Never Speak Unless It Improves On The Silence: A Lesson For Marketers

Never speak unless it improves on the silence. | Buddha

Sometimes a quote stops you in your tracks. You may know I am a minimalist in both the practice of my business and my life. And with as much reading as I’ve done on the topic, somehow I’ve never stumbled upon this quote.

But I think this is the problem with the world, yes?

Most of us speak more than we need to. Most of us say more than needs to be said.

Especially us marketers.

I think a truly good marketer achieves the goals of the brand blueprint without saying anymore than is entirely necessary, if anything all.

Websites need only say what is necessary to get the conversion. A story only needs as many words as necessary to draw out the emotion. A design only has to do enough to make you feel something. Written copy only has to say enough to drive you to the action.

Most of us say too much…when sometime silence is all that is needed.

I was talking to a high-level executive coach on one of my radio shows earlier this week, and he said, a good coach merely draws out the understanding from his client, that which he already knows. He merely does just enough to help his client reach the conclusion he already knows deep down. The coach could say a lot more. But why?

I think the best marketing accomplishes the same thing.

Yet, most marketers say too much, speak too much, type too much, push too much, publish too much, harass too much, distribute too much, and print too much.

Time to slow it down. Focus more on the meaning of the message itself, the emotion the message is trying to elicit. Instead of raw volume and mass.

The silence can say a hell of a lot…

###

[simplify your business thinking here]

[photo from pinterest]

Removing Digital Clutter Too

You likely know that I am a minimalist. I have removed lots of physical clutter from my life. I have dislodged myself from personal obligations that distracted me from what was important personally, and for my clients. And I have simplified my life to focus on the truly important things.

But…

I have a new challenge…

Digital clutter.

Look, I don’t know if I will ever convince you to remove all of your digital clutter. But let me say this:

For me, removing digital clutter is as freeing and uplifting as removing physical clutter. Removing distractions, ANY distractions, are about eliminating the unnecessary to allow you to appreciate and focus on the necessary.

Allow me to give you some examples of some digital clutter I am slowing purging:

1. Emails in the inbox. I keep too many emails. Clutter that I will never read again. Digital notes that no longer have meaning, and distract me from the important messages that matter. My inbox is now such that zero is attainable each day. Stuff to save is neatly organized and archived, useless less important stuff is deleted. Right away.

2. Followers. Yeah, too many of you still battle “follower envy” where we measure our self-worth by the number of followers we have on Twitter, friends on Facebook, or connections on LinkedIn. But for most of you, a majority of your followers aren’t real, or really connected to you in a meaningful. So, remove the useless followers that get in the way of the people who matter…those who might be your true fans.

3. RSS subscriptions. I have subscribed to thousands of blogs over the last several years. Mainly to experiment and see if a new blog and website will prove to be helpful and meaningful to me. After a while, I have to discipline myself to delete the stuff that isn’t relevant, that I am not reading.

4. e-newsletters. Like you, I’ve subscribed to too many e-newsletters. I’ve made it a point to unsubscribe from those that aren’t providing real value to me. For me, there are only a few that I look forward to. If I don’t want to drop everything when an new email comes in, it probably isn’t worth subscribing to, IMHO.

5. Files in Google docs. After a while, there are a ton of google docs I’ve created for this project or that. Often, I need to review the archive, and remove the clutter that is no longer relevant. To be honest, my biggest reason to remove digital clutter in Google docs? To allow me to more easily find the docs that are more important…

6. iTunes songs. I have over 2,000 songs in iTunes. In the past twelve months, I’ve listened to 45 of them. And with me listing to Pandora most of the time…do I really need all these songs?

7. Books on Kindle. Yeah, I used to have a couple thousand books in grand bookcases. Now, I own only nine hardcover books. The ones that really matter to me. But, I now have a growing collection of digital books. And there are several I will never read again. I am deleting them. They distract me from the books that move me…

8. Audio reminder files on smart phone. I leave myself reminders on my smart phone voice memo tool all the time. Ideas for blog posts. People to call. Old friends to reach out to. Ideas for clients. After a while, they accumulate. If I let the list pile up, I suddenly have a ton of audio files that are less impactful.

