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u2 Don’t Sing To Everyone

Back in the 80’s when U2 were starting out they knew they were singing for me, and the 520 other girls at my school. It didn’t matter that they wrote songs that didn’t resonate with my mother. They knew that we drew their album graphics with a Bic Biro on our canvas school bags and scribbled their name on our exercise books during boring history lessons.

Who are you creating for?

Who will kill for your designs? Who is going to buy your book or schedule a consultation. Who will understand your message? Hand on heart, do you really know?

It’s so easy to overlook this when you’re building your business and crafting your brand.

The creation part, building the thing, scoping out the spec and writing the sales page is hard enough. So with blind faith we sometimes believe that because we perceive a need and work of filling it, that if we build it they will come. Maybe they will, but the thing is if you create something with a specific audience in mind then even laying the foundations of your idea becomes so much easier.

Start by knowing your audience, then build the idea just for them

Call it what you will, target audience, niche market or client avatar. The label is irrelevant, the purpose is to understand the human being(s) behind that label. That understanding of your audience turns needs into wants and means that you no longer have to use the megaphone to reach them. They will begin to hear you from whispering distance.

One of the best target audience descriptions I’ve ever read was written by John Locke. He’s the guy who sold over a million ebooks in five months, so I guess knowing who he’s talking to hasn’t worked so badly for him. Here’s some of what he wrote:

“The people who love my books love everyday heroes. They are compassionate people who root for the underdog, but are drawn to the outrageous and have a dry sense of humour. They are all ages but a surprising number are professional men and women above the age of 50. More than 70% are women. My readers are much more intelligent than you might think, many are doctors nurses and business leaders.

Those who like my books tend to be busy people who are frazzled and stressed out beyond the point of no return. They’ve read their share of high brow books, but these days they mostly read to relax with a fast paced easy read that makes them laugh out loud. My readers are smarter than my heroes and they know it. They like the small bit of research I do. They don’t want to be educated but they love to learn one or two unusual facts along the way they can pass on in conversations at dinner.

My readers are renegades they like things editors hate, light character descriptions and almost no detail about settings. They know I’m not trying to save the world or write meaningful literature that kids might have to study in school someday. They know the sole purpose of my writing is to make them smile or laugh for a few hours on a day when they need it most, and they like that about me.”

How would your products be different if you sat down and created a client avatar like this? Often the hardest thing isn’t finding the problem to solve, but finding the people to solve that problem for.

Image by Danny Hammontree.

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5 Of The Best Brand Stories On The Planet

Yes I know, yet another one of those articles that tells you how to win in business by telling a better brand story, *sigh*. When all you really want to know is how to get lots of people to notice your great idea and then how to make shed loads of money from it.

I’m not going to bore you with the be authentic, consistent, relatable, relevant and let me help create that for you, stuff you’ve heard before. I’m just going to show you how it’s been done by some of the best in the world and give you the three essential ingredients for telling a great brand story.

Three Steps To Telling A Great Brand Story

1. Caring
Start by caring about your customers, the work you do, the products and services you sell and the difference that you can make in the world. Yeah, yeah, sounds obvious to you I know, but it’s not to everyone.

2. Significance
This is where most businesses, startups and their brand stories come unstuck. They forget to ask themselves the most important marketing question in the world. Why will people care about this? You need to work out why your product or service could be important to your customer? Why does she need it? How does it add meaning to her life? To do this you need to know who your target audience is.

3. Story
When you know your audience and understand the significance of your product, service or idea, all that’s left to do is to tell the story about how what you do or sell fits into the life of your customers and clients.

What’s great about the brand stories featured below is that they have a unique set of values and they truly understand the audiences they speak to. Take some time to read the stories I’ve linked to on their websites as well as watching the videos.

Innocent Drinks

Custom Ink

Epipheo Studios

Charity Water

TOMS Shoes

What are your favourite brand stories? How are you showing people why they should care about your brand?

Image by TB Steve.

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Don’t Follow The Money, Follow Your Heart

I know how to guarantee a spike in ‘traffic’ to my blog. All I have to do is write a post about how to build a six figure online business, or how to drive traffic to your blog! Of course you know this already, you see from your website analytics which posts are magnetic. The money and the promise usually get us in the end.

Last Thursday, a week ago today, I read a question my friend Mat Fitzgerald posted in a forum. He simply asked, “What do you want?”

That same day, I’d been told that what we thought was a lymph node in my 16 year old son’s neck, was actually a tumour. So the answer to the question was very simple. All I wanted was for that lump to go away and never come back. On Monday we got the best news, it turns out it’s not a tumour after all and we can breathe again.

So here’s the thing, if I’d been asked the same question the day before, my answer would have been very different. It might have included a professional or travel goal. It turns out that what matters one day, might seem insignificant the next. Perspective is everything and we allow it to be buried in our quest to do the ‘big things’.

Most of us are lucky enough to have what we really, truly want already.

