The Art Of Personal Branding

A How To – Personal Branding Is A Fine Art

28905-poster-10-toc-posterWarning, it will take you close to 500 words to actually get to my main point about the art of personal branding and a great example of How To. So, if you want, skip ahead. However, if you need a bit of branding history, don’t scroll yet.

A Definition

Today, everyone (well, OK, not everyone, but it sure seems like everyone) from high school students developing their college resumes to job seekers to ad agency owners like you to consultants like me, use personal branding to create their very own brand. What is a personal brand? A definition from our friends at Wikipedia…

Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging. The term is thought to have been first used and discussed in a 1997 article by Tom Peters.

Do you know Tom Peters? I bet many of you don’t. Back in the 90’s Tom was a major marketing influencer and as you can see from this 1997 Fast Company article, “The Brand Called You. Big companies understand the importance of brands. Today, in the Age of the Individual, you have to be your own brand. Here’s what it takes to be the CEO of Me Inc.”, he laid it all out. FYI: 1997 was twenty years ago. Side note, I kinda laughed when I read how Tom boldly referred to himself at the close of the article…

“Tom Peters ( is the world’s leading brand when it comes to writing, speaking, or thinking about the new economy. He has just released a CD-ROM, “Tom Peters’ Career Survival Guide.”

Tom states (Tom!)…. Tom Peters ( is the world’s leading brand…” Cool. You know, most people don’t really have time to figure you out so go ahead and tell them that you are the guru. It works. Here is what I say (I say!) on my (as in this) website: I Am The Most Experienced Business Development Consultant.” It works (and it is true.) There…. I just personal branded. Back in the day, I studied Tom peters, read his books and watched his presentations. Look him up, you’ll see what I mean.

Oh, just in case you don’t remember 1997, note in the statment that Tom had an AOL email address and created CD-ROM’s.

Back To Personal Branding – Actually, The Art Of Personal Branding

Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 8.25.25 AMI will not get too deep into the concept of how to do the nuts & bolts of personal branding because there is a very good chance that you do that and Google will return 11 million results on the subject. Plus, you probably already use one or more of the following tools to get your brand out there. Or, should.

  • A blog (if you know how to use keywords, have something to add to the conversation and write decent English)
  • LinkedIn (your profile, groups, and publishing)
  • Facebook (your profile and advertising)
  • Instagram (image marketing)
  • Twitter (yes, it still works)
  • Snapchat (people won’t remember your inanity)
  • Pinterest (amazing what people search on)
  • Medium (borrowed reach)
  • Slideshare (an underused platform)
  • Commenting (presence)
  • Guest posting (seriously borrowed reach)
  • Recommendations and referrals (ask for them)
  • Awards (third party endorsement)
  • Buffer (efficiency)
  • Buzzsumo (more efficiency)
  • Word of mouth (yup, that old thing works too)

Margo: The Art Of Her Branding Is In The Execution – Not Just The Tools

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 9.00.10 AMAll of these tools are nice. But, as is always the case, the devil is in the details. Here are the details of a personal brand I found (actually it found me) yesterday.

I have some bad habits. Instead of waking up and immediately studying Spanish (I now live in Mexico), I turn on my iPad and read my business email. So there I am in my bed (too much info?) with my iPad and I see an email from Medium that points me to… “How The Best Marketers Read Minds. How to hear the unspoken stories your customers tell themselves.” I read it. It’s an excellent take on marketing and messaging. It is very current. You should read it.

I then go, “Huh, who wrote this?” I click on Margo Aaron’s byline, I see this: “I write about the dubious underbelly of marketing and other lighthearted topics at” I like the name of the website. I like the idea of reading about the “dubious underbelly.” I like Margo’s attitude.

I then go to Margo’s That Seems Important website. I find the following:

She points out that she is a ginger and is cute (my interpretation.) Just to be clear, I would have also thought that if it had been a cute guy like Domhnall Gleeson.

She has a sense of humor: The top of the home page visual says, They say if I have a photo here it will increase my conversion rates.” Take that SEO / SEM folks.

She asks me to join her email list via this, “Please join this list so it’s not just my mom.” More humor.

I go to the About page and read her bio. Nice track.

Then I take her up on this… “If you’d like to “pick my brain” you can do so here.” Of course, I go. “Pick my brain” kinda reminds me of my Corleone Offer.

I arrive at a Clarity page where I can buy her time for $4.17 / minute. I see a couple of reviews like this…

Margo is a rock star. I gained more insights from a one-hour conversation with her than I would have in weeks of fumbling around with the marketing for my coaching service.

She has a rare acumen for asking the right questions to understand you and your offer and then translating that into a captivating marketing strategy.

The value I received from the call far exceeds her rate. If she’s amenable to helping you, don’t hesitate to work with her.

I think, sure I’ll call her.

