The Tool That Helps You Define Your Business’ Brand

Today will be a quick post because I’m going to pull from a company called Brand Amplitude and will just give an overview and then send you off to their resources. Brand Amplitude has an awesome tool for helping business owners figure out how they want to brand their businesses and they’ve made it so much more accessible than the original version that they based their tool off of.

That tool is called the Brand Identity Prism and here are the basics:

The prism is a hexagon with 6 pieces that come together to form a rallying cry for your business.

Part one is your capabilities – what your business can do and do well.

Part 2 is your internal values and culture – this is about who are as a company.

Part 3 is your noble purpose – this is why your business does what it does – what impact are you looking to have beyond making money?

Part 4 is personality – this is about your business’ style and how it presents itself and relates to its customers.

Part 5 is shared values and community – this goes beyond your internal values and culture because it’s about which of those values overlap with the values of the customers you serve.

Part 6 is aspirational self image – this is all about what your customers want their use of your brand to say about them.

All of that comes together to inform your rallying cry – the rallying cry often becomes the slogan of a business – it’s what all 6 of the parts add up to and summarizes the core of your brand.

This tool is fabulous to help you define who you are as a company and what that means in terms of how to brand your business – and we all know that a consistent brand is vitally important for you to form a lasting relationship with your customers and to thrive as a business.

Please check out Brand Amplitude’s Slideshare for all of the details. I promise it will be worth your time.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, the best thing you can do for yourself is to just get started. Pick up my business planning ebook here to be guided through the whole business planning process for less than $5. More of a video person than a text person? Click here to try my ecourses instead.




4 Questions to Help You Escape Marketing Overwhelm

Today we’re talking about how to escape from the dreaded problem of marketing overwhelm.

When you’re a business owner, especially a new business owner, you’re going to be overwhelmed with all of the information and advice out there about how you should be marketing your offerings – social media, radio ads, billboards, TV, Facebook, Twitter, Adwords, loyalty programs, marketing collateral, websites, conversion rates, copywriting, SEO, content marketing, word of mouth, direct mail, cold calling, referral programs, affiliate marketing, and the list goes on and on. It can all be pretty overwhelming.

So how the heck do you decide which marketing channels you should focus on and which you should set to the side so that you can escape from marketing overwhelm and actually get some effective marketing done? Well, it’s actually far simpler than you’d expect; all you have to do is ask yourself the following questions:

Firstly: Will this reach my ideal customer? If you don’t know who your ideal customer is, you’d better figure it out because your entire marketing strategy needs to be built around reaching that ideal customer. If you do know who your ideal customer is, then you know where he or she hangs out and what he or she is into. If a marketing channel isn’t going to reach your ideal customer, don’t waste any time exploring it.

Secondly: Is this consistent with my brand? Your brand is who you are as a business and how your potential customers see you. You don’t want to do anything that would mess up that image by pursuing a marketing avenue that is inconsistent with your brand. If you offer green cleaning supplies, getting branded labels on disposable plastic water bottles probably isn’t going to be too endearing to your customers.

Next: What ROI can I expect? Marketing is about bringing new customers in the door. It has to generate more revenue for your business than it costs or it isn’t worth the expense. Take a look at some of the data on any given marketing channel and try to estimate what ROI you can expect before you jump in so that you don’t waste time testing marketing channels that are just going to cost you money and not actually generate new business. If you’re going to pay for a Facebook ad, you don’t just want to know how many people will see it and how much you have to pay – you want to know what click through and conversion rates are typically like when people advertise similar products at similar price points to similar target audiences and then do a little analysis and compare that estimated customer acquisition cost to the estimated lifetime value of that customer.

Finally, ask yourself: Do I have the cash up front to utilize this channel? Maybe a TV advertisement during a certain show in your local area would be seen by a bunch of people in your target market, would be consistent with your branding, and should generate a high ROI – that’s awesome, but if you can’t afford the cost of that ad then it doesn’t make any sense for you to spend time planning around this particular marketing channel.

If you ask yourself these four questions and are honest with the answers, you should be able to quickly eliminate A LOT of the many marketing options so that you’re less overwhelmed and more able to do a more thorough analysis of the options that seem promising. That way you can get on track with actually developing and implementing successful marketing campaigns that will help you grow your business.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, the best thing you can do for yourself is to just get started. Pick up my business planning ebook here to be guided through the whole business planning process for less than $5. More of a video person than a text person? Click here to try my ecourses instead.

