Posted by: brandextenders | September 25, 2013

IOS 7. Love it, Hate it or Waiting for IOS 8?

This last weekend I loaded the new IOS 7 operating system onto my iPhone and was surprised at how different everything looks. I’m still learning what some of the new app icons look like, such as the photo stream, and am in the process of adding back some apps the update decided I didn’t need anymore.

If you haven’t downloaded the new version yet for fear of all the changes and things you’ll have to relearn, fear not. For the most part everything you loved about the old operating sysredesign_ios7_bigtem is still there, but improved. How about more ringtones and sounds? It still irks me though that I can’t use my favorite songs as ringtones for free like I could with my old Blackberry. A flashlight and level are now included and you can teach Siri how to pronounce words properly that she mangles on a regular basis.

But rather than my going through and listing all the changes and updates, I’ve posted links below to three of the best articles/blogs I’ve found so far that detail what’s new. I’ll never know or even use all the updated features, but if I can become just a bit more productive, then the learning curve will be well worth the effort.

In no particular order, check out these links to see what you might be missing with IOS 7:

My favorite updates include the new filters they’ve added to the camera as well as the ease of taking a panoramic picture; a new folder called, oddly enough, photos when you go to your photo stream. This folder automatically groups photos by where you took them as well as the month and year. And overall I like the cleaner look of a white background on many of the apps and the way the text stands out against it. That’s called getting old and needing the contrast to better see what’s there.

If you have an Apple product, what’s your favorite new feature or app with IOS 7? And if you haven’t downloaded the updated operating system yet, don’t worry, it’s safe and might even get you excited again about that miraculous device held in the palm of your hand and known collectively as a smartphone.

Posted by: brandextenders | September 18, 2013

Feeling like the sales “strike out king”?

Sales slumps are the worst and if you work in sales, at some point in your career you’ve inevitably been in one. It’s Similar to a baseball player striking out over and over again who just can’t seem to get back in the groove. The good news is slumps end and chances are you’ll come out a stronger and more resolute salesperson as a result.

Sales SlumpThere are many reasons we face these trying times some of which you can control, but many you cannot. What can you do to get out of your slump? Here are a few things not to do or you might find yourself slinging hamburgers at the local fast food joint.

  • Don’t Stop Working: It’s easy when you’re feeling beat up at work to physically show up, but mentally be elsewhere. This will only exacerbate the situation and can only lead to unpleasant outcomes, i.e. you no longer have to worry about your sales numbers because you no longer have a job.
  • Don’t stop prospecting: Ongoing sales happen as the result of a pipeline of prospects that decide either to purchase from you or not over the course of time. Some sales are immediate and others have a longer cycle. Whether the cycle is short or long; if you stop adding new opportunities and prospects to your pipeline during a slump, it will dry up and then you’ll really be in trouble.
  • Don’t let a negative attitude show: People can pick up on attitudes right away, even over the phone. Despite feeling like you’re bearing the weight of the world on your shoulders, don’t let your customers or prospects know it. Smiling when talking on the phone really does come through on the other end. The last thing you want your customers to think is that you are desperate. People want to deal with upbeat and positive people, so act happy if you must and eventually it will once again become a natural part of your persona.

So what can you do to help turn things around?

  • Review your process: Over time things change; life isn’t static. Customers, products and attitudes change. Take a look at who your customers are, how you approach prospects and your focus in presentations. Perhaps its time to update how you present your company and products. Purchasers are getting younger and their way of buying may not mesh with your way of selling. Hint: they’re not going to change so if you want to stay in the game, you’ll need to update and revise the way you approach your job.
  • Educate yourself: When was the last time you sat in on a webinar, read a book, took a class or did something else that adds to your knowledge base? Slumps are sometimes the result of reaching a plateau that your current level of experience can’t take you beyond.  Lifelong learning is not something you do in despair; it is something you do every day. As the world rapidly changes, so too must you by being a sponge and soaking up all you can about how to sell more.
  • Review your goals: When was the last time you looked at your goals? Or set new ones? Maybe its time to see if what you’re reaching for is still achievable. Although I set new goals at the start of each New Year that doesn’t mean they will stay exactly the same all year. As things change, goals are reached or new information comes to light, adjust and reset as needed. While goals should make you stretch, they should also be attainable. Revise as often as needed to keep yourself on track and reaching for the brass ring. Make your goals something to aspire to.

