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Articles filed in: Marketing

You’ve Got A Business Idea, Now What?

I’m sure you’ve heard the story about how Richard Branson chartered a private aircraft when his flight to Puerto Rico was cancelled, and how pitched the idea of sharing it to fellow passengers using a chalk board. Although he wasn’t planning to turn this into a long term business venture at the time, Richard still had to create a value proposition in order to get people interested.

He had to begin by asking himself these questions, progressing to number five when he decided to launch Virgin Atlantic.

1. Do people want what I’m planning to make or offer?
2. How can I create and deliver it at a price they are willing to pay?
3. Can this product or service deliver on the promises I make to people?
4. How will I let people know about what I’ve created?
5. Can I generate enough money to build on my idea?

The answers to these five simple questions form the foundation of every business in existence.

Have you answered them yet?

Image bu Denni Schnapp.

Why I Stopped Working For Coffee And 12 Reasons Why You Should Too

Are there still days when people ask to “pick your brain” and offer to buy you a cup of coffee? It’s tempting to take people up on those offers and flattering that they think you’ve got something valuable to contribute. I know. I’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt. I understand the allure of those $4 an hour consults, because years ago I did my fair share too. Those caffeine filled hours were the catalyst for an eventual epiphany, something that frustrated me so much I decided to launch an independent brand strategy consultancy.

It finally dawned on me that those ideas and plans that were hashed out over a latte all too often never amounted to anything. I’d leave all fired up about this great idea and six months down the track, it was still just that…a great idea.

I believe that because they didn’t really pay for the advice my coffee friends had no skin in the game. They were actually demonstrating a lack of belief in themselves and their ideas. Sure it was fantastic to talk about starting something great. But talking is not the same as doing though and an idea without the execution is just an idea. It has no impact. The execution is what creates the impact and in turn makes money.

In the end I realised that I was helping people to feel good about having goals and dreams, when what I wanted more than anything was to empower them to follow their hearts, back themselves and make a go of those dreams.


1. A $4 consult doesn’t help people in the long run
They aren’t demonstrating self belief or taking their idea seriously enough to invest in it and do the real strategic work required to make it a success. The result is a lack of execution.

2. You’re wasting their time and yours
There is always an opportunity cost. Time is the one thing you can’t create more of, so you need to use it wisely.

3. It sends the wrong signals to them and you
Teaching people that they don’t need to invest in themselves to achieve what they want isn’t being of service to them. It devalues you in your eyes and in the eyes of the client.

4. It attracts the wrong kind of client
You might work for free to attract business, but does a client-initiated coffee consult really attract your best customers?

5. You won’t do your best work
Cheap kills part of your creative soul. You just don’t do your best work this way. Seeing people fail to execute takes the joy out of your work. Getting reimbursed ups your game.

6. It prevents you from working on other things that do serve you and others
This doesn’t help you to build your legacy.

7. A fair fee for your work forces you to be excellent
As Jason Fried founder of 37signals puts it, “Charging for something makes you want to make it better. For customers, paying for something sets a high expectation. As an entrepreneur, you should welcome that pressure. You should want to be forced to be good at what you do.”

8. It means working with two different sets of expectations, yours and theirs
You are quite possibly hoping to convince them they need more of what you have to offer. They are most likely there to convince themselves that they don’t and that they can get what they need for free.

9. It’s not a fair trade
Your time and your expertise is worth more than a few bucks. Plain and simple.

10. The agenda is dictated by the coffee buyer, not by you
This means it’s not deliberate or intentional, as it needs to be.

11. It’s not strategic
It encourages people to grasp at ,myriad of tactical straws instead of building from a solid foundation.

12. Often it doesn’t align with your values
Somehow coffee consults end up feeling “off”. You won’t be doing your best work and you won’t be as invested in the effort as you need to be.

Of course there are always exceptions to any rule and yes, I still create for love sometimes, for good causes which are close to my heart and in win-win situations. The difference being that, for the most part, the approach is initiated by me. In those instances, I make sure that the work is legacy building, not just ego building and that those choices are made from a place of love.

If you’re still in doubt you can use the handy Should I Work For Free flow chart to help you decide.

Tell me about your experiences of working for free and how you strike a balance.

Image by Mikey G. Ottawa.

