Archive of posts from December 2020

December 31, 2020     Daily Post

It’s Not Critical

It’s Not Critical

That important marketing or business challenge you’re wrestling with right now?

It’s not critical.

Emergency heart surgery is critical. That’s something going on in people’s lives right now.

The email you sent with a typo in it isn’t critical. Many won’t have noticed, others will for a moment then moved on. If it was the recipient’s name you got wrong, it’s not critical either, just apologise and let’s all move forward.

Inaccurately representing your target market isn’t critical. It’ll slow you down, it’ll yield marginal results, but you learn and grow, just as with any relationship. Remember it’s a relationship, treat it as such, and let’s all move forward.

Even a business on its last week of funds isn’t critical. It either makes it or it closes. There will be more opportunities for you, for it, and for those you work alongside. It’s a business (which can be restarted, reborn, broken into individual pieces to grow), not a human life (which can do none of those things).

Let’s go easy on the “critical” and on how seriously we take ourselves / our important work. It’s usually not “critical”. And it’ll probably benefit massively from you treating it (and those you work with) with a little more grace, patience, and long-term thinking.

Most of us do better work when the red alert siren isn’t whirring away in the background. It’s better work we’re looking for, right?

December 30, 2020     Daily Post

Two Steps to Better

Two Steps to Better

Just two steps.

Step 1: Remember that you are not your work, and not nailing every piece of your work, first time, every time, doesn’t make you a bad person.

Step 2: Remember that every piece of work we do gives us opportunities to improve, and that this opportunity to improve goes away when we forget Step 1.

The new year is fast approaching. These two steps can be applied to everything we do in the new year, if we choose.

December 29, 2020     Daily Post

Unconscious Culture Change

Unconscious Culture Change

Seen the changes?

Loud fashion is out. Exuberant expression of style took a nose-dive through the pandemic – collectively, consumers deemed it inappropriate in the times.

Showing off is down. Open Instagram and it’s still there, but tempered with a certain collective sympathy for the global crisis we’re living through.

‘Shop local’ is changing. While Amazon turns over billions a quarter and mom-n-pop shops struggle with COVID, supporting local business has entered the collective consciousness (not everyone doesn’t anything about it, as seen by Amazon’s explosive growth this year, but it’s a consideration more than ever).

The year has affected businesses large and small. The resistance from the general public to make conscious, circumstantial lifestyle changes could make even the most hardened optimist blink twice.

But culture doesn’t always change consciously.

Take heart: positive change occurs even in tough times.

And as businesses and creators of meaningful value in the marketplace, there is huge opportunity for innovation as a result.

December 28, 2020     Daily Post

If Things Were Normal

If Things Were Normal

If only they were normal, perhaps we’d:

Try out that idea: the one that could be a real hit, that you have the resources or resourcefulness to genuinely test and iterate upon. Except the world is crazy so why try.

Write that book: the one you’ve had in you all year, the one you seem to dictate a chapter of every time someone gets you going. Except the world is crazy so why bother.

Serve that community: the one your body of work could really benefit, that already has a clear understanding of their need for your work. Except the world is crazy so why put that together right now.

There’s no such thing as normal, there’s just “now”.

What if you put aside the excuses about how the timings wrong, how the world’s too mental, how you don’t have the resources, and make it happen anyway?

December 27, 2020     Daily Post

Simple Worldview

Simple Worldview

Simpler is often better.

Amazon’s worldview is fairly simple: “Number of dollars made is more important than profit margin”. In 2014 they were dancing between break-even and negative. Now, their Q1 2020 net income was $3.6 billion (on $75.5 billion in revenue).

Apple’s worldview is fairly simple: “Make well-designed products is more important than being first to market”. It’s why you know what you’re getting into with an iPhone, whereas Galaxy phones may catch fire or folding mechanics are foiled by pocket lint.

What’s your worldview that makes things simpler in your body of work?

If there isn’t one, might it be time for one?

December 26, 2020     Daily Post

Business Ideas and Card Games

Business Ideas and Card Games

Ever had a great business or marketing idea?

