Nine Micro-Branding Tips Under $100 Each.

13 responses.

Last week we talked about how the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) has built a tourism marketing machine by focusing on building the singular Miami brand (you can read that post HERE). Thanks to aggressively pursuing this strategy, recent research shows that the city has become one of the top four destinations in the country.

But as I pointed out, while the change has taken a lot of years, dollars, and effort, there are a number of micro tips and techniques, all costing less than $100 apiece, that you can use to build your own personal brand. I call these practices, “Bill Knows Branding,” or BNB for short.

The Bill in question is Bill Talbert, the CEO of the GMCVB. The BNBs are the list of some of the things Bill does to keep the Miami brand front and center and also to keep his team members and partners motivated to do the same.

Bill Knows Branding Tip #1 — Always wear your brand on your sleeve.

Anytime you see a well-dressed GMCVB team member or partner, you’ll find a palm tree lapel pin in their jacket’s buttonhole. Bill insists that all of his people wear this conversation starter wherever they go. And in case you forget your pin, Bill’s always got a pocket full and hands them out happily, providing the positive reinforcement needed to establish a habit.

One weekend I ran into Bill at a wedding. He asked me why there wasn’t a palm tree glittering from the lapel of my tux. “It’s Saturday, Bill,” I responded. “I’m off the clock.”

“You’re never off the clock,” he said, handing me a pin from his collection. “But you are out of uniform.” Point taken. I now keep a pin in each of my suits so I won’t be underdressed again.

Bill Knows Branding Tip #2 — No one sends personal notes anymore. Except Bill.

Bill is one of the most tech-savvy CEOs I know. But whenever you spend time with him, you can expect a personal handwritten note to show up in the mail a day or two later. Bill knows that as the world gets more and more high-tech, the way to break through the clutter and make a statement is with high-touch. Not a phone message. Not an email. A handwritten letter. With a signature. And a real stamp on the envelope.

And when the news is really important? Bill takes a tip from Michael Gehrisch, CEO of the Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), and sends it in a FedEx envelope. After all, what other correspondence gets brought to your desk the minute it enters your office? It’s a heck of a bargain for 15 bucks, I think.

Bill Knows Branding Tip #3 — Birthdays are only the beginning.

Thanks to Facebook, I received 217 emails on my birthday. Thanks to Bill Talbert’s micro branding techniques, I received one birthday wish a day early. You see, Bill believes it’s not enough to remember someone’s birthday, the trick is to be the first one to remember. He told me that the best compliment he got was the guy who said, “You wished me happy birthday before my mother did!”

But Bill doesn’t only send notes on birthdays. He also sends birthday notes to kids and pets. And he sends notes to his employees on the anniversary of their hires — “Thanks for 12 great years!” All great ways to let people know you pay attention and you care.

Bill Knows Branding Tip #4 — Give away $100,000.

This one costs a whole lot less than you might think. When the Powerball Lottery jackpot heads north of $80 million, Bill buys tickets for his staff. “Here’s a $100,000 bonus,” he says as he hands them out. “If you win, I get half.” It’s a lot of return for very little money.

Of course, Bill runs the risk of his good people leaving when they hit the $100 million jackpot, but I think the odds are in his favor on that one.

Bill Knows Branding Tip #5 – Business cards you can feel.

The next time you see Bill, ask him for his business card. Hopefully the first thing you notice is how colorful and beautiful it is (that was a bit of shameless self-promotion – we designed the brand and the cards). Next, you’ll notice that the card is covered with embossed bumps, his contact information in Braille, to be exact.

How many visually impaired people actually read Bill’s tactile cards? That’s hardly the point. Each Braille-enabled card tells recipients that Bill — and by extension the GMCVB and Miami — is open to all travelers.

Bill says that most everyone who gets his card says, “What a great idea, I’m going to copy it” yet as far as he knows, only one person has, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart. “You’ve made me a rock star in Washington,” the congressman told Bill. And all this from some little bumps and for less than 100 dollars.

Bill Knows Branding Tip #6 — We’re in the Good News Business.

Like many companies, the GMCVB sends out weekly newsletters. Unlike most companies, Bill sends his out on Sunday because “people will read things on Sunday morning that they won’t get to the rest of the week.” The news is always inspirational and uplifting to reward people for reading it. “Bad news is everywhere,” Bill says. “We’re in the good news business. People look forward to reading what we send.”

Bill Knows Branding Tip #7 — Anyone can answer the easy questions.

