Who I Am Not

“I am what I am and that’s all that I am.” ~ Popyeye the Sailorman

Knowing and embracing your identity is a major aspect of achieving real success. As a matter of fact, understanding who you are, as a human being or as a business, may be the most important step you can take to make sure that you experience success on your own terms. (If being a millionaire is not one of your goals, people may look at you as successful, but that’s someone else’s definition).

If knowing who you are is essential to getting what you want in life, the other side of the coin is acknowledging and accepting who you aren’t. You may not think about it very frequently, but it is something you need to consider. With that in mind, let’s consider this idea from three angles: recognizing 1) who you are not, 2) what your business is not, and 3) who your customers are not. Then acting accordingly.

Who I’m Not

“It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world. The great man or woman is the one who never steps outside his or her specialty or foolishly dissipates his or her individuality.” – Og Mandino

You’ve probably heard one piece advice more than any other over the course of your life. “Be yourself.” Your parents, teachers and good friends have probably said it on numerous occasions to keep you on the right track. It never gets less true or becomes less valuable.

In the context of this discussion, we can rephrase the statement. Don’t be anyone other than yourself.

Know your goals and aspirations. Don’t be afraid to chase after them or pay high prices to attain them. I’ve said it before, and I think it’s apropos: dreams are never too expensive.

Know your values and morals. Adhere to them no matter what, and be bold in standing up for what you believe. Yes, it will cost you, but integrity is worth it every time. Don’t bow down to pressure to conform to anything that violates your conscience.

Remember that being a copycat is usually a bad idea. Modeling exemplary people is fine, but never surrender your individuality. You are one of a kind.

What My Business Is Not

“When a man’s undivided attention is centered on one object, his mind will constantly be suggesting improvements of value, which would escape him if his brain was occupied by a dozen different subjects at once.

“Many a fortune has slipped through a man’s fingers because he was engaged in too many occupations at a time.”

These are the words of legendary showman P.T. Barnum (from his booklet The Art of Money-Getting). Smart guy.

Think about this: Ferrari doesn’t make family cars. They’re not trying to either. They just make the world’s most iconic sports cars.

Apple is not Microsoft. Neither is Google. Each company likes it that way.

Whether it is explicit (like Whole Foods– no un-wholesome food) or implied, what your business is not matters. What you don’t do makes a difference. This is true for a few reasons.

1) Taking a strong stand for something you’re against will put you on the same “team” as others people with the same opinion. They will more readily relate with you, like you and buy from you.

2) Deciding what you don’t or won’t do will make you a specialist. Being great at one thing or in one area is almost always better (and more profitable) than being decent at several things. Like the brain surgeon. General practitioners are well-paid and highly skilled, but the neurosurgeon can become world-renowned, in-demand and can earn far more than his less specializing peers. Specialists are in a class of their own.

All because they don’t do everything. The key word here is focus.

3) Choosing what you don’t do protects you from wasting time. There are things that you don’t want to do, or don’t do well. Why waste time talking about them with prospective clients? Do you really want to spend your time and energy working something where your results will be less than your best work?

This is very true for me. I am not an artist, graphic designer or HTML expert. It’s good that I know that. I have the can either learn these skills, or avoid situations where they are part of the deal.

It’s also good for potential clients to know, so they don’t have the wrong impression. They can save time knowing that I am not the best choice for every job. I know where I’m gifted, and I’m aware of my limitations.

Your business will see amazing benefits by knowing and making known what you are not and what you abstain from doing.

Who My Customers Are Not

Knowing who you customers are not is huge when it comes to providing them with products and services that they want and need. It will help keep you from creating products that flop. You hear that the foundation of marketing is knowing your customers. Understanding who they are not has great advantages.

Lifetime is “Television for Women.” They know the majority viewers are not men. They don’t try to speak to men. The shows, movies and whatever the heck else they provide is designed for adult women. Similarly, the commercials that run on that channel are designed for female buyers. The people who make the commercials and buy the advertising time slots know who’s watching, too.

When your business is what it is, and isn’t what it isn’t, that fact alone will go along way in determining who your customers are not. You’ll still have to look deeper to find out more. The better you understand your market, the better you’ll be able to serve them. The better you serve them, the greater success you’ll have.

You can think about your target customer in terms of gender (like Lifetime), age (do they still sell Sixteen magazine?), economic status (Rolex and Walmart), and a great number of other distinctives.

Getting to know what your customers are not is part of getting to know them. How well do you know the people you want to sell to?

Succeeding in business is difficult when you’re shooting in the dark. Flip on the light switch by getting in touch with your prospects and customers.