9. Random stuff in Evernote. The beauty of Evernote is the ease with which I can save pics, ideas, websites, articles, audio files, etc. The downside? After a while you accumulate a lot of stuff. I have to make it a point to go thru that material and delete content that is no longer relevant. I also have to improve my tagging and organizing ability to better store the data.

10. Downloaded podcasts. I have 74 hours of podcasts to listen to. On one hand, endless streams of great content to learn from. On the other hand, it is almost too much, and I don’t what to listen to first.

11. eBooks. With all the blogs I read, I’ve downloaded dozens and dozens of ebooks to read. In fact, upon counting the files in my eBook folder, I have 47. I mean, wow. How am I ever going to read 47 books? With more to come, I am sure. Now, I am not sure which ones I really really wanted to read in the first place…

How much digital clutter is cluttering up your life? How much digital clutter is distracting you from your important work? Is it time to clear away some of your clutter?

###

[for tips on how to simplify your business, join me here]

[drawing by hugh macleod]

Living A Meaningful Life: An Intrepid Radio Special Edition with The Minimalists

Ryan and Joshua

Finally.

The book on minimalism that I’ve been looking for… one to help people finally understand what this movement is really about. Written by my friends Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, known as The Minimalists.

On this show, Joshua and Ryan join me to talk about their latest book, Minimalism: Live A Meaningful Life. This isn’t, however, a book about minimalism from the standpoint of owning less than 100 things, without a car or living a life in solitary.

This is a very personal and transparent account about stripping away life’s excess to focus on the five things that matter most towards living a happy, meaningful life: health, relationships, passions, personal growth and contribution.

I’ve created a list of people I am sending this book to. You will too…

You can purchase the book here (affiliate link):

[to simplify your business, join my intrepid list]

A Simplified Focus on Revenue

My biggest push for 2012? To trim away all the distractions and focus intensely on driving revenue.

I love mixing it up, love taking on new challenges, doing new research, executing new experiments, and…I do NOT say “No” enough. This is going to change in 2012.

Yes, being intrepid means boldly trying new things and seeing how they work, and whether it can be incorporated into your mix, but I’ve done too much of that. I need to gear my time and energy investments in action items that drive revenue.

For instance, I’ve bitten the bullet and purchased a CRM tool, Highrise by 37signals. I have to get serious about moving things along with my prospects and closing deals.

I am going to schedule deep thinking time to focus on the creative side of what I have to do to advance sales cycles. I am going to alter my strategic method of how to recruit, schedule and interview my guests with the intrepid media empire. ;-)

Seriously. I love my show, and it is doing amazing things for me and my business, but I have to do that better. I have to make sure that the time investment (and it is considerable) is moving the “closing deals” ball down the field.

What about you? What can you do to focus more intently on driving revenue?

This isn’t new advice, but remember this handy tip (and I am reminding myself of this too): take a look at your TO DO list, and identify the top items that when you complete them, what results is more revenue for you and your business.

Me? I oftentimes pick the “fun” stuff on the list, not the revenue drivers. That is going to change.

I am sure that some application of the Pareto principle applies here…but I know that 20%(ish) of the action items on my TO DO list will result in 80%(ish) of my revenues.

Pure and simple, I just haven’t been focusing on them. Have you?

What steps can you take to improve on this? What tools can you use? What decision-making process do you need to implement? What teamwork in your organization needs to be executed to shift the focus towards revenue?

These are important questions. You had better be asking them!

###

[for more intrepid business strategy and thinking, join my free list]

[photo from flickr]

Is Your Marketing Too Cluttered?

Are you keeping things simple?

Is your marketing message too muddled? Do people really know what you do? How you serve your market? How you make a living helping people?

When people visit your website, is it perfectly clear what action you want them to take? To contact you? To buy from you?

Do people following you on the social web know who you are, and what your company does? Are you spread too thin…spending time on too many social networks?

Do you have your hand in too many business activities? Are you launching too many side projects? Are you confusing your potential buyers?

