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Thursday, November 28, 2013

There Is No 'I' in Startup: The Importance of Having a Solid Team

By: Eric Muli

No matter how hard you try, you can't do it all.

As an entrepreneur I understand the desire to take the bull by the horns and be the lone captain of your startup. You are the idea-generator and innovator behind the company, and you may feel like nobody else really "gets" your vision as clearly as you do. This could be true, yet, controlling every detail will make it impossible for your company to scale.

I suffered from the same “disease” when I was starting Zabamba, Africa's first social rating and review platform, and in the concept stage. I soon realized ideas are great but execution is key. To succeed, I had to let go of the reins a bit and inspire like-minded people to adopt the same passion I had for my venture. I began formulating a team that would help me streamline the vision of my company and steer it in a strategic direction.

Building a team that meshes well, enjoys working together and has just as much passion for the business as I did, was a big challenge. Yet, it was an imperative step to get my business off the ground. And it paid off. My business has managed to secure a round of seed funding, we had our alpha launch this August and have amassed more than 1,000 daily users.

If you are thinking about trying to do it all by yourself, don't. Here are three reasons a quality team is a must for a startup:

Constructive Criticism. Starting up is no easy task. No matter how much you believe in your idea and the execution, it's almost impossible to continually counter-check yourself and ensure you are managing your business the best way possible.

Even the greatest plans have flaws and when an entrepreneur is deeply rooted in all the intricacies of launching a business, it's common for him to overlook these issues.

This is where a team comes into play. It’s important to have team members that will not hesitate to point out your mistakes and work towards offering forward thinking solutions. You may be the lead entrepreneur of your venture but in no way does that make you perfect. You never know, that mistake your partner just corrected could be the difference between the success and failure of your business.

Different Perspectives. There’s always more than one way to tackle a problem. The more ideas taken into consideration, the stronger the solution.

Most entrepreneurs have a particular way of thinking and solving problems. Regardless of how successful he is, using the same problem-solving tactics will not always work. There is something to be said about an entrepreneur that can strategically pick the brain of a group of people, sieve out the best ideas and merge them into a combined superior solution.

Two heads are better than one and having a team to bump ideas off will undoubtedly teach you to better appreciate and understand the importance of listening to other’s ideas and ensuring your start-up gets the best of both worlds.

Expanding your network. Recruiting a team is more than just bringing people to sit around a table and make decisions.

Every individual you bring on board comes with their network, which at some point could be very useful to your business. We’ve heard a lot of people say, “it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.” That is debatable. However, expanding your network is one of the most important things you can do for your business.

When it comes down to it, both customers and investors are more inclined to give out money to people they already know over somebody who has been perennially trying to reach them through their LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter pages.

Yes, it’s very possible for a lone entrepreneur to build his own network, nobody is doubting that. However, contrast one person running around networking, to three or four equally skilled people doing the same. The potential for success is that much higher, and it is also more enjoyable.

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. Read more about the author: Eric Muli

Friday, November 22, 2013

Big Picture Marketing™

We are excited to introduce the first video in a series that will help you best take advantage of your marketing opportunities. Please take a moment to view the video and see how you can start using Big Picture Marketing™ today to build your practice.

Daniel Pisek, President and Practice Marketing Coach of Full Contact Marketing, talks about the 10 BIG ideas to successfully market and move your practice forward.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why Flexibility Is Your Key to Personal Branding Success

By: Jim Joseph

If there’s one thing that marketers could be accused of, it’s too much planning. I know that sounds counter culture, but it’s true. If we are not careful, we could spend our mornings planning our afternoons and our afternoons planning our next mornings. We won’t get anything done as a result.

From a personal perspective, we can’t spend our entire life planning for the future, or we’ll never have enough time to enjoy what’s in front of us. We have to live in the moment and consider what’s happening around us in real-time.

Life isn't just about planning, so I don’t want you to get the wrong idea from this series of posts: personal branding isn't all about planning either; it’s about living.

We need to have the ability to react to what’s around us and be willing to change our minds. We have to be able to change our course, even at a moment’s notice.

The big brands do this all the time. When a new competitor enters the market, it may force a new strategy and approach to combat it. When forces in the economy affect demand, it may require a new product formulation or pricing scenario. When consumer sentiment takes a pop culture turn, it may require a new messaging dimension.

