When Business Gets Bloody

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Writing was Hemingway’s profession. All he had to do to reach legendary status as a writer was bleed.

I don’t know what success looks like for you. I assume (which is usually a dumb thing to do) that you want to build a solid, profitable business, provide for your loved ones, gain the respect of your peers and attain some level of freedom. Maybe you hope to reach legendary status in your profession.

Take heed to Hemingway’s advice. All you have to do is approach your business or career with a willingness to bleed.

Pouring Out You

As a small business owner or solo professional, you probably know exactly what Hemingway means in the quote above. Your business is an extension of yourself. Day after day, you pour yourself into it. You’re committed to its protection and growth.

In many ways, identifying yourself so closely with your business makes you vulnerable. At the same time, that vulnerability also makes your business appealing:

Your values shine forth. The things that are important to you are the driving force behind the decisions you make. You’re willing to take a courageous stand for what you believe in, even when it doesn’t conform to the industry standards. This can have a polarizing effect; some people will love you and some will hate you. People who share your values and beliefs are more likely to become loyal customers and enthusiastic supporters than they would be if you “played it safe.”

Your “brand” is authentic. What the public sees is what it gets. And what they see is the real you — in the form of a product- or service-providing business. More than ever, consumers are looking for transparent brands to buy from. More than ever, inauthentic brands are shown for what they really are: hucksters more concerned with turning a profit than serving their customers.

It’s hard to connect emotionally (remember: emotion is critical to every purchasing decision) with brands that don’t seem authentic.

Your message has personality. Generic marketing stinks. Personality and uniqueness of voice will make it easier for your business to stand out from the robotic sounds of the boring majority. Your distinct voice will be more attractive to the customers you want to do business with most; your personality demonstrates that you’re one of them! You “get” them! The bond you form can be deeper, i.e., more personal, than anything that can be achieved with pricing or even product specs. I always refer to Apple because they’re a great example of this principle.

Your hard work pays off. If success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, how can you win without a willingness to bleed?

Not everyone who bleeds succeeds. But blood-letting usually precedes success.

Disclaimer: Pouring yourself into your business is no guarantee that you’ll succeed financially. It doesn’t even mean you’ll be fulfilled emotionally. All it guarantees is that you’re more likely to connect with the people you want to serve, partner with those closely aligned with where you are, and that if you do succeed, it will be on your terms, not someone else’s.

Good stuff from around the Web
Brand Your Business with Genesis Storytelling: Great 6-minute video from Tom Wanek on telling the “genesis story” behind your business

What Your Client Really Means by Price Objecting: “Your client just told you that they’re not interested in dealing with you, at least not on this subject. That’s not a price problem, that’s a relationship problem. And that’s a big deal.” Charlie Green tells us what’s really going on when a customer says “It costs too much.”

The Truth About Recycled Ads and Pickup Lines: What happens when you try to pour someone else’s blood into your marketing. Or dating. Great illustration from Chuck McKay.


Marketing Ideas that Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity

A few days ago, I heard someone complaining that all advertisers do is take advantage of consumers by manipulating them. They gain marketshare by telling bigger lies in louder voices than their competitors. But is that what advertising is about? Is that what business is about?

I argue that there is such a thing as truth in advertising. Advertising and lying are two different things in my book.

Moreover, marketing can actually make the world a better place. That’s how it ought to be used.

Taking inspiration from the instant viral hit “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity,” I wrote this month’s newsletter on the topic of how doing good is good for business.

Check it out below.

Doing good is good for business.

Not everyone believes that. I’ve had several discussions with people who think marketing is inherently evil and that entrepreneurs are generally dishonest and greedy. Maybe you’ve had similar conversations.

As I’m sure you know, you don’t have to be one of the bad guys to be successful in business.

With that in mind, this issue was inspired by the instantly viral article “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.” I normally wouldn’t ask you to stop listening while I’m talking (or reading while I’m typing) but you should strongly consider taking a few minutes to check out that article if you haven’t already done so. It’s just photos and captions, so it’ll only take a moment. Everything I say will make more sense if you do.

