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Your Customer Is The Hero

“Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story.” John Barth

I know your products are beautiful. I also read on the packaging that your juice is packed full of vitamins. And anyone with an eye can see that your designs are amazing.

Knowing all of the facts about how great you are and how well made your stuff is will never be what makes your customer reach for their wallet.

“The challenge you face is that people don’t care about you. They care about themselves, which is pretty natural.” Seth Godin

The only way to persuade people to care about you is to show that you care about them first. Make them the hero of your story. This doesn’t mean starting again from scratch or making up a pile of stuff about your brand or business. You’ve already got the product, the great cause, the proof and the results. Now all you need to do is tell the story from a different angle. Their angle.

Succeed by showing people how to dream bigger and live better. Help them to care more, enable them to do great things and inspire them to be the hero of their story.

Image by Ashley Rose.

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Take Your Time

The best business stories, the really good ones develop over time.

They’re the stories that the media probably doesn’t notice. The ones that happen drip by drip, created by people who continue to show up and tell a great story with more passion every day.

The best stories are told by people who care enough about what they do not to be distracted by the quick fixes, flashy launches or the sexy overnight success stories. They embody a mission and vision for the brand, embrace a unique set of values and connect to an audience who is ready to listen. A good business story doesn’t often net $8.5 billion in the first year or the year after that either.

If you want to stand the test of time you need to take your time. Focus on what you know you do well, not what every other new kid on the block brand, hot shot coach, designer or non-profit is doing. Then take time to build on that.

Stop being so hard on yourself. Stop looking over your shoulder. Stop trying to be something that they are and something you are not.

You have time to persuade people all the way later.

Image by Damian Tunnicliff.

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Different Enough

“If you’re trying to please everyone, then you’re not going to make anything that is honestly yours in the long run.” Viggo Mortensen

Every cafe tells the same story (or tries to anyway); ‘we serve the best coffee.’ Every non- profit tells us how our money will make an impact and every box of detergent promises to clean clothes better than the pack next to it.

So how are you going to tell a different story? One that’s not for everyone.

What other promises can you make and keep? What priceless shortcuts can you offer? What will enable people to connect with your brand? What will make them choose you?

Could you tell a story as different as Sanuk’s, the footwear brand selling shoes that “are not shoes” at all, which “are happiest when they tread the road less travelled”.

How are you going to tell a story that’s different enough to get noticed and true enough to be believed? And who are you going to tell it to?

Image by Fancesco Minciotti.

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How To Make An Idea Worth Spreading

“The only people in the world who can change things are those who can sell ideas.” – Lois Wyse

Your new product, the non-profit you want to get off the ground, a life changing coaching program or that innovative design are worth spreading not because you say so but because other people believe they are too. The thing is you will never convince people to buy into your idea unless you believe in it too.

Do you really believe in the value and power of your own idea? Do you want to solve people’s problems, provide answers, suggest solutions and deliver some good old fashioned joy?

Do you believe that anyone (including you) not just the gurus, billionaire entrepreneurs or thought leaders at TED has the power to change something with an idea?

Can you communicate it to your audience with such conviction and passion (like Nigel Marsh did), that you make it and idea worth doing?

“I have always lived my life by thriving on opportunity and adventure. Some of the best ideas come out of the blue, and you have to keep an open mind to see their virtue.” Richard Branson

What couldn’t you do if you believed in your ideas as much as Richard Branson believes in his?

Image by Frederic Poirot.

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Taking Control Of Your Personal Brand

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Dr Seuss

And dead or alive you know that you are going to be ‘Googled’. You may not be able to control what others say about you but you can take steps to tell your own story and actively manage your reputation.

‘Personal branding’ is simply how we market ourselves to others, we do it subconsciously every day in the way we dress, speak and act. Think about it as a way of framing your reputation. In the old days when we lived and worked in the village it was possible to do business and strengthen your reputation just by being the only butcher, baker or candlestick maker in town. That’s a little more difficult to pull off these days.

A Google search for ‘graphic designer’ turns up more than 25 million results and the designer David Airey shows up as one of the first. David has built a personal brand online and stellar reputation in his niche over six years with hard work and generosity.

He did this by:

1. Investing time in creating a reputation by choosing to define who he is and what he stands for with an online presence.

2. Deciding how he would like to be perceived in his niche and setting goals for what he wanted to achieve.

3. Leveraging his online platforms to communicate his ability and showcase his expertise.

4. Building a community and connections around his work and his passion using three blogs, David Airey, Logo Design Love and Identity Designed.

5. Evolving his brand as his reputation grew and authoring a book based on this.

6. Openly displaying his work, ethics and authenticity across all of these platforms in both posts and comments.

7. Giving people in his niche a place to come to stay up to date, interact, acquire and share knowledge.

8. Doing great work for clients he chooses to work with.

All the tools that were available to David six years ago and much more are available to you today.
If your story is going to be told you might as well be the one to tell it.

