Mother Teresa vs. King Kong: Connecting with Different Personality Types

Guest post by Andrea Nierenberg
Author of Million Dollar Networking: The Sure Way to Find, Grow, and Keep Your Business
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

It's almost impossible to like all the prospects and clients we need to connect with. However, it's possible to make the effort to network with people by adjusting our approach, no matter how sweet or sour their personality.

Communication Styles and Personality Types
Effective salespeople need to be aware of the communication styles and personality types of their potential customers. Whether you find other people's styles welcoming or offensive, it's your responsibility to adjust accordingly to make a positive connection. The sales people who are the best at this skill, know their own style, with its strengths and weaknesses, and have learned to recognize and honor other people's styles of communication. Refining this talent is especially important when it comes to networking because often you need to have little time to decide how the other person wants to be approached. However, a good place to start it to reassess your communication style. 

You Have to Take the Lead When Meeting New Prospects
Sometimes trying to commune with someone who communicates differently from the way we do is like two ships passing in the night. We don't understand them, and they don't understand us. 

To communicate effectively, you need to be the first one who is ready to alter the way you communicate. Once I was in France and was trying to communicate with a shopkeeper. I thought that if I spoke louder and more slowly in English, she would understand me. Of course, there was no way she could. The louder and more slowly I talked, the more frustrating it was for both of us. I needed to alter my style (talking at a regular volume in English) and try something else she could understand, such as pointing, gesturing, and smiling. 
The frustration I felt before I altered my style is exactly the same feeling we have when we many of us don't connect with a prospect or client. We may be in our own country and speaking the same language, yet our communication styles are so different that we have a hard time making a connection. We need to understand and adapt our style to communicate effectively. I am a bottom-line person. Often I see the big picture first and then find a way to go for it.

Think about how you like to give and get information. What is your preferred communication style? How has your boss, various co-workers, your subordinates, even your spouse reacted to your style? Has more than one person said that you are clear, sometime confusing, too soft spoken or aggressive? If you've ever been frustrated trying to communicate something when the other person just didn't get it, could it be something you are doing? In order to decide where you'll need to adapt will require discovering the other person style. Keep in mind, people won't tell you their style. 

Recognizing Personality Types
In addition to being aware of your communication style, a good sales professional adjusts to other people's personality types. Some people are more sensitive, to the concerns and feeling of others; others are more bottom line- or results-oriented. Still others are interested in and concerned with details and the way things work. 

There are ways to identify personality and temperamental categories that predict how people react and relate to each other. One very popular personality style indicator used by many companies is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I also use the DISC® profile, which explores behavioral issues. It is an effective tool for understanding personality traits and styles. However, most interactions won't give you the luxury of such elaborate tests. Therefore, a shortcut is to be a careful listener and observe behaviors (mostly body language). Like anything else to do this faster, takes practice.

For example, I once walked into a corporate conference room and found myself giving three different presentations at the same time! I was there to present a training proposal to three top level executives in the company. Having met them all and through careful observation and listening, I knew each had a very different personality style. My main goal (besides selling my program) was to speak to their needs and convey the benefits to each one. Therefore, I needed to adjust my presentation to each one individually. As I spoke with each one, I
switched the way I conveyed the information I was giving to match his or her personality. 

Here's my research and how I used it to make a better sales presentation with those three very different personality types at the same meeting:

The head of human resources and training was amiable in her approach. What I remembered most about her was her comment to me about being sure to "get everyone involved" and her obvious caring and concern for all the employees. Clearly, I had to focus my presentation to her on the personal benefits for her employees and to make sure she felt that the time her employees spent in training would be worthwhile for their growth and development. 
The chief financial officer, however, was interested in the return on investment he expected from my program. In addition, he wanted details and numbers. I decided to give him the same proposal that I had given to the head of human resources but to include a specific outline for each module, with costs clearly defined. The more data I presented to him, the better! 
The CEO told me he had only six minutes to hear me out. (I actually clocked how long he was in the room, and it was exactly six minutes!) All he wanted to know was, "What are my people going to learn?" and "How much will it cost?" I was prepared with the same presentation (in case he had questions), but I gave him only the executive summary: a brief, succinct paragraph followed by bullet points and the bottom line. 
These were three very different people-all wanting the same thing yet needing it delivered in three very different ways. To succeed, I had to read each person carefully and provide him or her with exactly what that person wanted to hear. 