Let’s face it, those of us who got into sales often face daunting challenges others don’t. The goal is to have more people say yes than no to our offer, but there will be times, probably many of them, when the opposite will happen. When it does, sit back, take inventory of where you are vs. where you want to be and adjust as needed.

“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman – not the attitude of the prospect.” W. Clement Stone

Posted by: brandextenders | September 10, 2013

It Takes Time

“I worked 18 years to become an overnight success.” Illusionist/Magician Criss Angel

Quick, name an overnight star, someone who flew into our consciousness out-of-the-blue and became a staple of the American landscape. I would bet that whomever you came up with had in fact been, working at their craft for many years.  There are anomalies given the instantaneous world of viral YouTube videos, SnapChat, Twitter, Facebook and Pintrest. But most of those people are who Andy Warhol must have been thinking of when he uttered the now infamous line, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

Life Takes TIMEAlthough technically their fame may seem to come out of nowhere, most people who become famous for more than 15 minutes must have the talent, knowledge and experience to back up that fame. And none of those traits come overnight.

Our oldest son wants desperately to start his career in law enforcement after two years of college. He doesn’t like college, but understands at some point he will need to finish his four-year degree if he wants to be eligible for career opportunities that are sure to come his way. I understand his dilemma because I did the same thing, leaving college after three years to jump into a career in broadcasting. That was then and this is now and the most sought after jobs almost universally require a four-year degree.

No matter what your passion or goals are, understand it will take time to gain the knowledge, grow your experience or raise the money to make your dreams come true. I believe there are five key ingredients to ensure the choices you make today will help move you toward your dreams and give you the quality of life you seek in the future.

  1. Education: A four-year degree, Masters or Ph.D. are just the beginning in the job market today. A commitment to lifelong learning is the only way to keep up with the literal flood of information we face every day. Age doesn’t matter when the only constant is change. Keep up or give up.
  2. Goals: I’ve spoken about the importance of goals in previous blogs and why writing them down is so effective.  Ships captains plot their course from Port A to Port B to ensure they track the most effective route. The same is true in our lives. We must plot a course to reach our goals, and update when necessary. Goals keep us moving forward towards the fulfillment of our dreams and desires.
  3. Passion: I’ve been working on a project for 15 years that looks like it will finally come to fruition in 2014. I’ve been able to keep the passion alive all these years by finally realizing it would happen in God’s time, not mine. I’ve kept at it, reaching goals and setting new ones and knowing in my heart it is a worthy goal. That’s passion and without it, dreams don’t come true.
  4. Networking: Rarely do we stand alone when pursuing our goals, which is why networking with friends, acquaintances and sometimes strangers is so important. You never know who might have access to that key person who can rock your world. It truly is a small world and using the “Six Degrees’ of Separation” theory, meeting and getting to know enough people will eventually get you to the person who can say yes.
  5. Finances: You may need money to fund your dream, to support you while you are getting started or on the backend, as an early retirement fund. Raising money relates to all of the above points while saving money requires an internal commitment. Know where you stand financially and put away as much as you can early in your life so you can relax sooner later in your life.

Life is truly a journey and it behooves us to learn to love that journey. It’s easy to be impatient and want what you want now, not in a year or five years or when you retire. Take the time daily to plan and strategize how you’ll get from where you are today to where you want to be at some point in the future. But always remember what the Marshall Tucker Band sang, it takes time.

Posted by: brandextenders | June 5, 2013

Mom always told me I was an Ambivert

Say what? And what the heck is an ambivert and why would mom call me that? Well, she actually never uttered that term since it ambivertwasn’t in use when she was alive. However she used to tell me I’d be good in sales because I was friendly and liked to talk despite my knowing inside I was timid and shy.