Another Judo Move

There has been some great feedback on my post “5 Judo Moves Every Copywriter Should Know.” If you haven’t read it, please do so. I’m more than 99% sure you’ll be able to get at least one benefit from it.

So, how ’bout a sixth move to add to your judo repertoire?

Ancient Roman poet Ovid said that “Nothing is stronger than habit.” George Santayana is quoted as saying “Habit is stronger than reason.

So, if you can attach your product or service to a habit that exists in your marketing, you have a tremendous advantage: there’s a force of nature working on your behalf!

For example, you don’t see most cigarette lighter manufacturers do much advertising. They don’t really need to. They’ve attached their product to a habit/addiction. Smokers are going to smoke, and they need matches or lighter to make that happen. All a company has to do is put lighters where smokers can see them, and they’ll sell.

On the other hand, there are companies that create habits around their products or services. What percentage of people buy the same toothpaste every time, without even thinking about it? I bet it’s a pretty high number.

A researcher at Duke University published a paper in 2006 which found that over 40% of the activities we perform every day are habits, not conscious decisions. We’re not nearly as analytical and rational as we like to think we are!

Can you think of any ways you can use the force of habit as one of your best salesmen?

  • Become associated with something your target market already uses habitually.
  • Help your market engage in those habitual behaviors instead of trying to get them to change those habits (which is what a lot of marketing attempts to do)
  • Make it easy to form a habit buying from you.

Why You’re Not Making Any Money Online

Ryan Healy listed 12 reasons why most people don’t make any money in their internet “businesses.”

If you’re experiencing difficulty getting money flowing online, this will help. You might see yourself here.

Check out 12 Reasons You Can’t Make Your First $50 Online.


The Ophiuchus Effect

Facebook and Twitter were abuzz this week with rumors that a mysterious 13th sign called Ophiuchus has been added to the zodiac. As the “news” went viral, emotions ran high. You’d have thought that World War III had been declared by the way some people reacted.

Now, I’m not into astrology, but all the commotion surrounding this ordeal can give us some valuable business insight.

Peter Drucker said that “The purpose of business is to create a customer.” No matter what industry you’re in, your product or service is all about people. The dynamic that generated such a strong emotional reaction with so many people can also have a profound impact on your customers and prospects.

What’s Your Sign?

The primary reason for the stir surrounding this topic is that it strikes directly at the way in which many people identify themselves.

The mind automatically moves into self-defense mode when confronted with any perceived threat to one’s view of the world and his place in it. If you’ve ever had a disagreement with someone about religion, politics, or even sports teams, you know this is true.

Many people take their zodiac signs seriously.  Their identification comprises a major part of how they think about themselves and the world around them.

Millions check their horoscopes as part of their daily ritual. Important decisions are often made based on what they read. Every newspaper has an astrology section. And there are countless places to check horoscopes online and even on cell phones.

The idea of changing this way of thinking has proven to be earth-shaking.

Every interested individual is forced to ask the question, “Am I what I have always considered myself to be?

It’s the same reaction that people have when they find out that they were adopted. Everything they think they know about themselves is challenged.

Putting the ‘Ophiuchus Effect’ to Work

What are the key lessons you can take away from this phenomenon and apply immediately to your business?

1. One’s perception of who he is forms the very foundation of every choice he makes, including purchasing decisions. No one buys from you because of who you are. They buy what they buy because of who they are.

2. The main reason people form connections to certain products, services and brands is because they tie into how they think of themselves.

Apple shines in this area. Their products and services appeal strongly to those who consider themselves to be creative, intelligent, free-spirited and cutting-edge. Apple has created a cult-like following by participating in customers’ self expression.

How do your customers think about themselves? How can you fit your business into these parts of their lives?

3. People are firmly attached to their own personal categories. You need to know how your customers and potential customers categorize themselves. If you don’t know, find out immediately. Think about the way Democrats and Republicans “brand” themselves. The concepts of “liberalism” and “conservatism” carry powerful emotional ties and fierce (often blind) loyalty. You can use the same strategy to build bonds with your audience.

4. It may be possible to create a category for your business, but it is much easier to become associated with what your customers and prospects already love. Tommy Bahama is a good example. The lifestyle of perpetual tropical vacation is one that certain individuals aspire to. Those people will naturally relate to products like the ones that Tommy Bahama offers.

Make a bold statement of who you are as a company. You will attract the kind of customers you want to do business with. Lukewarm relationships will decrease proportionally to the strength and specificity of the stand you take. Instead, you’ll form passionate, long-term relationships.

