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The Idea Manifesto

You will often hear it said that creating a manifesto is a great way to spread an idea. A few months ago I wrote this post about ideas and realised that what we really needed was a manifesto, to illustrate the messy truths and blurred edges of ideas themselves.

One of my wonderful clients, graphic designer Grace Oris took on the challenge of designing
THE IDEA MANIFESTO. So here it is, a gift to you and your ideas.
It’s FREE TO DOWNLOAD AND SHARE WITH ATTRIBUTION (links at the bottom of this post) in either Story of Telling Palette or Black and White.

Go forth and download, be inspired and let your ideas fly!

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD THE IDEA MANIFESTO (COLOUR)
CLICK TO DOWNLOAD THE IDEA MANIFESTO (BLACK AND WHITE)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Design by Grace Oris.

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Brands Are Shaped By The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Coffee chic is not merely a creation of Starbucks, no more than flawless design is the singular domain of Apple. What these companies do with a clever brand story, is make it easier for us to buy into the wants that we associate as being part of our story.

What we actually believe to be the truth about the brands we love has as much to do with trendy interactive spaces we enjoy lingering in and exploring, as it has to do with products we consume or want to talk about.

Brands are what customers perceive them to be,
and never just about what marketing departments communicate about products bought and sold

Back in the 70’s you could tell a story about who you were depending on which brand of doll you played with and what kind of bicycle you owned. Those stories you told yourself mattered almost more than the things themselves, just as the stories your clients can tell themselves about doing business with you today matter.

What story can your customers tell themselves when they visit your website, use your product or walk into your cafe? Is it the one you hoped they would be telling?

Image by Miguel Jimenez.

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Why Knowing What To Leave Out Matters

The secret of any great book, movie, business, product, or service is in the editing. As an entrepreneur or creative, your understanding of what to leave out is just as important as what you decide to leave in.

Christopher Nolan will no doubt leave hours and hours of carefully crafted shots and scenes from
The Dark Knight Rises in the cutting room, and the movie we see will be so much the better for it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re designing an app or a shoe, framing a photo or a company, creating a course or a website, your editing decisions are the key to pulling the whole thing together. Like the perfect final cut, your product and brand story needs just the right combination of carefully selected elements.

The act of editing out is what makes a good story an epic

Taking a metaphorical blue pencil to your ‘thing’ isn’t easy. Sometimes you’re too close to the work to understand what details really matter. And sometimes it’s just too hard to toss hours of creative energy aside.

Take a step back and pretend you’re not you, stand in your audience’s shoes. And above all, don’t wait for the day when the whole thing is perfect to bring it to the world. Even Christopher Nolan makes mistakes and lives to create another day.

Over to you, how do you self edit? How have you made something you’ve created better by taking a step back?

Image by Thomas Milne.

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What Should Your Website Do?

What you want your website to do is probably very different from what your customer wants it to do. The trick (as with most elements of your business), is to build for customers and community first to realise the benefits for you later.

“A website turns a stranger into a friend,
and a friend into a customer.”
Seth Godin

You want your website to:

1. Be on the first page in Google.
2. Send customers.
3. Boost credibility.
4. Convert browsers into subscribers.
5. Change followers into fans.
6. Connect you to the right audience.
7. Make you money.
8. Increase your business, bottom line or popularity.
9. Make you look, bigger, better, stronger, faster.
10.Tell a story that people want to believe.

Your customer wants your website to:

1. Be exactly what they were looking for.
2. Give them a solution to a problem.
3. Tell them the answer.
4. Help them to understand.
5. Entertain or educate.
6. Connect them to people, ideas and things they care about.
7. Save them time.
8. Save them money.
9. Be clear and show them the way.
10.Focus on their wants and needs.

How is your business catering for your client’s wants, while fulfilling your needs?

Image by Alexsi Aaltonen.

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Why You Should Never Work For Coffee

If you’re a knowledgeable, skilled and gifted freelancer, solopreneur, designer, consultant, coach or someone with something valuable to share, I guarantee that you will get asked this question.
“Can I buy you a cup of coffee, then we can, [insert information seeker’s agenda here]?”
Don’t get me wrong there is some value in getting this kind of offer. In fact if it weren’t for numerous offers of cups of coffee in the early days, I might never have fully appreciated how valuable my skills were, and that’s my point. Your knowledge and gifts are significant too. You should never value them at $4.

