Our Point of View

On all things marketing...
  • 27 Dec 2014

    The Ultimate Brand–Santa Claus

    Santa Claus could arguably be the most influential brand on consumer behavior. Brand managers strive to have the kind of incredible brand recognition, emotional connection, steadfast consistency and measurable results that Santa Claus has.

    Santa’s brand attributes are clear, consistent and desirable to virtually everyone: jolly, generous, hard-working, collaborative, giving and fair. Santa Claus is about goodness. His image is consistent, from the local Salvation Army to your next door neighbor’s rooftop. You will always find him sporting the same look no matter when or where you see him.

    (Left) Quiet Room’s Brand Guidelines for the Santa Clause brand.

    Santa traditionally expects to get a written wish list and also a personal visit from each of his “customers” annually.  This personal interaction keeps him connected with believers and ensures an understanding of how to attain what you’re wishing for.

    Kids believe in him and what he stands for. They also know if they share those values and act accordingly, they will get something out of it on Christmas morning.
    The true measure of a great brand is the desire for customers and others in the industry to affiliate. During the last few months of the year, Santa Clause is the world’s most sought after spokesperson. He is arguably the most imitated person, as well.
    From Thanksgiving through Christmas, parents scramble to live up to the expectation of the Santa Claus brand. Pickle hiding, The Elf on the Shelf relocation nightly, remembering St. Nicholas (which we forgot this year), and shopping for gifts that total the same number of packages and that will equally excite each child in the family. It’s hard work. We all do it.
    Give people something to believe in. They are more likely to buy why you do something over what you do. Dr. Seuss said it best, “And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

    Retail sales were expected to clear $617 billion during the 2014 holiday shopping season–the strongest growth since 2011. In measuring goodwill, in 2012 $316 billion was contributed to non-profit organizations according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. Respondents gave 24% of their annual total between Thanksgiving and New Year’s day. Not-for-profit organizations reported that they received 50% of their contributions for the year between October and December.

    Like many brands, some of the most important impacts aren’t measured in dollars, but in affecting behavior. Promoting kindness and charitable acts during the holiday season is the “why” behind it all. Gerard Marketing Group wishes you a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year in every way!

  • 18 Nov 2014

    The Leadership Torch

    “Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” – George Bernard Shaw

    Rising Above’s Leadership Renewal Conference last week in St. Louis, featured some of the most inspirational torchbearers around. John O’Leary, Inspirational Change Agent and Rising Above Founder, led the two-day conference with six other Launch Leader speakers. Following are some key insights from their palpable enthusiasm and words of wisdom:

    Living your True North matters to your entire organization. Live authentically, courageously and passionately where your thoughts, words and actions are in complete alignment with your values and purpose. Once you know it first individually, then your organization can follow.

    Vulnerability is necessary to grow. It takes an exceptionally strong leader to open themselves up to uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.

    Perspective changes everything. How we think becomes how we act. It develops our personality. There is value in the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.

     “Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.” – Wayne W. Dyer.

    Gratitude changes lives. People primarily leave jobs because they don’t feel appreciated. They want everyday achievements to be recognized. Everybody wants to a do a great job. Encourage it.

    Performance Choice is the moment-to-moment decision you make in life to live on auto pilot (by omission) or on purpose. We all have things we want to do, ought to do and have to do. There is zero energy in anything we “ought to” or “have to” do. Operating in fear over time in those will lead to resentment and bitterness.

    An Absolute Advantage is a person who honors their word. That integrity is a strategic performance choice that delivers value in a marketplace of look-a-likes. There is an economic value to trust. Uphold your integrity. Do a cost/benefit analysis before you make commitments.

    Our Purpose is not our to do list.

    Love is the unselfish, strong desire, devotion, enthusiasm or motivation for something or someone. You can build a business around what you love, but you also need to put people into positions that they love. Build an organization of motivators.

    Growth does not come easily. Stress is a signal that something needs to change. Suffering is when we don’t make the change. Growth occurs when we do.

