Before you delve into the intricacies of your business, it’s critical that you identify and understand your brand first. In this episode, SuperTight Brand’s Ellen Melko Moore talks about branding and why it’s important. An expert in creating powerful and persuasive brands through original content and one-of-a-kind business offers, she differentiates marketing and branding and shares how and why it’s necessary to listen to your clients. Ellen then takes us into her company, SuperTight Brands, detailing where it came from and becoming a brand champion.
My guest is Ellen Melko Moore. She has a company called SuperTight Brand and I love the name. We are going to have an amazing conversation about branding and about the reasons you want to brand before you do storytelling. Besides being on this show, which I absolutely love, I get the opportunity five times a year to go up to the university and work with a third-year marketing program. It’s called Marketing 343 and it's up at Simon Fraser University at the Beedie School of Business. Everybody up there is amazing people. We had a great time and they treat me well when I go up there.
I go up there for an entire day and I work with their third-level marketing students on networking, branding and interview skills. We run them through a series of scenarios where we put them to the test and get them to feel a little bit uncomfortable. They learn how to enhance their skills in a safe environment. This is an incredible opportunity for the students to take advantage of it. We all need to be better. These are all skills that all of us need to be better at. I don't care if you're 19, 22 or 50 years old. We all can get better at communicating our value, being more comfortable joining a conversation, being part of the conversation to listen, engage, understand and to be able to sit there and say, “I have something to share but I'm going to do it in a way where people see it as valuable,” instead of saying, “But me.”
It's a matter of teaching these kids the skills necessary to make them successful as they leave university. The reason I do this is for two things. First of all, they're smart. These are smart and incredible kids that have done amazing things in university. No one has taught them how to communicate their value in a way that people wants to listen to, understand the value to them and want to engage with. To do this well takes time, effort and practice. For me to get up and speak on the radio, I'm much better at it. I will be much better at it a year from now. I'm much better than when I was a year ago.
It's like working out. It's a muscle. The more comfortable you get for being in front of people, being able to look people in the eye, shake their hands, listen to them and understand them. It’s not just listening so you can talk but listening so you understand. That's what a lot of these people don't understand. It's listening to understand. What is the problem that people have? What is the issue that people have? What do they want to talk about? What are they excited about? What are they passionate about? What do they want to tell you? If you can be the person that understands what other people want, what they need, what they're passionate about and what they care about, they're going to trust you. When they trust you, they're going to be far more interested in hearing what you have to say if they think that you're listening to them.
People are far more interested in what you have to say if they think that you’re interested in them. Naturally, most people want to talk about themselves. There are other people out there who never want to talk about themselves, I get that. I understand that but most people find themselves interesting in any way, shape or form. There's nothing wrong with that. If all you're doing is talking about yourself, how wonderful you are, the things that you do, and the things that you've accomplished, then you're not listening to the other person. That is not a conversation. It's a monologue. If it's a monologue, people are either going to be interested or they're going to tune out. More times than not, they're going to tune out because it's not relevant to them. You're not putting words out that are relevant to people in a way that people want to hear it.
People want to know how can you help them, how can you benefit them, how can you solve problems that they have, how can you teach them something that they didn't already know. The only way you can do that is by understanding them first. We need to understand each other. We need to take the time to build the human skills. Too many people in universities, colleges and technical schools focus on the technical skills. They focus on how to be an accountant, lawyer, doctor and marketing professional but they're not teaching people.
We're not learning how to listen, how to engage, how to empathize, how to care, how to be a critical thinker. Those are the skills that are going to get us further in life because technology is going to change. The skills that you learn as a doctor are not the same when you leave medical school and 30 years later when you're ready to retire. It’s the same with the legal profession, with marketing and with everything. The technical skills change. Your social media in ten years from now will be different. You need to be able to understand people first and technology second. There’s a great question. How can these things be taught in the right way? How can we teach the human skills? It's creating opportunities.
