Archives for May 2005

Fortune Magazine Is Talking About Us

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

>> Return to the Small Business Branding front page <<

Great article in Fortune: The Amazing Rise of the Do-It-Yourself Economy.

It could just as easily have said: "The Amazing Rise of the Savvy Solopreneur Economy."

"It used to be that a tinkerer like Misterovich
could, at best, hope to sell his idea to a big company. More likely,
he’d entertain friends with his Pez-sized visions. But a number of
factors are coming together to empower amateurs in a way never before
possible, blurring the lines between those who make and those who take.
Unlike the dot-com fortune hunters of the late 1990s, these
do-it-yourselfers aren’t deluding themselves with oversized visions of
what they might achieve. Instead, they’re simply finding a way—in this
mass-produced, Wal-Mart world—to take power back, prove that they can
make the products that they want to consume, have fun doing so,
and, just maybe, make a few dollars. ‘What’s happened is a tremendous
change in awareness,’ says Eric von Hippel, a professor at the MIT
Sloan School of Management and author of the recent Democratizing Innovation. ‘Conventional wisdom is so strong [in business] about
find-a-need-and-fill-it: ‘We’re the manufacturers; we design products;
we ask users what they need; we do it.’ That has begun to crack.’"

There’s that word again: USERS.

Hat-tip to smallbusiness.com for the link.

Schtick. Voice. Brand. Whatever. Just Find It.

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

>> Return to the Small Business Branding front page <<

Hugh’s preparing a book proposal. You’ll need to read that book. Again and again. And again. As I scanned the flurry of brillant nuggets he’ll be offering the world, my eyes landed squarely on this one:

"You have to find your own schtick.

"A Picasso always looks
like Piccasso painted it. Hemingway always sounds like Hemingway. A
Beethoven Symphony always sounds like a Beethoven’s Symphony. Part of
being a Master is learning how to sing in nobody else’s voice but your
own …

"That’s what people responded to. The humanity, not the form. The voice, not the form.

"Put your whole self into it, and you will find your true voice. Hold back and you won’t. It’s that simple."

  • Scott wears a name tag that says: "Hello, my name is Scott." Every day.
  • Hugh draws cynical, funny and irreverent cartoons on the back of business cards.
  • Jackie and Ben do customer evangelism.
  • Seth shaves his head and writes books with memorable titles that containg big, relevant business ideas.
  • Halley does Halley (it can’t be described any better).
  • Tom rants and raves. About almost everything. With flair and brilliance.
  • Kathy does creating passionate users and cool little graphics.
  • Jay does Guerilla Marketing.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. If not, it’s that all these people have a schtick. For some, their schtick is about what they do. For others, it’s about how they do it. For still some, it’s both. Regardless which it is, they’re known for their schtick. Their schtick is memorable. And no one’s been able to copy it (forget about shaving your head).

Hugh says it’s about the voice, not the form. It’s about the inside not the outside. I say it’s about both. One is as important as the other. There’s something very powerful and somewhat mystical about one’s true voice – one’s soul perhaps – being made manifest in the world of form. That’s what’s so compelling and interesting to me about smallbusinessbranding.

Your brand is your soul made manifest in the physical world.

Schtick is a great word though, isn’t it? So light and fun. I use the term "brand" instead. Mainly because smallbusinessschticking just doesn’t roll off the tongue like smallbusinessbranding. I wonder if smallbusinessschticking.com is available?

Fill in these blanks:

     your first name     does      your schtick     .

Then ask 5 of your friends and/or colleagues to fill in the blanks for you. See if you all come up with nearly the same thing. If not, keep looking. 

Rex Re-launches smallbusiness.com

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

>> Return to the Small Business Branding front page <<

Rex Hammock is up to cool stuff.

"I won’t bore you with the unabridged version, but a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I launched and later shuttered a website called smallbusiness.com

"Anyway, I’ve relaunched the website (Decision #1: This time, it’s not a venture or a company or a subsidiary, it’s a web project of Hammock Publishing that needs little financial overhead to maintain.)
 
"What we’re doing is very simple to understand if you’re a blogger or follow what’s going on in the world of participatory media (I call it conversational media)."

To go along with this re-launch, he’s set up the smallbusiness wiki. A wiki is basically a user-created encyclopedia on a given topic. Rex makes the concept easier to understand:

"The Small Business Wiki is a wiki-model encyclopedia of community-generated knowledge regarding all aspects of starting and running a business. This is knowledge from the grassroots and we invite you to participate. As we’re in the early stages of launching this wiki, we’d really appreciate your insight and help in building it."

It seems similar to a project I’ve got in mind call smallbiz hacks. Maybe I can just help him with his wiki. But I really like the concept of smallbizhacks.com:

smallbiz hacks – "for people who like to create their own keys to success."

Or something like that. In any event, I look forward to the development of smallbusiness.com. Good luck Rex.