    Light your leadership torch. Go to RisingAbove.com for information on the next leadership event.



  • 14 Oct 2014

    QR Codes Didn’t ‘Die.’ Consumers Never Cared.

    In early 2013 most marketing publications were talking about the “death of the QR code,” and how they would certainly be replaced by newer app technologies like Blippar and Touchcode. The reality is that while there has been much excitement around Quick Response (QR) codes and other technologies for marketers, none of them have been proven to be that exciting for consumers.

    In 2010 the first QR code scanner and reader applications were released for a variety of smartphone platforms. In 2011 QR codes began to gain prominence in the U.S. marketing arena. As of April 2014, according to ScanLife there are currently 5 million active QR code users worldwide. If all 5 million of those users were in the U.S., that would represent just 1.5% of the U.S. population. QR codes are simple and easy to set up for the merchandiser or marketer, and somewhat easy for consumers, but apparently not easy enough.

    If QR scanners had very specific demographic characteristics attached to them, it would make the case to target them for specific product targets, but they do not. According to ScanLife’s study of QR scanners, gender is primarily male, but age, income and education vary greatly.

    It does still makes sense to include a QR code on your print advertising or direct mail in some instances. If your product or service is in the retail category, it’s become expected, but we at Gerard Marketing Group would also add that it’s important to ensure that your campaign has a clear call to action and has enticing online content like a video, coupon or other offer when scanners get there. Merely make the QR code itself look more interesting or less like a QR code doesn’t really add value.

     various campaigns attempting to make the QR code itself look more interesting and creative, the bottom line is the function of a QR code is utilitarian. It transitions people from an offline environment to an online one. If there isn’t something worthwhile when they get there, there’s no point in it.
    The bottom line is that actually scanning the code seems to be much more perceived work for consumers than marketers anticipated. Research has found that most consumers would rather type in the web address than go through the process of using the QR code. It was an exciting idea, but consumers have the final say as to what works and what doesn’t and they have proven QR codes did not make the cut.


  • 02 Sep 2014

    The Smartest People Take a Break

    Addie Labor DayMy second grader’s “Happy Labor Day” sign from the weekend with the “no working” illustration left no grey area as to what the expectations of the Labor Day holiday weekend were. While the idea is alluring, actually turning off the electronics and being fully present is a gift not many of us allow ourselves. We should. Despite what our culture values, scientific findings validate our true human need to “catch a break,” and not just on the weekends or holidays, but throughout our day to include:

    Go to Lunch

    In many industries, lunch breaks or any kind of respite are getting shorter and shorter, or even nonexistent. These days, only one in five office workers reports taking an actual lunch break away from their desk, according to a survey by workplace consulting group, Right Management, recently published in Fast Company. Yet taking a break, even for 15 to 20 minutes, is a proven way to sustain concentration and energy levels throughout the day.

    Respecting our natural attention spans will help us perform at our best. According to natural ultradian rhythms, on average, our brains are only able to focus for 90 minutes and need at least 20 minutes rest between those focused blocks of time. “Never taking a break from very careful thought work actually reduces your ability to be creative,” says Kimberly Elsbach, a management professor at UC-Davis who studies the psychology of the workplace. It sort of exhausts your cognitive capacity and you’re not able to make the creative connections you can if your brain is more rested. If you’re skipping lunch to continue to push forward in a very intense cognitive capacity, then you’re probably not doing yourself any favors.”

    Meditate (or at least rest your brain)

    A little bit of mindfulness goes a long way. Meditative breaks throughout the day have proven to improve productivity vs. socializing. A study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found that assigning call-center workers 20-minute “progressive relaxation” breaks, in which they participated in meditation-like activities, reduced their stress in the afternoon, compared to another group of workers who engaged in small talk with co-workers for 20 minutes. The relaxation technique had a positive impact on blood pressure, sleep quality and more.

