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Trust And Excuses

The next time you don’t quite manage to do what you said you’d do, send your apology and stop there. Don’t be tempted to say I’m sorry……and. Excuses actually don’t change how the other person is feeling about being let down by you. Making excuses simply justifies your inaction to you. Excuses don’t help you to make a better impression once you’ve broken your word.

Try ending the apology with a full stop. I’m sorry I didn’t email back yesterday {full stop, period}. Because everyone knows that if you’d really wanted to you’d have found a way around your dodgy internet connection, or the fact that your kids were home sick. Excuses don’t actually excuse.

Just like the members of a trapezing crew of an 18ft Skiff, what the person on the other end of that excuse really needs to know is that you’ll be there for them. Like you said you would.

Image by Ian Sanderson.

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What If Post-it Told A Different Story?

Everyone knows what Post-its do. You know they come in every colour, all sorts of shapes and sizes, easy peel and super sticky. And yet Post-it keeps telling you that stuff in its marketing. They tell you the things you already know about features and benefits. Stories that don’t mean much, that any brand could tell. The what not the why.

What if Post-it told the story from the inside out? What if 3M tapped into the meaning being made with its products, by showing you how and why Post-its are part of your story too?

We don’t simply want to benefit from the products we use, we want to believe in them too.

*Bonus brand strategy for 3M and Post-it*
Sign up for an account on Instagram and check out the 5,000+ stories being told about how people believe in your products there.

Image By Lia C

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How To Get Million Dollar Marketing For Just £3

The UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s just scored millions of dollars worth of marketing for £3 and the price of a postage stamp, by simply employing someone who gave a damn.

This is a heart warming story of a customer service employee who used his initiative, didn’t behave like a cog and treated a three year old girl with empathy.

What’s most incredible about this story is not that Chris did such a great job of sending out a caring human response, or that Sainsbury’s changed the name of their bread following a letter from a toddler, it’s that we’re so completely blown away by this. That it’s something so rare and precious the whole world remarks on it.

The truth is we get the sense that most businesses don’t give a damn anymore. My internet provider is quite happy to offer me a tech appointment in two weeks at the end of a 56 minute call (my third). We now consider this kind of disservice business as usual.

Stories like the ‘Giraffe Bread’ one and people like Chris who answered Lily’s letter, are so rare that they stand out a mile. And there’s your opportunity. In this day and age it might be harder to earn attention but it’s not that hard to be the best thing since sliced bread.
Image by Kit Logan.

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What Is A Brand?

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as, “A Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”

Brands are much more to us than designs and symbols that differentiate. There are an infinite number of definitions of a brand, here are just twenty.

A Brand Is

1. A promise.
2. The way we differentiate this from that.
3. Whatever the customer believes about a company.
4. A feeling created.
5. The tangible representation of personal or company values.
6. A set of expectations met.
7. The way a person or company communicates what they do and why they do it.
8. Trust built between a customer and a business.
9. A company asset.
10. Your word.
11. A set of unique benefits.
12. Reasons to buy, or buy into something.
13. A story we tell ourselves.
14. Communication with and without words.
15. A symbol of belonging.
16. Signals sent.
17. A waymarker.
18. The experience a customer has.
19. A complete field guide to a business.
20. The impression that’s left at the last interaction.

What’s your definition?

Image by Painted Book Lady.

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Keeping Your Promises

Communicating inbox to inbox, no longer being eye to eye, makes it easier to say no. The flip side is it also makes it easier to say yes. Interacting online makes giving your word and then breaking it in just a few hundred characters a lot less complicated. Excuses trip more easily off the keyboard, than off the tongue.

Keeping promises is the one thing you can do to differentiate yourself, right now, this minute, for free. No marketing budget or strategic planning required. Simply act like the majority doesn’t.

Do what you say you’re going to do.

Don’t commit to something unless you know you can follow it through.
Show up. Start. Lead. Do.

Keep your promises. Not just to others but to yourself too.

Image by Marcin Ejsmont.

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Most People

Most people believe that the day starts at nine and ends at five.
That you need the permission of others to start.
Most people believe that rules are made by others.
That their horizon is a definite line.
Most people believe that work must be difficult.
That life begins in the two weeks when they aren’t working.
Most people are afraid to take a place at the front of the line.
To listen to themselves first.
Most people choose not to embrace things they cannot change.
And accept those they can.
Most people think they long to be free.
Even though they don’t know what makes them feel free at all.
Most people don’t choose.
Or get to be the most they can be.
Most people are just like you.
When you’re not being most people.

Image by Atila TheHun.