5.  Affirming the worldview of your customers and connecting with their categories they identify with will help build instant rapport and trust. You are “one of them!” As such, they will feel that they can trust you and relate with you. They believe that you understand them and their needs.

Take time to get to know how your customers view the world. Find ways to affirm their way of thinking. You’ll discover your interactions with them will be more beneficial both for your business and them.

The addition of Ophiuchus to the zodiac may be the latest tall tale, but the emotional reactions are no myth. The psychology is real and powerful. Apply the lessons this event has taught you; your business may never be the same.


Arthur’s Advertising Wars, or Why You Don’t Want to Compete on Price

You can learn a lot from cartoons. I have 4 kids in the house, so I know.

Marc Brown’s classic cartoon Arthur teaches us a business lesson we should all heed. Competing on price is a losing proposition.

The entire episode is enjoyable, but the business fun starts about 5 minutes in.

So, do you still want to be the low price leader in your field?


5 Ways Twitter Improves Your Writing Skills

People keep telling me that the internet is making people dumber. To be honest, I don’t know whether or not that’s true. But did you know that Twitter can make you better writer?

If you are purposeful in your how you approach your use of any microblogging platform, there are 5 ways that you can they can skyrocket your writing ability.

1. You learn the value of every word — no, of every character. In writing, especially for marketing and sales, the tighter your message is, the better. When you have only 150 characters to work with, each letter has to earn it’s place. It has to pull it’s weight. This forces you to think carefully about your choice of words.

If you’ve ever gone over the character limit and had to edit your tweet, you know what I’m talking about. “How can I say what I need to say in the allotted space?” You have to be ruthless. If that comma isn’t serving a purpose, it’s gotta go!

2. You begin to break free from some of the “rule” forced on you by your English teachers.  The best writing is the plainest.  How many people do you know that speak with perfect grammar 100% of the time? In my neighborhood (Calumet City, IL, in south suburban Chicago), it’s probably less than 10%.

When you are communicating via the written word, sometimes there’s a desire to be super-formal.  Believe me, that’s not the best way to get your message across to the average audience. Unless you’re talking to English professors…

George Orwell’s sixth rule for good writing is to break any of  his other five rules before ”saying anything outright barbarous.”

Writers need to have the freedom to say what they mean, forsaking the rules when necessary.

3.  You have to learn to communicate in such a way that your reader will understand exactly what you mean. How many people do you know who don’t quite understand this principle? I see plenty of tweets that have no clear meaning, or that can be understood in multiple ways. Thoughtful writers will take the restricted amount of communication space to heighten their concentration. ”How can I eliminate any ambiguity and say what needs to be said so that the message is plainly understood?

This is great focus training for any writer.

4. You are forced to choose exactly what you want to say.  In an age where noisy chatter is constant, a Twitter message makes you strip your message down to the core. The way it should be. There’s no room to go off on tangents or talk about about non-essentials.

When brevity is required, you see who really knows how to communicate, and who’s just talkin’.

5. Twitter can give you extra writing practice. Tweeting is writing on a small scale. More practice is always a good thing. A high percentage of Twitter users access the social network with their cell phones. So even if you don’t have a pen and paper, you can practice crafting clear, compelling messages.


Quote of the Week 26

Have ever started a new project or activity full of excitement, only to find your enthusiasm shrinking over the coming days and weeks?

I think everyone who has lived a few years has probably had this experience. It’s a pretty common occurrence amongst us humans, record-setting track athlete Jim Ryun has some advice for us.

“Motivation gets you started; habit keeps you going.”

Achieving the things you really desire in life will usually take hard work. We don’t always feel inspired to keep at it, though.

Most people you and I know mess up at this point. When the emotional charge that accompanies the early stages of a new venture dies down, we give up. We lack the willpower to push through.

The old proverb that says anything worth having is worth working for is 100% true. If you want to reach your goals in life, you’ll have to put in real effort.

Jim Ryun knows quite a bit about hard work. He set world records, after all!

His recipe involves forming habits to keep moving forward after the motivation wears off.

Roman poet Ovid is quoted as saying “Nothing is stronger than habit.” Even motivation.

What’s all this boil down to? You have some challenging goals to accomplish, right? You know you’ve either already felt that initial excitement or you soon will. Begin immediately to form habits that will continue to propel you toward the finish line when the feelings cool down. Be purposeful about it.

You will find yourself to be more successful than you’ve been at any point in the past when you’ve allowed emotion (or the lack of them) to dictate your actions. And you’ll probably outperform most of your peers that are working on the same goals.

Sounds like a good plan to me.


Spy Games

Have any of you seen the new AMC series “Rubicon?”

Four episodes have aired so far. I’m loving every second.

