On Promises

38592537 - a mother and her child hooking their fingers to make a promise, vintage style

The purpose of marketing is to make promises.

The purpose of your business is to keep them.

Most traditional cultures in the world are overflowing with proverbs around the importance of keeping your word and doing what you say you will do.

It’s certainly true for my own Scottish and Celtic ancestry.

“If I break faith, may the skies fall upon me, may the seas drown me, may the earth rise up and swallow me.” – ancient Gaulish oath of the elements

“We of the Fianna never told a lie. Falsehood was never attributed to them. But by truth and the strength of our hands, we came safe out of every combat.” – Ladaoidh Chunaic an Air, anon. Irish Poem

And the following Scottish Gaelic seanfhaclan (literally ‘old words’ or proverbs)…

B’fheàrr gun tòiseachadh na sguir gun chrìochnachadh.
(Better not to begin than stop without finishing).

Am fear as mò a gheallas, ‘s e as lugha cho-gheallas.
(He that promises the most will perform the least).

Gealladh gun a’choimhghealladh, is miosa sin na dhiùltadh
(Promising but not fulfilling, is worse than refusing).

Am fear a tha grad gu gealladh, ‘s tric leis mealladh.
(Quick to promise often deceives).

Chan eil fealladh ann cho mòr ris an gealladh gun choimhlionadh.
(There is no deceit/fraud so great as the promise unfullfilled).

My guess is that, if you looked to your own ancestry, you’d find similar things. Without the ability to trust the words of others, there is no capacity for culture.

There are four levels of relating to your promises:

  1. You over-promise and under-deliver. This is the worst. It creates disappointment and a terrible reputation.
  2. You promise and deliver. This is solid and will get you a fine reputation as someone who is reliable. This is the bare minimum for being in business.
  3. You under-promise and over-deliver. This is rare. This will earn you rave reviews and endless word of mouth.
  4. You don’t promise at all. You just deliver value for the joy of it. Imagine the utter delight of your clients to get something from you that they didn’t even expect. 

Your reputation, and thus the amount of word of mouth you receive, will be largely be determined by the degree to which you are able to deliver (or over-deliver) on your promises.

What are you promising people? Is this clear?

And what level are you at right now in terms of your delivering?

Additional Reading: 

Are you marketing the journey or the boat?

The Art of Relevance

Trust and the Taxi Driver

13618562_sI caught a cab the other day.

Actually a TappCar (Edmonton’s response to the terrible taxi cab industry and Uber). They have priced themselves in between the two. I could give you ten reasons why I love them.

But there are always issues.

I was heading to visit my grandmother in the hospital.

“I want to stop at the Booster Juice on 104 St and 78 Ave.” I told him as we pulled away from my home. I knew I’d be at the hospital for at least six hours tonight and I hadn’t eaten much lunch and wouldn’t be able to get away for dinner.

“By the Save On?” He asked.

“That’s the one!”

After a few minutes I looked up from my phone and realized he’d never made the turn to go to Booster Juice. I was hungry and he was busy following his GPS taking me to the hospital.

“I asked you to go to Booster Juice first.”

From his response, it was as if I’d never asked him about it at all. I sat there confused. It was the first thing I’d told him. He’d seemed to understand and, as we were clarifying the issue and how that had been missed, which I never figured out, he kept driving down 109 St. taking us further and further away.

“Do you want me to go back?”

I shook my head and pulled out my phone. “I’ll see if I can find one closer to the hospital.”

It’s not the first time this has happened to me in a cab. Maybe it was that their English wasn’t good and they didn’t want to admit they’d not understood me. Maybe it was that they didn’t listen. Maybe they had something big going on in their life and they just weren’t able to listen. Maybe all of that. Maybe something else. But result was the same.

The trust was broken.

And I know it’s a small thing. I know that any upset I had was, in part, fueled by being hungry. I also know it’s petty and emotionally small of me. I get all of that. But it’s how it is for most of us.

This happens all the time in business and in life. A trust is given and then it’s broken. It happens in big ways like infidelity in a relationship and in very small ways like this.

I remember hearing my friend Decker Cunov telling the story of an event he’d been at where a man had picked up a woman by her hand and foot and was spinning her around as she laughed and giggled. And then her head hit the concrete pole with a sickening and loud sound. It wasn’t the pain that hurt the most. It was the betrayal. She’s surrendered to the moment, trusting him to look after her and he had let her down. He wasn’t careful with that trust.

