Stop Wasting People’s Time: The Incredible Cost of Being Fuzzy

2198b27This is a blog post I’ve wanted to write for a while.

It’s about the incredible costs to you and others of being fuzzy in your marketing and sales communications.

I’m writing this to share the other side of the story of marketing – how it’s received. We spend so much time working on our business and our marketing that we rarely stop to consider how our marketing is landing for the person receiving it.

There are two issues here: Laziness and Fuzziness.

For latter is inevitable, the former isn’t. The latter carries no shame, but the the former might.

I want to lift up an exploration around where laziness might be creeping into your marketing and share the impact that fuzziness, despite the best of efforts and intentions, might have. I want to lift up that clarity in your marketing might require more work from you than you initially thought – that when you think you’re done, you likely aren’t.

I don’t even know where to start on this. It happens so often.

It happens, in a beautiful way, whenever a client hires me to look over their sales letter. When Daniel and Cecile of Roundsky Communications reached out to me, it was a blessing to be able to help them redo their sales letter to help them say what they were wanting to say better, or when Carmen Spagnola asked for my help with hers as she launched her Numinous School, or when Russell Scott asked me to helped him articulate his Coming Home retreat.

But often people come to me not knowing how unclear their materials are. Sometimes it’s laziness on their end and sometimes they just don’t know how fuzzy it all is.

I want to own that some of my responses below are petty. I’m not trying to hide that. In fact, I want to lift it up because it’s how people often feel when confronted with fuzziness (and almost always feel when it’s a lazy fuzziness). Are the reactions petty? Likely. Are they common? Yes. And it’s important to be real about that.

I know that most of the people in the examples below are not trying to be rude or waste my time. And I’m aware that my reactions are about me and my own triggers. That’s all true.

And I invite you to step into my world where this happens a lot.

It happens with friends and colleagues who ask me to share their websites. When I look at them I literally have no idea what the hell I’m looking at or what it’s about. And I sit there for five minutes wanting to support my friend but having literally no idea what to write as a description or context for why I’m posting it. What the website needs is an overhaul. What they need, I tell myself, is to actually figure out their niche and what the hell they’re up to. They have no idea what it’s like to be me, wanting to help them and feeling baffled by their project. When I get the sense they’re still learning and growing, this doesn’t bother me, but when I get the sense that they’ve just decided to be lazy about it, it does.

It happens when colleagues come to Edmonton and want my help in spreading the word about their workshop. I look at the marketing materials and my heart sinks. This is shit. This is all useless. It’s full of jargon and platitudes and they have no idea how bad it is. I happen to know about their work and so I spend hours rewriting their materials so that I can share it up without causing confusion to my friends. I’ll be emailing them about it and I don’t want to have them sitting there for five minutes trying to understand what this is and why I sent it to them. I don’t want to spend my social capital and trust and their fighting their way through a confusing sales letter. So, I redo it and send that out. After the workshop is done with them, I sit them down and explain to them that I’ll never do that again for them and neither will anyone else. I tell them about how frustrating it is to want to spread the word for them and to have to redo everything in order to do that. They seem to get it and express their gratitude. That feels good. It’s my responsibility that I took on the heavy lifting of redoing their work for no payment. That’s on me. And it’s what your friends might do for you.

It happens when an old friend and colleague emails me over the years with various workshops and initiatives that I don’t understand. Because I care for her, I actually open the emails and read her words. Because I care for her, I slog through the confusing text hoping that the next line will illuminate what this is for me only to be let down every time. My answers get more and more curt with her. She feels unsupported and it ends our friendship. True story.

It happens when a friend of mine sends me a message of Facebook asking my help in sharing up his crowd funding campaign for a comedy tour. He doesn’t tell me who’s on the bill, where they’re going, how many stops, why this matters enough to get funded or anything that might help me do more than simply paste the link to his gofundme.com page. I know that me simply posting a link will do literally nothing for him. Hell, even my writing my most impassioned plea probably won’t do anything for him. So I ask him to send me a pre-written Facebook post that says it all perfectly so I can get this right for him.

Here’s the conversation:

My friend: Hey Tad! What’s up man? I’m loving your Harper Has to Go Campaign and am behind ya 100%!! Just want to reach out to you about The comedy tour that I’m producing. 4 budding easy coast comics hit the road to perform everywhere they can; a camera rolls & a documentary is made. Please check out our Kickstarter campaign as we’re trying to get funding to make this thing a reality and have some dope rewards. If you can’t toss any $$$ our way and still want to help out you totally can by spreading the word via social media or face to face with people; it’s just as good as $$$. The link is below, thanks for any help in advance and enjoy the rest of your summer! Much love.

Me: hey man! so good to hear from you. You are missed here in e-town. I can’t give money right now but would love to spread the word. Can you send me a prewritten FB post saying it just the way you want with the link in it? I’ll share it up.

My friend: Hey dude! Thanks, it feels nice to be missed :-) Here is the link and just say what you’d like about the idea of helping 4 DIY stand up comedians trying to go on tour and that your friend is one of them :-) Thanks again!!

Me: here’s what i’d write now. but we can do better, “4 DIY stand up comedians are trying to go on tour and my friend John Doe is one of them. Support if you can.”  If you can add where the tour is going, the dates, how much money you’re trying to raise and by when.

My friend: Right. Not sure where we are going yet. Will know in the next week or so. The dates are Sept 27th to October 16th ; we are trying to raise $20,000. We are almost 25% of the way there. :-)

Me: any clearer sense of tour dates? And, if you’re able to give me exact wording that i can cut and paste it would be a big help. I want to get this as good as possible for you.

