A-Ha #3: The Discovery Delusion

For Part 3 of this series, click here. To check our earlier posts, visit our main page here.

Focusing on strengths? Check. Tweaking perspective? Check. We’ve completed the first two steps on your path to building a superstar personal brand. Those steps are fundamental, but they’re only the beginning. Where do we go from here?

We wait to be discovered, right?


Continue reading

A-Ha #2: The Player Principle

For Part 2 of this series, click here. To check our earlier posts, visit our main page here.

Be yourself. It’s the first step to turning your uh-oh moment into an a-ha realization. But where do you go from there? How do you continue on the path to success?

Change your vocabulary.

The words you use to describe your situation help frame how you think and what your outcome is.

Continue reading

A-Ha #1: The Identity Ethic

For Part 1 of this series, click here.

After my life took a turn off of the path that I (and my family) always thought it would be on, I was left adrift. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with my life and how I was going to get there.

Well, I did know something. I knew what I thought was wrong with me and that I needed to fix it.

Continue reading

From Uh-Oh to A-ha! (Part 1)

The path to success can be a roller coaster…I’m living proof of that.

My life had a plan for it from Day 1. You may even have had one just like it for yours. Get good grades in high school, then get into a prestigious school, then get good grades again, then get a good job. Once you get the job, you’ve got to get promoted or get a better one. Then you get married, have kids, and continue along your path. Somewhere along the part about promotion, things went off schedule.

When my life took a left turn (and a right turn, and another left turn, and some zig zags for good measure), there was a lot to worry about. When you drop from a six figure salary to $39k a year, you’re going to have some sleepless nights. But eight years later I’m doing doing exactly what I want to do, working with incredible women, and am the head of a seven figure business.

So how did I do it?

Continue reading

Niche Is The New Rich

target nicheIt’s counterintuitive, perhaps, but tightening your focus, narrowing your target and getting clear about your niche can help you grow MUCH faster and healthier as a speaker, author, coach or consultant.

Why? Because if what you’re selling is YOU, then right off the bat we’re dealing with a situation where there’s scarcity, which means that there is limited YOU to go around. Without a strong value proposition in a niche, then most likely you face lots of competition, which puts downward pressure on your prices.

And if you’re competing on price, then you’re in a situation where you need VOLUME in order to make decent money. Relying on volume is one sure way to a) not be very profitable, and b) quickly become exhausted.

The most profitable brands and businesses that do NOT want to offer mass market, volume products or services, are the ones who can hone in on a niche and sell to them at a higher price…

So once you’re clear about who you are and what you’re up to from an IDENTITY perspective, the next thing to determine is what NICHE you’re going after. Having a strong niche (i.e., specializing in something) will not only raise your value to the end user, it will also help you generate referrals because it’s a LOT easier to be “top-of-mind” for something specific than for something general.

Here are some examples:

  • The difference between a general practitioner (general) and a spine surgeon (niche).
  • The difference between jeans (general) and designer jeans that make you’re backside look awesome.
  • The difference between a massage therapist (general) and a specialist in chronic neck pain (niche).
  • The difference between an esthetician (general) and a specialist in teenage acne (niche).

In all of the above cases, the specialist (assuming they are truly excellent) will be able to CHARGE more (because the stakes are higher and the need more specific) and they will get a lot more word-of-mouth, referral business (because it is FAR easier to be top-of-mind for something specific than for something general).

How do you choose a niche?

Here are some ways:

  • Analyze your existing book of business to identify any niche audiences for whom your service has high value.
  • Ask your existing clients why they come back to you.
  • Ask friends and family what they have you “top-of-mind” for.
  • Do some homework on any referrals you’ve gotten or get, to find out how they were referred to you (what did the referrer say about you?)

For example, most massage therapists never specialize and end up competing on price because there are a LOT of people who can provide massages. But only a small percentage specialize in any one thing – but as anyone with chronic, severe neck pain can tell you: they would pay more for someone who could get them better results – it’s worth the extra investment.

On the execution or operational side, having a specialty also allows you to go narrow and deep and really hone your craft so you’re delivering at the highest level – another surefire way to develop a loyal clientele and lots of great referrals. Not to mention, it feels really good to get GREAT results!

If you want to explore your niche in depth and get some SERIOUS training around identifying, targeting and “seducing” your niche audience as a speaker, author, coach or consultant, check out the Superstar Speaker Academy.

Check it out here: http://www.SuperstarSpeakerAcademy.com


“Aim High” Personal Branding for Speakers, Speaker Magazine

Thought this article was relevant, given the Superstar Speaker Academy coming up next week. Check it out – all about speaker branding. Want to learn more? Sign up here: http://www.SuperstarSpeakerAcademy.com.

Speaker Magazine - Page 2Speaker Magazine - Cover

Speaker Magazine - Page 3Speaker Magazine - Page 1


Looks Matter, Perception is Reality, and Go Get Yourself Some Great Headshots, PLEASE!

Michelle VillalobosAs a speaker, how you look impacts how the world – and your audience – perceives you. For better or for worse, your image needs to attract your target audience, establish your credibility and contribute to, rather than detract from, your branding efforts – so you can ultimately drive more incoming business and charge what you’re worth.