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When What You Sell Isn’t What You’re Selling

Yesterday I skipped the early gym session, packed up my mac book and headed out to the hair salon. This particular salon runs a no appointment system, it’s first-come first-served. So I got there almost an hour before they opened, sat on the floor outside and worked. Ten minutes later another lady arrived, twenty minutes after her yet another who I’d seen before. With fifteen minutes to opening time a grandmother showed up, excitedly chatting to two little girls about how they’d be talking to Carmel and she’d know what was best for them to do.

By nine there were six of us all queuing for the same stylist. By 9.05 there was a three hour wait for a $20 trim with Carmel, even though there were at least four other stylists available right away. A couple of people chose to wait and some were reluctantly bumped to others.

I watched her work all morning. The first question she asked, before she even picked up a scissors was, “is this for the graduation, and if not when is that?” The next client was asked how long before her three month trip overseas, it was apparently important not to put too much colour in this time round, so that the timing was just right for the last colour before her trip. Carmel explained to the frail old lady who couldn’t cope with a two hour wait that she had a couple of colour clients already, but that she’d tell the other stylist what to do. I heard her reminding her colleague about the frailty of the hair quality and how they needed to use the mildest possible products. The grand daughters were having back to school trims. They were done in five minutes by another stylist, while the grandmother came to have a chat with Carmel as she mixed bleach.

Of course there are others in this salon who can cut and colour almost as well as Carmel can, but that’s not what people willing to wait for an hour or two, maybe more, are buying. She’s not selling a $20 haircut, she’s selling something people crave even more than looking just right for their son’s graduation… caring, connection, belonging and yes, even love. All of which take something ordinary and make it extraordinary.

Your business needs people who care this much. Often your products and services don’t need more bells and whistles. They just need a little more love.

Image by Mondopanno.

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Only We

Starbucks has been the only coffee chain since the 90’s where you can legally buy a Frappuccino®. Try selling a whipped iced coffee with that name and you’ll be busted by the intellectual property police. You can’t call your customer service centre the Genius Bar® either, that doesn’t mean you can’t have one.

Even a few short years ago the opportunities to confidently say ‘only we’ abounded. Features and benefits, along with factories and platforms were difficult to duplicate. Today we have one man magazine publishing houses and very different opportunities to tell the ‘only we’ story to our clients and customers.

This might sound like bad news, but actually it’s the best news for tiny app developers, boutique designers and solo-entrepreneurs. The ‘only we’ of the industrial era has become the ‘only I’ and ‘only with us’ of the digitally connected era.

Your ordinary story has always been what makes you extraordinary. You just have more opportunities than ever to see that for yourself and share it with your audience now.

Image by Nathan Makan.

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The Comparison Trap

At the gym I can’t take my eyes off the tall, svelte, Scandinavian goddess who is sweating elegantly, on the cross trainer just in front. When I’m attempting a less than elegant blossoming lotus, I long for the balance and flexibility of the raven-haired beauty on the yoga mat alongside. With regular practice I know my flexibility will improve. But having ‘legs up to your neck’ envy is really a hopeless waste of time, thoughts and positive energy.

My genetics, along with ancestry don’t permit it. They do permit a million other things though, that I can’t even begin to make room for if I allow myself to get stuck in the ‘comparison trap’.

While the Internet has given us amazing access, awareness and opportunities to be grateful for, it can be that place to get lost in comparing and contrasting.

Yes, it’s good to know what competitors and people in your field are doing. That’s market research. But there’s a fine line to be drawn between awareness and obsession. Awareness drives you to articulate your value and bring your ideas to the world in your unique way. Obsession results in unreasonable insecurity, doubt and paralysis.

When you allow yourself to get stuck in a state of constant comparison, you limit your ability to create a difference of your own.

The quota for ideas hasn’t been used up just yet.

The capacity for experiencing difference hasn’t been reached.

There is room in the world for people who can and can’t blossom a lotus.

A place for both them and you.

Have you ever got caught in the ‘comparison trap’?

Image by Joseph B.

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It’s All Been Done Before

This is what I call ‘the pioneer’s lament’. It’s been my personal lament many a day.

It goes something like this…

You have a great idea. It could be for a product, service, a book, blog post, or a new kind of dog food. You start planning, taking notes, visualising the impact of said thing on the world, then the research kicks in and you discover it’s been done before.

Bubble popped.

The bad news is it’s all been done before. The good news is it doesn’t matter, because it hasn’t been done by you.

7,012 books (and counting) have been written about ‘startups’, that didn’t stop Eric Ries having a bestseller, also dubbed as the idea of 2011.

What makes anything you do unique is your voice. The story that only you can tell, from a perspective that nobody else can have. There is more than one way to say something important that needs to be said and a million ways to bring ideas that matter to the world. Or maybe just 350,000.

I’d love to know how you stop yourself from popping your bubble mid blow.
What do you do to stop research killing off your idea too early? Tools or tactics?

Image by Noukka Signe.

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