My Point? Margo Seriously Branded Herself.


Marketing  – Margo introduced me to her via a broad reach vehicle – Medium. Somehow she got Medium to get her into my email.

Persona – Her branding delivered a smart, funny persona. Not a me-to list of attributes. She is likeable.

Smart  – She writes very well on subject that should be of interest to you.

Sales funnel – She funneled me to her bio.

Sold  – She further funneled me to her advice site.

Margot did all of this in a way I call – Unignorable.


ask_garyvee_template_Podcast_copy-1You can do this too. This is particularly important if you run an ad agency. Here’s an example…

Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary has done a masterful job of self-branding. I am sure you know his story. From wine shop to YouTube star to building the fastest growing ad agency in the universe (Gary’s words thought.)

His secret… He used marketing; a unique compelling persona; he’s smart and makes damn sure you know it; he funnels you into his books and speeches and if you are a client, into his agency. He is not timid. He has sold you. His brand sold you.

Does your brand sell your agency?



3 Ad Agency Websites That Work

Inspiration: 3 Ad Agency Websites That Work

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 4.35.20 PMYes, another post on ad agency websites. This time I am writing about three very different approaches. All work. How do I know this? These agency sites deliver via unique approaches at a time when many agency websites act more like a ‘me-too’ non-sales oriented brochure. To start, here are some of my key website success points.

You will only get 8 seconds of a prospect’s attention. So, state your reason for being — fast.

That means, KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid.

Walk your talk.

Help me to want to meet you.

Try to look and sound different. The sameness of agency website messaging, look and attitude is distressing.

Your website is a sales tool. Worth repeating. It is a sales tool.

Use video to tell your story.

If you dig social, then deliver some highly targeted thought leadership. Provide more substance than a ‘me-too’ agency blog.

Entice a prospect to contact you. Friendly sales works.

The 3 Agency Websites.

1. HawkSEM


Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 2.50.46 PMHawkSEM is a digital / PPC marketing specialist based in L.A.

Here is why I dig the HawkSEM website.

  • Slavish devotion to the agency’s Results / ROI positioning. That means their messaging supports their stance. As in: “No BS, just Results. Average Clients see a 4.5x ROI”
  • The positioning is client focussed.
  • Massive use of videos. Mucho people to watch on this site.
  • Sexy client list plus relevent cases plus video testimonials.
  • Very serious Google endorsement.
  • They ask for the order via simple offer… “Request a free consultation.” Not just the usual, all too usual, “Contact Us.”

This approach makes them successful.

2. Wise Branding Group

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 3.43.06 PMI’d never heard of Betsey Wise until I read her right-on quote in Ad Age’s “Agency Nostalgia Hits SXSW.” See what I mean (as in, this must be the dream of every employee working at WPP or Publicis):

“And this is what’s wrong with the agency model,” said Betsy Wise, CCO of her own branding group. “Too many people in a meeting, and not enough getting done.”

Ms. Wise was just joking about the room too full for her to even enter, but she was also kind of serious. She was there to talk about what agency workers can do to overcome the waning influence of their industry. She used to be in it, until she started her own company, and now sets her own hours.

“I’m working 30 hours a week, and I’ve easily doubled my salary, maybe tripled,” Ms. Wise said.”

Here is why I dig the Wise Branding Group website:

  • Super clean design.
  • The site’s navigation elements are the graphics / the graphics are the navigation.
  • Who We Are. / What We Do. / What We Believe? / Who We Serve / What We Are Up To.  Is kinda all you really need to know.
  • I like the copy and its tone.

More? Could Wise add more stuff? Sure and it might help. Or, um, distract.

3. Joan.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 4.13.11 PMMore women. I am only saying this because Joan. celebrates women. Especially women named Joan. Need rationale?

“Throughout history, various Joans have shown up on the scene and completely changed the landscape — from rock and roll, to comedy, to helping put a new face on the protest movement of the 60s, and of course, to our favorite Joan, who triumphed on the French battlefields. These Joans knew that the combination of talent, ambition, curiosity, imagination, an eternal work ethic and a completely irregular perspective from the norm would allow them to question, challenge and change.

We take inspiration from these incredible women. And we hope to do some good in their name.”

Here is why I dig the Joan. website:

  • The name is intriguing.
  • The founders are named Lisa and Jaime.
  • Interesting, non-standard-resumes: What happens when one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business and Refinery29’s former COO start an agency?” And leadership positions at Widen + Kennedy and Pereira & O’Dell and Ogilvy and Mather, Saatchi and Saatchi, BBH NY and Fallon.
  • Sweet, diverse client list that includes: General Mills, Unilever, Jack Daniels, Coca-Cola, and Intel.
  • Joan. walks the talk. They are establishing: “The Joan Foundation for Diversity in Advertising.”

