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MINI BLAST – It’s Not Stealing: Borrowing Inspiration from Other Industries

By Jeff Beals

You never know when and where inspiration will come.

The legendary businessman Henry Ford once visited a beef packing plant in Chicago. Ford took great interest in the way workers processed the beef from whole carcasses into small cuts of ready-to-sell meat. As he observed, it occurred to Ford that if the process was reversed, all the cuts would go back together to form a whole steer carcass again. The metaphorical light bulb switched on in Ford’s head. “I can build automobiles this way,” he thought. Ford went back home to Detroit and promptly created the famous assembly line.

Think about that…One of the business world’s greatest manufacturing innovations was conceived after visiting a gruesome slaughtering plant.

As an entrepreneur, salesperson or professional of any other sort, you need to be on the lookout. Instead of “reinventing the wheel,” find inspiration from other professions, different industries and different places. Ask yourself, “How can this idea or process be applied to my industry?” Borrowing from other professions will make your business stronger.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com.

Personal Branding Requires a True Reason to be Celebrated

By Jeff Beals

We see it all the time – celebrities behaving badly

A baby-faced beauty grows up into a drug-addicted, histrionic has-been with a long rap sheet and a collection of orange-jumpsuit photos. A professional athlete goes to jail for assaulting his girlfriend. A famous musician and his bodyguard are arrested for punching an autograph-seeker in the face.

America is afflicted with bad-behaving celebrities and a 24-hour media industry that is desperate to report celebrity abuses.

And then there are those who do outrageous things in hope of becoming famous.

The explosion of reality television shows and viral social media videos has made it possible for seemingly anyone to be a celebrity if they have the right look, at least a little bit of charisma and the willingness to perform outrageous stunts in front of millions of incredulous eyes. Turn on television on any given night and you’re apt to see someone eating a live cockroach, screaming at their spouse or allowing a camera crew to document their most intimate moments just so they can be a national celebrity (even if it only lasts for 15 minutes).

The word “celebrity” has become tarnished.

You may be surprised that I, as author of a book on self marketing, am troubled by the over-emphasis on celebrity status in America. I’m concerned despite the fact that I advise professionals to become “a celebrity in your own sphere of interest.”

In a loud, crowded and brutally competitive world, professionals need to be well known by the people who make up their personal target audiences – clients, potential clients, anyone who could refer business, bosses, co-workers, classmates, community leaders, etc. If you’re a celebrity in your own sphere of business, you possess social and professional power that can help you reach your goals.

But I think of “celebrity in your own sphere of interest” as being known for an on-going series of respected achievements. In other words, you have to do it right. In order for your “celebrity status” to be effective, exhibit good behavior. If you work hard and do impressive things, you deserve be “celebrated,” and that’s where the word “celebrity” comes from.

Don’t be like those awful celebrities on television. Instead, be a “celebrity in your own sphere of interest” and make sure you are famous for something that provides value to society.

But how do you let the world know the wonderful things you are doing without coming across negatively?

You need the right attitude and the right frame of mind.

Despite the necessity of personal branding, many professionals are not entirely comfortable doing it. They’re afraid they might cross the fine line and become the type of person that others try to avoid. That’s a reasonable concern, because Nobody likes braggarts, show-offs, know-it-alls and blowhards.

Ironically, living as a celebrity in your own sphere of interest requires the virtue of humility. Promote yourself while making it look like you’re not trying. Let people know what you’re doing without being obnoxious. Above all, make sure you have real accomplishments to promote.

Never fear, you can avoid turning your personal branding efforts into egotistical boasting by asking yourself two questions:

If people knew the real reason why I want to become a celebrity in my own sphere of interest, would I be embarrassed?

If the answer is “no,” you’re probably okay.

Do the things I do for personal branding purposes also have legitimate economic, cultural or social benefit?

If the answer is “yes,” you’re probably okay.

Simply put, you will find it easier to accomplish your goals and reach your potential if a lot of quality people know you and have a positive image of you in their minds. Being a celebrity in your own sphere of interest is good for business success and career advancement. Just make sure that as you journey down the path to personal stardom, you take your ethical and moral beliefs along with you. If you do, you should be just fine.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to anyone else who might benefit from it.

