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How to market when you’re not a writer or blogger

Writing is a muscle. When I started writing — over 1,000 posts ago, on this site alone — I had a poorly developed writing muscle. But by continuing to write and pitch my content to others I got better, and continue to get better. As you read this I’ve published in excess of 70,000 words online this year. I write for publications like Huffington Post, Motivation Grid, and Addicted2Success.

Even with all the practice I’ve had and the feedback I get from my readers I still work hard to improve my writing muscle. Currently I’m working through the Tribe Writers course by Jeff Goins. If you can’t afford a course, begin by having a friend read your posts and offer some critique before you publish. A second set of eyes will help you refine your message and speak to your prospects.

I’m still not going to write

Even if you’re never going to write at all, there are people out there who will write for you. I have someone write my email courses for me based off the content I’ve already written. For some reason I have a terrible mental block when it comes to writing those email courses.

I know a number of other consultants who also have someone write for them. They get on the phone for an hour every few months and talk about the problems they see with their prospects and the writer turns those into outlines for blog posts. Once the outlines are approved the writer does the writing and all you need to do is put the content on your site or submit it to the publications you are trying to get published on. If you need to know who this amazing writer is just ask me.

I’m not going to get someone to write for me

If you’re still making excuses, there is nothing I can do to help you. I presume you’re reading my site because you want to run a better business. If you want that then you’re going to have to do things that require hard work and personal growth in the name of getting that better business.

Stop and read this, then think about it for a second:

If it’s important you’ll find a way. If it’s not you’ll find an excuse.

Writing is not the only way to market your business. Like I said a few weeks ago, you can podcast or go to meet-ups. These will help you but there is little like the written word to get indexed by search engines and earn you clients for years to come. I have posts out there about WordPress topics that bring me clients worth $20k a year — and have for years — all because I put in the hard work once.

Do something that makes you scared because it’s going to reap rewards for years to come in the form of a business that has more leads than you know what to do with.

photo credit: 23544802@N02 cc

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Good Consultants Don’t Abdicate Control, They Take Control

I get that you want to be a consultant, be your own boss. It seems so idyllic, doesn’t it?You may see me working in Starbucks and hiking during the weekdays and want this life.

I get that, but there’s something crucial you must do first. You need to start taking responsibility.

The idea of “I’m doing what you told me to” is very compelling, especially if the alternative is foraging for food or begging on the streets. – Tribes

While Seth Godin has it right in that quote above, he’s missing what I think is a more compelling reason that people like to do what they’ve been told. It lets them abdicate responsibility for the outcomes.

That project didn’t work? Eh, the boss told me to do it that way, it’s their problem.

If you’re running your own business you don’t have that luxury. Everything is your fault.

Have a client that’s crazy — calling you all hours? Yup, that’s your fault because you didn’t have a process in place to weed out the crazy clients.

A meeting take an extra hour? That’s your fault for not running the meeting properly. Maybe next time you need to make an agenda and keep things on track.

That project is running late? Well you shouldn’t have said yes to the three other things you’ve got running. You simply don’t have time to do them all and that’s your fault again.

Abdicating your control

The thing is, as a consultant you have control over everything. The buck stops with you. Even as an employee you have much more control than you think.

At my last full-time, on-site job I was the low person on the totem pole. I was the only person working on the web site in a company that didn’t hugely value their web presence.

And yet, I rarely went to meetings. I only answered my email two times a day. I put on headphones and ignored people who came into my office unless they were persistent. I didn’t know what to call it at the time but I was practicing exactly what the book Deep Work advises. I was giving myself extended periods of focus when I had the least power in the organization.

Nobody stopped me. I had much more control than it would appear at first as the low man on the totem pole.

When meetings came up I refused to show up unless I had an agenda with a clear decision that needed to be made at the end. When I had to call a meeting I put together an agenda and ran a timer for 20 minutes. No waffling, just business. Catching up is what lunch is for.

