On November 1, 2 and 3, I'll be hosting 12 of you in my office for a free three-day seminar. It's by application only and it's only for women entrepreneurs. If you think you can benefit from and contribute to this intense roundtable experience, I hope you'll apply. Or tell someone who might benefit. And surprisingly, please follow the guidelines as closely as you can, because it's the only way we can consider your application.
ALSO: I'll be taking the road trip to Los Angeles on November 9th. It's my only public gig in LA for a while, and it's being done in conjunction with the Peter Drucker Business Forum. There are a very limited number of tickets for the entire 8-hour session (use the code sethsblog to save some money on the full day ticket), or if you only have an hour or two in the morning, you can buy a ticket just for breakfast ($20) and the on-stage interview I'm doing with journalist and author Lisa Napoli.
Before that, on Friday, October 8, I'll be in Atlanta. (We'll try to top Chicago, which was probably the best yet… here's a video with feedback from some attendees).
A giant pitfall in the way small companies and individuals market themselves, particularly online or in presentations, is that they're often cheesy, ugly or unreadable.
I don't think people deliberately set out to be ugly, but they end up that way. And a quick look at your own buying behavior should tell you that you don't often buy from the sketchy-looking sites, ads and media that are often pitched at you.
No, I think the problem is that people don't realize that their work is ugly. They don't see it. Just like the close-talker down the hall from your cube doesn't realize that he's a close-talker. I'm not talking about skill or talent or even guts. I'm talking about learning to see what others see.
John McWade taught me how to see. I'm not great at it, I'm certainly guilty of designing my own not-so-ideal materials. But the gap between the one-eyed man and the blind is pretty big.
It might take a few weeks of hard work to start to notice what looks right in the world (and why). I think it's worth it.
(Easy to recommend books from Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds too)
One of the accepted holy grails of building an organization is that you should fill a need. Fill people's needs, they say, and the rest will take care of itself.
But… someone might know that they need to lose some weight, but what they demand is potato chips.
Someone might know that they need to be more concerned about the world, but what they demand is another fake reality show.
As my friend Tricia taught me, this is brought into sharp relief when doing social enterprise in the developing world. There are things that people vitally need… and yet providing it is no guarantee you'll find demand.
Please don't get confused by what the market needs. That's something you decided, not them.
If you want to help people lose weight, you need to sell them something they demand, like belonging or convenience, not lecture them about what they need.
Taste is the ability to select, combine and create experiences that the tribe likes–before they know that they like it.
John Waters, the filmmaker many accuse of having bad taste actually has great taste–according to a small tribe of people. He establishes a look and a feel and a story that (for this group) is then emulated.
Successful chefs like Thomas Keller invent restaurants and the dishes they offer–and are then rewarded for having the good taste to make precisely what we like. But of course, the 'we' isn't everyone.
Martha Stewart, according to a larger group, also has good taste. She's not merely copying what came before (that's not nearly as difficult or as valuable)… no, she's staying half a step ahead of her tribe, establishing the standard as she goes.
Great graphic designers have good taste. They understand how to use type and imagery to create objects and advertising that resonate with people likely to buy. Copying a book cover or a business card or a mayo label isn't good taste, it's copying. The difficult work is doing a new thing in a way that people who have never seen it before will 'get it'.
The other difficult work: understanding that your standards might not be the standards of the tribe you're seeking to connect with. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's in bad taste. If the market respects the creator, takes action and then adopts the work, it's in good taste.
When someone comes to your site for the first time, they're likely to hit 'about' or 'bio'. Why? Because they want a human, a story and reassurance.
Here are some helpful guidelines (okay, they're actually imperatives):
1. Don't use meaningless jargon:
… is a recognized provider of result-based online and mobile advertising solutions. Dedicated to complete value chain optimization and maximization of ROI for its clients, … is committed to the ongoing mastery of the latest online platforms – and to providing continuously enhanced aggregation and optimization options.
2. Don't use a stock photo of someone who isn't you (if there is a stock photo of you, congratulations). The more photos of you and your team, the better.
3. Make it easy to contact you. Don't give a contact address or number that doesn't work.
4. Be human. Write like you talk and put your name on it. Tell a story, a true one, one that resonates.
5. Use third party comments and testimonials to establish credibility. Use a lot of them. Make sure they're both interesting and true.
is that it might not work out.
The problem with not putting it all on the line is that it will never (ever) change things for the better.
Not much of a choice, I think. No risk, no art. No art, no reward.
People are moved by stories and drama and hints and clues and discovery.
Logic is a battering ram, one that might work if your case is overwhelming. Wal-Mart won by logic (cheap!), but you probably won't.
If you sell at the top of the market (luxury travel, services to Fortune 500 companies, financial services for the wealthy…) you might be tempted to figure out ways to cut costs and become more efficient.
After all, if you save a dollar, you make a dollar, without even getting a new customer.
The goal shouldn't be to reduce costs. It should be to increase them.
That voice mail service that saves you $30,000 a year in receptionist costs–it also makes you much more similar to a competitor that is more efficiently serving the middle of the market.
Go through all the ways you serve your customers and make them more expensive to execute, not less. Your loyalty and your market share will both grow. People who can afford to pay for service often choose to pay for service.
My friend Lisa Gansky has a new book out today. You can read a bit about it here.
I hope you'll buy a copy right now. It's that important and that valuable.
Gansky has written the most insightful book about new economy business models since The Long Tail, and if you're not facile in understanding and working with the key concept behind this book, it's going to cost you time and trouble.
In short, the Mesh outlines how sharing resources and information creates an entirely new class of commerce. When you travel to another city, you don't buy a house. You stay in a hotel. A hotel, because it allows hundreds of people a year to share a single room, is a mesh business.
The thing is, the web has created thousands (probably more) of these businesses in areas you have never thought about. Zipcar, sure, and Netflix. But in all sorts of nooks and crannies as well. Lisa's online directory already lists thousands of these companies. Existing companies need to know about this, job seekers should be attracted to it, and for entrepreneurs, it really is a new frontier.
Go, hurry, the race is on. $16 well spent.
And that's the frustration of the marketer or the artist who hasn't figured out how to navigate critics and the marketplace.
If you need the validation and acceptance and patronage of everyone you meet, you'll get stuck, and soon. Everyone isn't going to get it. Everyone isn't even going to get you, never mind what you sell.
Experienced marketers and artists and those that make change understand that the new is not for everyone. In fact, it's not even for most people. Pass them by. They can catch up later.
It's not a referendum, and you don't need a unanimous vote of acclamation. No, you merely need enough to stay in business, to keep moving, to make a dent. And then your idea can spread.
If the kids in the back of the bus/audience/store don't get it (or don't get you) it's their loss. Focus on those that want to celebrate the work you do instead.