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Salma Sheriff is an Business Coach, Brand Strategist ad International Best-selling Author. She is an Engineering postgraduate from The Nilgiris, following her passion for Design & Coaching to help other entrepreneurs live their Dream Life with a Business they Love!
She started here Entrepreneurial journey through blogging and selling crochet products. With the clarity and realization of the importance of a Powerful Brand and Online Presence and with a mission to help young and uprising Women Entrepreneurs, she merged her passion and to start her own Brand Strategy and Web Design Studio from home.
Salma now helps Passionate Women Entrepreneurs worldwide to build and scale a Profitable & Automated business while being location independent. She has built a community of over 1000 entrepreneurs worldwide where she shares her Business Journey, strategies and encourages others to overcome fear and build a Strong Identity.
She is an award-winning Blogger & Entrepreneur and has been featured in various websites for her work, some of which may include, “ICICI Women Achiever Award”, “Entrepreneur of the Month”, “Top 5 blogger in India”, “Social Influencer” and many more. She has also partnered with the Top Entrepreneurs in her industry and published 2 co-authored books.
Salma is truly an inspiration to young women to pursue education, finding true purpose in life, to follow one’s passion, act and to never let go of their Dreams. Her Passion and Dedication has helped her Business reach globally and her work has been featured in several Podcasts, Magazines and Websites.
Some of her features include:
ICICI Women Achiever Award – by ICICI Bank
Entrepreneur of the Month – by Open Designs, Chennai
Top 5 Art and Craft Blogger – by BlogAdda
Social Influencer – by Better Homes and Garden, India
Top 30 Under 30, Creative Category – by Social Samosa
Entrepreneur Feature – by Smart Indian Woman
CONNECT WITH SALMA
Amy Demone: Welcome to today’s episode. I am very, very excited to be talking with the wonderful Salma Sheriff. Welcome!
Salma Sheriff: Thank you, Amy. Thank you so much for having me.
Amy Demone: It’s a pleasure to have you on the show. I would love for us to start this chat with you just letting the audience know what it is that you do.
Salma Sheriff: Absolutely. I’m a business coach and a brand strategist, and I help women entrepreneurs and bloggers build a strong foundation online through profitable and automated business while being location independent. And I also have design brand that connects and websites that convert.
Salma Sheriff: I am an engineering post-graduate from India, and here I am following my passion for design and coaching by helping other entrepreneurs and bloggers live their life with a business they love.
Amy Demone: I love that. I love that you’ve put so many years into engineering, but you’re like, “You know what? This is my passion.” It’s so wonderful. I know a lot of entrepreneurs, we have that story where we, like me, I studied political science. I have a lot of friends that did something totally unrelated. One was in the last year of medical school. All this stuff, so congratulations on following what it is that you really want to do, because it takes a lot of balls to do that.
Salma Sheriff: Yes. Actually I started off, you wouldn’t believe, i started off my business right after my post graduation, and it was nothing to do with what I learned in college. I started off selling crochet products. I was blogging about it, about crafts and crochet and everything DIY, because I absolutely loved it. I had so much love towards it. I was really passionate about it. I started doing it. I felt it was this opportunity to develop a business from my passion [blank 00:02:11] I took advantage of the opportunity that was in front of me and I immediately started my own business. Slowly and steadily, I also wanted to merge my education with my passion, that’s why, along with my crochet business, by the end of 2016, I started my web-designing and branding studio, along with coaching.
Amy Demone: That’s awesome. And it’s so funny how what could be considered a hobby at the beginning has turned into something so much more awesome and beautiful and empowering and just, you’re getting to live life on your own terms. And I think-
Salma Sheriff: Absolutely.
Amy Demone: And that’s just so wonderful and I love it.
Salma Sheriff: Thank you.
Amy Demone: I’m very happy for you. I want to draw back to what you’re talking about, a brand strategist, a business coach. The one thing I’ve noticed in the past, it’s always been relevant, but I’m finding it very … I’m not quite sure what the word I’m looking for is, but I’ve seen it everywhere. Everyone’s throwing out brand, even the word brand, it’s such a buzzword. Even I’m saying it, and I’m like, “I don’t know why I’m saying this.” I do know why I’m saying it, but I would love to know, as a brand strategist, what does the word brand mean to you?
Salma Sheriff: For me, branding is literally everything your business is and that you are in your business. I know this sounds weird, but it actually is true. Beyond just a memorable logo, your brand consists of everything that your business is about. Before I dive right into what actual branding is, if you have a good branding, it actually increases the value of your business, it provides you motivation and direction, and also helps you acquire clients and referrals and so much more.
Salma Sheriff: There’s a misconception that when they hear the word branding, people think it’s something to do with colors or just the logo. But it’s not that. It’s not just your logo, it’s not just the colors you use on your website, it’s everything. It represents people’s perception of your business, reputation, advertising, along with logo, along with the virtual representation that you have, which also has to do with your vision, your mission, your long-term goals of your business, what your business is about, what services you’re offering, who your target audience is, and what you’re helping your clients achieve. All of this comprises of your branding, and you need to be clear on what exactly your business is, what the services your business offers, who your target audience is and who you’re targeting, and finally, what you help your clients achieve through your services.