Forget: I’m The Expert. Think: I’m A Fellow User

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

>> Return to the Small Business Branding front page <<

If you’re a professional coach, consultant or other service provider, conventional wisdom for the last several years has suggested you should strive to establish yourself as a recognized expert in your field. An infoguru. A celebrity. The foremost authority. The subject matter expert.

Having been a practicing coach for several years myself, I’ve worked through the process of trying to distinguish myself as an expert. Yet, to this day, I’m still not comfortable thinking of myself as an expert (even though it may appear to a couple of you that I’m an expert on small business branding). I’ve usually attributed my discomfort to an underdeveloped ego, but lately, I’m starting to see an entirely different reason.

Even though they usually have an expert level of knowledge and wisdom, most savvy solopreneurs don’t really think of themselves as experts.

I recall an interesting email exchange with Bob Bly, for example, who argued up and down with me that he was "just a copywriter," even though he’s written over 50 books on marketing, writing and business success. He finally gave in when I said:

"With all due respect Bob, don’t blame me and be insulted that I see you as more than a copywriter. Blame yourself. You wrote all those books."

Bob’s one of those people who just gets in there and hangs out with everyone else – all the other users. He’s an expert on many things, but if you read his blog, you’ll see much of it is asking questions and stimulating debate rather than giving expert advice.

Interestingly enough, Bob has always been skeptical about blogging as a viable business tool. But that didn’t stop him from getting in there and engaging other users. It didn’t stop him from becoming just another user. Here’s an interesting excerpt of a recent post:

"I just signed a contract with a major publisher to write a book titled ‘My Year in the Blogosphere: Confessions of a Blogging Skeptic’ – and I’m hoping you can help me with it."

In that one sentence, you see a guy who’s an expert on the outside, and just another user on the inside. Rather than separate himself behind the vail of expert status, Bob knows he can learn more and get many more ideas by engaging with other users – by being another user himself.

There’s no better selling tool than a user talking about their amazing experiences.

My friend Helaine and I met for dinner Saturday night in Worcester, Ma. She glowed with excitement as she described in vivid detail the amazing time she spent with four other business women friends earlier that day. "A woman’s self care day" was the term I think she used. Her excitement and gratitude for the experience was palpable. It made me want similar experiences in my life, which says a lot since I’m not even a woman.   

We share little nuggets of intimacy like that all the time. And in those moments, as she pours out her life to me with excitement and exuberance, she’s not "being an expert" on living a fabulous life. She’s being "just another user of the tools" that help her live a fabulous life. These are the same tools she offers to her coaching clients, who are mainly women business owners. Women who want the same experience she does – a fabulous life.

There’s so much power and energy in hearing someone talk passionately and openly about their experiences.

It’s much more powerful than listening to them dispense an expertly annotated prescription for how to have those same experiences yourself (that’s not to say expert advice isn’t valuable). This is the power of a blog, by the way, when it’s done right.

The whole notion of "users" comes from the technology world. It first occurred to me when I began reading Kathy Sierra, a self proclaimed geek and co-author of Creating Passionate Users. Kathy doesn’t talk much about clients or prospects or customers or target markets and such. She talks mainly about … you guessed it, USERS and how to create passionate users of your products and services, For example, Kathy writes

"If you’re using formal language in a lecture, learning book (or marketing message, for that matter), you’re worrying about how people perceive YOU. If you’re thinking only about the USERS, on the other hand, you’re probably using more conversational language.

Users. What a great term for the times. Whether it’s a user of software or a user of professional coaching/consulting services.

This idea of users was really driven home for me recently when I began reading and listening to Dave Winer. If you’re not familiar with Dave, most people say he’s the guy who’s mainly responsible for the emergence of blogs and RSS. Not sure how true that is, but at the very least, he’s a brilliant and visionary tech guy (more on him here).

I tracked down something Dave wrote over four years ago titled: How to Make Money on the Internet v2.0. You can read the whole thing. It’s not long. But here are the important parts as it relates to this post:

"… From there, it isn’t too hard to see how money is made. Make the product people want and sell it to them.

"But many companies seem scared of users. Our culture says that people buy products that geniuses develop. Contact with the user is something to say you do, but there’s not a whole lot of that going on …

"But listening to users is actually not that easy. It’s easier to *be* a user and make products for other users. And that my friends, the combination of user-based information exchange and products that reflect user experience and wants, is where money will be made on the Internet."

See, I think a couple of big things can happen internally when you begin to think of yourself as an expert. Number one, you’ll probably feel more confident, which is a great thing. The downside is your confidence and expert status has to constantly be reinforced, and that makes it hard for you to be real. It makes it hard for you to say "I don’t know." After all, you’re the expert. You need to have all the answers.

It makes it hard for you to be curious. Curious about "the products people want," or curious about alternative tools, solutions and information that are outside you bag of expert-ise. It also makes it hard to respond to any emerging trends or emerging needs of your network.

The second thing that can happen is a distance can develop between you and your network – like a mental pedestal. You’re up here and they’re down there, and how can you possibly hear what they’re saying from way up there. And even if you could, would you listen to them? After all, you’re the expert. Not them.

