Suddenly Marketing

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Category: Marketing Media 101 (Page 1 of 2)

Write drunk; edit sober. How to blog like you mean it

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Blogging can be scary. Some days, it feels like you’ve been pushed on stage and asked to do stand-up. The guy who was on before you totally killed it. The crowd was laughing in the aisles and people were repeating his catch phrase. Now you’re up there, peering through the glare of the floor lights, trying to catch a glimpse of the audience, sweating under the deep and awkward silence of a crowd waiting to see what you’re going to do.

Yeah. Sometimes, blogging is like that.

So, you ask yourself, how do people get brave enough to put themselves and their brands out there in authentic, vulnerable, stick-their-necks-out ways? How do they find the nerve to say the thing that needs to be said? What gives them the self-assurance they need to blog in a way that makes them stand out from the crowd, capture attention, and make people give a damn?

 

The answer: courage.

Courage isn’t a lack of fear. It is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. True courage does not come easily. You have to dig down deep and find the strength to face the dragons that stand in your way. You have to take a breath, square your shoulders, and push past the fear.

But, we all know there’s another way – a shortcut. It’s called liquid courage. You know what I’m talking about – the inhibition-lowering, boldness-bolstering, let-me-at-‘em kind of courage. The sure-I’ll-karaoke kind of courage. The lemme-tell-you-what-I-think kind of courage.

If you haven’t gotten to the point in your blogging evolution where you can tap into true courage, if you’re still teetering on the edge of writing posts that make you cringe a little when you click the “publish” button, you might want to try writing like you’re a little tipsy.

 

Write drunk; edit sober.

Most often attributed to Hemingway, this little gem of writing advice is perfect for bloggers. Like good fiction, a good blog needs to reach out and grab the reader. It needs to say something worth saying. It needs to take some kind of stand, but too often, especially on business blogs, we settle for the ho-hum and so-so. We play it safe.

This is called “going through the motions,” and it’s not going to help you build an audience, drive leads, or get known as a “thought leader.” It is going to bore people.

Whether you’re a solopreneur blogging as yourself or part of a corporate team trying to get out from under the red tape of management reviews and legal approvals, it can be hard to push beyond the easy, run-of-the-mill content so you can try something new or even controversial. I get it. But, if you don’t start taking steps in that direction, if you don’t start giving people something worth reading, why even bother blogging

Now, I’m not saying we should all go out and get hammered; but what if we applied the attributes of intoxication to our blogger’s mindset?

 

Lowered inhibitions

You’ve seen it a hundred times in the movies and probably in real life, too. The shy guy finally asks the pretty girl out. The shy girl finally gets up and sings her heart out to a bar full of dumbstruck friends. The downtrodden desk jockey finally stands up and tells his boss what he really thinks.

Turning down the volume of your internal censor can be a good thing for your blogging. If your primary worries are about being politically correct and pleasing everyone, you’ll end up watering everything down and diluting your message until it’s not worth hearing. Instead, loosen up a little. Try to be less self-conscious. Roll with your “crazy” ideas.

 

Brilliant random associations and wild, unruly bursts of creative insight

Speaking of crazy ideas, get some more of those.

Whether your brainstorming takes place in the conference room with a team of editors and writers, or in your head with just you and your inner critic, make it a free-for-all. Make it a no-bad-ideas zone. Encourage wacky suggestions and cultivate an environment of curiosity and creativity.

Sometimes it takes a little inebriation to see more clearly. How many winning ideas have been hatched during happy hour? We get a different perspective. Our internal filters shut down and the ideas can suddenly flow freely – colliding into each other and creating new, hybrid ideas. Happy hour can be very fertile ground for innovation.

 

Swagger

“Lemme at ‘im!”

Eyes slightly glazed, but with a fire burning in them, you’re ready to take on Goliath … bare fisted … with one hand tied behind your back. You know you can handle him. No problem. No problem at all.

Blogging requires a little chutzpah. You have to believe that you’ve got what it takes. You have to believe you’ve got something worth saying. If anyone says, “Who do you think you are?”, you have to be ready to tell him exactly who you are.

 

Honesty

A cocktail, mixed correctly, is as good as the best high-test truth serum.

When you’ve had a few, pretenses drop, charades dissolve, and facades crumble. Your authentic self, who has been waiting patiently behind the lines of sobriety and propriety, rolls her head and cracks her knuckles like a boxer preparing to enter the ring. It’s finally game time. Finally her turn to show her stuff.

