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Even as I help people unlock and articulate what makes them unique, there’s a simple truth that goes beyond crafting the perfect brand.
It’s about showing you give a damn.
It’s even better when it’s unexpected.
Maybe it’s a gift where a gift would seem surprising.
Maybe it’s helping a client to take a risk where you know they’ll benefit.
Maybe it’s fantastic customer service where people have stopped thinking they’ll get it.
Maybe it’s a personal note to one person even though you serve many just like her.
If all you have is the desire to get picked, that’s not sufficient.
Wandering the aisles at a craft show a while back, I was surprised that the same styles and motifs appeared over and over. Most likely, each artist thought of himself as different. But why didn’t anyone want to stand out, especially in a creative industry?
It is said that there are very few original ideas. But there’s plenty of room for a different kind of originality. Put two or more existing ideas together to form a new product or service. Put a new spin on an old idea. Use your voice. If you’re an independent business owner and you’re not putting your unique voice to work, you’re overlooking the one tool you have that no one else does.
What is something more? Read the rest of this entry »
A recent article in the NY Times about branding your psychotherapy practice sent readers into despair over what they saw as a selling out and a ruining of the profession. They questioned the author’s quick fix solutions and her training and commitment. I might not have panicked as the author did after only three months with no clients, but most readers didn’t see themselves as business people. As if that would diminish the care they delivered.
Branding, at its core, is defining in a deliberate way what differentiates you from others, making it easier for people to find you and make informed decisions about buying your product or service.
Branding, by itself, doesn’t compromise ideals; at its best, it reinforces them.
People in professions driven by ideals can suffer from viewing their services as too precious to be tainted by deliberate business activity.
But in the case of therapists, in order to heal, they have to get people in the door. The care starts before a client walks through the door by making it easier for them to find and choose the best person to work with. The challenge then is to describe who you help and what your philosophy is in their terms, not yours.
The resistance is understandable.
A fear of new territory.
A fear of more work.
A fear of taking a stand.
It’s far easier to think your work should speak for itself. But if you really help people through your work, you have to put your ideals to work in ways you hadn’t considered before.
The other day, my yoga instructor said that every pose has five steps.
In any project or effort, there is big vision, small details and everything in between. It all matters, but it’s the details that are most noticed by the end user.
Well, not so much noticed as felt. This is an important distinction.
What is felt is delight…or annoyance. Clarity…or confusion. Satisfaction…or stupidity.
It would be one thing if the customer intellectualized what didn’t work. But most often, they feel lazy, tired or stupid. In The Design of Everyday Things, author Donald Norman explains that people tend to blame themselves when something doesn’t work, even if the flaw is in the design.
Have you ever found yourself saying this as you start a project?
Have you ever imposed this criteria on a hired consultant or firm? Read the rest of this entry »
You sit down to write your marketing copy. Words flow easily about who you are and what your service or product includes. You can describe the what, where and when with finesse. The only problem is that the reader is going to ask, “What’s in it for me?”
It doesn’t matter if it’s a marketing brochure, a workshop description or website copy. It doesn’t matter if the reader is a devotee. It doesn’t matter how much you think they need your information or how interesting it is. In making a decision to sign up, purchase or read further, your customer is wondering how you can benefit them.
Why is focusing on benefits so hard?
When one door is closed, don’t you know, another is open. —Bob Marley
With the closing of the year, December is a perfect time to consider the doors you’re keeping open, the doors you have yet to open and, often more importantly, the doors to consider closing. Not slamming. Not locking. Just closing. (You can always reopen them.)
I talk a lot about closing doors so you can open others, not because it’s easy for me to do! It’s because I know it has to be done in order to conserve energy, create success, explore new opportunities and maintain enthusiasm for your work.
We keep doors open that are better shut, and for good reason.
We fear a potential loss. We’re hard-wired to avoid loss, a concept called loss aversion. Barry Schwartz talks about it in his book, “Paradox of Choice.” Even if a loss will really be our gain, we often make decisions that don’t benefit us because the primal part of our brain kicks in. Just by knowing this, you can override that automatic response and make a different decision.
You will always have a loss, but you will always have a gain, too. The problem is, the gain is unknowable and the thing we have is knowable. It might suck, but at least it’s familiar. We also don’t want to disappoint people, another form of loss aversion.
Opening a new door takes energy and time. Yes and no. It depends on the door. Most of us are so risk averse that we’re not likely to open a brand new door so wide that an ocean of possibility rushes in that we suddenly have to deal with. And remember that we’re also closing doors.
We have to figure out what we want. Many of us work on auto pilot and we also do what is nearest or easiest or most crisis-oriented. We rarely leave time for the kind of reflection that can open up new opportunities. This affects all of us — the in-house marketing or project manager, the sole proprietor, the small business owner.
Other people are involved. If you work for or with other people, closing doors might be a little trickier. You have to justify a change. But maybe your staff plugging away at an effort that isn’t beneficial. Or you’re working with companies that don’t bring out the best in you. Maybe you can’t seize another opportunity because your time and effort is tied up elsewhere. You might need to step up and gently closes a door.
Years ago, I got rid of a large part of my book collection. I thought it was sacrilege but I wanted to simplify my surroundings. I created three piles: Keep, Get Rid Of and Maybe. I let the Maybe pile sit for a few days. I discovered I kept books I thought I should read but didn’t really want to. They were a cognitive drain. I got clear with what I was really curious about, what made me feel expanded and what I deeply wanted to learn, which meant having to acknowledge the opposite.
Business and work decisions are more complicated than books. But most likely, you don’t need to think about which doors to close; you already know what they are. Look at your business efforts that leave you anxious, frustrated, bored, unappreciated, angry or uncertain. The doors to open? They say those will open magically, but only when you’re courageous enough to close some first.
You have good and important things to offer. You have to make sure that the right doors are open for those things (and the right people) to move freely about.
Good luck! And if you have a good door-closing story to share, I’d love to hear it.