    Take a Nap
    When your eye lids become very heavy at 2 p.m., it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not getting enough sleep or you’re bored with your work, it’s just your body’s natural circadian rhythm. You will have a dip in energy levels in the early afternoon because we’re actually designed to have two sleeps per day, according to Loughborough University Professor, Jim Horne. Our bodies are made to sleep for a long period overnight and a shorter stint during the day, which is why our energy levels drop and we feel sluggish or sleepy in the afternoon. Research has shown that naps lead to improvement in cognitive function, creative thinking and memory performance. In particular, napping benefits the learning process, helping us take in and retain information better.
    The improved learning process comes from naps actually helping our brain to solidify memories. Research indicates that when memory is first recorded in the brain—in the hippocampus, to be specific—it’s still “fragile” and easily forgotten, especially if the brain is asked to memorize more things. Napping, it seems, pushes memories to the neocortex, the brain’s “more permanent storage,” preventing them from being “overwritten.” One study into memory found that participants did remarkably better on a test following a nap than those who didn’t sleep at all. (Wish I had known that in college.)
    Naps should be limited to 20 minutes though to avoid sleep inertia, that post-sleep grogginess that can make you feel more tired than before the nap the rest of the day. Sleeping helps clear out the holding area of any information picked up during the day. As a result, their studies found that after you nap you’ll have more room in your working memory for new information. While a lot of it gets tossed out, anything important gets moved to long-term memory, so your memory performance should also improve after a nap.
    Leave the Office
    Studies have shown that a walk in a quiet park is sufficient to refresh our attention span so we can return to work with renewed focus. (A walk down a city street, on the other hand, was found to require so much attention to complete that it didn’t let the brain relax fully.) If you’re lucky enough to work close to green, natural spaces, and have the freedom to do that, it’s worth your time. If not, you can replicate that experience as best as you can with nature screen saver scenes.
    Changing your work location also renews your sense of focus. The ambient sound of a café has been shown to be the most beneficial sound level for creativity. Moderate noise levels, unlike silence or a noisy environment, increase processing difficulty just enough to push us out of our comfort zones and into more creative thinking. If you are limited to working in the same space every day, you can imagine to be somewhere else with audio apps to replicate more creative environments right at your desk. MacLife has some options titled Coffee Corner, Restaurant Kitchen or Nature Space.
    If you work in a more traditional work space where you are expected to appear to be working constantly, I would challenge you to go ahead and take a break. Pretend to become a smoker if you have to so you can step outside and relax your mind several times throughout the day. It may not “appear” that you are getting as much done, but in time you will prove that you are more productive than most because of it. Happy Labor Day week from all us at Gerard Marketing Group!
  • 25 Aug 2014

    Remember Your “Why?”

    Why?People don’t buy what you do, but why you do it. Know why. Tell them why. It’s the secret sauce that elevates products, brands and their marketing from good to great. Good marketing materials convey features and benefits. Great ones connect with prospects at an emotional level–a shared “why.”

    What is your why? Listen to yourself, first. The people you touch will spread the word.

    E-myth, a global leader in transformational business coaching, says, “as business owner and leader, you must know yourself first, then look to the marketplace. If you want to know how to build a brand, it’s first a matter of sequencing. Companies that do it in reverse often lose their way, and have difficulty operating consistently and finding their voice. They make excuses for their lack of service or end up blaming their customers and vendors for their problems. What they really lack is an orchestrated way of doing business based on their values and brand. Or they know what they stand for, but haven’t created the management and engagement systems to keep their brand commitment.

    A brand is built and embodied by employees who feel a certain way about you and the company, then extend that feeling to the customer through your products and services. Each touch point either confirms the brand feeling or not. When the company is small, and the owner transfers the feeling themselves, the customers often feel touched directly and more customers come. When the business grows, people are hired who must carry forth the owner’s same feeling towards her valued customers. It’s important for leaders to communicate clearly to their employees.”


    Articulate your “why.”

