Big Ideas that Impacted Me in 2014

Big ideas 2014

Boiling 12 months of brain activity down into a few hundred words is an intimidating task. But rather than giving a full-on commencement speech as you “graduate” from this year and move into the next, we might as well get straight to the point.

If I was forced to share the 3 ideas that had the biggest impact on my thinking in 2014, it would be these:

The Immense Importance of Identity in Decision Making

One morning in January 2011, I was standing in a cell phone store when there was breaking news story came on the radio. A mysterious 13th zodiac sign had been discovered — and with Ophiuchus (as the new sign was called) squeezing itself into the calendar, every other sign was shifted. Scorpios became Libras and the world was all out of wack.

Half the people in the store freaked. The man playing with the laptop display searched to find out the new dates, and a small crowd gathered around him, wondering who they were supposed to be now…

(Do you remember that day?)

I share that anecdote to illustrate a point. Astrology falls into the fairy tale category, but people’s reactions were very real. Some people think about their identity largely through the lens of their zodiac signs. They had seen themselves in their horoscopes for years. What happens with that is called into question?

The way we perceive ourselves affects almost everything we do. As a marketer, copywriter or salesperson, you MUST understand the way your ideal customers see themselves. It goes deeper than just features and benefits…even deeper than problems and desires.

This incident happened 4 years ago, but I am coming to understand the power of identity more fully as time goes by and experience mounts.

We’re going to spend a good deal of time fleshing out this idea and applying this concept in my upcoming training/coaching program. In the meantime, you can read about this incident in greater detail in The Ophiuchus Effect.

The Gargantuan Difference Between Prospects and Buyers

This was The Business Growth Question I Couldn’t Get out of My Mind earlier this year. It’s been stuck there for the past 350 days or so.

There is a world of difference between someone who reads your free material but hasn’t sent you any money. I advise you to check out the link to the article, because I’m going to be brief here.

Interestingly, when someone becomes a paying customer, their identity is altered a little bit. As they become accustomed to being a customer, they may come to think of themselves in terms of your product or service. There are Pepsi people. There are Apple people. There are Chicago Bears fans (we’re a depressed bunch these days).

Some of us are as loyal to our preferred products as to our political affiliations.

Do what you can to convert your prospects into buyers. The relationship you build with your buyers is arguably the most valuable asset you have.

The Enormity of Leadership

If this sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because leadership has been one of the Big Ideas that Impacted me in 2012 and 2013. The topic is both important and compelling.

I do not speak of leadership in the superior-subordinate sense. I’m talking about something closer to “I’m taking my flashlight in this direction; who’s headed this way?

Even if you’re not giving orders, you are a leader if you have an audience. And as a leader, you have a responsibility for the well-being and progress of those walking with you. You have to

  • Teach them. Help them develop a worldview that will serve them well
  • Warn them. You see danger they can’t see yet. You’re aware of pitfalls they need to know about. Have the guts to stand up and protect them to the best of your ability
  • Encourage them.
  • Inspire them. Share your successes and the successes of other members of the group. Never miss out on a chance to give them good news.
  • Exemplify the philosophy you espouse. Walk the walk.

I’ve pontificated on this topic some more at Leadership: Burden and Blessing, if you’re interested.

Happy New Year. May this be your best year yet. Let me know how I can help you achieve that.

P.S. Have you registered to get your copy of Creating Business Growth yet? It’s going to be available for free on Amazon Kindle from January 1-5.

Weighing in at more than 300 pages, this book shares expert insights on
– Google Adwords
– Getting Referrals
– Neurolinguistic Programming
– Networking
– Search Engine Optimization
– Email Marketing
– Public Relations
– Unique Value Propositions
and plenty more.

This will very likely be the most useful book you read all year. What’s more, you’ll get to know nearly 2 dozen of the smartest marketers I know…men and women who have earned my admiration and trust over the past couple years.

Get more details and pre-register to get a free copy on New Year’s Day at


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.