Every good marketer knows that a big part of branding is being flexible and responding to what’s happening in the marketplace. The same is true of your personal brand.

First of all, you could merely change your mind and not really like the direction your personal brand is taking. Life may not be turning out the way you expected and that’s OK. Embrace it, be flexible, and change your path.

You’re a brand, as we’ve been saying, so you are allowed to evolve. Just look at how brands like Banana Republic, Ford, and AT&T have evolved through the years! At many times during their brand life cycles, they hit a fork in the road and had to evolve to continue their success. You should do the same.

Every milestone event, like a divorce or career change, is a chance to repurpose your personal brand and update its course. Perhaps an opportunity comes along that you were not expecting, like a new job or potential partner. Be flexible with your personal plan to accept the challenge and recreate your brand.

The point here is to remain open, flexible and adaptive throughout the entire process. Having a plan in place doesn’t mean you simply put your head down and plow ahead regardless of what happens. You may need to make a change.

Grow your brand at the same time as you grow as an individual. Change with the times and adapt as our culture evolves. Enhance your brand with opportunities that come your way and seize the chance to move in multiple directions.

There is one big piece of advice, however, that you need to keep in mind along the way: hang on to the relationships you have developed at each crossroad. The people you meet not only make up your brand, they also carry you from milestone to milestone. I’m still connected with colleagues and friends from my very first job to my last one. These are the people who have made me the brand I am today.

Social media makes it so much easier to stay connected and share what’s going on with your brand. Keep these people in your life as you bring others in. The unique mix of relationships will propel you to the next milestone in your journey.

The folks you have known for years will give you the comfort and stability you need to keep progressing forward and the new people you meet along the way will force you to be flexible and change as required to accomplish your evolving goals.

Read more about the author: Jim Joseph

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

So What’s The Big Idea Anyway? (Part 2)

Recently, I had my annual meeting with a longstanding client to plan our marketing work for 2013. The meeting started with a recap of the previous year’s marketing activity. Along with being pleased with their 2012 campaign’s return on investment, they were thrilled by the positive impact their new office window graphics had on attracting new patients. In previous years, window graphics was simply an idea for consideration, but never executed. But last year, they gave us the okay to proceed. Their only regret was not doing it sooner, as this tactic helped create awareness for their practice with everyone passing by.

On a grander scale, some of the more common ideas I have advised on include business to business marketing with local banks and other businesses next door, sponsoring an event at the dance academy down the road, introducing yourself to the local community health club, outdoor advertising on a bus or bus shelter, or getting involved with a local community event or festival.

This past summer, I coached a client who wanted to target market the business professionals working in their local banks. My first message to them was that B to B marketing (business-to-business) required a different approach than B to C marketing (business-to-consumer). B to B is much more about professional salesmanship so that one can professionally introduce themselves. The next advice I offered my clients was to ensure they had the right advice. The mindset and the needs of the business professional are much different than the general public who generally have the needs of their
family in mind.

Whatever the size and scope of the idea or opportunity, make sure that you do it well, so it helps build on your professional brand identity. Here are 5 simple ideas to help you tap into your best unique practice marketing opportunities:

  1. Identify the opportunities: You are an entrepreneur after all, and the gathering of ideas starts with opening up your mind and taking a look around your practice. Get in your car and take a drive around, see what others are doing in other industries and get your team involved with suggestions. Challenge yourself to make a list of ten opportunities.

  2. Qualify these opportunities: Take your list andrank them in order. You should base your rankingson those that best compliment your practice brand. Also, determine which opportunities have the most potential to provide the best benefits, whether it be immediate new patient generation or longer term brand building in your area to your target audience.

  3. Select your top two: For the next twelve months, make it about delivering well on your top two opportunities. You have a lot on your plate already, and focusing on two tactics should be manageable and allow you to execute both of them very well.

  4. Bring your “A” game: Whatever the opportunity, set a budget for the initiative and do it well. Whether you are participating in a community street festival, or introducing yourself to a class of toddlers, make sure that you exude the image of a successful practice.

  5. Be professional in your approach: When other parties are involved, the best way to start is to have a meeting to discuss each other’s business goals and needs in terms of how you will be working together.
At FCM, one of our most important jobs is to get you noticed and standing apart from the rest. We've had great success consulting many clients with strategic business-building marketing ideas to help them grow their business. Every practice is unique and has its own set of opportunities.