    • Values – Reflect on your core values, especially those that seem impractical, undeserved, inappropriate or beyond your reach. Deepen your awareness of yourself as the source of your greatest success. Write down your top 10 values and then categorize by title:  Health, Relationships, Work or Financial.
    • Passion – Define your passion and develop a Purpose Statement in two to three sentences to support it.
    • Purpose – Set goals as they relate to those values.

     Hire people that share your “why.”  “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” –Simon Sinek


  • 11 Aug 2014

    The Symptom Is Not the Problem

    by Bernadette Jiwa

    Georgina owns and operates a specialty gluten-free food store in Brisbane and like many retailers she’s experiencing a problem. Increasingly people are coming to browse but not to buy. The perception is that if I can get it cheaper or faster online why would I make the trip to your store?

    So Georgina has resorted to charging customers a $5 fee to look because she’s tired of people just coming in for advice and then leaving to buy from supermarkets or online stores. I feel her pain and her desperation but I doubt that this will solve her problem.

    The reason bricks and mortar stores are closing left and right has everything to do with the perception of price over value. Customers are no longer willing to drive across town to your store, find a parking spot and browse your shelves in the hope that you have the very thing they wanted in stock. They are not going to make a trip just to complete a transaction because they don’t have to.

    The value of bricks and mortar stores was that they were the only places to get the thing you wanted. When you can get that thing in two clicks of a mouse where does the value lie?

    It lies in the potential of the interaction. The way you make customers feel. In being generous. In finding ways to give people more than you put in their shopping bag. So much more that it’s worth the effort to come back, not for the gluten-free flour or a paperback but for the connection with you and the story they can tell themselves.

    The retail stores that are dying are trying to sell something (anything!) to everyone instead of finding the people they can delight. The people who aren’t just looking for a bargain. The ones who want something to believe in and who will cross town to pay more if they have to because you touched them.

    The businesses that survive won’t have more shelf space and cheaper prices, or even rules to discourage customers from coming in to engage. They are the ones who can work out a way to capitalise on the things the big guys can’t and won’t do.

    What’s killing retail isn’t the world wide web, it’s that retailers forgot about creating meaning while they sold commodities. The solution is not to punish people for having a choice. It’s to be the better choice.

    More at:  thestoryoftelling.com

  • 09 Jun 2014

    The Economics of Attention

    It’s all about time and money. How do you spend it wisely to get the marketing results you need? Strategic planning.

    From the Story of Telling:
    Attention is either earned or paid for. Whether you pay for advertising or not you still buy your audience’s attention every day. You may not pay in dollars and cents, but either way there is a cost attached to getting people to notice or engage.

    The cost of paid attention (in the form of TV ads) has been rising faster than inflation since the mid-1990s.

    The flip side is the value of that attention is decreasing. More channels, more ads and more choices have translated into less trust, lack of belief and declining motivation to pay attention. On top of that how we now consume media, on demand and on our own terms via mobile devices has changed both our expectations and behaviour. But apart from making adverts shorter and shifting to different platforms to tell our stories we’re often still guilty of marketing in that 1990s ‘here we are, this is what we’ve got for you’ way. We’re still using tactics that worked on a very different customer. They are not working now.

    It’s not just the economics and the media that have changed—it’s your customers. Increasingly what matters to people is not how you show up, but why you showed up. The biggest spending consumers aren’t simply shopping for stuff any more, they are shopping for ways to change how they feel, to express themselves and to find meaning. They no longer want information, or even experiences, they expect context—an understanding of what matters to them.

    You might not have control over the increasing cost of reaching people or their decreasing attention spans, but you do have control over what happens before, after and in the moment that you meet your customers where they are. The future success of your business is less likely to be shaped by all the attention money can buy and much more by your intention—which is free to choose.

    Image by Andy.



  • 24 Apr 2014

    You Want an “F” on Your Home Page

    How do browsers read Web sites? They don’t. They scan them. Your home page is where a visitor will quickly decide to read on… or move on.