If you start out by accepting work and trading your time, (or seeking validation of your ideas) for coffee, then the coffee buyer (and you) will never see what you do as being beyond coffee worthy. This is not a try before they buy situation. This is a dictating the terms of the offer, and gauging an understanding of what you think you’re worth exercise. Believe me, if they’ve paid you in macchiato once, they won’t ever be paying you in dollars, cents, pounds, shillings and pence.

Working for coffee not only devalues you in the eyes of others,
it kills part of your creative genius.

Am I saying that you should never work for free? Not at all! Sometimes working for free is a great strategy. Work for free because you’d like to include something in your portfolio, or because it will be great experience. Work for free because you’d like a testimonial and agree that in advance. Work for free if it’s going to raise your profile and make you visible to new markets. Work for free because you care, which it turns out is actually not working for free at all, but working for love.

Work for free because you choose to. Do it on your terms and never on a coffee buyers, because the first cup of coffee can only lead to one thing… a second cup.

I’d love to hear more about your experience on this topic in the comments.
What do you do in these situations?
What have you learned that might help others in a similar position?

Image by Ian McKenzie.

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Pick Yourself

Do you remember the feeling of helplessness in a junior team line up at school, as one by one the captains and team leaders of the moment chose who was ‘in’? Remember the fear of being last, of not being picked and the feeling of having no control over your destiny. As economies tank, and traditional business models break down, we are beginning to question what security is. We’re evaluating the actual value of being picked and weighing that up against being masters of our own destiny.

Since some reports say that 80% of jobs aren’t even advertised and are filled through networks and recommendations, it seems that picking yourself might be an excellent strategy.

“Once you understand that there are problems just waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound.”
Seth Godin

Backing your own dream without a safety net seems scary and yet when you look around you at the people you most admire, who have created not just businesses but legacies, you’ll find that they are the ones who have drawn their own line in the sand and dared to cross it.

Tom Fishburne a Harvard Business graduate picked himself the day he left his well paid job to follow his dream of being a cartoonist.

Angela Lussier self published her book Anti Resume Revolution and started a career consulting business on the back of it.

David Mc Kinney and Stuart Hall didn’t worry about the 425,000 other Apps in the iTunes store, they just focused on solving problems and building ‘killer products’. Their Discovr Music App was number one in 28 countries.

Abigail Forsyth was appalled by the amount of waste generated by disposable coffee cups, so she set about doing something to change human behaviour and launched the award winning Keep Cup in 2009, selling 800,000 cups in the first year alone.

If you want to work with a dream client, find a way to show them what you could do for them.
Mike Kus did exactly that when he realigned the Innocent drinks homepage and posted the results on his blog. He may not get the Innocent gig, but I’m betting he’ll land a clutch of other great offers.

Christina and Sandra didn’t wait for publishers to contact them. They wrote and blogged and shared and built communities. They picked themselves and their ships sailed in.

Self selection doesn’t rely on privilege, education and hierarchies. Our world is littered with examples and role models of self selectors, who didn’t wait and wonder. Don’t let tradition, gatekeepers, HR departments or sports captains stand in the way of you making your mark and creating ideas that matter.

What’s your take on this?

Image by Treetop Mom.

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How To Write Great Website Copy

So you’ve got the crash hot website, the perfect calling card for your business. Fantastic! There’s just one problem you’ve got to fill it with engaging content that not only showcases what you do but gives potential clients a sense of who you are and how your business can help them. I’ve stared down the barrel of empty web pages…. often, so I feel your pain.

Where do you start and what is the best way to position yourself digitally? I found some useful tips in The Little Black Book of Business Writing whilst browsing at the airport recently (why are all the best books right there under your nose to tempt you just before you fly?). This handy little volume is an easy read and has sections devoted to different areas of business writing from proposals to resumes, minutes to media releases.
So what did the Little Black Book have to say about writing website copy?
1. Avoid slabs of text, use short paragraphs, catchy headings and incorporate graphics.

