Search Results: one of the few

What If You’re Not Selling To Joe?

In a Googleised world it’s now possible to get a logo designed within a few short days for just $40. I know because my friends at the design agency Mat Dolphin wrote a post about it for Creative Review, The £25 Logo.

What’s a designer, a freelancer or a creative entrepreneur to do?

You’re not creating average designs for average Joe. You don’t need to preach to the unconverted. Tell the story that needs to be told to the people who want to hear it. If those people aren’t looking on Elance don’t tell it there.

Remember that the iPhone doesn’t matter to everyone and you don’t need to either.

Image by Michael Dornbierer.

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.

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.

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!


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

Design by Grace Oris.

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.

Remember Why You Started

Jessica couldn’t believe it had been only three years since she opened the doors to the tiny clothing boutique she’d dreamed of owning one day. She remembered the excitement of finding the shabby little two roomed workshop, choosing colours for the walls and installing makeshift shelving and clothing racks where she could display all her original pieces. She wanted to make clothes that were one offs, the sorts of clothes she would be proud to own, that had a story, things that people would covet and adore.

One by one people found her. They loved the designs only Jess was making and then told their friends. The local newspaper came, did an interview and took photographs and before Jess knew it the Lady Mayor of the town was ordering a whole custom wardrobe. It was too good an opportunity to pass up even if she felt a little uncomfortable about compromising on some of the styles she was required to design. The exposure was incredible! Well healed women came from miles around looking for new wardrobes. They loved the idea of being able to have a big say in the design process and Jessica was so helpful.

Now though Jess was so busy creating stuff that other people wanted her to create she had no time to experiment with her own designs. She didn’t have time for sketching wacky ideas. She no longer had space to dream up designs for beautiful original accessories. She had email enquiries to field and phone calls to return.

On a rare Sunday stroll by the river with a friend Jess realised that she wasn’t looking forward to opening her newly extended shop on Monday. She was dreading having to sit down and work to finish the designs that Allison Joyce the local councillor had commissioned. Somehow she felt that in trying to build a successful business she’d lost a sense of her original purpose and a bit of her soul along the way. She got little joy from the ooohs and aaahs of customers wearing garments she didn’t care she had designed. The money was great but the work was soul destroying. Jess was now left feeling like she’d sold out, she’d traded her passion and her art for a traditional measure of success and that made her uncomfortable. Mostly she was angry at herself for allowing her ego to get in the way of doing what she really loved, what she’d set out to do and be. She realised that what made her a success in the first place was doing what mattered to her.

So on Monday Jess didn’t open the shop. She stopped answering the phone, went for walks and thought long and hard about what it was that made her want to do this job in the first place. Jess took time out to go to the art gallery, the local market and the design museum. It was a tough time and she knew that some people might judge her harshly for making changes. Jess also knew though that change had to happen, that the first step to helping dreams come true was putting a stake in the ground for her own dreams.

So that’s what she did. It meant not just tweaking the model she now had only to be back where she started again in few weeks time. No, Jess made a radical shift and a decision never to take on a custom design again. It just felt like the right thing to do. She had to stop being a shadow of the designer she could be by being the designer she wanted to be.

I’m sure Jess made the right decision. If you get no joy from what you do it begins to show. You can tweak the compromise a little here and there but sometimes what is required is insight and extreme bravery.

Remember why you started not just what you started.

*This is a re-post from some of my earlier work, it’s important and I wanted to share it here with you.*

Image by Steve Rhodes.

Joining The Dots Works But It’s Not Art

Or…. why I dislike writing ‘how to’ blog posts.

Do you remember as a child, when you realised that your stick men and two dimensional cats weren’t actually a true representation of the real thing? Maybe like me you tried using those join the dots books? The first time you produced a drawing by following those instructions you felt pretty good, but after doing the first few you knew that it was cheating.

Even a five year old knows that there is no soul in something that is created by following instructions.

If Seth Godin were to lay out his entire blog writing process for you with no holds barred, timings, schedules, strategies, where to get ideas, how to write great beginnings and compelling endings. Would you feel secure in the knowledge that you could make the same impact as Seth does? Even if you could write as well as Seth, would you feel like you were putting your unique ideas out into the world, or more like just a cheap imitation?