A lot of people don't practice. First of all, a lot of people don't understand that they need to practice. A lot of people don't understand how important it is to be able to do that. There's got to be an awareness first. If people are aware that, “I have challenges speaking in public. I have challenges being understood. I have challenges being seen as the person that people want to either hire or promote by himslef or herself too.” If people are aware of themselves and aware of those things, they're going to go out there and start looking for the right ways.Brand is a reputation. We don't create our own reputation. Other people have something to say about that. Click To Tweet
There are courses. There are sales and marketing. We have phenomenal courses online. In Canada, there's something called the CPSA which is a Canadian Professional Sales Association. They teach all these courses. Toastmasters teaches this type of things. There are lots of different places you can go online. My book teaches a lot of these. My book Powerful Personal Brands that you can buy through Amazon teaches a lot of these skills. If I'm going to self-promote, why not? It's being aware first of all that you need to understand these skills, be unaware that you need to get better and understanding that if you practice it, you are going to get it better.
Go to Chamber of Commerce events, go to social events and take the time to be quiet. Ask a relevant question. What are you passionate about? What are you working on right now? What are the things that are causing you mischief right now? What are the things that turn your hair off? Then be quiet and listen. Ask follow-up questions. If you can do that and if you can learn to do that instead of always asking questions so you can say, “I do that too,” you're going to get better. That's the important thing. It’s a skill that takes time. It's like anything. None of us are going to be perfect tomorrow. I'm not going to be perfect tomorrow. You're not going to be perfect tomorrow. Ellen is coming on board and certainly she’s not going to be perfect tomorrow. None of us are, but we're all going to get better. If we realize that this is a life skill and these are skills that as your conscious of them and you take the time and learn better. This works with husbands, wives, parents and kids. This works within the workplace, in sales situations, everywhere. The more we can sit there and listen and actively listen, the better off we can be.
Let's bring Ellen on board. I want to talk to her about branding because her company, SuperTight Brand, does some incredible things. Everybody here is going to benefit from this conversation. I am excited about having Ellen on the show. She and I met through LinkedIn. It was one of those things that was surreptitious. We were both on a discussion group. We were all talking and people were talking about marketing. I said, “Let’s step back. It's difficult to talk about marketing until you understand your brand. Until you understand who you are, what you do, why you do it, who you do it for and why people care, it's impossible to market anything.” Ellen and I got on this great conversation about that and we jumped on a Zoom call. I said, “Ellen, you have to be on my show.” Ellen, welcome to the show. I am excited about having you on. When we got on our Zoom call, it was an hour of straight power. It was fun and I left the call going, “There's another one of me in the world. God, help the world. There are two of us.”
It's always exciting as I know it was for you. Marketing is so much about, “I have to look this way. I'm going to represent this way. I'm going to talk this way and here's who I am.” That's the nature of marketing. Brand is the opposite. Brand is listening because the cool thing about brand is that it can only be created by the people who are listening and watching you. Brand is a reputation. We don't create our own reputation. Other people have something to say about that. It was neat for me to meet somebody else who is focused on that part of it.
Jeff Bezos has the greatest quote on branding. He says, “Branding is how people think about you when you're not in the room.”
They talked about you when you're not in the room.
People talk about you positively and they talk about you negatively. Either way, that's your brand. You can try to shape your brand; you can craft it and you can represent yourself in a certain way. If it's not authentic, people will see through it in about 3.2 seconds and see you for who you are. That's a key thing for branding.
Brand is a conversation. We have to be able to listen. We can't literally listen to everybody. We can't literally get everyone's world. One of the things we focus on at SuperTight is asking our clients to narrow their target audience more. There’s so much power and there so much speed when you step up and say, “I'm going to specialize in this person or this business.” Even this kind of business is always a person too. If you're going to be in a conversation and if you're going to listen, you need to decide “Who am I going to listen to?” It's hard to be in a good conversation with six different people at once. It doesn't work as well.
I know I can't do it. I'm one of these people that you sit there in a networking situation and you have to focus on one person. You can't have six conversations at a time. It's impossible. I don't care who you are or people say, “I can multitask.” No, you can't. Focus on one person then focus on the other part. It might be a split second, but you can't focus on two people at the same time and hear what either one of them is saying.