Why Understanding Your Target Market Is So Important

Today, I’m tackling a question from one of my followers, Martin, who wrote me and said:

“Can you make a video on target market and how important it is to figure this out? Love your videos!”

Firstly, thanks for the compliment – even if maybe it was just flattery to get me to make this video for you. Secondly, certainly, Martin. I will happily make a video on target market, and here it is:

Your target market is the group of people whom you want to sell your product to, the niche population that you’re going to target with your marketing, because you believe these people are most likely to buy what you have to sell. Identifying the correct target market and being as specific as possible about who it’s made up of is imperative for you to develop a successful marketing campaign because, if you don’t, you’re stuck with the spray and pray method of marketing, which is incredibly expensive and not likely to lead you to success.

To define your target market, start with the problem you’re solving because that easily leads you to whom you’re solving that problem for. So, let’s say you sell custom-made bassinets for infants. The problem you’re solving is a lack of a place for a new baby to sleep and, naturally, you’re solving it for new or soon to be new parents. You also know that these parents value high quality, design, and uniqueness or they would just go to a big box store and buy any old bassinet. Plus, you know they’re financially comfortable or, again, they wouldn’t have something custom made, they would go to a big box store and buy something reliable but inexpensive.

If you were doing this exercise for your real business, you would want to dig in deeper and get as specific as possible in describing this ideal customer but, in the interest of keeping this video to a reasonable length, I’ll move on.

Now that you’ve described the ideal customer in as much detail as possible, you can take that info and begin to extrapolate about the demographics of the group – new parents with disposable income are probably somewhere between the ages of 25 and 40, middle or upper middle class with professional jobs, educated, etc. Then you take that demographic info and use it find market research studies or even census data that can help you narrow down how to access and attract the people in this target market as customers. For example, which neighborhoods in your city are home to young, middle and upper middle class families? Where do those parents work? How do they get to and from work? What do they do in their free time? What motivates them? Who are they friends with? Who do they turn to for advice?

All of this is incredibly important because it allows you to target your marketing in a way that is so much more specific and personal, and specific and personal marketing campaigns are the ones that are really successful for your business. When you have a good understanding of who your ideal customer is and, therefore, who your target market is, you’ll be able to get in front of those people much more easily and with a much more compelling message than you would have been able to without that understanding. And that means that your marketing campaigns will be less expensive and have much higher ROIs. No more buying ads on the local radio station if customers in your target market only listen to Sirius or Pandora or Spotify and no more partnering with the local midwife group if your ideal customer would only ever dream of going to an MD.

So, there you have it, Martin. I hope that answered your question: understanding your target market is so incredibly important because it allows you to access that market more effectively and efficiently and you can identify your target market by starting with the problem you’re solving and then doing a bit of demographic and market research about the people whom you solve it for.

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, the best thing you can do for yourself is to just get started. Pick up my business planning ebook here to be guided through the whole business planning process for less than $5.
More of a video person than a text person? Click here to try my ecourses instead.


Infographic: How Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Can Improve Your Marketing

Over a year ago I wrote a post explaining how Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be used to help entrepreneurs more effectively market their startups and small businesses. In keeping with my goal of updating old content to create new infographics every month, I’ve turned that post into a mini infographic, which you can see below. If you’d like all of the details, read the original post by clicking here.



Thanks for liking and sharing!

Tips for Pricing Your Products & Services

Pricing is one of the most frustrating, stress-inducing, and confusing issues for new entrepreneurs to tackle, and it’s also one of the most important pieces of the success puzzle in entrepreneurship, so today we’ll look at a couple of strategies for figuring out how to price your offerings.

To start, take a look at your value proposition and your ideal customer. What message are you trying to convey? Do you intend to be the premium product option or are you trying to compete on price? It’s important to know where you will place yourself in the mix of your competitors. As a general rule, presenting your products as the luxury option will result in lower volume, but higher margins on what you do sell. Conversely, presenting yourself as the bargain option will lead to higher sales volume and lower margins. However, this only holds true if your full branding picture – and the product itself – match up. You can’t present your new restaurant as the premium option, price the dishes that way, and then serve frozen fish sticks; nor can you attempt to be the bargain option and only advertise in the Wall Street Journal. Look at the competitive landscape of pricing and then look at your value proposition and where you want to position yourself in that mix. If you’re the premium option, you need to be at the top of the price range among your competitors. If you’re the bargain option, you’d better be at a bargain price.