So what’s your big idea anyway?

Bottom Line: This article contains tips from a dental practice marketing professional who helps clients discover the ‘Big Idea’ for their practice from a marketing perspective.

Author: Dan Pisek, Practice Marketing Coach

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

So What’s The Big Idea Anyway? (Part 1)

By: Dan Pisek, Practice Marketing Coach

Wrapping your vehicle with your logo and brand colours and driving around your local community. Making a presentation to kids at a local school to promote the importance of good brushing. Introducing yourself to other local businesses. Getting involved or sponsoring an event in your community. Taking promotional frisbees to the beach. Booking the local arena for a “Patient Appreciation Day Skate”. These are just a few ideas that I have discussed with different practices to use to set themselves apart from their competition.

I am often asked the question “What big ideas do you have to help me promote my practice?” Anyone who knows me, or has worked with me to market their practice, knows that I love discussing new big ideas. But before the big ideas start happening, there needs to be a Marketing Action Plan in place which speaks to my “five practice fundamentals”:
  1. Have a brand identity that speaks to your practice vision.
  2. Leverage your website to be your perfect sales agent.
  3. Make the most of every patient relationship with a proactive approach to communication.
  4. Build awareness in your local community with a regular presence.
  5. Engage your team to make the most of your marketing efforts.
A great brand identity, current practice website, patient newsletters (print or electronic), consistent mailers, regular marketing meetings with your team are all tactics that need to be in place and working well together. It’s kind of like making music: you want to have the right instruments playing in your band - and the better the harmony in the instruments playing together, the better your sound.

Once you have my “five practice fundamentals” supporting your big picture vision of your perfect practice, then you can begin to think about other
opportunities to market your office.

I believe that every practice is different and holds its own set of unique marketing opportunities. It seems like more and more practices that I speak
with already have identified an idea or two, but just don’t know what to do with them, or how to take action. For example, on a smaller scale, this could mean installing the right window graphics with the right message on the front of your office, adding the right patient education television system in your patient waiting area, better merchandising of some selected treatments or services, introducing hot towels, a coffee bar or something new to enhance the patient experience, or taking the patient referral program to a higher level.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why Every Business Needs a Cyber Monday Strategy

Cyber Monday is right around the corner and as the world’s biggest day of e-commerce volume all year, it’s a marketing opportunity not to be lost. Now is the time to start your preparation.

Cyber Monday is a cultural phenomenon you should jump into whether you sell online or not. It might be easy to dismiss if you are not the likes of Amazon or Walmart, but the largest e-commerce shopping day of the year can be leveraged for any brand, big or small. This is a chance to connect with your customers in a different kind of way. That's why it's important to have a strategy.

Give your customers something of value, even if you don't sell online. Since all the big brands are promoting their super deals, Cyber Monday is a great chance to offer new value to your customers at the same time. Give them a “gift” for being loyal, or an extra incentive to purchase just a little more. Use caution in your offers. You don’t necessarily want to attract one-timers. Instead, try to build loyalty amongst your best customers or bring in new regulars with something of unique value.

If you own a restaurant or bar, for example, offer your customers a place to rest from their online shopping fatigue and connect with other people in real time. Salons, massage therapists and personal trainers can also offer specials to look and feel good on the biggest e-commerce day of the year. The irony of looking good while shopping online just might connect with your customers.

Don't be afraid to experiment. If you are in a retail business, you absolutely need to get into the Cyber game somehow. And if you’re new to the game, this is your year as experts predict record sales year over year. It’s the perfect time to experiment with new activity and try something different. Run your very first promotion or provide a surprising offer to attract attention to your brand. Stretch your mind and put your brand out there in the frenzy of activity. This just might open up a whole new revenue stream. Create an exciting new hook that you've always wanted to offer, but were afraid to do in ordinary times. This is no ordinary day to put your brand out there and see what happens.

Watch and observe. If you are not up for taking part this year, at least make sure you check out the activity. Marketing is a spectator sport and we can all learn from each other. You may see something that will spark an idea for the New Year or discover a new way to evolve your brand. That’s what marketing is all about.