Mini Blast: Finding Clients in Surprising Places

By Jeff Beals

On a visit to his neighborhood Starbucks a few years ago, photographer Brad Williams saw several attractive photographs displayed on the walls. Williams, who specializes in outdoor photography, was primarily a hobbyist back then but was becoming known for his artistic shots of buildings, skylines and cityscapes.

Realizing that his photos stacked up favorably to those already displayed, Williams showed his creative work to the Starbucks manager. Soon thereafter, his photographs were on display for coffee drinkers and latte sippers to enjoy.

One day a local real estate developer happened to notice Williams’ photograph of a suspension bridge. The developer had been looking for a talented photographer to shoot his buildings, so he gave Williams a call.

The real estate developer became a loyal client and still is to this day. Williams has built his photography business and now boasts a long list of prestigious clients. Photography has become a profitable side business that compliments his fulltime work at a civil engineering firm.

Opportunities to market you and your business are practically everywhere. You simply need to keep your eyes open and take action.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

Writing Your Personal Calling Card

By Jeff Beals

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it,” Sir Winston Churchill once said.

While he was best known as the prime minister who led Great Britain through World War II, Churchill was a prolific writer. He wrote articles, opinion pieces and books of all kinds – novels and biographies as well as political and historical non-fiction.

Churchill lived his life publicly through his written words. Writing was a way to build his reputation as a public servant and an expert on international political affairs. Churchill realized early in his career that those who wrote their thoughts for broad audiences had more control over how they were perceived.

Writing remains a powerful tool in current times.

Professionals who appreciate the value of personal branding are wise to sit down at their keyboards and start hammering out their pearls of wisdom. Writing can bring tremendous opportunities. That’s why more and more professionals are blogging and submitting articles to publications. Setting up a blog takes only a few minutes. Every major city has numerous publications, and many of these depend on outside writers to supply the content.

Think of writing as a form of marketing, a personal calling card. If you write enough articles, and spread them around the Internet, people will start to notice you and eventually respect you as an accomplished, well-known expert.

To help you write and blog successfully, here are some tips:

Thou shalt be interesting

“Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either,” said American author Meg Cabot.

Entertaining the reader is just as important as educating the reader. Pick a topic that relates to what you do professionally but is fascinating to others.

Identify sources

If research is necessary, find the best possible sources. Those sources might be interviews you set up with experts. Convincing prospective sources to do interviews can be challenging, because many of these people have been burned before by journalists. Let them know that your motives are positive. Be transparent and explain exactly what you are doing with the article or blog.

Take copious notes during interviews. If you quote someone, you have an ethical obligation to make sure you write their words verbatim.

Write like a pro

Purchase a copy of the Associated Press Stylebook. You can find it at most bookstores and on line. The vast majority of publications follow AP style. If you follow it, your writing will appear to be much more legitimate. By the way, there are a number of little quirks to AP style. For example, AP uses the term “adviser” instead of “advisor.” Large cities like Chicago, Atlanta and Boston “stand alone,” meaning you don’t write the state name following them. Speaking of state names, AP doesn’t use the U.S. Post Office abbreviations. For instance, Colorado is “Colo.,” not “CO.” California is “Calif.,” not “CA.” Some states such as Iowa and Maine are not abbreviated at all.

Big stuff first

When composing your article, use the “inverted pyramid” method of writing. The fat base of the upside-down pyramid is at the top of the article, and it represents the biggest, most significant, most newsworthy part of the story. The small, narrow tip of the pyramid at the bottom represents the least meaningful part of the story. Place great emphasis on the article’s first sentence also known as “the lead.”

Active rather than passive

Most of your writing should be in the active voice instead of passive voice. In other words, “The president vetoed the bill” is better than, “The bill was vetoed by the president.”

Remember 8th grade English class

Use proper grammar, punctuation and spelling. Proofread carefully. Tenses should be consistent. Subjects and verbs ought to agree.

Make it tight

Mark Twain once said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

When we talk among friends, we tend to throw in a bunch of “filler words.” Delete these when writing. As Stephen King believes, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

Brevity is beautiful

Short articles are more readable than long ones. As German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.”