Within the first 3 seconds of seeing you, people have probably already made a judgment about you. And these days, with so much business conducted online, prospects, clients and potential partners are likely to “Google” you and see your online presence before they ever meet you in person! Google is the new resume, because even if you do meet someone in person, chances are they will seek you out online to learn more.

So…given that your online image is as important as your in-person image, what you need to create is an authentic, compelling and ATTRACTIVE representation of who you are in person that translates well to the digital world. And then you need to take that image and put it everywhere online – even the social media platforms you don’t use – just so that you can OWN your visual image online.

It all starts with a photo. Having a great, professional portrait is fundamental, especially if you’re trying to brand yourself as an expert in your field. All speakers and authors have professional portraits, and if you want to be taken seriously, then you need to have one (or many!) too.

As a former editor then publisher of a high-fashion magazine, I have produced hundreds of photo shoots, and I can share my personal story about the impact my headshot has had on my speaking career.

Everyone always asks me about my “Sharpie picture,” like “what does it mean, Michelle?” Well, quite honestly, the whole thing was kind of an accident. If you know me, then you know I always carry a handful of Sharpies and a blank book to draw mind maps, take notes, and explain things using diagrams and drawings (it’s the ex-math teacher in me…but that’s a whole ‘nother story). I also often use Sharpies and flip-charts in my workshops to keep things spontaneous and fun.

michelle villalobosSo what happened on the day of my headshot photo shoot (with Gio Alma, a photographer I worked with extensively at Ocean Drive Magazine) was, after we’d taken several very serious, professional, traditional “headshot” type pictures (see right) that I was using for my website, I wanted to take some fun pictures just for me. So I grabbed a bunch of Sharpies from my bag and started hamming it up. Gio played along and snapped away.

When I got the proofs, I thought the Sharpie pics were silly, obviously not something I would use professionally (haha). I went ahead and chose a regular, “professional” head shot that fit with who I was trying to be (a serious business consultant, of course) and posted it everywhere – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

A few months later at the end of a speech about networking, one audience member tentatively raised her hand and said: “But your portrait doesn’t reflect your brand – you’re fun, young and vibrant, your headshot is sedate and boring. It’s beautiful, but it looks like it belongs on Match.com – it’s not the you we met today.”


If you know me, then you also know that I believe the “uh-oh precedes the a-ha,” so I asked the audience, “raise your hand if you agree with her?” Almost every single one raised her hand. I swallowed my pride and went back to the drawing board. There was no way I was going to do a whole new photo shoot, so I pulled out all the proofs that Gio had sent me.

And I came across those Sharpie pics. I started playing with them and I found one – ONE decent one that I KIND OF liked. I cropped it (cropped my roots out!!), put a frame around it, retouched it a little around the eyes, beefed up the color and voilá! (See the transformation I created with Photoshop, below.)

michelle villalobos

I tentatively floated it out on Facebook first…and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Note that a few people HATED (and still HATE) it, but I continue to use it in spite of that. Why? Because it’s memorable, and it’s aligned with who I am – the colors, the smile, the authenticity (I truly love of Sharpies and other office supplies), and it’s memorable – and that’s the purpose of a good headshot for personal branding.

In fact, I ended up building my entire brand around the Sharpie pic, and overall, it’s worked. When you Google me, that picture is everywhere, and people remember it. Not only that, it tends to make people smile.

Sure there were some people who didn’t “get” it. Guess what? That’s quite all right. Those are not the people for me. The right people are the ones who love it. It’s actually quite a good filter.

The takeaway? It’s time to get put some awesome, authentic, beautiful, well-branded pictures of yourself out there!

Here are some tips to take a GREAT headshot.

