Category: Brand Strategy

24
Oct

Making Your Brand Irreplaceable

Finding that special ingredient that makes your brand irreplaceable is tough work. If you don’t put yourself in the shoes of your customer, that job turns from tough to impossible.

Job #1 is to turn your brand inside out, understanding that one simple answer that every customer seeks:

What’s in it for me?

Think of your own life. Which brands are such an important part of who you are that there are no brand substitutes?

As I went through this exercise myself, I immediately thought of the 2012 Excedrin recall. That devastating recall in which every single bottle was removed from every single shelf in every single state. Excedrin is my standby. It is the medication I turn to when migraines put my head in a vise and won’t let go. For me, there is just no substitute. I frantically searched through purses, suitcases and drawers stockpiling Excedrin so I could manage to cobble together a cure until that jubilant day when the brand magically reappeared on shelves.

I thought about the other brands in my life that are irreplaceable.
screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-5-59-04-pm

So, here is the $6 million question:

What emotional benefit does your brand promise its customers?

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19
Sep

Are You Using an A.C.E. Moderator?

Over the course of my 20+ year marketing career, first as a client, then as an agency planner, I have participated in hundreds of focus groups, brainstorms and interviews from both sides of the glass. Throughout these years, I have learned that you can train someone to be a good moderator, but that the skills required to become an A.C.E. moderator are innate … they are hard-wired into who the person is at their very core.

ace

Selecting the right moderator is the first, and most important, step in truly understanding what customers think and feel. A great moderator is the foundation of a great strategy.

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Authentic. Curious. Empathetic.
Three words used to describe Sue Northey’s moderating style.

sue_northey-sepia

Sue has spent over 20 years uncovering unexpected insights which inspire communications and build brand affinity. She is a skilled communicator, having moderated over 750 interviews, focus groups and workshops in order to brainstorm new ideas, understand consumer motivations, evaluate new products, assess brand equity and evaluate communications. One of Sue’s specialties is leading branding workshops with multidisciplinary teams, working collaboratively to understand and reposition brands.

Sue has spearheaded efforts for well over 100 consumer, business-to-business and nonprofit brands. Her work experience encompasses the client, agency, academic and entrepreneurial sides of business. Her previous leadership roles at a major CPG company, a notable advertising agency and a D1 university all prepared her to launch her own consulting firm, Branding Breakthroughs, in 2015.

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01
Sep

5 Reasons B2B Brands Should Be on Social Media

One of the most common questions I get as a brand strategist is whether a B2B brand should be on social media. There is a common misconception that social media only benefits consumer brands. The truth is … social media can equally benefit both consumer and business-to-business brands if a clearly thought out and well written social media strategy is in place. There are at least five solid strategic reasons why B2B companies should be on social media.

One.

The single most important benefit of social media for B2B marketers is the opportunity to increase awareness of your brand. Consider the following awareness-to-loyalty continuum. Without awareness, a prospect doesn’t even know you exist, so how could they consider purchasing you? Social media is a cost-effective means to increase awareness among individuals you believe are your core prospects.

Awareness – Loyalty Brand Continuum

Two.

As a B2B business, you are not reaching out to the 321 million people that live in the United States … a feat that a consumer brand may have to realistically consider. Instead, you are reaching out to a finite group of individuals. The key is to discover which social media channels your prospective target is frequenting. Gone are the days when the number of followers you have on social media is the lynch pin to success. If you have 500 followers but they are exactly the type of individuals you are trying to connect with, that lower number of followers may be a virtual goldmine.

Three.

Each channel serves a purpose and, therefore, should be selected on the basis of your specific needs. Many articles talk about the big three for B2B: LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. While these channels may represent a good starting point, they may not be the most appropriate channels for your business.