When I had something new I wanted to do at work I booked time with my boss and interviewed them like I would a client. Then I put together a proposal for the work including the time it would take and the resources outside of mine that would be needed. It wasn’t as refined as my current proposal process but it was the beginnings of it.

Your job is the time to seize responsibility

When you’re sitting there in your 9-5, whether it’s a remote position or you’re in the office regularly, you’ve got the perfect time to start practicing to become an amazing consultant.

Put together proper proposals for your boss on new initiatives. If you’re not sure how, check out Writing Proposals that Win Work.

Schedule your week ahead, and review your next day at the end of the day.

Cut the distractions and practice working deep.

Don’t just dream about that better day you’ll get someday when you get out on your own. Put together a yearly goal, then break it down into quarters and months, and inside each month plan how you’re going to push it forward each week.

If you’re sitting in a job right now don’t just take the first out. In Quitter, Jon Acuff puts together a compelling case that getting out too quickly will simply kill your dream and you need to use that job for practicing your craft. Don’t kill that dream.

As of today be the type of person who doesn’t make excuses. Be the type of person that takes responsibility for their life. You’re going to be surprised about how much control you have and how much better your life is going to be when you use that control.

photo credit: clement127 cc

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Is cold calling or emailing worth your time?

In my first version of Effective Client Email I gave you a guide to cold emails. While I still think the content I provided will help you send better cold emails, it won’t be in the next version of ECE.

Today we’re going to talk about why I’m not including guides on cold emailing or cold calling prospects with your business.

It can work but…

Can cold emails/calls work to get you business? Yes they can, and when you’re starting out you still may need to do that. Cold emailing or calling should only be a stop gap to generate leads while you spend the real time building your business reputation.

The big problem with cold contacting prospects is one of positioning.

Where you want to be

You want to be the expert in the eyes of your prospect. The person that’s best to help them with their problems. You get to this point by putting in some effort with your marketing. You do this by writing case studies of successful businesses you’ve helped.

Most of the time when you cold contact people for your services you’re not the expert in their eyes. You’re simply a service provider trying to get their business. This puts them in the driver’s seat for any negotiations on timing, hours, pricing, or deliverables as you try to earn their business.

Long term, this sets you up for low expectations when it comes to how you communicate with clients. Many of my coaching clients take months to break the mindset and turn into the confident expert that they really are, all because they started from a position of little leverage with their prospects.

So what do I do then?

Now what do you do if you’re just starting? What if you’re sitting in a job you don’t love, wishing you could be out on your own working for clients? In short, what if you don’t have that reputation of an expert yet? Well, for starters, as Jon Acuff would say in Quitter, don’t quit that job yet.

Stay in that job and start your marketing so that when you get out of the job in six months or a year, you’ve built a reputation you can use as leverage.

Use that job to build out your network. Go to conferences and get to know people in your industry. Some projects won’t fit those people you meet, but will fit you, and they’ll send them your way. My network of colleagues refer work to me all the time. The network of colleagues is what got me listed as a preferred provider on many of the software platforms I use with my clients.

Use that time in the job to build up your savings of 3-6 months’ expenses so that when you go out on your own you have a safety net to land in when things are harder than you anticipated they’d be.

If you find yourself out of work one day with no reputation to speak of, then of course do what you need to do to get work in the door and provide for yourself and those who depend on you. Just don’t get stuck in the mindset. Put together a good marketing plan and keep executing on it every week to build your reputation.

If you put the time in now to build that reputation you’ll be able to leverage it for years to come. While others struggle for work, you’ll have more leads than you know what to do with.

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Which social media channels should you use to market your business?

While we don’t see a new social media channel weekly anymore, we do see new options pop up a number of times a year. Should you rush to use them as they come out? Should you wait? How long should you wait to join the latest greatest all singing all dancing social channel?

