Saturday, January 30, 2010

You're already a Guru

No one told you?

What I mean is that each one of us has special talents, skills or knowledge that makes us a real resource within that area of expertise. Think about it — some of us are great at woodworking, cooking or writing. Others of us may have a talent for juggling, playing chess or even skipping stones. Personally, I happen to have spent my career as a marketer... and I know a whole lot of what does and doesn't work when it comes to promoting your business or yourself.

However, you may not have known that I was a former professional football player. (It's true — I signed a contract with the Green Bay Packers as a kicker back in 1985. Alas, my kicking career ended at the end of preseason that very same year.) Even though I got cut, my skill in kicking a football was better than roughly 99.9% of the world's population!  Doesn't that qualify me as an expert?

But wait, there's more!

I am a product of the 60's & 70's TV watching. I have a lot of grey matter devoted to shows like Batman, Hogan's Heroes and Gilligan's Island. I love movies and when I was 15, went to see Star Wars 8 times when it first came out (remember kids, there was no such thing as a DVD, DVR or Hulu — once it was gone from the theater, it was gone). Quiz me about any of those things and I will give anyone a run for their money.

That means I could be the Marketing Guru, The Kicking Guru or the Gilligan Guru. Is there fame and fortune there? Quite possibly, yes. From writing books, public speaking or running a camp. But even better is establishing yourself as an expert in something that you're legitimately good at, fond of, or truly enjoy, is one of the great purposes in life.

Why not seize the moment and claim your throne?

Understand, most people never plant their flag. They're experts in hiding. Why? Timidity is no way to lead your life. Worried that you're not a "big enough" expert? Don't be. The fact that Neil Rackers of the Arizona Cardinals is a far better kicker than I doesn't hamper me from helping kids across the country kick a football better than they did before. And, when Neil missed a big kick recently in the NFL playoffs, he might have been interested in what a guy like me had to say... let's face it, I've had more experiences with missing kicks than he! :-)

If you're interested to connect with me inside (or outside) my areas of expertise, feel free to do so:

— The Marketing Guru
— The Kicking Guru
— The Big Ideas Guru
— The Gilligan Guru

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Domain Name 101

You have a business or a brand, but you don't have a good domain name. Given that there are over 114 million active sites and another 377 million deleted names already in play, it's getting harder and harder to obtain a unique name that isn't five miles long.

It seems that there's just no way to get a decent domain name.

There's more myth in that one might think. Sure, every 4-letter combination of characters has been snatched up. (Try it - type in any combination of four characters and it will most likely take you to a site or a site holder page.) Understand, like playing the lottery, once you go beyond four, however, the combinations jump exponentially... meaning — there are still a lot of available names out there.

Here's how to craft your great domain:
Sor purposes of this blog, I presume you're already locked in to your company or brand name - so don't complicate things - just use the name of your business. It's how people know you. All that you're after is to place your existing business on the Internet map of your prospects and customers. If you're "Doug's Donuts" or "Acme Services, Inc.", search for those domains directly. You're not after a "Google" or "Flickr" kind of name (Go to Step 3, if you really are).

The problem, of course, is that your brand name may already be taken.

Step 1) Start by looking for your name.
Always start by trying to get exactly what you want - keeping the character count as low as possible without sacrificing clarity.If people know you, your company or your brand products or services, give them what they already know.

NOTE No.1: There are many domain companies, like Network Solutions, 1and1 and GoDaddy, but my favorite is I recommend them highly. Signing up with them is free; they're easy to work with; you can search in bulk for names and they have all the tools (hosting, web templates and such) that can take you from start to finish on the web for a very affordable price.

WARNING No.1: There are real concerns over some domain registries "poaching" names. I often check on the availability of domain names on behalf of my clients (yet often I have to wait for client approval before I can purchase the new domain). 9x... NINE TIMES, I have had available domains stolen from me just hours after I had searched for them. At first I thought it was pure coincidence, but when I searched WhoIs? for the purchaser, I found it newly owned by the very same registrar I had used! It's like going to the store - picking something out to put on layaway, but by the time you're to the back of the store to pay for it, the clerk is wearing your new shirt! I'm happy to report that I have not had this problem with in three years working with them.

