I had the pleasure of attending two business seminars that were running concurrently at the Caribe Royal in Orlando, FL this weekend. One of the highlights for me was meeting and being impacted by a true marketing and branding expert, Sheila Stewart. She was a breath of fresh air in a world clogged with “expert advice” pollution!
She delivered a knock-out punch to conventional thinking to an enthusiastic crowd at the Inspiration2020 Conference. One of the themes of the conference was that it was time to stop listening to the “news” and whining about the economy and wake up to the reality that the exact economic circumstances that everyone is crying about – actual presents amazing opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses that are ready to thrive and succeed. Sheila recommends that when we wake up each morning we need to Dump Our Head Trash(tm) before starting the day”. In other words don’t listen to the nay-sayers, who say it can’t be done – just take the steps necessary to advance towards your goals.
My business is marketing and branding with Brandtastic, and when Sheila asked if there were any people in the audience that considered themselves “marketing experts” I humbly raised my hand along with one other gentleman. Sheila then quipped “OK, you two can leave now.” I returned with “we can always learn more” and boy-oh-boy, did I! Sheila is the bomb.
I found Sheila to be an exciting mix of a personal cheerleader, motivational speaker and marketing diva. She can lay claim to the “been there, done that” badge when it comes to being at the top of the ad game. From a humble start and $5000 in savings she launched her own advertising agency from scratch. No stranger to success, she had just launched a division of a huge agency with flying colors when it dawned on her that “if I could do it for her (previous employer) why not do it for me.” She pitched and won her first client which was a half-million dollar deal. From that deal, strategized in her “second-floor bedroom in her pink slippers” through many more she built an award-winning agency that launched companies domestically and internationally into great success and results. Results is what she is all about, “what good is an award-winning campaign to a client if they did not achieve results.”
One mantra that those in need of marketing need to realize when they say “we can’t afford marketing now” goes like this according to Sheila – “Marketing generates leads, Leads generate revenue.” So those companies that don’t think they need to spend money on marketing are paving their own path towards their own demise. Spending money on marketing ineffectually that does not generate leads is the major problem today. Another problem that can present itself is when the Sales Team drops the ball. According to Sheila “marketing can take you three-quarters the way around the circle, but to complete the loop and make the transaction that drives revenue your sales and closing skills must come into play. Qualified leads need to be converted into customers.”
Sheila tells it like it is when it comes to marketing and success. She makes no qualms about her opinions or advice, saying “sugar-coating is for cereal in my world.” Unabashedly admitting that if you don’t have something unique about your sales proposition, then “make it up – and then spin it.” What she was advocating was not that you just fabricate something about your business, but that you avoid the standard B.S. like “been in business “X” years, great customer service, qualified employees, etc.” Think creatively, what is your real advantage over the competition – what makes your customers choose to do business with you? If you are competing on price alone, you become a commodity and unless you are Walmart you will not be successful in the race to the lowest price for what you offer. Sheila gave an example about an office furniture store owner who argued with her that his business was only about the best price so she could not help him. She proceeded to create the idea that he provide a free “office work-flow analysis” that would go into a business and look at where the furnishings, desks and partitions were positioned and what type of improvements could be made. Then if they were chosen to handle the work, a follow-up assessment would be done to help implement the best use of the items that were installed or sold. Now THAT was not just selling a commodity, it was providing “added value” with very little additional cost to the business. Every business can or does provide added value that can be packaged and marketed into a competitive advantage that will drive more sales. Sheila described this as “putting meat around what you already do that has unique value and packaging it.”
Her success took a great amount of tenacity and hard work. She “worked harder, got more clients, hired more people, worked even harder, got even more clients and hired even more people” and the cycle became less rewarding as she had less time to spend doing anything but work. This is a danger many of us face as small business owners, becoming a slave to our business and forgetting what we were in business for – the freedom to do the things that we wanted in life! As Sheila’s Ad Agency reached the pinnacle of success she realized that she did not get the satisfaction that she desired from all the effort over so many years. She had an epiphany moment in 2005 from this realization and sold her agency. Now she has taken the systems that she established in her own agency to make businesses successful through marketing and put them into a Toolkit for everyone to take advantage of. Her true passion is now being realized – “helping others to be successful by empowering businesses.” She is on the “Fun Bus” as she describes the way life should be every moment of every day.
When it comes to branding as it relates to logo design, Sheila advises “it doesn’t matter what you think or like, what matters is whether it is effective in attracting the marketing you are after.” Ad campaigns and branding that wins creative awards or that you “like” may totally miss the mark when it comes to reaching and influencing your target market to choose your product or service.
When it comes to effective PR, she gave us some valuable advice too – “Nobody cares how great your are.” To get anyone to notice your Press Releases you need to make it relevant to what people care about. Look at the news, “put on your PR glasses” and find out what is being covered. Then find what it is about your pitch that can tag on to something that people are already interested in. At Brandtastic, we had a client that sold a Sliding Door Lock that prevented children from opening sliding doors and getting themselves in dangers way. The best PR slant turned out to be presenting the product as a solution to the kind of things that were being covered in the news – tots roaming outside and getting lost or even worse, falling into pools or nearby bodies of water. The owner of the company actually had a passion to prevent these type of accidents which can turn into tragedy. The news sources loved the angle of presenting a solution juxtaposed against the tots escaping into danger and the information was picked up.
It was truly a privilege to meet and listen to what Sheila Stewart was willing to share with us and I hope to continue to learn from her in the future. You can learn more about how you can get off of the “Struggle Bus” of life and start everyday on the “Fun Bus of Life”(tm) at her website getonthefunbus.com – Sheila is also an Executive Business Coach with Powerteam International and can be reached by email at Sheilas@pti360.net – Maybe she can help you along the road to realizing your full potential!