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Should You Try to Be a Big Fish in Two Ponds?

By Jeff Beals

On a dark and stormy night…

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. No serious writer would start his article with such a tired old cliché. You probably think I’m some boorish amateur.

But seriously, it is a dark and stormy night. And kind of lonely too. And other than the thunder, it’s awfully quiet.

It’s late Wednesday night, and I’m sitting by myself inside a barbeque joint at 47th and Paseo in Kansas City, Mo. There’s nothing like driving rain to keep people away from late-night pork ribs and baked beans, so essentially, I have the place to myself. In fact, I’m kind of surprised they bothered to stay open.

So, the scene here is set – stormy night, deserted restaurant, and a booth next to the window which constantly fills with flickering light from cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. It’s the perfect time to think, contemplate and reflect.

Right now I’m thinking about the day that was. It was a good day, a productive day. I attended a meeting here in Kansas City earlier this evening.

As a professional speaker, I’m a member of the National Speakers Association. It’s a professional association designed to help speakers become better at their craft and find new sources of speaking business. I joined NSA a couple years ago, but I was never a member of a local chapter. My city doesn’t have one. Kansas City has a very good one. The Kansas City chapter is 165 miles away, but it is the closest to my home. So, despite the distance, I attended a meeting and submitted an application for membership.

As a new guy, I enjoyed a warm welcome. The current members seemed amazed that someone would drive so far to attend the meeting. I heard comments like:

“Wow, I’m so impressed you came all this way.”

“Sorry you had to drive so far.”

I must admit at one point I did question myself, thinking it was an awfully long way to drive for a meeting, but then I remembered why I sought out this organization in the first place. Like people in any industry, professional speakers benefit mightily when they have a group of colleagues they can help and from whom they can receive help.

But as I quietly sat in that restaurant, another thought came to mind. By joining this “local” organization, I get the rare opportunity to build a “local” base in two geographic markets. In fact, it’s a privilege to be involved in a local organization outside my home market.

Think about it. I’m already well connected at home. I have lived in Omaha, Neb. most of my life. I work there. I’m raising my kids there. I host a radio show there. I like it there. I already have great colleagues and trusted mentors in my home town. In other words, I’m doing things right at home.

By joining a local organization in Kansas City, I now have the chance to build friendships, develop referral networks and foster mutually beneficial professional relationships in a different place. It also gives me easier, more direct access to a whole new market of prospective clients.

It’s like I’m living two professional lives!

Hmmm…Perhaps I’m on to something. Maybe other people could benefit from this.

Admittedly, some readers of this article work only “virtually” or have a truly national or international focus. Most of us, however, benefit by having a strong local base. We can milk that base and also use it as a foundation, upon which we can stand as we chase national or worldwide business.

Given all of this, there are several questions you might want to ask yourself. How can you broaden your local base? What can you do to make areas outside your home market feel like your own turf? Does it make sense for you in your industry to dip your toes in two local ponds?

What a great day this turned out to be. Something as simple as seeking the closest NSA chapter appears to be leading me to potential benefits I didn’t quite grasp just a few hours ago.

I’m looking forward to seeing what opportunities arise from my new “local” colleagues in Kansas City, and I’m hopeful that I can help them do better in their businesses as well.

Uh oh…The bus boy is giving me dirty looks. Bet the staff wants to get rid of me, so they can go home. I have overstayed my welcome. Problem is…I don’t want to leave. I like it here. It’s really cool sitting by this window thinking and writing – protected from the storm.

Oh well, all good things come to an end. I just hope I can run to the car fast enough to avoid a complete soaking. After all, the 165-mile drive to my real home town won’t be comfortable if I’m drenching wet.

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 who might benefit from it.

Name Recognition Is a Great Place to Start

By Jeff Beals

I once volunteered on the political campaign of a local businessman who was running for city council.

During the campaign, I attended a number of political events with him, but one candidates’ forum stood out in my mind. Candidates from each district gathered in a high school gym in front of an audience comprised of community activists, neighborhood leaders, local busy-bodies and a smattering of other interested persons. Each candidate had a couple minutes to tout his or her candidacy.

An odd-looking fellow – a long-shot, political newcomer who ended up losing in a landslide – had the most unique speech. He stood at the podium and said, “They tell me that political campaigning is all about name recognition. If that’s the case, my name is…” He proceeded to repeat his name over and over again in a melodic/rhythmic way. He would say a couple sentences of substance and then once again repeat his name over and over.