Play the deck.

A constructed card deck (in most deck-building card games) will contain ideas of what could do well, if played.

It’s owner knows it to be good or not once they play-test the deck.

The flaws, criticisms and ideas for improvement all come to light by playing the deck.

In business and marketing, the same rules apply.

Good ideas aren’t really good ideas. They’re just ideas, that have yet to be play-tested.

Some choose to lock them behind labyrinth of NDAs, afraid of the supposed success hidden within, that anyone could steal and reap at any moment.

Others choose to play the deck.

Which do you do?

December 24, 2020     Daily Post

Why Everyone Else Seems Lucky

Why Everyone Else Seems Lucky

Seem to get less luck than others sometimes?

If there’s a 1% chance a great idea will take off each week, the chances are good we’ll see one happen each week when there are more than 100 ideas in the pile.

If there’s a 1% chance a new venture will get lucky by stumbling onto the right message with perfect timing each month, the chances are good we’ll see one happen in a pool of over 100 new ventures.

There’s a 1:6 chance you’ll roll six on a dice, and 100 people roll a dice together, roughly 16 are going to roll a six.

Whatever game you’re playing or project you’re pursuing, you may not be one of the lucky few.

Yet nobody has better odds than you do.

Play anyway.

December 23, 2020     Daily Post

That Day In The Month

That Day In The Month

Do you have “that day” in the month?

The one you know you should have, that doesn’t “feel like work”, but would catapult you toward your goals faster.

The one where you think, rather than do – to review what’s working and what isn’t, and create critical course-corrections.

The one where that’s all you do that day.

The one you’d miss if you missed it, because the months would only start feeling the same as each other, with seemingly little progress from one to the next.

Or perhaps that’s how the months feel to you, sometimes?

Perhaps you should make some time to have “that day in the month”.

December 22, 2020     Daily Post

Falling For Illusions

Falling For Illusions

What illusions are you falling for?

North Koreans believe the illusion that South Korea is “the part of the nation overrun with American Imperialists”.

Many small businesses our teams talk to initially believe the illusion that they won’t be able to effectively compete against established competitors.

Many of those same businesses initially believe the illusion that advertising is supposed to be quick and easy, because gurus said so.

Get-rich-quick schemes and communist regimes alike contain illusions designed to throw unsuspecting victims off the scent of reality.

Watch out for illusions, things aren’t always as they appear. But if you keep your eyes fixed on your commitment to those you wish to serve, it scarcely matters.

December 21, 2020     Daily Post

Operating On Yourself in Business

Operating On Yourself in Business

I wouldn’t recommend trying to operate on yourself.

If you offer IT services, it’s probably really easy for you to provision IT solutions to clients. Yet your own IT setup is probably more complex, ill-defined and not quite finished. Why is that?

If you offer branding services, there’s likely a science to your work that makes every client engagement smooth and simple. Yet your own brand is probably a mess rebrands with several generations of logomarks scattered across your collateral. Why is that?

Operating on yourself is hard. You feel everything and those feelings change things.

But when we remember to make our work about our audience, rather than about ourselves – when we treat our internal work with the same method and discipline as we do client deliverables – things become easier.

Perhaps, finally, that unfinished business might get finished, and you can be proud to model the results you bring to the word yourself.

December 20, 2020     Daily Post

Go Deep Selectively

Go Deep Selectively

Do you like figuring things out?

Me too.

Not everything needs to be figured out though:

There is process for getting traffic to your blog. Many processes, in fact. It doesn’t need figuring out because it’s already been figured out.

There is process for getting people excited and engaged on your website. We wrote a book on it. It’s already been figured out, so nobody needs to start from scratch.

There is process for most things. That means we can go deep selectively, into areas that set us apart, things that make us unique, our areas of genius.

By going deep selectively, we spend more time making what makes us unique, unique. And we spend more time doing what we want to be the same as elsewhere, the same as elsewhere.

I suspect you’d rather spend your time going deep on your areas of genius anyway – so why not do so in a way that makes everything else great as a result?