We’ve all heard that extroverts make the best salespeople because they aren’t afraid to meet new people, are sociable, assertive and gregarious. When we think of a “salesperson” the image is often that of a used car or copier salesperson, someone who can get you to buy something you don’t necessarily want to buy because they are so persuasive.

A study by Adam Grant, a management professor at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has found extroverts really aren’t the best at sales nor are introverts. Those who do perform best in moving other people, according to his study, are what are known as ambiverts with personalities almost in the middle between the extremes of extroverts and introverts.

What exactly are ambiverts? According to Grant they are people who have pretty much equal parts of introversion and extraversion and fall in the middle on a 1 – 10 grading scale. Ambiverts are typically friendly, know the answers to questions they will be asked and have adjusted to the new environment where customers are oftentimes as knowledgeable as those seeking to sell them something. They know when to talk and even more so, when to listen.  Chances are, the majority of us are ambiverts and just never knew it.

tosellishumanTo find out what your style is, go here to take a short test created by Daniel Pink, author of a fantastic new book I just finished called, “To Sell is Human.” His book will test your theories on the age-old elevator pitch, on how we’ve moved from a caveat emptor to a caveat venditor society and why attunement is paramount in a world where 9 out of 10 people are in some form of sales. If you’re in sales of any kind (mom, teachers, customer service reps included) I suggest you read this enlightening and fun book. It’s a paradigm shifter for sure.

By the way, if you’re an ambivert, you’re pretty normal. And if your mom ever asks you why you’re so ambiverted, you can tell her that’s a good thing.

Posted by: brandextenders | May 20, 2013

Products that Remain to be Seen

More and more as I work with clients, my goal is to show them how promotional products (PP’s) are truly one of the most effective forms of advertising.  PP’s have gotten a bad rap over the years and much of that, in my opinion, is due to the fact so many salespeople in this industry sell stuff with a logo. When a client asks them for a trade show item, they immediately recommend a cheap pen or Koozie or some other item on special without understanding their client’s marketing goals.

The barriers of entry into our industry are low and most anyone with a few hundred bucks can start selling PP’s without any experience or understanding of the product. And not just one product, but literally hundreds of thousands with dozens of ways of decorating each one of them. That’s not something you learn by reading a book or looking in a catalog, but is learned through experience, industry education and hard work.

So how do we differentiate ourselves from the thousands of others out there selling trinkets and trash (a term I hate) with a logo on it? First and foremost is to ask questions. I used to call promotionalproducts82on clients and ask a few perfunctory questions before diving into my bag of ideas hoping they would see one they liked. Now, I typically don’t even take product with me on the first call with the exception of a self-promo item or two. I spend the majority of the time I’m allotted asking questions. And not just how many do you need or what’s your absolute drop-dead date, but questions that get them to think about their brand and not just the best PP to use. Here are a few questions I’ve formulated to ask when meeting with a potential customer for the first time and why:

  • “What differentiates you from your competition?” This question helps you learn who they consider their competition is and it may not always be the most obvious. Understanding who they compete against can aid in your research of the best ideas to pitch for their needs.
  • “What story does your brand tell?” Stories are as old as ancient history and create emotions that can change behaviors. Every brand has a story to tell and PP’s should tie into those stories and carry them forward.
  • “How do you want the recipient to feel when given your product?” Are they buying PP’s simply to give something away with their name on it or do they hope the recipient will use the product in their daily lives? Cheap pens vs. custom journal, subtly debossed computer case or a sports bottle that filters water? Recipients can be inspired by a carefully chosen product or they can dump it in the nearest trash can. The ROI on the latter is obvious and on the former, priceless.
  • “What will a successful promotion or event using branded products look like?” This question tells you a lot about what they hope to achieve and whether they understand the power of PP’s. The right product can keep the memory of an event alive with the recipients and reinforce the message for many months or years to come.
  • “What is the most effective promotional product you’ve ever purchased and why?” This will help you understand how they see promotional products fitting within the realm of their brand and a success they’ve had using a specific product.

