Real You: The Power of Putting the Real You in your Business

Knowing who you are and where you're headed is important for you and your business. That's the topic I shared with Dr. Shannon Reece today as part of her 12 Days of Experts series for women entrepreneurs. I had a great time talking to Shannon via Skype - she's really good at these interviews! I'm not. I kept looking at her face on the screen instead of looking at the tiny camera eye on my laptop. BUT aside from that, I think you'll find the content we shared - as well as the amazing content shared by the other experts - worth a listen! And, today, if you leave a comment, you could win a free copy of my book, Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs. Click here to watch the video! Enter the contest today!

So take a listen (try not to make fun of me looking in the wrong place) and remember to keep putting the Real You in everything you do!

Personal Recommendations Beat Out Online Sources

As I was reading my daily marketing news, I ran across a study that found most online purchasers bought because of a personal recommendation from a friend/relative (34%), followed by spouse/partner (25%), then a blogger (5%) and a chat room (5%). Truly, this is no surprise to me. Personal, one-on-one connections are gems. These are the people you trust and depend on. If Oprah tweeted, “Acai is amazing”, but my friend Jane said, “I tried it and it’s not worth the price,” I’d go with Jane. Sorry, Oprah.

If you’re out there trying to make a splash in cyberspace, get the movers and shakers talking online and off. And talk to women! Women, your most valuable consumers, are twice as likely as men to recommend a product/service to a friend.

Start with a core group of “sneezers”, as Seth Godin calls them. These are influential people who are sure to tell their friends when they’re into something new. Then keep the momentum going. Ask those people to write online reviews or blog about your product/service. This will begin your online and offline publicity.

Are you looking for more tips on getting your product/service seen and heard in the marketplace? Sign up for my tip of the week, delivered to your inbox every Friday!

Learn how Successful Women put Personality into Business

Does your business reflect your personality? My business, Real Living, does—it’s spunky, like me! And it is part of a new eBook that was recently released, called The Personality Project: “Women of Personality”. This free eBook, by Rohit Bhatgava, author of Personality Not Included, features 20 women who have successfully melted their personalities into their businesses.

Find out how they did it by downloading it from the Personality Project Web site.

Bhatgava is currently accepting submissions from women to be part of the second edition, scheduled to launch in early June. To submit yourself or someone you know, send an email to or post a short introduction to yourself on the wall of the Women of Personality Facebook Group.

Branding Your Work Space

Whether others see your office or not, I always recommend that your office be a reflection of you and your personal brand. It should be comfy, functional and stimulating. If you are a messy person by nature, that’s OK; just don’t let the mess overwhelm you.

To begin, have a sense and direction of your personal brand, and then begin thinking how you will translate that into the décor of your room. Use the five senses.

Start by painting the walls. Display some of your favorite things on the shelves and walls that surround you. These items will inspire you. And that will make you more productive and energized. Then, work with smell. What would you like your office and brand to smell like? Fresh linen, raspberries, spice? Choose a smell that will stimulate the senses and awaken your imagination. Keep moving through the five senses until you have created a room that suits you.

Remember, your home office is part of your environment, which in turn is part of your brand. Consequently, determining the look and feel of your physical office space is critical. Now, get creative and make it happen!

Be your best salesperson

Remember, you are your brand. So embody it wherever you go, and be its biggest fan. Carry your product around. Give it away when possible. People want instant gratification, and they love the ability to touch and feel the product. It helps make that emotional connection that leads to the sale.

Estée Lauder, who started her business in 1946, was frustrated when large advertising agencies wouldn’t take on her relatively small company (at the time). So she started her own campaign, which consisted of free samples and gifts with purchase. It was a huge success. She knew if a woman liked it, she would tell a friend. “If you put the product into the customer's hands, it will speak for itself if it's something of quality,” said Lauder. She strongly believed that in order to make the sale, you had to touch the customer. She personally went to every counter opening and trained the staff. “I’d make up every woman who stopped to look,” she said. “I would show her that a three-minute make up could change her life.” Lauder never stopped selling or showing her passion for her brand. “I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.” Today, the company sells in more than 100 countries and controls 46% of the cosmetics market in U.S. department stores.

Follow Lauder’s lead. Especially in today’s tough economy, you must believe in your product and show your passion for it. Carry it around if you can, and don’t be afraid to give it away once in awhile.

What are your tips for being a good salesperson?

The pressure of doing it all and starting a business

If you have always dreamed of being an entrepreneur but feel pulled in a dozen different directions, I have a few tips for you.