If you try to and you have a competitor who's focused on one person, you're going to lose out on conversation points to that competitor who's saying, “I'm specializing in head of HR Consultants.” That person is eventually going to win as long as they're a good listener.
When I was talking to these kids, I said, “There are one billion people in the world and 98% of those people will never be your customer.” Probably 99.5% or 99.8% of those people will never be your customer. 95% of people in the world may never even like you or don't know you exist. That's okay. The more you can narrow in focus and say, “These are the exact people that I'm trying to talk to because these are the people that I can truly help. These are the people that I can help and these are the people that need what I do. These are the people that think that I add value to their lives.” Those are the people you need to talk to. Everybody else is superfluous.
The next time you go in, you can give them another sound bite which you may know already. It's from direct marketing guru, Dan Kennedy. He says, “The who is the most important thing you'll do.” It always starts there for us. Who is this “who" that I am talking to?
Let's get into where did SuperTight Brand come from. What was the impetus? What gave you the thought process and say, “This is what I should be doing.”
I started out as an academic. I was a university instructor and I had a lot of student loans from three universities and three degrees. When I figured out that Academia wasn't quite the right atmosphere for me, I was looking around. I stumped on the SuperTight Brand content by accident. I was looking around for some way to pay back my healthy six-figure student loan. I had an English degree. What are you going to do with that outside of university? What I did was I looked around and I said, “Is there anyone in the world who would pay for this skill of reading and talking about books beyond university?” I started with the idea then that I had to make money and that I had to craft an offer that was designed for someone because I didn't know who it would be. What happened was we wound up with a partner from my program. We wound up creating a program and products for people in book clubs and book groups.
At the time, there are about ten million of those people in the English-speaking world and publishers were starting to get, “Reading groups have a lot of buying power.” The Oprah Winfrey Book Club was just getting started. We created products for people in those groups to have a better discussion. We honed in on a specific kind of book group and a person in a book group. As a result, I thought this is what happened when you started a business. We were weirdly, bizarrely successful considering that we didn't know anything about business. We had stumbled upon the one part that does matter, which was we paid attention to our book club people. We listened to them and we based everything on what they said that they needed, not what we, as former English teachers thought they should have. We got to do local TV and radio. We got to do national TV and radio. We got a New York agent and a New York publisher. We wound up consulting for the Oprah Winfrey Book Club. I thought all of this is you start a business and this is what happens. I didn't know.If you're going to be in a conversation, you need to decide who you are listening to. Click To Tweet
If only it was true that every business is like that.
The point of it that is true is when you specialize more and you design your products or process based on what your customer or client says they want. I'm not saying it's a guaranteed elevator up there, but it sure does help when you specialize in a certain person. I wanted to see if I could teach other people how to do that, but I wasn't sure exactly what that was. I went back and I did some high-level business training and I sorted it out, “This is about specialization.” This is something that can happen when you specialize in a group of people. If you specialize more, you have a chance to become the national expert or the international expert as the case may be. Because you're no longer an expert, you are the person who has claimed that particular group of people. Everything you do is going to be for that group of people. That requires that you spend a lot of time with them listening. That's how I got into teaching this.
When you went out to create your brand, you focused on what the problem people already had. It wasn't, “I've designed a twelve-slice toaster.” Everybody's going to want a twelve-slice toaster and I'm going to go out there and sell the twelve slice-toasters. What you did is you went out there and said, “What's the problem up there? Who has this problem? What do they look like? What do they feel like? What are they emotionally tied to? How do I reach these people in an emotional way that they're going to be tied to my brand?”
It turned out the emotional thing was that when people are hosting a book group in their home. It’s important to them that the discussion that night be very good so that other people in the group will say, “I loved the book group at your house the other day.” We applied that. We spoke to that host or hostess anxiety and said, “When we come in or when you use our products, you're going to make sure that the discussion that night at your house is amazing.” People are in book groups because they’re lifelong learners. They want to have an amazing discussion. There are those stereotype that they're all there to bitch and stitch and drink wine, but that's not true.