It’s what we all want in life sometimes. To be able to relax and know we’re being taken care of. We want to know we’re in good hands. We want to get in the cab, zone out and trust they’ll get us there without our having to direct them. We want to tell the massage therapist what feels good and doesn’t to us and then relax into the massage, trusting that they heard us. We want to go to a therapist and trust they’ll hear what we say and, if we’re really lucky, pick up on what we aren’t saying. Sometimes we just want to surrender to the process.

But, as soon as we realize that someone can’t be trusted, we can’t relax. We have to remain vigilant which may defeat the purpose or rob much of the joy from the experience.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of riding in a black cab in London, it’s remarkable. You’re in such good hands. They spend three years studying London until they know the entire map of the city inside and out. You just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

If you’ve ever been served by a world class server at a restaurant, it’s something to experience. It inspires your utter relaxation. Everything they do says, “You relax. I’ve got this.”

I recall reading an article that suggested that the three sexiest words a man could say to a woman were, “I’ve got this.” And it doesn’t have to be a binary gendered, heteronormative relationship to feel good about hearing those words.

And, when we do, we are incredibly vulnerable.

Your clients are like this with you. They’re coming in scared, ashamed, overwhelmed or heartbroken. Or all of them. If we are very lucky, they trust us. If you’re aware it’s been placed on you, you come to see, very quickly, that it’s less of a gold medal being pinned to your lapel for all the good that you’ve done and more of a heavy, lopsided burden for you to carry into the future.

The trust is not there to make our heads big or gratify our ego. It’s the human making burden that tells you, ‘You have an impact on others. Be careful now.’ It’s not asking us to be fearful, but careful. Full of care for those around us as we know that small touches from us on those people will have a larger impact than others. Being praised or trusted puts the responsibility on your shoulders. It’s telling you that you’re in a different phase of your life now and that something else, beyond your youthful carelessness, is asked for. When someone praises you or trusts you, you should feel the weight of it on you and how it asks you to be stronger. It’s not a badge for you to proudly display – it’s a sort of unasked for

It’s not a badge for you to proudly display – it’s a sort of unasked for thing that you carry with you as you go.

If you do carry it well, you are fulfilling the unspoken promise you’ve made to them. You’re fulfilling the agreement.

If you carry it masterfully, if you consistently under-promise and over-deliver, you will never want for business.



The Power of Sticking Around Long Enough

patience1-1It’s happened a number of times to me now.

I meet someone or some across a business which provides a product or service that I see as needed and that I might want to recommend.

And then they go out of business. Or they stop doing that thing.

And it’s often before I’ve really had the chance to get to know them or had much occasion to spread the word about them. It’s frustrating because I love knowing who to send people to if I can’t help them.

I’d be speaking with someone and say, “Oh yeah. John does that kind of work. He’s great.”

And then someone would overhear me and say, “Oh. John stopped doing that a few months ago. Now he’s onto this other thing.”

Niche switching is a natural thing to do. It happens all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s often exactly what you need to do.

But it takes a while for a reputation to be made. It just takes time and most people quick or change direction before they get there. They’re digging a well and, a foot before they hit water, discouraged, they stop digging there and start digging somewhere else and so they never reach the life replenishing stream under the ground.

In business, those waters are the natural flow of word of mouth that sends you business without you even lifting a finger. It’s the power of becoming a hub, becoming a trusted advisor, expert or ‘go to person’ in any particular arena. That does the marketing for you. If you stick around long enough, hustle while you do it and connect with other hubs in a good way, without three years, everyone knows who you are and what you’re about.

If you work on the issue of trauma for three years in a community and do your best to get the word out there, keep at it.

If you do a unique kind of yoga, have a niched permaculture business, have a business based on a particular target market, or based on a particular thing you’re offering, if you have anything even close to resembling a niche, you do a great job and you stick around long enough in business, you will develop a reputation as someone to go to for particular issues or for particular things. Just by having stuck it out long enough you will have a name in town for doing things. Most people give up on this too soon.

But it takes time.

Most entrepreneurs don’t stick around long enough to really get known for anything.

Most entrepreneurs do not persist and play the long game.

five steps to get more (and better) clients – (14 minute video)

A few weeks ago, I realized how I take almost every client I work with through the same series of five steps. If you want more (and better) clients, you will have to, at some point, engage all five of these things. The bad news is that they’re not easy. The good news is that they’re really simple.

And they all start with knowing who is a perfect fit for you – who your niche is. 

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.

seven reasons why to write a book

This is an odd post to write given that I have no immediate plans to write a book.

But there are a lot of good reasons to write one.

Here are two reasons not to write a book.

1) To make money.

2) To become famous.