Also remember that you can affect where your products fall in the pricing mix – and, therefore, affect customers’ purchasing behavior – by manipulating how your own products are priced in relation to one another. One tactic is to give customers multiple pricing options for similar products. For example, there is a famous and often studied situation where a company produced a bread maker that simply wasn’t selling. Instead of pulling the bread maker off of the market, the company introduced another bread maker – with very similar features and benefits – at a higher price point. Once the new, more expensive bread maker was introduced, sales for the original bread maker increased drastically because customers all of a sudden saw it as a steal by comparison. If you have multiple product or service offerings, think about how to price them in relation to each other to encourage the purchasing behavior that you want from your customers.

Now that you have an idea of where you’d like to position your product(s) in terms of price, you have to double check that it’s doable given the realities of your company. Take a look at your costs to determine what you spend to produce what you have to offer. Clearly, this is more straight-forward for companies selling actual goods, but services companies need to be aware of the value of their time as they commit to projects at certain price points as well as the cost of the tools they’ll use to complete a project. Identify the cost of producing each unit of whatever you want to sell and compare that to the price you’d like to sell it for to find your gross margin. Then, don’t forget to keep fixed costs in mind so you’ll have a better picture of whether your pricing strategy actually fits with your operations.

If the ideal price point that you decided on based on your competitive and industry analysis just doesn’t mesh with the price you need based on your costs, then you may need to re-examine your business model. I wanted you to determine your ideal price positioning before looking at your costs and pricing needs for a reason: you have to be honest about where you should be pricing and that’s hard to do if you already know where you need to be pricing. If you start with the cold hard facts, it’s easy to let what you need in terms of pricing influence how you analyze the market, but if you do the market analysis first, you’ll have some more honest numbers to use in your analysis. Then, if you can’t make the pricing that works in the market work for the economics of your business, you may need to rethink what you’re doing.

How to Conduct Competitive Intelligence – Ethically and Inexpensively

As you begin building your startup or small business, it’s important that you stay up to date with what’s happening in your industry and what your competitors are doing. You can’t really compete very well if you don’t pay any attention to what anyone else is doing.

Think about it this way, if you’re a football coach or player, you definitely watch video of the next team you’re going to play and analyze their style and strategy, note their strengths and weaknesses, and come up with strategies for beating them before you walk onto the field on game day. Yes, most of your time is spent developing your own skills, but you can’t ignore what’s going on on your competitors’ teams. It’s no different in business. You should be paying attention to what your competitors are doing and you should have a competitive intelligence strategy laid out for how you’ll go about gathering this information.

Now, of course, you don’t want to get sucked into a stalking spiral. Competitive intelligence can be just as addictive as looking at wedding and baby photos on Facebook, so be sure you know what information you want to gather and how you’ll gather it before you start so that once you have what you need, you stop. Also make sure that you’re keeping all of your “spying” techniques and practices above board and that you never cross any ethical lines while conducting competitive intelligence. Creeping on some companies online is one thing, corporate espionage is quite another.

To begin investigating, simply start with your competitors’ websites. It’s always a good idea to see how your competitors present themselves to customers and get an idea of their branding, messaging, and sales funnel. Additionally, you can use tools like to help you identify how much traffic your competitors’ websites generate and where that traffic comes from. You shouldn’t blindly copy anything and everything that competitors do, but if they’re getting lots of traffic from PPC ads and you’ve never even given PPC a try, you should take note. The same goes for checking out competitors’ social media profiles: note which platforms they’re on, how many followers they have, whether those followers are active, etc. Also pay attention to the type of content they’re putting out and what gets the most interaction from followers. Again, don’t copy everything you see but if Facebook posts with videos are netting 10x the shares of Facebook posts with just text, you may want to experiment with posting some videos on your own Facebook page.

You can gather some great information from a company’s website and social media presence, however, be sure to take everything with a grain of salt. This is the public persona of the business and that public persona may or may not match up with what’s actually happening behind the scenes. You’re not likely to see a competitor posting that if they don’t increase sales immediately they’ll be bankrupt in 6 months, nor are you likely to see companies spilling the beans about their most exciting upcoming projects until they’re ready to launch those projects.

In addition to checking out the public personas of your competitors, try looking under the hood a bit. If you’re in the high growth startup space, pay attention to who’s raising money, who’s been funded, and how big the checks are. Also take note of who the investors are and who’s on the Board of Directors. This type of information can tell you a lot about where a competitor is in its life cycle, how much runway it has, and what may be in the works. Combine that with some research into the team: who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?, how many employees are there?, who are the employees and what are their backgrounds?, is the company actively hiring?, is there a lot of turnover?, etc.