My friend: Tour dates will be announced tomorrow and I can send you a link to all that stuff. Have a great night.

I don’t hear from him again.

Ten minutes of my life wasted.

This doesn’t seem like a big deal until it’s ten minutes here and ten minutes there.

It’s death by a thousand cuts. I’m not even talking about responding to any of it. I’m talking about reading the stuff. I’m talking about long emails I have to slog through to figure out whether or not the email is even relevant to me.

It happens when I get hired for consultations with people whose projects are so vague and fuzzy and who either refuse or are legally unable to get any clearer and I sit there for an hour wondering, “Why the hell am I here?”

It happens when I get an email invitation about a possibility of collaborating on a Farmer’s Market presentation and, after twenty minutes, it turns out that this collaboration couldn’t pay me anything and that, in fact, they were just wanting to get the contact info of the person who hired me for my last gig and, maybe, to get my endorsement but then, in the end, the endorsement doesn’t even seem to matter. They could have asked me that in a one sentence email and not wasted my time.

It happens when I host a party and a woman stands up and, over dramatically and heavily, starts spinning a seductive but insubstantial web about a project she’s working on that could pay everyone incredibly well to do their work and a client of mine says, “Wow. That sounds really good!” and I turn to him and say, “You stay the fuck away from her. Or… better yet. Go and talk with her to find out what she’s up to because there’s nothing there.” Only to have him come up to me an hour later and confirm that twenty minutes of digging had yielded him nothing but a headache.

These are all such wonderful people.

And I still get cranky.

It happens all the time.

It happens when people ask me to spread the word for something on Facebook and I have no idea what it is, for whom it might be relevant or even, often, what city it’s happening in.

It happens to women when men ask them to go for coffee just to ‘hang out’ and their intentions are nebulous. They’re not interested in the man romantically but… it’s just coffee, right?

It happens when you meet someone who asks you to go for coffee and it ends up being AMWAY (called whatever the hell they’re calling it these days).

It happens when a known funder is schmoozed by people who are really friendly and asking all sorts of personal questions to ‘get to know’ the funder (who can feel the ask coming).

When people are writing promo material for their programs, products and projects, they often get lazy. They’re so excited to just get it out there and spread the word that they don’t pause and look at what they’ve written through the eyes of the person on the receiving end. What this means is that, often times, you have something that’s fabulously unclear.

This is about you and your friends and colleagues. The ones who love you and want to see you succeed. This is about bringing more beauty and ease to their lives and not draining away their minutes and hours with confusion and annoyance.

 

Out of friendship and good will people will give you their attention once or twice. But, if you keep being fuzzy, then they will resent it.

Why?

Because they love you.

They care about you.

They think you’re amazing and they want to support you but they have no idea what the hell you’re doing.

It’s a frustrating place to be in. They open your emails hoping for something they’ll understand enough to put their encouragement behind, only to be lost in a sea of words. Sure, there’s a link they could click, but, after years of this, they’re not convinced it will be any clearer. They’ll open your emails out of love for you but soon they’re opening them out of a sense of guilt and obligation. Or they’re ignoring them. Or, possibly worse, they’re putting smiling faces and ‘Congrats!’ on your Facebook posts because they love you. What they’re not telling you is that they never clicked the link and they actually have no idea what you do.

Writing a good headline or email subject line isn’t about selling people. Writing good copy isn’t about selling people. It’s about being as clear as you humanly can about what this is and isn’t and who it’s for and who it’s not for. It’s about cutting to the chase as quickly, artfully and clearly as possible. When you don’t take the time to articulate what you do well, that shows me is that you don’t see to care enough about me to take the time to make things clear.

Please don’t waste their time.

Please don’t make them fight to understand what you’re up to. Please don’t confuse them. Please don’t use the leverage of their love for you against them as they spend so much of their precious time trying to sort through the confusion of what you do to understand. And, please don’t take it personally or be offended when they candidly tell you that they are confused by what you do. The truth: they love you and they are trying to give you the gift of their candour which most of your friends aren’t. They love you so much that they are willing to risk the friendship to support the friend. And know that people have their limit of how much ‘fuzziness’ they’re willing to accept from you.

Eventually you will be ignored. People won’t even bother to read the subject lines of your email. They won’t even look at what you tagged them in on Facebook or Twitter. And the whole time they’re ignoring it they are frustrated because they want to help you and feel guilty for not being more supportive but they don’t trust you to respect their time. It’s an awful place to put people. I’ve been put in this situation more times that I wish I had. Eventually that resentment towards you will build into frustration.

Don’t highjack their love.

Writing good sales copy is an act of love and respect for the time and emotional well being of others. Taking the time to write thoughtful copy is an act of kindness. It is consideration. A good sales letter is a pleasure to read. If you claim to love your friends and those on your list, be clear with them. Don’t waste their time. Don’t highjack their love.

I deal with this all the time. Colleagues whose promo stuff is so terrible. It is such shit. It’s the worst. Like they couldn’t be bothered to actually craft something. No. They send me their rough draft. They send me some vague pile of words to figure out and so they are saying, in essence, ‘your time is less valuable than mine’.

Don’t waste my time.

One of my colleagues expressed this to me a few weeks ago, “I recently asked a few people to to give me a bullet point about their business so that I could include them on an email newsletter I am sending to my list that is highlighting other people’s amazing work (just for the hell of it bc their work is awesome). My clients all followed directions. The two friends who I wanted to include both sent me vague responses so it felt doubly unrespectful because I was actually offering to promote them. There’s no way I’m putting other people’s vagueness out there.