The further people care about book clubs, the anxiety is, is it going to go well? That's about more than the food you serve and the wine you serve. It's about, did people have a great time? Once we understood that that was the anxiety, not how to talk about books and this way or that way or any of those things. I would suggest for your readers, the more you can focus on a particular group of people, it doesn't mean you have to change your whole business or your whole brand right away. Here's the deal, if you get them, you get their angst and you understand their language and how they would speak about it, you have a chance. Now it's a conversation. You're not trying to speak to three different people at once. You're speaking to that one person and saying, “I get that this is what’s going on here. Here's what we're going to do about it to solve that for you.”
If you listen to Seth Godin, he's one of my favorite gurus. I read all of his books. He talks about a minimum viable audience. He says, “It's not about the number of people you can reach. It's the quality of people you reach.” Who are the people that are drinking the secret sauce? Who are the people that absolutely truly believe in you because they know that you have a product or a service that's going to fit their particular needs and solve their problems? If you can focus in on those particular people, those people all have friends like them. They all have associates like them, they're going to say, “I met Ellen. Ellen was incredible. She tore my brand apart and she rebuilt it. She made me feel amazing. She put me in a position where all of a sudden, I am far more crystal clear on who I am, what I do and why I do it. You have to speak to Ellen.” Those are what you want. You want the champions of your brand because they are so much cheaper than paying for advertising that goes out to millions of people that may not care about you in any way, shape or form. If you can build those brand champions, understand who they are, cultivate them and speak to them, they'll help you build your brand in a way that no other people can.
It's much less work. It's much less money. A lot of times when I come in and I start working with a business or a founder, they'll say things like, “I don't want to cut off this group of people. I don't want to rule out this group of people.” What we always say is, “You can do it this way, but the way you're doing it is the hard way. It's harder this way.” We like things to be easy. If you want easy, you want to aim for everything at that person who's got ATP which is the ability to pay. We also want the person who’s got ETP which is eager to pay. An eager to pay avatar or ideal client is a person who's already sophisticated enough that they get what you're doing. This is a person who’s coachable and appreciates being coached. This is someone who already has the mindset. You don't have to teach this person about your value. They are already looking. When you aim it all on that, things get much cheaper, faster, more fun and it starts getting fun when you get turned down and people say no to you. You can see, “This isn't the right fit for me or for my business.”
Things get fun and you have the opportunity again to become the specialist versus a specialist. Who doesn't want that? If brand is all about value, who doesn't want to be the person providing the ultimate value for a particular group of people? What's interesting here is people hear this advice all the time. You got an itch, you got to focus, get your message clear, but people don't do it. What you can see there is it's not an intellectual problem, it's not because these founders, small business owners, and execs aren't smart. It's psychological. It’s a fear. It's a worry about, “I'm cutting off some potential form of income.” If you're reading this and you're thinking, “I've heard this before. I know about this stuff.” Ask yourself. Are you preventing yourself from listening to a group of people because maybe deep down, you're concerned that you didn't choose the right group or the right person?
I got a question from the audience, “When do people start listening?” In my opinion, some people never listen. I hate to say it but there are some people out there that are afraid of losing one potential revenue source that they'll never listen.
If you're asking when the prospects or the audience start listening to us, that would be once you've communicated your brand enough times that you feel like you're probably going to throw up if you say it one more time. That's about the time people start to listen. From the flip side, when do we start listening? We start listening because things aren't working well. We're in this culture where we're supposed to be talking about ourselves all the time. We're on 80 social media channels, platforms, and communications. You're always supposed to be out there saying smart stuff, “Just me. Look what I'm doing.”
It's amazing if you look at the businesses that have been most successful. It's because they understand their target customer or client. It's hard to do. Listening takes time and you have to not be the one saying clever things but shutting your mouth and doing what you recommended. I love what you said about going into a networking event or a networking opportunity and being there as the listener rather than the person who’s got to dance for your super thing. “I do this, I do that and I do this other thing.” If you demonstrate to someone that you get their world by listening and asking thoughtful questions, that person can be yours for life. It’s the right person.