  1. Use a current photo. A photo that looks old screams “stuck in the past.” Not only is it unprofessional, but you’re missing the opportunity to keep your brand as current and as relevant as you are. Even if you were more “beautiful” 10 years ago, chances are these last 10 years have given you experience, character and depth. Don’t hide that.
  2. Hire a professional. Go hire a photographer to shoot you, and bring 3-5 different outfits. It doesn’t cost as much as you think – you can often find a good photographer for under $100. But be careful – negotiate at the outset for them to give you the entire CD of images. Also, see if they’ll retouch one or two photos for you once you’ve decided what you want to use.
  3. Think about color. Use a color scheme that “fits” with your personality and your business, and stay away from small prints and “busy” patterns. Also, most of us should stay away from wearing white, particularly if you are pale.
  4. Use props. Having a “prop” may help convey your value and be more memorable. We’ve used everything from signs, to flip charts, to sharpies to champagne bottles, depending on the industry. But also shoot without props as well.
  5. Try several poses. Choose the “right one” in the editing process, not the shooting process. Your pose should be right for your brand. No generic, cheesy glamour shots! Your picture should reflect who you are and, if possible, what you do. If you’re a woman, consider avoiding the ever-popular “head tilt.” It’s a “little girl” pose that can diminish credibility, particularly if you’re in a male-dominated field.
  6. Make eye contact. While some situations/personal brands require something different, by and large, making eye contact engenders trust. And we all know trust is the basis of every relationship – business or otherwise.
  7. Do at least one setup with a white or contrasting color background. Shooting against a white or contrasting color background allows you to create a “silhouetted” photo that can be placed against any color background. That’s GREAT for the web and for getting creative with things like your business card or email signature.
  8. Be authentic and show personality! Just because you’re getting a professional headshot, doesn’t mean that the photo has to be generic, stiff or boring. In fact, social media IS about being “social,” so the more attractive and fun your photo – while being professional – the better!
  9. Edit when you’re DONE shooting, not DURING the shoot. When you do a photo shoot, be open-minded, try everything. You can always trash the photos later. The creative process and the editing process are opposites, don’t confuse them! One requires open-mindedness, the other critical thinking. Example: During Michelle’s first big photo shoot she pulled out that handful of Sharpies and played around. There were about 100 bad pictures and one magical one, which didn’t become obvious until much later.
  10. Post your head shot EVERYWHERE…and tag with your full name. Because of the way Google works, the more places you post your picture (make sure your pics all have your full name as the title (i.e., Michelle Villalobos Mivista.jpg), the more you’ll start to “own” your name. Go back to all those profiles you have online and drop in your headshot. It’s not necessary to use the SAME photo in all profiles, but at least use consistent photos that tell the same “story” across platforms. If you use different photos for different purposes, they all need to be high- quality, attractive and they need to accurately align with the most important brand in the world: yours.

At the Superstar Speaker Academy, we’ll be going in depth on how to develop the visual elements of your brand as a speaker, author, coach or consultant so that you attract more inbound business, book more engagements, and stand out among your competitors.

Check it out here: http://www.SuperstarSpeakerAcademy.com

The Identity Iceberg – Excavating The REAL You For Your Branding

Imagine an iceberg. The very top of the iceberg, above the water line, is what people on the outside see. Below the water line is what makes up the bulk of the iceberg. It’s the stuff no one sees, but it is the BASE of the iceberg. It’s what holds the iceberg in place, “grounding” it. Now imagine YOURSELF as an iceberg.

What’s visible – above the line – is what the outside world sees. These are your behaviors and activities (and your brand, for sure). But down below is what makes you YOU and determines what you show to the outside world. From the base all the way to the top, each piece builds on the piece before, until we get to the surface, and that’s what the world sees.

At the very BASE of the iceberg is the core YOU – what you love, your innate talents, your interests, your personality type, etc. This is Who You Are.

Identity Iceberg.042-001Who You Are then influences your Why You’re Here, or your Purpose on this planet.
Your Why You’re Here in turn influences Your Core Values in this world, or those basic principles that you hold most dear, which in turn impact What You Want out of your life (i.e., your Goals & Objectives).

The What You Want/Goals & Objectives (particularly your short term ones) lie just below the surface – because those immediate wants and desires are closely tied to actions and behavior.

Ultimately, it is all these pieces together that impact your behavior, activities, actions and – at the end of the day – Your BRAND. In order to establish a powerful personal brand or Identity In The World, it is essential that dig deep into your Identity Iceberg first.

Want more iceberg? Check out this video: 

So, What Are You Going to DO About It?

If you’re someone who generates business and opportunities by referral, or by being an expert in your field, then consider how much MORE business, opportunities and referrals you could get by positioning yourself as a professional speaker – whether that’s paid or even free, to generate leads. To do this effectively, it’s essential that you get really clear about who you are, what you want, and what ACTIONS this year are going to get you there.

To this end, we have put together a 3-day Intensive Training Academy – The Superstar Speaker Academy – precisely to teach you how to develop 1) The Identity, 2) The Influence, and 3) The Income to do what you love, deliver on your life’s purpose and make money all at the same time.

Check it out here: http://www.SuperstarSpeakerAcademy.com

Your Influential Identity As A Speaker, Author, Coach or Consultant

Michelle Villalobos Dancing With Sharpie Flipped (sharpie on right) 3In my work with speakers, authors, coaches and consultants (AKA: “Experts”), I’ve determined that the single biggest mistake they make when developing and deploying their marketing, messaging and “personal brand” is that they forget that it has to be PERSONAL!

So many of us who are in the business of selling our expertise are caught up trying to be someone we’re not. We think “this is how I should be” or “this is how I should look” or “this is how I should act” in order to get the clients we want, earn what we’re worth, and appeal to the audiences we want to appeal to.

I know because this is what I did in the beginning of my career. As a sales consultant 7 years ago when launching my personal brand, I thought: “What is a sales consultant like? What does a sales consultant look like? What would she sound like? What would her business card look like?” This is the thinking that gave me a boring navy blue, black and white business card, logo and website. Needless to say, the leads weren’t pouring in.

Now, 7 years later, my brand is a true reflection of who I am: bright colors, Sharpie markers and Post-Its, irreverent keynote speeches, fun headshots in wacky poses… And business is booming.

That process wasn’t easy, nor was it fast. And it all came down to this one conversation that I’m going to have with you right here, right now.

When you strip away the layers of learning, socialization, and what your parents, family, friends, prospects and clients think you should be, what remains?