“You mugged me with words.”

As I wrote this blog post I recalled some words Derrick Jensen had written in his book Walking on Water. He speaks of receiving a critique from an elder storyteller Milbre Burch.

At one point I used the wrong word to describe something – I called a trowel a spade – and when she corrected me I said (the forty-two-year-old me is horrified to remember these words come out of the twenty-six-year-old me’s mouth), ‘It’s just a word.’

‘Just a word,’ she replied. ‘No. You mugged me, as surely as if you had taken my wallet. You mugged me with words, stole a moment of my life. Every time you’re on stage, or every time you write something for someone else to read, all the people in the audience, all the people who read your writing, are giving you the honour of time they could be spending elsewhere. You are responsible for every second they give you. You need to give them gifts – including the truth as you understand it to be – commensurate with that every moment.’

Cut to the chase.

If you’re interested in a woman, tell her and ask her out on a date. Don’t lie about your interest or attraction. If she’s not interested, she’ll tell you. And that’s fine. They’ll be grateful for you not wasting their time.

If you’re with an MLM company, don’t feign friendship with people to seduce them into your pitch. Tell them you have a business proposition for them and could you have five minutes of their time to give them the pitch? They’ll be grateful for you not wasting their time.

If you meet a funder whose financial support you want, tell him that. Say, “Can I bend your ear for 60 seconds about a project we’re working on that I think you might want to fund?” They’ll be so grateful and almost always say yes. They’ll be grateful for you not wasting their time.

Who came to who?

Remember, you came to me for support not the other way around. I didn’t approach you curious if I could spread the word on your project. You came to me.

If you are approaching someone, the central question in your mind must be, “How can I make this all as clear, quick, easy and worthwhile for them as possible?” You’re in their house. You are a guest. Don’t waste their time.

Now, if you’re doing what you do and not reaching out to anyone and people are just stumbling across your work then be as fuzzy as you want. Whatever. I don’t care. Maybe people will get it and love you. If they complain about how fuzzy you are, tell them to go to hell. It’s your life. Do what you want.

But if you come to them? That kind of laziness and fuzziness will not fly.

And remember, the bigger a hub they are, the busier they are, the more thought you’ll need to put into this. If you blow it with a major hub once you might not get a second chance.

And, this is so important: If you’ve been fuzzy for a while, expect people to be extra touchy and critical. That’s the price you pay for having wasted their time before. There’s an old adage. It says, “the confused mind says ‘no'”. And I am coming to see the deeper levels of this. At first it says ‘no’ gently but eventually that ‘no’ becomes more and more assertive.

And please know this, the greatest pain of someone who is well connected is not having enough time to help everyone they want to help. The more connected and respected you become, the more skills you gain, the more you realize that you can help more people. But you don’t have the time or energy to help everyone. So you have to choose because, soon enough, people start sending you emails, texts and Facebook messages all wanting ‘just five minutes of your time’ or wondering if they couldn’t pick your brain for a bit or if you might know someone who does a certain thing or direct them on who to talk to. And, as a hub, it’s one of your greatest pleasures to be able to help these people and save them hours if not years of frustration. But it’s overwhelming and helpless making too.

So, when you come to them with your fuzziness, you make them feel even more helpless than they already do. And the amount of time and energy they have to spend trying to understand your request takes directly away from the time they have to help others. Don’t think for a second that any of us have limitless amounts of mental focus to spare.

So, if you consistently get feedback that your work is fuzzy, please take it to heart and get help.

Don’t blame the world for not getting you. Don’t blame your colleagues for being frustrated in their desire to help you. Don’t blame your friends for resenting the time they keep investing in reading your work only to find out, after far too much time spent, that it’s not a fit.

To be crystal clear: I have the choice of whether or not to read or respond to things people send me. That’s the truth. Their fuzziness is not my burden unless I make it so. But, because I love these people, I do open the emails and it means the world to me to feel like they’ve done everything they can to make it as clear as possible.

But, most of all, don’t blame yourself either.

Again, there’s no shame in fuzziness. There’s no shame in not hitting a bullseye every time.

But there is some shame in not learning from it when it happens and bringing a rigour to your clarity.

Getting clear about what you do, how you do it and for whom you do is one of the hardest things you will ever do in business. If you struggle with it, you aren’t alone. This is the heavy lifting in business that many avoid and most don’t even know is there for them to do.

And the chances are that whatever education you got in doing what you do now did not include the marketing of that thing. Chances are that you didn’t go through a formal apprenticeship training with an elder that would have you be ready to speak with immense clarity about what you do and with a village of people to take care of who would take care of you too. You are likely self taught in marketing and find it an uneasy proposition at the best of times. You’re in a toxic economic system and may have been promised six figures fast by someone who should have known better and there’s a chance this has left you feeling desperate. So, this is bigger than you. It’s not you.

It’s not your fault that your work may yet be fuzzier than you want. If you’re fuzzy there’s a good chance you’re still at Stage One of your business’ growth. And that’s a beautiful place to be, if you know that you’re there. No one minds someone at Stage One. But they do mind people at Stage One walking around with Stage Four swagger. If you’re just starting, you’re going to need to experiment and try a lot of things to see what works for you. And, while you’re experimenting, it means you’re going to be learning on other people’s backs in the same ways that we all grow up in front of each other in community. There’s no avoiding it and there’s nothing wrong with it.

You’ll be forgiven for fuzziness, but you might not be forgiven for laziness. 