“You know what I’ve always wanted to tell you?” … and then it all starts to come out – all the really juicy bits, all the stuff that keeps the listener hanging on every word. You don’t need a fancy vocabulary, you just need to tell it like it is – straight up, no filter.

 

Affection

“I love you guys.”

What is it about spirits that makes it so easy for us to express our affections? Defenses come down and the whole world seems like one big hug fest. How did we not see the awesomeoness of these people before?

Feel the love. Go with it. You’re trying to connect with these people on a very real level. Why hold back? If you feel moved to do it, tell them you love them. They are the reason you’re here. They are the reason you do what you do. Go ahead – lay one on ‘em. They’ll love it.

 

The morning after

Hemingway’s approach is only effective if you work both sides of the equation. I think we’ve covered the “write drunk” part, but what about editing sober?

The key is breathing room. Premature publishing is akin to drunk dialing (or texting). The results can be disastrous and embarrassing. Brainstorm and write to your intoxicated heart’s content, but don’t hit “publish” until you’ve come down off your creativity’s party train and are able to look at things with a sober and impartial eye.

Believe me, you don’t want to wake up with a tattoo you don’t remember getting.

 

From liquid courage to the real thing

Eventually, you’ll find that you don’t need a shot of faux fearlessness to blog like you really mean it. Over time, practicing blogging like you’re tipsy (even though you aren’t … really), will give you all the true courage you need to get out there and speak your mind in a unique and engaging way. You’ll feel at ease, be open to new and creative ideas, find your groove, embrace your truth, and surrender to your affections.

And that’s when the magic will happen. You won’t worry about feeling trapped up on a stage you didn’t want to be on in the first place. You will have found your voice, your audience, and your stride. You’ll be working that spotlight like a pro and having a great time doing it.

 

 

What do you think?

Have you ever written something while under the influence? How’d it turn out? Did you publish it? Did you have to censor much?  If you work with a team, have you ever had a Friday afternoon happy hour brainstorming session? Did anything interesting come out of that? What holds you back from blogging like you mean it?

 

 

Special thanks to David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) and Gareth (@dartacus) for inspiring this post. Scott wrote a post about why you should avoid deleting your content and Gareth asked if that also applied to “the content created at 2am when you were drunk & shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the internet?” Scott conceded that maybe that could go, but the conversation got me thinking about how the stuff you write at 2AM when you’re drunk just might be some of the best stuff. So, there you go. Food for thought.

 

Image credit: WordsIGiveBy on etsy

Easy Marketing for Small Businesses: 5 tips that will help you today

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Whether you’re a micro or small business owner, a solopreneur, or an entrepreneurial author, your livelihood depends in great part on your ability to market yourself and your business. Trouble is, you don’t have a marketing department or a bottomless budget for outsourcing. Like it or not, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty.

Before you heave a big sigh and give me that look of pained resignation, what if I told you marketing could be fun? Yes, that’s right. I said “Marketing can be fun.”

In fact, I think that if marketing is not fun, you’re doing it wrong.

Though some people would have you believe otherwise, marketing is not rocket science. Sure, we can complicate the hell out of it with fancy algorithms, complex data manipulations, and an endless parade of technology tools. We could, but we don’t need to.

 

As with most things, simpler is better.

Don’t you agree?

 

Let’s take a trip back to an idyllic summer afternoon …

You’re a kid, sitting around with some friends on a beautiful summer’s day – blue skies, puffy clouds, the sun beating down on the street. Trouble is, you and your friends can’t think of anything to do, and you’re bored. Mom comes around and says, “Why don’t you kids put up a lemonade stand.”

What do you and your friends do first?

Do you perform market research, create buyer personas, do a competitive analysis on all the other, neighborhood lemonade stands?

No. You don’t.

You build a stand, make some lemonade, and start waving at passing cars.

You might call some of your other friends to come by for a tall, refreshing glass of the best lemonade in town. Your mom might call some of her friends.

You keep things simple.

You don’t over think things.

You do what comes naturally and easily.

 

 

Easy Marketing Tip #1: Find your marketing happy place.

You do have one. I promise.

 

Be enthusiastic. 

Expect to have fun.

Embrace the adventure.

 

Avoid getting blocked, falling into ruts, and making marketing a chore.