I know that ‘how to’ posts will drive more ‘traffic’ to my blog, but I rarely write them because you are not ‘traffic’ to me. My job is to enable you to bring out the best of yourself and elevate your unique ideas, not to give you a book full of numbered steps to follow. Following how tos and joining dots teaches you to count and tick boxes. They are not the foundations of ideas that matter and will never satisfy your creative, pioneering soul.

Image by Pierre Bedat.

Take Off Your Little Black Dress

Maybe you look amazing in a little black dress with no help from anyone. Very few people can pull it off without at least a leg wax, high heels and an airbrush tan. Think about why you wear that dress in the first place. Is it to make you feel good about yourself? Possibly…..or is it to attract attention?

You know deep down that you won’t attract the right kind of attention with your little black dress.

When will it be time to show the best of your real self, not just in your life but in your business too?

Are you spending so much time working on the ‘how to attract people’ part, (tactics); that you’ve stopped focusing on making a difference to people, (objectives)? Have you forgotten the unique value of your own message?

You have something important to share, but if you’re wearing the equivalent of a little black dress to attract people to your idea, blog or your business then you’re doing yourself a disservice. You are diluting your idea and making yourself invisible to the people who need what you have.

You are one-of-a-kind, your story is what makes your idea unique, and that idea it is going to make a difference to someone. Don’t bury it by dressing it up in 10 inch heels and covering it with lipstick.

Image by Zar Cor.

What’s Stopping You Making Your Idea Matter?

The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20 ~ Derek Sivers

You’ve got lots of great ideas and more than a few stuffed Moleskines to prove it!

An idea, even the most fantastic one, only begins to matter when you can take it from scribbles in your notebook to implementation.

So what’s stopping you? Why are you stuck?

When will the time be right?

If you have the kind of idea that will benefit others more than it benefits you, it matters. Don’t waste it!

I know that ideas aren’t a problem for you, so what would take you from Moleskine to momentum? What do you need to start? What’s holding you back?

Image by Mike Rohde.

How Not To Name A Startup Or Anything

A brand name is more than a word. It is the beginning of a conversation. ~ Lexicon

Everyone can agree that there’s nothing really objectionable about calling your business ‘Bargain World’. It’s an innocuous name and most people won’t hate it. And that’s the problem.

If you’re going to name your business, non-profit, product or service something that people won’t hate, then you’re giving yourself an identity that they will never be able to care about either.

Bunkum! I hear your cry what about Apple and Amazon, aren’t they just unobjectionable words too? Back in 1976 when Apple was Apple Computer, tech startups and corporations were called IBM (what does that stand for?) and Microsoft. I bet a few people were laughing behind their hands at the idea of branding an incorporated tech company with a stripey apple. When Jeff Bezos named Amazon after one of the biggest rivers in the world in 1994, other book stores were called Borders Books and Waldenbooks. It didn’t take people long to fall in love with Amazon, which of course aspired to be the biggest, fastest, get what you want bookstore, (that had room to grow not to be just a bookstore) in the world.

Your business or product name is the hook on which you hang your story and start the conversation with customers. It’s the mechanism you give people to identify you. And when you earn their trust and loyalty it’s the way they spread the news about you. Your brand and product names are some of the most priceless assets your business can own. They should make you stand out, not fit in.

If nobody can find an objection to the brand name you choose, then you’ve probably got the wrong name. This kind of brand naming architecture often happens by committee, which means you end up with something that will be forgotten. Your name should polarize people, spark their interest and make them want to get to know more about what you do.

Here’s a simple test. If you can’t imagine someone wanting to wear your name on a t-shirt one day, then it’s probably not the right name for you now.

I know that choosing a name for your brand has caused you to waste valuable time and slowed down growth and momentum in your business, so I’m working on the brand naming white paper you asked for, which will be available to you soon. Hallelujah!

How did you choose your brand, blog or business name? Which brand names do you love and why? Which ones do you wish you’d thought of first?

Image by World of Good