Ok, I admit it. Much of what I dig is Joans.’s straight forward approach to all of the reasons I’d give them a call. The site is tight.

The ADD & ADHD Marketing Advantage

The ADD & ADHD Marketing Advantage

vector-of-a-cartoon-fast-businessman-on-wheels-outlined-coloring-page-by-ron-leishman-18524You are in the marketing communications business. Your brain has to move at warp speed given today’s fast-paced digital marketing options. You have to juggle one or more intense client requirements and needs. Everything is coming at you. This is OK and you really dig it. You like the variety of your challenges.

There is a decent chance that you have some form of ADD or ADHD. I’ve always thought that I (as well as my marketing colleagues) have ADD / ADHD  or, what my friend Peter Shankman calls Fast Brain. Hmmmm, I like the sound of Fast Brain.

To learn more about Peter’s take on ADD and ADHD and how this is a benefit, not a malaise, head over to his website Faster Than Normal.

download ddAnd, for a more direct take on ADD and your marketing life, read my interview with Peter on HubSpot’s marketing blog: How ADHD Gave This Tech Founder a Creative Advantage.”

Here is my conclusion:

Adapting Marketing Strategies for Distraction

I am sure that many of you digital marketers were perpetually distracted students like me. I was the type of student that was bored and whose grades never matched his potential. After all, I really didn’t want to have to take biology to fulfill my college science prerequisites.

Fortunately, I managed to find my way to art college and eventually to a long career in advertising and digital marketing — the perfect industry for fast brains.

Shankman thinks that 40% of the population has some degree of ADHD. If this is so (and I agree), then we should consider how to bake this important consumer insight into our marketing strategies.

Of course, this isn’t groundbreaking news. We are well aware of the effect of device distraction and content marketing overload. However, I seldom see marketing communications professionals sit their clients down and tell them that they really only have nano-seconds to deliver a sales proposition. I am talking about the critical importance of having an ‘unignorable’ sales proposition — not just an ad tech solution.

So, go forth and Fast Brain your day.


How To Own A Brand Positioning

Ah, The Brand Positioning – How Are You Going To Own Yours?

Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 8.55.44 AMAll of the medium to small advertising, PR, design and digital agencies I work with (even network agencies) are by nature, challenger brands. As in, they are not R/GA or Droga 5 or 72andSunny or today’s hottest – pick your current digital-flavor-of-the-month specialist. I’m sure you know what challenger brand means and that is one of your potential brand positionings but… Here is a nice clear definition of challenger brand from

A challenger brand is a company or product brand in an industry that is not the category leader. The term denotes the fact that such companies have to play from a position behind the dominant player or leader in an industry. This makes the process of marketing significant to attracting customers.

The nurturing of challenger brands is one of the marketing agency positionings that I’ve discussed on this blog and with many of my agency clients. No, it is not a brand new proposition. But, it has power since most brands are by nature challenges and, as stated above, marketing is critical to elevating a challenger brand to brand leadership. This makes having a dedication to helping challenger brands a winning proposition.

Eat Bigger Smaller Fish

Screen Shot 2017-03-03 at 9.36.38 PMI have been following the challenger brand consultancy Eat Big Fish for years. They are without question the leading consultancy in this space and their leader Adam Morgan is the numero uno voice of the challenger brand market. I have used Eat Big Fish in my agency business development recommendations as one of the benchmark agencies that I believe represents a best of class B2B marketer. As in, how they market themselves under, inside and around their positioning umbrella.

Eat Big Fish is an excellent example of a marketing company that has a single-minded sales proposition, a well-defined market and a dedication to thought leadership that… makes them, without question, the thought leader, “I must talk to them” leader in their category.

How They Do It

I think that, no, I know that, EBF (I hope they don’t mind the abbreviation, I just don’t like typing ‘fish’ too often) can offer some direction for all agencies.

EBF nailed their approach to a large hungry market. And, they appear to be early in. Or, even better, they market themselves so well, that they look like they were early in.

They nailed their brand name and logo. Ah, the British and branding.

They nailed their messaging.


  • Adam Morgan established his credentials in 2009 by writing the book, “Eating The Big Fish”.
  • Their latest book, “A Beautiful Constraint”, speaks directly to today’s time and resource scarcity. Here is how they describe the book: “A Beautiful Constraint is a book about everyday, practical inventiveness, designed for the constrained times in which we live. It describes how to take the kinds of issues that all of us face today — lack of time, money, resources, attention, know-how — and see in them the opportunity for transformation of oneself and one’s organization’s fortunes.” Oh, they have two more books. I like ‘agencies’ that write books. Here’s is a blog post on how to do that.
  • EBF has a hard to resist sales proposition: “We enable ambitious brands of all shapes and sizes to do more more with less.” Um like, what client would you want that isn’t ambitious and would just love it if you offered them a high ROI?
  • Their Our Work section delivers on their strategic focus and client benefits. Nice, clear and concise. Like, if you were a big brand, why wouldn’t you give these guys a call? Plus, they sound like they play nice with the other children – they fit in seamlessly between the brand and the brand’s agency.
  • EBF’s thought-leadership is, well, thoughtful. This series is timely, thought-provoking, insightful, and fun to read. It would be of interest to any client out there: “Challengers To Watch In 2017”. Cool! I love this one — Impossible Foods. Imagine trying to challenge the all-beeeeeef burger.
  • They give good videos. Check out their Speeches page.
  • They nail client testimonials. Most agency client testimonials are — boring. These are not.