Don’t let the evil influence of comparisons stop you in your tracks. You have a right to be here.

You started your business because something about it excited you, right? Hold onto that feeling and let it power everything you do, including marketing.

One of worst things you can do is try to follow the rules.

Newsflash: There is no “right” way to market. The myth of best practices is a dangerous one, leading many a business owner down a primrose path that’s destined for burnout.  If you detest writing, don’t set yourself up for misery by launching a text-based blog. If you don’t enjoy online conversations, think twice before investing a lot of time in social media. Play to your strengths.

 

Easy Marketing Tip #2: Don’t worry so much about failure.

You’ve heard the song and dance before: failure is how we learn and grow, failure means you’re making progress, failure is a necessary part of success.

Maybe, but failure still sucks.

I’m not saying you have to like failure, but without a willingness to fail, you can’t experiment. Without a willingness to fail, you lose all the opportunities that go along with “Hey, we could…” and “What if we…?” Marketing is all about testing. You try something, measure results, and then either optimize or try something new.

Think about your lemonade stand. Maybe you’d never built a lemonade stand before, or didn’t even know how to make lemonade. Did that stop you? No. You were willing to figure it out on the way. You weren’t boxed in by all the constraints of the cant’s. You were open to the unknown possibilities.

 

Easy Marketing Tip #3: Keep it simple … silly.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

You don’t have to do everything.

You’ll never have all the answers.

Would it be nice to have your marketing system all buttoned up and functioning like a well-oiled machine? Of course. That’s a no-brainer. BUT … should you hold off on doing any marketing until you’ve reached that rare state of nirvana? Definitely not. You don’t have to sort out all the gory details before you start. Just start, and go from there. (Remember – all of marketing is testing and experimentation. Put something out there and learn from it!) Perfect is a form of paralysis. Get over it and get moving.

Beyond the Pitfall of Perfection lies the Ensnarement of Everything: so many platforms, so little time, strategies galore, and tactics to keep you busy until the proverbial cows come home, make dinner, and settle in to watch a cowboy movie on Netflix. Start small. Stay focused. Resist the siren call of shiny, new objects. Trying to be everywhere at once just dilutes your efforts. Smart repurposing is one thing, but dashing from platform to platform will wear you out (and wear your patience thin).

Finally, you may as well face the awful truth now: you will never have all the answers. I’m sure you’re super smart and savvy, but the reality is that there is just too much for anyone to learn in one lifetime. New things are always launching, existing things are always evolving, and the stuff everyone swore by yesterday is suddenly no longer viable. Let go of your well intentioned but seriously misguided need to stay up-to-speed on Everything. There’s no need, and pursuing such a lofty goal will take up way too much of your valuable time.

 

Easy Marketing Tip #4: Pay attention … to yourself.

Most of the time, the answers we need are right there in front of us. We just need to learn to notice them.

Content may be king, but a good king serves more than he rules. If you feel like you’re being ruled by the iron fist of content overwhelm, it may be time to step away from the onslaught of incoming RSS feeds, email newsletters, webinars, podcasts, ebooks, and everything else you’ve signed up for in an effort to stay on top of everything marketing.

You know more than you give yourself credit for. Most marketing is based on common sense and a basic understanding of human psychology and behavior. It has less to do with technology and more to do with emotions. You’re human (I assume), therefore, you have the basic skill set to understand marketing. Trust me.

As you experiment with different marketing approaches, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, what feels right, the kinds of responses you get from your audience, and so forth. Give yourself the gift of a little quiet time each week (or, every couple of weeks) to absorb what’s been happening with your marketing. You know your customers and your business better than anyone else. Listen to feedback and your own inner voice and you’ll know soon enough what your next step should be.

 

Easy Marketing Tip #5: Focus on the relationship.

Last, but certainly not least, when you think about your marketing don’t think about broadcasting your message to an “audience” or influencing your “target demographic.” Think about creating a real relationship with each customer, one at a time. You’re a real person, they are real people. Having a dialog and interacting in a mutually beneficial way should not be that hard.

When you’re working on your marketing – whether it’s a blog post or an email, a sales page or an about page, a print ad or a brochure – think about your message as a conversation, not a billboard. Frame things up in terms of how you can help. Pretend you’re talking to just one customer, person-to-person.

