5 Books for Business-Starters

I’m about to hand over a book to someone I’m coaching on his career direction. This made me think: if someone was considering starting their own business, what books would I recommend as “required reading” before taking the plunge?

Here’s a handful:

BooksPurple Cow, by Seth GodinDifferentiate, or don’t bother

Enchantment, by Guy Kawasaki Develop yourself and your people skills above all

The Entrepreneur Equation, by Carol RothDelineate how your idea will actually turn into a successful business

Amazing Things Will Happen, by C.C. ChapmanDream and then do

The $100 Startup, by Chris GuillebeauDon’t wait: opportunity surrounds you.

Each of these books is practical, straightforward, and approachable. In combination, they provide an excellent mix of the idealism and realism that are both required for entrepreneurs.

>>Your turn – what would be on your recommended reading list for new entrepreneurs?

(note: links to book titles above are Amazon affiliate links – which means if you buy from Amazon through following this link, I might earn a few shekels!)

Your Silent Audience

Blogging can be a discouraging enterprise at times.

Is anyone even reading what I write? Why are there so few comments? Where’s the engagement?

silenceWhile we all crave tangible evidence that people appreciate what we write, we should never forget that most of our audience is silent.

For every commenter, there are many others who are absorbing, thinking, learning, growing, laughing – privately.

Your every Facebook status may not garner a lot of comments. But you’ll be surprised how sometimes, months later, someone comes up to you and remembers. And comments. Live.

I don’t comment often on Jon Swanson‘s stuff. But I read it regularly. I keep very close tabs on Greg Hartle’s adventures, even if our on-line back-and-forth is more sporadic. Most of my direct banter with Tom Webster is ironic and punny, but the fact is, I relish his thoughtful posts.

Yes, we need to write for our more engaged readers. But don’t forget your silent audience. You might not hear much from them, but they’re waiting to hear from you.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Don’t Be JAGA

Read this series of tweets from the bottom up.

JAGA2

Take a look at your website. Are you using commodity generalizations that sound just like the next company?

Do you want to compete in a noisy marketplace? Here’s job one – Don’t be JAGA! Lift the fog!!!

Yes, I Time some Tweets – Here’s Why

There are apps that allow you to space out your tweets over time (I use Hootsuite for this). Some people protest the use of timed tweets – and while I understand the sentiment behind that stance, I don’t agree with it.

Here’s why.

I use Twitter for several purposes:

  • Back-and-forth interaction with people (banter, brainstorming, encouraging, etc.)
  • Sharing interesting news and other resources
  • Connecting people with each other
  • Sharing my own blog posts and pictures
  • Sharing other people’s blog posts (especially those with whom I have a closer connection)
  • Making ironic comments and bad puns
  • Giving good morning greetings

Some of these purposes are more real-time – for instance, back-and-forth chatting with folks is not something that can be automated. But I do automate a fair bit of one-way sharing of “stuff,” for the simple reason that the audience on Twitter is constantly shifting. People are looking at their tweetstreams intermittently throughout the day, which means that something tweeted at 7:22 am might not be seen by a person who first logs in at 9:57 am.

While it makes sense that you might then tweet your own blog posts at a few different times during the day (I do), the really creative and helpful part of this isn’t the self-promotion aspect. The less-discussed secret is the way you can benefit your network of readers and writers.

Why use timed tweets? To gain wider exposure for others’ work!  <<–(click to tweet this).

Let’s say that I read an interesting post from Shelly Kramer‘s blog that, in the (very real) example below, actually touches on a similar theme (the timing of posts getting read on Facebook). If she posts it at, say, 7 am, and a number of her followers retweet it over the next half hour, then most of the exposure for her post may occur in a pretty narrow window.

TimeTweet

But if a reader makes the simple choice to “time” a tweet with a link to occur at, say, 10 am, then that reader’s audience gets the benefit of seeing something they might have missed at 7 am, AND Shelly gets wider exposure in a new time slot as well.