NOTE No.2: BTW, you're looking for a .com name.
The day is coming when other suffixes will be acceptable, but to be taken seriously (and perception is key out of the gates), you need a .com domain unless you're a non-profit or group, in which case .org may be just fine. Don't fall for .net. It makes you less credible to your new prospects - avoid it.

Step 1.5) Sorry for the interruption...
Where was I? Yes, start by choosing clarity. Your own brand name. "" would be a great name. "" or "" are both strong names and easy to remember. When in doubt, use real words and avoid hyphens. How do you describe a hyphen to a prospect? "Dougs [dash]"? It's not pretty.

Step 2) My name's too long and has unusable characters, what do I do?
What if you're "Tallahassee Industrial Power & Equipment"? "" is a mouthful and doesn't even fit on your business card. Oh, and what to do about that ampersand? (" Hopefully not.) This might be a case to try for an acronym like, but guess what... that's four letters.

Try again, with the key words. Typically, the first two words that people remember: "" or "" You may need to do a little research to find out what your customers call you. Can the name be shortened? "" seems a bit awkward, while "" is catchy.

NOTE No.3: Why not buy the taken name?
Yes, you can try to buy it from the owner (check out WhoIs?), but don't do it unless you are expecting to go National and have the VC money lined up.

Try asking this instead: what's the benefit of your product? What's your tagline? Can that answer become the domain? You might be surprised to learn that "", "" or "" are not owned by the corporate giants who use(d) these phrases. This means that yours may be available! You can see the obvious benefit of having that phrase be your domain instead of the corporate name.  What's more, your tagline finally gets to go to work for a change! One of the best examples of this is for a regional insurance company called West Bend Insurance here in Wisconsin. Their domain? "" - brilliant.

Step 3) But I want some pizazz!
If your gut is telling you that your brand domain is a yawn, I have a trick for you. But, remember, you're only looking for the domain name to make it back to your prospect's computer. Can they remember it? Can they type it in correctly? You may not need a jazzy name.I hate to see real equity thrown out the door.

But, if you still want one, understand you may be talking about changing the brand name altogether. Having your domain name be identical to your brand name has huge advantages over time. Consider this carefully.

If you're game, here's one way of how to make the attempt: list out the attributes of your firm, your brand, your products. Single words that have some relevance. How it looks, feels, tastes, its benefits, affordability and so forth. Highlight the words that either have the most power or resonance to them, or those that seem to roll off the tongue. Mix 'em and match 'em. How do you think "MicroSoft" or "GreenPeace" were born? This can be an effective way of finding something entirely new and memorable.

WARNING No.2: Certain words are close to extinction.
Almost anything with "soft" or "green" or "micro" has been taken. "", however, is still available.

For help beyond what you can muster with this help... friend or tweet Mike Farley at JacksonSpencer and Become a Fan of JacksonSpencer on Facebook. If you like what you read here, FOLLOW this blog or jump over and join the Big Ideas Group on LinkedIn for more great small business insight. It's well worth the FREE pricetag! 

All the best — Mike Farley

Get this special offer courtesy of theJacksonSpencer Blog from
Award Winning Hosting: $5.75/month!
Free Domain with Hosting. Use coupon code 'Domain10'

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Becoming Iconic

Personal branding is one thing, but becoming an icon, well, that's for someone else.

Or is it?

On the WebDesignerDepot website is a curious list of the 100 most iconic people of all time. That's a list with personalities like Winston Churchill, Muhammad Ali and Jesus Christ. A pretty weighty list to be sure. But one thing struck me as I scrolled down the list to see who they had selected for their list... almost ALL of them could be identified by a visual characteristic - the very core of any good brand identity.

It's not that you have to be beautiful - you just have to work with what you've got.

Let me run down the list a bit, and you identify a brand image... if I said Albert Einstein, you'd say the big mustache and the crazy white hair. Try some others:

Woody Allen
Louie Armstrong
Ludwig van Beethoven
Napoleon Bonaparte'
Curt Cobain
Fidel Castro
Charlie Chaplin

I didn't even get to Salvadore Dali yet!

