Does Your Business Have a Split Personality?

I’m working my way through Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

It’s 50% western, 50% fantasy… and 100% weird.

Highly recommended.

Anyways, one of the main characters in the series got me thinking about split personalities.

She’s one person with two completely different women trapped inside her…

“Odetta Holmes” is a highly educated, refined woman concerned with civil rights activism in the 1960s.

“Detta Walker,” on the other hand, is a shoplifter and scammer. She’s a racist and a complete sociopath.

We never know which woman we’re going to get. The schizophrenic personalities fight for dominance in her mind, nearly pulling her apart.

I won’t give away any more details because I don’t want to spoil the books.

But Odetta/Detta reminds me a lot of the way people are running their businesses online.

Way too many people are classifying different parts of their business into silos. Cordoning them off with imaginary ropes in their minds.

“Marketing” is something entirely different than “product development” or “customer service.”

And so on.

Despite how people are interacting online is bringing all of those things closer together.

That confuses some business owners who are comfortable separating their activities into separate boxes… but only because they’re unwilling to question their assumptions.

Now, these activities are “flavoring” each other in how people perceive your brand. It’s more obvious than ever before.

And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing!

My philosophy: everything you do is marketing. Whether it’s good marketing or bad marketing is up to you.

There’s no reason to separate these things mentally. There’s no need to wear different hats in product development, marketing, and customer service.

It’s all about building and strengthening relationships.

Studying copywriting can help you write more compelling blog posts.

Writing compelling blog posts can generate the feedback you need to create new products.

Etc.

So get quality content out there, and do it consistently.

Stop worrying about “marketing,” “customer service,” and other meaningless distinctions.

Focus on what you can do today to build the best relationships you can with your customers.

The rest will fall into place.

Tapping into the Power of Rituals to Supercharge Your Content

One of the most compelling parts of storytelling is the ritual.

It doesn’t matter if you’re reading a business website, watching a movie, or just listening to a friend at lunch.

There’s a song and dance that goes on.

The scene is set.

Major players are introduced.

Those players run into problems.

The tension ratchets up until you just can’t take it anymore…

And then: BOOM!

There’s a climax, and a resolution.

This goes for every type of story. It doesn’t matter if it’s a engaging web copy or Hollywood’s latest romantic comedy.

We all know how the basic pattern goes. We’ve been exposed to it since we were little kids.

The ritual is part of what makes storytelling so powerful.

With all the changing trends and technology out there, it’s nice to have something you can rely on.

Something familiar.

Something comfortable.

Everyone’s worried about the latest, greatest traffic generation strategy. Or the new split-testing tool that could increase opt-ins by up to 3%.

I’m not saying that stuff can’t make a difference. It can (and certainly does)…

But it’s more like the proverbial “icing on the cake” than the main course.

The best content marketers focus on the essentials: telling irresistible stories.

They weave spells with their words that build relationships and drive sales.

They tap into the full potential of ritual to win people over.

Their content is good, but it’s also consistent.

People come to expect it – like a morning cup of coffee.

Is that what you’re giving them?

Or are you letting visitors lose steam ad motivation to buy from you?

In a world of chaos and endless distractions, wouldn’t it be nice to give your visitors something they can count on?

You can do that for them.

You can get more people to know, like, and trust you if you’re willing to be consistent with your content.

This can be your “secret sauce.” It can trump a lack of resources or experience or other shortcomings that put you at a disadvantage to your competitors.

And the more often you tell stories, the better they’ll get.

You can see what works and refine your message. You can set expectations – and over-deliver on them – while your competitors’ inconsistent efforts turn them into strangers in their visitors’ minds…

But only if you get started right away.

Feeding Your Marketing Muse

I don’t have to tell you we’re drowning in information.

With a few keystrokes, you can tap into an ever-expanding repository of statistics, opinions, and advice that makes the Library of Congress look like a neighborhood newsstand.

There’s no shortage of online business advice available.

Gurus have made millions peddling hope, instant results, and get-rich-quick schemes.

So access to information is at an all-time high…

But most of it is toxic.

99% of it is about as useful as a piece of chewing gum you stepped on in a parking lot.

“Listicles,” social media feeds, and celebrity gossip make up most of the average user’s online diet.

They offer a quick hit of pleasure, but nothing substantial for a discerning business owner like yourself.

They’re empty calories for your brain.

It’s easy to waste a lot of time on this stuff. It happens to me if I’m not careful.

What we put into our heads shapes the quality of thought that comes out of them.