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Reconciling the isolation of Deep Work and social support in The Happiness Advantage

I’ve recently read two awesome books that can help with your happiness and success. First was The Happiness Advantage (read my review) and second was Deep Work (read my review).

In summary, The Happiness Advantage showed us that happiness comes first and then success follows. Deep Work showed us that it’s only inside large swaths of focused time that we can truly get our best work done and we often let in way too many distractions which break up our focused time.

Inside these two broad themes there is some tension, though. They both purport to show you a path towards success, achievement, and happiness at work and in life, but they have ideas that contradict each other.

Principle 7 in The Happiness Advantage says that it’s the social connections we have at work and at home that help us through the hard times. To do this we need to … interact with the people at work. We need to let in some of these little interruptions as people stop by our office.

Those little interruptions are exactly what Deep Work spends time convincing us we need to avoid, or at the very least, minimize greatly.

Following the ideas in Deep Work you might work with headphones on and not talk to the people in your co-working space. Though when things get really tough and you try to reach out for that support from colleagues, you’ve got no real relationships to lean on for support.

Holding it in tension

In the ‘ideal’ world for many consultants, most days would be full of getting down to coding or design without interruptions, but it’s rare that our ideal day materializes in the midst of all that goes on around us. We must deal with less-than-ideal days and interruptions that break our flow.

While this may get us to the goals of having deep connections as suggested by Achor in The Happiness Advantage, it doesn’t achieve the goals of Newport in Deep Work. Interruptions leave us little time to actually sink into those items of true importance in our day.

Quite a while ago I talked about designing your ideal week. It’s in this practice of being intentional with our week that we can bring together the ideals from these two books. My ideal week sets aside three days of the week with nothing scheduled to interrupt my workday. I only take calls from existing clients or new clients on Tuesdays, and even then, only in a two-hour window. On Fridays, I coach. This leaves the rest of my week to get down to the business of doing the work I get paid to do.

That doesn’t talk about making the social connections that Achor says are required for strong resilience in the face of hardship though. It’s unlikely that the people on the phone are going to come alongside you when things get tough at home or when you need assistance moving. Those connections are made face-to-face and you need to have planned outlets for them.

Maybe it’s the gym (which it is for me five days a week) where you get to work out with a group of people who become your friends. At my co-working space there is one other person who shares my deep love of science fiction, and once a week or so we end up talking about our favourite books. Through that one-to-one contact, we’ve begun to build a deeper friendship that each of us can be called on when things get tough on either end of the friendship.

I believe the feeling of genuine connectedness only occurs when we disconnect digitally and reconnect physically. A retweet, a like, an up vote…no digital gesture of support can replace a simple, well-meaning pat on the shoulder. – Sharon Steed in Offscreen Magazine 13

All too often as digital workers we discount the face-to-face interactions that bring true friendship. We are happy to hole up in our fortress of solitude and write or type out code, or move pixels around a design then return to the family we live with. While we do need to make our families a top priority, we need to make sure that our spouse is not our only support line.

It’s time to stop getting stuck in your fortress of solitude and take your life outside the walls of that protected life. Schedule in your times of intense focus and schedule in your times to spend with others. It’s only through having a healthy quantity of both that we can both get the work done that we are meant to do and maintain a healthy emotional state which will carry us through the tough times ahead.

photo credit: dannymainzer cc

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How and where do you market to your niche?

Last week we talked about finding your niche and how by picking a niche you are able to focus your marketing efforts only on those people who are truly interested in your services. Proper marketing can answer the top questions of the prospects in your niche and you won’t be waffling all around trying to answer any question under the sun.

Blogging

The central hub of your marketing effort should be your site. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, in fact I tell all my coaching clients who don’t yet have a site to purchase a theme from a reputable theme company and install it. Add an About and a Contact page. Put some of your work up on your site and then start writing about stuff your prospects have problems with.

I have one coaching client who spent 18 months working on their site. In that 18 months they did no marketing because the site wasn’t up. That’s 18 months of additional struggling in their business because clients couldn’t find them. Don’t waste that time.