December 19, 2020     Daily Post

Digital Cowboys

Digital Cowboys

There are a lot of these.

They’re the web shop that hack a free theme on top of another free theme, drag-n-drop the rest and call it “development”.

They’re the design team that copy whatever’s popular on Dribbble, tossing the target audience aside and call it “design”.

They’re the lead gen vendor that cold-call from a phonebook, bill you per call and call it “a tough market”.

Digital cowboys are everywhere.

The bar is set low. Mediocrity is the most competitive space to operate from.

But there’s surprisingly little competition in the upper tiers of “doing the job right”.

December 18, 2020     Daily Post

Thank You For Selling Me

Thank You For Selling Me

When do you say, “Thank you”?

Most of us thank others when we appreciate something nice they’ve done for us.

We’re thanked for a sales call when the call changes someone’s world for the better. Not for an expected or typical result, but for a result and an experience that far exceeds what they expected.

We’re thanked for a product delivery when the product completely rocked their world. When it’s not merely a fulfilled transaction, but an experience that far exceeded what they expected.

We’re thanked for sending a cold outbound email when that email completely shifted their thinking. When it’s not like the spam they receive daily, but something that exceeded what they expected was possible

Our Creative team gets thanked for all three fairly regularly because of the focus on exceeding what folks expect.

You can do the same in your work.

We simply need to make our craft our joy, then exceed expectations by caring more.

December 17, 2020     Daily Post

Demonstrating Values

Demonstrating Values

Do you demonstrate your values?’sDumpster Fire” lets people fed up with receiving spammy emails have them printed and burned before their eyes. For an email service designed to fight invasive, spammy emails, this is a great awareness campaign. They demonstrated their values.

Microsoft’s promise of a more integrated, collaborative approach to product and ecosystem development was reflected by creating a massive open source portfolio and the acquisition of leading open source platform, GitHub. They demonstrated what they value.

When our Creative team was fed up of receiving pithy sales/development offers, we decided to create time-intensive, value-crammed web pages for individual companies and email them over without any tracking or expectation of reciprocity. For a team in a space that specialises in lousy outreach, we wanted to go the opposite direction as a defiant advocate for how things could be. We demonstrate what we value.

You could tell people all about what you would do if you had the opportunity to serve.

Or you could just demonstrate your values and start serving.

December 16, 2020     Daily Post

3 Years Happened

3 Years Happened

I didn’t even notice.

365 x 3 = 1,095 days. This post is daily post 1,104. My 3 year anniversary of writing daily posts about marketing and business to people doing work that matters happened 9 days ago.

That’s what happens when you get into a flow and build good habits. You lose track.

You stop counting the reps, the lap times, the days without missing a day.

It’s simply a part of what you do, as is waking up in the morning.

We can strive to make every pursuit of achievement habitual. Commonplace. Mundane, even.

It makes us better.

December 15, 2020     Daily Post

Brave Enough To Learn

Brave Enough To Learn

Do you need to hear you’re the best? Or that you have still have things to learn?

If you prefer the former over the latter, this ones for you:

We don’t learn much when we win or when we pretend we won. Instead we’re left soothing egos with coddled delusion.

We learn a great deal when we lose or when we admit there’s still room for growth. It’s why success follows failure and the successful routinely seek out new challenges.

Being brave enough to learn creates a reality that matches the make-believe you might otherwise be hiding in.

Except it’s real.

December 14, 2020     Daily Post

Born as a Scribble

Born as a Scribble

Every idea I’ve worked on was born as a scribble.

Each started as a passing comment in a casual conversation that was dignified with a scribble (carrying a notebook with you helps with this).

For example, the Narrative Workshop was born as scribble when quipping it’d make a great stand-alone product rather than being tethered to the Narrative Pages service that expresses it. It’s now one of our best selling products.

That might never have happened were it not for the scribble that captured the idea.

If you have conversations about ideas, consider scribbling, especially when it’s not convenient.

Who knows what it might bring into the world.