Stay within your brand character. Don’t jump into Cyber Monday as a completely different brand. Branding is all about being consistent from interaction to interaction, so be conscious of your activity and stay true to your brand, even when it’s “on sale” or when experimenting with new offers.

If your brand is at a premium price, don’t suddenly and drastically mark down all of your products and services just because it’s Cyber Monday. Be more creative in the kind of value you are offering. Make sure it’s appropriate and in-keeping with your brand. A sudden fire sale might signal the wrong kind of message.

Best of luck to you as we begin the holiday season.

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The 80/20 Rule of Time Management: Stop Wasting Your Time

Small-business owners waste their time on what I call $10 an hour work, like running to get office supplies. Meanwhile, they forgo the activities that earn $1,000 an hour, such as sending the right email to the right person, or negotiating a lucrative contract, or convincing a client to do more business with you.

Entrepreneurs don't realize the same 80/20 principle -- the adage that 20 percent of customers equal 80 percent of sales -- applies to every dimension of business. And that includes time management.

We entrepreneurs are extremely prone to rationalize, "I can do it myself." Then we spend six hours trying to extract a virus from our computer or fix a leaky faucet.

Sure, we may be competent to do that little job. And sure, sometimes you have to do everything when you start out. But now you're doing a $10 or $20 per hour fix-the-faucet job and you're not doing your No. 1 job, which is getting and keeping customers. That job pays $100 to $1000 per hour.

Many a promising business has been killed by those little jobs. When someone says "time management," you probably think of time logs, goal lists, and "Getting Things Done." But getting busy is not what makes you rich.

We're tempted to hire out the toughest jobs, like sales and marketing and public relations. These are extremely high-skill tasks. It's almost impossible to delegate those tasks to someone else. How about hiring someone to do your laundry, or sort through your email?

Five things you should do immediately in order to stop wasting time and start earning the real dinero:

Hire a maid. If you have a significant other, he or she will thank you. It is easy to find someone who knows how to cook. Easy to find people who know how to clean. They will love you for paying them $10 to $13 an hour to do those jobs. Somebody's praying for that job now.

As a go-getter, your core entrepreneurial skills can earn you hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. So there's no reason why you should be scrubbing your own toilets. In fact, I argue that it is your moral obligation to hire someone to do that.

Downton Abbey fans will recall that the aristocratic Crawley family thought it was their duty to have servants and provide them employment. Same goes for business owners. The United States would be back down to 5 percent unemployment if entrepreneurs stopped taking out their own trash.

Just get over yourself and….

Get rid of your $10 an hour stuff. Let's assume you are no longer wasting time vacuuming your own carpets or listening to your own voicemails. You are still hurting yourself if you are obsessed with being "efficient." That is not an 80/20 approach to time. Instead, ask: "What else am I doing that is so menial, it could be cheaply outsourced? "What am I doing that I should stop doing altogether?"

Hire a personal assistant. With some effort you can hire a perfectly competent person at $8 to $15 per hour and they'll be happy because it is more interesting work than flipping burgers. I don't care where they are. Virtual is fine. In my case, I hired a friend of a friend, Lorena, whom I heard was looking for work. I started her out changing furnace filters and taking my car to the mechanic. Within six months, she was managing my email box, doing triage to ensure that I only read what really matters. The time she saves me is worth its weight in gold.

Don't feel guilty about relaxing. The most productive people are a little lazy. If there are really only a few hours a day in which you do $1,000-an-hour work, does it really matter if you screw around for the rest of the day? Downtime gives you the mental space you need to think. You can't be a great strategist when you're hustling from morning 'til night. Feed your brain instead, so you're sharp when you're negotiating the next sales contract.

Focus on your most productive time slot. Everybody has a timeslot in their day when they do their finest work. Ernest Hemingway wrote first thing in the morning. Barack Obama is a night owl. (He reportedly even outsources decisions on what to eat and wear.) I do my best work between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. I don't do email before 10 or 11 a.m. I keep that space open. It's reserved for writing or doing really strategic jobs. That's the part of my day when I'm most productive.

Make these changes and you'll hit consistent stretches of $1,000 an hour many days of your week. Then and only then will you reap the true rewards of being an entrepreneur.

