Suddenly Marketing

Brand Messaging | Content Strategy | Writing

Category: Strategy (Page 1 of 8)

The Secret Planning and Brainstorming Weapon You Don’t Know You Need

I can be a real geek sometimes.

And, not just your typical, Tolkien-quoting LOTR geek, either. (Though, I am totally one of those.)

I get geeky about things like the perfect notebook, calendaring, and a really well done Excel spreadsheet.

I also get seriously geeky about mind mapping. Seriously.


Mind whatting? If you have no idea what mind mapping is, you can get a quick 101 from my post, Secret Marketing Weapon: The Brand Mind Map.

After that (or, if you already kind of know what a mind map is), I’d like to invite you to take a listen to a podcast on which fellow mind mapping addict Michael Tipper (he’s the one with the lovely accent) interviews me about how I discovered mind mapping and just how I use it in both my personal and professional lives:

The Mind Mapping Show: Episode 8 – Discover the Possibilities of What Mind Mapping Can Do for Your Personal and Professional Lives

I will warn you that the first seven or so minutes are a bit chatty, so you may want to skip those and get right to the meat of the conversation.

Michael and I recorded the interview waaaaaay back in January and he broadcast it over the summer, but somehow I never got around to sharing it. (Couldn’t be because of my unbridled gushing and a few too many mentions of cats, could it? Maybe.)

ANYway … I thought this would be a great time to share the podcast. The end of the year is creeping up on us (or, more accurately, bearing down on us), so it’s the perfect opportunity to take a step back and do some mind mapping to look at the year behind and the year ahead. Maybe mind map that new project you’ve been contemplating, or perhaps you could use it to rough out a 2014 editorial calendar. Anything is possible. You never know where a mind map will take you.

I hope you’ll give a listen and indulge my attempt to get everyone mind mapping.

Oh! And if you have ANY questions, don’t hesitate to drop me a comment or a private email. I am always happy to talk about mind mapping. Always.


The Other Side of Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk

Listen to this post:



How badly do you have to want something before you’ll ask for help?

Does asking for help make you feel like you’ve failed?

What if you could see your asking for help as a kind of giving?

As I write this, Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk, The Art of Asking is creeping up on a million views. She only had twelve minutes, but she covered a lot of emotional territory and, in an uncharacteristically gentle fashion, drove her point home.

As I listened for the second time, I started wondering about the other side of the give-and-take equation. Having less than a quarter of an hour at her disposal, Palmer obviously had to keep her topic tight; but there is a whole other side to the art of asking that didn’t get much air-time: the art of giving.

Palmer is experienced at asking. Whether it’s a piano to practice on, a couch to crash on, or money to support her record-setting Kickstarter campaign, Palmer asks her fans for things all the time. And they respond – willingly, happily, enthusiastically. It’s a testament to the relevance of Palmer’s closing question. Instead of focusing on how to make people pay for music, she asks, “How do we let people pay for music?”


That’s quite a shift in perspective.

How do you transform a commercial transaction from being coercive to being a privilege? How do you switch someone’s mindset from “have to” to “want to?”

The piece that Palmer didn’t directly address in her talk is what she gives to her fans. Yes, she asked. Yes, they gave. But, she gave, too – in profound ways over the course of their long relationship. Palmer touched on this lightly when she shared how she questioned the fairness of the exchanges between her and her fans after crashing with a poor family of undocumented Honduran immigrants. The mother took Palmer aside to tell the musician how much her music had helped her eighteen year-old daughter, and to thank her for staying with them

Even the second time watching, I got a lump in my throat.

Palmer gives her fans much more than her music. She gives them connection – to her, to the ideas she embodies, to each other, and to themselves. She gives them the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves – to be seen, to contribute, to make a difference. She gives them permission and support and community. She gives them courage and compassion.

Palmer is an artist, but she is also a brand. She combines her personal humanity with the Big Ideas and values she stands for to create the message, experience, and community that are Amanda Fucking Palmer. She’s done it so skillfully and so authentically that her fans line up to help her keep doing what she does. People give not just because she asks, but because she gives.


That’s the piece many people miss.

