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You’ve heard the strategy. You’ve heard the strategy’s promise. Heck, you may be knee-deep or even waist-deep in the strategy.

What’s the strategy?

Giving away what you do for free in the hope of building an audience that will eventually pay you for what you do.

Strategic Thinking Question – When Does Free Become Getting Paid?

A lunch discussion the other day, however, was when and how do you start getting paid?

money-money-money

One intriguing answer to this strategic thinking question came via Jonathan Field as he addressed moving from free speaking to paid speaking. He tied the getting paid or speaking for free question to the size of the speaker’s “brand hand” relative to the event sponsor’s brand hand. In effect, whoever has the stronger brand sets the stage for how value (i.e., money) is divided, shared, and flows between the parties.

My answer to the strategic thinking question was you start getting paid when you are more willing and able to say, “No.”

When you’re in a position to turn down the people who expect things for free, you start setting boundaries about what’s free (i.e., maybe the first hour of consultation and listening is free before the meter starts running).

When you’re in a position to turn down the people who expect things for free, you address the “getting paid” conversation right away regarding how you’re delivering value with what you know and can share.

When you’re in a position to turn down the people who expect you to do things for far less than they are worth, you become much more explicit about what things cost. That applies to both what you charge and the costs to potential clients of not using someone as knowledgeable, proficient, and reliable as you.

What puts you in the position to say, “No,” to doing things for free?

It comes from addressing whatever weaknesses exist in your business.

That could mean, you have more than enough prospects or cash to sustain NOT doing business with the next potential client that comes along.

It might be you have reduced your overall business risk so you can take on the risk of saying NO.

It could also mean you really do have a better brand hand than the other party that wants you to do things for free or for much less than they are worth.

Or it may be something else.

Whatever it is that makes you say, “Yes, I’ll do that for free,” or give away things without ever having the conversation about free or paid, figure out what you need more of so you can say, “No,” to all the free work requests that are toxic for your success. – Mike Brown

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Data about your website is great.

Data patterns related to your website are even better.

Having big data to tell you how people react to different scenarios and situations on your website is the best yet.

When you are just launching a website, however, you may not have any data.

When that’s the case, either you can design something that fits a design aesthetic, or you can take what you know, answer sound strategic thinking questions, and design a website that makes strategic sense.

Strategic Thinking Questions – 3 Questions for New Website Design

We were looking at a new website the other day designed for the user to “scroll, scroll, and keep scrolling.” The nagging strategic issue was, “Why in the world would an audience member want to keep scrolling?”

To help the website creator through the strategic thinking to answer this question, we put together the strategic thinking exercise below. It lists each of the main pages of the website down the left column. Across the three columns to the right are three strategic thinking questions, all asked in the voice of the user:

  • “Why should I stay interested?”
  • “Why should I keep looking for more information?”
  • “Why should I buy something now?”

We used these three questions to quickly review the copy and design of the new website. Our objective was to have a solid, compelling answer to at least one of the three questions based on the first look at each of the website’s main pages.

Strategic Questions to Improve Design and Copy on a New Website

Website-Tool

We used the three strategic thinking questions on a first pass review of the website. The questions helped us strengthen copy, make decisions on where to place key features, and changed perspectives about whether certain functionality made sense or not.

Our decisions weren’t data-driven because we don’t have any data on the website. The three strategic thinking questions definitely proved to be hard workers, however, for checking whether a brand new website offers compelling reasons for users to engage.

If you’re in a similar situation, grab a copy of this strategic thinking exercise and see how hard it can work for you! – Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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It is always fascinating how business professionals approach business networking.

This is particularly true when you get to see how business professionals set themselves apart through smart business networking techniques.

Business Networking Techniques that Created Results

Here are five recent business networking techniques that stood out:

1. When meeting someone new, call attention to your shared networks.

One way to highlight your common network is printing your shared list of LinkedIn connections. This simple business networking technique can move a conversation ahead in positive ways. At a recent meeting, the other individual handed me a hard copy list of shared LinkedIn connections; the list was surprisingly extensive. Scanning it, I discovered a childhood friend who SHOULD be a prospect for the other individual’s service, and I provided background on why he should follow up with my friend.