Later, after I had done several programs with this firm, each person told me separately how much he or she enjoyed our working relationship because, "We communicate in exactly the same way." I smiled to myself, knowing that my extra work and effort to understand each personality type was well worth it!

Traits of Common Personality Types (based on the DISC® personality indicator system)

Dominant: Bottom line-oriented, competitive, direct
Makes decisions quickly
Best approach to use: 
-Focus on the "what"
-Be efficient
Influencer: Persuasive, animated, expressive, emotional
Enjoys helping others
Best approach to use:
- Focus on the "who" 
- Be empathetic
Steady: Patient, agreeable, amiable, quiet
Is very dependable
Best approach to use:
-Focus on the "how"
-Be supportive
Conscientious: Compliant, cautious, accurate, analytical
Likes lots of details
Best approach to use:
-Focus on the "why"
- Be logical

Not a Chameleon
As a sales professional, you often have no control whether your prospects or clients will be a "Mother Teresa" or a "King Kong." And if you simply mimic the other person's style you'll come across as manipulative and insincere. (Besides, people who know you might this you're a little "crazy" when they see you change personalities). Therefore, my advice does not advocate constantly changing your personality. Rather, I'm recommending a positive, sincere, and proactive approach to understanding a client's or prospect's feelings and traits. You want to appear empathetic not opportunistic. The dictionary definition of empathy is "the action or understanding, being aware of…the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another…" Therefore, to become empathetic, just be aware of communication styles and personality types. Who knows, you may be making a sales call on Donald Trump or Martha Stewart. Will you be ready to connect?

In Favor of Work Why Women Shouldn't Be Opting Out

Guest post by Ann Marlowe
Author of The Book of Trouble: A Romance

A lot of women who are unhappy with their work lives will say something along these lines: business is hell, and no one in their right mind would want to do it, and men only do it because they have to. That women are the only ones able to see straight, or allowed to act on their seeing straight. That anyone in his or her right mind would RATHER be at home with the kids. (Of course, men don't have the option of not working, or not providing for their families. Men don't have the cultural permission to blame their lack of perseverance on anything but themselves.)

We hear this argument a lot. I would like to make the opposite argument for a change. I would like to suggest that women are not acting in their own best interests by being so cynical about business. They are short-changing themselves, not just in terms of financial independence and the rewards of a higher income, not just if they get divorced and end up with a reduced standard of living, but in terms of their personal development.

The men, as they more or less stoically struggle onward, come to realize that "endless meetings" are the stuff of life in the business world; that other people are not an obstacle to getting one's job done, they're the reason you have a job. The men see the hostility in the faces of their rivals and still persevere, befriending or neutralizing or ignoring or going head to head with them. Gradually, and not without grave errors along the way, they grow into mentors and leaders. 

They see that the occasional opportunities for promoting a subordinate to a job worthy of her talents, teaching younger colleagues, or firing a selfish or abusive manager are the forms of ethical action that their path has provided for them, and that they are not small or unworthy challenges. Men learn that a top job is demanding and consuming in the same way that the work of an artist is, because being a high level executive is an art, and one that few are talented enough to pursue. 

Only a tiny number of the men will make it to the top, of course. Those who drop by the wayside at some stage may gladly or not so gladly accept a subordinate position, leave for a smaller company, start their own business, change careers radically. But they will have all learned something, not least of all about themselves. 

I do NOT mean to suggest that making money is the only worthwhile goal on earth. Quite the contrary. Art, science, politics, public service, caring for the sick, raising children - there are good arguments to be made that each or all of these are more important and noble. The fact remains, though, that most of us work in business jobs, and whatever meaning we can extract from those forty hours a week is what we have to subsist on. And it's not a poor diet. 

