I was recently asked to come up with my 'Elevator Pitch' for my business. Having been an actor, a writer and a director, I really did imagine myself in that lift, with literally moments to sum up what I do.
Here is the pitch:
I am a storyteller. Sometimes I write feature films, but most of the time I work for companies that are creative, innovative and ethical. Profiting humanity without costing the earth - that's real prosperity.
For clean, simple and effective communication, it is hard to beat Apple. Their late, great leader, Steve Jobs, was a genuine visionary who took risks and pulled off miracles. Hopefully, he was able to imbue the company with his own values deeply enough so that his extraordinary understanding of what the customer needs to feel will not be lost with his passing.
Here is a quote from Apple about how they go about creating everything they make. The language is simple, conversational and informal - giving it exactly the feel that their operating system has always had. And like that operating system, the statement is immensely powerful.
What Is Your Brand REALLY Promising?
When we are working together to communicate YOUR brand values, I always ask what is it that we are really saying? What problem are you promising to solve for your customer? Apple has it summed up in a phrase and a single word: they are determined to make sure that their products enhance each life they touch and they also bring that most un-corporate of qualities to bear: joy.
'Joy' sounds like a soft, fuzzy, emotional word, sort of like 'fun' or 'magic'. How on earth can you justify those values when making a profit has to be your focus if your business is going to thrive profit? Ask Apple, Virgin and Disney those questions, and they will show you billions of justifications on their balance sheets. Sir Richard Branson worked out that the core value that unites all the very different businesses he has is fun. Walt Disney knew that magic was what people wanted from him and his theme parks are called Magic Kingdoms because of that. In our own lives, when we go to a sensationally good restaurant, even if the price is high, the joy we feel allows us to justify the expense.
Everyone Buys To Feel Happy
So, let's take the time to drill down to your values. Then we'll work out how you want your customers to feel about what you do for them. Multiple research papers show that we make purchasing decisions primarily from our emotions, which we then justify with our intellects, so understanding feeling is critical to sales success.
If we are consistent in providing a positive experience for our clients and customers, we create loyalty and loyalty sustains our business and helps it to grow, because loyal customers will stay with us and recommend us to their friends and contacts. Why? Because they feel good about us. They feel that they know, like and trust us.
My job, working for you, is to find the right words to create the appropriate feeling and build loyalty through language.
Monday of a new week with a lot of copy to deliver, so this will be a quickly written post.
To begin with, let me re-state what is is that I do for my clients: I tell stories. I was once in a room with a multi-billionaire, working on a project that we were pitching to this rich and powerful man. He turned to my business partner and said, "Do you always bring your storyteller with you?" The answer was 'yes' to the question - and 'yes' to our pitch. The story I told that day saw us close a multi-million dollar deal within 24 hours. Tell the right story to the right audience and money is made.
Here is another story in response to the awful news from the USA about an apparent miscarriage of justice. I won't go into the details because I am not sure of the facts: let's just say that a lot of people are feeling both fear and pain as a result. On Facebook, one of my friends wrote a very simple plea for more kindness in the world. I had posted something about that same subject a couple of weeks ago. I have posted it below.
But what has any of this got to do with writing for your business? Please read the post and you will find out.
[Quoted from Facebook]
There is so much talk about religion and faith and spirituality, almost all of it well intentioned and much of it is inspiring. But perhaps we can be the most inclusive and welcoming to all, whatever our beliefs, if we try one simple practice: be kind in everything you do. You may not win every tussle for material goods but if everyone were kind there would be far fewer tussles in the first place. As I read it back, it doesn't sound quotable or heroic enough to get much traction, so try this: I recommend Radical Kindness. Uncompromising Kindness. Non-negotiable Kindness. The alternative is what? We don't need to be cruel to do harm. Indifference is harmful enough.
Okay, back to work for me. I am doing some writing for a life insurance company that is, in fact, a Friendly Society. Life insurance is an act of kindness in times of disaster. I once heard a life insurance broker speak from the heart about why he does what he does: he had just given a cheque to a young widow that enabled her to pay off her house and keep her children in their schools after her husband had died in an accident. Sure, insurance is a business that makes a lot of money, but it steps in when terrible things happen and helps to rebuild lives. Kindness and profit combined. So maybe this kindness is not quite such a slice of pie in the sky after all... [End of Quote]
So, you see, there are all sorts of ways to tell the story of your business, to make it relevant and resonant for your existing and future customers.