On your site you should be writing at least once a week. Writing any less than that will work, but will just be much slower to reap any benefits to your business.

Should you get an email list? Yes you should. Get a MailChimp or a Drip account and send out your weekly blog post to your email list. You don’t need to do anything else at first. Just give prospects an opportunity to get to know you better so you can build more trust with them.

What about a content mix?

Most consultants fall into a trap when they start writing for their site. That trap is they write for their colleagues, not prospects. This is the developer writing about code or the designer talking in-depth design philosophy. Yes your colleagues will be interested in this, but many of your clients won’t be interested in it at all unless the post you write solves their problem exactly, and then they have more work which they bring to you.

Should you write for your colleagues? Yes you should, just not as much as most businesses do. The big benefit to writing for your colleagues is building name recognition in the industry. When I used to write about technical WordPress stuff I got to know many of the top people in the industry and I now get referrals from them. However, I focused way too much on writing about code when I started.

If you’re going to write to your colleagues then limit it to once a month. That means you write three things for potential clients and one thing that your colleagues would read and share.

Guest Posting

If you’re a prolific writer then you may produce more than one post a week but that doesn’t mean you should publish twice on your own site. In fact, when you’re first getting started I think that it’s an error to publish more than once a week on your site.

At first your site has little to no audience and it’s going to take months on the short side to build an audience solely on your own site — unless you start posting content on the places where your prospects are already reading. You’ve already identified many of these places when you identified your niche, now it’s time to find their rules for accepting guest posts and pitch them some of your content.

When you’re looking to guest post for a site the first thing you need to do after reading their submission rules is find someone that started guest posting for the site you’re interested in. Then look at all the content they’ve written, and find the first post they got published. This is the post they pitched and is what you should look to for guidance on the type of content you should be writing. Don’t bother looking at the latest posts. Once you’ve been accepted as a writer you have much more leeway with the publication because they already trust you.

If the publication will let you, add a ‘connect more’ section to the end of every post you write for them once you’re established. It should look something like this:

Connect More

If you liked this content don’t forget to subscribe to my site. You can join the email list and get my free manifesto to help you change your mindset about your business so you can live the life you want to live.

The goal of this section is to bring people back to your site so that you can engage with them over the long haul and build trust with your prospects.

What about Medium, LinkedIn or other platforms?

There are many content platforms out there like Medium or LinkedIn, but should you use them? It’s going to depend on your audience, really. If you’re trying to target recipe bloggers then you’re less likely to find LinkedIn a useful platform for you, while Medium might be.

You need to research your prospects and see where they are already, and if they’re on a new platform then it’s a viable option for you to publish content on.

That goes for any new platforms as well. Don’t bother with them until enough of your prospects are on them. Then spend some time figuring out how to use the platform with your content.

What if you’re not a writer?

I’ve got a solution for you if you’re not a writer and we’ll talk about that later this month. You’re not totally out of luck — there are ways to get your ideas out there in written form for people to read.

Podcasting

Now that you’ve got some form of writing in the bag we can talk about podcasting. Now now, don’t get worried — this doesn’t have to be some big hard thing. Podcasting can be really easy.

My podcast is only around five minutes long. I record it with Screenflow and I use a Blue Snowball to get better audio. I have a Logitech C920 USB camera to capture the video that goes along with publishing on YouTube.

None of those things is hugely expensive or hard to use. Sure, I could upgrade my video using my expensive dSLR or I could purchase a better microphone to clean up the audio a bit more. The question is, would doing either of those things bring me more listeners?

No they wouldn’t.

If you want to get into podcasting you can even just use a decent headset and record the audio off the microphone.

Again, with podcasts all you need to do is spend a few minutes talking about the problems you have seen your prospect talking about. Answer their questions and keep answering their questions weekly. Keep being there and building trust with them and they’ll look to you when they’re ready to spend money.