Use real words

Don’t try to be too cute with your writing by filling it with clichés or politically correct double speak. Make your message as clear as possible; avoid balderdash, poppycock and gobbledygook.

Don’t get defensive

Unless you are writing in your own blog or for a publication you personally created, you give up some control once you submit the article. An editor will probably review your work and make at least a few changes. For the most part, having an editor is a blessing as it reduces the likelihood of errors.

Learn from the Masters

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it,” William Faulkner once said. “Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

Those who read often tend to write well.

Any professional can enjoy increased name recognition and ultimately more business through writing. The trick is to do it properly and compel people to read your material. After all, the best-written article in the world is useless if nobody reads it.

As you write, put yourself in the reader’s shoes. You must make sure that someone who knows little about your subject, who quickly browses it, can understand and appreciate the message you are trying to convey.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to anyone else who might benefit from it.

Recovery Is One of the Five “R’s” of your Professional Success

By Jeff Beals

I’ve never been much of a wrestling fan.

Don’t get me wrong; I certainly respect the sport and admire how hard wrestlers work. I just never really got into it. But when I heard the next scheduled speaker was the winningest person in the history of the sport, my ears perked up.

Earlier that morning, I served as opening keynote speaker at the Iowa Commercial Real Estate Expo. Hundreds of brokers, lenders, developers and property managers from across Iowa had converged on Des Moines for a day of learning, networking and motivation. After speaking, I stayed for the rest of the one-day conference as an attendee.

The closing speaker that afternoon was the legendary Dan Gable, a larger-than-life figure in the state of Iowa and a titan of the wrestling world.

Just how storied was his wrestling career?

For starters, Gable never lost a single match in high school. At Iowa State University, he was a three-time All-American and compiled a record of 118-1, never losing until the final match of his senior year. He went on to win a gold medal in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

He became head wresting coach at the University of Iowa in 1976 and led the Hawkeyes to 16 NCAA national championships and 21 Big Ten Conference championships. Such a run of dominance is extraordinarily rare in the history of athletic competition.

Now retired as a coach, Gable is still involved in the sport and played an instrumental role earlier this year in saving wrestling as an Olympic sport.

As you might imagine, a man of Gable’s accomplishments had this audience of commercial real estate professionals sitting on the edges of their chairs in rapt attention hanging on his every word.

So what pearls of wisdom did the living legend have for these hard-charging, success-hungry real estate pros?

Well, in any motivational speech, certain things tend to stand out. In this case, it was the five “R’s” of success that Gable often repeated to his athletes and assistant coaches. He shared them with us with sly grin on his face: “Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic, wRestling and Recovery.”

The first four “R’s” make sense, but what is “recovery?”

When Gable competed as an athlete, he trained and practiced incredibly hard. Some might have even accused him of “over-training.” But his super-human workouts never wore him out. They never left him too exhausted to practice at full speed the next day. The reason for his resiliency was his belief in recovery. At the end of each practice, he had a strict routine – stretching, ice, sauna, steam room, massage and mental relaxation. He never cheated himself this critical recovery period. Many of his fellow wrestlers would pack up and leave as soon as practice was done but not Gable. He considered recovery to be just as important as the practice and workout. When he became a coach, he demanded his athletes be just as committed to the art of recovery. This allowed his teams to exhibit unmatched stamina.

Gable told the assembled real estate pros that “recovery” was important in their profession too. It should be a part of every professional’s routine.

What does “recovery” mean in the non-sports world?

Recovery is necessary for ambitious achievers who want to make it to the top and perhaps even more important for people at the top who want to stay there. Gable often delivers speeches to people who work in sales positions. He commonly meets high-achieving salespeople who are frazzled, burned out and making themselves sick as they try to match and exceed their previous successes. Whenever Gable meets such people, he preaches about recovery.

Regardless of your profession, you need recovery. To this day, as a consultant, speaker and businessman, Gable reserves time for recovery. During this time, he slows things down in his mind. He analyzes what happened earlier in the day, both good and bad. He breaks down not only his actions but his emotions. He assesses where he will go or how he will respond the next day. Like Gable, your recovery should be physical, mental and emotional.