I was in a networking event and there were probably 500 people in the room. I walked out with five cards, but we're talking Senior Vice Presidents and CEOs of corporations that are specifically my demographic, my target and on-brand for me. That's it. I've got five cards and five people to follow-up with and one of them will probably be a client. For me, that's a successful event. A lot of people throw their cards out to everybody and try to grab every card. They try to be everywhere and everybody to everything. What you're being seen is that person that is, “Here they come again.”
Another good clue is when you're talking to people how much of your language is I, and how much of your language is you or we. Listen to yourself talk. This isn't to make you self-conscious or feel embarrassed about it. It's a way to check, are you tuned in to what this person is saying? Are you listening? Because a good brand is good listening. The pressure to market yourself constantly is crazy and that's why you and I were on that discussion group. We're seeing all this stuff about marketing and we are saying, “Who is this for? Who's the audience? What do they care about? What are they worried about?” That's the listening that a good brand does. What we see at SuperTight Brand all the time, people are so pressured to market their new offer. By the time they've come to us, they might have spent $20,000, $30,000 or maybe more if it's a bigger company marketing this offer. We come back and we say, “Who's it for?” It's for this person, this person and these kinds of people.
They're pressured and they have an idea yesterday so they should have a great campaign up and running today. If nothing else you can takeaway from this, just think who among all my potential clients stands for? Who's the avatar of the person I love working with? Who's the avatar who came in and it was already easy because they already got it? Who was the most fun to work with? Who was the person that it’s a pleasure to be with them and I didn't have to convince them of anything because they are already looking? If you stop and examine that, it can be so much gold. It’s like your networking event, Ben, where you went to talk to five people. Out of those five people, there's one person that the relationship is going to continue. That's a perfect networking event.
The same thing is whether at a networking event or your marketing, until you understand your brand, until you understand who you're valuable to and why and what these people look, smell, feel and care about, how do you talk to them? How do you create marketing that's on the right platform in the right language that will resonate with the right people so they will come and talk to you? If all you're doing is blasting marketing out there and say, “I need to be on LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. I have to do this and this.” You're pressured to be everywhere for everybody because you might miss somebody. It's like laying down depth charges and not listening. If you're a military or a naval captain, you need to be listening to who are the people that matter and go after them specifically. If you target everybody, nobody's going to care about you.
I see this on LinkedIn all the time. LinkedIn is my preferred medium because that's where professionals are. Lots of us here have professionals certainly as a target audience. It gives you a lot of time to develop deeper relationships. What I also love about it is when you see someone's profile, you can check under the hood. You can see from a profile, “How tapped in is this person to me and what I'm doing?” You can tell right away with a little bit of practice. What I see a lot of people doing in their profile, instead of being, “Here's who I am for and what I'm going to do for you. Here's how you can benefit.” They've still got that old school profile like the CV and résumé and I did that. Nobody cares where I went to school and it sucks because I went to a good school that costs a lot of money but nobody cares.A person who’s coachable and appreciates being coached is someone who already has the mindset. Click To Tweet
When they see my profile, they see right away that I'm speaking to them and only to them. There's nothing in my profile about my accomplishments. It's all what SuperTight Brand does for you and demonstrating that I get some of the problems you are experiencing. LinkedIn is an amazing place to practice this. I encourage you if you're feeling a little too spread out with your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and whatever else, take a breath. If your clients or your power partners or your colleagues are professionals and it would make a huge difference to your business. If you formed ten amazing relationships with the most powerful people in your industry who we're looking for your help, this is much more valuable than scattering that conversation all around. I'm not arguing LinkedIn is the best for everyone.
I'm saying it's much better to go deep in one type of medium and for one type of person than to scatter it all around. Usually, when we work with clients, the first thing we see when we go to that profile is, “I help businesses do this. What kind of businesses? Everyone from startups to $20 million business. Isn't that 95% of businesses in the world? Any business that has this problem and that problem, I can help.” That's not specialization and it's not as valuable. Understand that in general, a more specialized offer is always more inherently valuable. The cool thing about that is other people can communicate it. If other people can say, “Ellen works with six to seven-figure coaches and business consultants.” That helps a lot because you don't have to meet me to hear that about me. If I have to explain the whole thing to you, it's going to take a lot longer.