The reason I ask these questions is that I think many of us could use minimalist principles in our marketing: stripping away the clutter and distractions, in order to focus on what matters.

We need to simplify our message.

We need to remove the clutter from our website.

We need to be more intentional about the social networks that move the needle for our business.

Whether or not you ultimately conclude that you need to simplify your marketing, you at least should frequently ask yourself these questions.

Your basic marketing plan consists of seven key components:

1. Know your market. Is there someone who needs and is willing to buy what you sell? Sadly, too many small business people never get their head around this simple question, and thus end up meandering aimlessly, never knowing their simple, true marketing path.

2. Know your customer. Who are they? Where are they? How do they buy? Knowing who they are, where they are, and how they buy ultimately makes decision-making and tactical choices much simpler.

3. Determine your niche. You don’t fix cars. You only fix German automobiles. Much easier to target and focus on owners of German cars as opposed to everyone else (rest of the planet) who owns a vehicle. Simpler approach, simpler message, fewer tactics, less costly.

4. Your marketing message, your company story? How will you move your market to action? To buy? Problem is, most don’t know the simple answer to this question, so they throw too many noodles on the wall, hoping something sticks. And as a result, they are spreading a confusing message.

5. Your marketing tactics. How are you delivering your marketing message (social media, television ads, media buys, email marketing). Knowing precisely the tacticial options that work best for you to communicate to your niche target market, keeps things simple and easy to execute.

6. Your marketing goals. How many sales do you need to make your profit goal? Knowing this answer keeps steps one through five in better focus, knowing exactly where you are striving to go.

7. Your marketing budget. This funds your marketing program — what does it cost to execute steps one thru six… Keeping things simple on steps one through six is how you keep your marketing budgets affordable.

Is your marketing too cluttered? Are you asking the hard questions to understand this? Are you doing the necessary pruning to keep your marketing program simple? Are you subtracting the fluff from your marketing plan, so that you are focused only on what truly matters most?

This probably goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: There is too much noise in the marketplace. The more you can do to make things easier – and simpler – for your buyer to understand how you can help, and how they can buy…is a worthwhile process.

What do you think?

Minimalist Marketing: How A Marketing Plan Keeps Things Simple And Increases Your Profits

In the last post on minimalist marketing, which talks about staying focused, I suggested that having a marketing plan is the best strategy you can employ to simplify your marketing, and keep things simple. Problem is, most people (if they have a marketing plan) make their plans way to complicated…

Keep things simple...

I structure my marketing plans in a simple, seven-step process. I will list them here, and then go through them one by one to help you understand how this works…

1. Understand Your Market and Competition - Does the market want what I sell? Can I capture enough market share to break even? Is there too much competition for what I want to offer?
Understanding this is very important when determining your marketing strategy. That’s why it is the first step. You are, in essence, answering the question of can my product even sell in my market.

If you don’t know your market, then you will never be able to focus on what you do. You will waste time and money trying things without really ever knowing it it will work. You are throwing darts blindly into space…

2. Understand Your Customer - Who they are, what they want, what motivates them to buy, how do they buy?
Knowing the answers to these enables you to make finite decisions on how to help your customer take action.

I stipulate that this is constantly evolving, and worthy of permanent monitoring, but “guessing” on these questions means you are waste time and money. This complicates your business life.

3. Pick A Niche - If “everyone who sleeps on a bed” is your target market, you will fail.
This is critical in minimalist marketing…if you are aiming for too broad a target with your marketing dollars and effort, you will miss most of your shots and waste lots of time and money.

4. Develop Your Marketing Message - Your story…what you do, how you persuade someone to let you help solve a problem or fulfill a need…
This is critical in that you must keep this message SIMPLE. A complicated message is harder to tell. And less effective.

5. Determine Your Message Delivery Vehicles - Social media, television ads, direct mail, billboards, face-to-face networking?
This is a key juncture…it is where you can clutter your program and stifle it recklessly. Choose ONLY the mediums that effectively reach your niche targets. Nothing more, nothing less.