And this isn’t something you’re supposed to rush through half-heartedly. Gable believes recovery should be a full hour at the end of the day. That’s difficult, when you’re busy, but the results speak for themselves.

Dan Gable is one of the most competitive human beings you’ll ever meet. Even during the speech, he was sharply focused and “in the zone.” He is “all in” in everything he does. If a guy that intense uses recovery time to propel him to the very top, it sure makes sense for the rest of us too.

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to anyone else who might benefit from it.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

“We Appreciate Your Business” – MARKETING by Walking Around

By Jeff Beals

In the 1970’s, Hewlett-Packard adopted what was then a novel technique to improve company performance. It was called “Management By Walking Around” (MBWA), and because it was so effective, it caught on at other companies. By the mid 1980’s, MBWA was firmly entrenched in America’s corporate lexicon.

MBWA required managers to literally walk around the workplace on a periodic basis and in an impromptu manner as opposed to spending the entire work day behind a desk issuing edicts in memo form. By walking around, a manager could check in on direct reports, observe processes and identify small problems before they became big ones. As long as the manager wasn’t perceived as an over-the-shoulder-looking micro-manager, MBWA boosted employee morale, because they felt like supervisors cared about them and their work.

To this day, many companies encourage managers to engage in MBWA. Sure, it has evolved, and different off-shoots of the philosophy have sprouted, but the basic tenets remain. It’s just good management practice for the boss to get out among the troops on a regular basis.

But the power of walking around should not be reserved solely for management activities. A different kind of MBWA is also very effective: “MARKETING By Walking Around.”

Just as supervisors benefit from walking among their employees, marketing and sales professionals benefit from getting out and spending time with their clients. I have witnessed that firsthand from one of my mentors, Ted Seldin.

Seldin realized the power of Marketing By Walking Around early in his career, and though he is now 82 years old, he still does it faithfully every week. Seldin owns 1.5 million square feet of retail and office space. The businesses that occupy his storefronts and office suites are not just his customers, many are like family. Each year, Seldin wears out several layers of shoe leather walking from business to business.

Back in 1957, Seldin and his family purchased 1,000 acres of farmland just outside the suburban frontier of a growing city. The 1950s were boom years for suburbia, and the Seldin family decided to be a part of that trend. They built two regional shopping centers, several office buildings and planned residential neighborhoods with parks, schools, apartments and a bunch of suburban houses.

From the beginning, Seldin realized it was far better to keep a tenant in his buildings than it was to recruit a new one. That’s one of the reasons he has spent the past 50-plus years regularly walking his shopping centers and office buildings, popping in for friendly visits with his loyal tenants.

“How’s business going?” Seldin asks the manager or owner at each store. “Are you happy with the property? Is our staff serving you well?”

Seldin asks these questions and listens to the answers. He looks around the store and finds something he can compliment. He might ask how a recent promotion or sale went. He might comment on a new retail display. He might ask about a new product or service the business is offering.

The conversation usually goes on for a few minutes, and at the end of each visit, Seldin shakes the tenant’s hand, looks deep into their eyes and says with genuine sincerity, “We appreciate your business.”

Seldin’s tenants appreciate his commitment to Marketing By Walking Around, and it helps with retention. Sure, some tenants don’t last but many have operated at Seldin’s properties for multiple decades. And Seldin does more than just talk. He puts his money where his mouth is by going out of his way to patronize the businesses that call his properties “home.” If you have lunch with Ted Seldin, it’s most likely going to be at a restaurant that operates at one of his properties.

Marketing By Walking Around obviously is not the only reason for Seldin’s success but it has certainly played a big role. By taking the time show earnest appreciation one-on-one with each of his customers, Seldin builds long-lasting, loyal relationships.

“We appreciate your business.” It’s a short phrase, but those four words are powerful.

Find time and make excuses to walk among your customers, the people who pay your salary and keep your company afloat. Visit with them. Ask them questions and listen carefully to the answers even if those answers are occasionally laced with constructive criticism.