  • LinkedIn provides a perfect forum to connect with other like-minded individuals in your industry. Join a special interest group to talk about industry trends, ask customers to endorse your brand or to write a recommendation, publish original content to establish your company as a thought leader or find young professionals who share your company’s passion to hire for that open position.
  • Twitter is a terrific channel to establish thought leadership by using industry hashtags or a special hashtag you have created to showcase something specific to your company. It is also a great way to remain plugged in to industry news and happenings. Follow industry leaders to understand which issues and topics are top-of-mind and tweet relevant and important topics to individuals that will begin to turn to you for advice.
  • Facebook is a good forum to showcase your corporate culture, engage with customers on a personal level and show a little bit of the fun side of your personality.
  • YouTube is a perfect platform for brand storytelling or how-to videos that help your brand come alive.
  • While the jury may still be out on the overall effectiveness of Google+ as a networking forum, there is one thing that is irrefutably true – it elevates your brand in Google search, providing an easier way for current and prospective customers to find you.
  • If you work on a particularly visual brand, perhaps Instagram or Pinterest will provide you the perfect forum to connect with others looking for infographics, how-to pictures or suggestions on how to use your brand in unexpected ways.

Four.

How do you stand out from your competitors? As President Mike Crawford of marketing firm M/C/C points out, “As a B2B business using social media, your goal is to position the company as an industry leader.” If you have a blog on your website and are struggling to get people to read it, social media provides a forum to broadcast your content. So much of what is shared on social media is regurgitated information, so original content can really break through the clutter and establish your brand as a thought leader, helping to build credibility and trust in your overall brand.

Five.

But, the most convincing reason to use social media as a B2B company is that, plainly and simply, it works. Research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute shares a number of very impactful statistics.

  • Over four-in-five B2B marketers (86%) use content marketing to reach their targets and social media is a prime way to distribute that content.
  • Over half of B2B marketers use five social media platforms – LinkedIn (91%), Twitter (88%), Facebook (84%), YouTube (72%)  and Google+ (64%) and usage of all these channels is on the rise.
  • While there is certainly room to optimize their usage of social media, B2B marketers believe that LinkedIn (63%), Twitter (55%) and YouTube (48%) have proven to be effective for their businesses.

Should you make a decision to move forward with social media, do not tiptoe into the effort. Making a half-hearted attempt to engage in social media can set you up for greater damage than doing nothing at all. (See: Are You A Drive-By Social Media Marketer)

Drive-by MarketerThroughout this process, please keep in mind that building a loyal social media following takes time. Services that offer you thousands of followers for a small price merely populate your follower count with individuals that are not your core target.

Evaluate. Plan. Provide adequate resources. Take the time to execute properly. You will not regret it.

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Branding Breakthroughs Social Media

Twitter     Facebook    LinkedIn     Google+     Instagram     Pinterest     Tumblr

 

 

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11
Jul

Are Snackable Visuals Seductive? You Decide.

According to Socially Sorted, Snackable Visual Content describes “images that are digestible, highly shareable and can easily cross social platforms and drive traffic.”

To illustrate the value of snackable visuals, let’s take a fact and illustrate it in three different ways. Then you judge which is most captivating.

Here is our fact:

When you add a visual to a tweet, you can boost retweets by 35%.

OPTION 1:

Adding a photo to your tweet can boost retweets by 35%. (HubSpot)

OPTION 2:

The Power of Visuals

OPTION 3:

Twitter

Which Is Most Effective

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10
Jul

Is Brand Strategy Just BS?

In my work at Branding Breakthroughs, one thing has become abundantly clear … people think they understand Brand Strategy, but they really don’t.

So, just what is Brand Strategy and why does it matter?

What Brand Strategy Is Not

Perhaps it is best to begin by explaining what Brand Strategy is not.

  • It is not your logo.
  • It is not your website.
  • It is not your product.
  • It is not your brand name.
  • It is not that fancy newsletter you publish.

What Is Brand Strategy?

Think of it as the frame of your house. The 2x4s that make up the walls, the roof, the ceilings, the floors. These important pieces form the foundation of your house. If you use inferior materials or hastily construct it, your house may not withstand normal wear-and-tear; worse yet, it definitely will not hold strong when the high winds of that unexpected storm hit.

Which Questions Do I Need Answer?