It was cute. People laughed. I’m not sure how seriously the audience took him, but he made an impression. I vividly remember that stump speech many years later.

While this nontraditional politician didn’t win (he had no money for commercials and yard signs), he was right about one thing – it’s all about name recognition.

At the very basic level, a politician running for office must focus first and foremost on establishing name recognition.

The same thing applies to any professional working in any field. If you are going to market yourself, and reach your goals, you must establish a recognized name among members of your personal target audience.

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 who might benefit from it.

Networking as Your Sole Marketing Vehicle

By Jeff Beals

As people realize we like them and respect their opinions, they share information about themselves that can be helpful in analyzing whether they can use our products or services.

So says Canadian businessman Michael J. Hughes, who is known as “THE Networking Guru.”  Hughes runs a highly successful Ottawa, Ontario-based consulting business that works with Fortune 500 companies and international associations across North America.

The most interesting thing about Hughes’ business? He built it using networking as his sole marketing vehicle.

Networking is simply one of the most important activities in which professionals engage. As Hughes says, the opportunity to create, nurture and develop relationships is one of the most rewarding processes of human activity. If we capitalize on networking opportunities properly, they can be quite profitable for us while making the world a better place for everyone else.

The problem with networking is that too many professionals don’t do it very well. What’s worse is that some people are terribly intimidated by the process.

That’s where Hughes comes in. He breaks networking encounters into six logical steps. To succeed in networking, you need to master all parts of the process:

1. The first five seconds

2. The next 20 seconds

3. The next two minutes

4. The last five seconds

5. The next 24 hours to seven days

6. The final outcome

At the beginning of the networking encounter, Hughes believes the key is to make your discussion partner comfortable. After all, most people are stressed by networking events. You will make a great impression if you take charge, smile, listen carefully and “pretend you’re the host.”

In the next 20 seconds, the key is to build rapport and make your networking partner feel “safe.” Active listening is crucial, because “wanting to know more about a person is one of the biggest compliments we can pay,” Hughes says.

The most important part of the networking process occurs in the next two minutes. Hughes says this is where the real test occurs for both partners. The more you structure the discussion around your partner, the more earnest interest you show in him or her, the more you develop trust.

Once you have trust, your discussion partner is open to your ideas. This is when you present your message, your unique selling point. But don’t get preachy, because as Hughes says, “the objective of networking is to create a relationship, not make a presentation.” The value comes over time.

Trust is especially important if the purpose of your networking efforts is ultimately to make a sale and land a deal. “Selling is a people business, not a product business,” Hughes says. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

When the networking encounter is coming to an end, Hughes recommends you take control in order to transition out of the conversation and help the person bridge to another conversation. In the last five seconds, try to create an opportunity. An offer to keep in touch or a scheduled appointment makes the conversation much more productive.

Finally, be sure to thank the other person for conversing with you and for giving you their precious time.

Lest you think you are done, remember that networking is a process. Follow up with the person or you will eventually be forgotten. That kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Find a legitimate reason – one that benefits the other person – to stay in contact. Not only does follow-up keep you front-of-mind, it makes an impression in other ways. After all, “following through on commitments and promises goes against the grain of how the world works today,” Hughes says. In other words, you will shock people if you’re one of those rare professionals who actually returns email and voice mail messages.

When it’s all said and done, good networking can lead to career-long relationships. This means you might take care of clients together, create referral opportunities and find complementary products. Gaining exposure to others’ networks will increase your opportunities.

By the way, if you would like to learn more about Michael Hughes, go to NetworkingForResults.com.

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 who might benefit from it.

Confidently Stand Up to the Legend

By Jeff Beals

The young upstart and the living legend clashed in battle back in 1979.

It wasn’t on the field of play, rather inside a high school guidance counselor’s office.

The young upstart was Jim Donnan, a brand-new assistant football coach at Kansas State University. The living legend was none other than Paul “Bear” Bryant, who was fresh off winning his fifth National Championship at the University of Alabama.

Both men were recruiting the same star high school football player. Donnan was hoping to lure the kid to Manhattan, Kan., while Bryant wanted him to play in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Donnan had an appointment with the player and the high school football coach and was just about to sit down in a small conference room to begin his pitch. But before he could start, the high school coach nervously shared some news.