This is your true self. This is the self that you need to understand, capture and deploy in the world in order to create a compelling personal brand – or, because I dislike the baggage associated with that term – “Influential Identity” that is unique, authentic and – of course – drives business.

To create a powerful Influential Identity, you first need to first define the core, unique YOU, then look at what that means about your true purpose and then what you WANT out of your life.

Only THEN can you really start BRANDING effectively.

To this end, we have put together a 3-day Intensive Training Academy – The Superstar Speaker Academy – precisely to teach you how to develop 1) The Identity, 2) The Influence, and 3) The Income to do what you love, deliver on your life’s purpose and make money all at the same time.

Visit www.SuperstarSpeakerAcademy.com for details and registration.

Dumping Debbie Downers

dump debbie downerAs a professional speaker who puts myself “out there” every day, it is important that I maintain positive energy and mindset. For the first few years of my career, however, this was difficult for me because the most influential people in my life, my friends and family, were doubtful about the path I had chosen. And as I would share my dreams and aspirations with my friends and family, their doubt became my doubt, their criticisms became my own criticisms and their negativity became my own negativity.

New Years 5 years ago, I made a drastic decision: I DUMPED everyone in my life who didn’t support me or contribute in a positive way. Some of them were impossible to actually “dump” completely from my life (i.e., my parents) but I shut them out of my planning and decision-making processes, instead I decided only tell them about results and successes (i.e. “Check out this newspaper article on me!”)

The results have been nothing short of amazing. I’m more confident and happy, and even better, my former “doubters” go around boasting about how successful I am!! Not to mention, sharing on a “results-only” basis means I’m more focused on results, which is good on numerous levels.

We all wish our lives were filled with row after row of raving fans who love exactly what we do and how we do it. The unfortunate reality is that life’s filled with people who rain on our parade…and people who are just plain toxic! And sometimes these Debbie Downers are disguised as our closest allies, so they can bring us down, without our even noticing. What to do?

Toxic PeopleIt’s time for a detox.

When most of us hear the word detox, we think food, drugs or alcohol. We rarely think about detoxing from a person. Yet, you know what I’m talking about because you have a person (or multiple persons!) in your life right who drains you, distracts you, derails you, or makes you doubt yourself.

This person may very well be a client. It might be a colleague. A business partner. An employee. A competitor. Or someone who calls themselves a “friend.” You have to prune these people out of your life.

Try this NOW.

Dump them short-term:

Consider taking a 30-day detox from that person. Insulate yourself. Draw a line in the sand. Protect yourself from the person’s energetic impact, thus eliminating counter-productive drama. After 30 days, re-evaluate. Maybe the detox felt so good you don’t want it to end. Or, maybe you’ll come back to that relationship – be it professional or personal – with a whole new appreciation of the role that person plays in your life.

Dump them long-term:

Some people don’t deserve another chance. In business, most of your relationships are expendable. You can always get a new client, accountant, or assistant. The moment you think you’re stuck with someone is the moment you start sabotaging your success.

Overall, here are some tactics to protect yourself going forward:

  • Avoid negative people – they have power to slow or halt your progress.
  • Choose your inner circle wisely, and keep your intra-personal relationships healthy and thriving.
  • Surround yourself with other students and people in your life who are aligned with who you are and where you’re going.
  • Get advice, assistance and moral support from people who appreciate the journey you have committed to.
  • Tell those people what you are committed to, and allow them to (or ask them to!) lift you to up where you’re going.
  • Finally, hang out with people who are MORE SUCCESSFUL than you.
  • So do the people close to you in your life move you FORWARD or HOLD YOU BACK? Consider this: do they get excited for your successes? Are they good listeners? Are they open to your ideas? Do they share BALANCED advice or do they always criticize everything you do?

Remember: You work way too hard to let OTHER people’s junk get in YOUR way.

There is still time to join us this week at the 3-day Intensive Training Academy – The Superstar Speaker Academy – precisely to teach you how to develop 1) The Identity, 2) The Influence, and 3) The Income to do what you love, deliver on your life’s purpose and make money all at the same time.

Visit www.SuperstarSpeakerAcademy.com for details and registration.

SSA - Superstar Speaker Academy - Flyer

A-ha! Moments…


I live for those blinding flashes of insight that literally have you stop and go “wow!! I get it now!” Lucky for me, I have these “a-ha! moments” all the time, pero like, ALL THE TIME. And if you know me, you know my mantra: “the uh-oh precedes the a-ha!” In order to have an a-ha, there must be an “uh-oh” that necessitated it.

So recently I decided to learn about a-ha! moments, investigate them and start understanding why and how we have them — and how to have more. One thing I realized (a-ha!) is that one if the best times for me to experience the phenomenon is early in the morning, in that halfway period between awake and asleep. (Problem is, I’m usually so sleepy that I don’t want to get up and write it down!)

Well this morning, I had one, and I came here to write it — because this was my a-ha! moment (actually this was the uh-oh that preceded the a-ha!): I write thousands of words a day and have tons of original, interesting thoughts each day… Yet I struggle to put together content for my blog, emails and social media. What’s THAT all about? Ridiculous.