Here are some of the questions you should answer in order to create a compelling Brand Strategy.

Brand Strategy Questions

So, now perhaps you understand that BS stands for Brand Strategy and that it is a really important building block for your brand.

 

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24
Jun

How To Use Brand Magic To Increase Sales

When I set out to create Branding Breakthroughs™, I decided to scope out my competition. After all, they are branding and marketing gurus, so they must have incredible websites, right?

Marketers Don’t Necessarily Brand Themselves Well

But, my research left me a bit stymied.

While I certainly found some great marketers out there, I was shocked at the number of websites that entirely missed the whole point of brand strategy.

Tons of copy. No differentiation. Lack of focus. Marketing-speak. Inconsistency. Old-fashioned imagery.

In a word:

a

Turned To Social Media For Answers

So, I put the question out into the social sphere.

“Did you do for your own brand what you do for your clients?”

While some readily acknowledged a hearty YES!, others openly admitted they wanted to focus on their clients rather than themselves.

Wait … what?

How can you possibly hope to engage prospective clients if you don’t practice what you preach?

First and foremost, you have to get your own brand right. Even Psychology Today offers the advice,

“Love yourself before you love others.”

The Secret Sauce Behind Branding

So ask yourself.

  1. What keeps my customers up at night?
  2. What makes our brand different?
  3. Where is the white space in our category?
  4. What kind of personality do we have?

Brand Ecosystem 6.24.15

It’s Hard Work, Not Magic

Clients often look at me and think I have some magic up my sleeve. I throw a little of this and a little of that into a magic black box and *PRESTO* out comes the perfect brand ecosystem. But you and I both know, there isn’t a whole lot of magic that goes on. It’s just good old-fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves, noodle-it kind of hard work.

Phase 1 Discovery Process

My Advice To You

  • Take the time to talk to your employees about what they see as your brand strengths and weaknesses. What do they wish you did differently?
  • Look at everything you share with your customers. Is it focused or all over the map? Can your competitors say the same things?
  • Speaking of competitors, analyze their digital presence. What are they saying to differentiate themselves from you? Hint: Don’t play in their sandbox if you don’t have to.
  • Look at the media attention you’re receiving. Is it consistent with what you say about yourself? Does it play out your point of differentiation?
  • Convene a multidisciplinary team for an afternoon. Talk about your brand. I mean, really talk about your brand. Ask the tough questions and hang around until you’ve figured out the answers.
  • Now lock yourself and a few trusted allies in a room. Use everything you’ve learned to carefully craft your brand ecosystem.

It’s Hard Work, But It’s Worth It

If you want to create a meaningful, differentiated brand, do the work. You won’t regret it.  (Tweet this.)

It will be worth every single minute and every drop of sweat.

Don’t Want To Go Solo?

Feel free to drop me a line at Sue@BrandingBreakthroughs.com. I’d love to help you find the magic behind your brand.

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05
Jun

Are You A Drive-By Social Media Marketer?

According to Pew Research Center, 74% of internet users are on social networking sites. With numbers that high, it’s not surprising that 80% of Fortune 500 companies have a presence on social media (Source: Simply Measured).

74

But, just because companies and individuals have a Facebook or Twitter account doesn’t necessarily mean they are actively engaged. In fact, most social media marketers would likely agree that there is a whole lot of one-way communication going on in the social sphere.

  • You see a great article, you post it.
  • You hear some breaking news, you share it.
  • You see a great recipe, you pin it.

But, how often do you actually carry on a conversation with someone on social media? (Other than on your personal Facebook account, of course.)

Chances are … not very often.

So, why do 74% of internet users the world over even bother? Perhaps, for many, the answer is because ‘everyone’s doing it.’

This reminds me of a question my mom used to ask me when I was a kid. I would insist I needed a certain brand of jeans or specific style of shoes because – everyone sing along – “Everyone has them, Mom” to which she would promptly ask,

“If everyone else walked off a cliff, would you follow them?”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a huge proponent of social media. I believe it is a great channel to learn about new developments, to share your expertise with others and to nurture relationships with your customers.