Those who would tell you that the deck is stacked should be ignored. If every child had to decide to walk based on whether or not she would be a champion runner, most of us would still be crawling. Of course the deck is stacked: there is only one CEO of every company. Any person's chances of heading a major firm are low. But just as most of us enjoy walking, most of us can enjoy working. It's the journey that counts. And if you don't make it to the top, the reason isn't likely to be your gender. 

What Is A Brand

Guest post by Anna Lieber

A Daycare Center promises moms to care for their children as if they are their own. A CPA promises clients financial expertise, honesty and integrity. What is your brand promise? 

The Daycare Center’s brand personality reflects its service: lively, colorful and fun. The CPA’s brand materials project reliability, trust and stability. Does your brand personality look and feel authentic? 

Each time someone touches your brand, it makes an impression. So each point of contact is a genuine opportunity – whether prospects receive your promotion, hear your pitch or voice message, visit your site or try out your product or service. Are you making the most of each
brand touch point? 

A brand is an emotional attachment which fosters loyalty. Every connection must contribute a positive feeling to the relationship. A brand aims to be engaging, informative, memorable and compelling. Is your brand gaining loyalty and market share? 

Your brand should project a unified, compelling message throughout all channels. It’s built over time through research, self-analysis and focused development. The CEO is the leader of the brand but in large organizations, the CEO gets help from Marketing and Brand Directors. 
Are you leading your brand? 

Think of this. If Coca Cola suddenly lost all its factories, production plants and materials, it could rebuild. But if it were to lose its collective brand memory with consumers, the company would go under. Need we say more?

Stands for one thing and one thing only. 
Focus is everything. 

Knows it’s audience. 
Who are you selling. What do they want? 

Knows what it’s talking about. 
Information is power. Stay informed.

Communicates a consistent message. 
Repetition is everything.

Never copies the competition. 
Innovate. Lead by being different. 

Is visually compelling and verbally engaging. 
Good design and creative copy are everything.

Uses show and tell, rather than sell. 
Demonstrate, give samples but don’t bore us.

12 Web Site Errors: Are You Guilty?

Guest post by Anna Lieber

Do you fix cars and do dentistry also? Don’t practice on your web site. Find an expert developer. Poor web design speaks to the world.

Nothing turns a prospect off faster than getting lost in a maze of tricky sub-pages. The home page should be a direct link to all features. Elegance is simplicity and a Simple interface translates to positive user experience. 

Nothing says amateur hour and undermines credibility more than a domain that ends in some fly-by-night company name. And a known telecom advertises their brand, not yours. Get a domain. 

If you don’t write well, engage a writer. Poor grammar, spelling, and technical jargon are a turn-off. Be relentless in proofreading. 

A recent study cites 79% of web users scan. Only 15% read every word. Lengthy prose won’t cut it in cyberspace. Sound bites and good headlines will. Half of your print word count works. So does one idea per paragraph. Where’s that writer?

It’s not just about you or promotional fluff. What’s in it for the user? Is your site informative and relevant? Why should they come back?

Stale copy has never won readership. Change is vital. Display latest news prominently. 

Fancy tricks don’t impress. They just slow things down. And waiting makes online readers angry. They won’t wait. They just move on.

Your company name, street address and phone are required for credibility. Nothing is more frustrating than having to search for how to reach you. Self-sabotage is not a good business idea. 

If you have an email form on your site, answer the email when you get it. 

If your brand look and personality aren’t reinforced through consistency, how will you create memorability? 

Extend your offer. And make it easy for people to buy. If your business extends over a wide geographical area, list a toll-free number. If you aren’t asking the reader to take the next step, you’re blowing a huge opportunity. 

10 Marketing Mistakes: Are You Guilty

Guest post by Anna Lieber

Sales flow more easily, once you’ve built a brand with a point of view. 