6. Determine Your Sales and Marketing Goals - How many sales needed to turn a profit? How many prospects needed to make enough sales?
Nine times out of ten, most small businesses I talk to never really figure out this number…

If you need to reach 1,000 prospects to make enough sales to turn a profit, don’t waste time or money doing things that distract you from this goal. Your plan should be designed to do ONE THING: enable you to talk with 1,000 prospects. Nothing more, nothing less.

7. Understand Your Marketing Budget - Once you know your sales + marketing goals, you can figure out what it will cost…
What else do I need to say here? If you don’t have the budget to reach your prospects, or spending more than you need to, then what is the point?

Work your plan. Focus on simplifying it so that your plan does it’s job. Don’t add layers of complexity that put undue stress on your business, complicate your life, and sets you up to fail.

Your plan is designed to keep things simple. What do you think?

Minimalist Marketing: Beware The Evil Of Cool New Stuff

[399 words]

If you’re paying attention, you know new hardware and software debuts every day. New social web sites seem to launch just as often.

And it seems popular social websites and technology are upgraded monthly, rendering the smart phone you purchased just yesterday obsolete…

What to do?

Well, for one thing, it is easy to allow oneself to be distracted by all this new stuff. Trust me, I know. I have this deep fear that I am missing out by not immediately adopting the latest thing, and that my business marketing will suffer as a result.

Problem is, a lot of us get swept up in the fervor, and we spend all our time trying everything.

The fear of the unknown makes us do silly and unproductive things, cluttering our marketing world.

And what we end up losing is time…time to do good work, to serve clients, to learn, to teach, to engage with our network.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting you bury your head in the sand and ignore the latest developments. I named my company Intrepid because I want people to be bold and fearless in trying new things…

I just want you to be smart about it. And initiate tests and experiments with new technologies that actually are in alignment with your marketing strategy.

You know your niche. You know your target market. You know your customer. If there are four new technologies you want to try – I’d select one. And focus like a laser beam on that one concept – and invest enough time to effectively determine if there is merit to incorporating it into your program.

Spreading yourself too thin – by coupling too many experiments with executing your regular program – you risk flubbing ALL of it – and injuring your main marketing strategy and not ascertaining a true test of the new idea.

You should be curious about new ideas, new tactics…but it doesn’t mean you have to TRY all of them. Use your RSS reader to keep an eye on what the blogs are saying. Monitor LinkedIn groups on the subject. Engage your Twitter stream and see what that crowd has to say about it.

If at some point you legitimately determine there is merit to testing – then do it. Just don’t needlessly distract yourself.

What do you think?

[subscribe to my RSS feed]
[photo from zephyrance on flickr]

Tell Those Pesky Administrative Tasks To Sod Off | Minimalist Marketing

We’ve said that marketing is about storytelling. To be a good storyteller, you need to be creative. To be creative, you need to focus.

To focus, you simply cannot be distracted by the dozens of little tasks that consume an entrepreneur’s typical day.

Invoicing. Research. Follow-up. Admin. Thank-you notes. Phone calls. Scheduling appointments. Email. More email. Vendor management. Subcontractor management. The list goes on and on.

Here is the problem as I see it: to run a business, you have to perform a series of daily, mundane tasks. Difficult to get around them. But they do distract you from the important work. Some people use these tasks as excuses for why they procrastinate. The biggest problem isn’t that these pesky tasks exist – it is that we allow them to distract us. We let these tasks get in our own way. They clutter our mind.

But just how in the heck do you free your mind – and free up time – from these tasks, enabling you to focus on the important work of marketing your business?

1. You can hire staff to handle them. If you can afford that.
2. You can outsource them to a virtual assistant. When I tried this, I spent as much time managing the VA as I did performing the tasks myself.
3. You can read from thousands of articles full of tips on how to do better time management, efficiency improvements, etc.
4. You can download/purchase from hundreds of applications and software that promise to help you better manage your administrative chores.

All good solutions. If they actually work for you.

But at the end of the day, most of these are just band-aids, or a different coat of paint on the same problem. And you still have to focus time and energy on them, even if you are using the most innovative and hip software solution!