Read more about the author, Perry Marshall

Thursday, November 7, 2013

10 Steps To Creating A Mobile-Optimized Content Marketing Strategy

1. Embrace mobile-first as the new mindset

The paradigm shift started with design. The old approach to design for mobile was simple: create a website that worked for users on standard computers (e.g. for the “large screen”). Then get creative and find ways to scale it down for mobile devices. For sites that required more effort than simply being made smaller, designs could be simplified or made more “tappable” as an extension of the touch screen environment.

In recent months, many leading experts in the area of design have come out in opposition to this approach and suggested that good design in 2013 and 2014 is mobile-first. Half of all internet searches now take place on mobile devices, and that number is expected to rise. The implication is that the same kind of thinking needs to be applied to how we create content. Simply writing short and breaking your paragraphs into smaller chunks of text isn’t enough. Tricks for making longer content more digestible might work in the short-term, but thriving in the mobile world requires an increasingly forward-looking approach.

2. Acknowledge tension between long-form and short-form content

If you scan the help wanted ads for freelance bloggers, it’s easy to see the shift to long-form content. Ads that once asked for rates for 500 word articles no longer want submissions less than 1000 words. The assumption here is that longer content can go more in-depth, show more expertise and create more value for the reader.

It’s a natural outgrowth of Google algorithm updates such as Panda, which use content quality as a key metric for how sites rank. The end result should be something that’s read and shared more, ultimately making it more likely to perform well in search engine rankings.

The tension here is whether or not someone is likely to read a 1000 word treatise on your chosen subject on their smartphone. What’s worse for marketers is that the most truthful answer is “it depends.” It depends on your market, the subject, and the use context of their query. Is your 1000 word piece providing them step-by-step guidance for a problem that they need to solve right now?

Are you providing insight and entertainment so gripping that their entire bus commute slips by while they’re reading your material? Or is your subject matter best broken up into digestible bits that are more easily consumed on an as-needed basis? This leads to my next point.

3. Understand your audience’s mobile habits

It’s amazing how many conversations about mobile strategies and content marketing in general happen in the absence of audience data. Can you answer the following questions about your customers and prospects?
  • What percentage of your audience accesses your site on mobile devices?
  • Are they using tablets or smartphones?
  • What activities are they doing on your site, independently and as compared with your overall traffic?
  • What content are they accessing – by topic and by format?
  • How much time do they spend on your site? An audience with an average of 10 minutes is different than an audience with an average of 90 seconds. It’s all about attention span.
  • Do they consume visual content?
  • What other sites, social media platforms, and activities are they doing on mobile?
The greater the depth in terms of your understanding of your audience’s mobile habits, the more compelling your content will be. But specifically, understanding the makeup of their mobile universe will help you create content that feels native – rather than retroactively shoehorned to fit in.

4. Focus on your headlines

Writing the kind of headline that grabs a reader’s attention, piques their interest, and refuses to let them go until they've devoured your content is just good copywriting.

But when writing for mobile users, it’s doubly important that your headline is:

  • Highly relevant to your audience
  • Answers the question “what’s in it for me” by showcasing the benefit to the reader
  • Has a powerful, timely hook
  • Evokes an image or an emotional response in the reader
  • Loaded with proof elements

5. Find opportunities to work your lead-ins

Your article’s lead in, or what’s called lede in journalism, is the first paragraph or two. This is the hook, and what carries the reader through the journey of the broader piece. But the mobile environment is likely to shift the focus on these first, few crucial paragraphs.

Article summaries are becoming ever more important. It’s possible that these “executive briefings” are all that people will read if your content is accessed via mobile. Can you offer the kind of “quick hits in three bullets or less” summary that could give your key takeaways in a few minutes of casual, mobile browsing?

The natural fear is that if you give all the secrets away early, people won’t keep reading. But I’d argue the other perspective: If you deliver tremendous value early on, readers won’t be able to help but keep going. The readers with a screen that’s too small to read 2000 words on still get the value of a positive brand contact and are likely to come back for more.

6. Mix up your content lengths

Strategically, long and in-depth content is vital for SEO. But from a human readership perspective, there’s a big need for hard-hitting, insightful articles that deliver a ton of value in a compressed space. This means that your tactical approach to content generation will need to vary based on the channels that you’re targeting. One strategy is to find a site architecture that features short summaries, as outlined above.