Ultimately, it’s okay and sometimes crucial to be an expert in the mind of others, especially if your knowledge, skill sets and/or credentials support it. In your own mind, however, you’re better off  being just another curious user looking for ways to solve your problems, achieve your goals and live a great life.

Have You Ever Wondered . . .

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

>> Return to the Small Business Branding front page <<

Ever wondered what goes through the mind of an owner of a multi-million dollar sports franchise just after his team was knocked out of the playoffs?

"There is nothing tougher than being in the locker room after losing in the playoffs, particularly this year. Every
  man on the roster knew we were capable of playing better than we did. We knew we gave them 3 games that we had won.
  In the locker room after the game, it all hits you at the same time.

"There is nothing you can say to players with tears welling in their eyes or rolling down their cheeks. You can put
your arm around them. You can tell them how much you care about them.

"The players know just how fragile every part of their careers are. You just dont know where things will go from
here. There are any number of outside elements that impact the physical and business side of basketball,  which
makes a lost opportunity all the harder to deal with.

"It hurts. It hurts that nght. You cant sleep. It hurts the next day. The only feeling that can I  compare it
to is the one you get breaking up with a girlfriend. Your emotions are tied up for 8 months in the season and
when its over. It hurts."

Finally A Magazine For Professional Women

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

>> Return to the Small Business Branding front page <<

I didn’t actually come up with that headline on my own. It’s the tag line for Pink Magazine. I spotted the premier issue of Pink in Borders, right next to the Entrepreneur Magazine in which I was mentioned (see previous post).

My first thought was what a stroke of brilliance it was. There are tons of biz mags out there but none geared toward women specifically. Makes me wonder what took so long. Here’s a sampling of the cover storIes:

  • Get Fired Like a Man
  • When Women Rule
  • Managing Billions? Why You Need a Mentor
  • 9 Stay-Sharp Secrets

What impresses me most about this is the willingness to take a risk and do something completely different. Conventional wisdom suggests there must be a reason why there are no business mags geared specifically toward women. Like maybe because they won’t sell and/or attract the advertising dollars upon which a successful magazine feeds. My opinion, however, is it’s a home run. A brilliant strategical move. Long overdue.

Here’s an excerpt from "Memo From The Bos," written by the Pink’s founder, Genevieve Bos:

"You are reading PINK because you are intelligent and brave, and made a decision at some point in your life – that whether you work part time, or 80 hours a week – you are going to make the most out of your work experience …

"Please, pay close attention to the forward-thinking companies that put their money where their press releases are – by supporting PINK … These are organizations taking steps to help you become even more successful."

To all the wonderful, brave women AND men at PINK, congratulations and best of success in your new endeavor. Keep blazing the trail.

Here are some relevant words of wisdom from some guys I greatly admire (if anyone has similar thoughts from women, I’d love to hear them as well):

"Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether … Is you plan unique? Is there nobody else doing it? Then I’d be excited. A little scared, maybe, but excited." Hugh Macleod, gapingvoid

"Some people say I’m afraid to compete. I think one of the jobs of a
businessperson is to get away from slugfests and into niches where you
can prevail. The fundamental goal is to get rid of weakness, to find a
sheltered womb where no one can hurt you. There’s no virtue in looking
for a fight. If you’re in a fight, your job is to win. But if you can’t
win, you’ve got to find a way out." Jack Welch, as quoted by Noel M. Tichy and Stratford Sherman in Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will.

"If you want to be loathsome to God, just run with the herd." Soren Kierkegaard

I’ve Hit The Big Time

This post is by Michael Pollock, the original owner of Small Business Branding. Yaro Starak now owns and produces the latest content for this blog.

>> Return to the Small Business Branding front page <<

Well, sort of. I made my way to Borders tonight. While there, I picked up the June edition of Entrepreneur Magazine. And right there on page 97 – in big, bold, red letters – was smallbusinessbranding, chosen as one of the "cream of the crop" marketing blogs. The other two fine blogs mentioned are John and Paul’s Brand Autopsy and MarketingVox. Needless to say, I’m in very, very good company.

You can find the article online at the Entrepreneur Magazine site. A special thank you to Gwen Moran, who wrote the piece. Here’s her take on smallbusinessbranding:

"Although it bills itself as
part website, part blog, it’s really more of the latter, with great
content that doesn’t just take marketing advice at face value. Every
small business will find some take-away value."

Truth be told, I knew about the article before I went to Borders tonight. It showed up in the stats of my blog. But I had to see it in print. I look forward to the day when occurrences like these will be no big deal. For now though, I’m downright excited.

And all because I write a blog. Do you get it?

By the way, Gwen Moran writes more than just biz articles. Check out her very funny Life As I Know It column, "a no-holds-barred look at parenthood, family life and career – and the
silly notion that anyone can combine all of them without guilt,
wrinkled clothing, or Paxil."

(And Gwen, dear, I wish you had a blog.)

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