There's the level of trust. If someone else is saying, “You need to work with Ellen.” There's a level of trust there. Somebody you know has either worked with Ellen or knows somebody that's worked with Ellen. It gives you a reason to at least you'll have the conversation. If all Ellen said is, “Look at me. Look how wonderful. Look at all the wonderful things that I do.” You're one of the 100 million people out there doing the exact same thing. There's no level of trust and a brand is built on trust. There's no other way to say it.
Can we do a trust exercise?
We all have to keep practicing and that includes you and that includes me. I want to be clear on that because I help people with this stuff and teach this stuff, it doesn't mean I don't need help as well. Ben, who is also an expert in brand for many years is also a person who continues to listen and practice. Would you mind telling your audience a little bit about the shifts you've made in getting more specific with some of your stuff?
Over the last few months, our business has changed dramatically. Our business has become way more focused. It has become far more targeted into the type of people that we work with. We work with business to business companies. We work with Ensure Tech. We work with manufacturing companies and we work with logistic type companies. We work with companies that are probably in the neighborhood of $10 million to $50 million. We work with them to help their teams lead at any level. We work with sales teams, management teams and customer experience teams within workshops to be able to help them lead it at any level. That's what we do.
You thought more even more than you thought before. This is what we're always doing and this is what I want to communicate. Even when you're at Ben's level. The reason Ben’s at the level he's at is because he's still listening and still practicing. When you realized that business was starting to shift in there was momentum, it was time for you to rethink who you're talking to in your LinkedIn profile.
It's a work in progress. Brands shift and brands change. Brands need to be constantly evaluated. It's not like you can build something and then just leave it. There's constant evaluation and there are constant tweaks. You'll need to take a look at things and sit there and say, “How do we make this better?”
If you're in a friendship with somebody, it's not one and done. I don't go, “Ben, you're my friend. Here's what I can do for you as a friend and here's what you can do for me.” I don't change that conversation for our friendship for the next five years. I'm like, “No, Ben, go back to the original message I first gave you.” Here's what we see, when you start regarding your brand conversation as a relationship like any good relationship. A good friendship or even an intimate relationship, I'm not suggesting you be inappropriate work, but we spend so much time analyzing those types of relationships. The bottom line is your brand, even if it's a corporate brand, has to appeal to a person. There is a person always looking and saying, “Does this person get me? Does this person get our company? Does this person get what I'm going through on a daily basis as a C-level exec or C-level manager?” Rather than regarding it as a burden like, “You have to keep at it.” Think about it as one of the most important relationships in your life and you want to keep working it because it's valuable and you care about these people. If they're worth it, they're worth listening to and they're worth finding new ways to communicate with. It’s like you wouldn't go to your friend and tell your friend the same joke 80 times. Your friend would not want to be friends with you any longer.
I want to thank you and I want to thank my readers. I want to thank the rebel shoots for doing such a phenomenal job. Thank you for everything.
It’s my pleasure.
I hope that this conversation was valuable and I want to provide everybody with a gift. I have decided that I'm going to do a course that's a give back to small businesses. A lot of my audience and a lot of people that I know are small businesses. I wanted to do something as give back. What I'm doing is I'm creating a course that's going to be a once a month. It's going to be a call in over Zoom. It's going to be called Ask Me Anything. It's all about branding, marketing, and sales. What are the burning questions that you have that you need to have answered on a monthly basis? I'm making this cost-effective. It's $100 a month and $1,200 a year. For an entire year, you are able to log in for 90 minutes and be able to ask the questions that you need to have answered to be able to make your business more successful. The world is built on small business and small business needs the opportunity to succeed.
Ellen has it on her website that 75% of small businesses and large businesses fail within the first five years. Why? Because they don't brand properly. They don't market properly and they don't understand who they're selling to. I want to help with that. There's only going to be 100 people that I'm going to be allowing into this program. It's going to be once a month. The fourth Friday of the month at 8:00 on the West Coast over Zoom. Come and join us. I'd love to have you there because it is important to help small businesses succeed. This is a way that I can give back and make it cost-effective for everybody. This has been Your LIVING Brand Live Show. Thank you for being here.
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