“Coach, Alabama just called and said Coach Bryant wants to see this guy, but he doesn’t have an appointment. Would you mind him going before you?”

Whoa. This was an awkward situation. Donnan wanted to make a name for himself in his new coaching career, and Bryant was someone every young coach wanted to impress. Disrespecting the Bear was not good for a young coach’s career. But Donnan had things to do to. He took a deep breath and protested.

“I gotta go somewhere else after this,” Donnan said. I have an appointment with a kid at another school. It’s not my fault that his secretary didn’t make an appointment.”

The high school coach went back to the phone and told Alabama they would need to find a different time to visit. Problem solved. Conflict over, or so it seemed. Just as the conversation was warming up, Bear Bryant walked through the door.

Donnan stood up, shook the Bear’s hand, and said, “Coach, you know I respect you, and I’ve always admired you, but I had an appointment with this young man, and I gotta go to another school after this. I won’t keep him long.”

Bryant wasn’t too happy. After all, this meeting was taking place inside the state of Alabama where most people bowed down and traffic halted whenever the legend passed by. The Bear was not accustomed to waiting.

“Well, that’s okay,” Bryant growled in his famously deep voice, “but doesn’t make any difference. I’m gonna get him anyway.”

Sure enough, Bryant was right. The kid enrolled at Alabama and starred for the Crimson Tide.

Donnan referred to it as a “bitter reality pill.” It’s hard to compete with a living legend, especially in his own back yard. While he lost this battle, Donnan benefited from the experience. He showed confidence. He stood his ground. He didn’t lose face or compromise his pride as a coach.

In the long run, Jim Donnan had a very successful career as a coach. His success never matched Bryant’s, but nobody has had a career like the Bear. Nevertheless, Donnan would go on to become a head coach, leading Marshall University to the Division I-AA National Championship and the University of Georgia to four straight bowl victories. His success landed him a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Today, the 66-year-old Donnan works as a television broadcaster and travels the nation speaking about football and leadership. The confidence he showed in the face of the legend 32 years ago has served him well.

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 who might benefit from it.

The Positive-Sum Game Leads to Victory

By Jeff Beals

By now, you hopefully know you need to market yourself to stand out in today’s cluttered marketplace. Just remember that successful self-marketing requires a big dose of healthy attitude.

You can’t market yourself if you have nothing to sell. That means you must work hard at all times. Marketing without solid performance behind it is a lie. As you promote yourself, constantly work hard. The harder you work, and the more you produce, the more confident you will feel. That makes your personal branding efforts convey better thereby creating a snowball effect – the better your self-marketing is, the more opportunities you will have to be productive. Search for opportunities everywhere. Be curious. Sometimes the best opportunities come from the places you least expect.

You must think big and take some risks. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone. Perhaps you are somewhat shy or are new to your profession and thus intimidated by industry veterans. Don’t waste time on fear and worry. It leads to disappointment and inaction.

For many people, their first forays into self-marketing are small. That’s a fine way to gain experience and build self-confidence. Grassroots self-marketing can start humbly. The key is to keep building up your efforts. You will never gain the highest levels of name recognition and respect if you don’t do something big at some point. Once you break through the big risk barrier, all subsequent activities will not seem like such a big deal. There is an old saying that life comes down to just a few big moments. Don’t let timidity prevent you from seizing big opportunities.

Self-marketing is a positive-sum game, not a zero-sum game. Everyone can win. Just because one person becomes a rock star in an industry or community, doesn’t mean that someone else cannot. Too many people have a difficult time understanding this. No doubt you have come across someone who can’t stand hearing praise about someone else. You say something nice about someone else and that person feels compelled to refute it, bring up a negative thing about the person or at least minimize it with a quick barb or roll of the eyes. Anyone who behaves like this is telling the rest of the world that he or she has low self-esteem or a compromised sense of self-worth.

One of the most important rules of the self-marketing game is to never tear down others while promoting yourself. In fact, we should actually go out of our way to build others up as we promote ourselves. Nothing looks so bad as to come across as jealous, envious or spiteful.

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 who might benefit from it.

How Not to Work Evenings & Weekends

By Jeff Beals

Jane Schulte is really quite remarkable.