Customers are precious and never to be taken for granted. Let them know that you appreciate them. Let them know you want them to succeed and that you appreciate being a long-term part of their success.

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to anyone else who might benefit from it.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

Accomplishing “Just One Thing” Gives You Permission to Relax

By Jeff Beals

I have a lot of favorite words, and among them are “three-day weekend.”

Like most Americans, I’m looking forward to the upcoming Labor Day holiday. After all, who doesn’t enjoy an extended weekend at the ceremonial close of summer? Picnics, vacations, camping/hiking, sporting events or just taking it easy at home – whatever you have planned for the three-day weekend, I hope you enjoy it.

But as much as I like a nice break, I must confess that holidays can sometimes make me a bit restless. Sleeping in, gluttonous indulging and taking-it-easy can eventually be too much. I like to accomplish at least a little something even during my time off. But what can you do when your clients, prospects and co-workers are preoccupied with fun and relaxation?

If you’re a restless professional who wants to check a couple low-stress items off your list this weekend, consider the following:

Update Your Social Media
Whether you are a business person looking for clients or a professional seeking a new opportunity, you need to be visible. The quickest, easiest and cheapest way to do that is to maximize your social media profiles, especially LinkedIn. More and more buyers are finding their vendors through LinkedIn. More and more employers use LinkedIn for their recruiting.

If you tinker with your LinkedIn profile, pay particular attention to a few key areas:

Do you have a headshot photo of yourself on your profile? I’m amazed how many users do not. People are drawn to the faces of other people. If we don’t see your face on your profile, we may be less apt to trust the information you provide or we may assume that you don’t take your LinkedIn profile very seriously.

Make sure your summary statement is fully developed and explains what you do in detail using highly expressive words.

As long as they wouldn’t have a problem with it, include the names of some of your best clients.

On LinkedIn’s “Skills & Expertise” section, choose words (you can have up to 50) that describe your abilities. Don’t be modest here. The more key words in your profile, the better it will perform for you.

Go out and deliberately “endorse” your connections for their skills and expertise. In turn, many of those people will feel compelled to endorse you back.

Testimonials give you credibility. Contact your happiest clients or your biggest supporters at work and ask them to write testimonials for you. It also helps to do this for others. Not only does it spread goodwill, but your name will get extra exposure by appearing on their LinkedIn profiles.

Of course, many professionals derive great benefit from other forms of social media as well. Therefore, you might want to take time to create and/or update your profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and the list goes on…

Reading Time
A disturbingly large number of professionals completely give up on reading books the day they leave college. Many don’t even read articles that would keep them up-to-date with their profession. While this is problematic, I do understand it. Time-starved professionals can feel guilty taking time to read. Plus, after years of being forced to read in school, some people have simply had enough.

Despite any negative connotations reading may conjure in your mind, you would be well served to peek at a trade publication or read a book that will motivate you and update your knowledge. Holiday downtime is a great time for reading. It’s easier to learn and comprehend when you’re not under any pressure.

Organization
A long weekend is a good time to clean up your life. You may want to go through your paper and electronic piles and prune what you no longer need. Is there something you have been keeping on the backburner too long? If so, you could figure out how to move it up when you return to the office.

If you work in sales or business-development, you might want to go through your list of prospects and find some who have cooled off or drifted away from you. Ask yourself if it makes sense to reconnect with these people. If so, plan to contact them middle of next week.

Lunch or Coffee
Scan your contact list and see if there is an important person you have neglected for awhile. That person could be a client, prospective client, industry leader, community leader or someone who could help you advance in your career. Invite that person to have coffee or lunch with you in the next couple of weeks. You never know what could come from the conversation.

Goal Check
Here’s one final thing to consider for this otherwise relaxing weekend: a goal check. The year is now two-thirds complete. A quick check of your 2013 goals can give you focus for the final third of this fast-moving year. Whether you are on, behind or ahead of schedule, think what you need to do over the next four months to make sure 2013 is a big success for you.

A Closing Disclaimer
I will confess some hesitation about writing this article, because I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.

Many people are under incredible stress these days. There is so much pressure to perform at the office, and frankly, many of my readers already work too hard. I’m not advocating that you ruin your holiday weekend.

