The Not-So-Secret to Brand Success

10.28 secret to brand marketing (blog)

There are no magical answers.

A few posts have recently emerged around this theme and when I start seeing patterns, it’s good to pay attention.

Too often, entrepreneurs, solo business owners – and yes, even large company CEO’s – think there is some magical cure to flagging sales, lack of brand awareness, or no clients knocking on the door. And so, they believe the claims like:

“Join my course and you will absolutely achieve six-figure success and prosperity!”
“Issue press releases every week and you will definitely get featured in The Wall Street Journa!l”
 “If you place one ad on my site, you will increase sales without lifting a finger!”
And often it turns out these courses, techniques, or masterminds are just fluff.
I’ve had enough. Haven’t you?

There are millions out there who will pay for a quick fix, an easy answer, a way to earn money without putting in the work. They claim it should be easy. Yes, it doesn’t always have to be rocket science, but when was the last time you saw someone achieve meteoric success without any real value, smarts, hard work or talent? I should clarify: lasting success because reality stars who are famous for being famous won’t (I hope) be here for long.

If you want to be a reality star, by all means, go ahead. Godspeed. I on the other hand prefer to use marketing for good rather than evil. I prefer to create marketing that delights, informs and tells the truth. I’d prefer to build a business based on real honest to God value for someone and if I do that for less people rather than duping millions, perhaps I’ll sleep better at night, knowing I created something real, good and valuable in the world.

Yes, your business should bring your joy. Yes, you shouldn’t have to slog if things don’t feel right. I’m all about only doing the marketing activities you enjoy (if they reach your target audience) or at least finding a way to make them enjoyable.

But I’m tired of the modern day snake oil salesmen, aren’t you? Tired of hyperbolic claims, tired of people charging thousands for something that won’t bring real value to a business. Of course, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. And you can only find value if you do the work someone ifsteaching you.

But I guess that’s my point. The not-so-secret to brand success? DO. THE. WORK.

Bring the value. Be authentic, be vulnerable, be unique but the most successful folks I know are finding joy in their business while also providing real value for their clients and customers.

Marketing is not about lying to people. It can be used for good rather than evil (Tweet this!)

Image credit to Jerry Swiatek via Flickr

7 questions to help you ruthlessly prioritize

10-14-14 Prioritize (blog)

“Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today.”

How quaint.

I used to live by this mantra. But in today’s world of 24/7 smart phone access, juggling business/kids/relationship/self-care/community and an avalanche of data coming at us, it’s not really sound advice for staying sane.

As a new mama who owns her own business, I have graduated to a whole new level of “prioritization.” Whereas before I was overwhelmed by choices on when to write, create, strategize, serve clients, invent a new course, conduct a webcast…. limited pockets of time these days force the most basic decisions: Do I wash my hair or feed my son before daycare? Do I do a load of laundry, pay the bills, or finish that blog post? Do I eat or shower?

These days, you’ve gotta practice “ruthless prioritization.” (Tweet this!) Here’s how:

Something that has helped this Type A overachiever has been to ask myself 7 key questions before any task. Depending on the answer, you can decide to:

  • Do it right away
  • Do it by day’s end
  • Schedule it
  • Outsource it
  • Say no
  • Ignore it

When you’re having one of those crazy, busy, fire-drill days where it feels like your to-do list is as daunting as Mt. Everest, ask yourself these questions before doing each task. You may just feel lighter, less stressed and more in control:

  1. Is someone I care about depending on this and by a certain time? The key words here are “someone I care about and “depending.” This could be a client, a vital partner or a family member who truly needs you and needs you now. If you get asked for a favor by someone you barely know that will take time away from more important tasks, it can wait…or be politely turned down. When I choose to skip a shower on a crazy busy morning so I can feed my baby on time –  well, that’s  pretty much a no-brainer. The boy needs food. But please remember: often, someone else’s urgency does not constitute an emergency on your part – unless you choose to let it.
  2. Can I quickly deal with it and get it off my plate? When someone emails me for the name and number of that great designer I know, it takes me 2 seconds to send them the person’s contact card. Simple. Done.  If they want me to send an email introducing the two of them – something I may want to spend some thought on – well, that can wait until tomorrow.
  3. Does it generate revenue? We small business owners tend to waste time and energy on things that are not adding to our bottom line, which is sometimes totally okay. But on busy days, given a choice between updating a website page or conducting a paid client call….well, I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the money.
  4. Is there a point-of-no-return consequence for not dealing with this today? If a reporter from The Wall Street Journal asks for an interview today, heck yeah, make time for the call. You’re on their deadline and you could miss your shot at national press. If someone from a blog you’ve never heard of before emails you out of the blue and asks you to fill out a 10 question email interview?  You can schedule time to deal with that next week – and if they won’t wait, so be it. Other tasks in this category can include “Gotta pick up my only suit from the dry cleaner by closing time before my big meeting tomorrow” versus  “A colleague wants to brainstorm about a joint event that is not taking place for another 6 months.”
  5. Am I the only one who can personally handle this? Do you really have to be the one doing it? If not, give it to your virtual assistant, refer it to a colleague, or hire someone from TaskRabbit or Fiverr to deal with it.
  6. What happens if I say no?  Sometimes we think we have to do something when really, it’s just our own internal pressure.  I used to freak out if I missed a week of posting to my blog. But, really…is it a case of life or death if I miss a week to deal with something more important? Will my readers riot and take to the streets just because Red Slice did not post something new this week? The realistic answer is no. Everyone’s busy and while consistency is important, the sky won’t fall because my blog is not the most important thing in my readers’ world each week (but if it is, that’s totally cool…)
  7. Will it help me breathe easier? Sometimes, I choose to spend time catching up on email or another solitary project over the weekend simply because it takes a weight off my shoulders and allows me to relax.  So my husband and I sometimes schedule a “work hour” on Sundays and then put our laptops away. The payoff is an easier, breezier return to Monday.

So tell me: How do you manage your endless to-do list? What tips and tricks help you keep your head above water? Please share in the Comments below!

Photo Credited to Antoine Beauvillain via Unsplash.

Which idea should you start on next? A handy worksheet for you…

Do you find yourself drowning in great ideas but unable to implement any of them because you’re either paralyzed by choice or you’re too stuck on fighting today’s fires?

Yeah, me too. Creativity is awesome until it starts to overwhelm you. (Tweet this!)

Today’s guest post comes from Michelle Nickolaisen, creator of Bombschelle. Michelle makes systems/productivity/organization/all that incredibly boring sounding stuff incredibly NOT boring so that you + your biz can reap the rewards.She’s worked with six figure business owners behind the scenes and helped them take their business to a new level without stressing out about it. She also teaches, consults and helps organize product launches.

Michelle believes that “organized” and “creative” can co-exist in perfect harmony. Read on for her practical advice on combing through the ideas in your head and determining which ones can/should be actioned:


One of those problems-that’s-kinda-good-to-have is the problem of too many ideas. On the one hand, it’s something of a blessing to have all of these ideas zipping around your head like hyperactive kittens with a ball of string. On the other hand, it can also be headache inducing and give you the paralyzing fear of not knowing which idea to start on next. If you’re paralyzed, you’re not taking action; and if you’re not taking action, those ideas don’t end up doing any good.

How do you pick one idea to start on next? For those of us who have this problem, it can be incredibly difficult to put one on the backburner. We want to work on everything at the same time and create amazing things, but that’s not always possible (and can often just lead to not finishing any of the ideas you’re working on – especially if you’re not a meticulous planner).

The secret is to look to your priorities to show you which idea to work on next. This might be fairly obvious and sound like a great idea, but can be hard to carry out in practice. So instead of just telling you that and leaving you hanging, I’m going to show you a process for figuring out what, exactly, your priorities are right now, and how that fits in with the ideas running around in your head.

Go ahead and download this worksheet to help you with the process, and grab a pen & paper. (Alternately, you can just write through this without the worksheet. Whatever floats your boat!)

Write down all of your current ideas that you’re having trouble choosing between. You don’t have to write down the idea in intricate detail, but enough so that upon referring back to this, you’ll know exactly which idea you were speaking of. After you write down all of your ideas, go back through, and for each idea write down two things:

  • What you’ll get from working on the idea and bringing it to fruition. Money? Pride? Fun? Respect? Two or three of these? Whatever it is, write it down.
  • An approximate estimate for how long it will take you to complete this idea. Be realistic, but try not to give yourself too much wiggle room. Think about your current and upcoming commitments, how much free time and energy they’ll leave you, and how flexible all of these things are.