Email Courses

Once you’ve got some content on your site you’re ready for a short email course. All you need to do to get started is bundle up a few of your blog posts that answer key questions from your prospects and turn them into emails. The key change you want to make is to ask your prospects (students) questions to help them work through the problems your course addresses.

This is going to mean that you’ll get responses to the questions and have opportunities to interact with your prospects, which will in turn build more trust with them.

This type of course is also a great lead magnet to get people on your email list. Offer them the course for free and send it to them over the course of a few weeks, along with your regular blog posts on your publishing day.

How long will this take to bring in clients?

No, this will not be an overnight success for most of you. Many people start down this road and don’t see success in the first month — or second month or third month, and they give up. They swear that it doesn’t really work for them and everyone else is simply lucky.

Everyone else is not simply lucky — everyone else stayed the course for six months or 12 months. I wrote about WordPress development stuff for five years and built my reputation with colleagues and clients. Now I do little content generation for my WordPress development services and focus almost all my efforts on content generation which pushes my books and my coaching services. Even with no new WordPress specific content published in two years, I stay booked for months.

Yes I do essentially no advertising unless some other site asks me for some content and I have more leads than I know what to do with.

There are no quick fixes to building an awesome business that lets you live the life you want to live. It takes hard work and then more hard work. When things get hard, it takes more hard work. When your peers quit because it’s hard, you keep working at the hard work every day.

Then you start to reap the rewards of a business that keeps bringing in leads regularly with little effort. Live like no one else today and do the hard work now so that you can live like no one else later and have leads coming in from every direction.

photo credit: kapgar cc

Who do you write for in your marketing material?

You know you should be putting out content regularly to get in front of your clients but what about writing for your colleagues? Is it worth it? What’s the biggest trap people fall in to when they generate content for their sites or for guest posts?

Watch today to find out.

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Is your business different? Learn to escape competition with the book Different by Youngme Moon

Everywhere we look there are brands. I sit in Starbucks drinking something fancy and cold, typing on my Apple laptop in some reasonably crazy Top & Derby socks and my choices at some level were all designed to say something about what I value. In theory I value a decently made drink, a nice laptop and funny-looking compression socks. I have chosen those companies because they speak to me in some way. Their branding resonates with the image I want to portray.

While it feels super odd to talk about myself in this way, there is no denying it at an academic level. All of us choose products, at some level, by what they say about us. Sure we wrap up our decisions in lofty sounding ‘pragmatic’ reasons, but those are most often simply justifications.

Now the question really is, how do brands get to resonate with consumers? How do they stand out from the ever maddening crowd? That’s the question that Youngme Moon tries to answer in Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd.

I seek to identify the outliers, the anomalies, the iconoclasts — the players who have rejected well-rehearsed business routines in favor of an approach more adventurous.

Different is broken down into three broad chunks. First, Youngme tells us where she thinks most brands sit currently. Second she walks us through three types of brands that have differentiated themselves. Third she adds a bunch of caveats to her work on brands, mainly revolving around the ever-changing world and how the work is so easily out of date or not completed.

Where are brands now?

The first major section of Different walks us through where brands are now, which is summarized with the word homogenized.

In industry after industry, business professionals have become so practiced in a particular way of doing things that they appear to have forgotten the point of it all — which is to create meaningful and compelling product offerings for people like you and me.

A homogenized market is one that only experts can really tell the differences in. Where most people hear a decent stereo, true audiophiles can hear thousands of nuances of sound and care deeply about which exact setup — down to the furniture in the room — will yield the best sound quality.

…where a connoisseur sees the differences, a novice sees the similarities. Where a connoisseur can discern subtle shades of distinction based on nuanced asymmetries, a novice lacks the necessary filters to canvas, to organize, to sift an assortment in a meaningful way.

Most of the brands around us are like this. While we may consider ourselves a Coke or Pepsi person, the reality is that in proper blind tests few of us can tell the difference between them. When we look at everything now being ‘bigger and better’ with ’20% more’ of some secret ingredient we no longer have the capacity to have any opinion on the products on the shelf.