December 14, 2020     Daily Post

Unboxing a Digital Product

Unboxing a Digital Product

When you buy a physical item, it normally comes in a box.

You get to open the box.

If it’s well designed, it’ll be an experience in itself, leading you to understand and appreciate what you’ve bought. You’ll understand instantly and clearly what’s inside. It’s fun.

What about digital products and services?

You don’t get a box. But you could still make the “digital unboxing” fun.

If “digital unboxing” is done right, it too will be an experience in itself, leading you to understand what you’ve bought. You’ll understand instantly and clearly what’s inside. It’s fun. Engaging. Memorable. Something to tell your friends about.

Most digital goods I’ve experienced have a shoddy delivery model. You’re left waiting for emails or someone to get back to you. You get a receipt and that’s it. You may get a set of login details and are then left to go figure it out on your own. Theres no leadership, no guided discovery, no “digital unboxing”.

If you offer digital goods, think about the unboxing experience. It’s there whether you consider it or not, and your customers are taking notice.

December 13, 2020     Daily Post

When You Need Fancy

When You Need Fancy

When do you need to get fancy?

When you’re not clear enough. Fancy words hide the lack of clarity you’d have shared with us were you to have been clear. They’re a lousy substitute designed to throw us off the scent instead of win us over.

When you’re not good enough. When our offer isn’t compelling, we add whiz-bang to try to impress, instead. Features get added and ads become more sensational, instead of sharing a better offer that attracts us with honest-to-goodness value.

You’re welcome to respect your audience with polished prose and refined presentation. Nothing wrong with that.

But we all benefit when you don’t make ‘fancy’ a place to hide.

December 13, 2020     Daily Post

Product Simplicity is Relative

Product Simplicity is Relative

Seen Adobe Photoshop?

Let’s talk about relative simplicity:

We don’t think of “simple” when we think of Photoshop, we think of “complicated”. We compare it to cheaper products that can do many of the same things.

But what Photoshop does is bring previously-very-complicated image manipulation actions into press-this-and-its-done territory.

It makes almost-impossible activities accessible.

There are many products and services that inhabit this same space. They’re called complex because they have many buttons, when the number of buttons isn’t the point.

When striving for “simple” in our work, we’d all benefit from remembering that “simple” is relative to the consumer and their needs.

Make something that makes it simple for them by using their definition of simple.

December 12, 2020     Daily Post

Tempo vs Speed in Business

Tempo vs Speed in Business


Getting things done fast.

Everyone doing work that matters loves the idea of working at speed.

But why is that?

Speed kills. It kills good ideas because they didn’t germinate properly. It kills great work because the details that make things shine were all cut out to make room for the next thing.

What we need isn’t speed. What we need is tempo.

Tempo: the rate at which a piece of music should be played. A steady pace of movement. Something to keep us all in sync so things come together right.

Speed makes everyone rush, marginalising output. Tempo keeps everyone in sync, maximising output.

I prefer maximised output and producing work we can all be proud of, over marginalised output.

Don’t you?

December 11, 2020     Daily Post

How Not To Run Facebook Ads

How Not To Run Facebook Ads

After five minutes of scrolling through Facebook:

“What if you could ethically hijack your competitors traffic?”

“Want to see how we generate 60+ high ticket coaching clients per month from our free Facebook group?”

“My new webinar gives away the keys to the kingdom for selling courses”

“How to jump from 2 new clients a month to 20 to 1,200 new clients a month, fast”

If you would like to attract desperate get-rich-quick-ers, please, continue. These ads are great at that.

But if you’d like to create lasting change in real people’s lives with valuable work without sacrificing your dignity in the process, please, don’t do what these guys are doing.

You, your work, and those you wish to serve all deserve better.

December 10, 2020     Daily Post

Making Better Trades

Making Better Trades

Ever ran (or seen) an online ad?

A loud and disruptive ad that sacrifices market bonds or your integrity, is a bad trade. If having people notice you but lack trust engage you, lighting yourself on fire in a city centre would be considered ‘good marketing’.

