business, Marketing, Personal Brand, Social Media

4 Tips on How To Tell Your Story

From Story to Success

We always get a warm, fuzzy feeling when hearing a friend tell the story of how they met their “one true love.” It’s a magical moment when our own heart feels happiness that someone has bucked the system and found that one person who lights up their life. Its a universal feeling too, hearing a story of how someone, or something began. It has all the elements of a good movie—chance meetings, a note on a napkin, a crisis, mistaken identities, an insurmountable obstacle, and then fate intervenes, and out of the crisis is born a story of success. Sometimes its love, sometimes its survival, and sometimes, it is how your business began.

I use to live in Washington D.C. back when we rented video’s. Blockbuster was everywhere, but I went around the corner to a small, dimly lit shop that had only a quarter of the selection of movies. There was the same man there seven days a week. Always smiled and nodded when people came in and never left from behind the counter. Every time I went, he was there. And every time I went, he remembered me. Early in my visits he asked me about a necklace I wore. It reminded him of his hometown, a small village outside of Cairo where he was from. He told me how he always dreamed to come to America and have a video store. “A strange dream,” I thought, but for him, his eyes lit up as he told me how much he loved the old black and white Hollywood films. He would watch them with his grandfather and he would dream of having all those movies surrounding him for people to enjoy….and he wanted those people to be in America.

His prices were more than Blockbuster, and certainly he did not have the large selection that people would tell me about, but I was connected to him. I wanted him to succeed because I too had watched old movies with a grandparent growing up, and I would dream my dreams nestled close to her watching Bogie and Bacall. I was invested in his rags-to-riches dream because he touched my heart and in the three years I lived there I never once went to Blockbuster. I had a connection to his little shop.

How many times have you shopped somewhere just because of the story? Like Vineyard Vines, where two brothers started by selling ties out of the back of station wagon? And have you ever eaten a Baci candy? Wrapped inside is a saying of love in English and Italian–because they want everyone to be loved–I just just love that. Every day we are surrounded by the giants of retail and industry and we make choices by what our hearts tell us to do. We choose a small Montessori school because the director tells a story about her children going to a similar place when they were stationed in Italy, and “oh how their eyes still light up when they remember setting out the table linens for afternoon snack!.” Or how about the mechanic up the street who charges more than anybody else. He pops out from under the car and tells you how he and his son race cars on the weekend. He has pictures of the early days when he opened the shop so that he could be near his son and they could share their love of racing. We are connected to them.

Mechanic We love stories. We get wrapped up in TV drama shows because the characters become like our family. We feel for them, we identify with their pain and joy. Hollywood was built on that connection to our hearts.And our hearts is where we ultimately decide to put our money, so why not sit down and figure out your story, and put it into your overall strategy for business success?

Don’t think you can do it?You are too small? Too big of a business? Well Chobani Yogurt started with a story, and it was that simple, heartfelt story that made them into the yogurt powerhouse they are today, so sit down and write it all out.


Here are several tips to get you started:

Tip #1: Start with the beginning: how did your business get started? What obstacles were in the way? What passions were ignited? What was the inspiration for getting it off the ground? Where did the seed begin? Was there an “aha” moment that turned everything around? Write it out. Find the old photos and the articles, your first order or paycheck. Just sit down and write out the story and a brand campaign will follow that reaches out to people, from their heart.

Tip #2: Who were the people that helped to get this thing going? I am talking about the Obi Wan Kenobi folks in your life. Mentors who challenged you to get started, pushed you perhaps. Or what about the naysayers? Some big ugly monster types who kept telling you that the sky was falling and you would fail? We need to have heroes and tyrants in order to make a story believable, and personal. We all have our critics as well as our supporters. Who were yours?

Tip #3: Why do you do what you do? What was the deep dark mission and purpose that really got this whole thing ignited? Find that and write it out, and you will have the strongest, most enduring (and endearing) strategy to success. These are small parts of the story that light up your eyes, even put a tear in them. And it cannot be dollar signs, or a laundry list of how you do what you do. It has to be the why…why you do what you do?

Tip #4: And if you really don’t have a heartfelt start-up story, then find one in your employees, or suppliers. Find rich rewarding stories in the people you serve, your customers. Who are they? How did they change, evolve, grow, and change because of you? Find their pictures and tell their stories.