She’s an entrepreneur, who runs two successful businesses. She grew her company, PRISM Title, from eight to 60 employees in only 18 months. She has published four books, two of which are award winning. She speaks to a variety of audiences about business success. She has been featured in Jeffrey Gitomer’s “Sales Caffeine” newsletter and many other media outlets. On top of all this, she’s an accomplished artist whose works have been commissioned.

That’s certainly an impressive bio.  But do you want to know what’s most remarkable about Jane Schulte?

She doesn’t work evenings and weekends.

“I might log in on my laptop for a minute right when I get home,” Schulte said, “but I don’t work in the evening unless it’s a crisis or some client needs my help and absolutely can’t wait.”

Imagine that! How can a person accomplish so much, yet do it so efficiently, that she doesn’t take work home with her each night?

The answer is time management.

When asked how she can accomplish so much, Schulte gave a lot of reasons – a talented and loyal staff, energy, drive – but she focused mostly on time management.

It wouldn’t be fair to say Schulte is obsessed with time management, but she has definitely mastered it in a way very few others have. That discipline has allowed her to excel in many wide-ranging things simultaneously.

Schulte’s path to success is kind of old fashioned in that she worked her way through the proverbial “school of hard knocks.” She grew up – and still lives – in the northern Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. She started working as a legal secretary in 1981. She was promoted to a real estate paralegal two years later and landed her first management job in 1985. A few short years later, she was an executive. Just recently, she started an additional company, PRISM Business Advisors. She and her husband Greg together have three sons, one of whom works at NASA. The other two are enrolled at the University of Kentucky.

Certainly tenacity and drive mixed with competence and business acumen are important, but more than any other skill, time management is number one.

In fact, when asked what advice she would give a young entrepreneur, Schulte quickly said they should get a handle on their time.

“If you don’t control your time, all things are not possible,” she said. “I can’t stress that enough. I’ve seen so many people, who could be so much more successful if they weren’t so scattered, and they didn’t get overwhelmed and bogged down. They become immobilized. There are so many things hitting them, and they don’t have any systems in place to take care of that or keep their stress at a manageable level.”

The sad thing is that many of these overwhelmed and ultimately burned-out people are full of talent.

“Get a handle on your time, because we only have so much,” Schulte said. “In order to be really successful, you have to be able to do more than just one thing. You have to be diversified, flexible and agile enough to go where there are opportunities.”

Schulte is so committed to good time management that she authored a how-to book, Work Smart Not Hard: Organizational Tips and Tools That Will Change Your Life. In the book, she describes both strategies and tactics for getting a grip on life’s most precious resource.

She preaches the importance of de-cluttering our desks and email in-boxes. She describes her PEND system, which stands for “Put an End to Needless Distraction™. PEND consists of a folder for each day of the month where paper items are strategically filed. She also has an electronic PEND system for emails. She uses Microsoft Outlook’s task feature, dual monitors on her desk PC, and takes full advantage of the power offered by smart phones and remote access to office computer databases.

Ultimately, the effective time manager uses all the tools available.

“The idea is ‘don’t remember anything,'” Schulte said. “Use your tools and system, so you are free to take care of the task at hand whatever that might be.”

There’s another tool that is incredibly important: delegation. Accomplishing things through other people is fundamental if you want to succeed and enjoy a fulfilling life. By leveraging the work of others, you multiply your own abilities. In fact, Schulte said delegation is one of best strengths as a leader.

“I’ve taught a lot of people what I know and what I do,” she said. “That way, I can send a lot of projects or parts of projects to other people.”

By the way, if you would like to learn more about Jane Schulte, go to PrismSuccess.com or find her books on Amazon.com.

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 who might benefit from it.

Lessons from the Shopping Mall

On a cloudless summer day in suburban Chicago, a woman put her two children in the car and drove to the shopping mall. There she met one of her best girlfriends, who also came to the mall with her kids.

The group of two moms and four kids spent the whole day at the mall, having lunch in the cafeteria and then leisurely strolling, shopping and people watching. An afternoon movie in the attached theatre and malted milkshakes at the ice cream parlor finished off the mall excursion before the women drove back to their respective homes to prepare dinner.

These two women absolutely loved the mall. In their minds, it was one of the greatest places on Earth. After all, the mall was exciting, full of the latest and greatest retailers, a state-of-the-art movie theatre and plenty of free parking. Even better, the climate controlled indoor environment made it possible for a whole day of shopping and entertainment without being subjected to Chicago’s often extreme weather. No doubt about it; the mall was THE place to see and be seen.