But, here’s the rub.

Too many companies are on social media because ‘everyone’s doing it’ rather than because they have made a premeditated decision to meet their target in that space and to engage with them.

A study conducted by Convince & Convert revealed that 70% of consumer complaints on Twitter are actually ignored.

70%

I don’t know about you, but I find that statistic alarming.

In their article, “The Value of Complaints,” the author shares,

“96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, however 91% of those will simply leave and never come back.”

When you think about the ease of tweeting at a brand or the ability to easily vent frustrations on Facebook, social media instantly becomes an extremely important customer service channel. Perhaps, that 96% of non-complainers will begin to shrink as people turn to social media for quick solutions to their brand problems. To then be ignored, well, I think you know the ending to that story.

What is the moral to this story?

“If you are a drive-by social media marketer, you could be doing a greater disservice to your brand than if you were not on social media at all.”

Your mere presence on a site indicates a willingness to engage with customers. If you ignore their comments, you are not only missing a golden opportunity to connect with them, but also fueling a potentially volatile situation.

So, let me ask you … are you willing to walk off a cliff just because everyone is doing it?

If your answer is yes, perhaps you need to rethink your strategy.

 

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26
May

Little Golden Books Illustrate Why Visual Storytelling Is So Powerful

I want you to go back in time to your childhood days and remember one of your favorite books.

Got it?

Now put yourself back into the body of that five year old and snuggle in to listen to your favorite story.

You may recall being tucked in bed with mom or dad perched next to you, sitting on grandma’s cozy lap which was just right for your little body or curling up on the floor next to classmates as your kindergarten teacher picked up that book. As each read to you, they held the book up, showing you all the colorful and wonderfully imaginative pictures. Some may have brought the story to life even more with animated facial expressions and voices that imitated the characters they were reading.

Now I want you to envision that story being read to you once again … but this time I want you to imagine listening to the story with your eyes closed.

The story loses a bit of its punch, doesn’t it?

Why? Because the visuals – both from the book and from the person reading – were such an integral part of the storytelling process.

Perhaps without those pictures. you wouldn’t have been able to envision just how saggy the Saggy Baggy Elephant was.

a

Or how adorably cute The Poky Little Puppy was … even if he did get in a lot of trouble.

b

It is the visuals that truly animate the story, bringing it to life in a way that many of us could not do on our own. Without visuals, each of these stories may have faded from our memories over time. The creative pictures and illustrations that Little Golden Books provided to so many of us as children help us better understand why visual storytelling is so effective, particularly when inundated by a virtual sea of communications.

Research has shown that 65% of individuals are visual thinkers and the mind processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text (GT Ignite). We bring moments back to life much more rapidly through the images we collect and store in our brains.

So, is it really that surprising that visual mediums are the fastest growing of all social media channels? The following chart from Tech Crunch identifies the top three fastest growing social media platforms as Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram.  You can’t read a post lately without some mention of the power of visuals. Twitter is rife with posts on how visuals increase engagement with your tweets and LinkedIn recently launched a publishing platform that includes an image as an integral part of the post.

c

So, in this day of storytelling, remember that visuals can help bring your brand to life far more effectively than words alone.

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Check out Branding Breakthroughs visual content on our social channels.

Website     Pinterest     Twitter     Instagram

 

 

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22
May

Is The ‘Tupperware’ Home Party Business Model Dead?

Lia Sophia Announces Plans To Close

On Thursday, I received a letter from Lia Sophia (direct sellers of women’s quality costume jewelry), informing me that:

“Due to the challenges of our business model, we sadly and reluctantly decided to cease operations…”

At first, their declaration to close shop gave me pause; after all, they have been in business for over 40 years and thousands of women across the country proudly wear Lia Sophia necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings.

But, after thinking about it for a few minutes, I realized their decision really didn’t surprise me at all.