I just wanted to write some advice for people like me – people who love time off but feel uneasy if they’re not accomplishing anything. If that describes you, consider some advice from one of my friends. He’s a good guy and a hard-working entrepreneur. He has kids at home who require his time and attention each evening and on weekends. His rule is, “I just have to do one thing.” Each evening/weekend day, he forces himself to do one thing related to his work. It can be something minor and quick, but as soon as that one thing is done, he gives himself permission to have fun with his family.

Maybe that approach might work for you too.

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to anyone else who might benefit from it.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

Soaring Communication Lessons from One of History’s Biggest Days

By Jeff Beals

A 27-mile-per-hour wind blew persistently from the north as two men, dressed in coats and ties, stood on isolated, sand-swept land near the Atlantic Ocean.

It was December 17, 1903 on the sparsely populated Outer Banks of North Carolina, and though the weather had been turning colder over the weeks leading up to that day, Orville and Wilbur Wright had one more chance to achieve their goal before returning home to Ohio for Christmas.

Orville Wright climbed onto the 600-pound, primitive airplane the brothers had built and positioned himself next to the crude control mechanisms. At 10:35 a.m. the plane left the ground, and flew through the air. It traveled only 120 feet in 12 seconds, but humanity was forever changed by history’s first manned flight.

“They have done it!” exclaimed a local resident who witnessed the first flight. “Damned if they ain’t flew!”

The Wright brothers flew three more times that momentous day, each subsequent flight longer than the previous.

All four flights were witnessed by three coastal lifesaving crew members, a local businessman and a young boy from a nearby village. More importantly, one of the witnesses, John Daniels, shot a photograph of the first flight from a preset camera. The now-famous image shows the world’s first plane floating a few feet above the ground with Wilbur Wright running alongside it.

As it turned out, that photograph and those five witnesses played a key role in proving that this epic achievement actually took place. The public was skeptical about human flight. Many innovators around the world at the time were striving to be the first in flight – a high-pressure race was in full gear. Several people had made false claims, and just nine days before the Wrights’ success, another would-be flyer failed in a high-profile incident.

Over the next two years, the Wrights built better planes and made longer and longer flights near their hometown of Dayton, Ohio. Eventually, they pulled off non-stop flights of up to 38 minutes. Despite that success, when they offered to sell their flyer to the U.S. Army, the military brass refused to meet with them, because they were dubious of the Wright Brothers’ claims. Eventually, the public was convinced – five years later – when the Wrights performed flying shows in the United States and Europe.

Looking at the public’s slow response to history’s first human flight through our modern lens is difficult. While telephones existed, the most reliable long-distance communication was the telegraph. Radio technology was in its infancy and no commercial stations existed. In other words, without a respected New York Times reporter on site witnessing the event, people just weren’t sure (assuming they even heard about it in the first place).

Imagine how things would have been different if broadcast networks and social media had existed back in the Wrights’ day. The Wrights would have had a dedicated website, Facebook page, Twitter account and all sorts of pictures pinned on Pinterest. The entire research-and-development process would have been documented on video so folks could watch it on YouTube. A documentary would have aired The Discovery Channel. The morning after the first successful flight, both brothers would have been booked solid on television news and radio talk shows.

It makes me laugh to think about such a crazy “what-if,” but in all seriousness, today’s achievers have an advantage over their ancestors. Modern work is rarely done in obscurity. Many great thinkers and doers in history didn’t get their just credit until long after their deaths.

Thankfully, advanced communication makes obscurity less likely.

Of course, there’s a cost that comes with instantaneous communication that the Wrights didn’t have to face. Back then, you could work in privacy until you were ready to announce your successes. Nowadays, people find out things quickly and easily even when someone wishes to keep those things secret. Indeed negative consequences have come from our amazing communication system but the benefits outweigh the cons.

As we look back at the Wrights, there are many marketing and communications lessons we can glean from their struggle, triumph and the credit they eventually received for their hard work.

The Wrights knew they needed witnesses and documentation in order to convince a skeptical world, so they made preparations ahead of time. The camera was in place. The witnesses were arranged. The brothers sent a telegraph to their father back in Ohio. While the documentation was crude by today’s standards, it was impressive for the early 1900s.

