it in their monthly newsletter, magazine or Facebook page!

12. Follow up

Always make sure you follow up with any prospect you meet at a networking event. There’s a reason your contact information is on a business card.

Be sure to send a personalized email to everyone you met at the networking event. I always include a mention of anything we talked about, an invitation to meet for coffee or lunch. I close the email with a link to my website or a recent article from my blog and then take it from there.

Ultimate no-no: 

Under no circumstances does meeting someone at a networking event and getting their email off a business card authorize you to add them to your email lists! 

There is no better way to ensure that your email will be ignored than if you immediately start spamming someone.

Just be yourself, have fun and dont be shy. Think of it like this. You are actually doing someone a favor by approaching them because it saves them the trouble of having to come to you.



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