Category Archives: personal branding

Your Holiday E-Card is in the Trash

Yesterday my spam filter caught 6 holiday e-cards. This morning it caught 11. I understand companies are looking for ways to cut costs. I get that people don’t necessarily have time to sign a few hundred cards. However, if you think your e-greeting has the same effect as a paper card, I’m sorry but it does not.

The general reason to send holiday greetings is to say hi, I’m thinking of you during this festive season and I wish you and your family the best. Business reasons to send holiday greetings, along with the above,  are to keep you and your company name in front of the customer, to make them feel special and to add a personal touch to a professional relationship. But an e-card doesn’t do this, especially if it comes into an inbox along with a lot of other greetings.

First of all, it being caught in a spam filter makes me treat it as bulk mail. I don’t feel special getting a “Happy Holidays” email blast. It’s not personal. It doesn’t remind me of your service/product. In fact, your e-card does not make me feel like anything other than a name on your email list. At least with a paper card I’m going to open it, read it and probably put it on display in my office. If you personally signed it I’m going to appreciate the extra effort.

I’m not saying you must do paper cards, but I am saying if you are going to acknowledge the holidays, do something that won’t get filed as spam. For instance, start right after Thanksgiving and send a personal email to 10 of your contacts each day welcoming the holiday season. Thank them for their business (make this specific) and mention a way you will follow-up in the new year (lunch maybe, etc.).   And don’t title it Happy Holidays!

Avoiding the Deleted Items Folder

Your emails say a lot about you. And while we all can overlook a sporadic typo, ignoring email etiquette can not only damage your perception, it can land your email in the “deleted items” folder.

Here are two posts to get you on the right track. The first, How To Improve Your Email Etiquette, is from Marci Alboher, Working the New Economy’s Blog.

The second, Sending Emails That Get Read, is a post I wrote about a year and a half ago.

Happy Emailing!

Fairy Godmother of Marketing

For the past few weeks I have been playing a “Fairy Godmother of Marketing”. There are so many small business owners that are good at what they do, but their branding and marketing efforts do not reflect their talent (see previous post for examples).


So, with no ulterior motive (okay, maybe I was in the holiday spirit…) I began offering free advice. This has sparked my newest project.


Beginning January 1, 2009 I’ll be launching a new challenge, My Marketing Needs Help. It’ll be for small businesses that need assistance with their marketing – online, print, media, etc.


People will be able to nominate themselves and/or other businesses that can use some help. I’ll be choosing three winners for a complete marketing makeover.


Also, will be devoting the next 6 weeks to basic marketing tips. So, even if you’re not a winner you can get some guidance.


Towanda Long aka mscafe

Reasons People Like You

  • You remind them of themselves. It’s that whole “birds of a feather” thing…
  • You’re knowledgeable (but not a know-it-all).
  • You add value to their life/project/business.
  • You have qualities they find inspiring.
  • You make them feel comfortable.
  • You have a sense of humor.
  • You’re honest.
  • You’re reliable.
  • You make them smile.


Just a quick reminder that being likable is a great personality trait.


Towanda Long aka mscafe

RIP Randy Pausch

The first time I heard Randy Pausch’s lecture I was inspired. The second time I was inspired and motivated. The third time I was inspired, motivated and actually made some changes in my life.

You get the point. No matter how many times I’ve heard this or read it, it evokes an emotion or an action. I hope it does the same for you.

Towanda Long aka mscafe

Word Association

Brandtags is a really cool word association game. It shows you a brand and you’re supposed to answer with the first word that comes to your mind.


You may be surprised at some of your answers. For instance, Motorola made me think of pagers, then StarTac (Yes, I realize I’m dating myself…).


This is definitely an exercise worth the time. Not because of the initial thought you have, but it allows you to think about the many experiences you have had with the brand and how those experiences collectively affected your immediate response.


And you’ll think about the consistency of your own brand. Do your clients/colleagues get the same message no matter how they interact with you? Are you always responsive, friendly, efficient (feel free to enter your word here). And if not, what can you do about it?


Towanda Long aka The Café Lady

Do Something Different

In marketing, just like life, taking the same steps will get you the same results.