Honestly, the first step is to acknowledge the problem, recognize that it is happening. This is a big step. Then, I really think it comes down to an attitude change, a commitment to re-channel your focus, a devotion to a new way of doing things when it comes to these tasks. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:

1. Don’t fall behind. Get a system and process in place, and keep up with it. Falling behind and then having to spend hours to catch up is not a good way to do it. So, devote a few minutes EACH DAY to keep on top of things. Don’t let them pile up.

1.5. Or, devote two hours a week, at a fixed point in time, and do ALL of your admin work in one fell swoop. This way, you are free to spend most of the week focused only on creative work that matters.

2. Determine your creative time, and NEVER do admin work in that creative space. When are you most creative? In the morning hours before lunch? Evenings? Just know this, and never let ADMIN work intrude on that time and space.

3. List all of the things you feel you need to do on a daily basis. Review them carefully. What tasks can be eliminated? Refined? Outsourced? And ask yourself seriously, how much of this is stuff I do to procrastinate and avoid the hard creative work, or to avoid that difficult customer?

4. Move to the cloud. To be honest, what has helped me the most is moving the management and storage of all of my administrative data to internet-based sources. This way, I can do the tasks from anywhere, whenever I want to. This frees up large chunks of my time to focus on my real work.

5. Gary Vaynerchuk says that to be successful, stop wasting valuable time building your dream business by watching Lost. He says it in virtually every speech I have seen. And he’s right. However, we all love to break away for a little mind blow and watch TV or listen to some music. I find this to be a very good time to bang out the mindless administrative work I have to do (when you see me tweeting about music, I am usually sending invoices and doing other admin tasks).

6. Don’t put admin tasks on your daily To Dos. Your real work is being creative. So don’t let that focus drift by stacking your To Dos with meaningless admin work. Decide that admin tasks are NOT work, your real work anyway.

7. A lot of experts recommend closing your current day by investing a few minutes planning out the coming day. I think this is great advice. What I recommend is coupling your admin work with this daily planning process. Set aside a few minutes – at the end of the day – or right after lunch when the food is digesting – and quickly bang out these tasks. You need to carve out large chunks of uninterrupted time to focus on the real work that matters.

8. There is a growing acceptance of the notion of checking your email just a few times a day, so as to not let email distract you from work. Another idea is to couple checking your email with your admin tasks, and group these functions as one thing so again, not to distract you from the real work.

Let’s be honest, some of this work is completely necessary to our core business function. All I am really saying here is think through your admin process, manage it much better, and then maintain. I don’t think you should systematize your creative process, but I sure think you can do this with your daily admin tasks.

It is worth it to dedicate time in the short-term to get this right. Having a simple routine will free up time to focus on the meaningful creative work, or just to free up time to do whatever you want… Most of the time, we let these tasks get in our own way. Stop doing that. And create!

What do you think? Any better/other ideas?

[To read the entire Minimalist Marketing series, CLICK HERE]
[cartoon by @gapingvoid]
[subscribe to the RSS feed of this blog]

Minimalist Marketing: Keep Your Learning Diet Simple

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Do any of the following scenarios apply to you?

1. You spend too much time on social media apps like Twitter and Facebook, telling yourself that you are “learning” from your community. When in fact, you are just horsing around, or broadcasting one-way…

2. Under the guise of research and learning, you read too many books, most of which don’t really apply to you, or what you do.

3. Or more likely, you read a lot of books with the intention of learning, and do not implement ANYTHING that you learn.

4. You subscribe to 250 blogs in your RSS reader, telling yourself that you need to know what others in your space are doing. And you spend hours sifting through clutter and don’t spend enough time actually reading, or learning.

Yeah. Me too.

DISCLOSURE: Let me make this clear. I am NOT suggesting that you stop reading – and learning – to improve your craft. I am suggesting you make more careful choices about what you read – and then take steps to implement things you learn – things that will have measurable impact.

In fact, you are a fool NOT to read more. Learn more. And apply what you learn. I just think too many of us do not practice good habits when we seek to learn (In fact, I could make the point that practicing minimalist marketing should free up valuable time to learn more…).