Once you’ve selected a great team for their expertise, let them do their job which is to make you look good. 

If you wouldn’t let your nephew fix your car or your teeth, why would you let him mess with your company brand? It’s just as important. 

It’s essential to develop a shared vision, with all members of the team pulling in the same direction. 

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there. Creating a dynamic, actionable plan is the foundation for control over your marketing. And planning is not a one-time event, it’s a process. You don’t know where to begin? Call me quick.

You don’t have a positioning statement? You don’t know what a positioning statement is? Check the Q & A above.

A specialist will usually win over a generalist. Find a special niche and communicate it convincingly. Passion plus experience attract clients. 

If you have no strategy, no position, no call to action, no contact information, it’s pointless. Take 5 steps back to strategic vision. 

What’s that? A mix of marketing initiatives will get your pipeline flowing. 

You have no brand personality. Don’t take it personally. Change it. 
Strategize. Then add some snap, crackle and pop. 

Powerful Brand Leadership

Guest post by Anna Lieber

Q. How do we define a brand today?

A. A brand is a promise to the community. It is an emotional connection which promises a certain level of quality, honesty and integrity whether it applies to a person, a product or service. 

If you have a daycare center, your community is the mothers in your area and you are promising reliability and excellent care for their children. If you are a CPA, your community may be businesses or individuals who need tax consulting, and you are promising honesty, integrity and a high level of competence. If you are a jobseeker, you yourself are the brand and you promise a high level of commitment to anyone who receives your resume. There is a great deal of competition in every area. Today, you can’t even get a date without marketing yourself. 

Some brands seem to grow magically, like Starbucks, for example.

A brand needs to be relevant to the times. There’s a good reason why we drink coffee at Starbucks today and not Chock Full o’ Nuts. Starbucks recognized the need to create a coffeehouse community. They grew their brand quickly, and without advertising, simply by recognizing a need in society so they could be ahead of the curve, and creating a great brand experience. 

Q. How do you create a brand?

A. Too many people think a brand is simply a logo. A brand identity is much more. The brand is a personality expressed by how you look, how your office looks, your letterhead, your web site and promotion or your resume, how you answer the phone, in short, through every means of communication. 

The brand personality will be very different for the daycare center (colorful, fun and energetic) than for the CPA (dignified, businesslike and conservative). A brand must be appropriate and descriptive of the business or individual through its look and feel. Sometimes it helps to start with the key words which describe your business. 

Q. How do you know if you are being strategic? 

A. Strategize who you are, what you’re selling and who your target audience is? Decide exactly what you stand for and develop a set of key messages which answer the questions: What can I offer? What is my core competency? What do I specialize in? What do I believe in? 

It is imperative to strategize by analyzing yourself and then your competition. In marketing we do a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Understand thoroughly who you are. Determine your unique point of difference. What distinguishes you from your competition? And don’t forget, what could you do better? It’s easier today to do competitive research or competitive intelligence than ever before because of the internet. 

Make sure you know what your clients want. Only then can you fashion products and services that are marketable and build an image which is credible, relevant, unique and durable. 

Q. How do you create a corporate identity?

A. So now you are finally ready to create a brand identity, a visual representation. The brand identity becomes a powerful tool in getting your message out. It may be a logo or type treatment which you integrate into every communication whether it’s a letter, a web site, an email, a resume, a product package or a service brochure.

Do not create it yourself unless you are a graphic designer. And don’t let your nephew in high school do it. You wouldn’t let him fix your car or perform surgery on you. Don’t let him experiment with your brand either. It’s far too important. If you can’t afford a designer, hire a design student through one of the design schools. Although they are beginners, they’ve had design training which is essential.

A powerful brand identity creates memorability through repetition. Create a letterhead, business card and envelope which all match. When you develop a web site, integrate the same look here.

Once you have a brand identity, how do you get the word out? 