The Number One Marketing Opportunity You’ve Probably Overlooked

Yes I know marketing is one of those icky words. It smacks of snake oil salesmen, hard sell merchants and spammers who interrupt without permission. You don’t want to be in any one of those categories and you don’t have to be.

Marketing and branding is about turning up the volume on your mission, so that the right people can hear your message. Often it’s about gently reminding the people who do want to hear from you how you can help them and that receptive audience is right under your nose in your email inbox.

Are you getting the word out about who you are, what you do and why you do it to those people in your email signature?


1. Keep it short, simple and memorable, usually no more than three to four lines.

2. Identify yourself by adding your full name, company and role if appropriate.

3. Use pipes to neatly separate information, (Branding | Website design | SEO |).

4. Add your best contact details, avoid using a string of different numbers unless you really need to.

5. Link to your website or blog. The accepted way to do this is to provide a written URL to insure the link goes through with your message.

6. Include links to your important professional profiles or business pages on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.

7. If you include your logo don’t make your entire signature an image because most email clients store images as attachments and block them by default.

8. If you’ve got room, add your tagline or link to any significant recent achievements or awards.

9. Consider customising the default email signature on your mobile device too; iPhone, iPad or Blackberry.

10. If you want to use specific formatting or graphic links think about using an email signature service like
Wise Stamp.

11. Separate your signature from the email content. The standard break most email clients recognise is – – – –.

12. Don’t be afraid to be you and show some personality in your signature. You’re not just selling, you’re building trust and likeability too.

What ways have you found to promote yourself in your email signature?

Do you have any examples of great email signatures to share?

Image by zen sutherland.

How To Make Your Message Stick

I read an interesting fact on the last few pages of my friend Mark’s new book Return on Influence, apparently most people abandon a business book after reading one third of it. This is an audience who decided they believed in the idea, author or maybe the title and cover design enough to invest, only to abandon it just as she was getting started. We have so many choices now, that we even choose to abandon the things that we choose.

How do you hold people’s attention and get your message to stick?

Think about any book you’ve read, what you remember are the stories. I remember how Klout’s founder Joe Fernandez found himself housebound with time on his hands after he’d had his jaws wired, that this was when he began exploring social scoring and planning world domination. I remember Mark’s story about seeing a friend’s poor review of a restaurant he was at, and how that affected his experience that evening.

“People don’t want more information.
They are up to their eyeballs in information.
They want faith.
Faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell.”
—Annette Simmons


Take a leaf from the book of one of the most successful non-fiction authors of our time Malcolm Gladwell. Make your facts real by painting an unforgettable picture with a story.

Image by darkmatter.

Create What People Can’t Live Without — 8 Questions To Ask Before Launching An Idea

Where would you be without your laptop, smart phone, Google, take away coffee cups and quick drying nail polish? While you’re busy navigating your day today, think about what you couldn’t live without, the stuff that makes your life that little bit easier. All those things you didn’t even realise you needed, until someone brought them to market.

Every product or service ever created was born from a problem that needed to be solved, or a desire that was waiting to be fulfilled.

An understanding of the problem to solve is the reason we have online check in, Boost Juice and The Genius Bar. So how do you begin to understand the problem to solve? You stand in your customer’s shoes, see her world as it is and then create a better version of it.

That’s how a Sydney Mum invented GameTag and why Starbucks became ‘the third place’.


1. Why this product or service and why now?

2. Who am I creating this for?

3. What’s the competition?

4. Do I need to worry about the competition?

5. How is this different and better?

6. How do I research, test, launch, market, distribute, sell, build and scale?

7. Do I need to research, test, and scale or should I just press go?

8. How will I know when I’ve succeeded?

Do you have any stories to share about great products and services that came about through standing in the customer’s shoes, impeccable planning or just starting?

Image by 37prime.

What’s The Purpose Of A Brand Story?

If you’ve got a great product or a killer service why do you need a brand story? You only have to look as far as your local cafe or boutique fashion labels to see that all brands are not created equal, and what usually separates the successes from the failures is a good story.

The story makes the product better

The Versalette story from {r}evolution apparel actually makes the product better in the eyes of the consumer. When she buys a Vesalette she can tell herself a story about what she believes is important. She can send a signal to the world about her values and she gets to be a trendsetter into the bargain.