An ad that people notice for the right reasons – because it cared more to speak more intimately to the needs of those you serve, rather than because it was loud – is a better trade; one of time invested and care demonstrated, in exchange for the right kind of attention.

Better trades are available to us everywhere.

Firing someone for a mistake vs the traits people often show during “second chances”.

Making a product better in response to positive market demand, rather than merely more expensive, to excite (rather than alienate) your loyal fans.

In everything we touch in our pursuit of great work, we benefit from asking ourselves, “How can we make a better trade here?”

December 09, 2020     Daily Post

The Thing You’re Overcomplicating

The Thing You’re Overcomplicating

There is something.

And there’s an easy way to spot where it’s probably hiding.

If you have a sales background, your sales system may be elaborate and nuanced, requiring expert training and advanced skills to pull off consistently. And so frustration kicks in – why isn’t everyone creating the one-call cold-close you were expecting?

If you have a development background, your development toolkit may be elaborate and nuanced, requiring a battery of skills to negotiate or understand. And so frustration kicks in – why isn’t everyone able to just ssh into our bare-metal server setup and fix the systemd problem for our simple one-page website?

If you have a marketing background, your marketing systems may be advanced, comprising of many daisy-chains of advanced marketing tools and sequences that no mere mortal can fathom. And so frustration kicks in – why did nobody spot that email 47 in sequence 9 have its bucket test results consolidated across the automation?

Look to your skills. They’ll point to both your strengths as a practitioner and your weaknesses as a leader in your pursuit of creating meaningful work for those you wish to serve.

December 08, 2020     Daily Post

We Chose Monopoly

We Chose Monopoly

We chose to live in a world of monopolies:

When just one region of Amazon’s web services infrastructure goes down, everything from your online video streaming to your Roomba vacuum cleaner stops working.

When everyone chose Gmail for their email, we wonder where all the competitors in an otherwise free market went.

When developers focused their efforts on just two mobile operating systems, they wonder where all the other budding platforms went.

We chose this.

If we want different, we can choose that to.

But it does need to be a decision.

December 07, 2020     Daily Post

You Look Great In That Hat

You Look Great In That Hat

You wear a lot of hats in your business.

Perhaps you create product. Maybe you manage others, as well as yourself. Maybe you work on process or you’re involved in marketing efforts.

There are no shortage of hats to wear.

Here’s another:


That product you work on? Keep your Narrator hat on: you’re creating something that represents a step in somebody else’s story. Remember that and inject an empathy for that fact into everything you do.

Those people you manage? Keep your Narrator hat on: you’re orchestrating a team that represents a step in somebody else’s story. Remember that in every project and meeting, to make every little piece you all produce a better fit for those you serve.

Those marketing efforts you’re involved in? Keep your Narrator hat on: you’re the interface between people you’d like to serve and the journey they’re already on. Wear the hat and you can facilitate that journey. Take it off and you’ll just be noise like everyone else.

Keep the Narrator hat on.

It suits you.

December 06, 2020     Daily Post

Grading The Week

Grading The Week

What was this week’s grade?

What about last week’s?

If we don’t know the answers, how can next week be better?

Our teams aren’t about making arbitrary “hairy, audacious” goals void of reality because self-help gurus tell us we should. But we’re not about sailing without a rudder, either.

Here’s what we’ve found works for us:

One metric. One week. One grade. Repeat.

One metric: Something you control. Not closes, but good conversations. Not fewer customer support tickets, but fewer bugs in the code.

One week: Because everyone knows what that looks like. Short enough to be like “taking a turn” in a game. Short enough to not permit meetings about what we might consider thinking about maybe doing.

One grade: Was it an A? Or a C-? Maybe a B+? Having a scoring system let’s you know how you’re doing. It’s a game now, one we get to play every week.

Repeat: Are we getting better? Are we staying the same? Is it going down? Is it working?

We don’t need our goals to be hairy to be useful to us. Nor do we need them to be scary, distant or based on forces outside of our control.

Grading the week is a fun game that does more for us than that, with less. Try it sometime.