Start by creating key messages about yourself, your product or your service. Then market these messages every chance you can – to everyone you know. You have a database – even when you start out. It’s your address book. Tell everyone you know what you are doing whether it’s through a letter, a postcard, a web site or verbally via your elevator speech. That’s the basis of networking. We all use our networks to find a doctor, a babysitter, or a job, or to buy a house. And we need to spread the word about our business in the same way because no one knows you are out there until you tell them. 

Q. What is an elevator speech? 

A. Figure you are in an elevator and going up to the 10th floor. You meet someone and you must tell them in two to three sentences what your business is, or what position you are seeking. It should be succinct, compelling and answer the questions, who you are, what you do – and most important, why they should care. The key is there needs to be a benefit. What’s in it for them – or if they can’t use your service, what’s in it for your target audience – because surely they know someone who could use your services. The elevator speech needs to be scripted and to roll off your tongue without thinking.

Q. So an elevator speech is a networking introduction?

A. Networking is essential in marketing our businesses. It’s the key to getting what we need in life because we are all part of a community which shares information. That leads me to the role that content and knowledge management play in creating a brand. 

Q. What do you mean by “content”? 

A. Brands today are required to be brainy and to have a “brand voice”. You have information to share. And you will want to figure out how to share it so that you and your brand look smart to the right people, your target audience, those who have a need and are qualified to buy your product or service. You want to engage them to create interest and credibility. 

With so much information out there, how does creating content help my client?

In our cluttered environment, your role is to simplify the process for the client who has too many choices. You are the “portal of trust,” a term coined by Robert Reich “The Future of Success”. You, the expert, will navigate the waters for a client who is terrified to make a mistake. 

Q. What types of marketing initiatives will prove your credibility?

A. Use your brand to show yourself as an expert. Create content on the web, write an article, run a workshop, send an email newsletter. Even a simple promotional letter outlining your accomplishments of the past year can be instrumental. Your clients may not know what you’ve done for other clients. Start what I call a clipping campaign. Send your clients and prospects articles of interest. Selling today is not really about sales. It’s about starting a dialogue and being a resource. 

And marketing is not about advertising. It’s information sharing in a global community. It’s about creating a brand personality which represents you and your company in a way that creates maximum credibility and visibility. Educate those around you and give them something of added value. In the “New Normal,” a leader in business or in life needs to connect by creating a brand, then make a contribution to the community, and success is sure to follow. 

Marketing vs. Sales

Guest post by Anna Lieber

"You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." – Henry Ford. 

Business owners often confuse marketing and sales. But the distinction is really simple. Marketing is communicating what you do to generate prospects and increase visibility. Sales is converting prospects into clients. You need both. Here’s why. 

First, we all know commitment takes time. Before you marry, you date to get to know one another. Doing business is similar. It’s what we call the “know, like and trust” factor. 

Second, marketing is an ice breaker that warms up your leads. Prospects can be confused because they don’t understand how to judge your expertise. Sometimes they don’t even understand what you are talking about. Your knowledge base is simple to you but it’s a foreign language to them. 

Marketing educates prospects and helps take the fear and uncertainty out of a buying decision. It moves them from a flying leap to a more comfortable leap of faith. It’s that trust factor. The discount clothier Syms says “an educated customer is our best customer”. And we’ll add an educated customer guarantees a better experience for all. 

Third, marketing attracts new prospects. A company which markets all the time, via traditional, viral or guerrilla techniques, in good economies and bad, slow times and busy times, has the edge. Marketing generates brand awareness leading to a larger pool of warm leads and greater success.

Strategic marketing provides a select audience – you attract interested prospects instead of needing to track them down. Attracting rather than chasing – what could be better? A known brand is the comfortable choice. It makes decision making intuitive and creates raving fans.

Sales or converting prospects to clients is the next part of the process. There are various sales methodologies but most use a variation of these steps: qualifying leads, approaching them, presenting or demonstrating, probing for needs, answering objections and closing the sale. 