2. Don’t give up making a meeting happen, even if the introduction is months old.

Several people contacted me right before my wife, Cyndi, had surgery and my availability for non-essential meetings shrank dramatically. One individual followed up four months later before abandoning the possibility of making the meeting happen. His email and phone call combo instigated our in-person meeting months after the initial introduction occurred.

networking-guys

3. Follow up an informal first meeting with a second invitation right away.

At the closing Content Marketing World session, I sat next to someone new. We hit it off, had a wonderful conversation, and identified Pam Didner as a shared contact. Before parting company, he invited me to a dinner he was having with a client. Back at the hotel and planning to head to another event I had already paid to attend, he texted me with specifics on where they were headed. His invitation and follow up turned into a great dinner getting to know him better along with two of his clients.

4. Make your follow-up personal, not formulaic.

After the recent networking event prompting the “you have to keep up your blog current once you start it” post, one person I didn’t get to meet reached out via LinkedIn with more than the standard, “Join my network” message. He recounted leaving the event early to tend to a diabetic pet. Having had a diabetic pet ourselves, his personalized message created an instant connection.

5. Have a good memory (or good notes) of why you met originally met someone.

Right before Cyndi’s surgery, I did squeeze in a networking meeting with someone new instigated by friend and blog reader, Michael Irvin. With everything else on my mind, I remembered it was a great connection, but by the time we reconnected, I could not remember the specifics. The other individual came to our second meeting, however, with detail on why we were meeting again and what we hoped to accomplish. What a great boost to a productive second meeting.

What have you seen work with smart business networking techniques recently?

Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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“How to Brand a Company – 7 Types of Brand Language You Should Use” is one of the most popular Brainzooming articles of the past couple years. This branding strategy article looks at seven different types of language (Simple, Emotional, Aspirational, Unusual, Connectable, Open, and Twistable) a brand should be using to fully communicate its brand promise, benefits, and overall messaging.

I received a tweet the other day asking for successful examples to back up the seven types of brand language identified in the post. Since I was working on a presentation I needed to complete ASAP, I was more than happy to abandon the presentation deadline and throw together an immediate answer to the tweet.

Yes, I clearly have a “focus” issue, but that’s a topic for another day.

Brand Language Examples

I created a quick grid (of course), and started filling in examples of each type of language, from both my own recollection and a few listings of popular advertising slogans.

7 Brand Langauage Examples

While not going for an exhaustive list of brand language examples, I noticed after tweeting off the jpeg of the table that “Just do it” from Nike showed up in two areas – both Simple and Aspirational.

Nike-Just-Do-It

Going back through the list of seven types of brand language, however, it seems that “Just do it” could also fit in several others:

  • Emotional (There is definitely an emotional component depending on its use)
  • Open (The phrase can mean multiple things from both a brand and a consumer perspective)
  • Twistable (It could be used as an admonition to someone else, a personal pep talk, plus serving as a brand promise)

The leaves only Unusual and Connectable as gaps for “Just do it.” While it’s never going to be unusual, it COULD be used in a Connectable fashion. One example would be to insert sports actions (i.e., slug, slam, dunk, pass, hurdle, putt, etc.) in place of “do.”

The Best Brand Language

This exploration raised two questions:

  1. Are there any other examples of brand language that uses five of the brand language types, and are there any that use more?
  2. If no other slogan checks off five different types of brand language on its own, does that mean “Just do it” is the best brand language ever?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about whether any other brand’s language works harder than “Just do it” does for Nike?

Because if there is one, I can’t name it. – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Talk to B2B service or product providers and you’ll likely hear about solution selling.

Fair enough. You don’t want to buy something and still have the problem afterward. You want your problem to go away and never come back another day.