Radio, newspaper, television and even digital ads are all fleeting. Promotional Products are truly the advertising medium that keeps a brand’s story in people’s hands day-after-day. A study a few years ago by Promotional Products Association International, an industry trade organization, revealed that 89% of recipients of PP’s could recall the advertiser and 69% said they generally keep a PP they receive. The more useful and connected to a brand a promotional product is, the more likely it is to be held onto and used on a regular basis to engage the recipient with that brand.

Promotional products, when chosen carefully and given with love, can truly be the products that remain to be seen.

Posted by: brandextenders | April 22, 2013

Can’t is Not Only a Contraction, it’s a Roadblock

I can only image the number of times I’ve used the word “can’t” in my many years on this planet. I would suspect it’s in the tens of thousands and rarely, if ever, was it used to inspire and empower. Can’t is the contraction for can and not, two words that separately don’t have the negative connotation inherent in can’t. It’s a word that limits my abilities by saying its O.K. not to push my boundaries since I can’t. These are a few of the ways I find myself using this contraction:

  • I can’t do this, that or the other so instead of trying, I’ll just stay in my comfort zone
  • I can’t make that call on a prospect because I might get rejected
  • I can’t have this dream because I don’t have the ability or experience to see it come true
  • I can’t be a millionaire because I have to have money to make money, right?

While we all use many words that are limiting, I believe can’t is one of the worst because it reinforces a lack of confidence and an attitude of negativity in our minds. Our brain is an amazing computer and as with any computer, the output it produces is based on the input it receives. Garbage in, garbage out as the saying goes.

So how do we change our behavior to ensure our thoughts and actions align to help us reach the goals and dreams we want to achieve? The first step is to take responsibility for your life, 100% responsibility with no excuses. It’s not your parent’s fault, it’s not your spouses or your kids or your co-workers fault that you aren’t making more money, that you didn’t get the promotion you sought or aren’t driving the car you think you deserve. There is only one person to blame for where you are in life and that person stares back at you in the mirror every day.

i-can-do-itI’ve dedicated myself to eliminating negativity in my life by understanding that where I am and where I will be in the future is a result of my choices. Not only the big choices I’m faced with every day, but the little ones as well. Here’s what I’m doing to harvest the amazing results my brain can achieve if I give it the right food.

  1. Stop blaming others for my lack of success. While it may be true that other people affect my life, the bottom line is there are always alternatives. If I don’t like the results I’m getting from the choices I’m making then I need to make different choices.
  2. Create a clear list of goals, both short-term and long-term. If I don’t have goals I’m like a cork floating on water, going wherever the tides take me. Goals ground me; they give me a path to success and a map to follow. If I know where I’m going then I only have one person to blame if I don’t get there. The key is reviewing my goals daily and if need be, adjusting them as a pilot or sailor would to stay on the path I’ve laid out for myself.
  3. Visualize my success. I’ve pulled pictures off the Internet and from magazines that literally give me pictures of my goals. The brain loves imagery and by using pictures and visualizing my success, the neurons in my brain will find a way to make it happen. There is a lot of research on this topic that proves the old adage; a picture is worth a thousand words.
  4. Surround myself with positive people. Think about the people you are with the most. Are they positive people or do they tend to complain and blame? Success breeds success and surrounding myself with positive and inspiring people will keep me motivated to succeed. Vince Lombardi, head coach of the Green Bay Packers said, “Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” I will surround myself with people who exude confidence and success.
  5. Make my self-talk positive. It’s estimated we have about 500,000 thoughts each day and for many of us, the majority of those thoughts are negative. Our self-talk was conditioned early on by our parents, friends, television, movies and the media. We can change it though by catching ourselves talking negatively and challenging it. If I call myself an idiot, I have to ask why? I must begin talking to myself the way I would expect to talk with others. I’ll be positive and optimistic and open my heart and mind to a new universe of thoughts and opportunity.