Sales skill is essential in moving prospects from stage to stage but marketing ensures prospects feel good about the decision. Expert selling is consultative and meant to create lasting relationships. And marketing continually communicates your expertise. 

The bottom line: Sales success is facilitated by good marketing. Marketing plus sales is the winning equation.

Viral Marketing: Buzz Your Way To Success

Guest post by Anna Lieber

“An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

VIRAL MARKETING is getting a bad rap, in part due to its name. Nobody wants a virus, medical or computer. But what exactly is viral marketing? It’s simply word-of-mouth via email. Maybe we should call it buzz marketing instead. 

Why is viral marketing successful? Everyone likes a free sample. It’s a time-honored strategy – give away a taste of the pie and then sell the whole pie. 

DIGITAL MESSAGES spread rapidly and easily at a fraction of the cost of other marketing vehicles. People are social and as they communicate, your message takes on a life of its own. Each time it’s transmitted the circle of receivers grows exponentially creating ever-widening exposure. 

As a marketer, I like that idea. Provided your message is clear, useful and compelling, tasteful and legitimately delivered. 


€ publish an ezine, encouraging people to forward it to their network

€ send email news releases about free articles on your web site

€ create a giveaway like a CD or ebook to showcase your expertise

€ ask clients to write testimonials and feature them on your web site

€ trade web links with synergistic businesses

€ write an article, submitting it to various informational sites

€ add an email signature including your contact info and offer

ADD VALUE Use viral marketing to spread the word about your expertise and products. But can the corny jokes and pyramid letters. Send information of real value to your target audience. Be extra careful not to overdo frequency or reveal email addresses publicly. 

Ideal Client Profile

Guest post by Anna Lieber

Every business needs to generate referrals to new clients. So it’s imperative to know who we want as clients. A prospect is someone who has a need, ability to pay and the authority to make a decision to buy. But to design a better business, one which is more profitable and enjoyable, we want to be aware of first-class prospects, those who are likely to be our very best clients.

A ideal client is one you most enjoy working with, who is receptive, committed and can successfully use your product or service. They understand what you do and appreciate the value you bring. They may have purchased your type of product or services before and therefore require less time and education.

The most qualified leads come via referrals. Therefore the more specifically you can define your ideal client, the more likely you can communicate to get the right referrals. And the more focused your target, the easier to determine how and where to market. 

Develop your ideal client profile. Analyze your best clients using the following criteria:
€ gender, age
€ income, education
€ position, industry
€ type, size of of company
€ need or problem
€ professional organization
€ trade magazines, newspapers

Use the profile in your conversations. Let others know the kind of people you want to work with and how to recognize them. Once you’ve determined your ideal client, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to find them. 

Design: the Ultimate Brand Booster

Guest post by Anna Lieber

It’s no coincidence that products and services with high design values become household names. FedEx, Nike and IPod are a few examples. 

Tom Peters in his excellent book “Re-imagine!” says: “Design is the NO. 1 DETERMINANT (his caps) of whether a product-service-experience stands out–or does not.” 

Peters also quotes Fortune magazine: “Design is treated like a religion at BMW.” Hey, doesn’t everybody want a well-designed car? If the design is slipshod, what about the safety? It’s ironic that many of us will spend a premium to equip our offices with well-designed furniture and our kitchens with beautiful appliances. Yet, there is a disconnect when it comes to our business brands. Small business owners have a difficult time making an investment in good design. Rarely is it valued as the most critical brand component. 

And just as often corporations fail to manage their valuable brands. Time and resources are wasted as different departments produce materials which don’t even resemble each other. Lack of consistency is the ultimate brand killer. 

Our recommendations: appoint a brand leader, create brand guidelines, integrate your materials, educate your staff. Use great design to set your company apart. 

Some of you run creative businesses; others are business owners or corporate managers who work with design firms, writers, web developers, etc. In any case, to ensure a positive outcome, you need to manage the design process. Here are a few tips:

Determine the project scope in a signed agreement. The proposal needn’t be extensive but it must outline the project parameters, deliverables, work process, fees and payment schedule, usage (if it applies), preliminary timeline and cancellation policy. An agreement will help prevent problems.