The marketing expert and founder of Twinlife Marketing, Sonja van den Bosch, gave a seminar recently. She is a hugely knowledgeable woman and a ball of energy who inspired everyone in the room with the depth of her expertise and her passion for what she does. What was so refreshing and invigorating was how in tune she is with the modern trends in marketing that are being shaped by social media.
Let's be clear here: Sonja is not telling everyone that they need to Tweet and post pictures of their pets on Pinterest. For some businesses, this approach could make sense but only if it's relevant. From a marketing point of view, what social media creates is a whole range of new ways to communicate with your current and potential customers. There are huge advantages in this. For one thing, the low cost of publishing on social media means that a small company can now compete with much more cashed-up rivals. Another point that the group discussed with Sonja was the fact that genuinely ethical companies can be discovered online and compete with the less morally driven businesses in their industry. This is becoming a more and more valuable asset as educated consumers look to do business with companies that they can trust.
Sonja's seminar was also very clear about what marketing is and what it isn't. If your business is struggling from a lack of sales and you need to get some cash in the door, developing a new marketing strategy is unlikely to solve your problem. Print some flyers with a special offer and get out onto the footpath if you need to drive quick sales. Marketing is for the medium and long term, building your brand and creating relationships with your market. It also relies on research, so that we are addressing a real need that you market knows it needs. Research also allows us to test our marketing efforts for effectiveness.
When you have expert marketing help from someone with the experience, inventiveness, drive and knowledge of Sonja, you will increase your chances of connecting with your customers dramatically. When you know who your market is and what you need to say to them, then a copywriter can be incredibly helpful to work out how to say it.
Where Copywriting Fits In The Business Cycle
Whenever you need to communicate really effectively with your customers. Writing is a key part of your marketing and sales process.
When you are starting a new business or launching a new product, a professional writer can help with product and company names and tag-lines. A writer can also help you word your company mission statement - these have gone a little out of fashion, but they are very valuable tools to keep everyone focussed on the same goal. A writer will help you express what your business does on your website, choosing every word with care. Any web developer will tell you that the single biggest delay in launching a site is caused by the owner struggling to write the content. It can be intimidating and that causes delay.
So, when you call your marketing team, make sure they have a professional writer that they can call in to help you. When you call your graphic designer to create a logo, call a copywriter to work with them. When you are building a website, speed the whole process by calling in a writer. Be prepared to spend some time with the copywriter to brief them fully so the process can move ahead smoothly. And one last tip: writing is an iterative process. Any writer worth their salt will expect to write more than one draft, so expect to give constructive feedback to your writers and they will improve and improve the copy until it is as good as they can possibly make it.
The more you know about creating an effective business presence on the internet, the more you realise that there is always more you need to know. And then everything changes again. The rate of change is incredibly fast. That happens because one or two billion human brains have been linked up by the net, so ideas are tumbling out at a rate that can make the flow of water over Niagara Falls seem a little sluggish.
Over the last few months, I have been meeting with a number of experts in the field and learning an enormous amount. Sometimes, just like the average business owner, it has the overwhelming effect of making want to go fishing. It is just too much information. Check out the link below to have your mind expanded to the point of explosion.
However, the good news is that we can assemble a team of knowledgeable and experienced guides for you. Together, we can navigate the maze, all the way to the centre where that treasure chest of gold is waiting to be found.
My part in that navigation lies in storytelling. My special expertise is in drilling down into your business with you to find the story behind what you do. This is the secret ingredient that your potential customers can identify with and warm to. Psychologists tell us that we make our buying decisions based 80% on emotion and 20% on rationality. We buy when we feel good about the product and - increasingly - when we feel good about the people who produce it. Together, we can create that story and make it accessible to your existing and potential customers. Then we use the expertise of social media experts to get that story in front of as many of you
Oh the unbridled irony of the writer being too busy to blog! Business development can be a very rewarding experience but it can also chew through time. This is obviously why people need to hire writers to blog for them...a service I really enjoy providing for my clients.
All of us are under time pressure. There are so many things to do today, so many things to be interested in and/or distracted by that our time can feel as if it is evaporating. One way to stretch time, to be more productive and creative in each minute is...to stop. Stop browsing, stop taking calls, stop catching up on the work that has clumped together like a wind-blown snowbank. Just stop. Rest. Revive. Refresh. It may be counter-intuitive - achieve a lot more by doing a bit less - but serious scientific studies show that productivity goes off a cliff once people are working more than 60 or 70 hours per week.