This is good if you’re getting great results; not so much if you’ve hit a plateau. And since it’s hard to get off of a plateau, here are a couple of ideas to get you off that marketing hump:


  • Instead of relying on PowerPoint for your next presentation, make it interactive. Bring in boards (markers, cut-outs, etc.) and develop the presentation as you ask the client questions. You’ll get a feel for their pain points and at the end the client will have a presentation that is catered to them, not a template (trust me, they know the difference…). Plus they will be engaged throughout the meeting, not bored to tears.


  • Wake up 15 minutes early and start reading a book you’ve been putting off. There are many of industry books and this is an excellent way to spark ideas. If you dedicate 15 minutes a day you’ll be finished and ready to move on to another title in a week or so (okay, maybe a month…)


If you’re in the mood to make other changes (like expand your network and people skills) you can:


  • Start a conversation with someone that you would normally avoid (I’m not suggesting that guy on the corner that’s always talking to himself…).
  • Say “good morning” and “thank you” to the people that provide you a service (i.e. the Starbucks employee, the parking lot attendant, your colleague).
  • Try a new class at the gym.
  • Close your office door and dance for 5 minutes to something old school. Okay, this won’t help you expand your network, but it will help you relax and not take yourself too seriously…


Towanda Long aka The Café Lady

Selling in a Buyers Market

I’m preparing to put my house on the market, so my weekends consist of painting, cleaning out the corners (it’s amazing where dust can accumulate!) and going through boxes in my basement that haven’t been touched in years. I also have to organize my kids’ closet and do a little work in my yard.


After all, I know how great the house is, but a potential buyer will not. I know it’s been well maintained, but it has to look good on paper, too. The photos have to be clear, the description has to be appealing and when a buyer visits, the house has to be clean.


It’s funny how much this makes sense to job seekers, but the same people will use form cover letters, send out resumes with typos or go on interviews without researching the company.


This is a buyer’s market, for both employers and potential homebuyers. And to be successful you have to stand out. So, get a friend to walk through your house and point out problem areas, and let them review your resume, too. It’ll cost you nothing, but it will help you to put your best foot forward.

Towanda Long aka The Cafe Lady

Ways to Make Volunteering Work for You

Today starts National Volunteer Month (April 27-May 3rd is National Volunteer Week). Ads promoting the importance of volunteering and the benefits of helping others have begun.

And while many people volunteer because they enjoy helping, I also know there are people that wonder what’s in it for them.  

So, if the great feeling of knowing that you are helping others is not enough, here are a couple of other perks. 

You can build skills that your current job description does not offer. If there are gaps on your resume, or experience that you need to move to the next level, volunteering is a great way to get it. Volunteering options are endless and most organizations welcome the extra manpower. 

Volunteering can offer experiences out of the norm. Think about it, how many opportunities will an accountant get to build a house outside of Habitat for Humanity? 

If you’re wondering where to find opportunities, try Volunteer Match. Using your zip code you can find opportunities in your area ranging from the Girl Scouts and American Cancer Society to local theatres and animal shelters. The opportunities also have age suggestions, so you can choose something that is perfect for your entire family or something just for you.  

Happy Volunteer Month!

 Towanda Long aka The Café Lady

Lunch Anyone?

We all have to eat. And whether we admit it or not, we all need a break sometimes. So, why not invite a client or colleague to lunch? Aside from the obvious benefits of nourishment, here’s a few reasons why lunching is a great way to build relationships. 

You get to relate on a social level. It’s a chance to discuss family, hobbies, interests, volunteering efforts, current events, etc. It’s a chance to “catch up”. It’s an opportunity to learn about opportunities.  

But more than that, lunch is a great way to show your appreciative side. Taking a client or colleague to lunch says “thank you” in a sincere way. After all, it shows you don’t mind spending time with them.  

It shows you’re a team player. If your team regularly meets for lunch, join them, at least occasionally. It’ll show you’re open and friendly. Plus, it’s an easy way to avoid the inevitable “He/she really doesn’t like us” your absence will spark.  

However, if your team’s lunch table consists of gossip and/or other questionable topics (politics, religion and sex are a few), THIS DOES NOT APPLY. Your fitting into the lunch culture is not worth the dent to your professional image. 

You may learn something valuable. I once found out a high-level executive liked my work, but wasn’t sure how to take my quietness in meetings. Moving forward I spoke up more and if I didn’t have something constructive to add I would say that as well. In just a few meetings I noticed the executive warmed up to me, fostering a great working relationship. 

Towanda Long aka The Café Lady