Just be mindful that it is costing people something to mentor you. And don’t expect the mentorship. Don’t bring your entitlement there. If you get the gift of someone’s candour and encouragement… it’s a wonderful thing. I enjoy mentoring people. I love the work that I do. But when people send me something fuzzy, despite my attempts to let them know how fuzzy it is, it’s as if they’re asking me to work for free. Some people seem willfully fuzzy. They resist figuring out their niche and yet keep asking for help having no idea the burden this is for those who care about them. And they have no idea how many others there are out there like them who they are now being lumped in with.

Work to be better.

If someone comes to me with something nebulous and I tell them it’s to vague to share and they work hard and bring back something finer and clearer, I feel good in my heart and happy to help them.

You could do a lot worse than approaching this all with a humble spirit.

If you’re getting feedback that you’re confusing people, it’s okay. It might take a while to get there but you’ll get there – if you make it a priority and focus on it.

What you might do to get more clear. 

Consider asking friends for feedback before putting it out officially.

Consider posting it on Facebook and inviting people’s candid commentary before approaching a hub with it.

Consider hiring a copywriter to look at it if it’s an important piece for your business.

Consider learning about how to write a good sales letter. Consider learning how to create a compelling and clear package.

You can get clearer more quickly than you might think possible.

Before sending an email to someone important, consider what it is you want them to do. Is the email as clear as it could be? Is it direct and to the point?

If you have an important meeting, really think through what you want to cover with them and how it can be of use to them.

Right now you may not be clear but make sure you take the advice or Ira Glass in this video below.

Suggested Resources for the DeFuzzification of Your Business:

The Classy Cold Approach: How to approach hubs in a direct and respectful way.

Nine Thoughts on Copywriting for Hippies

Crystal Clear: Five Simple and Proven Ways to Articulate What You Do (Even if it Seems Hopeless)

The Niching Nest: my book on how to figure out your niche.

Hey! Nice Package: How to develop packages of your products and services that people actually want to buy.

Selling Sweetly: How to write a sales page with sweetness.

Interview: Life Coaching is Not a Business with Rebecca and Ellen

Screen-shot-2013-07-04-at-9.14.13-AMMy colleague and dear friend Rebecca Tracey of The Uncaged Life (and her colleague Ellen Ercolini) have come out with a new program for Life Coaches that I wanted to share with you. Rebecca has been featured on my blog a number of times.

They have a really interesting take on helping coaches get more clients that I’ve never heard before (e.g. “We believe that “coaching” in and of itself isn’t a business.” and the idea of picking your expertise before choosing your niche).

If you’re a life coach (or holistic practitioner) I invite you to give this a read. 

Why did you choose Coaches to work with? What types of challenges do Coaches tend to have?

Ellen: We picked coaches because we both come from coaching backgrounds and we’ve watched our peers struggle, which totally sucks.  Coaches have a very strong drive to help the world – they really, really care about it.  They really want to make people’s lives  happier and positively impact the world.  Who doesn’t want to help those folks accomplish their dreams faster? It’s such a gratifying circle of positive impact.

What they don’t have, by and large, is strong marketing and entrepreneurial skills.   SO many coaches graduate coaching school (ourselves included!) thinking “I can change the world! I can do anything!” And, without the biz skills to back that up, it’s not true. Which leads to really talented people getting depressed and sad about their perceived lack of coaching skills, when in reality it’s the marketing and business skills  they are missing.  

We figured it out pretty early on in our business development, so now we’re on a mission to short circuit that learning curve for other coaches.

Becca: Ditto what Ellen said. And I’d add that coaches tend to be really timid with their marketing. They often have this view that doing good shouldn’t make them a lot of money. That they don’t need money. Which is totally ridiculous. There’s nothing noble about being broke. And there’s nothing “bad” about wanting to make not just a good living, but a damn good living. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does buy some freedom to travel, volunteer, give back, and provide for your family. Those things feel pretty noble to me! 

What’s the system you offer to help coaches solve those problems?

Becca: We believe that “coaching” in and of itself isn’t a business. Coaching is a skill that you use in your business to help bring your clients some kind of result. So in a sense, we’re helping coaches actually figure out what their business is – where their expertise lies.

Once they get clear on their expertise (which includes their niche), we teach them to talk about coaching in a way that gets them clients. Coaches have the habit of using really jargon-y words, so we teach them how to talk about what they so that people perk up and listen (and then ask for their card!). We like to make it EASY for coaches to get referrals, so we teach them how to get known as an expert in their field. Then we  teach them how to use their expertise to create packages that their clients are begging for. No more having to go hunt down your clients. And this all may sound intimidating, but it’s actually really simple, and anyone can do it.

Ellen: YES!  We both use this method in our businesses and have seen huge growth.  When you start speaking clearly about the problems you solve in a way that your clients resonate with, people actually start remembering what you do.  

What’s the number one mistake you see coaches make when they are first starting businesses?

Ellen: They try to help everyone.  Here’s the deal – when people hear ‘I  work with everyone!’ it gets interpreted as ‘no one’.  I see new coaches all the time saying they help people live a ‘more fulfilled life’ – when I ask who specifically they work with they say ‘oh everyone!’ – when I ask how many clients they have it gets really quiet.  

Another huge roadblock for new coaches like Becca mentioned, is talking with too much coaching jargon.  Coaches understand what ‘shifting perspectives to align with values’ means, but it’s because we’ve all gone through classes!  New coaches need to be vigilant about explaining what they do in language that their ideal clients use.  So I guess that’s two mistakes, but they go hand in hand.

