When I was in high school, there were two factions with regard to Nike. In one, you might shoot someone or get shot for a pair of Air Jordans. In the other, you wouldn't touch a pair of Nikes and you wrote letters to headquarters about their overseas labor practices.
There wasn't much in between.
Once we got past that time, Nike got beyond their corporate reputation and focused on their branding. They had some pretty cool ads for a while, but then they did something I love: messaging.
Like in the Michael Jordan failure ad.
Jordan isn't exactly someone we associate with failure.
"Find your greatness" is a no-brainer with the Olympics. Olympic athletes are great, and one of my favorite things about the Olympics is the ability for me to watch sports I don't get to see often. Handball. Water polo. That kind of stuff.
Great athletes play those sports, and while they might be as athletic as Michael Jordan, they'll never reach his level of fame, wealth or just general ubiquity.
With that, though, is a series of ads featuring regular people finding their own greatness. Like an overweight 12-year-old from London, Ohio, trying to drop some pounds getting into jogging.
While I see a lot of athletes in my day-to-day life (pro athletes, people who run marathons and do triathlons for fun like it's their life), more than two-thirds of the people I see are like Nathan.
They're finding their own greatness.
Let's be clear, too, that this isn't just about sport, it's about life. Your greatness is within reach, you just have to find it.
I got off the softball diamond this morning to this text message from a Syracuse-area phone number I don't recognize:
Im starting new business managing estate sales. Where can I get a business cards?
Here are the things that bother me about this message.
Don't make an inquiry by text message unless you know it's the right way to ask. First, don't assume, unless we regularly text back and forth, that I know who you are. At least tell me who it is asking. Also note that texting is the least professional way to go, so unless we've explicitly had a conversation that included the phrase, "Text me if you ever need something business-related."
Be professional in your asking. The grammar in this text message is terrible. If you know me, you probably know I'm a grammar guy. And if you don't know that, assume it anyway. You're representing your business poorly, and I'm less likely to want to help you if I think you're going to half-ass things (because you've definitely initiated the conversation in a half-assed manner).
Don't assume I'm going to give you free advice. I give away a lot of good information that I have in my head. I do it willingly, and happily, and I think it's important. I assume your business model is not managing estate sales for free. So why assume I'm willing to give you free advice? An initial consultation with me will cost you $150, and if you hire me, that will be put toward your project cost, but I don't go around giving away good ideas for nothing.
Ask yourself if you really need to ask the question. If you were asking specifically about where I got my business cards, or if I knew any locally owned design-and-print shops I would recommend, that would be one thing. But where to get business cards in general? How lazy can you be? Use Google. Or the phone book. Why would I do your leg work for the simple stuff?
Where to get business cards
You want free advice on business cards? Here are some options. And now, whoever you are, you'll need to share my advice with everybody.
Locally owned. I would start by searching the Syracuse First business directory. Not only are all the businesses in the directory locally owned, they have specifically said, "I want to be recognized as a local business, and I support local businesses."
Also, check out Dock 2 Letterpress. They're a Rochester-area design firm with an honest-to-goodness moveable type press in their warehouse. They do some awesome stuff.
Free. Go to VistaPrint. They have a whole bunch of free templates. You pay shipping, and they put their advertising on the back (you can pay to get the advertising taken off).
Cookie cutter. Walk into your local Staples, Office Max, Kinko's or any other print shop. They'll walk you through putting together a business card and they'll print them for you.
Business card tips
A couple of things you should do.
• Proof your cards before they go to press. I've seen some really bad proofs, and I've had cards handed to me without phone numbers, with spelling mistakes, and without names, among other things. Big no-no.
• Make your business card stand out. Make it an unusual shape (but still make it easy to carry). Add a QR code, or a fun photo. Or print something funny on it so that I'll keep it in mind.
• Make it clear what you do. I have two primary business cards. One says "Community Manager, Gold's Gym." It lets you know I'm employed by a gym, and I'm their community manager. I have another that says "Internet Marketing Consultant." It lets you know that I consult with people and businesses on marketing, particularly in the online realm. It does not say "free advice for lazy business owners."
What is Brand You? In Morgan Spurlock's TED talk (above), there's one segment in which he goes around and asks people what their brand is. They primarily define their brands by their clothing and hair styles. He also asks the folks who market Ban deodorant how they describe their brand – and they couldn't, mostly because you put their product in your armpits to keep you from stinking (although Axe seems to have been able to define their brand just fine, thanks, even though they're essentially the same product).
So, what is Brand You? If you buy into the whole Fight Club "revolution" of you are not your job, you are not your clothes, you are not your possessions, how do you describe your brand?
Brand Josh is passionate, creative, energetic, hardworking and generally likeable. How do I know? I work hard at being those things. I have a fair bit of self-knowledge because I've worked on it, and I listen to the feedback of people around me.
Which brings me to Chris Brogan's recent post on Gary Vaynerchuk. (Now there's linkbait if I ever saw it: both of them in one sentence?) I've never had a face-to-face conversation with either of these gentlemen, but I think they're both really smart. And I think they're really smart because of what I see of them – the face of their personal brands.