Care about the choices you’ll have, not the money you’ll make. Care about your impact as much as your bottom line. Then care more about your legacy, than all of this put together.

Image by Miss Oppenheimer.

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How to Create An Unconventional Business

The beauty of running your own business is that there is almost nothing you can’t do, if you really want to. The fact that there are no rules may have been one of the reasons why you started your business in the first place! Being unconventional makes you stand out and amplifies your message to the people who want to hear it.

Chris Guillebeau is an entrepreneur, writer and the author of The Art of Non-Conformity. His unconventional business is enabling him to live his dream of visiting every country in the world, (he’s at 150 and counting). When he began writing his blog Chris didn’t have a business goal in mind. His business evolved when the community who loved his writing and ideas, began to ask the same questions again and again. In this interview Chris shares some of his principles for building a successful unconventional business.

Image by Farouq Taj.

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20 Ways To Tell A Better Brand Story

Customers don’t buy your results, they buy the story about the difference those results will make. So have amazing ideas, make great things but remember to tell unforgettable true stories.

1. Name and claim a new category.

2. Clearly articulate what you do, without being boring.

3. Give people a great back story that explains why you exist on your about page, bio, profiles and in marketing materials.

4. Back up the story by doing great work.

5. Concentrate on speaking to customers with a particular worldview.

6. Paint a picture of the world as it is.

7. Then show your audience the world as it could be.

8. Uncover the essence of a problem and tell the story about how you solve that.

9. Appeal to all the senses. Stories aren’t just written, spoken or directed.

10. Use a variety of media to convey your message, show and tell.

11. Have a singular purpose and make yourself known for that. This doesn’t mean getting stuck in a box. Missions can work across products and industries.

12. Consider what one person says to another to recommend your ‘thing’. Make it easy to share.

13. Speak to your customer’s heart not just their head.

14. Optimise your website for visitors who you care to return, not just traffic that’s passing through.

15. Tell people how and why you are different.

16. Avoid using jargon. Simple language works, write as you would speak.

17. Don’t smooth away all the rough edges, be human and authentic. Honesty travels further than perfection.

18. Be consistent. Everyone in your company must understand your mission and the story you want to tell.

19. Give your customers the opportunity to tell the story and feel a part of it too.

20. Don’t try to be the ‘next blank’. A flawed original is better than a perfect imitation.

Brand storytelling in action

The Virgin Brand Story ~ We hate being ripped off by big expensive airlines and [insert industry here]. More people must feel like us, there must be a better way. Let’s be the better way.

Apple’s Brand Story ~ Technology can be beautiful as well as functional. Everything single interaction with our product must make people fall in love with it.

Chris Guillebeau’s Brand Story ~ Ever thought there must be more to life than this? Don’t want to work for the man? Me neither! This is how I do it, come join me to see how you can too.

The Epipheo Brand Story ~ We don’t create animated videos. We create epiphanies using great animation.

If you want to see a great brand story in action, check out Epipheo’s story in this video.

Image by rytc.

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Working On Forever

Do you remember Fran who booked regular sessions and always opened your newsletter updates? Or Jean who stopped by on her way to work every day for a skinny latte? How about Jo who religiously shared your blog posts and Mark who sent design clients your way? Have you seen or heard much from them lately?

They were probably the kind of customers, followers and evangelists who didn’t spend a fortune or sign up to your top level coaching program. But they and others like them became your bread and butter over time. Maybe you took them for granted when they were there, but you miss them now they’re gone.

While you are busy building your business it’s easy to forget that no customer is forever. And yet forever is what you should be working on.

Forever takes patience, insight and leaving your ego at the door. Forever is being human, walking in your client’s shoes and understanding what they want before they know it themselves. Forever means failing, apologising and getting it right next time. Forever comes from creating connection and moments of joy in every interaction. Sometimes forever means treating different customers differently.

Forever is remembering that there are five other cafes in the same street and 34 million search results for ‘life coach’ in Google. Forever means working out what you could be doing better.

How are you working on forever?

Image by Jade Nazareth.

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7 Steps to Building A Successful Online Business

Think about an online shopping experience you’ve had lately. If you covered the website header could you spot the difference between Joe Bloggs web design and Blow Joggs website design? Are you so busy trying to be good enough, that you’ve forgotten what makes you unique along the way? Potential customers are looking for a reason to do business with you. So why not give them a great one?

Let’s assume that you are not competing with your competitors on price because your customers value what you do or sell above it’s utility. That means you’re not the cheapest logo designer or life coach in webville. So what will attract customers to you? What’s unique about what you do or how you deliver it? Does your mission, service, website, packaging, business name, bio and logo spell the ‘whatever it is’ out to people?

Customers want to feel your difference and they need you to help them get there

Tara Gentile is more than just a savvy an entrepreneur, who built a six figure online business from scratch, she is setting out to build the new economy with her own unique brand of enthusiasm. Tara and I had a conversation about what it takes to build a successful online brand and business.
Enjoy the interview!