Tupperware Pioneers Direct Selling

Back in 1946, when Tupperware first pioneered direct selling, it was heralded as a novel way to reach women with a personalized brand message. An independent sales rep asked interested women to invite family, friends and neighbors to their homes. Amidst a backdrop of food, wine and conversation, the rep passionately connected with the women, telling them stories about her products, sharing tips among friends and answering their questions one-on-one. The women loved hearing the stories behind the products and enjoyed seeing which products their friends chose to buy.

It was a three-way deal that benefited all.

  1. The sales rep earned commission on the products sold.
  2. The hostess earned free products based on the total dollar sales of her party and the number of parties her friends booked.
  3. Her friends had a valid excuse to get together for an evening of fun, food and wine, plus they could buy new products, play games, win prices and take advantage of special deals.

This was word-of-mouth marketing at its best.

Direct Selling Explodes

As women warmed to the idea of buying products in the comfort of a home setting, the business model exploded. Joining Tupperware were a multitude of new products, ranging from makeup (Avon and Mary Kay) to food (Herbalife) to cookware (The Pampered Chef) to fragrances (Scentsy) to baskets (Longaberger) and everything in between. Invites to home parties doubled, tripled, quadrupled … especially if you were popular in your social circles.

Women Look For A Plausible Out

With the rapid influx of party invites showing up in their mailboxes, women increasingly began to think of home parties as annoying. Websites and blog posts exploded with advice on how to sidestep these parties, with titles like, How to say no to a home party held by friends selling stuff and Best way to decline ANOTHER party???? Women started inventing really creative excuses for why they were unavailable the night of the party, just so she wouldn’t hurt her friend’s feelings.

The tide had turned.

Life Is Just Too Busy

Added to the increased home party competition, life had just become exceedingly busier.

  • There were kids to taxi from basketball to school plays to Boy Scouts.
  • There was dinner to quickly put together between activities.
  • There was homework to help with, sometimes late in the evening.
  • There was the stress associated with balancing a family and a job.

Net net, there weren’t many minutes left to get together with the girls … and when those precious times did come around, the last thing anyone wanted to do was look at plastic bowls or yet another scented candle.

Amidst all this chaos, women found the best way to avoid buying products she didn’t need or want was to stay home.

Smartphones Grab Our Attention

Then, technology came knocking.

Women became obsessed with connecting with their friends through electronic means, rather than in person. When they did connect face-to-face, they were so busy snapping selfies and answering messages that their time together just wasn’t the same.

Multitasking had become the new reality.

The Wall Street Journal wrote an article a few years back titled, Just look me in the eye, already, in which the writer laments the loss of eye contact within our society. Today, everyone has their faces buried in their smartphones. Many have lost the fine art of actually connecting with each other.

Just imagine a 1980’s Lia Sophia or Tupperware party in today’s world. Do you think it’s possible that a roomful of women would actually talk to and engage with each other for the duration of a two-hour party rather than <GASP!> reading their Facebook messages and texting their friends?

Not likely.

The Face of Retail Changes

But, people are still buying products and services. So, how are they buying and what do they view as engaging?

Today’s shopping is different in so many ways.

  • Items can be easily purchased through one click on Amazon.
  • Etsy customizes products to match a person’s home or personality.
  • Brands are inviting consumer participation.
  • Consumers are using social media to compliment and criticize.

Today’s Millennials – those born between 1980 and 1999 – are seeking a totally different shopping experience, largely driven by technology and their ability to get anything they want without stepping foot outside their homes. They embrace novelty, self-expression and personalized experiences that invite them to participate in the brand and then provide the means to share their experiences with their friends via Instagram or Snapchat.

Here are a few examples of how shopping has evolved.

Adore Me takes lingerie shopping to a new level. By joining their monthly club, women of all shapes and sizes have access to over 500 styles of lingerie and swimwear delivered right to their doors. A quiz at the beginning of the relationship helps the company determine the types of lingerie a buyer will feel most comfortable in. Members are rewarded with free lingerie after their sixth purchase and never pay shipping fees.