In 2013, the world is much more skeptical than it was back then. And there are now infinitely more distractions competing for the public’s attention than the Wrights could probably have even imagined. There are so many people “talking” on media and social media outlets today, that it feels like nobody ever “listens.”

Nevertheless, we need to document our best achievements and not fear that we’re bragging or boasting. For if your achievement is legitimate, if it stands on its own merit, people must hear about it.

After all, if nobody knows what you have accomplished, did it really ever happen?

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to anyone else who might benefit from it.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

The Reviews Are in! An Easy Way to Reach the Right People

By Jeff Beals

“Remarkable staff, beautiful hotel and very good management! Thank you for a wonderful experience and for being so accommodating of us. We loved it and will be back.”

That’s an excerpt from an online review a family member of mine wrote about his stay last year at a Geneva, Switzerland resort.

I was thinking about that family member recently and how much he reminded me of this other guy I know, a good friend. I decided to Google both of them.

When I Googled the family member, I noticed he had written the review above plus a couple others.

Among my friend’s search returns were some reviews of books and other products he had purchased on Amazon.com.

Upon deeper examination, I discovered both men had written several reviews on various websites, using their real names, and another identifying factor, usually their home town. These guys are incredibly successful, and have many impressive things going on in their lives, yet these online reviews appeared near the top of their Google research results.

The fact that reviews show prominently on Internet searches is proof that writing reviews can be a powerful marketing force for individuals trying to build personal brands and the companies for which they work. Now is a great time to think about the products, services and people you respect and start contemplating what you can say about them online.

Review writing is worthwhile, because I guarantee your friends, colleagues, potential clients and prospective employers are Googling you on a regular basis. That’s what we do these days – when we are thinking about doing business with a person or getting involved with a company, we conduct a quick search.

If someone Googles you and little or nothing shows up, they are going to be unimpressed. It might not be fair, or even accurate, but if the Google returns on your name are meager, the person searching will assume you don’t have much going on. You can’t afford that.

Being widely represented on the Internet is crucial, and online reviews are a great way to get your name and your company’s name out in the marketplace. The key is to make sure the reviews work for you instead of against you.

The first step is to use your real name and an identifying factor. Your reviews are useless if you use a pseudonym. For the identifying factor, most reviewers use their city of residence or what they do for a living, i.e. “architect,” “pharmaceutical sales” or “insurance industry.” Only use your company name if you are comfortable doing so, keeping in mind that some large companies frown on employees publicly using the company name without permission from the public relations department. As long as the website doesn’t have a policy against it, you might want to include your website URL or email address after your name.

When writing your name, go by the name everyone calls you. For instance, if everyone knows you as “Jeff,” don’t sign your name as “Jeffrey.”

In the vast majority of the cases, you should write positive comments. Negative reviews generally hurt your brand, making you come across as an unpleasant, unhappy person. When you feel you must write a scathing review, that’s when you pull out the pseudonym.

Write reviews about products, services and companies that relate to your expertise. For example, there’s power in writing an Amazon review about a new leadership book if you are a senior executive.

Make sure your writing uses real grammar and avoids too much slang or vernacular language. While you don’t need to write like a British poet, professional-sounding language is a must.

As far as length is concerned, you need to put some “meat” into it without turning it into a novel. One sentence is way too short, but if you write more than two standard-sized paragraphs it is unlikely many people will read your entire text.

Include a short reference as to who you are professionally or what your company does in your review. That gives you credibility and encourages potential clients to learn more about you, but limit this part to just one sentence, so you don’t come across as a conceited braggart.

Put some thought into the review and make it interesting. Some websites allow readers of reviews to “star” them or mark how helpful they are. The more “helpful” your review is, the more likely it will show up first.

But don’t stop with just the review. Once it is approved and posted, send it to all your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and GooglePlus followers. This will expand the circle of people who could potentially see it and “like” it, “agree” with it or “star” it.

Once you become adept at writing reviews, you could also comment on blog articles. Follow blogs that relate to your area of expertise and/or your company’s industry. The rules of review writing apply to blog comments.