 

 

If you can find your marketing happy place, get over your fear of failure, keep things simple, listen to your instincts, and focus on the relationships with your customers, you will suddenly find that marketing is a lot easier than you’d originally thought. In fact, you might even start to have a little fun with it, just like you did when you were a kid, standing on the side of the road, flagging down cars in front of your lemonade stand.

 

Branding is NOT optional – Part 1: A cautionary tale

Imagine you’re hanging at the local café and end up sharing a table with a stranger. Between sips of your steaming drinks, you pass the time with friendly small talk.

“They make the best lattes here, don’t they? I’m totally addicted.”

“I know,” she replies, “I’ve got a two-a-day habit that’s going to send me to the poor house. Thank god I’m so busy.”

“Good to be busy. What do you do?”

“Um, I work for myself. I’m a kind of project manager, writer, social media and account person … and I blog,” she says, picking distractedly at the sleeve of her sweater. “I’ll basically do anything anyone will pay me for … as long as it’s legal.”

She laughs. You chuckle. It’s funny, but you’re not sure where to go from there, so the conversation peters out and goes nowhere.

That was me five years ago. The “anything legal” bit was my standard “cocktail party line.”

It always got a laugh. It never got me any business. click to tweet

 

Accidentally in business

In 2007 I was newly divorced and hustling my butt off to make sure my three year-old daughter and I made as smooth a transition as possible into our new life. I was more than a little scared. I was pretty darn close to desperate. It was my first time working for myself and I didn’t have the luxury of time to stop and think about anything as esoteric as “branding.” I had deadlines to meet, conference calls to take, and piles of paperwork to wrangle.

My story is not unlike the stories of many other first-time business owners and entrepreneurs – people who are thrown into the deep end and need to learn how to swim. Fast. For most of these people, the priorities are all about hustling to land customers and then hustling some more to keep those customers deliriously happy. Tragically, they don’t have time to stop and think about their “brand.”

This will bite them in the ass later. Stay with me and I’ll explain why.

 

Branding: the magic you can’t see  click to tweet

Show me a successful business and I’ll show you a strategically crafted and well-articulated brand. Show me a floundering business and I’ll show you a half-formed, not-quite-there brand, or – worse – no brand at all. Branding is the foundation and the glue that hold your business ideas and messages together. It is the throughline in your business’ story – the consistent themes and philosophies that are at the heart of what you do and how you do it.

Branding gets a lot of lip service, but too few business owners (new or experienced) are actually willing to invest the time, money, and brain cells it takes to nail their branding. I understand their reluctance. “Branding” is intangible. After hours and hours of hard work you have nothing more than a simple document that defines “airy-fairy” things like brand values, messages, USPs and value propositions. It’s a challenge to write a check for something that – on the surface – doesn’t seem to do anything.

On the other hand, a business owner can easily assign a value to things like website copy, a custom app, a video campaign, an ebook, or a guest spot on a high profile blog. The success of these things can be measured in clicks, conversions, views, downloads, likes, comments, shares, leads generated, and so forth. Branding, not so much.

 

The price of Band-aid branding

Are you tempted to gloss over branding in favor of moving on to more tangible deliverables? Don’t be. Thinking about branding as a nice-to-have severely handicaps your marketing and the growth and stability of your business.

Whether you’re not thinking about branding at all, engaged in aimless spaghetti branding (in which you throw random branding at the proverbial wall and hope that something sticks), or slipping into mimicry branding (in which – either intentionally or unintentionally – you emulate one or more of your competitors), the risks of inadequate branding are many:

  • Wasted time and money – Although there’s always an element of iteration, trial and error is not the most efficient method of brand development.
  • Confused prospects and customers – If you can’t clearly communicate what you stand for and what value you deliver (aka: your brand), you won’t be able to connect the dots for prospects and customers.
  • Me-too syndrome – If you don’t take the time to differentiate yourself with strong, strategic branding, you will look and sound like dozens or hundreds of your competitors. Not good.
  • Lack of confidence – If you’re not sure about who you are as a brand, how can you confidently talk about or sell your products and services? (Hint: you can’t.)
  • Lost opportunities – If you can’t communicate your unique value clearly and confidently, but your competitor can, guess who has a better chance at landing more business?

 

Have I got your attention? Are you starting to understand the inherent risks of ignoring or short-changing your branding? I hope so, because I’m serious about this.

Next week, we’ll talk about the glorious benefits of building a strong brand. It really is pretty close to magic. 

 

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