Finish Strong, but Start Stronger

We have all read so much information about finishing the year strong. Finishing strong is admirable and should be a goal for any business owner or leader. However, STARTING off strong should also be our focus. With just a few days left in 2016, our focus should now be shifting to how to start off strong and remain focused in 2017.

I believe in the power of momentum. What is in motion, often stays in motion. This is why morning rituals are so critical. It is often a predictor of how you spend your energy the rest of the day. The same theory applies with your year. Plan the first quarter of your year now, if you have not already. Create an undeniable momentum and see how your year takes off.

Below are 6 recommendations on how to start your year off STRONG in marketing your business or organization:

Develop Your Theme: Even if you don’t externally promote your theme for the year or the quarter, you should have it as part of your marketing plan for your or your team to remember. Having a meaningful theme helps to focus marketing efforts. Anything that does not help build or sustain your internal theme should be considered random acts of marketing. Discover your vision for the year, develop a theme that everyone can quickly remember and put your energy toward your theme.

Create Boundaries: This is a big one for me. I’m learning this as I’m type this blog. But I year 2017 written with sparkles, silhouette of a boy jumpingcan also write about it because I’ve experienced the detrimental effects when a business owner or leader does not create boundaries. In 2017, decide the type of boundaries you need to have a more successful and less stressful year. Will it require saying “no” more often? Refusing to work with certain clients that drain your time or energy? Creating specific work hours or days? One boundary I was proud of this year, is that I said no to work on Sundays. I broke that rule once and I felt horrible and somewhat resentful toward my client. She didn’t know and it was not her fault. It was up to me to establish that boundary. What are those things that brought you stress? Discover how to create boundaries around those issues.

Know Your Leads: If you are not focusing on leads, then you are not focusing on growth. Leads are your prospective clients or customers. Develop a plan on how to turn your leads into clients. Often we are so proud of our prospective clients or our followers, but we are not thinking strategically about how to turn them into loyal clients or customers. It is also important to know how long it takes your typical lead to make the decision to convert to a customer or client. For some industries and businesses, it may be just a few minutes, for other industries it may take several weeks. Normally the higher the risk or cost, the more time it takes to convert them. Know this and develop a plan.

Test and Measure: ROI (Return on Investment) is important. Sometimes it is difficult to measure, but think about what you can measure that will show some accomplishment or movement of some key goals. Marketing or branding is often hard to measure ROI, however, there are components that you can measure depending on your goals. For example, you may measure how your mailing list grows or the analytics of your newsletter. Are more people opening or clicking on the articles? How many people are calling per month? How many people have attended or visited your business or organization?

Don’t Discount… but Add Value: This was also a hard one for me. Discounts are sometimes necessary or can spark activity. However, don’t get into a perpetual cycle of discounting. This diminishes your value and sets the wrong expectations with your clients and customers. Some professionals never discount their services, the same with some products such as Apple. But, making sure you have value propositions is important. You can’t stand your ground on no discounts, but not add any significant value. The better you are, the more you KNOW how good you are, the fewer discounts you need to give.

Brainstorm Big: I LOVE brainstorming. When I meet with my clients, they will often hear me say “I’m just thinking out loud, you may not like this…” Brainstorming is not meant to perfect or right, but to expand your mind and take you down different paths. If something doesn’t feel right to you or you need a breakthrough….start brainstorming. I encourage you to kick off your year brainstorming and exploring the possibilities with your business or organization.

I hope this gets you started on a phenomenal year! Yes, end your year strong and do everything you can to feel proud of how you said goodbye to 2016. But don’t get too caught up on 2016. One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 43:18: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” Or another version says: “But forget all that–it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.” (NLT). The future is bright. Enter into 2017 with great expectations for your business or organization.

The Power of Storytelling in Branding & Marketing

Many of us love a good story.  We can be easily drawn in by the imagery, details and the rhythm of a story.  Stories tug at our emotions and draw us into a person, place or situation.  This is one of the reasons why storytelling is powerful in marketing and branding.  It helps your audience relate to your vision and mission.  People purchase and follow authentic stories.  Developing your story, as you develop and market your brand, is critical and breathes life into your brand.  It is what we often refer to as emotional storytellingbranding.  It gives a personal connection to your brand.