Words can empower us or they can weaken us. Think of all the things you’ve done in your life that you wouldn’t have even tried if you thought “I can’t” instead of “I can.” Remember your successes in life, write them down and review them whenever you are feeling down. You have the choice to be positive and to inspire yourself which in turn will inspire others. A great book I would encourage you to read is  “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield, co-author of the Chicken Soup for Your Soul series of books. As far as we know we only have one shot at this life and it’s up to each of us to make it extraordinary. The choice is ours each and every day.

Posted by: brandextenders | April 11, 2013

I’m Nuts to be in a Business as Crazy as This One

Recently an epiphany of epic proportions struck me smack between the eyes: I’m nuts to be in a business as crazy as this one. This realization came as I was looking for a pen and the client didn’t know the brand, only that it was blue, made of plastic and had a clip! I started thinking about how much we must know to succeed in this business. To find just the right pen for a customer, we must have an overall grip (pun intended) on pens and know the difference between a ballpoint, roller ball, gel and fountain pen. We must know when to recommend a stick pen versus an upscale, brand name pen costing an arm and a leg. Does the customer need packaging and will the pen be silk-screened, laser-engraved or etched and do they have the correct art file needed? And that’s just a sampling of what we need to know to keep our families from living in old dishwasher cartons under a bridge. Below are six areas of knowledge we must have to stay competent and be relevant —product knowledge, imprint methods, art and graphics, color, wearables and, last but not least, technology.

Product Knowledge: The last thing I want to be is an order taker, but even order takers have to have some basic product knowledge. There are hundreds of thousands of products we can source, sell, imprint and deliver to our customers. Although I’ll probably never sell more than a few hundred of those, I better have a basic idea of all of them because inevitably my clients will want the ones I know nothing about. Like the high-tech clock that’s water resistant up to 12 meters (why?) with a compass, comb and meat thermometer incorporated into the design.

Imprint Methods: Knowledge in this area separates the wheat from the chaff. When our profession was but a cottage industry you could either silkscreen an item or you could silkscreen an item. Your choice! Today, you can silkscreen, embroider, engrave, hot stamp, etch, laser-etch, acid-etch, pad print or offset print. You can deboss, emboss, use a rubber patch or a metal logo; you can use a decal, a transfer or (heaven forbid) sell something blank. The imprint method you choose will depend a great deal on the imprinted product’s material. You can’t laser-etch plastic or embroider a stainless steel mug, at least not yet.

Art And Graphics: In the past, factories needed clean, black-and-white, camera-ready art on glossy white paper. Now if you mention camera-ready art to a supplier you’ll get that look of “What cornfield did you come from?” 99% of all art is digital so it can be e-mailed and tie up your computer for several hours because of its size. For most decorating processes, art typically needs to be a vector EPS file in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Don’t send a TIF, GIF, bitmap or Word file and remember JPEG files and screen shots of a logo from the Web are the business card and stationery equivalents of days gone by. A basic understanding of art is imperative to be successful in this business.

The Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz

The Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz

Color: Once there was just the basic palette of primary colors. Then Crayola® came out with the 64-pack of crayons and colors like cadet blue, bittersweet, hot magenta and radical red. Because thistle is somewhat difficult to define as a color, we came to rely on something called the PANTONE® Color Formula Guide (a.k.a. the PMS chart). I suspect you’ve gotten really strange looks when you casually asked a client what their PMS color was, right? Until you explain PMS stands for PANTONE Matching System and is a way of matching ink colors, you’re going to get weird looks. And how many times have you found yourself holding a PMS chart up to a piece of stationery or a business card trying to match the color and decide whether it’s PMS 291 or 296, coated or uncoated and whether you can get away with using the factory’s stock PMS 287? And do you know what the PANTONE color of the year is? Emerald 17-5641, which makes me think of the Wizard of Oz for some reason.