The larger the project, the longer the commitment and the more extensive the documentation. A contract prevents miscommunications which disrupt the relationship and derail the project. Sign the contract before work begins. It’s a lot harder to negotiate after a fallout occurs. 

Agree about the number of design choices, number of revisions, how you will handle printing or computer programming, and who supplies content (copy, images). Agree also on the client’s responsibilities and time frame on approvals, especially if there is a tight schedule created by an event or other deadline. 

Many clients don’t fully understand the design process and what’s required of them. The client is concerned with being satisfied with the results, finishing on time and not going over budget. The designer’ is concerned with creating a great product, making sure the client is happy and charging for time spent. Sometimes these concerns conflict. Most disagreements occur when services additional to the proposal crop up. If they do, be sure to discuss it before proceeding. The designer’s role is to educate the client, manage expectations, schedule and budget, and charge fairly. And the client needs to communicate their needs, make timely decisions and agree to pay fairly for all services rendered. 

Design firms can help projects go smoothly by creating a simple but structured work process. Create a welcome package to walk your client through the way you work. Get a deposit before beginning work. Get additional payments as the work progresses. Make sure you are buttoned up. If things do go wrong, be honest and correct the problem quickly. Clients hate surprises.

Clients can help projects go smoothly by educating yourselves about the design process. Practice due diligence in choosing a designer whose work you like. Realize good design takes time to percolate. Be reasonable. Handle the project professionally as you would with an attorney, accountant or doctor. And if you negotiate a lower fee, understand what you will be giving up. Know what’s included, what’s not—before beginning a project. Do your homework and ask the questions. 

Most important, remember design is a partnership between client and designer. Each shares responsibility for the success of the final design. 


Are You A Commodity Or A Brand?

Guest post by Anna Lieber

Business owners often tell me they are frustrated when their service is seen as a commodity, virtually interchangeable with others. So how do service providers get out of this quagmire? And how can purchasers distinguish one designer from another, one accounting, technology, construction firm from the rest? 

We all know it’s not always how much something is worth but how much people think it’s worth. Consider the beauty industry where cosmetics companies put $3 worth of skin cream into $10 worth of packaging and charge $100. And if you had told people twenty years ago that we would all be paying for bottled water, they would have laughed. 

Why do we pay a premium for brands like Starbucks and Perrier? One answer is that their product is better, they give us a better experience and ... because they’ve told how they are better. 

So first, realize that your clients want to understand the differences but find it confusing. Second, understand it’s your responsibility to show them how you are different and better. And third, recognize that image and perception are everything. 

Rather than emulating competitors, figure out what you possess that they do not. What sets you apart? Is it your special capabilities, training, patents and trademarks, industry knowledge, access to resources, proprietary processes or just plain know how?

Now how do you change perception? In plain English, toot your horn. Once you’ve developed a clear and sustainable competitive advantage, drive it home with the right brand message. Communicate frequently with clarity and consistency. 

We trust companies we know and so to create value make sure others know you. A recognized brand is worth more. That’s what we mean by brand equity. 

8 Ways to Get the Best Price

Guest Post by Andrea Woroch

As if staying on budget during the holidays wasn't hard enough, retailers are using dynamic pricing to make it even more difficult. The concept refers to the practice of changing the price of a product based on fluctuations in supply, demand, and even in response to the weather.

However, most retailers use dynamic pricing to one-up their competitors. Earlier this year, the price of a microwave oven on Amazon changed nine times in one day, ranging from $745 to $872. That's over $125 in savings if you bought at the right time -- and a really bad purchase if you bought at the wrong one.

So what's the best way to navigate fluctuating prices and land the cheapest deal? Consider the following eight tips for hassle-free savings.

1. Use price-predictor sites.
Sites like and are designed to help you determine the best time to buy a desired item. Price histories and product reviews are also available at your fingertips, since each of these sites has an app for your smartphone or tablet.