2. Never stop talking, don’t lose your voice. Write your side of a terrific conversation

3. Tell a story with elegant simplicity rather than by enumerating accomplishments.

4. Don’t waffle and use generalities, use compelling real world examples.

5. Break your business story into five or six categories-your tabs and use them to position you.

6. Greet your reader and show them the way in. Tell them who you are, what you think and how you define yourself and your work.

7. Don’t feel you have to say everything. Your website should start a conversation not stop it.

8. Make prices, dates, places and details easy to find using dot points and colour.

“Use writing to do business,
not to sound like you’re doing business.”

Great advice!
What’s worked for you? What challenges do you face when writing your service descriptions or website copy?

Image by Image Abstraction.

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The Truth About You

Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing.
Labels are not for people.
~ Martina Navratilova

If there’s one question you can guarantee to be asked within the first five minutes of meeting someone it’s, “so… what do you do?” We all know it’s coming so why are we so ill prepared for it?

During the years I chose to be a stay at home Mum I loathed this question. There was no way that one sentence could define everything it meant to be a mother. Announcing that you are a writer, business coach, graphic designer or CEO doesn’t cut it either.

You are way more compelling than your job description.

The reason you choose a particular role says nothing about what you uniquely bring to the world. So my question is, why are you hiding the best of you?

You and I both know that the official line can’t hold a candle to the unspoken reality, and I promise you, if you tell the real story your results will be different too. What’s keeping you grounded in the generic and stopping you sharing more of the truth?

Work on peeling away some of those generalisations, kiss goodbye to your generic bio and shine a light on what you really do and why you do it.

Over to you and your bios in the comments.

Image by Sheeshoo.

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How Do You Differentiate Yourself?

Life’s too short to sell things you don’t believe in. ~ Patrick Dixon

Often the real value of the work you do isn’t what gets delivered in the package, during the session or in the ebook. In order to differentiate you need to really understand the effect of what you do, sell, offer or deliver to people. I hope you’ll consider asking yourself some of the questions on this list and maybe add a few of your own.

1. Why do you do what you do?
2. Does your story really define what you do?
3. What makes you, your product, service or business stand out?
4. What makes it blend in?
5. How is your product different?
6. How is your service special?
7. Are you delivering on your promise, original, unique, fastest, flexible, enduring, best?
8. Can you create a new market and do something that hasn’t been done before?
9. Can you reinvent something that’s already been done and do it better?
10. What do people care about right now?
11. What’s not selling today that might, if you marketed it in new ways tomorrow?
12. Could you produce something enduring, that’s scalable?
13. Is it possible to create scarcity?
14. How is your product compelling?
15. Is your name evocative?
16. Does your work start conversations?
17. If not how could you make that happen?
18. Are you giving people a sense of your purpose and values?
19. How does your product or service make people feel?
20. What’s your legacy?

Image by Thomas Hawk.

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Brand Names Are The Start Of A Story

From the moment the blue line appears on the pregnancy test and for the next 35 weeks, the one thing that obsesses most couples day and night while waiting for their new arrival is what they will call her. They compulsively leaf through baby name books, trawl websites and test out sound combinations and meanings. They poll friends, write list upon list, crossing off here, adding there, agonising about the legacy of this one decision. Since time began humans have instinctively understood that a name is the start of a story.

When we name our children we are writing the opening lines of their first chapter. We want to give them names they can grow into. Their names are part of our vision of what we hope they will one day be in the world and researchers have proven that names can have a lasting impact on outcomes for individuals in later life.

Names are not simply designed to identify, they really can take us in one direction or another. And so it goes with brand names, book titles and product names too. Companies know that names can make or break, that they build mystery, can form the basis of a movement or create cult status. That’s why ‘Purple Cow’ is a more compelling title than, ‘Marketing for Today’, and why Innocent was a genius way to begin the story of a juice and smoothie company.

A great name can take you places a good name can’t. A truly great brand name makes room for a new story in people’s hearts and minds and can position a good product beyond it’s utility.

Don’t set out to name a company or a product,
set out to name your vision of what you want to see in the world

Design your brand name to create lofty expectations, to make people believe something, not just notice it, and to signal your difference to the world.

Image by Kai Chan Vong.</a

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