Amy Demone: Amazing.
Salma Sheriff: [inaudible 00:05:28] and the visual aspects, everything comprises of branding.
Amy Demone: Awesome. I love that you mention the fact that it comprises of literally every single interaction of what you do. I think that for people that don’t actually have that background in business, branding and all these hot topic words are kind of overwhelming at certain stages of your business. Branding is not a crazy word. You get into online business, you’ve heard of brand, you’ve heard of what it is, but for you to truly understand, and to be able to truly use it to your advantage, you have to understand how all encompassing it really is.
Salma Sheriff: Yes.
Amy Demone: You have this light bulb moment. I actually remember probably about a year and a half ago, where it just went after me, where I was like, “It isn’t just about picking colors and making my logo look cool. This is literally everything.” Thank you for giving such an in depth overview of what branding is, because that’s what it is to me, too. I feel like everyone who is successful in this aspect of the business has a similar understanding of that.
Salma Sheriff: Yes.
Amy Demone: It’s 2018 now, I can’t believe it. Online businesses are popping up overnight. The gig economy is really growing, which is wonderful, but that adds an added challenge, because we need to get our brand out into the market. I would love to know from your point of view, what is the best way to truly get your brand out into the crazy inter web that exists?
Salma Sheriff: Especially when you are a service provider, you are literally the face of your brand, the face of your business. It is very important to make your target audience, or your clients to understand, that your company is run, not by a robot, but actually by a business entrepreneur, a business woman. You need to be consistent and you need to be visible. Your business and your messaging has to be clear and you have to be visible and consistent. This is what I always tell my clients. If you are not out there online, nobody is going to recognize you and no one is going to purchase from you.
Salma Sheriff: You need to start being visible and by being visible, not come once in a week or once in two weeks and post online. It’s not that. You need to be consistent, at least every single day, you need to be posting or messaging or at least coming out live and talking to your audience about what your services are and what you offer about your business, about your journey. This is the first thing: you need to be consistent and you need to be visible.
Salma Sheriff: If you haven’t yet talked about it and you’re not yet started working on it, it’s time to start working on it and being consistently visible. That’s one thing I’d like to emphasize on. This actually goes with me as well, a very good example. When I started off in my service-based business, I was actually struggling to find clients. It was really difficult to find clients. When I came out online, and when I saw there were so many Facebook groups online, everybody were posting about themselves, about their business journey, they were posting, “See, I had this dinner today. I went out here.” It’s not just about posting content, it’s about building relationships as well.
Salma Sheriff: If a person only knows you and knows what you are, what your services are, and what you do, only then that person will trust you and might purchase from you or might hire you for that particular matter. You need to start building relationships before you start acquiring clients. That’s very important.
Salma Sheriff: The other thing it does, is you need to build trust, as I said. One thing that will help you do that is a professional looking logo and visual elements. What it does is it builds trust and it builds credibility. People are more likely to purchase from a business that appears polished and legitimate. Not just that, it also helps you bring new customers and referrals as well. Just to be short, if you need to start growing online, you need to be consistent, you need to be visible, you need to have a clear vision for your business. You need to be clear on whom you’re gonna target, what your services are, and work towards that.
Amy Demone: Amazing. That was a lot of goodness right in the little answer. Thank you for that. I hope that everybody listening will just, if they get one thing out of this interview, it will be consistency, because that is the one thing. Especially with the algorithms changing everyday, it feels like they change everyday these days.
Amy Demone: If you’re engaged, if you’re consistent, you are gonna be showing up at the top of the page instead of XY and Z. It’s super important. We all know, hopefully we all know, about paid ways of advertising. We’ve got Google Ad Words these days, we’ve got Facebook ads, Instagram ads, Pinterest ads, I’ve never been on Twitter, so I don’t know if they do ads, but I’m assuming they do something. One thing that we kind of forget about, at least I do, at times, is the power of organic marketing. Before we jump into that, what I would love for you to just give a quick overview of what organic marketing is for the audience.
Salma Sheriff: Absolutely. Organic marketing is nothing but an act of getting your customers to come to you naturally over time through search-engine optimization, or through your website, or through social media. Instead of artificially, via paid links or ads or boosted posts. Organic marketing is nothing but just getting clients without even having to pay for advertisements and stuff. There are so many ways and strategies that you can, you can drive traffic and get customers or potential leads in your own business. Before diving into ads, this is the only way that I was focusing on, that is organic marketing, to put myself out there, to publish my business, to generate potential leads, and also to get clients.
Salma Sheriff: Everything was through organic marketing. Only at a later point of time, I started utilizing ads.