You wouldn’t expect to get a six pack eating pizza every day…

But many forget this principle when it comes to their information diet. They chow down on empty words and sound bytes. Then they wonder why they’re struggling to grow their business.

If you want to have a better understanding of what it takes to run a successful business, maybe it’s time to consume better information.

Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite authors of all time, urged aspiring writers to “feed the muse.”

He encouraged them to fill their minds with short stories, essays, and poetry. To draw information from a variety of quality sources so it could rattle around inside their heads. Bradbury credited much of his creativity to practicing this throughout his career.

I think it can also work for businesses.

That’s why I’m on a mission to consciously improve the quality of my information sources.

We can’t absorb all of the stuff out there, and because most of it’s garbage, we don’t need to.

It’s time to go deeper instead of broader.

Less clickbait and tweets.

More books.

If you’re low on ideas and struggling to improve, take a look at what you’re letting into your mind.

Is your marketing muse a sedentary, overweight fast-food junkie?

Or is she a healthy, happy, organic-food loving inspiration?

The choice, as always, is up to you.

On Cutting Corners and the Death of Customer Service

I’m writing this from about 30,000 feet somewhere over west Texas.

It’s my bachelor party weekend – Vegas. And with my friends running the show, I’d say I have about a 50/50 chance of making it back unscathed.

I grabbed a cup of coffee while I was waiting for my plane to board.

Paid the frazzled cashier, and she just handed me an empty cup and pointed.

“You get your coffee over there. It’s self serve.”

What?

The craziest part: she said this like it was a good thing. Progress.

But all it meant to me was standing in another line and trying to guess which carafe was fresh.

I’ve noticed this trend practically everywhere I go.

Self checkout at the grocery store.

Pump your own gas (that’s been going on since before I can remember).

Airlines that won’t even give you a freaking drink on a three-hour flight.

And on and on.

With the exception of a few companies like Zappos, customer service is going the way of the dinosaurs.

I call it the customer service death spiral.

Everyone’s cutting corners on the most ridiculous things.

Everyone’s obsessed about shaving costs to the bare minimum.

These businesses are foolish. They’re pinching pennies while real money slips through their fingertips.

Was it really worth saving fifty centers on a soft drink to lose a customer for good?

(I’m talking to you, Frontier Airlines…)

But this is a great opportunity for you.

Consumers are so used to being disappointed – to being frustrated from every angle – that it doesn’t take much to delight them.

When everyone around you is lowering the bar, it’s easier than ever to clear it… as long as you’re willing to look at the big picture.

It’ll cost you some time and money up front…

But it’ll pay off for months and years to come in the form of more sales, profits, and raving fans.

So send that email asking customers how you’re doing.

Spend an extra half hour each day bonding with people on social media.

Figure out the language they use and weave it into your web copy.

These are your customers, after all. Your lifeblood.

I can’t think of a better investment.

Why Obsessing about Originality is a Recipe for Low Conversions

Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. – Jim Jarmusch

Tired of looking for the latest, greatest way to captivate your audience and turn them into customers?

Sick of striving endlessly for that new angle – that hook that no one’s ever seen before?

You aren’t the only one.

A lot of business owners make “being original” one of their guiding philosophies.

This carries over into not just how they develop products, but how they write copy and blog posts.

Entertaining and useful aren’t enough. Everything has to be original.

Except there’s a big problem with that: it’s not the best way to operate your online business.

This is something I struggled with for a long time when I first started writing. I refused to accept that I was influenced by others. I refused to accept anything that even looked like someone else’s ideas or work.

(You probably don’t have to guess how that worked out…)

But a lot of trial and error shoved me against the harsh reality: we’re all products of the people we meet, the movies we watch, and the things we read.

Those ideas are stirring around like soup broth in our minds. They flavor every product we design and every word we write.

And that’s okay!

We don’t have to fight that. We can let go of the insane burden to come up with a never-ending stream of revolutionary ideas… all on our own.

It’s a lot less stressful that way.

If you’re struggling to produce more engaging content, why not draw on the deep well of knowledge thousands of experts have already drilled?

Why not research content topics that are already performing well in your niche?

Why not reverse engineer your competitors’ best products to figure out why they’re selling so well?

Why not study direct response copywriting concepts that have been split-tested to death for decades?

You might be worried about “losing your identity” when you tap into time-tested formulas and concepts…

But you shouldn’t be.

Your influences matter, but so does your unique prospective. That’s the special seasoning that turns the chicken broth into something unforgettable.

All you have to do?

Be authentic.

Don’t put on a front to make your business sound more professional.

Don’t water down the unique quirks that makes you you.