    Technologies like infrared cameras and eye-tracking software are able to monitor the eye movements of viewers as they scan websites and help us learn more about how to design the most effective pages.

    When scanning an ad the old rule of thumb in the world of print was that readers view a page in a Z-shaped pattern. Left to right across and then down to the left and then finally off to the right. Good, credible publications and ads are organized visually in this way vs. non-credible publications that have multiple headlines competing for your eye’s attention.

    The scanning pattern in the digital world is different, being more of an F-shaped pattern, says Nikki Bisel, Principal of Seafoam Media, here in St. Louis. Viewers sweep their eyes across the page in a pattern that’s roughly shaped like an F, starting in the upper left corner. They take two horizontal swipes across the page, then swipe vertically down the left. These three heat maps of web users’ eye movements capture this dominant reading pattern.

    The home page reading patterns are so important, because according to the Nielsen ratings on scrolling and attention, Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold (meaning, the part of the webpage that’s visible when users first land there). Although users do scroll, they allocate only 20% of their attention below the fold. When on that “above the fold” page, users spend 69% of their time looking at the left half of the webpage and 30% viewing the right half–consistent with the F-shaped scanning pattern.

    Looking at the F pattern even more closely, researchers have analyzed data to determine how long viewers focus on specific sections of a page, such as the menu, logo and main image, before they moved on to other sections. According to researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology it takes just 2.6 seconds from the time a page loads for a person’s eyes to focus on a specific element on it. Viewers gave the most attention to the following:

    • Logo (6.48 seconds)
    • Main navigation menu (6.44 seconds)
    • Search box (6 seconds)
    • Social media icons (5.95 seconds)
    • Main image (5.94 seconds)
    • Written content (5.59 seconds)
    • Bottom of the website (5.25 seconds)
    Your site should be built for scanners, not readers. A Nielsen study revealed that Web users take the time to read little more than 20% of the words on a web page during an average visit. Scanning text is an extremely common behavior for higher-literacy users, while lower-literacy users “plow text” rather than scan it. Both styles need simple, straight-forward content.
    A good content writer will know how to make the most of your site and a great one will also make an emotional connection between your product or service and the target. A well-written site should:
    • Put the most important content first, in the opening sentences and paragraphs. Don’t start with that nice, smooth blah-blah intro. Follow the old rule of thumb from the newspaper publishing world to order content by importance.
    • Get to the point. Immediately.
    • Users are much more likely to scroll past the fold if the first content they see captures their attention or matches their need.
    • Don’t center text (since readers strongly prefer the left side of the page and won’t even see text that’s centered).
    • Keep headers (and links) flush to the left margin, so that visitors can readily see them, especially during their downward swipe of the page (the stem of the “F” pattern).
    • Make webpage text easy for users to scan with bolded headings and subheadings that make sense and include keywords of the content.
    • Use bulleted lists when you can to break up content.
    • Be credible information from an objective source. Visitors want to know that the information offered is accurate and objective. They ignore any page that sounds or looks like an ad.  Exaggerations, boasts, and market-ese hype also turn visitors off—and cause them to leave. As Nielsen says, “Web users are busy; they want to get the straight facts.”
    • Keep navigation simple. Limit your top-level navigation menu to five clearly labeled tabs with related pages organized under those.
    • Size matters. Five to 10 pages is sufficient for the majority of situations. Too many pages become too complicated for the visitor to figure out in a short amount of time.
    • As the Missouri S&T study found, users spend time looking at both social media icons and the bottom of the website. Including your social links in the header and footer of your site will serve as both an attention grabber and a way to keep in touch.
    • Don’t write only for SEO, but do consider it in your content. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but that picture won’t be picked up by search engines. Be sure to include keywords labeling the image and also in your text.
    • Your site must be responsive, meaning it translates from a horizontal format (desktop) to a vertical (mobile and pads) seamlessly.