Woody Allen (glasses)
Louie Armstrong (giant smile)
Ludwig van Beethoven (brooding looks and wild hair)
Napoleon Bonaparte' (short stature and the hand in his coat)
Bono (tinted glasses and trademark scruff)
Curt Cobain (unkempt hair)
Fidel Castro (military hat, cigar & beard)
Charlie Chaplin (derby, mustache and walking cane)

What's the point?

If you consciously make the choice to focus on a part of your physical feature, your sense of style or anything else that sets you apart, people will remember. Like a brand that selects a specific color, type font or celebrity endorser - over time, that feature will stick in the minds of those who come in contact with you. "Top of mind awareness." Isn't that the old school slogan? It may be old school, but it works. For personal branding, nothing gets more personal - but few things are as difficult for us to do, than to focus so much of our attention to a single positive and impressionable feature we possess.

Perception Over Reality

Early in my marketing career, the hottest ad agency in the world was in my own back yard — Fallon McElligott & Rice. Today, Fallon is one of the world's leading agencies, doing ads for some of the very biggest and best known brands in the world. Yet, when they first started out in Minneapolis, they were but three people meeting over the lunch hour. They simply decided to do things a bit differently, and with hard work, and some very clever headlines, were able to radically change how ad agencies put themselves on the map.

The "real" FMR story...

Account executive Pat Fallon knew that Tom McElligott, a copywriter, and Nancy Rice, an art director, had the talent, energy and drive to succeed, but none of them had any recognition. So he took the simple assignments from low budget client's and parlayed them into a series of ads run in all the usual places (bus stops, billboards, weekly shoppers, newspapers, local TV and more). They practically invented the punny headline which caught the eyes of customers AND some local businesses, as well. In short order, they had banded together a nice regional collection of brands to work for.

But here's where Pat's marketing savvy took over. One of the key awards shows of the day was the One Show in New York. It's open to any agency that wishes to submit work (along with a check of $100 for each entry). Entries into exciting categories like BEST REGIONAL BLACK & WHITE NEWSPAPER AD, and BEST :60 SECOND PSA TV SPOT. Madison Avenue agencies typically walked away, coveting the 3-5 golden and silver pencils that they had won from the juried competition; on a great day, maybe a baker's dozen.

Fallon thought they might be able to win some trophies, too, proving that their brand of "creative" was as good as any in the country. Just think, a little shop from the Twin Cities mentioned in the same breath as venerable shops like J.Walter Thompson, Oglivy & Mather, BBDO and Saatchi & Saatchi. Pat Fallon's plan was audacious, yet oh, so simple. If their clever headline really was clever, the judges would have to award it, but if you entered the same ad in multiple categories - wouldn't the judges have to award it in each and every one, too? Fallon ponied up close to $10,000 in entry fees.

The result?

FMR took home close to 80 pencils in one awards show (and parlayed those wins in other national and international competitions). The nearest competitor's tally was 15! As you can imagine, the new talk of the town was the "hot" shop from the Midwest. Fallon never looked back and now operates around the globe with over a billion dollars in business. They had officially become an "expert" in creative advertising on the backs of "exciting" brands like the Episcopal Church and Hush Puppies shoes.

What has this to do with your brand?

Fallon knew it had the talent, just not the PR to match. Generating a buzz for the very topic you wish to be an expert in should become your primary mission this year. Fallon wanted to wear the Creative Crown. The only way to "prove" that was to win an award show that had everything to do with creativity - what's more, it was juried by the "best in the business". If the judges liked it, EVERYONE had to like it. It was a risk, but they outsmarted the game - in effect, the risk they took was an "expert" one. So, where can you effectively place yourself or your products so that the outcome is proof of your own superiority? Consider how you might handle these areas differently this year:

• Doing something dramatic at a trade show
• Organizing something that gets local TV coverage
• Owning an issue in your industry to get write ups in the important publications
• Finding the blogs read by influencers and contributing to them
• "Piggy-back" the endorsement from an industry celebrity or expert
• Establish a professional image via web beyond anyone else in your field

The point is, there are a number of options from which you might find some traction. Rack your brain to determine who might be willing to assist or how you might generate a superior perceived level of importance. If you believe in yourself and the might of your brand, regardless of whether it's achieved any status as yet, the perceptional value is more important when you first begin. Perception becomes your reality.