After you finish that, set it aside.

We’re going to zoom out now. Think about what you want to be doing, how you want to feel, and what you want to have in the next one, three, and six months. (Otherwise known as your goals – but thinking of it in these terms can bring things into super-clear focus.) Write this down, in detail.

Look at what you wrote down, and pick out the common threads – usually there will be two or three. These are your top priorities for the next several months. Now, keeping these priorities in mind, skim back over your answers for what you’ll get from working on each idea. And then figure out which idea matches best with your current priorities – and can be completed within the next 1-6 months. If there’s more than one idea that suits the requirements, choose the one that you’re most excited about, or that you can finish first – this’ll build momentum that can transfer over into working on your other ideas.

(Of course, it is possible to be working on more than one thing at once! And many people do it incredibly well. If you’re one of these people, you can use this advice to help choose which idea to make your top priority, letting the others take more of a “back burner” status – working on them when you have the time, energy, & inclination to do so.)

In the meantime, you need to do something with the ideas that you aren’t working on at the moment. Part of the reason we can have such an inordinately hard time choosing one idea to work on is that we feel that by doing so, we’re abandoning the other ideas. If you do something that ensures you can come back to those other ideas later, you’re a lot more likely to be able to commit to working on this one idea for now. The best way to do this is to just take your descriptions of the ideas that you’ve already written and store them somewhere – whether online or off. They can be the start of your idea garden, and you can add new ideas as you come up with them.

In case you missed the link above, you can download your worksheet here. And follow Michelle @_chelleshock

Photo credit: Lamantin on Flickr

Can you relate to drowning in good ideas? How do you decide which to choose? Which one insight did you glean from this article? Please share in the Comments!

How to finish: 5 tips for making wild dreams come true

It’s February, which means about 80% of your New Year’s goals are already shot, right? Why is dreaming up our big ideas so much easier than making them happen? Today’s insightful guest post from entrepreneur and content marketing expert Betsy Talbot will change all that.

When you embark on a big project for your business, even one as essential (and fun!) as branding, it’s easy to get lost in the details and spin out of control. Either your list of actions or decisions grows so big you can’t possibly finish it (so you don’t even start), or you make a serious dent in the list but run out of steam before you finish.

It is frustrating to be gung-ho about something important and watch it wither away to apathy or outright frustration before it is finished.

My husband Warren and I are pros at getting things done. It has always been true, but it is even more so since we first had the idea to travel the world in 2008. We eventually made our journey into a lifestyle media business called Married with Luggage that we kept for many years (we retired it to pursue other entrepreneurial ventures), and we created books and videos to show other people how to create the life they really want from the life they already have. We challenged ourselves personally and creatively to do new things, publicly and privately, and we mostly succeed.

I’m not writing this to brag. I’m writing because people notice these things, and we get this question a lot via email and in person:

Why do we accomplish so many of our personal and business goals while other people struggle to even get started on theirs?

While we’d like to think it is because we are superhuman (only because we could then justify wearing shiny costumes and capes), the answer is much more practical.

In fact, it consists of just 5 basic steps which I’m going to share with you today. Tip #1 is…

1. Goals have deadlines

In our book, Dream Save Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers, my husband Warren and I wrote that a dream without a deadline is already dead. This is true if your goal is as big as a trip around the world or as small as making one sales call per day.

After you’ve determined a goal, whether it is to move, start a side business, paint your house, save money, get a new job, or lose weight, the first step is giving yourself a finish date. Without it, you won’t push yourself to get it done, no matter how much you want it. The status quo and routine of life is too comforting, too hard to break out of, without a specific reason to do so.

When we start a writing project, the first step is to give ourselves a publish date. From the very first word of the project, we know when it is due and how many words have to be written each day to make it happen. When we decide to travel to a new destination, we pick a date to go/arrive. We may leave a lot of details open after we decide to do something, but we never shrink back from a deadline.

The action of setting a date propels you to begin the work to make your goal a reality. (Tweet this!)

2. Take action on dreams every single day

You can’t really be part-time about your goals and dreams or you’ll never reach them. Many people think life is changed by big steps, huge events, and giant milestones, but the truth is that big, lasting change happens in the tiny steps and choices you make every single day. The cumulative effect of those small steps is what brings about the milestones and big leaps everyone around you thinks happened overnight.