The realization I had right after that, is that all those thoughts are being recorded in random, scattered places, with a large chunk of them being written by hand, in Sharpie or just recently, by hand with a stylus the iPad “Penultimate” app.

My a-ha!: I love to write by hand. Instead if trying to fix or change that, why not embrace it and post those notes… Just as they are, in real-time? I can always type up an intro to explain them, if needed. Gotta figure out logistically how to make that work, but at least now I realize the big disconnect — I prefer to write by hand, and my notes are interesting and beautiful just the way they are — and now that I am aware, something can shift.

What’s the lesson in here for you? No idea. Why don’t you tell me!?

Ciao for now,
Michelle Villalobos (vee – ya – low – bos)


Climbing The Wrong Mountain

Last week I got a call from a man who wanted to find out if and how I could help his business generate sales online. All of his questions centered around tactical ways to drive business, but as our conversation progressed, it became clear to me that what we needed to be discussing was more strategic than tactical. I said as much to him, and he paused and said, “please explain what you mean.”
Rather than explain, I used an analogy. “Imagine you’ve got a team together to climb a mountain. You get your water bottles ready, you equipment together, you have team leaders, maps, compasses, everything… check, check, check. So you start hiking – your team works well together, you make great time, everything just goes swimmingly and you get to the top… only to realize you climbed the wrong mountain.”
Strategy is figuring out WHICH mountain to climb, and a big-picture plan for how you’ll do it. Tactics are everything that comes after that. In business, figuring out which mountain to climb involves questions like ‘Why are we in this business? Who is our target market? What niche or niches do we serve? What is our business model? Where is the growth in our industry? What is our pricing strategy? What messaging will attract our ideal clientele or customer base? And so on.
Because this gentleman came from a systems and operations background, he viewed business very tactically, and that was proving to be his biggest challenge, he didn’t “see the forest for the trees,” so to speak. He didn’t know which mountain to climb.
No matter what our background is, when we are working in our business day in and day out, we can get mired in the details of that business and can be blind to the big picture.
If you’re struggling with completing projects, assigning tasks and overall execution in business, you’re likely facing tactical issues. But if you’re struggling to attract business, grow your business and know where to focus your assets and energy in the future, chances are the questions you need to answer are strategic in nature.
As someone who values (and enjoys!) strategic planning, ideation and brainstorming, sometimes I forget that not everyone feels the same way.
My advice: every once in a while (at least quarterly), set aside some time – at least a day – to step back from your business and look at the big picture. I do this for clients all the time, and I did it for myself just last week. A whole day just dedicated to answering the big questions: “Who am I?” “Where am I going?” “What am I building?” And most importantly: “What’s next?”
Can’t wait to share what I came up with… Stay tuned!! And if you’re interested in doing some strategic planning with me, let me know! It’s my favorite thing to do. Call or email me anytime.



10 Little-Known Apps That Entrepreneurs Can’t Live Without

Great tools I need to check out. I already use Keynote Presenter Tool, like Seth Godin, and am going to get JumpCut next. Not on this list, but I love: SaneBox (for email management), Evernote (for keeping track of notes), ScheduleOnce (not an app, but worth looking into for scheduling), and Google Maps (instead of the native iphone maps app, which is awful). 

This Is Your Brand. This Is Your Brand Online. Any Questions?

On Sunday I had the honor of presenting at Mashable Social Media Day Miami – an amazing event – and I delivered a brand-new case-study based presentation called “This Is Your Brand. This Is Your Brand Online. Any Questions?” The room was PACKED – standing room only (or sitting on the floor!) If you missed it, the good news is that you can see the slideshow here!

Who loves you!!??

Coming Soon To a Bookstore Near You (okay, maybe just Amazon for now…)

The Stiletto In Your Back Front Cover Only For BlogI got inspired over the weekend, and turned an old project of mine – a Special Report called “Why Women Play Dirty” – into an eBook AND sent it to print with CreateSpace (Amazon Publishing). WOW!

I retitled it “The Stiletto In Your Back.”

It’s a short guide to how women compete, from an evolutionary, psychological and sociological perspective (written in a fun, very casual style), and how a woman can protect herself while dealing with female rivalry at work. I can’t wait to hold it in my hands!!

It’s the first in a series of “Good Girl Guides” (Thank you Jessica Kizorek for that idea!) so this one is The Stiletto In Your Back: The Good Girl’s Guide To Backstabbers, Bullies, Gossips & Queen Bees, the next one is Shameless Self-Promotion: The Good Girl’s Guide To Visibility, Credibility & Marketability, and so on.

Have ideas for more “Good Girl” editions? Would love to hear them!!

Michelle Villalobos (veeyaLOWbos)

The year was 1983…


The year is 1983 and it was Christmas-time. If you’re old enough, you’ll recall there were lines – no, hordes – of people, waiting, clamoring and paying top dollar for… a doll. A Cabbage Patch Kid, to be exact.As one store manager put it “…people were grabbing at each other, pushing and shoving. It got ugly.” Dolls were nothing new, so what explains the hysteria that exploded during the Cabbage Patch Craze?

