The new Moo cards are here! The new Moo cards are here! I’m somebody! (Thanks to those who get the reference.)

I really shouldn’t post this and ruin it for you should you ever order your own Moo cards. But I can’t resist.

I designed and ordered cards for a forthcoming jewelry collection before going out of town for 10 days. The timing was deliberate. The box would be awaiting me when I arrived home, and I could indulge in the singular pleasure of undressing, er, opening the package after a long day’s drive. It’s not unlike the pleasure of opening Apple products. But Moo is more fun, less austere.

Having only ordered the standard matte finish cards before, I wasn’t prepared for the sexiness of the Luxe cards box opening experience. And that’s what they’re creating — an experience — one of delight and care. The devil is absolutely in the details. Sure, everyone is opening the same box, but when you’re opening your box, you feel special. It’s a small price to pay for such delight.

You can deliver delight in many ways, no matter how serious your business or organization. Delight doesn’t have to be silly or fun or sexy. Delight can manifest in many ways, appropriate to your product or service. It can be visual. It can be nurturing. It can be clever. It can cheerlead or handhold. Delight is evidence that someone is thinking about you.

Moo Luxe business card main box

I know! It’s exciting, right? Read More

Highest GradeIs “on time and within budget” the first few lines of your marketing message?

If you had to remove those words, what would your story be?

Everyone worries about spending money, even those with deep pockets. And if someone hires you they hope you’ll finish on time. Both are universal concerns.

They’re also the least a customer can expect. A built-in feature. And when you’re not the cause of a ballooning budget or a blown schedule, your best offering is now shot.

Even if you’re serving the fast and cheap crowd, you still need to stand out among all the other businesses using the same line. Read More

I am yoga

Company naming is no easy task, unless, of course, it falls from the sky and lands at your feet.

Most often, it involves pouring over the company’s how, why, what, who, where. It involves word collecting, list making, searching, listening, vetting and playing.

Does it sound good? Will people like to say it? Not always possible but it doesn’t hurt to start with high standards. I created a brand identity for a climate initiative with a seven-word name. Try to say the name and you stop after the first few words, hoping the person knows what you’re referring to. The acronym is its own tongue twister. Did the committee that selected the name say it a few times aloud?

Is the name easy to remember?

Does it look good when written out?

Will it have longevity? Does it need to? Read More

Body of Work: buy the book!

”In the old world of work, we described specific career paths, such as doctor, lawyer, entrepreneur, or writer. In today’s world of work, due to either personal choice or circumstances outside your control, there is a great chance that you will change your work mode at least once in your career. More likely multiple times.“ —Pamela Slim, Body of Work

That means cultivating the ability to adapt. But more than adapt, we can go a step further and find overlooked treasures in our personal and work history to weave a whole new narrative.

In Pamela Slim’s new book, Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together, you are likely to locate yourself on its thoughtful question-filled pages. Award-winning author, business coach and speaker, Pam has touched a nerve at at time when people are eager to use all of themselves in their work. Read More

question mark

How did you arrive at that assumption?

What can we compare or contrast this with?

Is there another way we can get there? Where is there?

What if?

Why? (Then why again and again…)

When I was young, I got the impression I asked too many questions. I suppose I had some driving need to get to truths, to the heart of the matter. Maybe I thought there was more going on than it appeared or than people seemed satisfied with. I asked “why,” a lot.

”A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.“ —Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question

There’s a lot of talk about solutions. Designers offer solutions to business problems. Therapists offer solutions to personal problems.

But behold the question! Read More

footsteps

Have you ever received a followup call from a doctor asking how you were feeling? I haven’t.

But what if that happened?

What if you tweaked some part of your customer’s path that allowed you stand out from similar businesses? What if it delivered unexpected delight?

Who or what could you emulate that has already nailed one of those steps? And could that become part of your brand? Read More

List of names

If you use an e-mail service to send newsletters or blasts, how did you build your list? If the answer is that you invited people or they added themselves via a form on your website, three cheers for you! No coal in your Christmas stocking.

Email is still one of the most powerful ways to connect with customers or prospects short of having coffee together, even when automated (because you can personalize it). You’re not competing with a stream of cat photos in Facebook or random Twitter chatter. It’s a great way to further your brand and personality, and become a go-to person in your field.

But you don’t want people scratching their heads when your third e-blast of the week arrives in their in-box, wondering if they forgot they signed up for your list.

There are three types of emails from businesses: total spam, almost spam and not spam. If you invited people to your list or they signed up (knowing what they were getting), that’s not spam.