In their quest to be better than the competition they’ve simply added more features to their core product until they all have the same features. The only difference is that they label them with their own marketingspeak which differs from the terms used by their competition.

On the contrary, as the number of products within a category multiplies, the differences between them start to become increasingly trivial, almost to the point of preposterousness.

In this product world how do brands compete? For consultants who can never pick a niche to market to, how do they compete on anything but price? Simply being able to do anything that their client asks for only says that they are not amazing at anything.

If you were to meet a brain surgeon who also claimed to be a pediatric orthopedist who also claimed to be a specialist in Botox treatments, you’d likely view all of his credentials with skepticism. Why? Because intuitively you understand that excellence on any extreme almost always involves a trade-off.

So in this world where almost no companies are willing to make a trade-off and say they’re excellent at one thing for fear of losing a single dollar, sit consumers. Consumers who are jaded. They don’t believe the crazy messages that companies are trying to push on them because no potato chip will give you great hair and bring cute girls (or boys) flocking to party with you.

Consumers knowing this are significantly less brand loyal today than they have been in decades past and this is a problem for all businesses.

Youngme cites three types of brands that stand out in the competitive landscape of dross most businesses sit in today. They are Reverse Brands, Breakaway Brands, and Hostile Brands.

Reverse Brands

Some of the biggest brands around now are what the author calls ‘reverse-positioned’ brands. A reverse brand takes all the great things that the competition is pushing and removes them. Their lack of feature is what positions them in the market.

A reverse-positioned brand is a very particular kind of idea brand, one that makes deliberate decisions to defy the augmentation trend in a category in which customers have come to expect augmentation.

One of the most well-known examples, and one that the author uses, is Google. In the midst of companies like Yahoo! building portal pages that had 1 million features on top of search, Google came along with a homepage with nothing on it but the search box. Even now with lots of services available the Google homepage remains firmly focused on search to the exclusion of so many other features.

In business generally and in marketing specifically, there are few greater sins than failing to meet customer expectations. So nothing is likely to raise eyebrows more quickly than a decision to strip away benefits that consumers expect to receive. This is what he concept of reversal goes against every instinct a businessperson has. When the entire category is racing north, it is no trivial matter to point yourself due south.

But you can’t just stop and be a ‘stripped down’ budget version of the competition. There are plenty of hotels like that, and few of us would stay in them because they don’t offer things like sheets that meet our expectations of cleanliness. The point is to strip away the things that don’t truly matter to customer satisfaction so that you can focus exclusively on the very few things that do matter.

Google did this when their homepage cut all the crappy advertising that the rest of the industry had around their homepage. That inverted the expectations of customers that a ‘free’ service simply had the right to plaster ads all over everything.

In business, it is easy to fall into the habit of thinking that the way to be better is to simply do more.

I’d add to this that it’s easy to fall into the trap of offering to do more, or the same job for less. This is especially true with consultants starting out in the business as they easily fall into the trap of wondering if the current client will be their last client ever. It seems odd to read, but at some point all of us (yup me too) fall into that mindset that if we don’t land this project no one ever will feel that we’re worthy of any money for our chosen craft ever again.

A reverse-positioned firm is one that refuses to get on the augmentation treadmill, not because it doesn’t care about its customers, but because it is operating under an inverse assumption—that given the hyper-maturity of the category, there are probably lots of folks who are over-satisfied, i.e., who are being given inflated sets of benefits they don’t necessarily care about.

Breakaway Brands

breakaway brands recognize that when it comes to consumption, our classifications tend to be both superficial and arbitrary.