Because the GMCVB provides travel information to visitors, lots of people call the office to discuss their travel issues. And occasionally those people aren’t happy. That’s when Bill gets involved. Let’s listen in on a recent late night complaint about a local hotel and its return call the next morning:

Caller: “I know you’re just a machine, but here’s a problem I’m encountering with my reservation…”

GMCVB Callback: “I’m not a machine, I’m the CEO, Bill Talbert. Let’s see how we can fix your problem…”

As Bill says, “There’s no better time to build a fan for life than when someone’s really angry.”

Bill Knows Branding Tip #8 – Don’t dress for the job you have. Dress for the job you want.

Bill believes that the visual impression you make on the people you work for and with is one of the most important things you can control. “People have too much going on in their lives to remember much about you,” he points out. “So it’s your responsibility to plant the right impression in their minds. And if you look like the person that you want to be, you’re on your way.”

So when Bill reached middle age, even though he already was the CEO of the Miami CVB, he realized that dressing for the part meant looking youthful and dynamic. “I figured there were only two ways to go, up or down. And I’m not interested in looking older,” he says. So out went the somber gray and blue suits and the red ties, replaced by sport coats and sophisticated neckwear. You see, Bill doesn’t just preach his rules, he lives them. And wears them.

Bill Knows Branding Tip #9 — AMATT.

One of the ways the GMCVB, and Miami, benefits from the brand is that there are always new techniques to put to work. “We’re AMATT,” says Bill. “All Miami All The Time. Everyday we’re thinking up new ways to extend the brand — we’re always thinking of new tips. And anyone can use these ideas. But what we do different is that we all do it. We train our people to connect the dots.”

What tips and techniques do you have? If you’ve found some value in what Bill does, why not post some suggestions of your own to share? Who knows, if we collect enough of them, we might start the micro-branding revolution.


  13 Responses

  1. on January 16, 2012

    I remember when I worked as advertising manager and we used some of these principals, better to say tried to use. The ideas are simple, but they work if them to implement. From my side I’ll add that it is a nice thing to give branded products. They should be simple like desktop calendar or a pan with brand sign. It’ll bring you up in the eyes of partners and will be a nice reminder of your brand.

  2. on January 18, 2012

    We’re so use of hearing the designers rules on branding. It was refreshing to read about a CEO who knows what a living brand is all about. Thank you Bruce and Bill!!

  3. on January 18, 2012


    Well said. Very instructive piece. Love it!!!

  4. on January 18, 2012

    When I am asked what is the most effective marketing tool I use, I answer, “do outstanding work with the customers you have – blow them away with your services.” I have found this more than anything else builds the business and it’s cheap…you already have the client!

  5. Mike T
    on January 18, 2012

    I am an FOB (fan of Bill) so your blog today spoke to me. I wake up and start my day before most people i know. I immediately send my kids and team a positive and thought-provoking quote or rally cry (giving credit to the respective author). Many tell me that they look forward to this simple gesture as it ensures their first message of the day is a positive one and gives them something productive to think about on the way into school or work.

  6. on January 18, 2012

    We sent out a christmas card to all our clients and asked our clients for addresses for their friends who might like to recieve a christmas greeting from us. We sent a hand written and personalized note to our clients and their friends and we included a hand made block print art (signed and numbered!). We got so much great responses and heard that we were the buzz in their group of friends. We landed a project last week as a result of it – a freind of one of our clients. We’ve learned that word of mouth is our best marketing tool. So it helps to get some words in some mouths!

  7. on January 18, 2012

    Thanks, Mike. That’s a great tip and one I’m going to try myself.

  8. on January 18, 2012

    -quick clarification: we made the block prints ourselves. Cost us about $80.

  9. on January 18, 2012

    I forwarded this post to friends, tweeted it and facebooked it too. I think it is that good. I am a huge proponent of personal cards, especially to express appreciation. Saying thank you with a real greeting card is so easy yet so powerful. It’s easy to develop a habit of expressing gratitude and genuine care. Thanks Bill!

  10. on January 18, 2012

    That’s it! I’m moving to Miami.

  11. on January 18, 2012

    Thanks for the great tips and you delivered a wonderful message about Miami and the Beaches at the Pillar event. I hope the Chamber sent you some of my shots. if not reply I’ll send you the link
    Al Ricketts

  12. on January 19, 2012

    Really great stuff Bruce! You are reaching a new level with your posts that has me eagerly watching for the next one to land in my inbox. Cuz you help me do my business better.

  13. Steve Saley
    on January 21, 2012

    Another stellar blog post Bruce…I forwarded to several self-employed friends, ( who really don’t know anything about self-marketing ) as well as my clients to help underscore the many conversations we’ve had about this very important topic.

    You are so fortunate to have a client / friend in Bill Talbert.

    Keep on blogging Bruce…my extended client list thinks I’m brilliant for forwarding them your relevant and helpful blogs };-)~

    ~ S

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