We all know what total spam is.

Almost spam is everything else, such as adding people to your list, even people you know, even good friends, who might very well have said, “Yes, sign me up Scottie!” if only you’d asked.

Perish the thought that deleting your email is easy. Trust and respect rule here. The burden is not on your recipient, it’s on you to inform, inspire and delight. I even ask permission from clients, people who pay for my advice. Read More

garden potatoes

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One look at my potato gleanings made me realize how much of a farmer’s harvest they can’t sell — a splotch, an unsightly wrinkle, non-uniform sizes —because the American shopper is too fickle. Not shown are the very smallest potatoes, no larger than a pea. Imagine how wonderful they’d be whole in a soup.

But it’s just that irregularity of home grown or farmers market produce that is especially delightful. Fellow admirers of odd-shaped vegetables are nodding their heads in agreement.

You’d never find heart-shaped tomatoes or Dr. Seuss eggplants or twisted yellow bell peppers a grocery store. I’m convinced these vegetables taste better, too.

secret sauce

After picking many pounds of marionberries recently, I had to start getting creative. I’d already made jam, sorbet and tarts. (I’m officially banned from buying a separate freezer.) Then I recalled a marionberry barbecue sauce I’d made last summer, not the most obvious application of the berries. I found a recipe, switched up some of the ingredients, adjusted it till I arrived at a secret sauce, ready for pulled pork.

Now, imagine your business is the pulled pork (or roasted tofu for you vegetarians). What’s your secret sauce? That set of ingredients that only you have that lend your enterprise a flavor all its own.

In order to land on your secret sauce, you first have to embrace the idea that people need something to go on to pick you out of the crowd. Most businesses rely too heavily on the notion that because they exist, someone will want their product or service. Someone will eventually find them. Or they think their passion alone will carry them to success.

This works well for those rare businesses that fill a peculiar niche. But even that lasts only so long. Soon, there will be many more shops serving bacon maple milkshakes.

What makes you different is the very substance of your business. It defines your branding (both image and voice), it simplifies marketing efforts, it boosts confidence on the most trying days, it gives you connection-making mojo.

Someone like me can tease out your secret sauce, put it into a larger context, refine it and put it into service. But you are a big ingredient in making that happen. A business that’s fully engaged in shaping their own brand benefits enormously, even if you can pay someone to do most of it for you.

To be fully engaged means going beyond where you feel comfortable going. It means thinking through aspects of what you do that you hope to avoid, such as limiting yourself, living up to certain standards or, believe it or not, truly believing in how your endeavor will benefit someone.

Ways to think of your secret sauce:

• An unexpected or distinctive personality or voice.

• A surprising promise or set of promises.

• A collection of traits that, while not individually unique, together, are refreshingly distinctive.

• Using the stories or experiences of people who do business with you as a marketing tool in itself.

• A very specific combination of what you do, combined with who it’s for (not moms or CEOs, but people needing “x” or worried about “y”) and how they benefit (really benefit).

• Figure out what you can put limits around or make specific or singular.

• A way you buck convention or call out what others won’t.

Not what your competition is doing (who is that anyway?)

Landfill Harmonic instruments from junk

If necessity is the mother of invention, then desperation is the mother of necessity. Desperation made MacGyver cool, which is why failure, adversity or lack of good fortune might just be the missing ingredient in your brand story.

Most businesses boast of expertise, awards and successes to the exclusion of all else. People want to buy from successful, capable companies but they also want to buy from people they can relate to, people who act human, which includes failure.

Not every failure should be for public consumption, but think about a time when necessity in your business led to a new idea or better service or product.

Maybe you were forced to scale back because of the bad economy and turned towards specialization, which led to greater success. Or it forced you to get new training that allowed you to add new services or products.

Maybe you tried, and failed, to bring a new idea to life but it led to an even better idea?

Everyone loves a story of transformation or triumph. Take Dave’s Killer Bread, whose wild success came about by the touch of an unlikely person—Dave, himself, who had been to prison and back several times only to reemerge as the Dahl family’s best baker.

We all have a wealth of mishaps, slow periods or lack of resources. Adding them to your brand message in the right way might be the very thing that connects you to your best prospects. Another way of looking at this comes from Seth Godin, who suggests saying the typical message backwards. It not only piques interest but you come off sounding more credible when you’re willing to admit what you can’t do.

(Image is from the Landfill Harmonic. Check them out!)

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