Youngme starts this section with a question about robots. What if you had a robot to be your helper? Most of us would essentially build a custom household servant so laundry would get folded and dinner would get made. The problem is that no matter how much technology we put into it, we’re going to get something that’s buggy. This is where the Sony AIBO comes in, which is a $2000 ‘pet’ robot dog. When this dog doesn’t listen or does the opposite of what we ask we don’t expect it to be our robot butler. Because we’ve reframed it into a dog we let these defects off as personality quirks.

Reframing is so powerful most of us eat cookies for breakfast. Don’t believe me? Then check out my favourite quote in the book.

Cereal is cereal because it happens to be food broken down into spoon-sized bits; if the pieces were any larger, we’d have to call them cookies.

Think about the nutritional content of most cereal, which is little better than the chocolate chip cookie and while most of us will agree that eating cookies for breakfast is not good for your health we will happily eat cereal every morning.

By presenting us with an alternative frame of reference, they encourage us to let go of the consumption posture we’re inclined to bring to a product and embrace entirely new terms of engagement instead.

What are ‘pull-ups’ but diapers without Velcro? With this masterful reframing, diaper manufacturers reduced the stigma of having kids over two in diapers and extended the life of their product for years with kids and parents.

Cirque du Soleil did this as they reframed the circus from involving animals to amazing acrobatic and physical feats by humans. I’d never think of taking my wife on a date to a traditional circus and yet we’ve been to a number of Cirque performances and very much enjoyed each one.

Hostile Brands

One would think that getting your products to your customers when and how they want the products is what business is about. Not so for hostile brands.

Hostile brands are brands that play hard to get. Instead of laying down the welcome mat, they lay down the gauntlet.

Look at the advertising campaign of the Mini Cooper. It was a car much smaller than pretty much anything in North America at the time. Instead of minimizing that disadvantage the marketing campaign focused on it being even smaller than you thought.

In many ways Apple does this with the iPhone. There are only three models available currently, and that’s many more than there have been in years past. If you wanted on with touch-to-pay options in years past you were simply out of luck and they weren’t ashamed of it.

…hostile brands create divisions, but they create a magical kind of solidarity, too.

When Apple was a fringe brand that only enthusiasts were interested in, you could see someone with an Apple computer out and about and know that you had a kindred spirit.

CrossFit people feel this when they say that their warmup is everyone else’s workout. They tell you that if you thought working out was hard, well that was just the warmup. Sure you can do it, but it’s going to be harder than you thought it was going to be. Out of that comes the jokes about people that do CrossFit telling you every 10 seconds they do CrossFit, until you finally get away from them.

Hostile brands done right build immensely loyal consumers that are going to work to sell your brand for you as they tell everyone how awesome the brand is.

Some caveats by the author

The final section of the book is all about the caveats that the author feels she needs to make. Stuff like these three brand types are not the only ones out there and that many brands that fit into one category also fit into the other two at times.

All brands are a mix of the three in some fashion.

In my view this weakens the writing. Of course this is Youngme’s opinion, it’s her book. Clearly covering every type of brand would take more than a lifetime and even as you finished you’d find another rabbit hole to go down as you try to categorize a new brand. As she says in this section:

if all of us only dared to ever speak or write or put forth the things we knew to be unassailable, then we really wouldn’t have much of interest to contribute at all.

So why a whole section to ‘caveat’ the work?

Takeaways

Despite the flaw I see at the end I think there are a number of great takeaways for consultants and business owners.

First off is start to incorporate some of these traits of ‘winning’ brands. I already incorporate part of the hostile brand as I only take phone calls on Tuesdays and only inside a two-hour window. If that doesn’t work for you, you should find someone else to work with.

Another key inside this writing is that if you can pick a niche you can then market to it. Marketing your services to writers lets you build the brand that aspiring writers want to be a part of as they work to build a business writing.

By having this niche and focusing your marketing on that niche you can use these techniques of ‘hostility’ or to reframe the benefits that people get with your services effectively. When you can be everything to anyone, you’re in the game of augmentation that Youngme laments as breaking down the value that organizations offer.

Don’t get on the augmentation treadmill.