That was 1968. It was the heyday of the enclosed regional shopping mall in America.

Here’s how this story might read in 2011:

A well-educated, working mom is able to duck out of her office for a couple hours at lunch to catch up on some long-deferred errands. With the kids in school, it’s her chance to actually get things done. That’s critical, because evenings and weekends are filled with dance lessons, soccer practice and select-league baseball games that often require the family to spend weekends at out-of-town tournaments.

Her challenge is to fit a whole day’s slate of errands into two hours. She drives her minivan to the power center located along the freeway. There she takes advantage of a 30%-off discount card she received in the mail from Kohl’s department store before stopping by the Wal-Mart Super Center to stock up on non-perishable consumables mostly manufactured in China. She takes care of mailing packages and dropping off dry cleaning at her friendly mega grocery store’s customer service counter.

Next, she speeds over to the lifestyle center, an outdoor mall with heavy landscaping, upscale national-chain retailers and a nice-but-fake-looking façade. There she purchases high-end cosmetics (the all-natural kind that are never tested on animals) and a dress for the coming weekend’s formal dinner. Before jumping in the minivan, she grabs a double latte, a little reward for getting so much done so quickly. She must head back to the office and cram in her work before picking up the kids from their after-school program.

Indeed, times have changed.

As the lives of retail customers have evolved, the retailers and the shopping mall owners have had to change in order to keep up. Today’s harried shopper simply doesn’t have the time to spend the whole day at the mall. Speed and convenience are critically important. Shoppers still want luxury and entertainment, but they have to be easily accessible and located close to homes or offices.

Consequently, we now see many of those old malls, the ones that were gleaming and glorious in 1968, being torn down and replaced with big-box retailers, open-air lifestyle centers and mixed-use “walkable” villages.

A perfect example is Randhurst Mall built in 1962 in the Chicago suburb of Mt. Prospect, Ill. According to Midwest Real Estate News, the once-popular Randhurst is now desolate, so crews are demolishing most of it to make way for a mixed-use center that will be home to offices, a hotel and a bunch of entertainment businesses in addition to an updated mix of retailers.

Retailers and retail landlords either keep up with the trends or they die.

Well, retailers certainly aren’t alone, are they? Your business needs to adapt too.

Keep in mind that, as a person, you are essentially a business. You are a business of one, a business unto yourself. In a lot of ways, you (as a business of one) have much in common with retailers. Like a retailer, you are selling a product (yourself). Like a retailer, you want to portray your product in the most desirable way while making it extremely convenient to your customers. Like a retailer, you must adapt to the changing needs and preferences of the public.

Regardless of what you do for a living, you must place your clients on a pedestal. Their needs and wants are not only paramount, they’re moving targets.

Are you doing whatever it takes to keep up? Are you willing to tear down a 1960’s-era mall and replace it with one of today’s hot new shopping developments?  Stay ahead of the trend or risk being squashed by 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 are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to anyone who might benefit from it.

Advice on Writing Articles & Blogs

By Jeff Beals

Professionals who appreciate the value of personal branding make concentrated efforts to be quoted in periodicals, radio talk shows and television news. Such exposure is valuable and helps propel careers.

However, it’s awfully difficult to earn media quotes. That’s why more and more professionals are blogging and submitting articles to publications. There’s great opportunity here. Every major city has numerous publications, and many of these depend on outside writers to supply the content.

The writer Robert Benchley once said, “The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece, per word or perhaps.” In other words, you don’t do it for the money. Instead of thinking of writing as a profit center, consider it 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 get started as a published article writer or successful blogger, here are some tips:

Thou shalt be interesting

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.

Interviews

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, Nebraska is “Neb.,” not “NE.” California is “Calif.,” not “CA.”

Upside-down pyramid

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 is better 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.

Brevity is beautiful

Short articles are more readable than long ones.

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.

Be a team player

There has to be a “balance” between your editor and you. Don’t allow the editor to walk all over you and change too much, but be understanding and remember the editor has a job to do. The relationship between editor and writer should be like a good marriage: Both have to give a little.

Not all ghosts are scary

Even if you’re terribly busy and not very gifted as a writer, I recommend you write your own stuff. Writing is best when the writer really writes it. You can always have someone edit it. However, if you have no confidence in your writing or are too busy, there are professional ghost writers, who will do the dirty work for you in exchange for a reasonable fee. In fact, I have done some ghost writing for clients.