Below are some key points in storytelling in branding and marketing.  If you need further assistance with developing clarity, please feel free to call me:

  • Know Your Why. If you are an entrepreneur, you have heard this many times.  Don’t gloss over the process of knowing and gaining clarity on your why.  It is important to your overall story and helps demonstrate authenticity.  Do not make up a story; however, dig deep and ask yourself “why am I doing this?  What makes me happy about doing this?”
  • It’s Not Just About the Words. Colors, images and logos also tell a story.  Think about the great brand of Apple. It is about simplicity, both in how they operate and market.  They website, logo, colors, even Steve Jobs only wore one color.  Think about everything you allow your audience and followers to see and experience. This includes your events, podcasts and social media.  What is the story?
  • Develop Your Tone. As much as I would love to be, I am not a funny person.  Therefore, I don’t write my story like I am funny, I don’t try to be someone I am not.  My tone is casual, yet professional.  I seek to write clearly and simply.  I know my tone.  I’m aware of the brand I want to build, therefore, I build my story with that in mind.
  • Give Them Something to Do. Just like any other story, there are various parts to a story.  There is an introduction (set-up), the climax or conflict, and then the happy ending.  However, with branding, you also must give your audience a call to action.  You must give them something to do after they know your story.
  • Use Testimonials. Testimonials are powerful.  People who know your story and your why, or others that share the same story and walking the journey with you, can help contribute to the story.

If you need assistance developing your story, please contact me. Perhaps your company is already up and operating and your brand is already developed, keep in mind that as your brand grows or evolves, so will your story.  Feel free to schedule a complimentary consultation with me.

The Power and Purpose of #hashtags

Hashtags are a popular and effective marketing tool in social media.  However, so many people focus on being clever and cute with hashtags that they often ignore the power and strategy in using them.

The purpose of a hashtag is for your content and brand to be discovered.  It helps to create a commPower of the hashtagunity and pull other like-minded individuals and interests together. For example if you are a personal trainer and you use the hashtag #fitness on a picture – you will attract others that are interested in fitness. Hashtags used strategically can expand your brand, audience and your content… and remember… content is KING.  If you are going to market effectively, you must have content..and you must have content others can find.

Below are some reminders on using hashtags.

1.) Keep it simple:  We have all seen the long hashtags that either gets misspelled or we have to read and review a few times before we retype it.  Just like taglines, for a hashtag to be effective, it must be memorable and easy to use.  It is okay to create unique hashtags for your business or organization, but it also should be memorable and easily repeated. If it takes time for people to “get it” or “understand” the hashtag – then you are diluting your brand.

2.) Use trending hashtags: If there is a trending hashtag that relates to your business or organization, don’t be afraid to use that hashtag and join in with energy and trend.  You can find trending hashtags each day, several times a day on Twitter.  By using this strategy, someone may discover your organization or movement.

3.) Use it everywhere:  If you have a hashtag specific to your business or organization, be sure to use it everywhere and encourage your team and audience to use it, as well. You want people to understand your brand and spread the word. Use it in your posts, website, signature, etc.

4.) Don’t use too many: Using too many hashtags, as many often do on Instagram and Twitter, will dilute your interests, your focus and your message.  It is often seen as spam, as well.  Try to think strategically about your hashtags and keep it within 3-5 hashtags.

Hashtags, if used strategically, can expand your brand and amplify your content.  Take some time to think about your audience and who needs to see your content and use your hashtags #strategically.