The publishing industry has changed so much in the past decades. The idea of being discovered and given a huge upfront payment of money to write the book and then make millions off the sales of the book are . . . unlikely. Even for authors who sell a lot of books, it’s far from the fame producing, lucrative strategy it might seem.

Realistically, for most people, it’s going to take time to become known as an author – and to make a living at it. My colleague Dan Blank has a lot of good things to say about the basics of this platform building process for authors here.

But still, there are plenty of good reasons to write a book.

Here’s my take on seven good reasons to consider.

REASON #1: You love writing. This is the most important reason. You love to write. You love the written word. You love to express yourself. You find yourself writing a lot anyway. You already do it even though no one is paying you.

REASON #2: To clarify your point of view. I think this is profoundly important and so often missed in marketing. Yes, you need to understand who you’re trying to reach, the problems they face and they results they crave most. That’s the heart of marketing. But you also need to be clear with people about your take on the process or system or series of steps that can get people from where they are to where they want to be. You need to be a map maker.

Most of us have an intuitive sense of our approach to the problems our clients face. But few of us have really taken the time to sit back and reflect on it and spell it out. People aren’t buying your product or service half as much as they’re buying into your point of view. Don’t wait to write your book until your clear – writing your book can be the process that helps you get clear.

And getting clearer about your point of you will make you far more effective in what you do. Clarity is attractive.

REASON #3: Stories are so compelling. My colleague Michael Margolis has spent years trying to advocate for the idea (point of view) that story telling is the currency of marketing. And I think he’s right. Not only will a book express your perspective, but, if done well, it will do it through stories and case studies.

REASON #4: Your book is a sales letter. An extension of the above reasons – your book is like a long, long sales letter to your clients. Do you think Eckhart Tolle would get a fraction of the people he currently does to his seminars if he’d not written those books? Your books give people a way to get to know you, safely, at a distance and decide whether or not it’s a fit to work with you.

REASON #5: Being an author makes you an authority. Culturally, we respond very differently to someone if their name is followed by ” . . . author of _____.” Simply the fact that you have written a book gives you an enormous degree of credibility that you can use to command higher speaking fees and workshop rates. People might even ask for your autograph and stuff.

REASON #6: Word of mouth. Books can help with word of mouth. Think of all the books you’ve passed onto friends that you thought they’d love or that might help them. Plus, if you decide you write your book via your blog and publish it in bits like that – you can start building your following long before the book ever comes out. And simply writing a book is a buzzworthy event. You might get local media coverage. It’s a wonderful chance to reach out to your list.

REASON #7: Deepen your connection with your tribe. Forget getting new people. Many of your existing community will read your book and that will help them ‘get you’ at a deeper level. They’ll appreciate you more.

designing for generosity

A dear colleague of mine – Nippun Mehta – did a TEDx talk on the theme of “Designing for Generosity“. That I had to share with you.

Capitalism seems to be based on the idea that we’re selfish.

And there’s truth to this.

We do everything we do to meet our needs. But it’s so easy to forget that some of our deepest needs are for connection, community and contribution. So, what if we designed things with that in mind? What if our businesses gave people not only ways to consume more but also created spaces to contribute and connect?

Simon Sinek speaks to this so brilliantly in his book Start With Why – that marketing tricks and tactics might create sales – but they won’t create loyalty.

What creates loyalty? It’s less about what we do and how we do it and more about ‘why’ we do it. People come together around a shared ‘why’. This is what brings communities and teams most deeply together – sharing a deeper and more transcendent purpose.

As we weave this into our business – and give our communities ways to contribute we then also deepen our connection to them.

Nippun gives some wonderful examples of pay what you can pricing models in business. What most people never consider with PWYC pricing models is the word of mouth potential of them – how people will not only talk about what you do – but how you charge for it.

If you’re committed to staying true to your politics, remaining accessible to the people who need you most but also to sustaining yourself – I think you’ll really love this video.

Here’s a blurb from the Karmatube description:

What would the world look like if we designed for generosity? Instead of assuming that people want to simply maximize self-interest, what if our institutions and organizations catered to our deeper motivations? This compelling TEDx talk explores this question and introduces the concept of Giftivism: the practice of radically generous acts that change the world. The video is charged with stories of such acts, ranging from: the largest peaceful transfer of land in human history, to a pay-it-forward restaurant, to a 10-year-old’s unconventional birthday celebration, and the stunning interaction between a victim and his teenage mugger. With clarity and insight, it details the common threads that run through all these gift manifestations, and invites us to participate through everyday acts of kindness — in an uplifting global movement.

You can watch it below.


music is a weapon

Ton! Cade Bambara once said that, ‘the goal of the revolutionary artist is to make the revolution irresistible.’