And… you should subscribe to their newsletter. You’ll see why after you get one. The pitch: “Sign up to The Challenger Project and get our monthly roundup of challenger inspiration every last Friday.”

One thing I dig about their approach is that their focus is on sharing the insights and stories from the broader world of challenger brands.  Whether client or not, eatbigfish get out of the way of the story.

Inspiring in an agency world where we just cannot stop talking about ourselves. Ya know what I mean?

Surprise: Inbound Marketing Works

Inbound Marketing Works

Blue IMG_3092Some inbound marketing tips about half way down. But, ya know, I just gotta start with a story.

OK, no big surprise here… I just have to say it. Inbound marketing does work. Why am I bringing up this subject that you probably think about every day? Because I have been starting to see some thinking that the overabundance of marketing content and SEO activity, especially in your B2B space (I am talking about advertising agency business development), is reducing the effectiveness of inbound. Well, it is. In fact, all forms of marketing appear to be less effective for the average marketer. But, here is the deal. A hefty segment of inbound marketers are clearly winning. They are winning because of their strategic approach, well-targeted tactics and, most importantly, how they execute. The winners use both best practices and the objective of being unignorable.

Some background.

My wife and I are building a house down here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It will kinda look like the photo on the left – more windows and a different color. Click on the link to see why we moved down here and how (yes, I know that some of you have thought about leaving the USA too — shhhh, I won’t tell). As new house builders and ones that will need to purchase a bunch of furniture because we totally downsized when we left Portland OR last July, we need some new stuff. This got me thinking that I’d rather have people like you buy my services and send me cash vs. simply raiding my savings. Therefore, I ramped up my inbound marketing about a month ago to slightly increase my leads. Because, yes you know this is coming… Inbound works.

The Inbound Marketing Switch

images sssOver the past four weeks, I’ve gotten inbound leads from advertising agencies in Sweden, Dubai, Adelaide, Botswana, San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, and Toledo. I’ve even gotten incoming from multi-national networks.

I got these seemingly random, but very hot global leads because I flipped the inbound switch. A switch I found in 1995.

I have been doing social media and inbound marketing since the mid-90’s. Without getting into great detail, my first web business was New Jersey Online, a very early news website. We used social media in the form of viewer forums about New Jersey and New York sports (the Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets, Islanders, Rangers and Devils, oh and the Yankees and Mets) and all the local kid’s sports teams and entertainment to capture the attention of a huge audience. We added daily content from four news sources (they were called newspapers). We grew an audience that  was even larger than the New York Time’s website (I love saying this.) We won the New Jersey / New York metro battle by using social media, the power of sharing and… inbound marketing.

Back To Today

Here are the the switches I’ve thrown since January. No, no secrets here. It is just about execution and online sales pressure. I offer these as a reminder that targeted inbound marketing activity begets sales lead activity.

  • I’ve been posting more often. Some are long posts repurposed from other thought-leadership platforms I’ve used.
  • I’ve been amplifying and reposting my current and past best read posts beyond my website via my newsletter, linkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
  • I agreed to speak at my client Hannapin Marketing’s big Los Angeles PPC Hero Conference. They have promoted me.
  • Because of the speaking gig, I was interviewed by Paul Wicker of the super-smart ad tech company ADSTAGE.
  • A very large multi-office agency (one I am going to give a pitching seminar to) decided to tell all of their execs to buy my book on pitching and then get reimbursed. February was one of my best selling months. The book, actually an outbound strategy, gets the word out.
  • HubSpot is about to run another one of my guest posts and they just invited me to present on one of their large international webinars.


So, my message is simple. Inbound activity works. Google likes it and they grant you better search positioning (FYI: it took Google less than an hour to crawl this page). Increased activity stimulates the readers of your emails, Facebook page, LinkedIn Followers and your groups. Stimulation with the right content to the right people delivers sales leads.


And, since I know you like infographics, here is a crisp one from StraightNorth. As they say,”The Internet marketing lead generation ecosystem illustrates how all components fit together to form cohesive campaigns. It is intended to give marketing leaders a blueprint for building a complete Internet marketing strategy that maximizes sales lead generation.”