And our seven take aways:

1. Understand Your Mission
Build your business backwards. It’s important to understand and be able to articulate why your business exists.

2. Make Your Map
Set business goals to keep you on track.

3. Sing In Your Own Voice
Every brand should have a unique voice. Something that sets it apart. You need to find a way of communicating to customers that your values are aligned with theirs.
It’s one way to stand out from all the marketing din and a great way to build profitable long term relationships based on mutual respect and trust.

4. Get Clear
Potential customers are looking for a reason to do business with you. So why not give them a great one?

5. Be Enthusiastic
If you’re not excited about what you’re bringing to market, how can you expect your customers to be.

6. Stand Out
Be less vanilla! Say and do things that others aren’t doing.

7. Change what isn’t working
Don’t be afraid to make strategic changes along the way.

Image by Eddie Lin.

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Connection Vs Attention

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. ~ Steve Jobs

Did you meet yourself coming back today, because you are working so hard to get noticed and trying to be picked? How much energy do you put into building your business and communicating the value of your unique gifts? A lot! You’ve got all the online tools and a hundred and one communication channels at your fingertips but something is missing, that’s why you’re not creating enough traction.

What’s missing in your business, on your about page and your marketing is more of you. If you don’t believe me go cover the header and profile picture on your website, then read your about page. Does this sound like you, or could it be describing any one of a hundred people in your industry?

In your quest to be the ‘best’, the perfect, obvious choice for your clients and customers, you’ve rounded the rough edges of your profile. By trying to give them what you think they want you’ve morphed into iStock girl, you look so professional and flawless that your right audience is having a hard time connecting to you. Your people want to trust you, they want to make virtual eye contact with you and understand the intention behind what you do.

To really connect with your potential clients and customers you have to build trust and that happens when you show more of yourself. When you share more of the ‘real you’ in a strategic way, in your bio, on your about page and in profiles your target market finds you! And it’s such a relief to really connect with your audience by just being you. Connection feels so much more fulfilling than attention and when people truly understand your difference great things happen to your bottom line too.

Want to illuminate the best of who you are and what you do?

Today I’m opening registration to a coaching program that will put ‘you’ back into your profile. I usually only do this work with clients 1 on 1, now though to enable me to show more leaders how to become heroes I’m offering an intimate coaching experience for a small group. I’m looking forward to working with the heroines who have already committed via my email list.

The Hero’s Story program starts on 12th September and runs for three weeks. Registrations close on September 1st.

Image by Torpore.

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The Business Plan For The Social Web

The business plan for the social web is….. that you just never know ~ Mark Schaefer

I’ve been talking a lot lately about having the courage to bring more of yourself into your work, bio, about pages and your online presence. I’m not talking about the traditional perception that many people have of ‘personal branding’ which is likened to putting lipstick on a pig. I want to encourage you to amplify the very best of what you’ve got, the ‘real’ you.

The bottom line is this, your biggest point of differentiation is the fact that you are different. You’ve got a unique set of experiences, your own voice, perspectives, values and opinions. Talk about stating the obvious! The thing is that I can almost certainly guarantee that you haven’t turned up the volume on your differences enough. And once you start expressing those in your business magical things happen. They did for my guest Mark Schaefer who I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak a couple of weeks ago (link to the audio of our interview at the bottom of this post).

Mark writes the hugely popular marketing blog Business Grow. He is a marketing and social media expert with more than 28 years of experience under his belt and author of the Tao of Twitter. Mark has successfully grown his business online by having the courage to be himself and tapping into his unique experience, values, personality, and heart. Some of the things we touch on in this interview are:

  • Why traditional marketing skills still work online
  • How to be successful using social media by following your instincts
  • Why your unique perspective is actually your point of differentiation
  • The secret to finding your target market ~ it’s not what you think
  • Why approaching social media from a sales mindset is a bad idea

Image by Frozen Capybara

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You Are The Map Maker

If you invest in that expensive viral marketing campaign will it definitely work? What’s the formula for blog posts that will get the greatest number of retweets? Which new product or service will make you the most money? Do you know?

The truth is that nobody knows for sure what’s going to work. If they did the J.K. Rowlings of this world wouldn’t get rejected by twelve publishers. There is no cast iron guarantee, no secret formula. There is no map to your success.

This means that you are the map maker. You are responsible for shaping your journey and creating your own success. I know many inspirational entrepreneurs and creative business owners who have done just that and I wanted you to hear some of their stories.

So today I’m sharing a beautiful book with you that’s been six months in the making.

YOU ARE THE MAP MAKER features contributions from entrepreneurs like Chris Guillebeau and Derek Sivers; stories from designers like David Airey and Jessica Hische. There are twelve inspiring creative business stories in all. It’s free to download and yours to share. I hope you enjoy it and are inspired to keep drawing your own map.

My thanks to the amazing creative team, Blair, Darren and Jamie at Believe in, for the inspired design and art direction, along with their dedication to this project.

Image by Dave Makes.

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