And that makes me think of Lucas Coffey (pictured below).

With whom I just had a super interesting meeting about his project Music is a Weapon.

There were a lot of ideas and lessons that came up which I thought might be useful for you in your work.

One of the main things that Music is a Weapon does is bike powered parties. The target market we explored was working with music festivals

So the music festival would bring them in and they would power one of the music stages through pedaling on bikes hooked up to a generator.

The question is: how does he get these festivals to hire him?

Let’s remember that his bike powered thing is his boat. Meaning it’s what he offers to them to get them from Island A (their problems) to Island B (to the results they want). His bike powered parties is what he’s proposing will help them on their journey.

So, what is the journey these festival owners are on?

Well . . . imagine you run a music festival. You’ve got all the logistics of it, choosing the acts, managing volunteers . . . etc. And then, on top of actually running the festival you’ve got to get people there. You’ve got to market it. Shit.

The only reason a festival organizer is going to care about Lucas’ boat is if it can help them out with their life and help solve their problems. Period.

The implications on Lucas’ marketing are obvious: he needs to show that by bringing in his bike powered parties he can help them make more money, build their email list, get more people to the festival, get more buzz and word of mouth and help them deepen their relationship to their people.

If he can make that case, they’ll hire him. If he can’t, they won’t. It’s just that simple.

Most conscious business rely on their ‘values proposition’ or, as we’ve discussed recently, their bigger why. Basically, the marketing pitch becomes, ‘hire me because it’s the right thing to do’. And only the most hardcore conscious people will do this. 80% of our offering really need to be the ‘value proposition’ where we make the case on the return on investment.  If you can offer both a solid values proposition and a solid value proposition it’s hard to fail.

So, if Lucas goes to them and says, ‘hire me because we’re all about sustainable energy and community engagement and fun!’ he won’t get as far as if he says, ‘Bring us in and we’ll help make more money, build your email list, get more people to your festival, get more buzz and word of mouth and help you deepen your relationship to your people . . . plus! It aligns with your community and green values.’

But it’s not enough to make that kind of a claim. They need to trust that you can deliver on that. He needs to become, ultimately a ‘trusted advisor‘.

Part of building trust come to some basic boat redesign. It’s not enough to understand the goals of your client and what Island B is for them. You need to actively consider how you can get them there. And sometimes that means some going back into your business and reimagining things. Innovating. Making our business better and more useful for the client.

So, Lucas and I got to talking about that . . . We realized that he’s actually in a perfect position to help them achieve their goals.

What he does is so fun and unusual that people will go home and talk about it which brings up the music festival in conversation. And what promoter wouldn’t want their festival being talked about more?

They are excellent at getting people to actually ride the bikes but maybe they could communicate ‘the seven charming tactics we use to get people on the bikes’. That might help the promoter feel more confident it would work. He could also get lots of testimonials from other promoters speaking about how well it worked. So he could do more to maximize what’s already working.

But we realized that there were additional innovations that could be brought in which might just excite the festival organizers.

They could ‘theme’ their bikes by decade. Have a 20’s bike, a 30’s bike, 60’s bike etc. And with each bike they could have some period costume pieces that people could wear while they pose for a sweet photo.

Imagine how this might work . . .

You show up at a festival and set up your gear. It’s a beautiful sunny day and you’re just so happy to be out of the city. You look over the program and list of musicians and DJ’s who’ll be playing and smile. It’s your first time at the festival, so you decide to go for a wander and explore the fair grounds.

You see the usual food vendors, some crafts and clothing vendors but then you see something you’ve never seen before. Ten bikes stationary  bikes. With people riding them. And many of them are wearing funny hats and clothes.

You have to check this out.

As you get closer, the person running that area – whatever it is – charmingly engages you in conversation (even though you tend to be a bit shy). He explains that the bikes are hooked up to a generator and that all these people’s exercise is powering the stage beside them. He invites you to ride.

You’re hesitant but then a lady dressed in flapper hat and gloves hops off the bike and hands you her hat. ‘You have to try it!’ You find yourself sitting on this 1920’s old timey bike, wearing a hat, gloves and other period accoutrements, peddling. And having a lot of fun meeting the people on the bikes on either side of you.

One of the people working there asks if he can take a photo of you. Of course, you say yes. This will make a sweet photo. If it’s good you might make it your new profile photo. After he takes the picture of you (you check it and it’s super great) he gives you a card with the website for this group Music Is A Weapon and also a link to the festival’s facebook page. ‘We’ll be uploading your photo to this page later tonight. And we’re having a contest too. Whoever can get the most people to ‘like’ their photo on facebook wins two free tickets to the festival next year plus some other prizes you can use right away. It’s worth about $300. The details are on the card there.’ You slip the card in your pocket. Nice.