Recharge Your Marketing at the End of the Year

I absolutely love celebrating the new year!  It is a great time to refocus andPlanning2 recharge, both professionally and personally. However, depending on your business or industry, marketing at the end of the year can be challenging. Below are a few suggestions for year-end marketing and how to get a jump on your new year.
Plan, plan, plan –  This is a great time to plan (and dream) for 2016.  Find time to get away by yourself or with your team and brainstorm on what you want to accomplish next year and begin planning it. There are a variety of marketing strategies and items you can be planning, ranging from content to advertising to social media.  For example, if you have a blog or podcast, now is a great time to plan out your content for at least the first half of 2016.
Trends – What are the top trends for 2016 in your industry?  As you are planning, think of how you can maximize that knowledge.  Perhaps as an article that you pitch to the media or as a blog on your website.  Establishing yourself as a thought leader by discussing trends is a great marketing and client development tactic.
Lessons – The end of the year is also a great time to review the year and highlight the lessons learned in various industries.  Not only can you discuss the future and what is to come, it is also a great time to review what happened and the lessons learned.
Recycle content that works – Highlight your top ten posts, blogs, videos or quotes.  Often people are busy and tired at the end of the year, so this is a great way to still promote and market. Take a step back during the last few months of the year and re-evaluate your top-performing pieces of content. Recycling content or repackaging it in a new way can be a great way to get more out of what you’ve already produced. 
Surveys – Do you know what your audience is thinking about?  Were they pleased with your company or organization?  What are THEIR goals for the new year?  What disappointed them in 2015?  Take this time to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE – a critical piece to any marketing or client development plan.
New Year Gifts – If you missed getting cards or client gifts out for Christmas, you can also reach out for the New Year.  This is a great time to reconnect with clients and find out what they are working on for the new year.
Remember… the end of year and the new year are excellent times to refocus and market your brand, your organization or company. If you need assistance with your marketing strategy for 2016, please contact me at lee@ashbyandwatts.com

Five Essentials for Building a Brand

When speaking to someone interested in starting a business, writing a book or leading an organization, inevitably the aspect of branding is discussed. Branding is one of my favorite marketing topics because branding is truly about emotion and connection. The strategies we use to create a brand should focus on creating a strong connection and relationship between the product/person/company and the customer or guest. More importantly, this strong connection creates customer loyalty.


To grow a business, brand or create loyal customers – a robust brand strategy is needed. This takes time and patience, however, it is absolutely necessary.

Below are essential keys needed for building any brand:

1.) Know the Strengths. Are you aware of your individual strengths or the strengths of your organization? If it is your individual brand, spend valuable time examining your strengths. Ask those closest to you about your strengths. The same holds true for your company. What are the strengths of the company? This may become clearer through surveys and focus groups, asking key customers, clients or guests key questions about the company or brand. If you are starting a company, find your target audience and discover what they value.

2.) Be Authentic. Authenticity is key in branding. This is knowing your strengths, as well as your weaknesses – but being perfectly okay with both. For example, Chick-fil-A does not try to make burgers or tacos. It has identified its strength, and probably its weaknesses, and they continually build on their strengths. They make really great chicken sandwiches with exceptional customer service. They don’t focus on making new sandwiches or twists on chicken sandwiches. As a result, they avoid their weaknesses and focus on the brand.

3.) Add Value. Whether it is an individual brand or company, be clear on the value you bring. Does your brand solve a problem or meet a need? Not only should the brand add value, but it should also differentiate you or your company from others. So many brands, organizations, services and products are competing for our attention. What will differentiate your brand from the others? It could the smallest thing that makes the difference. Discover “the thing” that will set your brand apart from others.

4.) Create an Emotion. What is the feeling you would like to invoke in your audience or clients? What emotion do you want your brand to feel? Dale Carnegie states: “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion.” Brand strategy should focus on building an emotion.

5.) Consistency is key. It is critical to reinforce the value, skills and expertise your brand brings. This should be communicated through your various marketing platforms. Consistency will help your prospective clients and customers, as well as your current clients, quickly know how to describe your business or your service. Consistency is also important for your visuals. Eventually you want customers to see your logo, your colors, as well as your fonts and formatting and know instinctively that it is your company.

If you are interested in creating a brand strategy for your company, organization or building your individual brand, please contact ashby & watts. We can help you connect the dots.