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 people don’t read 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 who might benefit from it.

Guilty of Customer Service Hypocrisy

By Jeff Beals

When working out of town and eating meals by myself, I feel like I need to bring along a newspaper or magazine when I sit down at a restaurant. Not sure why, but if I’m having lunch by myself, it feels more comfortable to have something to read.

There’s a process to follow when choosing lunchtime reading material when I’m on the road. I stop by one of those banks of newspaper machines, the big, long row of them that you see on downtown street corners. I randomly pick up a couple local periodicals – generally the free ones – and read them to get a sense of the city’s flavor, the community’s character.

That’s exactly what I did on a recent trip to Boston.

While sitting in a restaurant and thumbing through The Improper Bostonian, a letter-to-the-editor jumped out:

“To my least-favorite bookstore: Instead of having a greeter stand at the door with a goofy smile, perhaps he could assist by directing me through this labyrinth of horse calendars to find the book I’m looking for when it’s not alphabetized by author name. The search kiosk offers no more help than a ‘most likely in-store’ response. Bigfoot or Amelia Earhart could ‘likely’ be in-store! Fitting that the franchise is on the verge of bankruptcy. The closest it is to finding a book is Chapter 11.” The letter was signed by “Novel Idea.”

Ha! That’s stickin’ it to ’em.

As an author, I must confess to a little guilty satisfaction in reading this. After all, the big bookstore chains don’t treat authors and publishers very nicely. They’re slow in paying bills and return books damaged without any financial penalty on their part whatsoever.

After smugly chuckling at the letter, I got to thinking about those large bookstore chains and wondered why a couple of them are struggling so much. Conventional wisdom blames changing reading habits – many people now read on line or use electronic reading devices instead of curling up with a good book on the sofa.

You could also blame Amazon.com and Wal-Mart for the bookstores’ troubles. Certainly those two businesses sell in such volume that they can beat the traditional bookstores on price, but the question remains. Why are they struggling so much?

Despite competition from other businesses, big bookstores have advantages. They are comfortable, inviting and appealing places to shop. They usually occupy prominent real estate with great demographics, visibility and traffic flow. They have in-house coffee shops, which provide additional income.

Then there’s the BIG benefit: bookstore chains don’t pay for their inventory. Yes, you read that right. They don’t have to pay for the books. Those thousands of books sitting on the shelves are there on consignment. If they don’t sell, the bookstore simply returns them to the publisher. Even if books are damaged, no matter how badly, the bookstore simply returns them to the publisher, no questions asked. In fact, my publishing company received one of my books back with a chocolate bar mashed between two pages.

Despite all these advantages, bookstores are struggling. Is customer service – or a lack thereof – part of the problem? Could be. I’ve heard other complaints similar to the one voiced in the Boston magazine.

In an increasingly complex economy in which bookstores and darned near every other type of business compete in hyper-competitive environments, customer service ought to be a no-brainer. But it’s not. It seems like everyone can tell stories of times they have encountered legendarily bad customer service.

Usually those stories come from the stereotypical “customer-service” businesses like stores, restaurants and hotels. We can all relate to bad customer service in a retail environment, because we interact with these types of businesses several times a day.

But most readers of this article don’t work in retail environments. Most of you work in offices, providing or supporting high-end services that cost clients a lot of money. Given that, take a moment to ask yourself, are you providing as high a level of customer service to your clients as you demand from your neighborhood store or your favorite restaurant? Are you doing it consistently? Most of us are guilty when it comes to the “consistency” question. Sometimes I am guilty.

I once observed a successful real estate broker deliver a blistering tongue-lashing to the manager of an upscale restaurant that had wronged him. He wondered loudly and forcefully, “Why the hell can’t that waitress just do her damned job.”

It’s kind of ironic that the same broker once blew off a prospective client, because the guy had a thick foreign accent and didn’t appear to have deep pockets. The big-shot broker was frustrated when he learned that a competing broker took time for that same client, built rapport with him and eventually cashed a $250,000 commission check. Ouch.

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.

It’s Better to Be Different than It Is to Be Better

By Jeff Beals

From an outsider’s perspective, she was leading the ideal life.