Another is to consciously vary the lengths of the content that you create. Could your site have a version of your blog that mobile readers land on, that highlights short summaries and offers the chance to click over to longer articles? Can you offer two versions of every piece – the long version and the quick hits? Can you vary content on your blog day by day, providing both in-depth tutorials and shorter pieces?

7. Don’t overlook the power of formatting

Reformatting existing content isn’t enough (although you should be doing this). But good mobile formatting should become an essential part of your mobile-first content strategy. You want to be at the forefront of establishing a new model of writing for the web. Mobile-friendly content development is about:

  • Getting to the point, quickly and efficiently
  • Thinking about a layout that integrates tappable elements that make calls to action easy to take
  • Big fonts that are easy to read
  • Colors that pop
  • Visual elements – like visual content and videos – wherever possible
  • Text layouts that are clean and streamlined when you’re dealing with written content
If you've got a website or branding style guide, it may be time to revisit it and revise it to reflect the minimum standards that will help mobile content thrive.

8. Consider the reading level

There’s an old maxim in the newspaper industry that you should write to an eighth grade level. To some, that sounds condescending. But it’s actually congruent with one of the biggest takeaways of any copywriting or direct marketing course: write the way you speak.

In other words, don’t make it harder to read your writing (or listen to your podcast or watch your video) by using it as a place to show off your vocabulary. To a certain extent, you need to know your audience. A blog post targeting plumbers and targeting Ph.Ds. in economics have different universes of potential vocabularies that seem “mundane.” Content for plumbers can refer to parts that the average reader has never heard about; economists will take certain academic concepts for granted. But both have a threshold of what’s easy to get through and acceptable in normal conversation. Remember that this is even more important when you’re dealing with mobile content.

The more general your audience, the better off you are writing to that 8th grade ideal. Get to the point. Be succinct, be clear, and be efficient with your words.

One strategy that can help you do that is to use a Fleisch-Kincaid readability score. The Fleisch-Kincaid readability score gives you a grade level associated with what you write. It’s built right into Microsoft Word’s review feature, and it’s a great way to do a gut check on what you’re writing. It looks at word length, sentence length, and overall construction. If the score is higher than you’d like, take a look and see if it’s possible to reduce the number by playing with these elements.

9. Introduce video and visual content

Videos, infographics, images, and other visual content is becoming increasingly important. If you've shied away from introducing this to your content strategy, moving in the direction of mobile-first is a great time to do so.

Taking a mobile-first approach to video requires paying close attention to the rise of micro-video. Services like Vine, with its six second limit, are pushing the envelope in terms of how brands convey their message. It’s not always practical to convey a message in six seconds, but look at video and visual content through the same lens as text: can this be shorter, tighter or more efficient with my viewer’s time?

10. Use secondary screens

When in doubt, defer secondary content to another screen. If it’s not absolutely essential to the point that you’re making on that page, consider a link instead of embedding it into your content. This is counter-intuitive to a world of content creators that embed video, create pop-up image galleries, and have busy sidebars of products and services. Instead, look for opportunities to defer unnecessary (or less necessary) content and allow your visitors to choose their own adventure as it were. The more streamlined your overall site and content presentation, the better.


Creating a mobile content strategy for your business has many components. If you’re just embarking down that road or you’re revisiting your progress, I’d encourage you to find ways to create for mobile and then “scale up.” Not only will your workload be reduced further than doing it the other way around, but you’ll be setting up a content creation process that’s sustainable into the future.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

7 Things Great Entrepreneurs Don't Do

Author: Steve Tobak

These days, everyone with a MacBook and a blog thinks he’s an entrepreneur. Well, here’s a little tough love for the entrepreneurial generation: Calling yourself a CEO doesn’t make you one and a small army of Twitter followers doesn’t make you a leader, either.