    An effective home page, and subsequent site, requires a team with multiple skill sets:  relevant and concise content writing, SEO writing, good graphic design and coded to all work well. It’s tough to find all of those talents in one digital resource, but they are out there. It is worth the investment to find a top-notch team and pay the “getting it done right” price vs. not. Your Web site will be seen by all of your prospects and customers. You only have a few seconds to make the right impression. It’s mandatory for every business today.

  • 07 Apr 2014

    Maximizing Your Impact on Pinterest

    Pinterest is no longer just an addictive-get-your-creative-juices-flowing-eat-workout-design-travel-the-world extravaganza. Wikipedia describes it as a “visual discovery tool that people use to collect ideas for their different projects and interests. People create and share collections of visual bookmarks, called “pins.”

    One of the exciting things about Pinterest is how versatile it is – whether you are a consumer or a business, there’s value for you. A year and a half ago Pinterest introduced business pages, allowing B2B companies to do a lot to humanize their brand and tell their story through visuals. Pinterest allows you to showcase the people that make your business a success, industry statistics or news, your brand’s content or useful information, and tips your customers can benefit from.

    Danielle Cormier of socialmediatoday.com lists her tips on making the most of Pinterest for business:

    1. Include your business information! The first step in getting started on the right foot on Pinterest is to create a profile that is full of details and represents your business. Upload a clear, easy to recognize logo for your profile picture and use your business name as your profile name.

    2. Don’t forget to link to Facebook and Twitter! You’ve done all the work to have a successful social media presence – make sure users can link to your other social networks within Pinterest’s “Account Settings.”

    3. Complete your profile! When you have a business account, you can select your “business type,” add your location, verify your website, and create a short “About You” section for your profile. Completing your entire profile helps you look more professional.

    4. Don’t use a personal Pinterest profile instead of a business page! If you jumped on Pinterest in the beginning, you may still have a personal account. But as a business, you want to make sure that you setup a Pinterest Business Page. Without a business page, you’re missing out on valuable analytics!

    5. Follow other businesses! The nature of Pinterest is based on collaboration. Find other local businesses in your area to engage with and stay updated on what your customers are pinning alongside items from your business. Also, look to other businesses similar to yours on Pinterest for inspiration.

    6. Don’t mix your personal interest boards with business-related boards! Overall this tactic doesn’t work. Are your customers actually interested in the recipes you’re considering trying or the table settings you want at your fantasy wedding? Probably not. Keep your business account for your business and your personal account for your personal interests.

    7. Don’t pin images that aren’t Pinterest-worthy! Avoid pinning content that is too big, too small, too blurry or simply low quality. NOTE: Max image size: 554 pixels wide X 5000 pixels high.

    8. Install the “Pin It” button on your browser!  The “pin it” button makes it super easy to curate content from any website. With a quick click, you can pin an image that contains a description and a website link. Simply highlight the text you want as the description before you click “Pin it”.

    9. Keep your “Search Privacy” turned off! Allowing your boards and profile to appear in search engine results is a great way for new customers to discover your business. Make sure that you’ve turned your “Search Privacy” off within your “Account Settings”.

    10. Avoid inappropriate pins or repins! Don’t forget that your Pinterest Page is an extension of your brand. Stick to images that you’d feel comfortable sharing with anyone.

    11. Say no to all day-long pinning sprees! Posting too many pins at one time can overwhelm your fans. Try not to pin more than five images within five minutes. If you want to dedicate a specific time in the day for expanding your Pinterest channel, try to put at least five to ten minutes between batches of pins.

    12. Choose a category for each of your boards! For each new board you create, you should choose a “Category” from the drop-down list. Selecting an appropriate category for your boards will make your content searchable.

    13. Add a pin description or link source to pins! You can write up to 500 characters within a pin description so don’t skimp on the information you add! Use keywords related to your business, words or phrases people would search for, and relative hashtags to maximize your description’s context. When appropriate, link back to your website, other social networks, and your blog to drive traffic to your business.