Any business or brand can add a meaningless ‘me too’ tagline under their logo, but if it’s just pixels filling up white space what’s the point? If your story (not just the words your write, but your staff, values, user experience and so on) doesn’t make what you do better, then you’re missing a huge opportunity to help people care enough to invest in you.

Image by Lynda Giddens.

A Lesson From The Most Iconic Advert In The World

The Coca Cola ‘Hilltop’ advert created more than 40 years ago is known as “one of the best-loved and most influential ads in TV history.

In a recent collaboration Harvey Gabor one of the original creatives of ‘Hilltop’, worked with Google and Coca Cola to re-imagine a modern day version of the original. So what’s the biggest takeaway from the video of the process?

No matter what you’re talking about talk to one person

You might want to appeal to a hundred or even a million, do that by making your idea matter one person at a time.

Speak to that person.

The video is eleven minutes well worth watching!

Image by Meg Moggington.

Turn Up The Volume On Your Mission

Whatever your idea, whatever you market, sell or promote, whether it’s a cause, art, products or services, the way you differentiate from your competitors is by turning up the volume on your mission.

Products can be similar, but missions are unique

You don’t want people to buy your stuff, you want to matter to them. You want them to care about your brand. To believe in what you do. To ‘buy in’. Part of your mission is to get those people, not everyone, but the ones you care about, to care.

The mission of an artist isn’t to sell her stuff to the masses, it’s to sell the ideas conveyed in those things, maybe to just 1000 true fans. The artist buys into the idea that she not only expresses herself through her art, but that she can help others to do the same. Her mission is to shape culture, to communicate beauty, stimulate thought and make an emotional connection.

Starbuck’s mission isn’t to persuade the guy who thinks that paying $5 for a cup of coffee is a joke. Their mission is to be the ‘third place’, to “inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” Starbucks was the catalyst that created a completely new coffee drinking culture.

Shaping culture over time is part of any brand mission. This applies to Etsy store owners, authors Burton and Dollar Shave Club alike.

Your product might be similar but your mission is unique.

All you have to do is turn up the volume.

Image by Jaanus Jagomägi.

9 Elements Of The Perfect Pitch

This image was captured in Marrakech at the largest open air market in Africa. On the day the photo was taken the market was apparently in full swing, complete with everything from average snake charmers, to exceptional orange juicers and trinket traders. The photographer captures how many of the tourists seem to be more interested in their maps and to do lists than the sights, sounds, and the smells of the bazaar.

It doesn’t matter how good your idea is if nobody knows. If you want to make your idea matter, then you’ll need to get better at helping people to understand it why it should.


It’s hard to sell anything without having a plan and putting some effort in beforehand. Even the guy who walks up to a girl in a bar has put on a clean shirt and rehearsed what he’s going to say.

A pitch is based less on logic and more on tapping into emotions. It’s less about presenting information and more about persuading people deep down. Studies from the Journal of Advertising Research show that we are twice as likely to be persuaded by emotion than facts. You must make people care before you can persuade them to believe.

Story and Substance
Delivery is important but falls flat without a great story. The words you use and the stories you tell matter.

You’re not simply asking people to buy your idea, you’re persuading them to ‘buy into’ it, and you. This will not happen if you can’t communicate your genuine passion to the audience.

A Problem
Understand the problem you solve and communicate that.

An Answer
You’ve demonstrated that you know what the problem is, now reveal your valuable solution.

You’ve got nine seconds to convince them that you are the one. Don’t overload people with information, concentrate on what really matters to them.

You’re asking people to bet on you, to embrace the fact that there is not certainty in most decisions they make. If you don’t believe in yourself and your idea how can you expect others to?

Delivery is part science, part theatre, part art, it can be learned with practice.

What would you add? What has worked best for you in situations where you wanted to persuade?

Image by Almond Butterscotch.

The Only Reason You’re In Business

When you don’t answer the phone after the third ring. When the wait staff you hired forget to look people in the eye. When you make it easy for people to sign up and say yes, but penalise them for changing their minds, you are forgetting the only reason your business exists and why it will ultimately succeed.

You are in business to acknowledge the significance of, and create meaning for clients and customers.

Your job is to practice the art of making people matter.

The same rules apply whether you’re Richard Branson or a boutique design studio in Melbourne.

Image by Tasayu Tasnaphun.