Monthly subscriptions can also be secured with sampling companies like Ipsy who arrange partnerships with beauty companies like Smashbox, Urban Decay and Nicole by OPI. Stylists at Ipsy hand select exciting new products for its members to try each month. The products are sent to members in a collectible bag, at savings up to 70% off retail. Members can also watch tutorials on new products and win free items.

Pushing the experiential limits of body care products is Frank,  a coffee-based body scrub that targets skin conditions. Language used throughout the website is deliberately edgy – “get naked. get dirty. get rough. get clean.” Their blog shares ‘dirty talk’ with its readers, offering suggestions on how to use their products.

Capitalizing on the fresh and local trend are companies like Door To Door Organics which deliver seasonal food from local farmers right to your doorstep. Not going to be at home? No problem. Just leave a cooler. Fresh. Healthy. Local.

The Growler Station takes the authenticity of the beer you drink to a whole new level. Back in the late 1800s, men carried fresh beer from the local pub back to their homes in a small, galvanized pail. Today, patrons fill half-gallon glass bottles with freshly brewed craft beer themselves and take it home, effectively extending the pub experience to the sanctity of their own homes.

Are Any Home Parties Doing Well?

When it comes to home parties, one direct seller seems to be riding out the storm – sex toy parties. Although the concept has been around since the 1970s, its popularity didn’t really take off until a few decades later.

Direct sellers, like Pure Romance, take a previously frowned upon topic and encourage women to get comfortable with their sexuality.  Purely based on having fun, over the top and just a little bit naughty, these parties take talk of sex to an experiential level. It’s a modern day slumber party where girls can uninhibitedly talk about their needs in the bedroom without blushing or feeling shy.

These slumber parties may not be anything like those we saw back in 1978 on the movie, Grease, but perhaps that’s what makes them so special.

The Death of Direct Selling

Lia Sophia’s decision to close up shop may be a sign of things to come.

Or perhaps the in-home party just needs to be livened up a bit, similar to what companies like Pure Romance, Passion Parties and Intimate Expressions have created … an experiential event that invites social media chatter.

Only time will tell.

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06
May

8 Ways to Read Body Language To Understand Emotions

I was reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman the other day when a particular phrase gave me pause.

“…you think with your body, not only with your brain.”

As a career-long moderator, I have always felt energy when I walk into a focus group room. Within an instant, I can feel whether it’s going to be an easy conversation or a more difficult one. Over the years, I felt that, perhaps, I had just become attuned to people and their emotions. But, Kahneman’s book made me realize there are likely other forces at work in my speedy interpretation of people.

Namely, body language.

Perhaps, over the years, rather than accurately reading group energy, I had become highly skilled at quickly reading their body language. If you are a student of psychology, you learn that although people may think they are controlling the signs they are emitting with their face and body, that much of this occurs subconsciously and is, therefore, not under their control.

In fact, research conducted by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, reveals that 55% of communication occurs through body language cues, like; facial expressions, gestures and posture. (Source: The Nonverbal Group)

So, what are some of the more obvious cues that can help you understand what people are thinking … without uttering one word?

1. Microexpressions: Look at the forehead and eyebrows to detect small nuances that can show fear, disbelief or lying.

2. Eye Contact: Steady eye contact can indicate a desire to connect, while shifting eyes may suggest a desire to hide something.

3. Arms: When an individual crosses their arms, they may be indicating they are closed off to others or, perhaps, not receptive to a specific topic or person.

4. Twitching: Movement of legs, feet or arms can signify anxiousness, discomfort or intimidation.

5. Leaning: Positioning one’s body toward someone indicates attentiveness, while leaning away suggests disinterest.

6. Proximity: Being close generally indicates greater openness and warmth, although distance is also governed by cultural nuances.

7. Mirrored Actions: When someone mimics another’s actions, it generally indicates a desire to establish rapport.

8. Gestures: Passion for a topic is often shown via elaborate or expressive gestures.

Clearly, these are general rules-of-thumb that can vary from person to person; however, they can offer great insight into the emotions people are feeling … often subconsciously.

So, next time you are conversing with someone, listen with your eyes as much as you listen with your ears.

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