It’s all there, your marketing strategy for the next five years. Its your elevator pitch, and your mission statement all in one. It is the heart and soul of your business, and we are all waiting to hear what you have to say….

So what is one business that you went to because they had a good story? Did you share their story with others?

Photo Credits: and Mechanic by Philip Bitnar via Wikimedia Commons

Published on LinkedIn:

business, innovation, Leadership

What Drives Your Team? Leadership?

Carrot on a stick isolated on white

The world has changed a lot since the first personal computer hit the workplace. We are a more open, inclusive society. We are better educated, even if its just self education, and our ability to adapt to changing workplace has made us more resilient in hard economic times. But what about our leaders? Has the leadership of our companies changed?

All the talk, articles, blogs and news about engaging our customers through social media and relevant content….at what point do the leaders of companies make the same call to action for their own team? Isn’t it time we focused attention on engaging our employees?

When customers are emotionally committed to an organization or cause they are “engaged.” The same should go for the people who work for those organizations. What is happening today is that people are showing up to work and getting their job done, but I would say they are “involved”in their work, but engaged?  If employees are not excited about what they are doing, then they are not committed or engaged in their work, and that, leaders, is a problem.

So what makes people engaged in their work? What motivate them? Daniel Pink, author of Drive, gives us a great example of how people become engaged in their work through the “Motivation Trifecta.”

He outlines the three elements: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

Autonomy is giving people real control over the various aspects of their work. That doesn’t mean “free-for-all” management, it means, giving your team control over what they do in their job. Traditional management says that you order your staff to do certain things. It’s a big carrot to color between the lines so to speak. But what if you let go of the carrot and gave your team a more self-directed approach?

“Hey, it looks like you want to do some innovative things for your department, let me get out of your way and let you do them”

What do think would happen if we let people innovate?

And if you are wondering why your team doesn’t innovate now…well think about it. If your leadership style is to hold failure over the heads of your team with the added benefit of possibly being fired for the failure, then no one will take a risk. No one will offer you suggestions, be creative in their work, problem solve or innovate. In other words, when fear is a leadership style your team cannot possibly grow.

Mastery is a tricky one for people to understand, but if you are a Millennial you will totally get this principle of motivation. Mastery simply means that you get better at something, but as a motivator, it has to include the desire to get better first. Why is it that your whole department hasn’t yet learned how to use the new program you installed, yet they are absorbed for a full hour with Candy Crush on their lunch hour? Duh, it’s fun for one thing, and it makes them feel good when they get to new and harder levels! It is satisfaction over the mastery of the task, even when its computer game. We feel good about moving higher because at the end of each level accomplishment are rewards—OK, they are just virtual ones, but they make us feel good.

The computer software you bought, probably without asking anyone’s opinion, is necessary, but just too hard to even imagine spending time on. It is one more thing on the list of things to squeeze into their day. But what if you offered your team an incentive to get that done? What if offered them the chance to take 20% of their day to work on projects that matter to them? No limits. Sort of like “autonomy,” but with the added benefit of motivating the team to master the things are normally not so fun. GMAIL was the brainchild of an employee who used his “20% creative project time,” at Google. The rest of the day was spent on other company driven tasks, and this portion of his day was just fun time trying to figure out email. Fun time that ended up defining email as we know it. It can be done.

Purpose is the final part of the motivation trifecta. Purpose is and always should be the number one part of any job, any business. Leaders assume that their teams of employees know what the big picture is: the mission and the vision of the company. But where are employees expected to learn that? Is it posted anywhere around the office? Does management talk about it before meetings or at all?

Harley Davidson employees know that they are building and selling motorcycles, but that is not their purpose for coming to work. It’s on their website:

“Fulfilling dreams of personal freedom is more than a phrase. It’s our purpose and our passion. We bring a commitment of exceptional customer experiences to everything we do – from the innovation of our products to the precision of our manufacturing – culminating with our strong supplier and dealer networks.
We are Harley-Davidson. “

They are connected to a higher cause. They have an intention. They work with determination to give people that personal freedom they crave. Every single person who builds and sells a Harley doesn’t need a carrot to get their job done, they were given a purpose to show up and do good work.