Wearables: Many years ago, cotton T-shirts, neon hats and nylon coaches jackets were about the only wearables and materials I sold. Now, you can get jersey, piqué, mercerized, double-mercerized (once wasn’t enough), cotton, Pima cotton, Egyptian cotton, nylon, silk, polyester, performance fabrics and micro-mesh to name just a few. And if the obsolescence of a new computer is between 12 and 18 months, it’s anywhere from six hours to six days for clothing. But from T-shirts to tank tops, windbreakers to jackets, golf shirts to camp shirts we’re expected to be the experts. Wearables can be one of the hardest areas to master because of the variety of garments, fabrics, styles and manufacturers. If you’re good at selling wearables, you’re a giant step ahead of most in this business.

Commodore 64 so named because  it had 64K of memory!

Commodore 64 so named because it had 64K of memory!

Technology: Years ago when the PC was but a few years old and faxes were non-existent my first computer was an Apple IIE. It was basically a glorified and complicated electric typewriter. Then came faxes followed by cell phones, even more complicated computers and software, and in the mid-’90s the beginnings of the Internet, which has changed our lives and businesses forever. Unless you r have an affinity for computers and lots of free time, trying to keep up with all aspects of technology is like trying to keep up with the movements of every star in the universe—impossible. My recommendation is to keep up with what you need and what you think you might need in the future. It takes copious amounts of time to stay current much less ahead of the game, but the alternative is to look like a Commodore 64 computer in a world of iThis, that and the other.

I have a client looking for a thousand pink baseballs imprinted in four-color process in two locations using a JPEG photo she has. The baseballs need to tie-in with a pink interlock jersey in sizes XS – 10XL and she needs it all in three days. I’m nuts to be in a business as crazy as this one, but I love it.

Posted by: brandextenders | April 5, 2013

I’m Back From Sequestrian

130225073304_sequestrationI’ve been on forced hiatus recently due to sequestrian and the fact they want to make the pain obvious to the common folk. O.K., maybe it was just writer’s block, something all who write face at one time or another. It used to be a blank page staring at me from the typewriter and now, it’s the blank page staring at me from the monitor. It is frustrating and depressing and tends to feed on itself making it even worse. Artists go through similar periods, as do athletes, but eventually it passes and the lights begin to shine once again.

To get past this, I found myself looking through some recent blogs and decided to write an update on a few topics that have changed since I wrote about them:

  • 3-D Printing: About a year ago I wrote on the fairly new trend of 3-D printing and my belief it will change the way many industries go to market. That is exactly what is happening as the price of these specialized printers drops and companies are able to reduce inventory and warehouse space by “printing” parts and products on-demand. This takes just-in-time inventory to a whole new dimension and helps level the playing field for small businesses. Businesses are even popping up that will do on-demand 3-D printing for companies not able to afford the technology themselves. Just a few of the industries benefiting from 3-D printing are jewelry, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction, automotive, aerospace along with the dental and medical industries. Imagine a new home you purchase is built from 3-D printed parts or an airplane you fly in has wings printed in 3-D. Sounds futuristic, but in fact both of those things are in the works. And check out this article from National Geographic on using 3-D printing to create tissue and I don’t mean Kleenex.
  • New Apps: There are thousands of apps on the market and while I look at a lot of them, I download only those I know I’ll use. I’ve found two I really like and thought I’d pass along. The first is called Brewster for iPhones and to call it a contact app is like calling Mt. Everest a hill. Launched last year, it gathers all the people you know from your contact list, Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook or other outlets you give it access to. When you open the app you’ll see pictures of your contacts and all the info about them in one place. It categorizes people in groups with interests similar to yours using its algorithms, but you can also create your own groups. Right now it is only available for the iPhone, but other versions are apparently coming soon. The second is app is called Flipboard, which allows you to pull content from all over the Internet and put it into a magazine style format that is easy to peruse. You can also create your own magazines and share with friends. While not a new app, the latest 2.0 version is real eye candy and probably as close to reading a real magazine as anything I’ve ever seen. With the demise of Google Reader, Flipboard is a great new way to aggregate content from across the web.
  • QR Codes: Dead, dead, dead. The thing that has always bothered me about QR codes is that there are so many versions, each of which requires a different reader. While they won’t
    Concert tickets can sing!