    14. Enable “rich pins”! By enabling rich pins on your website, real-time pricing will accompany the images that are pinned from your website. Pinners will also be able to see if the product is in stock, where they can buy it, and if your item goes on sale. Pinterest even alerts the people who have repinned your product when the price drops!

    15. Don’t abuse #hashtags! Only use necessary hashtags and delete the rest to avoid looking spammy.

    16. Variety is the spice of life! Include various types of content throughout your boards such as repins, content from your own website, content curated from other websites or uploaded content. Don’t forget, you can also pin videos!

    17. Find your balance! Pinning too many images from your website or blog or only pinning images from your website or blog is not ideal. Vary the content you post to keep it fresh and engaging. See mistake #16.

    18. Talk about it! Use the networks you already have to spread the word. Adding a Pinterest logo to your website or blog will also help grow your following and act as a reminder to people who visit your website to pin your content.

    19. Avoid dumping all of your content into one board! Use numerous boards to keep your content organized and easy to navigate. Smaller, more specific boards allow your fans to quickly pinpoint content that interests them, spurring engagement.

    20. Don’t ignore Pinterest Analytics! As a small business owner or nonprofit, your time is limited. Don’t waste it! Knowledge is power.

    21. Don’t pin everything! It’s easy to get lost in a sea of stunning images where you might find yourself repining anything that catches your eye. Don’t do it. As a brand, you’re trying to relay a message that portrays what your business is all about. Plan out your boards and outline what message or information you want your fans to walk away with before you start pinning.

    22. Don’t forget traditional social media best practices! Commenting isn’t the most popular form of engagement on Pinterest, but it is still important to monitor what your fans are saying and doing. Look for opportunities to respond and engage with potential customers too. Also, similar to other social networks, always remember to stick to a consistent content frequency that works for you.

    23. Don’t overlook your website’s content. Is it pinnable? Make sure your customers can pin from your website or blog. Test it out before you encourage customers to pin your images and if you don’t have great visuals on your site, get some!



  • 07 Apr 2014

    What It Takes to Lead

    LeadersLeadership has become one of the fastest growing academic fields in higher education and the subject of many articles. People want to know what it takes to rise to the top. There is no one answer.

    Are leaders born or made? Both. Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer of N2growth says, and I agree, “It is not how a leader comes by their skill that is relevant. It only matters that they possess the requisite skills for the job, and that they are willing to apply those skills for the benefit of those they lead. Some people are born with innate qualities that predispose them to being leaders, and other people, while not naturally gifted with leadership ability can acquire it. I’ve personally witnessed the shy and introverted develop presence, the greedy become giving, the arrogant develop an authentic sense of humility, the foolish become discerning and wise, people who struggled with decision making learn solid decision skills, etc.”

    Employing the resources to recognize your own style, strengths and areas for growth is well worth the investment. A great business coach, like mine, can help you see things in a way you hadn’t considered before to help you and your business grow.

    There is no perfect leader and no single right way to lead. Likewise, there is no list of traits that will determine if you can, are or will be a great leader someday. However, there are, of course, many published Top 10 lists around the subject. The Forbes’ “Top 10 Qualities of Leaders” and ”     ” I believe of note. My take on the Top 10 Qualities of Leaders:



    1. Honesty
    It truly is the best policy. Other versions of a story require a lot of extra work–dreaming them up, remembering them and then relaying them in a believable manner. I’m no good at any of that. I stick to the truth. It’s easier, more efficient, and besides, it’s the ethical thing to do.

    “The supreme quality of leadership is integrity.” –Dwight Eisenhower

    2. Ability to Delegate
    Delegating effectively is mandatory for growth. It’s not just about finding someone that can do what you need them to and handing off the work. It’s about surrounding yourself with team members that will thrive with your leadership style and work environment and providing them with a clear vision statement for the company and them.

    “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” —General George Patton

    3. Communication
    The ability to communicate clearly and concisely is more important than ever–how concisely will vary with each team member though. Two-thirds of the working population prefers to have a three-minute warm-up discussion before discussing work like: How was your weekend? Have you seen any good movies lately? I sometimes become so hyper-focused on the task at hand, I forget to chit-chat.