Finally, check out the press. See if your competitors are getting any attention from the media and note what it’s for and whether the coverage is positive or negative. How are they attempting to position themselves and what are the talking points they’re trying to get out there? Are they media darlings or they having trouble getting traction?

All of this information will help you understand the competitive landscape in which your company is being built and help you build a more successful strategy for your own success. You’re not building your company in a bubble, so a sound plan of attack must take into account what your competitors are doing.

Did you like this video? If so, please let me know by giving it a thumbs up on YouTube and Facebook and sharing it with your network. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow me on social media so you don’t miss out on any info that could help you plan, launch, or grow your business. If you want the goods delivered to your inbox every week so you don’t have to do anything more than click, sign up for my newsletter.

Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time on New Venture Mentor.

Business Building Tips Weekly Round-Up: November 21, 2014


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4 Ways to Offer Sales That Boost (Not Damage) Your Business

In this article for American Express’ OPENForum, Geoff Williams discusses how to best promote your startup or small business using sales that will increase sales and bring in new customers as opposed to costing you time and money. His suggestions include:

  • Make sure you’ll at least break even
  • Watch out for the deal hunters
  • Know who you want to attract
  • Know why you’re having a sale to begin with

Click the article title above to read the full piece and get all of the details.


10 Things You Most Likely Didn’t Know About Social Media

In this article for Social Media Today, Monica Wells shares some surprising tidbits about social media that will be helpful for any entrepreneur trying to market a startup or small business to know. Click the article above to get all of the details.

Best Gifts for Entrepreneurs

As we get deeper into the holiday season, in this week’s New Venture Mentor post I share my top picks at a variety of price points for the best gifts to give the entrepreneur in your life.


The 5 Worst Things You Can Say When Pitching for Venture Capital

In this article for Forbes, investor Josh Linkner shares the top ways entrepreneurs put their foot in their mouth when pitching their startups to venture capitalists and angel investors. Click the article title above to get all of the info.


8 Brilliant Facebook Marketing Tactics to Use Right Now

In this piece for Social Media Today, Betsy Kent shares 8 ideas for kicking your startup’s or small business’ Facebook marketing up a notch. Click the article title above to learn her tips.


4 Marketing Strategies That Paid Off for Small Companies

In this piece for the Wall Street Journal’s Small Business section, Chris Gay gives 4 examples of entrepreneurs who were able to spread the word about their startups and small businesses without spending a ton of cash. To learn how they did it and see if you can apply these tactics to your business, click the article title above.

Business Building Tips Weekly Round-Up: October 17, 2014



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 The One Mistakes That’s Killing Your Business

In this article for Entrepreneur, Alex Banayan explains why focusing on brand building isn’t going to help most small businesses succeed and argues instead that they need to focus on the strategies used by direct marketers. According to Banayan, when marketing a small business you should:

  • Always in include an offer
  • Give a reason to respond right now
  • Give clear instructions
  • Focus on tracking, measurement, and accountability
  • Only do no-cost brand building
  • Always follow up
  • Make it look like mail order advertising
  • Strengthen your copy
  • Focus on results
  • Go on a strict direct marketing diet.

To get all of the details, click the article title above.


Go Guerilla! 5 Unorthodox Ways to Market Your Brand

In this article for Entrepreneur, Mike Trigg discusses some of the most successful guerilla marketing campaigns in recent years and how you can utilize some of their strategies to promote your own business. According to Trigg, you should:

  • Have a hook
  • Be provocative
  • Sell an idea, not a product
  • Make it tangible
  • Take a risk

Click the article title above to get all of the details.

Top Startup Mistakes: Not Properly Handling Money

In this week’s New Venture Mentor article I remind us, yet again, of the importance of properly managing your startup’s or small business’ money if you want to succeed. Click the article title above to see some of the most common money mistakes new entrepreneurs make, so you can avoid them.


The 25 Tools Every Entrepreneur Should Know About

Who doesn’t want to find inexpensive or free tools to make your life as an entrepreneur easier? In this article for Entrepreneur, Sujan Patel shares 25 of his favorites.