    Concert tickets can sing!

    be going away any time soon, new technologies are coming on-line daily that at first blush seem to be better ways of interacting with consumers. One I like is a mobile app called Blippar, which allows a user to gather info, play games and view augmented-reality experiences through markers placed in ads or on products. Another cool technology is  Touchcode, an invisible ink that can be printed on paper or products. Simply touch your smart phone or any touchscreen device to the paper or product and where the brand takes you is wide open. You might hear music from a concert ticket, get recipes from a box of soup or be taken to an interactive game where you can win prizes. It’s pretty cool and is inexpensive to implement as far as integrating it onto printed products, magazines, newspapers or other media.

Just when you think you’ve seen all there is to see out comes a new way of doing something that creates a paradigm shift in our thinking. I agree completely with Charles Holland Duell, U.S. Commissioner of Patents between 1898 & 1901 who famously said, In my opinion, all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness. I almost wish that I might live my life over again to see the wonders which are at the threshold.”  Just as true now as when he made this statement in 1902.

Posted by: brandextenders | February 7, 2013

You Don’t Have to Jump 24 Miles from Space to be a Hero

I was absolutely transfixed that Sunday, last October, when Felix Baumgartner climbed to 24 miles in a balloon and then jumped. Falling at 833 mph and shattering the speed of sound, Baumgartner, a normal guy, became an instant hero upon landing in the New Mexico desert.

But do you need to jump from 24 miles in the sky to become a hero? One definition for the word is a mythical or legendary figure of great strength; a more down to earth meaning is a man (or woman) admired for their achievements and noble qualities. While we must go above and beyond, pretty much anyone can become a hero to someone. You don’t have to touch millions of people to be one and in fact reaching just one person’s heart can truly make you a hero.

Below are four ways I believe we can achieve that vaunted status just by going about our lives purposefully.

§        Be a Parent: Having kids does not make you a parent nor does being your child’s best friend. Kids don’t need another BFF, but they do need someone to set guidelines for them, to nurture them, pick them up and dust them off when they fall and to discipline them if needed. Love them and let them know how proud you are and I guarantee you, you will become a hero to them. Just don’t ever expect them to vocalize that thought.

§        Be a Mentor: Just as kids need guidance, so to do adults when it comes to their career. Consider mentoring others, passing along your knowledge and skills and helping them to succeed. You don’t become a mentor for financial gain because the reward comes in seeing those you mentor grow in confidence and prestige over the years. Successful mentors become heroes to their mentees.

§        Be a Volunteer: We all have a passion be it sports or writing, teaching or building. Whatever your passion you can help others by volunteering to use that passion to assist others. Find a charitable organization where you can volunteer your time and talents, give of yourself and you will become a hero to those you serve.

Superman helps out in Adairsville (from 11Alive News)

Superman helps out in Adairsville (from 11Alive News)

§        Be a Superhero: I know, I know, there is no such thing as a superhero although don’t we all wish there were at times? If that’s the case, how do you explain Superman showing up after a tornado devastated Adairsville, a small town in the North Georgia Mountains? A 25 year-old man, dressed as Superman, arrived (did he fly in?) and worked for hours helping clear debris from broken homes. He asked that his name not be used and hopes his work will bring about compassion and friendship. Crazy or not, this guy’s a hero to me.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, all ages and genders. You don’t have to be special to be a hero, you just have to live your life caring for others and being the best person you can be. My heroes are all normal people who somehow did extraordinary things, usually in the course of their daily lives.

Who are your heroes and why? Have you ever been a hero to someone else and if so, let us know in the comment section below.