Image by Shawn Rossi

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They’re Telling Your Story

“We have to realise that the days of controlling the message are absolutely over.”
Wendy Clark Senior VP of Integrated Marketing Coca Cola.

You work hard to create an impression of your brand or business. To make your idea spread. You tell the story with your packaging, website design, logo, products, copy and service. You share it in print, video, at events and on online networks. Those impressions you work to create are only a tiny part of what makes up the complete picture of your brand.

Of 146 million views generated for Coca Cola on You Tube, 26 milllion were impressions generated by Coke. 120 Million were generated by the expressions created by consumers!

“Who’s controlling the dialogue? It’s not me.” Wendy Clark VP Marketing Coca Cola

Now your business has a fantastic opportunity to engage with customers and fans, to enter into a dialogue, to listen, to reach out to them and understand how and why they use, love or hate your product.

You might have the trade mark, you might even wear the crown, but you don’t own the story.

What you do have though is an opportunity like never before to give your customers a great story to tell.

Which brands (big and small) are doing this best? How are you listening to and engaging with your audience?

Image by Doug Focht

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What’s The Most Important Marketing Question In The World?

“The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.”
George Eliot

Head down to your nearest Borders bookstore (while there still is one) and you’ll find hundreds of titles that all aim to help you answer this question. If Borders had asked the very same question and acted upon the answer they probably wouldn’t be liquidating right now.

So what is the number one thing you should ask yourself before launching a product, designing that service, writing your book or opening the cafe?

Why will people care about this?

*Bonus* – The second most important marketing question in the world is:

How can we help people to care about this?

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What Worldview Are You Marketing To?

“No matter how brilliantly an idea is stated, we will not really be moved unless we have already half thought of it ourselves.” – Mignon McLaughlin

Sometimes our ideas spread because their time has come. Maybe because we’ve worked out who we need to be talking to and what some of those people are ready to hear and believe.

It doesn’t matter what you are selling or which story you are telling, if people are not ready to listen then you can’t make them. That’s why ideas like these that are framed around a particular worldview are the ones that fly.

Chris Guillebeau a non-conformist writer and entrepreneur travels the world showing people how they could do the same. His followers are people who aspire to be like him and break free from the 9 to 5.

210,000 people who aspire to leading a simpler life read and support Leo Babuta’s Zen Habits, making it one of the Top 25 blogs in the world in 2010.

Millions of people tired of the bureaucracy in large foundations were ready to hear the truth and see the impact of their donations to charity. Hence the success of charity:water

25,000 people with a particular worldview are wearing Blackspot’s earth-friendly, anti-sweatshop, and cruelty-free shoes.

Worldviews are the reason billions of books are sold every year without the buyers knowing what the contents are and why 140 women and willing to pay $1,000 for a one day event.

What do the people you are marketing to really want? What do they want to believe?

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Do You Sound Like You Are Amazing?

Does your brand story give people something to buy into, to care about and to engage with? I’m not talking empty hype you could create, I’m talking about how you frame the truth.

Some of the worlds best loved tiny brands took off for two reasons. Firstly they had a great idea and secondly they knew how to tell a story about the idea that would excite and engage people. A great story can’t prop up a bad product or service. But a great product based on a true story, that makes people care is irresistible.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

Innocent drinks – Fruit is messy, it’s important to be healthy. Here’s a way to get it into you and your kids that’s easy, tasty and makes you feel good. Oh, and we are good guys who like to have fun too.

Zappos – We know you love shopping day and night. Let us make it easy for you to do that online without any down side, with free delivery and free returns, no questions asked. You can trust us to always be here for you and do the right thing by you.

Moo – You want to make a great first impression with your business cards. Custom printing and design is expensive. We can help you out with fabulous designs or a custom process that is fun yet seamless.

After over seventy years Old Spice is proof that the story you tell matters. It used to be the smelly stuff you bought your Dad for Christmas. Now you buy it (or your partner does) to ‘smell as fresh as you look’.

“Like water slowly cracking rock, stories begin to change what matters to us.”
Emiel van den Boomen

No point being amazing if you don’t sound like you are.

Image by Kami

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Understanding How To Spread An Idea

“Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.” Nolan Bushnell

So how do you begin to make an impact and spread an idea?

1. Create something that people want to talk about.
2. Give people a way to share it.
3. Know who you are talking to or targeting.
4. Understand your audience.
5. Work out what people want before they do.
6. Think about what one person will say to another to recommend it.
7. Question why someone will buy, use, or talk about your thing over another.
8. Believe in the idea yourself.
9. Be the best choice.
10. Create for a few.
11. Make it work for the many.
12. Ask people to try it.
13. Engage people and build trust.
14. Connect your true fans.
15. Help people to care about what you do or sell.
16. Ask your followers to share it.
17. Make people laugh.
18. Make people cry.
19. Do something unexpected.
20. Be generous.
21. Promise something and deliver on it.
22. Create something people want, not just something they need.
23. Be passionate.
24. Start!
25. Evaluate and make it better.

Image by Today is a good day.

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