I wonder if the whole corporate structure of leadership hasn’t been eroding over the last 20 years. In the climate of layoffs as a strategy for profitability, perhaps corporate leadership forgot that employees are people and not a line item in the annual budget. When people fear for their jobs, fear to speak up about ideas and problems that need to be solved, they are not motivated to do exceptional and engaged work.

Leaders need to begin to reward their employees for being honest and creative, even when it doesn’t always work out. The best innovations were accidents—just ask 3M how they got Velcro! Perhaps America is not a manufacturing powerhouse today, but it is a thought leader. The same companies year after year are moving higher and higher in growth and innovations because they are treating their employees like the rare and exceptional beings that they are: creative problem solvers. By giving your team the ability to enjoy their work you motivate them to do the best job possible. I think we could use a little bit more of that nowadays.

Someone asked today why we are not talking about leadership more. I wonder if it’s because we need a new definition of what leadership should be. What is your definition?

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business, customers, Marketing, Social Media

Don’t Get Caught Without This!

Internet usage policy

I recently worked with a group of educators who told me how little time they had to really focus on their social media strategies. I had to agree, educators really are busy since most of their day is regulated by ratios, and that leaves them with very little time to sit down and start posting and tweeting about activities and news; but they were all horrified when I told them that even though they were not taking the time to engage people in conversation on Facebook and Twitter, their parents and PTO boards were out there talking about their teachers and programs.

Now it doesn’t’ matter what industry you in, if you are running a business or organization, people are talking about you online, through posts, tweets and reviews, people are having a conversation that can be viewed by hundreds, even thousands of interested viewers.

“So what can we do?” they asked. “How can we stop this?”

“First,” I told them. “It can’t really be stopped, but it can be controlled. Where you start is with a Social Media Policy because it just might prevent you from a disaster!”

By its very nature, social media has risen in importance with how we interact with our friends, associates, customers, and prospects. It is our front porch, the lobby of our business so to speak.  It has also given us the ability to become experts in our field, thought leaders. And it is very important to encourage your employees, interns, vendors, and even customers to engage in social media communities and groups, but without guidelines and a firm ethics policy in place, you might get caught up in a situation that could destroy your reputation.

Don’t believe me? Well think about the AFLAC Duck for a moment. For several years we were listening to the voice and quack of comedian Gilbert Gottfried. It was Gottfried who created that whole campaign with his signature sound, but when he tweeted one thoughtless joke about the Tsunami in Japan he was fired. In an instant his years of creating and being identified with the AFLAC Duck were over. AFLAC went into crisis mode. “Gilbert’s recent comments about the crisis in Japan were lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac,” Michael Zuna, the company’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a statement to CNN. He was done with one tweet.

And for the small business owner who doesn’t have such a celebrity to help build your business, think about this for a moment: one employee makes a statement that is thoughtless, disrespectful, or racist…and you could be hiring an attorney and a PR firm just to get out of the flood zone of lost business. Make it easy on yourself and your employees: Put a policy in place.

Here are some simple guidelines to get you started:

Start with all the DO NOT’s

  • Do Not share confidential information.
  • Do Not use the name of a minor with a photo.
  • Do Not misrepresent yourself or the company.
  • Do Not lie.
  • Do Not make personal attacks, complain, or speak negatively about the company, employees or competitors.
  • Do Not post personal, political or religious views.
  • Do Not post anything that is not in line with the company core mission.
  • Do Not use the name of our business as part of any internet identity.

So now, let’s encourage people to join in the conversation and spread the word about how great your business really is and list the DO’s:

  • Do disclose that you work for our company, especially if you are creating content about our industry.
  • DO disclose that you are acting as a company representative when talking about our company, industry, product line, or program.
  • DO think about what you are posting first, then post it.
  • DO ask questions if you are not sure about what is acceptable content.
  • DO inform your boss or owner of any potential problems, complaints, reviews, or negative information that you find online about the company or one its employees.
  • DO have a list of keywords to help everyone stay focused when writing content.

Be sure to include this in your employee handbook and make sure that violating anything here is grounds for termination. And also, have in place a policy about “friending” clients and customers on personal Facebook/Twitter accounts.  Yes, its OK to tell your staff that they cannot friend your business customers.  I have found it is actually a relief to most employees to say “No, you cannot be my Facebook friend because it against our company policy.”