Becca: Trying to work with everyone. Gahhh, it drives me nuts! Not only does it not help with their marketing, but I can guarantee that they also don’t WANT to work with everyone. We’re allowed to be selfish in our businesses for the sake of our clients. What I mean is that by only working with clients who totally light you up, you’ll do WAY better coaching, you clients will get more out of it, and work will always feel good for you.

New coaches also tend to have these open ended packages (typically 2-4 sessions a month, for minimum 3 months, on an ongoing, seemingly never-ending basis. No one wants to buy a never-ending service! I don’t know who started with that model, but those don’t sell. New coaches are often reluctant to break away from the way it’s typically done, but we show them a way to structure their packages that makes WAY more sense, and that gets them more clients.

What’s your view on coaches choosing a niche? How should they go about that?

Becca: We believe in expertise first, niche second. Most people go about it backwards – they want to come up with a niche first, before they are even really clear on what they want to do.

So for example, instead of saying “I help single moms”, they might say “I’m an expert organizer and I help people with really busy lives to fit all the millions of things they need to do into their days without getting totally overwhelmed”. That leaves them lots of room to work with different kinds of people (if they don’t want to choose just one niche), but also positions them as the expert in something, so they get known faster for what they do. So YES – choose a niche, but make sure it’s grounded in your expertise.

Ellen: Exactly! Because as we know, businesses evolve.  Developing your business around your expertise makes it simple to apply it to different groups (niches) – and if you want to transition niches, it’s a simple pivot, not an re-brand.  It’s also much more of a natural extension of who the business owner is as a whole person, so it makes the marketing and sales aspect a lot smoother.  

How will this help Coaches in terms of Marketing?

Ellen: Using this system coaches become super clear about where and how to market themselves, and they’ve got the words to make people hear them.   It enables the coaches to speak clearly about the problems they solve, and articulate the results they offer.  Which is totally what people want!  They want you to swoop in and solve their problems!  Which our coaches do now.  Many of the coaches that have gone through Coaching Business Jumpstart have landed new clients the next day because they finally knew how to talk to potential clients.  How’s that for short-cutting the learning curve?

Becca: Most coaches don’t even know what the term “marketing” really means (I certainly didn’t when I got started!). But marketing is really all grounded in being specific about what you do – so in that sense, everything we teach them will help with their marketing! Especially because we help coaches get confident in what they are doing. Too many coaches don’t see their true value, they tend to leave out all their past experiences and just see themselves as new coaches. But we teach them to integrate ALL parts of who they are into their business, so that they feel totally confident in what they do and how they offer it to people, and confidence is KEY in marketing yourself. If you don’t believe in what you do, how can you expect anyone else to?

Where can people find you ladies and learn more about the Coaching Business Jumpstart?

You can get in on the program and find out more about our individual coaching businesses at www.coachingbusinessjumpstart.com. We currently have a self-study version for sale, and will be running the live event again on September 14.


If you’re a coach struggling to make your business work, Becca + Ellen have your answer with Coaching Business Jumpstart. This program is your ticket to making the business side of coaching feel fun and easy. You will learn exactly where you need to start, lay out a plan for moving forward, and leave with the skills and knowledge to make your dream coaching business a reality. You’re great at what you do. You KNOW you can help people. Now if only you knew who those people were, where to find them, and how to get them to hire you! Coaching Business Jumpstart teaches you how.

Mini Case Study: The Food Garage

155649_174478489373455_1625233426_nOne of my colleagues, the excellent Rene Michalak of Red Deer, Alberta, was creating a project called the MEGGA Watt project. From that name you, like I, might assume it was some alternative energy project. He was putting tonnes of stuff out about it on social media but I never really ‘got it’. I liked him. Respected him. Wanted to support him. And was totally confused and too busy to really dig into it.

It’s a good note to remember: the confused mind says no. And here’s another one: very few people will work very hard at all to understand you.

As I tried to understand it more, I found myself overwhelmed with jargon: permaculture, stacking functions, obtaining many yields from a single element in a system, systems analysis, Micro-Energy Generating Garage Assembly, Geodesic domes, Growing Dome, environmental footprint, Climate Battery, environmental impact, subterranean heating and cooling system (SHCS). closed-loop, zero-waste systems, aquaponics and aeroponics.

Some of those terms I understood. Some I didn’t. Taken in together it felt overwhelming. And I had no idea how it all tied together or what it even was.

Until we sat down together and he told me the URL: www.foodgarage.ca

Food Garage? Oh! Suddenly this was all beginning to click.

What do they do at the Food Garage? They turn your garage into a year round grocery store that could feed a family of four.

And a grocery store that is powered by green energy.

I immediately got it.

Now, the MEGGA Watt project had had a tagline: The Rise of the Food Garage but, amazingly, I totally didn’t catch that.

Lessons:

1) Choose a name that is simple for people to understand. If it’s not totally clear, at least make sure it doesn’t send a different message entirely. A nice thing about this name is that it names the two main things involved and it’s also an oxymoron – it combines two things that normally don’t go together which is often compelling for people and evokes curiousity. And the name also speaks to the result people get – your garage will produce food. Such a simple idea!

2) Make sure the relevance of what you’re offering is clear. Don’t get lost in the technicalities of HOW you deliver that result up front – first make sure they understand the result they’ll get and the problem you’ll solve if they work with you. See if you can sum it up in seven words or less. ‘Turning Your Garage into a Grocery Store’. Easy. Once they understand that, the details all just help to build the case of how you can get them where they want to go. If you read the top of their homepage, I think they’ve really nailed the result they’re offering: 

“You’re about to find out how to turn your garage into a veritable organic grocery store that can feed a family of four for an entire year, produce all of the renewable energy you’ll need to do it, learn practical skills that will amaze your friends and family, and seriously increase your property value, all in the comfort of your own backyard.”