2. Look for coupons in-store.
In addition to shopping during sale time, grab coupons while you're browsing in-store using the Coupon Sherpa mobile app. The app is free for both Android and Apple devices, and enables you to search for discounts that can be scanned or entered directly from your smartphone.

3. Try tracking tools.
PricePinx is a free service that sends you a notification when the price of a desired product drops. FreePriceAlerts is a browser add-on that helps you find the best price when searching online for products. And CamelCamelCamel is another browser add-on with price history and price-drop notifications for items on Amazon, Best Buy and Newegg.

4. Redeem reward points.
One of the easiest ways to save money on holiday gifts is to use your credit card reward points toward discounts and gift cards. Some credit cards will offer extra points when you shop at select stores, and others will offer discounts on gift cards to specific retailers. Ultimately, it's best to call your credit card company to determine what specials and extra savings are available.

5. Get a price match.
Stores such as Target and Best Buy are matching Amazon prices this holiday season, and Lowe's and Home Depot usually duke it out for customers by offering price match "plus," or 10-percent off their competitor's better price. Ultimately, it pays to shop around and ask store managers about price-matching options. Use a barcode-scanning app like RedLaser to determine what a product costs at local stores and online retailers.

6. Ask for a price adjustment.
Some stores offer price adjustments on products that drop in price after your purchase. Timeframe is always a factor, so keep your receipt and track the product's price two to four weeks after you purchase it. A friend of mine received $25 back when the artificial Christmas tree she purchased for $75 dropped to $50.

7. Ditch the extras.
Extended warranties and expedited shipping are just two of the many add-ons that increase the price of your product. The basic warranty is typically sufficient, especially if the credit card you're using has additional coverage. And, events like Free Shipping Day on Monday, Dec. 17 make it easy to order last-minute gifts while dodging delivery fees.

8. Review your credit card perks.
In addition to rewards, some credit cards offer price guarantees. These guarantees make qualifying purchases eligible for a partial refund when they drop in price during a certain timeframe. This is different than a price adjustment because it's issued by your credit card company, not the retailer. 

3 Online Networking Tips for Job Seekers 

Skillful networking can help you meet the right people, make a splash in professional circles, get your name out there, and position yourself as an expert in your field. Social media tools provide amazing new opportunities to expand your networking reach and influence -- especially when you're in job-hunting mode. But too many job seekers forget that every single tweet, blog posting, and Facebook entry has a life of its own -- and that life is immortal. 

Bottom line: If you're not using social media consciously, carefully, and thoughtfully as a way to enhance your online presence and reputation, there's a good chance that it's hurting, not helping, your job search efforts.

As you're putting yourself out there in the job market, here are three tips for effective networking online:

Give before taking

When networking for a job search, always start by giving something of value. Offer an insightful comment to a blog or a question on LinkedIn. Pose a question to an industry group and engage in an information-sharing dialogue on best practices. The trick is to give your expertise and thus position yourself as the helpful expert. People will be inclined to return the favor.

Invite right.

Be sensitive as to which social networks you request colleagues to join you in. If your Facebook page is largely family-oriented and reads like a snapshot from, think twice about inviting the boss or the senior leadership team to post on your wall. Is this really the mix that either of you wants? If so, more power to your Uncle Ned's backyard barbecue. If not, stick to sites geared more toward professionals, such as LinkedIn or Plaxo.

Avoid gate crashing. 

If you have a name and reputation in your field that gives you special currency, don't assume this gives you carte blanche to enter any social network. For example, let's say you search a site such as Ning for social communities geared toward your corporate interests. Before belly flopping into the pool, have a seat on the deck and listen. Get to know the audience you'd like to engage with first. If there is an administrator of the special-interest community, you might start with a quick introduction, the reason for your call, and a query as to whether members would be okay with your involvement. Or if you feel inclined to get in the water, do so authentically. Members might be pleased to have an expert in their midst, but only if you're honest and sincere.