What happened was a unique combination of viral, word-of-mouth, marketing and scarcity. There were only so many dolls made and a lot more demand than manufacturer Coleco ever expected. Couple that with the Christmas frenzy, and voila!! People were literally begging for dolls. A black market arose – dolls were going for $200 sometimes $300!

What do Cabbage Patch Kids have to do with us, here, today? It’s all about demand. It’s about that fairy dust, that magic potion, that elusive “something” that makes people WANT something really really badly.

And it doesn’t just apply to dolls. Look around at some of the most successful people you know: Oprah, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart. Love ’em or hate ’em… you have to admit, they have strong brands that keep them in business.

Do you think Oprah goes around “looking” for opportunities? Heck no!! Opportunities find Oprah! Why? Because she has a strong brand that draws the right opportunities to her.

In this day and age – an age in which Google has been called “the new resume”, having a compelling personal brand, both online and off, is CRUCIAL.

What are YOU doing to build your personal brand? If the answer is “not much” then you are already behind – and it’s only getting worse as the pace of technology and innovation accelerate.

I’ve recently done a LOT more speaking on this subject, and thought you might be interested in some of that content. Here’s a link to the slideshow from my most recent new speech “Shameless Self-Promotion.” Enjoy!!

I Am The Goose That Lays Golden Eggs

Recently I had an experience that taught me a lot about protecting myself and my business, and that I thought might help you as well.

For years now, I’ve regularly shared my proprietary intellectual property for free online. I post slideshows, record videos and write blog posts with stories and advice for small business owners, all with the ultimate goal of delivering lots of value to generate exposure and drive referrals.

I have often been asked “how do you prevent people from stealing your content?” And I’ve always answered the question by referring to one of my favorite fables. The way I see it, I’m like the goose that lays golden eggs: you can steal my “golden eggs” (AKA – my ideas, content and stories), but at the end of the day, I’m always one step ahead, producing more. In other words, you can take my content, but you can’t take my brain.

As it turns out, I was naive. Instead of sticking my head in the sand and ignoring several red flags – people lifting my content and using it without proper credit – I should’ve safeguarded my intellectual property more proactively.

Now that I’m working with a lawyer, I’ve learned that there are lots of ways to protect intellectual capital – from filing trademarks and submitting my work for copyright protection, to quickly addressing sticky situations rather than avoiding confrontation and turning a blind eye, confident that my “Golden Goose” theory was protection enough. While now I’m well on my way to being protected, I could’ve saved a significant amount of time, energy and heartache (not to mention money!) had I acted sooner.

My point is: If you make money from your ideas, intellectual capital, proprietary systems, processes or content, then you, too, should consider protecting yourself NOW rather than waiting for a rude wakeup call like the one I got.

Talk to a lawyer (if you want a referral to mine, let me know, he’s AWESOME) and find out what you can do to protect yourself.

Cheers to your success!!

Michelle Villalobos
(vee – ya – low – bos)
(888) 531-3830



Reposted from: 90 Tiny Tips to Build Your Personal Brand

Personal branding isn’t something you can just sit down and work on for a day and then forget about. Rather, personal branding is built in small pieces, as your day-to-day actions all add up to the brand that is you. That’s exactly why we’ve found so many small tips that can help you build your personal brand, taking things one tiny step at a time. Read on, and we’ll share 90 tips that can help you slowly but steadily build your personal brand.

Finding Your Niche

Personal branding is all about figuring out who you are and how you want to project your image. Use these tips to help identify what you’re really all about.

  1. Consider what makes you different When determining your niche, you should think about what makes you different from other brands out there.
  2. Identify your primary product Think about what you have to offer others, whether it’s a service, resource, or special ability.
  3. Find out what your talents are Consider what your talents are, what you’ve been recognized for and what you’re better at than most people.
  4. Think about how others identify you Take a look at your brand attributes and confirm that your brand matches what others would say about you.
  5. Do something remarkable Instead of playing it self and sticking to what you know, do something that’s worthy of taking notice.
  6. Identify your core values Share what really matters to you in order to identify what your core values are.
  7. Be unique Don’t feel like you need to copy another person’s brand. Be unique and stand out.
  8. Think about your passions Identify the things and ideas that you love, and identify your passions.
  9. Ask colleagues and friends to sum up your professional image Get a true reflection of what you’re all about by asking others to define you.

Creating A Message

Follow these tips to find out how you can share the personal branding message you have created.

  1. Physically make a message Write a paragraph and tag line that tells your story and emphasizes your specialty and talents.
  2. Share your message Once you have your message, be sure to actually share it with someone.
  3. Be authentic Don’t create a message that’s about someone else: be true to yourself.
  4. Control your message Don’t be too many different things to too many people. Stick to your primary message and focus on that.
  5. Find your target audience Consider who you really want to be talking to, and use your target audience to define what kind of presence you want to create for your brand.
  6. Know your audience Think about to whom you’re directing your personal brand, and communicate your messages appropriately.
  7. Be yourself Let your personality shine through and show the real authentic “you.”
  8. Use the right vocabulary Communicate with your audience using the right words from the industry so you can show your understanding of what’s going on.


Use personal branding to establish yourself as a trusted professional in your industry with the help of these tips.