3) Cut the Jargon. Whenever possible – eliminate jargon and write at a grade seven level. Get rid of big words in your sales copy. Eventually you’ll need to educate them and use those words. But that’s further down than the initial sales conversation where clarity matters more than anything.

4) Use metaphors. Turning your garage (a real thing) into a grocery store (the metaphor). We understand what a grocery store is and so it can help us picture what the thing is without needing to understand all the technical stuff. 

You can follow them on twitter, like them on facebook and check out their website here.

And you can check out a sweet video explaining the project here:

 

Seven Major Options On How to Name Your Business

name-tagComing up with a name for your business can be tricky. If you’re retail it’s easier to go random, there are so many businesses with names that may or may not have any meaning to the customer (even if there’s a story behind it). I can think of the Black Dog Public House, White Dog Cafe, the Pig and Whistle, Elephant and Castle etc. You might just pick something random and be known for that. But, if you’re a service based professional, I don’t think that’s the best way to go.

And there are so many terrible names: General Electric, Universal Solutions, Leaders International etc.  All vague and give you both no idea what it is and evoke no curiousity to know more.

I believe your business name should, ideally, be simple, memorable and if it’s not crystal clear what it is, then to at least evoke curiousity.

As far as I can see it, you’ve got seven major options:

Option #1: Business Your Personal Name: There are absolutely worse options than simply going for www.tadhargrave.com. Just have your URL and business name be your name. If you’re genuinely stuck, this is a fine place to start. If you pick a specific business name and then change it – you have to rebrand, re-educate people etc. But you’re unlikely to change your own name. So, even if you eventually name your business something else – people will at least know your name. And there’s a powerful argument to be made in making yourself the brand as Peter Montoya lays out in his brilliant book The Personal Branding Phenomenon.

Option #2: Make Up A Word (or use a foreign word): Sometimes you can’t find a simple way to say what you do without using dozens of words. You might consider picking a simple word from another language, or even your own or . . . make one up! Think of etsy.com. It’s a place you can buy amazing products made from crafters world wide. Etsy isn’t actually a word! But it is now. The Otesha Project takes young people on empowering bike trips around Canada. The word came from a Kenyan word meaning ‘hope’ which got to the heart of what they’re about. Simple words like this make for easy to remember URL’s too.

Option #3: Speak to the Result: This one can be really powerful. When you think about the ultimate result you offer your clients – could you sum that up into a few words? Here are a few I’ve seen that give you an immediate sense of what they offer: www.soldoutseminars.com, www.getknownnow.com, www.buildyourpractice.com, www.DoubleYourDating.com, Fill Your Workshops With Ease! or ‘Get the Girl!’. My dear friend Erica Ross named her business after the result in a more evocative way with www.danceourwayhome.com. I also heard someone use this the other day as a joke but I think it’s a great URL themostrelaxingmassagever.com 

Option #4: Speak to their Current Situation: A client of mine who helps injured yogi’s recover decided on the name ‘Broken Yogi’. Another one is http://recoveringyogi.com/. A friend of mine who’s a dating coach launched a product called, ‘She’s Only Six Steps Away’ speaking the feeling many men have when seeing a woman they’re interested in but being too terrified to approach her and thinking to themselves, ‘Come on man! She’s only six steps away!’. 

Option #5: Use an OxyMoron: I’ve written a lot about this in another post but the basic idea is to see if you can create your name out of wedding two seemingly conflicting ideas. Marketing + Hippies? Those don’t seem to go together. Buddhist + Bootcamp? The fact that they are contrasting makes the name more interesting and exciting for people.

Option #6: Name the Boat: I speak a lot about your ‘boat‘ when I speak of the journey we take people on from on Island to another. Naming the boat isn’t always the most compelling thing – bu tit’s a legitimate way to go. You could go with www.EdmontonMassage.com which would certainly rank you high in google for local searches. And if you’re offering a specialty product or service that few others are offering, you could go with a name like, www.Ecowalls.ca or www.nonviolentcommunicationedmonton.com. Those names don’t say anything about the problems you solve or the results you offer, they’re not compelling like an oxymoron would be but they’re pretty clear and easy to understand at a basic level.

Option #7: Name it After Your Niche: If you have a product or service with a tonne of applications that you’re wanting to apply to a specific niche why not name your business after that?   e.g. singlemommassage.com or massageformusicians.com. Broken Yogi and Recovering Yogi also work here.

If you can think of any other examples or ideas, I’d love to hear them.

 

what to call yourself

My dear colleague in the UK Corrina Gordon-Barnes (pictured right) just wrote a brilliant, brilliant blog post about the whole question of ‘what to call yourself’.

It’s a vital issue because what you choose to call yourself will have a direct impact on how memorable it is or isn’t and how easy it is to tell their friends about you. If word of mouth is the primary engine of marketing (and it is) then what you call yourself and how easy it is for others to remember and share matters profoundly.

If you do something with a funny name (e.g. permaculture, theta healing, appreciative inquiry, non violent communication, ‘the work’ etc.) you’ve no doubt noticed the glazed look people get on their faces when you try to tell them what you do. And you might also just not dig the generic title people in your industry use (even though it is clear). Perhaps you’ve been calling yourself a life coach, counsellor, dance teacher etc. but none of that really feels right or exciting.

So, what do you do?

You read this wonderful piece by my friend Corrina Gordon-Barnes.

To read her article click here.

the oxymoronic business: how to create an instantly memorable, attention grabbing business name that gets people talking

Oh man.