(I’ve always been into conspiracy theories, espionage and stuff like that. If you have a similar interest, you really need to take a look at this show. You almost never hear me recommend that you sit in front of the television, so you know this is serious.)

There was an acronym that one of the characters used in this Sunday’s episode that I wanted to share. There is, naturally, a practical application to go along.

Forgive me: like the obsessed fan that I am, there is a bit of an introductory synopsis coming up. If you want to get to the point of this post, skip down to where you see THE POINT in red letters.

We follow a team of intelligence analysts working at the American Policy Institute, aka API. They basically tell various government and military agencies what the data they collect from wire taps, satellite images, etc., really means.

In this episode, the team is assigned to make the analyze info and advise the military’s decision on whether or not to drop a bomb on a potential target. Innocent lives are at stake.

Trying to determine the risks involved in the mission, the 3-person team guesses the number of civilians that could be in harm’s way. One of them exclaims that the estimate quoted is a “total WAG.” This is defined as a Wild “AGuess. Feel free to guess what the “A” stands for.

So here’s THE POINT:

In direct response marketing, you cannot afford to make WAGs. You don’t have the luxury of fooling around with the money you spend to roll out your campaign. Every dollar has to be accounted for. This is especially true if you’re working on a project for a client. You can’t play around with their investment.

The good news is that you don’t have to settle for making guesses in your marketing.

Too many business and ad agencies develop concepts without ever doing research to find out exactly what motivates their target audience. Even more proceed with their ideas without ever testing to see if what they’re doing is producing results.

This is wasteful at best, and potentially suicidal for your business.

Lesson for today: don’t make WAGs when it comes to your business decisions. Strike that: never guess at any of the important decisions in your life, business or personal.

Do the necessary research so that you can move forward prepared for what’s out there. What is your hottest prospect really scared of? What is your wife’s favorite flower?

Then test everything. I’ll go out on a limb and say that everything in life is quantifiable to some degree. Find out what kind of results you’re getting, and work on improving them constantly.


Improve Your Marketing by Playing Board Games

Maybe I’m crazy, but it seems like you can find marketing lessons everywhere. I’m not talking about learning from the hundreds of sales messages that harass our eyes and ears daily.

You can gain marketing insight in what seems like most unlikely places…

Last night, my lovely wife and I had a great time playing Scrabble. After having the crap beaten out of me for most of the game, I had an epiphany.  Scrabble can help you be a better marketer!

I won’t take up all your time going trough all the details, but observe some of the benefits that you get from playing this classic game:

  • You’re constantly being exposed to new words. And advanced vocabulary (one that you actually put to use) is a key to the game. It will also help you with writing copy and content for your sales letters, website, articles, etc.
  • Scrabble is all about finding connections. Your brain can do a lot of exercise during competitive matches. Marketing is all about connections, too. Gotta find a way to bring your customers and your product or service together.
  • You’ll improve your ability to analyze details. A critical eye can do wonders for your advertising efforts.

The key lesson that I took away from my epiphany is that what’s on the board is more important than the letters on your rack. If you spend all your time looking at your own letters, you’ll get trounced (a word I am now quite familiar with). No matter what you have in your possession, if you can’t get it on the board, it’s worthless. Contrariwise, even if your assortment of letters is really sorry, you might still be able to create a huge word based on what’s already been played.

This is crucial with marketing as well. It is essential to understand your market. Understanding your audience is the most important part of marketing. Probably the most important aspect of running a successful business.

Short version: don’t spend all your time and effort looking at you. Look at your target, find out what they want, and figure out how to use that intimate knowledge to elevate your marketing to a higher plane.

Oh, and I’m selling my Scrabble Marketing Training Manual for $49. Give me a ring if you’re interested.

(Yes, that’s a joke!)


How Would George Carlin Respond to Your Ads?

From the Marketing Beyond Advertising blog:

Do your ads sound like ads? Do your ads boast about your superior service, your wide selection, or name the number of years you’ve been in business?

If so, you may be guilty of Ad-Speak.

Introducing the Carlin Ad Speak Calculator!

This cool tool will analyze your advertising copy and tell you if it sounds too salesy, too much like and ad.

I think its rather neato.

Advertising that sounds like advertising is easy for your target audience to ignore. If it does get read, it’s often disregarded.

Your message has to interrupt your readers enough to grab their attention, channel desire, and direct them to you and what you offer.

The Carlin Ad Speak Calculator is just another way to take a critical look at your copy. It will even list the elements that you’ve used that are commonly considered advertising lingo

Have a little fun, a little laugh, and another look at the quality of your message.