You hop off the bike and encourage a hesitant onlooker to give it a try. They smile. They’re shy like you and happy to meet someone friendly. On your way out, a volunteer asks you if you’d like to be on the email list for the festival. “You’ll get maybe one email a month for the festival fundraisers we do which are always super fun and a great chance to reconnect with people you meet here. You’ll also get advance notice on early bird prices for tickets.” You sign up (you can always unsubscribe if it’s too much later).

A girl standing beside him then charms you into buying $10 in raffle tickets. “They’re for the new stage. We just need $2000 more and we can do it!” How can you say no?

You wave goodbye and walk off with a new friend who was on the 1950’s bike beside you.

In this little story, from your perspective, you’ve made a new friend, done something fun you’ll talk about when you’re home and gotten a sweet new photo.

Imagine this same story from the festival organizers point of view.

You are stressed. But excited. And you’re relaxing quickly as the sun melts the tension out of your body. You’re here. A year of work has paid off. People are arriving. The bands are playing. All the hassles were worth it. But you can’t help mentally tallying people as they arrive. Are you going to make enough money this year? Will you get enough people?

You took a risk and brought in a new thing to your festival – a bike powered stage. It cost you a bit of money but people seem to be loving it and having fun. There seems to be a lot of buzz about it. By the end of the festival, you’re glad you brought them in. It added something fun and different to the festival.

And then you’re approached by the fellow who was running it. You small talk a bit about the festival and then he hands up a clip board and explains that, over the weekend, he’s added 327 people to your email list. He tells you that a lot of photos were taken and that they’re already posted in an album online with links back to your page. ‘You should expect to add a few hundred people to your fan page and to start following you on twitter too.’

You’d forgotten about this. This is amazing. You always forget to ask for people’s emails and you’re basically social media illiterate. Thank god someone’s on top of this.

‘Oh! And your raffle ticket volunteers were amazing. They sold a lot of tickets at our bikes.’

You will definitely be bringing them back next year.

It’s not about the boat.

It’s not about the bikes.

It’s about Island B.

Don’t just talk about your values – add real value. Make people’s lives easier. They’ll thank you with their business.

resonance in marketing

I want you to think of your favourite cafe or restaurant in town. You know the one. You take all your friends there. They know you by first name. There is so much affection in you for it. It’s a place that resonates for you. You feel like you fit. I bet the first time you ever walked in – you felt like you were at home. ‘These,’ you thought. ‘Are my people.’

And I want to suggest that resonance comes from a few things – none of which are marketing tactics.

Simon Sinek hits this point home hard in his book Start With Why.

Typical manipulations include: dropping the price; running a promotion; using fear, peer pressure or aspirational messages; and promising innovation to influence behaviour – be it a purchase, a vote or support. When companies or organizations do not have a clear sense of why their customers are their customers, they tend to rely on a disproportionate number of manipulations to get what they need. It’s because manipulations work.

If fear motivates us to move away from something horrible, aspirational messages tempt us toward something desirable. Marketers often talk about the importance of being aspirational, offering someone something they desire to achieve and the ability to get their more easily with a particular product or service.

Six steps to a happier life!

Work those abs to your dream dress size!

In six short weeks you can be rich!

All these messages manipulate.

They tempt us with the things we want to have or to be the person we wish we were.

I cannot dispute that manipulations work.

Every one of them can indeed help influence behaviour and every one of them can help a company become quite succesful. But there are trade offs.

Not a single one of them breeds loyalty.

Over the course of time, they cost more and more. The gains are only short term. And they increase the level of stress for both the buyer and the seller. If you have exceptionally deep pockets or are looking to achieve only a short term gain with no consideration for the long term, then these strategies and tactics are perfect.

Beyond the business world, manipulations are the norm in politics today as well. Just as manipulations can drive a sale but not create loyalty, so too can they help a candidate get elected, but they don’t create a foundation for leadership. Leadership requires people to stick with you through thick and thin. Leadership is the ability to rally people not for a single event, but for years. [Manipulative] tactics win elections, but they do not seed loyalties among the voters.

In business, leadership means that customers will continue to support your company even when you slip up. If manipulation is the only strategy, what happens the next time a purchase decision is required. What happens after the election is won?

There is a big difference between repeat business and loyalty. Repeat business is when people do business with you multiple times. Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or a better price to continue doing business with you. Loyal customers don’t often bother to research to the competition or entertain other options. Loyalty is not easily won. Repeat business, however, is. All it takes is more manipulations.