I’ve been wanting to write this blog for so long.

It’s about what to name your business.

Your business name matters. A good name is memorable and easy to repeat which gives you good word of mouth. A good name can help identify your niche (or at least resonate strongly with it).

Now, this isn’t what I suggest for every business. But I think it could be useful to a lot of businesses.

It started when I began to notice a pattern in some business names that grabbed me.

I noticed that certain business names contained two contrasting elements that you normally wouldn’t put together.

In my case, ‘marketing for hippies’.

Now, that has only been my official business name for two and half years. But I’ve been doing it for almost 12 years. So, what was my business name before that?

. . . Exactly.

No one can remember.

It was ‘Radical Business’. But my website was www.tadhargrave.com (and contained the worst picture of me known to man (and no I won’t show it to you)).

But, when people would ask me, ‘So, what do you do?’ I’d always joke that I did ‘marketing for hippies’. (Actually, I used to joke that I was a drug dealer or a shepherd or a high society jewel thief at first . . . #entertainingforme).

When I’d say, ‘marketing for hippies’ I’d get a few consistent reactions. The first was that they’d laugh. The second was that they’d say, ‘isn’t that kind of an oxymoron?’ or ‘Boy. They sure need that.”

And then I began to hear other names that had me give a similar reaction. A sense of surprise at two contrasting elements together that I wouldn’t have expected to find together. I noticed that those names felt like they had some real energy to them. Some fight. Some vim and vinegar. They gave me a really clear overall feeling of what this business was about. Often in two or three words. So, I started keeping track of them when I heard them.

And I noticed that when a colleague was thinking of naming himself the ‘hippie healer’ that I didn’t like it. It seemed flat. Why? I expect healers to be hippies. There’s no surprise there. It goes with my expectations not against them. It didn’t make me pause or think. Same with ‘heart-healing’ or ‘conscious-healing’. It’s two similar notions. So it feels repetitive. They both disappear.

It can be fun to see if you can weave contrast and conflict into your name. Here’s how it relates to Niche. If a niche is your place in the world . . . and if we all act as a kind of bridge between different communities and worlds – then sometimes that is our niche. We bring the best qualities of each world to the other. Marketing World + Hippie World.

Just food for thought. But you might ask yourself: what are the seemingly contrasting worlds I love being a part of? And could my niche and role be to bring them together?

What follows is the list of business names I collected. Not all of them are real businesses. Some of them are just names I wish I could have given someone’s business (not even saying my idea is a good idea in their case but noticing that this is what I would call it). Where possible, I’ve linked the name to the website. Notice which ones grab your attention.

*

The biker shaman is the name I wish I could have given to http://prismhealing.com/ as homeboy used to be a hardcore biker for like four years. And now he’s a shaman! Holy shit.

Kris Karr created a powerful documentary called Crazy Sexy Cancer. I don’t think anyone would ever normally associate sexy with cancer.

Even though I really hate the notion, I saw a group on facebook about the ‘enlightened billionaire. You wouldn’t expect spiritually enlightenment and financial opulence to go together. I personally hate everything about that idea but it’s a good example of what we’re talking about.

Met a fellow in Calgary who used to be a wrestler and now he does meditation trainings and his business name? Wrestling with Consciousness.

One of my pals in Edmonton runs an amazing non profit that brings people powered music and immense, people-engaging creativity to live community events. The Project name? Music is a Weapon. Music + weapons? I’m interested! I like the controversy and conversation this starts. So much better (in my mind) than something like, ‘the community based music project’. Boooooring. As Lucas Coffey, one of the group’s founders puts it, “We never get sick of watching people’s minds twist into knots when we tell them we are “music is a weapon”, then give them a big hug!”

What if you’re a hardcore feminist but you actually love the idea of being a stay at home mom? Well then you’ll love The Radical Homemaker. Or what about the notion of ‘urban homesteading‘. I just saw someone with the twitter name ‘bitchin’ housewife‘.

I like this one too – ‘The Socialchange Diva‘.

Or how about Burlesque Church?

Ron Berezan does permaculture and landscaping based on growing food in cities. The natural name? The Urban Farmer.

Want a meditation and mindful living path but find most teachers too dull? You might enjoy www.zenbitchslap.com or Buddhist Bootcamp

Love yoga but tired of going to yoga classes that don’t accommodate the fact that you’re not thin as a twig and have you feel like you don’t belong? Enter Tiina Veer’s amazing Yoga for Round Bodies. But there are so many other interesting examples with yoga too that I’ve heard of: yoga for . . . rednecks, cowboys. Dubstep Yoga. Ganja Yoga. Yoga for Heavy Metal Rockers. Yoga + Chocolate. So many surprising things yoga can be combined with.

The whole Slow Food movement is a mild version of this. We’re a society raised with ‘fast food’ so it can be surprising to hear the words ‘slow food’ together. But it immediately, as a contrast to ‘fast food’ let’s you know what it’s about.

Oxymoron – yoga niches and slow food

Edmonton just got a great new local food restaurant that combines the best sensibilities of the city and the country. It’s called The Prairie Bistro.

Visionary activist Caroline Casey often speaks about the importance of wedding these contrasts in life together. An example she often gives is of becoming a ‘disciplined wild person’.

What about a course called, ‘Dating for Nerds.’

One of my colleagues in Winnipeg just sent me word of a course she was running, ‘Divorcing with Dignity – Learn How to Mindfully Separate and Maintain your Integrity’. When’s the last time you heard of divorce and immediately had the word ‘dignity’ come to mind. Never. That’s when. “We had such a dignified divorce!” said no one ever.