December 05, 2020     Daily Post

Online Buying Vs Online Receiving

Online Buying Vs Online Receiving

When you shop online, you buy a thing, then it arrives at your door a few days later.

Right there, the thing that you bought. A transaction complete, a purchase complete.

It’s sort of like magic.

But it misses the key part of magic: you bought and you got what you ordered, but you didn’t receive.

There are certain, little-known (outside of their circles) online retailers that go further.

Yes, they ship you what you ordered. But they gift wrap that item for you with paper and ribbon. They leave a note with it. They enclose a little chocolate with the unwrapping experience. They make it like receiving a Christmas present, every time you buy something.

The cost of paper, ribbon and individual chocolates doesn’t much affect the P&P, or the P&L. But it changes everything.

You didn’t just buy something. You received something special.

We can all do things like this in our respective bodies of work. Things that change everything.

Do you?

December 04, 2020     Daily Post

What Makes Products Better

What Makes Products Better

It’s not what you think it is.

No, really:

It’s not what you think it is: what you think makes your product better is coming from the perspective you carry; operations, efficiencies, removing hairy deadlines you only just manage to meet. None of these things are what your buyers bought for.

So what does make products better? Who knows.

No, really:

Who knows: asking this question forces us to invest more of our time around the people with the answers we need. Potential customers. Your biggest fans. Referrers. Even those you’ve let down in the past.

They have a lot of the answers you need.

December 03, 2020     Daily Post

This is a paperweight

This is a paperweight

This is a paperweight.

So is this.

They both do the same job as each other.

They’re both aimed at very different people.

Neither expects the other’s people to jump ship, because it wasn’t made for them.

Do you know who your body of work should belong to?

And who it should not belong to?

December 02, 2020     Daily Post

Temperance in Business

Temperance in Business

What’s Temperance and how can it benefit our work?

Temperance in time

“Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?’” – Marcus Aurelius

Being more thoughtful about our words and our actions means what we put out into the world becomes better. More signal, less noise.

I think many of us would benefit from being slower to speak, and to make the words we say (and work we make) count for more.

Temperance in money

“You ask what is the proper limit to a person’s wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.” – Seneca

Being more thoughtful about our goals and how we define ‘progress’ means we get to spend less time operating from nervous energy, and more time from creative energy.

What would being truly satisfied with what you have do to your decision-making? Or your confidence on sales calls, your care to your craft, or simply your sleep patterns?

We get to make things that matter. Most of us do a much better job of that when we produce mindfully and from an mentally and emotional secure place.

December 01, 2020     Daily Post

Books To Avoid

Books To Avoid

So many business books…shouldn’t be books.

Most have a good idea in them, but not every good idea should be a book.

Some ideas need 140 characters to be complete. Authors should Tweet those ideas, rather than Book them.

Other ideas could be a gnarly-sized blog post. 5,000 words of gold, for us all to experience and for the idea to spread.

Occasionally – just occasionally – an idea is Book-worthy.

Most business books are tweets disguised as books. I’m happy when I find a good blog post disguised as a book.

Whenever we find books that are deserving of their form, we’d do well to be evangelic of them.

Perhaps that way we’ll all find ourselves with fewer books we wish we hadn’t bought.

December 01, 2020     Daily Post

Patient Execution

Patient Execution

Got clarity over where you’re going?

Impatient execution comes next:

You know what you want and it’s not done yet. The messaging, the product, the campaigns and the new website and the customers and the retweets, the list goes on.

And so you rush. Chasing vendors for tighter deadlines, throwing money at suboptimal advertising, making desperate claims in your offers. This is inpatient execution. It burns bridges and loses trust.

The alternative is to know what you want and be okay that it’s not done yet. The same messaging, product, campaigns and websites, all the same things, incomplete.

But because you didn’t rush your vendors, they didn’t rush your output – they made things properly. The advertising wasn’t rushed because you took the time to understand what people need to hear. Your offers benefitted from those same insights.

This is patient execution. It builds relationships, trust, and bodies of work you (and the rest of us) can rely on.