Manipulations lead to transactions, not loyalty.

So, if manipulations don’t work, what does?


Marketing tactics are like the searchlight form of marketing – that people run away from.

Resonance is the lighthouse that draws the ships into safe harbour.

Resonance is when we express ourselves so beautifully and honestly that people can’t help but feel it. Resonance is when we focus more on the quality of the light our lighthouse is putting out and the brightness of it than who might be seeing it. Resonance is preparing your home so beautifully for guests. Resonance is when we follow up with someone, not because they’re an ‘excellent contact to add to our network’ but because they give our heart a pretty little hum when we’ve around them. Resonance is when we trust the universe is a friendly place.

Resonance comes when we can relax and be comfortable in our own skin.


“Stress is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

– Chinese Proverb


And resonance comes from a number of things – here are the ones that come to mind most quickly . . .

  • a genuine, human vibe: people are, increasingly, running away from people who are posturing, pretending to be more together than they are, fake, phony, pretentious etc. They are drawn to people who are genuine, real, authentic and just plain honest. This doesn’t mean ‘granola’. It means that whatever you are – you embrace it fully. You open to the world as that. It’s like the line in Breakfast at Tiffany’s about Audrey Hepburn’s character, ‘she’s a phony. but she’s a real phony.’ It means we’re not doing what we’re doing to impress people, win approval or become something else. We’re just enjoying being us. We’re even embracing our own weaknesses. We’re okay with having needs – including the need to eat and live in this world – so we’re okay with needing to have some money. We’re okay with our clients supporting us – and we feel so grateful and amazed whenever it happens.
  • an unattached mindset: we give equal weight to ‘yes’ and ‘no’ from potential clients because we only want to work with people for whom it’s a fit and who want to work with us. If it’s not a fit, we bless and release. We don’t chase, we replace. We love people as they are – we’re not trying to change them. We’re not trying to get them to be anything they aren’t or to do anything they don’t want to do. We’re not pitching anything – we’re just sharing what we have with the world. We’re not trying to convince anyone of anything – we’re just sharing our truth and letting the world change if it wants to. We know that people will either love what we have or they won’t. We’re okay with either.
  • a crystal clear, unapologetic point of view:  we have know where we stand, we have an opinion, a take, a worldview, a diagnosis, a perspective on the way things oughta be. It’s clear to us and it’s clear to the market place. It’s not an ideology – but it’s a clear set of guiding principles and ideas and beliefs that guide our work and that people can count on. We have a clear map that people can understand of how we’ll be guiding them on their journey.
  • an inspiring ‘why’: people know why we’re doing what we’re doing. They get the deeper cause behind it for us. They know that we’re not in it for the money. They know the kind of world we dream of and are working towards. They see how everything in our little business is all wrapped around and expressing this core, beating heart of our business. We don’t see the market place as full of competitors – we see it as full of potential collaborators who are all working together (or could work together) towards something bigger. We’ve got no interest in being a leader of a movement – but we’re so deeply passionate about movement happening in the world.
  • a solid structure and container: we prepare our home to receive the guests. We make sure we’re ready for when they show up. We are craftsmen of our arts. Attention to details. Small things matter. We lay strong foundations for our business. This gives us a sense of pride. We’re excited to send people to our website. We can’t wait to show off our cafe. We know that the details are handled so we don’t fuss about them. We can relax. The container, we find. not only holds the potential client – it holds us too.
  • a good strategy: we are ready to have clients and now, instead of chasing them down, we make it easy and safe for them to find us. We make it risk free and easy for people to say yes to working with us. We pick marketing tactics and strategies that feel authentic and real to us and then we make sure we implement them in the most genuine ways possible. When we create a strategy that we know will work – we can relax. We know that we’ll get enough clients because we have a plan. And our plan is not only something that gets us clients – our marketing is actually an expression of our deeper cause and our point of view. Our marketing feels really genuine and easy. Our clients feel that and relax too.

Resonance is different than relevance. Relevance says, ‘yes – that can help me on the journey I’m on. That can help solve my problem. That could get me what I’m craving.’ But there are likely many, many options out there that are relevant to them. Why should they pick you? They will, at the end of the day, pick the one who most deeply resonates with them. 

Don’t you resonate with that idea?


It works.


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your platform: six things you can be known for (and one other)

If you want to succeed in your business – you need to become ‘known’ for something.

How do businesses ultimately succeed?

By word of mouth. People telling people because they want it to thrive. Because they love it. Because they know it will be useful to a friend.

In short, the business is known for being good at something.