  1. Be useful In everything you do, take a moment to consider how you are being useful to others.
  2. Live what you say Have a trustworthy, transparent, and educated voice to build your credibility.
  3. Be trustworthy Be careful not to offer anything you can’t provide, and deliver on what you’ve promised.
  4. Believe in your brand Commit to and invest in the ideas that support your brand.
  5. Create a portfolio of successes Showcase your past work, get testimonials, and do whatever you can do show off how great you are.
  6. Find and share great content Create a buzz around your own personal brand by finding great content and sharing them with others.
  7. Create a visual hook Find a memorable visual hook that people will enjoy and remember you by.
  8. Find out what other leaders are doing right Find the experts and leaders in your profession, and see what they are doing to promote their brands.
  9. Cultivate a personal style Select clothing that represents you and makes you stand out from the crowd in an attractive way.
  10. Be a leader Lead by helping people, and use leadership to grow your influence.
  11. Get featured in the media Find opportunities to be featured in the media, possibly creating even more opportunities for exposure and credibility.
  12. Show your confidence Don’t be arrogant, but be sure to project confidence so that others will be comfortable with you.
  13. Contribute to Q&A sections LinkedIn, eHow, About.com, and lots of forums offer opportunities for sharing your expertise.
  14. Be a speaker Much more effective than just attending, speaking at events shares the opportunity for showcasing your expertise.
  15. Be consistent Make sure your resume, LinkedIn, and Facebook are all saying the same thing.
  16. Win awards First, do work that’s worthy of awards, and be sure to apply for awards in your field. This can bring lots of recognition and credibility to your personal brand.
  17. Take a writing class The way you write has a major impact on how you are perceived, so take a writing class to make sure you’re getting it right.
  18. Stay on top of trends Educate yourself and stay on top of newly emerging trends in your industry.
  19. Back everything up with proof Share objective proof to back up broad statements, using numbers, dates, statistics, and more.
  20. Toot your own horn Publicize awards, achievements, and anything else that’s remarkable so that people actually know about it.


Keep personal branding from taking over your life with these tips that will help you streamline your efforts.

  1. Interact effectively Give yourself a time window for interaction so that you don’t spend all day networking and using social media.
  2. Determine where to invest your energy Building a brand is a major undertaking, and there’s only so much you can do in a day. Think about where you really want to invest your energy in brand building.
  3. Be brief State your value quickly and in bite sized chunks, or you run the risk of droning on and becoming forgettable.

Online Presence

Maintain an online presence that reflects who you are with the help of these tips.

  1. Own your domain Register your name or unique URL to project a more professional image.
  2. Have a great website Your website is still like a virtual lobby, offering a jumping off point for your entire online presence.
  3. Learn about SEO Search engine optimization might sound a little scary and daunting, but in reality, it’s actually quite easy, as long as you’re creating quality content. Taking the time to do SEO right can make all the difference when making your brand stand out.
  4. Keep your personal and company brand separate Establish yourself as a person, rather than a company, so that you don’t limit the power of your personal brand. This is especially helpful if you may not be with the company forever.
  5. Be a polite emailer Check your grammar, etiquette, and writing skills so that you’re communicating like a professional.
  6. Pay attention to your email address Your email address offers a significant opportunity for building your brand, especially if you use your real name.
  7. Do your best to lock down your name online Whether you have a common name or an unusual one, put out as much quality content as you can, with your name one it, so that you can better control your online presence.
  8. Find out where you are online Do a Google search to check in on your online presence to see you you’re doing and if you need to make any changes.
  9. Monitor your online brand Carefully keep an eye on what is being said about you online, and make corrections as needed.


Get connected and establish your brand with others by following these tips.

  1. Find relevant people Seek out the recommendations of colleagues, check out Twitter, and more to find relevant people that you should be connecting with.
  2. Join industry associations Meet up with people who can help you build your brand and career by joining industry associations.
  3. Be generous with your time Take time to do charitable work and go beyond the call of duty.
  4. Say yes more often Accept more invitations and go to more events, finding opportunities and taking advantage of ways to explore and experience.
  5. Have business cards Even if you don’t have a job, create business cards with your contact information to share with others who want to contact and remember you.
  6. Do your research Before any networking event, be sure to know who is going and what will be discussed so that you’re well prepared.
  7. Be accessible Let people know you’re out there, and that they can reach you on a regular basis.
  8. Don’t miss out on events Attend conferences, seminars, and other events to get out there and shake hands and meet other relevant people.
  9. Ask for testimonials Ask other people to recommend you for your expertise, and then be sure to publish what they’ve said about you.
  10. Be an active alumni Make the most of where you went to school by joining the alumni association and taking advantage of networking events.
  11. Show support for others Be passionate about helping other people when they need it.
  12. Learn how to introduce yourself Be ready to communicate who you are with others, concisely sharing the answer to “Tell me about yourself.”
  13. Get connected with passionate people Find other people who live passionately, and get together with them regularly for inspiration.
  14. Take guest blogging opportunities Extend your reach beyond your immediate network by taking opportunities to guest blog and share your expertise.
  15. Promote others rather than yourself Instead of spending all your time promoting yourself, take the time to point out what others are doing really well.