The challenge is there are often multiple problems and multiple solutions. If it’s unclear which problem and which solution the potential client and provider are trying to address, the provider’s proposed solution can be way off the mark. If multiple providers are competing for the opportunity, they may be trying to solve different problems. That further adds to the likelihood of problem-solution mismatches.

We had one recently.

A potential client had already identified a time window for a strategic thinking session, the senior management group to participate, and the expectation of having a productive conversation leading to greater brand strategy clarity.

The company had contacted another firm to facilitate the discussion. Due to schedule conflicts, the other potential provider referred the company to us at the last minute. With no actual direct conversation with the potential client, we created a strategic thinking session plan for answering the brand strategy questions and issues we identified based on skeletal information.

Brainzooming Strategic Thinking Session

A Brainzooming strategic thinking session. Photo courtesy of Jason Harper.

After multiple emails, we finally talked with the client two days before the planned discussion time. Everything was going well as we discussed our approach and the proposed end deliverable: a definitive, consensus-oriented, strategic roadmap for the company to address its brand situation.

Then we got to the price.

Our price was five times higher than what the other potential provider proposed.

Doh!

Discussing this with the potential client, the difference was clear.

The other provider’s solution was showing up to be a neutral, albeit knowledgeable party, who would “host” a discussion.

That was a solution, but only to a VERY narrow interpretation of the problem, i.e., managing the allotted time for a discussion with a little follow up.

We were addressing delivering the answer they needed to move forward with a brand strategy and implementation in the few months their management group is expecting. We’d proposed addressing the bigger problem the potential client was admittedly facing. The other provider had proposed (and set a price expectation) for a small solution to a much narrower problem.

The big learning was even though I don’t use the term, we are solution selling. We don’t just show up and facilitate. We identify, plan, manage, and deliver a strategic outcome. In other words, our focus is creating strategic impact. That’s why we ensure all the planning and meeting conditions lead to a real result. That’s why we create a definitive series of exercises leading to the desired strategic outcome.

That’s why we don’t simply stand in front of a whiteboard, ask a few questions, and capture some notes.

It’s all part of the difference between facilitating a meeting and creating strategic impact. – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Jennifer Spencer of The Spencer Group, a marketing recruiter in Kansas City shared her perspectives, insights, and engaging wit with the Freelance Exchange of Kansas City’s June meeting.

While Jennifer was specifically addressing Kansas City freelancers on ways to better position and sell themselves, her career lessons extended beyond geography and career path. Here are valuable career lessons, paraquotes, and audience reactions from Jennifer’s talk.

Jennifer-Spencer

Building Awareness about YOU

People won’t call or hire you if no one knows who you are. Always have a business card with you. It’s not THAT old school. Does anybody bump a phone . . . really? Work samples are important, however, THEY HAVE TO BE ONLINE (JENNIFER’S CAPS).

If you’re already in a full-time job and aren’t known within the senior levels of your company, you’re a sitting duck for a layoff. Make sure you’re building awareness of you and your contributions – no matter what.

Hang out around digital incubators because if these companies get funding, they will need to grow and support require from people outside the company.

Think Global, Behave Yourself Local

With the advent of online options, you could be competing for your job with people globally, especially if it’s an area employers see as a potential for outsourcing. Do you know what the global market for what you do looks like? Even though the market may be global, in the Midwest especially, you don’t want to get a bad reputation because it will spread.

Come in and Deliver

Companies want people to come in and quickly make their lives easier. Especially early in your career, be smart about how you introduce new ideas that could be perceived as scope creep. Unless you’re brought in as a turnaround person, your first day on the job isn’t the time to solve all the company’s ills. Solidly contribute and look for opportunities later to deliver more completely and creatively

Just Get ‘Er Done

Project management is the in vogue role currently. You may be expected to take ideas from concept to execution. You need a foot in both the offline AND online words. If you do and you’re further into your career, you can really use your experience to your advantage.

The Paraquotable Jennifer Spencer

  • “Find out what you’re good at and own it.”
  • “Own your awkwardness when you’re out there networking. Making fun of yourself is quite endearing.”
  • “You HAVE TO LOOK OUT FOR YOURSELF.” (My CAPS)
  • “People find work in the darndest places.”
  • “Hold your best for last. Sacrifice a few ideas upfront that you are willing to see sacrificed.”