    “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” —General Colin Powell

    4. Humor
    Laughter really is the best medicine. Humor and laughter are believed to strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain and protect you from the damaging effects of stress.

    “I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.” —Woody Allen

    5. Confidence
    Does this mean every great leader has to be a loud boisterous type? No. Does it mean that all those presenting their point of view in a confident tone are coming from a place of knowledge and experience? No.

    Confidence can be an elusive quality that is difficult to measure, but you know it when you see it. I also feel like I know it when I see what I’d call “unfounded confidence.” Unfounded confidence can be seen in my twelve-year-old son that just this morning insisted with the utmost confidence that he did not leave the light on in his room. This unbridled confidence that has not yet been tempered with time and experience can be dangerous in the work place. A true leader’s confidence must be grounded in fact and experience. It has to be earned over time.

    “The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.” —Tony Blair

    6. Commitment
    If you expect your team to work hard, they have to see you working hard too. In my opinion this doesn’t mean you have to be texted and e-mailing during off hours constantly, but it does mean that you are willing to roll up your sleeves when your team needs you. As a leader you must keep commitments no matter how small they may seem, like buying everyone dinner or supporting their further education.

    “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” —Jack Welch

    7. Positive Attitude
    I believe it’s the only way to be. There is a bright side and solution to everything. Sometimes it may not be apparent in the moment, but be confident that it will come. Your positive outlook will not only be apparent to your team, but also your customers. The leader sets the tone for the company and morale is linked to productivity. Even in the face of adversity, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

    “Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.” —Brian Tracy

    8. Creativity
    We live in a world where everyone can Google any topic and have access to multiple points of view on any given topic. A creative approach to solve problems is the differentiator. No longer creativity a skill relegated to the artistic fields, it’s important in even the most uncreative environments.

    “Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not. ”
    ― Pablo Picasso

    9. Intuition
    As the Forbes writer, Prive, states, “When leading a team through uncharted waters, there is no roadmap on what to do. Everything is uncertain, and the higher the risk, the higher the pressure. That is where your natural intuition has to kick in. Guiding your team through the process of your day-to-day tasks can be honed down to a science. But when something unexpected occurs, or you are thrown into a new scenario, your team will look to you for guidance. Drawing on past experience is a good reflex, as is reaching out to your mentors for support. Eventually though, the tough decisions will be up to you to decide and you will need to depend on your gut instinct for answers. Learning to trust yourself is as important as your team learning to trust you.”

    “The leader has to be practical and a realist yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.” —Eric Hoffer

    10. Ability to Inspire
    Creating a business often involves a bit of forecasting. Especially in the beginning stages of a startup, inspiring your team to see the vision of the successes to come is vital. Make your team feel invested in the accomplishments of the company. Whether everyone owns a piece of equity, or you operate on a bonus system, generating enthusiasm for the hard work you are all putting in is so important. Being able to inspire your team is great for focusing on the future goals, but it is also important for the current issues. When you are all mired deep in work, morale is low, and energy levels are fading, recognize that everyone needs a break now and then. Acknowledge the work that everyone has dedicated and commend the team on each of their efforts. It is your job to keep spirits up, and that begins with an appreciation for the hard work.

    “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” —Bill Gates

    I would add an 11th:

    11. Visionary
    Every successful business is backed by a smart plan. It takes courage to see things in a new way and share that vision with others. But when you do, it’s powerful.

    “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” —John Maxwell

    Finally, remember it’s not all about you. It starts with you, but there is nothing more valuable than your employees. They can help you in areas where you personally need development. They can support you with the things you don’t have the time to do or aren’t as capable. The single most powerful predictor of a leader’s success is the team they have built to support them and their company vision. Invest in yourself and a great team. The rest will follow.

    “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” —Jim Rohn

    © 2014 Gerard Marketing Group. All rights reserved.