The Art of Setting Your Price

Figuring out what to charge for what you have to offer can be one of the most difficult decisions for new entrepreneurs. In this article for Inc., Eric Holtzclaw gives you some pointers for choosing the right price point including:

  • Start with your direct costs
  • Take into account ALL of your costs
  • Ignore your competition
  • Cover your opportunity costs
  • Evaluate prior projects

To get all of the details, click the article title above.


5 Things You Must Do To Successfully Launch a Business

In this article for Entrepreneur, Christopher Hann reminds us of some of the very basics you need to make sure are covered before you can become a successful startup founder:

  • Validate your idea
  • Shore up your plan and budget
  • Build the right team
  • Establish a support system
  • Respond to feedback and refine your model

If you’d like to learn more, click the article title above.




Learn From My Mistakes: Copyright Headaches

Hey everyone:

This week’s episode is going to be a little less structured and it’s really just a cautionary tale so that you can learn from my mistakes.

Entrepreneurship is full of headaches and mishaps that could easily be avoided if you knew what to look for, but when you’re a brand new entrepreneur you don’t know what you don’t know – so you often can’t even ask the right questions to be able to prepare yourself. Well, even though I’ve been in the entrepreneurship world for years, I’m still pretty new to this whole YouTube thing so I recently had one of those “oh crap” moments. I’m going to share what happened with you here so that, hopefully, you can avoid it yourself in the future.

As you know, I post a new video at least once a week on my YouTube channel. Now, these videos are designed to be helpful to my followers (that’s you!) and they’re the backbone of my content marketing strategy. I also monetize these videos.

Now, of course, in order to monetize these videos it’s imperative that you own the rights to all of the material that appears in your videos: that means logos, images, music, whatever. Nothing tricky here yet, right? Right. I was always very careful to not try to monetize videos in which logos showed up and I did a lot of research about where to find royalty-free music that I could use for the background in these videos. I read up on the different types of Creative Commons licenses and made sure that I chose a piece of music that specifically allowed commercial use and I made sure to give proper attribution in every single video.

I really thought I had covered my bases but then a few weeks ago – probably a couple of months ago by the time this video actually goes live – I received an email notification from YouTube that there had been a copyright claim made on one of my videos. I felt terrible that maybe I had inadvertently done something wrong or left the attribution off of that particular video so I double checked, but everything seemed to be as it should be so I decided not to worry about. But then a couple of days later I got another of these notices from YouTube, and then another, and another. Now I was really frustrated: If I hadn’t done anything wrong, why was someone making a claim on my video? I started reading up on the process for contesting such a claim but the information that YouTube provided made it seem pretty scary: they didn’t tell me how they would decide who was right or wrong in the claim and if they decided I was wrong they could completely suspend my whole account – not just the monetization on the videos.

Yikes! I couldn’t have my account suspended because then you all wouldn’t have access to my videos and I would lose all of the traffic to my website that they generate. I’d rather not be able to monetize than to lose my channel so I decided to halt monetization on ALL of my videos that used that song – and it was DOZENS of videos. I kept researching though and I eventually discovered the problem: While I had dotted all of my I’s and crossed my T’s on my end by choosing a song whose artist allowed commercial use and giving it proper attribution, the artist apparently hadn’t been as thorough. He’d sampled another song to create his and so didn’t actually have the rights himself. That meant his being cool with commercial use and giving it a Creative Commons attribution license was pretty much meaningless. Good thing I hadn’t contested the claim!

Why can’t I just go back and change all of the music on the old videos you ask? Well, because that would require taking down the videos that are there and re-uploading them with new music. That would make them completely new videos with completely new links and would create a slew of dead links from the past, so that was not an option.

I’ve now switched to using different background music – music I got from the YouTube Audio Library so there is no question about my right to use it and I will simply never be able to monetize those old videos. SUPER BUMMER!

So why the heck am I blabbing on and on about this stressful experience of mine? Because my job is to make sure you all avoid the most common pitfalls that new entrepreneurs fall prey to so hopefully I can save you the stress of this one if you’re planning to use YouTube videos as a part of your content marketing strategy.

Live and learn I suppose – but this time around you can learn without living through the crumminess yourself!


I know this format is totally new for me so let me know what you think. Do you want more anecdotes like this about my personal ups and downs as an entrepreneur or do you prefer the more structured episodes that you normally see? Let me know in the comments below.

If you liked this format and think someone else would find the info helpful, please give me a thumbs up on YouTube and Facebook and share it with your networks. And don’t forget to subscribe to my channel and to email updates so you don’t miss any info or tips to help you plan and launch your new business.