As a wise VC who’s name escapes me once said, “There are entrepreneurs and there are Entrepreneurs.”
Not to dash your hopes and dreams, but the truth is the vast majority of you simply aren’t cut out to be entrepreneurs or leaders. I know you don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. And the sooner you realize you’re not going to be the second coming of Mark Zuckerberg, the better.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to reach for the stars. As Robert Browning said, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” But having grown up in the high-tech industry and worked with hundreds of real CEOs, VCs, and Entrepreneurs for decades, one thing I can tell you is the word has become so overused, it’s almost meaningless.
So while there is no one-size-fits-all model for true entrepreneurs, in my experience, there are some things they seem to have in common. This might surprise you, but what sets them apart isn’t some laundry list of attributes. It’s their actions. What makes them unique is what they do and, perhaps more importantly, what they don’t do.
1. They don’t think about work-life balance.They’re mostly workaholics. What that means is their work comes first. It’s what they live for. They’re not freewheeling, fun-loving people who live for the weekend. They live to do what they love, and that’s work.
2. They don’t try to be what they’re not.Probably the most damaging business myth to come along in decades is personal branding. You are not a product, and you can’t change who you are. Besides, real entrepreneurs don’t think about themselves. They think about their ideas and how to turn them into great products and services. And they deliver.
3. They don’t do it for the money.They don’t whine about how hard they work for peanuts. They just do it. And because they’re passionate about what they do and focused like a laser beam, the money eventually comes, big-time.
4. They don’t have day jobs.Great entrepreneurs don’t just dip their toes in the water. They jump in headfirst without a thought about the rocks below. They don’t do a little of this and a little of that. When they hit on something they think is really cool and exciting, they go all in.
5. They don’t give in to fear.They don’t pay attention to those voices in their heads – you know, the ones that haunt you with everything that can go wrong. They’re not fearless, mind you. Nobody is. They just don’t let their fear stop them from taking risks. They do listen to some voices, though: the voice of reason and their instincts.
6. They don’t have grand visions.While some do have grand delusions that they’re destined for greatness – a prophecy that’s often self-fulfilling, interestingly enough – for the most part, they generally don’t have grand visions for their companies. Zuckerberg, for example, wasn’t trying to create a company. He just wanted to rate the looks of fellow classmates.
7. They don’t have virtual mentors.Most people follow all sorts of writers, bloggers and tweeters these days. That’s fine, but to get somewhere in life, to do great things, you have to have real mentors in the real world. Former Intel chairman Andy Grove mentored Steve Jobs. Jobs, in turn, advised Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Behind every great entrepreneur is at least one great mentor. A real one.
Most importantly, real entrepreneurs don’t call themselves entrepreneurs. They don’t do what everyone else is doing. They don’t follow the status quo, conventional wisdom or popular fads. They carve their own unique path. They’re leaders of their own destiny. That’s what drives them. And that’s why they succeed.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Your Brand Is A Valuable Asset. Manage It Well. (Part 2)

Your brand is an important asset. When you buy a new dental chair, the day after this hard asset is installed into your office it begins to depreciate. When you invest in a professional approach to branding and nurture the brand with good marketing, you have an asset that will appreciate and play a very significant part in the overall success of your practice during its lifetime. Getting your practice started. With many doctors that I meet, there are infinite ideas for how they want to launch their new practice. While it’s great to have ideas, investing time and money on ideas that establish your brand to make a good first impression and immediate emotional response to connect with potential new customers is the first order of business. After all, when starting a new practice your business goals are very simple: Attract the right kind of new patients. To do this you need to understand what type of practice you want to be and the type of clients that you want to have in your practice. Think of your brand, and the marketing that follows, as a bridge that connects your practice to this clientele. The clearer your vision, the stronger your brand will be.

Your brand needs to flow throughout the practice. The colours on the walls and style of uniforms must reflect that personality. The look needs to be consistent from the sign out front to the furniture in the waiting room and treatment rooms. Growing your practice. With a strong brand in place, you have a head start with your marketing. Your marketing will be more effective if people can immediately associate your brand with something. If we placed the Apple logo on a coffee cup, people would automatically expect great quality and be prepared to pay a little bit more for it. Leverage the equity that you have established with your brand to move your practice forward. Be bold. Along with direct marketing, look for opportunities to team your brand with other like-minded brands in the community.

Branding is also a great motivator for your staff. When a team is on board with a common goal, they will represent and reinforce the values of your brand from the greeting on the phone to their interaction with patients in the office.

Office staff may change, hygienists may come and go, and you may want to bring on associates, but the look and feel of the practice will stay the same and that goes a long way to ensuring the loyalty of your clientele.