If you are committed to making your dreams a reality, you must stop and take some time to focus. I mean really clear your plate of all of life’s demands for a short while. Then, focus on your goals. What are they? Where do you want to go? What kind of business plan do you envision? What does your brand look like?

At this point, it’s up to you, so fire up that laptop or get out your pencil and get started. Record your thoughts and commit them to action. While it’s never too late to get started, there is no time like the present. Good luck!

Do you have an entrepreneurial success story? I’d love to hear from you!

When the brand gets in the way of the message

I want to say this upfront: I LOVE the YWCA and everything it stands for. The mission statement, emblazoned proudly in persimmon, is empowering women, eliminating racism. I’m honored to serve on the board of my city’s YWCA, and champion the organization’s causes whenever I can. So, in the story I will tell you today, don’t think I’m disparaging the Y in any way, I am simply relating a cautionary branding tale.

To read more about this branding dilemma, check out my eBrandMarketing post.

Dear Advertisers. It's me, Female Consumer.

Every month I’m excited to read my favorite magazine. I open the glossy cover with its witty teasers to find: full-color, beautiful woman, product, no substance (flip). Repeat. Repeat. Great content (finally!). Flawless woman, product (flip). It’s a vicious cycle. I quickly move past the ads to get to the good stuff.

It’s disappointing to say the least. Here you are with your great brand, prime real estate in a highly-circulated magazine, an over-paid advertising agency on retainer and a full page ad that says … nothing. Hello? Anyone listening out there? What happened to the emotionally captivating messages that accompanied the great imagery?

To read more about emotional branding and which companies are doing it right, check out my eBrandMarketing post and tell me about some ads that speak to you!

Make your office of reflection of the Real You

MAKE IT HAPPEN: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2007 the average American worked 42.9 hours a week. Over the course of a year, this added up to approximately 2,230 hours, which is about 13.3 weeks straight. If you’re spending this much time in your office, create a space that reflects the real you by addressing the needs of your five senses.

TIP IN ACTION: Start with color. Choose colors that exhibit your personality. For example, those who consider themselves to be imaginative, idealistic, a visionary and somewhat eccentric at times may be drawn to the color blue. You may also want to surround yourself with visual reminders of your hobbies and passions. My walls are blue, and I have sea glass on my desk to remind me of the ocean (I’m landlocked in Ohio). I also have tons of pictures and mementos from my kids.

Next, stimulate your sense of smell with a favorite scented candle—lavender, sandalwood and vanilla are great stress-relieving scents. When it comes to taste, keep a container of mints, chocolates or hard candy in your office. I have giant red lollipops around.

Whether you like Beethoven or the Beach Boys, choose some tunes that reflect your taste in music. There are some great desk clocks that double as iPod docks on the market. Turn on your favorite playlist, or listen to some soothing sounds of nature—whatever gets you energized.

Lastly, make sure you address the importance of touch. From your chair to the flooring, it’s important to feel comfortable in your workspace. Pick a desk chair that’s supportive and adds personal flair. Your desk should be spacious and ergonomic.

Here are a few offices of famous New Yorkers, including Martha Stewart’s, for inspiration.

Have you seen one of the best blogs for marketing to women?

I’m excited to share with you that I have recently become a contributing columnist to eBrandMarketing—the No. 1 blog on marketing to women—published by Glam Media, which reaches 77 million unique visitors. You’ll hear from the foremost authorities on women, like Fara Warner, author of Power of the Purse.

My column, called (you guessed it!) Real You, spotlights what women are looking for in a brand experience. I share my thoughts about how companies can do a better job connecting with us through emotional branding, authenticity and understanding women’s purchasing power.

Check out one of the most read blogs on eBrandMarketing: Real You: “Ladies” you can ride, look pretty, but you cannot drive, and come back every Friday for a new Real You column!

Jump-start your personal brand today

Whether you like gardening, ballroom dancing, pushing the envelope or flying under the radar, your innermost traits should be exhibited in your own personal brand. This being said, I challenge those of you who haven’t used a glue stick in awhile to create a brand board that displays your personality and passions.

What’s a brand board? It’s a poster board that you transform into a montage of pictures and images that accurately represent your personality. Are you calm and green; fresh and blue; or vibrant and red? My board is predominantly red and full of things that make me happy, like daisies (hence the cover of my book). I also took parts of my personal brand to my business brand. At Real Living, we’re red, round and real. You can read more about that on page 84 of Real You Incorporated.