Working 80-100 hours per week as a feature film maker, I got myself seriously stressed. A friend very kindly suggested I go to a talk about meditation. It was a life changing moment. No celestial bells or firework display, just a promise that I could experience my mind falling silent and resting more deeply than sleep. And it worked. I have been meditating since 1997 and feel so much better. And I have not had a moment of jet-lag since then, by the way. Even though my main job is still as a storyteller, writing for businesses, I qualified as a meditation teacher in 2007, so I am happy to pass on meditation and mindfulness techniques.
Don't take my word for it. Here is Arianna, founder of the Huffington Post, with a major article on the subject. Big companies are now investing big dollars in stress-reduction techniques.
For a writer who recommends to his clients that they need to have a blog and keep it fresh, I have been remarkably quiet! That is because I have been trapped under something heavy and could not wriggle free.
That excuse - in the long and honourable tradition of 'the cat ate my homework' - is actually true, in the sense that I have been wading through a mass of information about content marketing. This is the future direction of marketing in the new online, interactive arena of bloggage and social media outlets like Facebook, Youtube and their younger cousins like Pinterest. So, the next few postings will be all about this brave new world. Watch this space. Lots more information to come.
As a professional writer, a user of words, I am aware of their power. The irresponsible use of language can, quite literally, undermine an entire society. Look what Fox 'News' has done and continues to do to the United States. The article I have cited at the end of this post posits that the Tea Party, on the extreme right of the Republican Party, is the creation of Fox 'News'. Without the oxygen of publicity to keep the flames of fury going, extreme politics die away. That oxygen is lustily applied by the Fox people, partly because they favour the Tea Party's views but overwhelmingly because those views are so good for ratings. If you have not watched the horror show that is Fox 'News', the content of which was so brilliantly described by Steven Colbert as 'truthiness' - a sort of 'feels-like-it-could-be-true-maybe' quality to their egregious lies and invented scandals, you will be amazed when you do. Truly amazed. Consider reading this article about the man who runs Fox 'News'. It is chilling - and not in the least exaggerated.
And now we take a break form this content for a word from our sponsor... Because language has such a power, when you need to express what your business does, why not talk to writer? I won't use truthiness - we will find a way to tell the truth about what you do and how you do it, building the vital trust that wins you clients and customers. If you need it written and you need it right, let's be in touch.
This is a full and busy week. I am still working on the business plan for a Documentary film company, writing up a competency statement for an expert in marketing and creating a new Linked-In profile for another client.
Linked-In profiles create special challenges for some clients. Why? Often, the toughest subject for anyone to write about is themselves.
If you are Australian or a New Zealander or British or Canadian or Irish or Chinese or Japanese (the list goes on and on), self-effacement and the requirement for modesty are pounded into you from the cradle. So, is it any wonder that when we are asked to write about how good we are that we can end up tying ourselves in knots?
Let me help.
I will happily sit with you and take a brief that gives me all the details I need to create an accurate picture of what you do and how well you do it. When we are looking to increase sales with a really positive Facebook Page, Linked-In profile or great website content, there is no place for false modesty. Being bashful can come across as underselling - or worse than that, it can even give the impression that you lack confidence in your own abilities, products or services. Your potential clients need to feel confidence in you before they buy - and confidence inspires confidence, so let me help you to create the best possible impression. Let's make you shine in writing.
This not about being boastful - brashness is not necessarily a big vote winner. I will build you a profile that is clear and honest, listing your achievements and positive attributes without any of the embarrassment that singing your own praises might cause.
Don't let modesty bury the fact that you went to a famous University, have a couple of seriously good Degrees, that you pulled off some amazing deals, that you won Awards, that you have raving fans for your work. It just so happens that this paragraph describes my own achievements. Knowing that, you may be feeling a little more confident to talk to me about using my services - and that's the point. For you, I can write about what you have achieved and what you can do for your clients, making all of your marketing materials much more effective.
Forgive the pop psychology but indulge me for a short paragraph: it is, to quote Jane Austen for a moment, "a truth universally acknowledged" that we buy from people we know, like and trust. If the way you describe yourself in writing implies to the reader even subliminally that you don't think that highly of yourself, there is a strong possibility that you could be damaging your sales prospects significantly. Can you afford that risk? Book me to write for you and I will make absolutely certain that your real abilities are fully on show.