And that ‘something’ should be clear from the first moment people meet you. That something is your brand.

It should be something that’s so clear that people can express it to their friends.

It doesn’t need to be something you can sum up in a slogan (but bonus points if you can) but it should be something people can feel and ‘get’.

And, of course, this can all feel a bit daunting.

So, let’s break it down.

I would submit that there are six things your business can be known for.

That your platform isn’t just one thing. It’s not some pithy sound bite or elevator speech or a single Unique Selling Proposition. It’s a weaving together of six things. At least.

And, I’d submit that most businesses settle for being known for only one of these things (almost always the same one – which also happens to be the least inspiring and the one most likely to have you relegated to commodity status where people compare you only on price).

Before I give you the six (plus the one other). I need to tell you a story – to give you an image in your mind.

Imagine a young man on an island (which we’ll call Island A). It’s not that great a place to be. But, it’s all he knows, so he goes about his days. Then he starts hearing that his is not the only island in the world. That there are other islands. At first he doesn’t believe it, but the more he visits the docks and meets these visitors the clearer it becomes. It’s true. And then, one day, he hears about a particular island (which we’ll call Island B). And his heart leaps. He wants to go there.

Of course, he needs to get a boat to go there.

But there are so many boats to hire! Which one to choose?

Your business is a boat. It helps people like this young man get from Island A where they’re struggling with some problem (i.e. set of symptoms they don’t like) to Island B where they have the result they want (i.e. something they’re craving).

So, in this image we have six elements I want to lift up for your consideration. Each of them is something you can become known for.

  1. The Captain: you.
  2. Boat: what you do. Your irresistible offering.
  3. The Journey: the problem you solve and result you offer for a particular group
  4. The Sea: your particular point of view and map on that journey.
  5. The Sky: the overarching reason and cause that all of your work is an expression of.
  6. The Unimagined Possibility: beyond the place they can imagine going, there might be something even more wonderful.
  7. The Deepest Fear: if they do nothing – what are they secretly afraid might happen? (this is the ‘other one’ because it’s not something you can really be known for but it plays a role).

If you’ve been following my work for any time at all, you know that a core theme of mine is about identifying the ‘journey’ that people are on.

Metaphorically, it’s like people are on Island A where they’re struggling with some problem (i.e. set of symptoms they don’t like) and they want to be on Island B where they have the result they want (i.e. something they’re craving).

And your business is like a boat that takes them on the journey from Island A to B.

The truth is that some people will just want to buy from you because they like you, the captain, so much. Some people have such a great vibe that people spend money with them because they just want to support them and be around their vibe. This is the heart of any kind of holistic work because the implied message in holistic healing is, ‘do what I say and you’ll end up like me’.

And when practitioners have a bad vibe – all the marketing tactics in the world won’t help them.

But, the best vibe in the world isn’t something you can build a business on. You can have such an amazing vibe and still be broke unless people are clear about the other four pieces.

And, in your marketing, you want to make sure that you’re speaking to their journey, not just talking about your boat and how great it is. The homepage on your website should be about the journey, not about the boat. The first words in any presentation you do should be about the journey – not about the boat.

But most marketing is just people talking about the features and benefits of their boat. But when people see you as a boat, sometimes it can be hard to tell you apart from all the other boats. And so you’re a commodity. They have lots of options and ‘let’s see who’s cheapest’ becomes the mantra.

So, getting clear about the nature of the journey is vital.

On the outside edges of that journey are two other islands. Behind to the left of Island A you can imagine Island Z. That’s where they’re secretly scared they’re going to end up if they do nothing. These are fears like, ‘if i don’t handle my dating life I’m going to end up old and alone’, or ‘if I don’t keep my mind sharp I’m going to end up with alzheimers like my great grandparents.’ These fears are rarely talked about, but they’re deeply real for people. These fears aren’t things you can be ‘known’ for but understanding them gives you an incredible empathy and sensitivity which will allow you to engage the other three more deeply and safely.

The key here is that Island Z is not real. It’s a mirage. A nightmare fantasy. The worst case scenario. That’s why it’s not part of your platform. It’s a part of their internal world.

To the right of Island B, we have Island C. If Island A is the pain they’re in now and Island B is where they want to get to, then Island C is what we know is possible for them that’s even beyond Island B. As I wrote a few days ago,

Island A: I’m lonely. Island B: I want to date someone. Island C: we fall in love and say, ‘I never knew I could feel this way.’

Island A: I’m sick. Island B: I want to be healthy. Island C: we cleanse, do yoga, start juicing and say, ‘I never knew I could feel this way.’