For Fallon, it couldn't have been clearer. Three years from inception, they landed the Rolling Stone Magazine account and crafted the now famous comparison ad campaign... FMR's public perception had finally matched their fiscal reality.

Now create your own.

If you're interested to gain more ideas on personal branding, contact Mike Farley via: Facebook, Twitter or his website.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A New Hope

If you're political, you may read that one way... if you're a sci-fi geek, quite another. With the coming of the new year, the possibilities before us always seem fresh and new, too bad we squander them year-after-year.

Not this year!

Why don't we actually get what we want this year? Are you with me? OK, it's not that 2009 was that bad (OK, for some it was)... but it wasn't all that it could have been. My plans for 2009 fell short. I suspect yours did, too.


Maybe we didn't really have a plan at all. Just a "hope". I remember reading "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" years ago. It's filled with the stuff that helps motivate you to think differently about your situation; to take responsibility for it and to use positive thinking to overcome the obstacles that fall in our way. But the thing that a book like this often misses, is the specific actionable plan that would mean the difference between hoping for success and actually achieving it. For some of you, the issue may be weight loss (maybe just a few pounds) or improving your love life (who wouldn't?), but for my purpose today, it's about making more money — so that you can gain more freedom to save it or spend it on the things that are important to you.

3 New steps to take:

1. Jot down what you're making right now and how you obtain it.
(i.e - $50,000 managing a department in 45 hours a week). Now think about how that number could rise. Does more time at the job mean more money? Is that worth the effort? Is there a smarter way to gain more? Who else in your group has increased their pay and how did they achieve it? Maybe it's as simple as asking for a raise.

...or maybe you, like me, have no one to get a raise from.

If you're self-employed, you know your paycheck only comes from the clients you can "catch and keep". How can you increase the amount the current ones are willing to spend with you? Each and every one? Do that... actually write out what you're making from each one and come up with an idea of how you might earn more business. Of course, you can go after new business, but the lowest "hanging fruit" is found right in your own backyard. Don't forget about this. Often, it can be VERY easy to pick.

2. Set aside a time (an hour or two) every week to increase your pay. Go into your calendar and set it up (right after reading this) so that you'll do it. It's a meeting you can't miss. During that time, you'll think, strategize, write, call, mail, market or schmooze whomever or however you can to earn more business. It might be the hobby you had hoped would turn into a career. Now you have the makings of getting it off the ground. Maybe it's pursuing "whales" in your business with the intent of landing just one. Think what your payday will be like on the day that it comes to fruition. Will this extra time each week be worth the effort? By doing so, what do you honestly think the payday will be - ADD THAT NUMBER TO YOUR CURRENT INCOME. Now you have a number that's meaningful to shoot for - and honest, instead of simply wishful thinking. Wishes have a hard time of coming true... but even if you miss on your stated target now, you're likely to hit "A" target and your pay will be more than before!

3. Last thing... what's the one "crazy-ass" scheme you've had in your head all of these years? This is the year to give it a chance. So set aside a block of three hours that you can give to it this month. Then, another three next month. All in the same span. For a wild idea, you're going to need to stay at it a bit to work it out. Letting this find the light of day is one one big chance to really upset the apple cart. Far too many of us, never give it a go because it's easier to simply sit back and complain. Once you've figured out the basics, seek out support from friends in your network (maybe even a group I support called, The Big Ideas Group). The more tangible your big idea is, the more likely you'll have the opportunity to capitalize upon it.

Does any of this guarantee your success for 2010? Nope. But following these first three steps will give your rebel-self a fighting chance of seeing a marketable change in attitude (and hopefully your pocketbook) come this time next year!