And if you have a Board or PTO? Well then, I guess you had better have a social media policy for them too. Protect them, protect your business too.  It just makes sense.

What challenges have you had in putting together a Social Media Policy?  How do you enforce it?

Image: Shutterstock

Posted on My LinkedIn

business, customers, Marketing, Social Media

6 Ways for Small Business to Start Social Marketing

impossible concept

The dilemma a small business owner faces every day is time. How can you add more hours into an already overwhelming schedule? The answer is: find more time for social media.

Yup, you heard me right. In order to find more time in your day, you need to spend more timeon social media. And no, that is not an oxymoron. Social media marketing is the best way to leverage a small business owners time and create success. The most difficult part for most of you is just getting started. So let’s jump right in to make the impossible, possible:

  1. Know the benefits of social media. Your current and future customers are using social media. They are not using the phone book, the classifieds, or the late night cable infomercials. Your customers are tweeting, posting and reading content online. Social Media Marketing is not optional. Think of it as networking with people at a party. Some need what you have, some don’t. It’s not about “followers.” It is about offering a relevant message that drives people to your website…and that brings us to tip #2.
  2. Have a useful website. Note that I said “useful” not “awesome.” Awesome is good of course, but useful is better. Why? Everything that social media marketing is supposed to do for your small business is to drive people to the website. So stop what you are doing and look at your website. Is it easy to read? Can people find your contact information? Do they know what you do? Is the site mobile-phone friendly? It is useful? Bells and whistles mean nothing if you don’t update your site and have an easy way for me to contact you. When was the last time you changed anything on there? This is the face of your business, if it’s not an easy, enjoyable experience; you are losing current and future customers.
  3. Create a social media presence. Ok, I get it, for some of you that makes your stomach wince. Don’t be afraid to use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social media sites. It is a conversation! Just get it started! Create the site; load a profile picture, post quotes or articles. Ask people for feedback about your newest line of products, and don’t run away when they respond. This is how the big guys showcase their winning personalities, by tweeting back and liking what people have to say. Have fun. Be present and timely, and just get something going.
  4. Become the expert. So you don’t want to write for the New York Times, but you can (and must) write for your customers. You have to be where your customers are….not where you are! So write about your passion. Tell us how you got started and why. Post articles that are interesting for your business. Write a review on a book you read. Take photos of your staff wearing funny costumes. Take photos of people using your products and services. Be social. To be a success in business you need to provide people with the things they want to improve their lives and work. Tell them why you are different. Better yet, show them. Be funny, or nerdy, or completely rebellious if that is what you are offering people. It’s not rocket science, its about passion for your business.
  5. A picture is worth a thousand words. Use photos. 93% of the most engaging posts on Facebook have a photo. We think with our eyes people!!! Take photos, post photos, collect interesting photos, ask your customers for photos. Images received 150% more retweets than those without photos—that is a good thing. This is a visual conversation so share a perspective of what you do and that will connect people to your business.
  6. You have an online reputation, feed it. I think we can all agree that having positive reviews will find you more customers. Even negative reviews, when responded too quickly and turned around, can help you to find customers. So ask your happy customers for reviews—while they are still in your office or business. Make it fun. Make it part of doing business. It will open the floodgates to new customers. It will set you miles apart from your competition…who, by the way, is not paying attention at all.

And don’t feel that you are a little behind the eight ball. The best part about social media marketing is that it is a living, breathing conversation that just needs to get started. Peoplewant to interact online, so why avoid it? Many things can be automated; alerts can be set to notify you, the computer can and will help you to find the time to grow your business. And most important, it’s never too late to get the social media party started. 70% of small businesses spend less than one hour a week maintaining their web presence….and that is the group that thinks social media is important. Imagine what your business can do if you double that time per week! Start with two hours a week, and work toward an hour a day. It will pay off if you keep at it. Before you know it you will have to hire a social media coordinator to help you handle the marketing while you focus on all the new customers coming through your door.

Does the thought of tweeting about your business make you break out into a sweat? What is your biggest obstacle to getting started with Social Media Today?

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