Posted by: brandextenders | January 22, 2013

You Too Can Connect with Albert Einstein on LinkedIn

If you were on LinkedIn last April 1 you may have seen some odd names in the “People you may know” section. Among them were

You can connect with Grouch & Albert

You can connect with Grouch & Albert

Robin Hood (Activist/Chief Fundraiser at Nottingham), Albert Einstein (E=mc2) and Groucho Marx (Comedian) thus showing this professional networking site does have a sense of humor.

LinkedIn recently hit the 200 million member mark and while those numbers pale in comparison to Facebook; the numbers belie the power of this professional resource. If you aren’t yet on LinkedIn you are missing out on a powerful resource that can be used in a myriad of ways. Here are just three of the many groups that are using LinkedIn on a daily basis:

  • Job Seekers: While sites like Monster and CareerBuilder certainly have a place in looking for work, LinkedIn should be a key component in your search. It gives you the ability to look for jobs, research those companies, see if anyone in your network is connected to employees in those companies and look up those who will be interviewing you. A key for job seekers is to make sure your profile is professional and up-to-date (see below for tips) because as you seek details on others, it’s guaranteed others are also seeking information on you, especially the people who will be interviewing you.
  • Human Resources: Which leads us to HR professionals and others now using LinkedIn as a key component in their search for employees. Many companies post job openings exclusively on LinkedIn because they know the quality of candidates is likely to be much higher than other sites. Additionally, savvy employers use their own networks to search for candidates, asking current employees to put the word out to their networks and using keyword searches to seek out the best-of-the-best.
  • Sales: LinkedIn has become a valuable resource to aid sales professionals in their research. While cold-calling may still be a part of the sales process, LinkedIn can make cold-calls much, much warmer. The site gives you the ability to research companies, find out more about those who hold the key positions in the companies you’re targeting and see who in your network may be connected to those prospects. If you upgrade to a paid membership you can use the filters to find industries, search key positions, set up alerts and use InMail to reach out to those you’d like to meet. This article has six good tips for using LinkedIn to assist in your sales and marketing efforts.

Below are five tips to get the most out of your own LinkedIn profile and while there are many others, these five are key:

  1. Don’t use THAT picture: When I go to someone’s profile on LinkedIn and see the default silhouette picture I know either they aren’t active or don’t know any better. For job seekers it is not an option, but imperative you add a picture. Recruiters won’t take you seriously without one and will make many assumptions, none of which are flattering. Don’t use the picture of you holding a beer and looking less than sober (you’d be surprised), but a good quality picture showing you dressed professionally and smiling.
  2. Keep your profile up-to-date & complete: Would you send out a resume that you hadn’t updated for several years? Of course not and the same should be true for your LinkedIn profile. The first things people see who view your profile are your picture, your current job and a summary of your experience. Make sure all of these are current and use keywords in your summary that are relevant to your career. If you’re going to put yourself out there you might as well make your profile as complete as possible.
  3. Ask for Recommendations: Some people feel intimidated to ask for recommendations, but they can enhance your profile and give you an advantage. Make sure though to only ask those people who truly know you and your work to make sure the recommendation is relevant. Will not having recommendations hurt you? Probably not since most people take them with a grain of salt, but they can serve as online references and a point of differentiation.
  4. Connect: LinkedIn is not a popularity contest and it’s not Facebook so don’t feel compelled to ask everyone you know to join your network. Remember, this is a professional platform so use it to advance your business and career with contacts and connections that move your forward. You can also follow companies, be they employers you are targeting or competitors you want to keep track of.
  5. Join LinkedIn Groups: Find groups that are in your field or those you can learn from and contribute to. Don’t be a stalker in these groups and don’t join just so you can list them in your profile. The right groups can help you advance your career and be a place to give back to those younger or less experienced than you.

Like any other social network tool, you’ll get out of LinkedIn as much as you’re willing to put into it. And while Groucho Marx may not be active much anymore, many people are that can help make your career and professional a much richer experience.

Steve Woodburn is Director of Inside Sales for Pinnacle Promotions, a promotional products agency in Atlanta, GA. You can reach him at:

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