Indeed writing reviews and responding to blog articles are powerful ways for you and your company to stand out in this crazy, cluttered marketplace in which we all work, but you have to be disciplined and committed. One review or one blog comment really won’t do much for you. In addition to writing the right stuff in the right way, you need to be a regular contributor. The frequency of your writing is almost as important as the quality.

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to anyone else who might benefit from it.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.

You Need Champions in Life but Not the Kind that Win Trophies

By Jeff Beals

After arriving at their vacation destination city, a family enters the lobby of an upscale hotel. Because it’s late at night, and they’re tired from delayed flights and long layovers, they just want to check in and go to sleep. As soon as they walk in, the concierge brings over champagne for the parents and a treat for the kids.

That makes a good impression.

Then comes the bad news. The woman at the registration desk says the hotel overbooked.

Not a good impression.

But, in order to make things right, the hotel upgrades the family to the top-floor suite at no additional charge.

Extraordinary impression!

The family ends up enjoying a great vacation and tells their friends about the wonderful hotel and the great service they received. They are now big fans of that property and the entire hotel chain.

Have you ever had a raving fan? Does your company have raving fans?

In 2004, Random House released a book called Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. The book was intended to help companies improve their customer service. The authors’ central message was that you need to go above and beyond, because “satisfied customers just aren’t good enough.”

That book is part of a breadth of publications designed to help companies and individual professionals do a better job of pleasing customers. In fact, we often hear executives spurring their employees to focus on providing “customer delight” as opposed to the mere standard of “customer service.”

This all makes sense to me. Certainly, companies benefit when they go all-out to please the customer, but having people who love you and are willing to tell everyone about it, goes beyond just customer service. You can also create raving fans during the marketing and selling processes.

Instead of “fans,” I call them “champions.”

Champions are people who champion you and your cause. They love (professionally, of course) you and your company. They are your fans, the people who would run through a brick wall for you. They could be personal friends, distant admirers, current or former clients, current or former referrers. They could also be influencers of past clients who you converted in champions.

Even if you have a lot of champions, you could still use more. Those organizations that have engaged champions and sent them out into the world do more business. A large group of champions on your side is like having a huge marketing and sales staff without having to pay the salaries and benefits.

But champions don’t just appear out of thin air. They are developed. They must be created and then maintained. That means an organization should have a part of its marketing plan focused on how to deliberately develop and maintain champions. Part of that plan would be an on-going communication plan for champions that would include mailings, electronic communications, phone calls, and most importantly, personal visits.

To convert someone into a champion, you need to make him or her feel very special. When you are in front of a person, make him or her feel that nobody else in the world matters more. Spend time with key people socially, congratulate them on their successes, and help them celebrate their victories. Don’t let a moment of truth – an opportunity to strengthen a relationship – be wasted. Jump on that opportunity and grow that relationship.

It also helps when you surprise champions with valuable information when they’re not expecting it. Send them referrals whenever you get the chance. Go out of your way to introduce or connect them to interesting people. Treat them with respect and demonstrate integrity consistently.

If you do these things, you will develop a network of champions who will protect you and your company. As the old saying goes, “you can never have too many friends.” The same thing applies to champions.

Since we are approaching late summer and therefore nearing football season, allow me to illustrate the importance of champions with a short passage from my book, Selling Saturdays: Blue Chip Sales Tips from College Football.

In 1980, the University of Nebraska recruited the future Heisman Trophy-winning, All-American running back Mike Rozier out of Camden, New Jersey. Rozier was not immediately eligible to enter the university, so Nebraska’s coaches “placed” him at Coffeyville Community College in southeast Kansas.

Nebraska made an agreement with Coffeyville’s coach that no other major college football team would talk to Rozier while he was there fulfilling his academic requirements before transferring to NU. Knowing that Rozier was a phenomenal prospect, the coach at one of Nebraska’s chief rivals tried to force his way into Rozier’s dorm. The Coffeyville coach literally stood in the door and physically blocked the opposing coach from entering.

Now THAT is a loyal champion. I’d love to have that guy on my side.

You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to anyone else who might benefit from it.

Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.