Grab some magazines and start clipping images that exemplify your personal brand. Put it on paper and display it for the world to see. At my company, we make an effort to post our brand boards in our workspaces.

So put your apprehensions aside and give yourself permission to enjoy some arts and crafts. You may be surprised what you discover about yourself.

Need an example? Visit for brand boards that some of our readers have sent in.

If you’ve completed your brand board, share it with others! Send a picture of your board to, and we’ll post it on the RYI flickr page.

Do what you love.

Find out what makes you wake up in the morning and smile. Start by listing the activities that you are most passionate about during a typical day at work or home. These are probably the daily tasks that you look forward to—the items on your to-do list that get checked off first. Once you’ve uncovered your passions, it’s easier to make them come to life in your real brand.

I think that Kim Ades, president of Opening Doors and Frame of Mind Coaching , chose this as one of her favorite tips for women entrepreneurs because it has made such a difference in her life. As a business owner, she specializes in thought management, and her goal is to help people attain the opportunities they are seeking in life. She “opens doors” to people, to thoughts, to greatness—and to self-actualization. And she “opens the doors” that stand in the way of great fulfillment—of doing what a person truly loves.

How about you? Are you passionate about what you do in life? Is there a spring in your step? A sparkle in your eye? Start opening the doors to your passion by reading Real You Incorporated.

And don’t forget to share your success stories with the RYI Community!

You are your brand ambassador, its personification and its biggest recruiting draw.

If you’re working through the Real You Incorporated chart, you chose three words that describe your brand essence. Those three words can then be used to write your positioning statement, which is the fourth layer of the circle. What words summarize the product or service you are bringing to the world? Write them down. This is your chance to relay emotion through words. Go for it!

Bernice Ross is CEO and founder of, a virtual company that provides real estate training, coaching and consulting for Realtors. She recently updated her tag line to reflect a new series of products and her new book, Real Estate Dough. The tag line is “—the Place You Go to Make Real Estate Dough.” What does that look like personified? It could be several things—a “For Sale Sign” with a headset on it for training—maybe even her book with a pair of legs. For Real Estate Dough, perhaps a bowl of bread dough with a dollar sign rising out of it.

Need more branding insight? Real Fact #4 in Real You Incorporated is all about bringing your passion and your brand together. Take a look!

Your office is where your brand lives.

When determining the creative attributes of your real brand, think color and shape. What speaks to you and your company? Move on to sounds, feel, taste and smell. Imagine these elements and how they bring your brand to life. To accomplish this task, gather magazines and fabrics, and then clip the ones that you find most appealing. And dream.

Tracey Ballas, CEO and president of School-Age NOTES in New Albany, Ohio, started her career as an elementary-school teacher, so she understands this process. When she created the work space for her company, she installed four times the number of recommended lights, using traditional lighting to give the office a more home-like feel. The walls are painted a sunny yellow and filled with original artwork created by professional artists and children. Tracey frequently makes lunch for staff meetings and birthdays, and her two dogs come to work and provide comfort and warmth. Because this is a publishing company where reading is a regular activity, comfy chairs and footrests are the norm. Still, the pace is busy.

If School-Age NOTES walked down the street, what would it look like personified? “It would look like Jennifer Lopez with her energy, style and flair,” says Tracey. “However, it acts more like Mrs. Doubtfire, with warmth, humor, wisdom and a nurturing spirit.”

For more ideas, see Life Lesson 10 of Real You Incorporated: The five senses of branding.

To create a real brand, people inside and outside your company need to believe in you

Not just your product or service. At the end of the day, it’s all about you. That means your personal brand and your business brand are one in the same. I encourage you to begin by choosing one word that defines you. Here’s a hint to get you started: Think about what you do well.

Let’s use Oprah Winfrey as example. Everybody knows Oprah’s brand. Much of her success is due to the fact that people feel like they know her. She defined her career in a real way—as an extension of her personality. By sharing her story, she got people to believe in her. It’s the reason why she’s been successful at building a phenomenal career.

How about you? What’s your story? Get started now at

Savvy Marketers Share Their Secrets

I just joined a great group of columnists-turned-bloggers that discuss strategies for reaching your target market. The blog-pub, published by Glam Media, is called eBrandMarketing, and it launched late last year. The articles focus on a variety of marketing topics, and I will be adding to the marketing-to-women voice.

Check out my first post: You gotta love eHarmony – even if you’re not in the market for love.