For What It’s Worth, Freelancers

Hourly rates are all over the board for creative freelancers; it really, really, really depends. You have to keep a sense of what the market and going rate is for your services.  Be prepared to negotiate when you’re going in as a freelancer to try to secure a project.  You have to be willing (and getting better) at negotiating.

The limbo of rate negotiations comes down to this question, “How low should you go?”  Go in with a higher rate early when they love you. Don’t go to the rock bottom ever, or even just too low when you start negotiating

You can’t be scared to negotiate. Believe in yourself and what you’re worth.  Raise your rates as you add experience and can deliver more value. Consider creating a menu of prices for basic vs. more conceptual, strategic work. Don’t work for people who come back at you with stupid, ridiculous rates. It won’t get any better later.

Prepare in Good Times for Challenging Times

You have to manage cash flow in good times to be ready for bad times. Try holding back 50% of your current income for challenging times.

You also need to stay relevant and on-trend to prepare for downturns in the economy. Staying relevant may push you out of your comfort zone; you’ll have to get out from behind the computer.  It’s vital to network out of your typical circles with people who are in the same careers as you are. You’ll stand out more effectively if you’re networking where people like you ain’t (my grammar there).

Career Lessons Galore!

As you can tell Jennifer Spencer shared so many fantastic career lessons. Her talk will be a hard one for the next presenter to follow! And that happens to be . . . me. I’ll be talking at the July lunch on a topic Jennifer chose after her talk: Digital Self-Promotion. Now to make THAT as funny and engaging as Jennifer was!

Now to make THAT as funny and engaging as Jennifer Spencer was!  – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Can-I-ask-questionThere’s one strategic thinking question that will make you a better marketer?

Yes there is ONE strategic thinking question you can ask (and, of course, answer) that all by itself will make you a better marketer.

Let me share how it works with you.

I was presenting a mini-workshop on branding and social media with a new client the other day. Before we wrapped up, one of the participants asked what I thought about paying to include something from their business in a welcome gift going to new residents in a community the business serves.

She probably wanted a simple thumbs up or thumbs down, but that wasn’t what she needed. I gave her a suggestion and a strategic thinking question.

The suggestion was to look at any type of marketing investment as a sponsorship. You’re investing a specific amount of money to associate your brand with something – whether it’s a sports team, a direct marketing piece, an advertisement, or even social media content. Thinking about it that way, you can see how your marketing investments are sponsorships, even if untraditional sponsorships.

And once you start looking at all your marketing investments through a sponsorship marketing model, you have to ask a fundamental sponsorship marketing question:

“What are we going to do and how much are we going to invest to market this sponsorship?”

That’s the one question you can ask that will automatically make you a stronger strategic marketer.

It’s vital with any sponsorship to do the strategic thinking about how much you invest to link your brand in an effective and business-building way to the sponsorship asset you’re renting from the organization that owns it.

Answering that question from a strategic perspective makes you consider:

  • How do we integrate this with other things we do?
  • What can we do to make sure this supports our most important objectives?
  • What other things can we do to get more advantage from our investment?
  • What’s the right ratio to invest in marketing the sponsorship to get the greatest value from it?
  • How would we measure whether this works or not?

By looking at your marketing investments from a sponsorship marketing perspective and asking one strategic thinking question, you’re forced to address integrated marketing, metrics, ROI, and making sure you have tactics to support all of these.

In the case of the welcome packet, we covered, within a few short minutes, what would make this make sense for a non-primary market, A/B testing, negotiating contact information on who receives the packets, creating an offer for those receiving the information, and providing a landing page specific to this offer to track whether people take action on it.

See what I mean about being a stronger strategic marketer.

There you have it.

Be sure to add this strategic thinking question to your repertoire: “What are we going to do and how much are we going to invest to market this sponsorship?” Mike Brown

 

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your organization’s success!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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