In fact, most of the “_______ for Dummies” books embody this oxymoron principle in a way. The thought is, “I’m a dummy. I could never do or learn this.”

My friend and colleague Jeff Golfman is a passionate raw vegan. He wanted to do some kind of project around that but couldn’t figure out what. We were sitting in his car one day and he said, “I don’t want to write another recipe book. That’s been done. I don’t want to write about the science behind it. That’s already done.” What struck me was that Jeff has one of the coolest lifestyles of anyone I know. He travels a lot. He meets famous people. And it struck me that he had something to say about how to not just be a raw vegan but also how to bring the cool lifestyle piece into it. How do you travel and be vegan? How do you deal with thanksgiving? How do you deal with all the lifestyle issues? How do you not come across as a judgmental prick. “Why don’t you call it something like the cool vegetarian?” And The Cool Vegetarian video blog was born.

Kris Ward runs a business called Abundant Yogi. Simple. Brilliant.

Another colleague has a business called Healers Who Prosper.

I met some young people from Asia who had a project called Peace Revolution. Peace + Revolution? Tell me more.

One of my colleagues toyed with the idea of creating a business called Yoga Tramp because she loved yoga but she also loved partying, sexuality and having fun.

I heard about a website called www.grittyangel.com. That has my interest. I normally don’t associate angels with grit.

One of my dearest colleagues in the world’s websites name says it all www.heartofbusiness.com. Most people see business as heartless. Not Mark Silver. Or what about Enlightened Marketing? Or my colleague Lynn Serafinn who wrote a book called The Seven Graces of Marketing. Or what about www.consciouscorporates.com

I really love the name Selfish Goals that one of my clients was considering for her coaching practice. Most of us are raised to think selfishness is bad. So, to have a website endorsing this idea? Cool. And what about Selfish Giving? Selfish Contribution? Those could work as provocative names too.

And who wouldn’t love a website called Chocolate for Breakfast – Where Pleasure Meets Permission? Choocolate + breakfast? Hello!

Or how about The Blissiplined Life? Bliss + Discipline.

And what about http://www.roguepriest.net. Doesn’t that name immediately give you some ideas of who this priest is what they’re about? You immediately get that they aren’t the usual priest.

The wife of one of my clients had an idea for a business called Compassionate Rebels.

In London, England, there’s a coffee shop called ‘Ethical Addictions‘. The name says it all.

What about the Health Glutton? Or the boxing school in Brazil called Fighting for Peace?

One of my clients had the idea to call her nutrition business The Healthy Hipster. It’s two bits of contrast (party hard hipsters with their tight jeans, penchants for local beer and late night shows) + health. And the name mentions the target group too! #winning

Oakland has City Slicker Farms and The People’s Grocery.

Charles Eisenstein wrote a book called, Sacred Economics.

Dike Drummond burned out years ago as a Doctor and years later has created a business coaching MD’s on how not to burn out called, The Happy MD

Ottawa has a project called Hidden Harvest.

After I published this blog post I began to get some responses with even more ideas.

Karen Bray wrote: “My field is conflict resolution and star mediator Tammy Lenski has already bagged the best name ever – Conflict Zen. I saw what she did there, but it took this blog to realise I could use a similar technique to create something unique for myself. At the moment I’m conflict calming (cos people tell me conflict is scary). But I’m going to play around with some rebranding ideas. The Harmony Warrior, anyone?”

Aruna wrote: “I’ve always liked my business name without really understanding why. Young Yoga Masters is the opposite of what most imagine a yoga master to be. Thanks for the insightful post. I’m going to try this technique in my blog post titles too.”

Bianca Filoteo wrote: “Great post! And I loved that you shared so many other examples niche-focused business names. I came up with mine a few years ago: Video For Shy People. The funny thing was that I was really struggling what to name my business and as I was free-writing about what it would be about “video for shy people” just suddenly appeared. Everyone I’ve met so far has really loved the name :)”

Jaime wrote: “I think I got another one for you. Krister is in the process of changing his blog to www.dancingphysicist.com.”

Tea wrote: “My business name isn’t exactly oxymoronic, but it does bring together two unexpected ideas. The Word Chef was born from a realization that while I would never be a “real” chef, I was certainly someone who could cook up a pretty good marketing message. Words (and pictures) are the ingredients I play with. I think a lot of folks could discover a metaphor for what they do professionally inside of what they love to do for fun.”

Nicky wrote: “And I’d like you to know that: I read your article on Oxymoron’s for names and since them I’m thinking about the name: “Grief Guru” for my program. My friends have been jokingly calling me that. HA! But the premise for me is that each person can be their own Grief Guru as Guru simply means someone who brings in light where there was once darkness. Also toying with GrieveHappy”. I love grievehappy.

Marianne wrote: “My website is Peace Is Sexy; and the sub-categories I’ve got on there are Peace Is Possible, Peace Is Profitable and Peace Is Fun. I always great reactions from that. I just didn’t realize it was also my niche!”

Want to try this with your own business?

Ask yourself . . .

What durogatory and negative qualities are most often associated with the topic you talk about? What qualities do YOU seek to bring in place of that?

Do you bring your boat to a different harbor/community? Do you bring your work to a different crowd who normally isn’t associated with this?

What are the two different worlds you’re trying to bring together?

If you have any other examples of contrasting business names, write them below in the comments.

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Want Help? If you’d like some more direct guidance and hand holding on figuring out your niche then go and check out my Niching for Hippies coaching program http://marketingforhippies.com/niching-for-hippies/