Let’s look at 3 instances of altruism in action from the article. Although I’m not sure any of these were meant to be marketing ideas, the insights we gain can have a dramatic impact on your business.

An Amazing First Impression

marketing first impression

When you look at the “21 Pictures” article, the caption under this image tells us that the owner of the dry cleaner who put on this “promotion” estimates that it cost $32,000 to help around 2,000 unemployed people in his community.

You know what I call that (other than “nice”)? An irresistible front-end offer.

Dry cleaners provide a service their customers need time after time. If they treat their customers right, they can form lifelong relationships. Free dry cleaning during a time of need is an incredible way to get the ball rolling. Where do you think these people had their suits cleaned in the future? How many other people did they tell about their experience? How much PR did this effort garner?

Think about it like this: this cleaner bought leads for $16 apiece.  Last time I went to the dry cleaners, I spent $45. Does that sound like a good investment?

1) Do you have an irresistible introductory offer? One so good that it’s virtually impossible to turn down?

In a previous newsletter, I mentioned how Gillette sent me a Mach 3 razor in the mail for my 18th birthday. I’ve been happily buying expensive blades from them for over a decade now.

Square (http://www.squareup.com) is giving away free mobile credit card readers. They make a small upfront loss to gain 2.75% of every transaction they process in the future.

Book of the Month Club will give you 4 books for $1, knowing you’re likely to buy plenty of books from them in the future.

2) Have you developed a profitable back-end to capitalize on the flood of leads/buyers coming in? In almost every industry, this is where the real money is made. Your current customers are your most valuable asset. Are you making the most of the opportunity to serve them in a way that’s mutually beneficial and profitable?

3) Are you specific in who you’re targeting with your marketing? Are you offers tailor-made for your ideal customers? This dry cleaner is appealed to a specific audience with a very powerful felt need. He saw a way to make their lives easier and improve their ability to make future purchases (by helping them look good on job interviews).

Serve a Starving Crowd. Literally.

social responsibility

Do you believe that the more you give, the more you get back?

If nothing else, this Subway location is helping people in a way that’s tax deductible. But chances are that plenty of customers notice this sign from day to day. This weekly act of kindness must build a lot of good will. Customers feel good about supporting businesses that are doing good in the community.

It pays off to treat people like human beings instead of walking wallets.

1) What are you doing to prove that you care? Are you using your talents and resources to meet a real need? Focusing on others rather than obsessively looking at your own business is essential to running a successful business.

A Truly Personal Touch

customer experience

Personal connection goes a long way in today’s “social economy.”  Not only do you want to treat people like people (as mentioned above), but you want to show your own human side, as well. This commercial from Ally Bank illustrates the point wonderfully.

These pictures show the correspondence between a 3-year old and the customer manager at a supermarket. Check out the way the manager responded to the letter. The fact that he responded at all is noteworthy, and he took the time to write a personal letter. Read the language he used. It’s not corporate-speak; it’s perfect for talking to a toddler.

A £3 gift card is a tiny investment to give a little girl an unforgettable experience. You can almost guarantee Sainsbury’s will hold a special place in her heart for the rest of her life (which will probably be a long, long time). Her parents, too.

On top of that, gift cards are notorious for putting extra money in retailers’ pockets. It’s hard to find an exact statistic, but the majority of consumers spend more than gift card is worth. They’d rather spend more than waste any of the cards value.

1) Are you showing your customers how much you appreciate them? What can you do to improve in that area?

2) Can you add even more personal touches to your marketing? Maybe do one thing per week that’s not automated to add value to your valued customers (or perhaps ones you’d like to “reactivate.”)

3) Do your marketing materials, including your website, show off your personality? Do you seem like a person/group of people or a corporate machine?

4) Is there a way to utlize gift cards or pre-punched reward cards to entice customers to come back and buy from you again?