Job Hunting

These personal branding tips are especially relevant for job hunters.

  1. Work for free Your experience is worth its weight in gold, so when it comes to getting a job, any past experience can really pay off, even work you’ve done for free.
  2. Create a value statement Highlight your values and strengths to get the attention of a hiring manager.
  3. Put your resume online Add social features, photos, and more to your photo by putting it online.
  4. Quantify your results Prove your value by showing quantified outcomes.

Social Media

Follow these tips for great ideas in building your personal brand through social media.

  1. Carefully consider which tools you want to use If you can’t effectively use a social media tool, there’s little point to having it at all. A poorly managed social media presence can be worse than not having one in the first place.
  2. Listen up and stay in the loop Don’t be one sided: be sure to listen and respond to what others are saying.
  3. Fill out your profile completely Fill out all of the information fields to promote everything important about yourself.
  4. Go out and find new followers New followers will find you, but you can build your presence much faster by seeking them out yourself.
  5. Listen first See what others are saying on social networks, and even set up Google Alerts to listen in on how social networks are working before you get started with them.
  6. Engage and interact Participate in the back and forth of social media, engaging with others and interacting with content.
  7. Create multiple streams Be ubiquitous, creating an online presence on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and more, as many as you can reasonably maintain on a regular basis.
  8. Be adaptable Social media is constantly changing, so always be ready to adapt to new developments with a consistent approach.
  9. Don’t forget videos Video projects can pay off in a big way and offer a great way to really showcase your brand.
  10. Manage and optimize your social media systems When creating your social media accounts, set them up so that they can be automatically updated, pushing to your blog, home page, and more.
  11. Stay interesting Don’t just set up social media and walk away: keep things interesting by writing, sharing videos, photos, and more.
  12. Curate content like it’s fine art Think carefully about how you share links, news, and resources, curating your content like a museum director might select works for an exhibit.
  13. Use the same profile photo Make your online presence easily recognizable by using the same profile photo everywhere.
  14. Use a consistent name, too Build recognition by using the same name in everything you do online, preferably one that is close to your actual name or profession.
  15. Schedule regular posts Stay on top of your online presence with scheduled tweets and blog posts, so you always have something new to share.
  16. Think before you Tweet Be careful not to write anything that’s embarrassing or offensive, or anything you wouldn’t get away with in any other professional setting.
  17. Keep everything PG Be careful not to post anything you wouldn’t want your grandma (or potential employers) to see.
  18. Point to your social media presence elsewhere Promote your social media presence everywhere, on your website, blog, and even email.
  19. Bring offline relationships online Ask your “real life” friends if they are on Twitter or Facebook.
  20. Blog your voice on the web Blogging is a great way to find natural traffic without too much marketing effort.
  21. Don’t give away too much personal information Be careful not to over-share information or be inflammatory when building your brand.
  22. Make some accounts private If you feel the need to share things online that aren’t professionally appropriate, be sure to make those accounts private.

The Big CLOSE.

Ever wonder how you got to where you are?

Today I was thinking about that…

When I was a kid, every year we’d visit my cousins’ house in Chicago. My family would drive out from Longmont, Colorado and stay there for a couple of weeks, during which time my (indulgent) teenage cousins and I would plan and execute our annual Talent Show in their basement.

The Talent Show featured your standard musical, dance and gymnastic lineup… mostly on roller skates. My mom still has a picture of me at 8 years old in pom-pom pigtails and overalls roller skating in circles around the “audience” (our parents), singing “Tomorrow” from Annie. At right is a picture of me posing before a gymnastic performance.

My talent show duties included: talent recruitment, ordering the numbers, hand-crafting invitations, designing costumes, spreading the word, and getting the parents to attend.

Ah, the glory days…

So no surprise, I guess, that nowadays my favorite time of the year (twice a year, actually) is Summit SeasonThe Women’s Success Summit (May 17th & 18th) is my grown-up version of the talent show. The Summit brings together South Florida’s most ambitious, talented and successful women (and men!) to inspire, educate and ELEVATE the business community.

The theme? The Big CLOSE – all focused around the principles of selling – selling yourself, your ideas, your products, your services. (And by the way, we are ALL selling SOMETHING.)

Clear your calendar, friends, this is one event you must attend. Personally, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. And yes, men ARE welcome to attend, and in fact, several often do!

Aside from the phenomenal content and national powerhouse speakers (check out the lineup here: www.WomensSuccessSummit.com), we have new and exciting sponsorship initiatives for businesses that want to engage 800 upscale, professional and highly influential women over 2 whole days. Check out the sponsorship deck here. Or contact Jessica Lurie for details (888) 531-3830, jessica@mivistainc.com.

By the way, I’m SO excited to announce our new venue, The Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, (YAY!!!) and our partner, Chispa Marketing, that is producing this Summit.

This Summit will deliver game-changing strategies, foster powerful relationships and inspire those oh-so-important “a-ha” moments to help women like me elevate themselves beyond where they are today. Take a look at some of the amazing speakers and sessions we have lined up, and prepare to be blown away…