Maybe 10 years ago we didn't think about our personalities as brands, but we most definitely do now. We may have always been selling an image – through our hairstyles, our clothes, our circles of friends, the music we listen(ed) to, the sports we play(ed) – but only in the past few years have we been able to market that image worldwide, and actually been able to make it pay off financially.
So what is Brand You? Are you what you do or what you look like? Are are you how you do? And what of other brands you represent? Can you be the face of a business brand and still have an individual Brand You? (For the record, as a community manager, I believe you can; I may be building a local gym's brand, but I'm definitely Brand Josh both inside and outside the gym's walls and website.)
You recognize that you need to be on social media. Your neighbor business to your left is bringing in new business after spending a year meeting locals on Twitter, then in real life, and the referrals just keep rolling in. The neighbor to your right is killing it with coupons they upload to their Facebook page and ask customers to print out. The folks across the street have had these Foursquare stickers in their windows for weeks and you see everyone who walks through their door whip out a mobile phone.
You haven't lost when it comes to social media, you're just not winning. You're behind, and you don't have the time, the inclination, or the knowledge (or some combination of those) to get going now. You'd like to bring someone in-house to be your community manager, but how do you find these people?
On the one hand, that person might already work for you. If you listen to your employees' conversations and you've heard words like "Twitter" and "location-based" sprinkled between the words you understand, you might have yourself a community manager.
On the other hand, talk to your customers. If you have customers who have been coming through your door for four or five years, you recognize them, you might make small talk, you might even know a lot about them. The one thing you can be sure of, though, is that these customers are loyal to your brand. They like you, your products, and/or your prices. Something about your business keeps those customers coming back. One of them might be the perfect brand ambassador for you.
I've recently taken a job as a community manager at the Gold's Gym franchise in Dewitt, New York. I've been a member there for five years; I really believe in what they do. I like the way they operate. I like the people. I'd already known many of the staff members and already recognized a lot of the gym members when I joined the staff. With the exception of the details (logging such-and-such in this book, using UPC A in Case 1 and UPC B in Case 2), I already had a good idea of how the gym operated.
In this case, I approached the gym; if someone who fit that description approached you, knowing you needed the social side and willing to do other things you needed, you'd likely have a hard time saying no. On the other hand, could you just reach out and ask someone? Try it. It might get you far.
I came across one of these notepads from the SUNY Oswego Metro Center (I snipped that image above; I figured you'd get the idea even if I didn't include all 20ish lines on the piece of paper). I love the Metro Center. It gives people the opportunity to take classes downtown. It opens its doors to groups like 40 Below. I even love these notepads: they're a good size, bigger than a shopping list, smaller than a journal. I even really like Amber Spain-Mosher, who handles the marketing for them.
But the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn logos at the bottom caught my eye. Because in order to find them, we're supposed to search those sites. And that's fine – if you make yourself easy to find.
Facebook. Facebook has a really good search. In fact, as I was typing, it pre-filled the SUNY Oswego Metro Center page. Very good. The one problem is, take a look at the profile image they use – it's the statue in Clinton Square and The Post-Standard building, as taken from the front of the Atrium, which is the building that houses the Metro Center. There's no way to visually identify the Metro Center when you land on the Facebook page.
Twitter. Twitter has good content search. I ran two different searches and didn't find the SUNY Oswego Metro Center account. For the first search, I simply typed suny oswego metro center in the search box that runs in the right-hand column of a Twitter page. My only result was someone who checked into the Metro Center recently on Foursquare. Then I went to "Find People" and searched for suny oswego metro center (most people search lower case; so do I). I wound up with a list of 20 accounts, including CNN Weather and NASA's Stennis Center, but not SUNY Oswego Metro Center's account.
LinkedIn. You have to know how to search LinkedIn in order to be effective. It's actually fairly difficult. The search defaults to searching people, and it's an all-word search. When I searched for suny oswego metro center under people, I got six results – two were people who worked there (one as a graduate assistant), and the other four had gone to SUNY Oswego and had worked at places that included Metro Center in their name. Next, I tried to search under Companies, and received zero search results (they'd be combined under the SUNY Oswego umbrella).
There are a couple of ways to solve that. One is to list URLs. Unless 1,000 people like your page, that's unwieldy on Facebook (unless, of course, you were to buy MyBusinessNameOnFacebook.com and redirect it to your Facebook page), but then Facebook's search is actually good. My business cards don't list my Facebook URL, but they do list my company website, my blog, my Twitter and my LinkedIn.
Another way is to build a QR code (like the one on the left there). You can include a lot of information (about 1500 alphanumeric characters) in not very much space. As the smart phone market grows (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Palm, etc.), just about anybody is going to be able to read one of these – all they need is to download a free app and have an auto-focus camera. Most applications will give you a button to just add the information to your address book.
What challenges do you face when trying to market your online presence in an offline environment?