Too many people will watch Palmer’s talk and rush to embrace the art of asking. They will assume wrongly that all they have to do is ask and they shall receive. That isn’t how it works. First, you have to give. You have to give of yourself and your ideas, your time and your energy, your attention and your empathy. Whether you are an artist or a house painter, a software developer or a writer, a dog trainer or a barista, you have to give first

Successful brands are not about coercion. Successful brands are about inclusion. They are about creating something that other people want to be part of. They are about creating a space where other people want to be. They are about being, as Palmer said of artists in days gone by, “connectors and openers.”

Your brand is never about you. It’s bigger than you. It should be. It’s about all the people you touch with your work, all the differences you make for them and the differences they make for you. It’s about giving so that you have the right to ask, and making asking a way of giving.

Marketing – Where to start

How do you feel when you think about tackling your marketing?

Excited? Empowered? Enthusiastic?

I didn’t think so.


Most people find marketing intimidating, overwhelming, and somewhat confusing.

Partly for that reason, many people tend to bump marketing to the bottom of the To Do list where it languishes with the dust bunnies. Poor, neglected marketing.


I get it. Marketing can seem Too Big to tackle. Where do you even start?

It’s like standing at the bottom of an imposing mountain and wondering how the hell you’re going to get to the top. You feel very small and ill equipped to handle such an adventure.


However, just like climbing a mountain, you don’t have to tackle the whole thing in a single bound. You mount your attack one step at a time. For beset results, you need a solid plan. Without a plan, you risk a lot of false starts that waste time, resources, and effort. Without a plan, you might hike around and around the bottom of the mountain without getting any closer to the top.

So – how do you develop this plan?

Here’s a simple, high-level, four-step approach to getting your marketing headed in the right direction:


STEP 1: Define your goals (The peak)

What are you trying to accomplish? What business problem do you need to solve?

Do you need more traffic to your site/offer/store? Do you have plenty of traffic, but no sales? Are you having trouble keeping your existing customers?  Are you constantly losing sales to price cutters? Are you battling uphill against a negative consumer perception?

Your marketing goals should be simple, but detailed. They should be quantifiable so that you can measure against them. “More sales” is not a good goal. “5% more sales from referrals” is a better one. “Standing out from the competition” is not a good goal. “25% higher brand awareness” is a better one.

“Engagement” is not a good goal. “50% more shares of brand content” is a better one.


STEP 2: Identify your assets (Take stock of your supplies)

What resources (human, financial, technical, network, intellectual property, content, etc.) do you have to help you reach your goal? As you compile this list, notice any gaps. Where do you need to supplement your existing toolbox? Be creative about how you can fill in those needs. Can you partner or barter with another company? Can you cultivate certain skills in-house, or do you need to outsource?


STEP 3: Craft strategies (Your general direction)

Now that you know where you want to go and what tools you have at your disposal, it’s time to brainstorm ways to reach your goals. It’s important to remember the difference between strategies and goals. Strategies are the Big Ideas, concepts, possible solutions. Tactics (coming up next) are specific actions that help you carry out a strategy.

So, for instance, if your goal is to increase referrals, your strategy might be to incentivize customers to recommend you. If your goal is to increase brand awareness, your strategy might be to expand into new verticals or establish a strong presence at major industry events. As you can see, strategies are not detailed. They are broad brushstroke directions. In the case of our mountain climbing metaphor, your strategy would be “up.”


STEP 4: Choose tactics (Your detailed plan)

Now that you have a general direction, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty with specific tactics. If your mountain-climbing strategy was “up,” your tactics will include all the details of HOW you are going to go up: what kind of climbing technique you’ll employ, what apparatus you’ll use, the route you’ll follow, how many stops you’ll make along the way.

If your strategy was to increase referrals by incentivizing customers, your tactics might include a tiered rewards package, direct mail letter, email campaign, and internal competition amongst your sales reps.

Tactics involves all the details of your “plan of attack” – the audience, the message, the creative, the channel, the delivery mechanism, etc.



1 – 2 – 3 – 4 … and just like that you’re ready to tackle that marketing mountain:

You’ve got a destination (goal – the top of the mountain), supplies (assets – tools and skills), a strategy (general direction – up), and tactics (detailed climbing plans). All of these elements work together: your tactics are driven by your goal, inspired by your strategy, and constrained by the assets in your toolbox. All the pieces make sense in the context of the Big Picture, each has a specific purpose, and they all work together towards one goal. You aren’t going to waste any time or energy. Doesn’t it feel good to have a plan?


Now, if only you had the time to make it all happen.

That’s a topic for next time.


Image Credit: gigi 62

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