So, here are a few of my ideas on ways to simplify your learning, and get more out of the time investment:

1. Limit the amount of industry blogs you follow on your RSS reader. A lot of them say the same things. Winnow your list down to the ones that really teach, engage their community, and make you think. Perfectly cool to subscribe to “new” blogs to check them out, but if they don’t add any value, remove them. I also make it a practice to schedule time each day to review feeds on my RSS. Waiting several days and having to scan through hundreds and hundreds of new feeds isn’t conducive to productive time.

2. Cut down the amount of books you read. Wow, this is hard. And I don’t like to suggest reading less. I just want you to read smarter. These days, it is easy to get online reviews of books – enabling you to find the books that really seem to make a difference.

3. When engaged on the social web, ONLY spend time focused on your two marketing goals: initiating conversation with the right people (prospects, customers, referral partners), AND sharing other people’s content.

4. When you do read a book with the intention of learning something to improve your craft, make a conscious effort to do whatever it takes to record new ideas to implement later: make notes in the margins, highlight key phrases, record audio notes, or do what I did once, which was take a photo of a page I wanted to remember…

5. And then implement them! I mean, really. What’s the point of investing all that time and energy?

6. Make careful decisions about who you network with face-to-face. I have a passion for meeting people at an event, and then suggesting a meeting over coffee to explore synergies. Sometimes these coffees lead to business, new referral partners, or can just be solid learning experiences. But over the years, I have had a lot of pleasant coffees that while the conversation was enjoyable, it didn’t result in any value (for my marketing learning). With my limited time, I have to be more selective with whom I spend time with. You should do the same.

Remember, the goal of minimalist marketing is to simplify, to cut away the clutter so that you can focus on the core work that matters, and leads to more profits. This includes the learning you do…

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Do you have any other ideas?

[the original MINIMALIST MARKETING post]
[subscribe to this blog via EMAIL]
[subscribe to this blog via RSS]

Minimalist Marketing: Make It Simple To Buy From You

cash registerWe’ve all experienced it.

You went to a website, but didn’t take action. You read a sales brochure, but tossed it aside when you finished reading. Or you said “Let me get back to you!” after a sales person pitched you.

Why didn’t you take any action? Why didn’t you buy?

Well, there could be dozens of reasons. But one common reason might be the message – and message delivery – was too complicated. And you didn’t know how to proceed.

This happens all the time…

1. The potential buyer can’t find the “Buy Now” button on the website. There was too much crap on the website.
2. There isn’t an easily identifiable “call to action” on the brochure. All the “Pulitzer” prize-winning copy and photos, and design elements look great. But it is all clutter.
3. The seller didn’t make the simple ask. Oh sure, the seller said a lot of cool stuff, used a lot of big words, but never actually asked for the sale…

My co-host Stone Payton and I had Theo Jamison on our High Velocity Radio Show recently. She was speaking about some simple, yet profound and meaningful, actions a business could take that would have a dramatic and positive impact on their customer experience. I mean, seriously, these were simple and inexpensive ideas…

Stone said something like “and I bet the business said it was too simple to work, right? Only complicated solutions could possibly work.”

He’s right. Why do we make things so complicated in business? Process can be simple. Design can be simple. Systems can be simple. Sales can be simple.

We have a tendency to think that fancy design, bells + whistles, and flowing flowery language are impressive and make potential customers say “ohhhhhhh.”

But most of the time it clutters and confuses.

You have something to sell. It is something that people need. It can make their life better, their business better. So why do we insist on making it harder – and more complicated – for people to buy?

Minimalists strip away the clutter to focus on what matters, on what is most important. So, strip away all the clutter so that your customer can buy from you. Without having to crawl through a complicated maze of words, pics, buttons, ads, graphics and platitudes to do what they really want to do – become your customer.

What do you think?

[my original Minimalist Marketing post]
[subscribe to this blog via RSS]
[subscribe to this blog via EMAIL]
[pic from borderfilms on flickr]