She made the Dean’s List in law school and was in her tenth year practicing at a respected firm in the middle of Toronto’s bustling financial district. If that wasn’t enough, she had four beautiful daughters, a rich personality and an impossible-to-forget name: “Tsufit,” a Hebrew word for “humming bird.”

Indeed, she had it all, but something just wasn’t right.

Tsufit was restless. One day she thought to herself, “there’s got to me more to life than this,” so she made the monumental decision to leave law and follow her dream of being a singer, comedian and television actress.

It was certainly a radical change.

As it turned out, it was also a profitable change for Tsufit (yes, she goes by a one-word name just like Cher or Madonna). She did well as a performer, taking advantage of her natural penchant to entertain others. She was energetic, colorful and damned funny on stage, on camera and in one-on-one conversations.

But she was more than just an entertainer. She brought a business-like approach to her new profession, and more importantly, she was a savvy marketer. Tsufit had a knack for getting exposure in newspapers and in other media.

Eventually, entrepreneurs and other professionals started asking her how she earned so much publicity especially from major media outlets. In answering such questions, she found an even better career.

Today Tsufit is an internationally renowned marketing consultant who coaches clients how to be stars in their professions. She’s the award-winning author of Step Into the Spotlight: A Guide to Getting Noticed, as well as a popular radio talk-show guest, keynote speaker and seminar leader both in Canada and the United States. Her coaching fee is now substantially higher than the legal fees she earned years ago. Her clients, who come to her from around the world, are entrepreneurs, executives, authors, professional speakers, independent professionals, fellow coaches – anyone who is the “directing mind” of a business.

Tsufit coaches the type of people who want to be experts or stars in any business. Suffice it to say, she is an expert when it comes to building one’s personal brand and marketing it in today’s precarious economy.

Her clients learn how to brand themselves and become well known. That leads to so many professional benefits for them.

“You get to charge more,” Tsufit says, “I help them raise their rates. Part of that whole process is getting them well known among the people who pay their rates. My coaching rates are now five times what they were eight years ago. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t become so well known.”

Tsufit argues that well known people are more credible. “It’s bizarre, really, but because they’ve heard of you in the marketplace, they trust you more. They’re much more willing to give you large amounts of money. They trust that well known people deliver on what they promise.”

While there are so many theories of personal branding and so many ways to brand oneself, Tsufit believes you must start with your own uniqueness.

“It’s better to be different than it is to be better,” she says, “If you focus on creating differences and distinctions between you and everyone else, you don’t have to focus on boasting or showing that you’re better.”

To build your brand, drop the excessive professionalism and simply be yourself, Tsufit advises. But as you do that, “be the best version of yourself.” People who come across as too perfect or too smooth turn others off. That’s why you should show your vulnerabilities, or as author Harry Beckwith once said, “show your warts.” Research shows that if you show some vulnerability, you’re actually more credible.

As you brand yourself, you want to do it the right way. Tsufit believes the biggest personal branding mistake is not standing for anything, not having a slice of the market that is yours and yours alone.

“If you say you’re for anybody, you’re really for nobody,” she says, “because there’s no way to find you among the sea of other people, who do what you do.”

On occasion, a professional may desire to change his or her personal brand. That’s okay if the change is made for the right reasons.

“I wouldn’t change every five minutes,” Tsufit warns. “Some people have a totally new thing every month or two or every year. After too many changes, people write you off as a flake. Your new brand should grow out of something you’ve done before.”

If you want to change how you appear in public, start by appearing in front of a different public. To borrow from the world of theatre, try it out off-Broadway first. When Tsufit was a singer, she would test new songs at a small coffee house before debuting in front of large audiences. Similarly, professionals, should test market their new brands, making sure the brand fits, is comfortable and not fake.

Many people will admit that personal branding is an effective way to bolster a career, but they’re simply not comfortable doing it. Specifically, many people worry about going too far. So, if you’re worried about crossing the line from “healthy personal branding” to “egotistical boasting,” you’re not alone.

“For me, it’s humor,” Tsufit claims. “I could never get away with half of what I say without humor. Otherwise, I’d come across as arrogant or conceited. The other thing is confidence. Know that you can demonstrate that you really do what you say you do.

By the way, if you would like to learn more about the marketing expert featured in this article, go to StepIntoTheSpotlight.com.

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 Jennifer at (402) 637-9300.

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