Also, customer loyalty comes from consistently delivering on the promise of your brand as well as keeping current. Styles change, but with an established brand you don’t have to reinvent yourself all the time. Starbucks recently freshened up their logo, but it was just a tweak. The logo is still instantly recognizable. Over time you can choose to update your logo or refresh the office interior while still keeping your brand association intact. Realizing your optimal practice sale price. When the time comes to sell Cobblestone Family Dentistry, having that brand is like staging a home for sale. It makes it easier for a potential buyers to see themselves owning the practice because they see the practice’s personality, not yours. It’s not only an easier transition for the new dentist, but for the patients and staff as well. It will still be the familiar Cobblestone Family Dentistry.

Brand recognition doesn’t happen overnight though. It’s best to be planning the sale of your practice in advance. An investment of $10,000.00 for a complete professional branding package, as well as some good marketing to build this brand in your office and out in the community, at least three years before listing the practice will deliver a strong return. I’ve discussed this thinking with some of Canada’s leading practice brokers and they agree that well branded practices are better positioned to sell more easily and for more money than a poorly branded or unbranded practice. Your brand is your lifeblood. Your practice is a business with a life and your brand is the blood that pumps through it, keeping it strong. In order to keep that business healthy, you have to manage your marketing well -- and that starts with your brand.

Bottom Line: The article outlines the importance of marketing and your brand name to the health of your practice.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Your Brand Is A Valuable Asset. Manage It Well. (Part 1)

by: Dan Pisek, Practice Marketing Coach

It’s 10 a.m. and you are craving a cup of coffee. Right across the street all lined up in a row are Tim Horton’s, Starbucks and McDonald’s. Which do you choose and for what reason?

I have presented many seminars and workshops where I start with this coffee choice scenario. The Tim Horton’s devotees choose to go there because they associate the brand with convenience and serving a good cup of coffee at a fair price. For the Starbucks crowd, they are fine with paying a little more for a premium cup of coffee and an experience which helps them boost their own image just by carrying the white and green cup around town. McDonald’s is usually the loser in my audience opinion poll. People comment on how it is a very good cup of coffee, convenient to get, and how you can’t beat the price… especially when it’s free. But even with the McCafe experience, people still associate McDonald’s with “would you like fries with that?” It’s a prime example of the power of branding and how it can really support or work against your business goals.

While the coffee business these days is very competitive, so is the world of dentistry. Let’s face it, in most places you don’t have to look too hard to find a dental office. Dr. John Doe DDS, Main Street Family Dental, and Dentistry on Main are there in a row competing for your attention. Now, more and more dentists are realizing that an effectively branded practice is a key component to their success when getting started with a new office, growing their existing practices or getting their practices ready to deliver a larger sale price when it comes time to retire. What is a brand? It’s the personality your practice would have if it were a human being. It’s what people think of when they hear your practice name or see your logo. In the consumer’s eye, the expectation is for you to provide great care on the clinical side of things. Much of it is about the personality of your practice. Do you project the image of a progressive-minded practice and what will you provide by way of patient experience? Effective branding of your practice is about effectively communicating who you are as a practice to set yourself apart from the competition. Ignite your practice brand. Just like you want a strong foundation to build your home on, you want a strong foundation to build your marketing on. After all, everything that you do to market your practice is an extension of your brand. There are three key areas to consider to effectively brand your practice:

1. Your name. Just using your name to identify your practice does very little to tell people anything about what you are as a practice, where you are located, the type of dentistry you provide or anything about the patient experience that they can expect. Cobblestone Family Dentistry immediately speaks to the young families living in the Cobblestone Plaza neighborhood  Also, today communities comprise a mixed cultural diversity and keeping last names out of the practice name also keep the practice culturally neutral. A depersonalized practice is also better positioned for growth, especially when hiring associates. Patients make an appointment to see one of the great dentists at Cobblestone Family Dentistry and don’t feel short-changed that they aren’t seeing the dentist whose name is on the door.

2. Your logo. It’s important to have the right look for how your practice name is presented. Just like the Apple or the Nike swoosh, you want a logo that your customers will associate immediately with your practice and be part of the emotional reaction to the brand.

3. Your website. Nowadays, so many buying decisions are made on the Internet, including healthcare choices. Your brand must translate well to your website. Image is everything here. Even if you start off with a very simple splash-page, be sure that it is in tune with your brand. You can always add to the website as the practice grows.