Island A: I’m broke. Island B: I want to to be able to pay my bills on time and have money left over. Island C: we do the work needed to handle our money and say, ‘I never imagined I could feel so at peace and proud in my relationship to money.’

Island A: I’m full of angst and depression. Island B: I want to feel good again. Island C: we get deep into our personal healing work and one day wake up saying, ‘I feel so beautiful and light. I feel so at peace.’

Island C is what might be possible in the life of ONE person that they hadn’t previously considered. This i different than the bigger cause we imagine which is what we envision for our whole community or the world (though they are likely connected).

There’s the pain they feel. There’s the thing they’re craving, but the thing they’re craving only goes to the limits of their imagination. Our cravings take us to the end of what we know but no farther.

And then you have a certain map or route that you’d recommend for how folks can get from Island A to Island B. You have a certain Point of View about the journey. You can think of that as everything that’s under the water connecting these two islands. It’s your diagnosis about the underlying, root causes of why it’s so difficult for folks to make this journey. I’ve written a lot about that lately.

But there’s something more that’s been becoming clear to me recently.

It’s not enough to be clear about WHAT the journey and the boat are or HOW you take them on the journey – they need to know WHY you’re so passionate about that journey and what the bigger picture is for you. They need to know what this is about beyond the money. Why does your work matter to you and to the world?

Your why is the bigger cause you stand for.

It’s the journey you see that the world or your community is on (e.g. Martin Luther King Jr.’s articulation of the journey from a deeply racist USA to ‘the beloved community’).

Simon Sinek talks about this in depth in his brilliant book, Start With Why:

People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.

WHAT: Every single company and organization on the planet knows WHAT they do. This is true no matter how big or small, no matter what industry. Everyone is easily able to describe the producs or services a company sells or the job function they have within that system. WHATs are easy to identify.

HOW: Some companies and people know HOW they do WHAT they do. Whether you call them a “differentiating value proposition”, “proprietary process” or “unique selling proposition”, HOWs are often given to explain how something is different or better. Not as obvious as WHATs, many think these are the differentiating or motivating factors in a decision. It would be false to assume that’s all that is required.

There is one missing detail . . .

WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do what they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money – that is a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

When most organizations or people think, act or communicate they do so from the outside in, from WHAT to WHY. And for good reason – they go from clearest thing to fuzziest thing. We say WHAT we do, we sometimes say HOW we do it, but we rarely say WHY we do WHAT we do.

But not the inspired companies. Not the inspired leaders. Every single one of them, regardless of their size or their industry, thinks acts and communicates from the inside out.”

A strong ‘why’ or cause doesn’t marginalize anyone – it’s different that a position. Your point of view is a position. Your point of view says, ‘I’m for this and I’m against this.’ People will often disagree with your point of view. But a reason why you do something is less likely to get disagreement. Usually they’re the kinds of things that anyone can relate to and empathize with – even if they might choose a different approach. Your cause is a stand for something bigger and deeper. Your cause says, ‘as a world we need to get to island B’ your point of view says, ‘and here’s my belief about the best way to get there’.

Your why is what you want, not what you don’t want. It’s the core of what you’re for – not a list of things you’re fighting. It’s often inarguable. Once you land on it, it’s like, ‘who could be against this?’

You might picture the ‘why’ as the golden sun shining above the islands and the boat – holding them all. The umbrella of the sky.

What’s interesting about all of this is that when the journey, point of view and larger ‘why’ are clarified – the boat often changes.

You will, in the end, be known for your boat – but make sure that your boat is an expression of you not just a cookie cutter, copy cat boat. Make everything about your boat an expression of the cause. If your business is about fun and celebration then make it a fun boat with wonderful colours and amusements around every corner. If you’re in love with elegance and beauty – then make your boat the most elegant boat the world has ever seen with lanterns and candles and beautiful dinners. If you’re passionate about adventure – then let your boat be rough and the rooms people sleep in be spartan.

And, of course, the boat must be a boat that you want to be on. It must fit the kind of lifestyle you want to have. As you figure out your ideal lifestyle, that will do more to help you design your boat than just about anything I know. And, if you need help with that, there’s only one person I can commend speaking with on that.

Every plank of your boat should ‘fit’. It should make sense. It should all communicate a clear message. They should be able to look at the boat and quickly get a feel for it what kind of journey it can take them on, what your point of view is and what you’re about at the core.  And then, when they get on the boat their initial impressions should be deepened and confirmed.


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/


If you’d like get cool posts like this in your inbox every few days CLICK HERE to subscribe to my blog and you’ll also get a free copy of my fancy new ebook “Marketing for Hippies” when it’s done.