Before we left on this journey in 2010, we sold a few possessions every single week for 2 years. Creating Craigslist ads isn’t glamorous, but it took this daily attention to decluttering to free us up to leave (and pad our bank account at the same time).

Now we use the same strategy to carve out time to write books, set up an editorial calendar, manage our websites, edit photographs, practice languages, exercise, market our books, and contribute to other websites. We also make time to connect with our friends and family around the world every week. Most people think we’re on permanent vacation, but it is because we do these essential things that we continue to live a life of travel and experience.

You don’t get something for nothing.

The small actions you take on your goals every single day are a better predictor of overall success than your perfectly drafted plans or good intentions. (Tweet this!)

3. Don’t be afraid to try something new or make a mistake

When you want to accomplish more things, it means you’ll be doing more. It may sound simple to spell it out like that, but people forget. And when the things you want to get done are new to you, you are bound to make mistakes.

Warren and I screw up regularly, but we typically don’t screw up twice on the same thing. The key in all this new activity is to learn from what works as well as what doesn’t so you continually improve as you go. When you eventually become good at one thing, it opens up space in your life to become a beginner at something else.

When we were in Peru we signed up for our first multi-day trek. We had zero experience other than walking, and we came very ill-equipped to handle the rigors of the journey. We were wet and tired every single day – we didn’t even bring rain gear during the rainy season! – but we learned a lot. Since then, we’ve become pros at trekking and do it all over the world.

The key is to never stop making mistakes because it means you’ve stopped trying new things. (Tweet this!)

4. Know how to take negative feedback

Opinions are like asses: everyone’s got one. And sometimes the person giving you his opinion is an asshole. But getting things done requires a certain amount of rubber to your skin. You will always have critics, even when you do amazing things (Campbell’s Soup says thousands will lose jobs after Betsy Talbot selfishly cures common cold! Details at 11.). Sometimes the feedback is justified and you can learn from it, making you or your project better, and other times you’re going to just have to let it bounce off.

The key is divorcing your personal feelings of worth from feedback on your endeavors, both good and bad. Failure or mistakes on a project do not equate to failures or mistakes as a human being. This is also when you discover that some people will love what you are doing for the exact same reasons others hate it. You will never please everyone, and knowing this from the start will help you keep moving – and learning – when negative feedback starts.

When you can step to the side and view feedback in a more objective way, it allows you to glean the lessons and discard the trash quickly and productively. (Tweet this!)

5. Track actions and results

Whether you geek out like we do with a spreadsheet or you journal your progress creatively with video or art, staying on track with a goal requires tracking. If your project is longer than a day, you will forget what you’ve done, the brainstorms you had for what to do next, or the ideas others contribute along the way. Tracking also keeps you from veering off into unnecessary tasks as your attention wanders.

Weight Watchers has built their entire business around tracking food and calorie intake daily and weighing weekly. Athletes keep track of their personal best performance times so they can improve. Project managers track everything from software development to building houses.

We keep track of the metrics on our website, Facebook page, and book sales, learning what works and what doesn’t. We track our pitches to other websites, radio, and magazines. We monitor our daily writing counts when working on a book. We make a list of all the things we want to see/eat/do when we arrive in a new location so we won’t forget.

It can be as simple as a small notebook or as elaborate as a software program.

You’ll reach your goals faster if you know what to do, when to do it, and what happens as a result of doing it. (Tweet this!)

How you can get more things done

Whether you have one big dream in mind or just want to accomplish more of the small stuff on a regular basis, these 5 habits will create the perfect environment to make it happen. We work these habits every day, and they have given us a life we once only dreamed of. (In fact, that’s why we never had it before: we were only dreaming!)

  • Set a firm deadline
  • Take daily action on your goals
  • Don’t be afraid of mistakes and trying new things
  • Learn from negative feedback (and ignore it when there is nothing to learn)
  • Track your actions and results

Betsy and Warren Talbot show people every day how to make their biggest dreams a reality with practical, step-by-step advice that works. Check out their book, Dream Save Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers, to find out how you can make your wildest dreams a reality. (EDITORIAL NOTE: It’s fantastic!) 

Which one tip will you put into practice today to make your dreams a reality? Tweet me @redslice and let me know!