Recommendation

The purpose of the book was to identify the outliers in the branding space. To show you those that take an adventurous path and succeed at it. In that I think the book succeeded. It did show us adventurous brands and the author did provide some good takeaways so that we can learn how these brands position themselves in the market. With that knowledge in hand we can make some changes in how we market our businesses.

Now is it worth your time to read? I’m not so sure about that. It was mildly interesting to me, and there are a few takeaways, but I have a feeling that there are better books out there for those that are in the trenches and need to build a brand now that resonates. If you enjoy reading academically about brands, then this a good book to enhance your understanding of ways that brands operate.

Get Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd on Amazon

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Want to build marketing that works while you sleep? Find a niche.

I know you want clients. You want lots of clients of decent quality so that you can be picky and choose the ones that fit your ideal client profile. If you want this it all starts with a niche.

Do less to do more

Contrary to the thoughts of most consultants and business owners the best way to get lots of prospects is to say you do less. Narrow your focus down to a specific niche out of the millions of potential clients in the world. Focus on a few thousand that sit right where you want to be in the market.

Focusing down on a niche has one big advantage for you, by allowing you to focus your marketing material. You don’t have to try and figure out what everyone in the market will respond to and then produce reams of content that they might read. You only need to find the problems of your small niche of prospects and all your marketing can target those issues.

This focused marketing is going to pay off long before the scattershot approach of being everything to everyone.

Finding your niche

Before you can really dive in and find your niche you need to do one thing — know yourself and your goals better. The exercise I like most is to take a piece of paper and divide it in half, top to bottom. Now fold it in half side to side. You’ll be left with four rectangles on the page.

Inside these rectangles you are going to list the most important areas of your life, organized by the top four categories. My top four categories are Family, Travel, Business, Fitness. It may take some time to nail them down so don’t sweat it if at first you aren’t sure you’ve identified the perfect four categories at first.

Now what do you want each of those areas of your life to look like in five years? For me in my Family quadrant I know that in five years I want to be able to be around homeschooling my kids a few days a week. I know I want to be able to take them on multi-day backcountry trips without needing to check back in on the Internet.

Once you’ve identified your four quadrants start thinking about the projects you’ve already done. Which ones were the most fun? Which ones make you smile to look at them still? In all likelihood those projects that were the most fun are at least closely related to the niche you should operate in.

Another way to work out your niche is to list all the problems you’ve solved for clients over the last few years. Think hard about why each client came to you and what service you provided for them. It may be that while you did design a site, the client’s real problem was poor sales and what you really did was help them get more sales. The site design is simply the thing you can see that fixed their problem.

Once you have a few ideas that could be your niche it’s time to go back to your four quadrants and make sure that they line up with the life you want to live in five years. For me that’s meant I don’t develop plugins for sale because doing so would mean I need to be around for support daily. I want to cut my required Internet time down to two days so that I can be around for my family.

Finding the problems in your niche

Once you’ve centered on a niche it’s time to start to dig into the problems your niche has as a way to generate your marketing material. The first step is to identify the top problems that your niche has. You should already have a list of some of them from your work to identify the niche, but as you move forward write down every question your prospects ask you. Don’t just answer them once on the phone or via email, use the answers to generate ideas for your blog.

Another way to find the problems in your niche is to go find where the people already are in the niche. There are Facebook groups or forums for any niche around. Find the top five and join them. Now read through most of the content there and see what people are struggling with. Some things you’ll be able to answer right away in the forum or group, so do it. Take those answers and write them down so you can expand on them later in writing on your site (or other sites which we’ll talk about in a future post).

By picking a niche you’re going to be able to focus your marketing message to only those prospects that have the problems you can best solve. Doing this is going to get clients in that niche knocking on your door and leave you booked out for months. I’d love to hear about the niche you’ve picked in the comments.

photo credit: 49648042@N02 cc

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Curtis McHale

Helping you find and vet your ideal clients