Amy Demone: It is really interesting that you talk about that, because the one thing that I’m noticing with a lot of people, especially around this point, in their business, when they’re just starting to get some momentum, they’re getting into the idea of building their list, via email, Instagram or whatever. They’re like, “Oh, I need to do Facebook ads! I need to do this! I need to do that!” But they’re kind of forgetting about organic marketing.
Amy Demone: Organic marketing is called organic marketing because it was one of the first ways to market yourself. You just put some pictures up, you worked on your website, you worked on content. I’m making it sound a lot easier than it is. But you know, you get people to come to you. I think it’s really important, especially in 2018, with these, and I talk about this, I feel like in every episode, these dang algorithms, to really put a big focus, especially if you’re just starting out. You don’t have the cashflow to sink two, three grand a month into Facebook ads to build your list. Organic marketing is really a great way to go when you don’t have that influx of cash at the beginning.
Salma Sheriff: Yes.
Amy Demone: My question to you is in the last year or so, looking into the trends of the rest of 2018, what do you see as the top organic marketing strategies?
Salma Sheriff: One way that never gets old, is search engine optimization. If you have a website, if you have a blog, it’s definitely important that your website, or your blog, is secured or SEO optimized. By this, I mean the key words that you utilize in your website, everything is optimized. So whenever a person types something about you, or about, for example, if I’m a web designer and a brand strategist, type something about me or if I have blogged about something and they type, you might come up in the search result. You need to also submit your website to Google, so that whenever they search about you, Google actually indexes your website and it comes up as a search result. It’s very, very important. SEO is a broad topic. I now it’s very difficult for most of us. But it’s considered very, very good, because you don’t have to pay much as well SEO, if you have SEO tools or plugins with your website, all you have to do is just make it optimized [blank 00:15:50], so that’s actually a huge topic, but it’s a very important topic. It’s very, very essential that you at least look into what SEO is and how important it is for your business.
Salma Sheriff: The other way is through social media. That’s my number one go-to for organic marketing and to find clients. Especially Facebook, Facebook has been my number one source of leads and clients, especially through Facebook groups. I am actually a part of a number of Facebook groups, but I’m consistent and visible only in a few. With that, I was able to generate leads and get clients as well. If you’re still not a part of Facebook groups, I recommend selecting few Facebook groups that you really like, whom you think that your target audience might be, and then be consistent with your messaging in that.
Salma Sheriff: Another thing that I highly recommend, especially again if you’re a service provider, LinkedIn also might be the best for you, because there you might get high-paying clients, and generate leads through that, so LinkedIn is amazing and you definitely have to try that.
Salma Sheriff: There are other ways. One other way is being a guest expert in podcasts like this, and doing guest blogging. What happens when you go as a guest in other podcasts and in other blogs, you are considered as an expert in that particular niche. You are actually positioning yourself as an expert in that. That’s an added advantage for you, so your audience or your clients might consider, “Okay, she’s a go-to person for this topic,” and they’ll definitely come back to you.
Amy Demone: Awesome. Thank you for that great insight. I hope that the audience has gotten a lot from you. Even I’m like, “Okay, LinkedIn, that’s interesting, that’s interesting.” I tend to fight a few social platforms, LinkedIn is one of them.
Amy Demone: Before we go on back into our businesses today, I would love to ask you one more question. I want to encompass both branding and organic marketing, and this is such a broad question that I’m going to ask, and I apologize. You can go in so many directions with it. In 2018, what is the best way for your brand to stand out?
Salma Sheriff: One thing is make it as unique as possible, but not with the colors and the logo, but with your messaging, because it’s gonna be you. The business is your reflection. You just have to be yourself. I can’t say anything more than this. Just be yourself. Be clear on your goals and focus on your target audience. With that, I want you to create content that actually attracts your target audience. Just think of you in that person, I know probably are someone, you’re actually targeting someone who is actually … you are someone like that a few years back. You need to think about yourself. What help would you require from somebody else, and based on that, creating content and branding your business and yourself around that is very important. Just be yourself. Don’t try to copy others, not just the logo or the colors from others, but also messages and the live streams what others take. Just because one person is doing live streams every single day doesn’t mean that you have to do every single day.
Salma Sheriff: You just be yourself. You want to do live streams weekly once? Just do it. You want to have a podcast? Just do it. So whatever you feel right, just do it.
Salma Sheriff: As I initially mentioned, Amy, branding is not just the logo. It’s everything else combined as well, like your messaging, being consistent, your vision. You have to definitely be clear on that and work towards achieving your goal and helping your clients as well. This is the only way that you can make your brand stand out, by being yourself.
Amy Demone: Wonderful. Well thank you so much for this. Awesome insights Salma. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. I would absolutely adore it if you could leave the audience with some wonderful words or wisdom.
Salma Sheriff: Absolutely.
Salma Sheriff: Don’t ever be afraid to start small. If you just have a dream and a passion towards something, stop dreaming and start implementing immediately. I always say this to myself and to my clients, don’t quit.