You know how most people get retweets immediately after they tweet something? Why not do everyone a favor and time-delay your tweet for a few hours – or even a day (I’ve seen some of my friends do this. It can give the tweeted link a whole new life).

So – when we understand that part of Twitter is for sharing things that may not be designed for real-time interaction, automating certain tweets makes perfect sense. Especially with this small tweet-tweak – give the people who feed you great content the gift of a fresh audience.

Have you been doing this? And here’s a question that’s been on my mind – I have done very little with scheduling tweets for overnight/overseas reach. If you’re doing this, how’s it working out? Any tips to share?

ALSO: See some interesting stats and perspectives about tweeting blog posts from Mack Collier.

Be a Fog-Lifter (part 3) – Distill

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

I’m fascinated by the process of fermentation and distillation. I’ll watch documentaries on the process, and find myself longing to spend an entire year traveling the world just to see more closely how wine, beer, whiskey, and other spirits are made.

{I’m guessing a lot of us would enjoy that tour…any sponsors out there?? :>}

MoonshineAlso, when it comes to ideas and words, distillation fascinates me. How do we boil down a plethora of concepts and messages into a distilled, compact, light-giving phrase? Can we take our business and boil it down to a clear summary?

You may not be able to offer your customers moonshine, but you can serve them a 100-proof message. <<–(click to tweet this).

Here’s how: Aim for 10 words. Craft a summary message that can be given out in 10 words of less. Aim for clarity, not comprehensiveness.

How did FedEx do this? The World on Time. Allstate’s striking and unforgettable message? You’re in good hands. How about blogger Dan Rockwell (Helping leaders reach higher in 300 words or less)? Can you grab one word and build your message around it, like Mark Schaefer (Grow)?

Brief. Punchy. Memorable. Non-technical.

Your <10 word message may be a quick tagline, or it may be a brief sentence, but either way, it’s compressed, like a verbal business card.

So, let’s get practical:

Start by creating this factual summary statement: I do (this) for (customers) in order to (end result) with (my particular differentiating quality). Excellent – you’re already at 40 proof.

Now, try to come up with an illustration or analogy that short-cuts right to the point in a vivid fashion. You’ve just jumped to 80 proof!

Finally, create a compact phrase that you can give to someone before the elevator door even closes. Think of this final product as a memory dart, not an elevator speech. You’re now at 100 proof!

We all need to break through the mists in the minds of our customers with a beam of distilled enlightenment. That’s lifting the fog.

(Part 1 – Job Number One is here. Part 2 – Steal! – is here.)

Learn more about Steve’s Clarity Therapy services.

Be a Fog-Lifter (part 2) – Steal!

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

(part 1 is here)

Once we realize that the minds of our potential and actual clients are filled with static, distraction, clutter, and everything-but-you, it becomes clear that we have a one primary task above all others.

Break through the noise. Lift the fog.

It is not up to our customers to figure us out. Throwing a bunch of words against a wall and hoping something sticks isn’t a strategy; it’s just lazy. <<–(click to tweet this)

It’s up to us to give a clear, relevant, and memorable message. How?

First, we settle on ONE differentiating offering (see part 1) as our lead-in. We may do more than one thing (as an individual or a business), but we want to be known as the go-to for something.

The next part sounds shady – you need to steal. Yes, I said steal! What you want to hijack is a pre-existing idea, image, or thing in the mind of the person, and make it yours.

Consider these two approaches:

“Our state-of-the-art coffee grinding, brewing, and dispensing solution combines leading technology with consumer-friendly aesthetics in order to provide an optimal beverage experience.”

– vs. –

“We’re the BMW of coffeemakers.”

thief

What have you done? You’ve “stolen” (OK, borrowed if you like) the BMW reputation for high-end quality, sleekness, and luxury pricing, and bridged it to your product/company in the customer’s mind. Your offering, by association, moves from unknown and commodity status to an aspirational identity.

You’ve lifted the fog by giving the customer an easy shortcut to understanding. You are now placed on an existing memory hook. And, you’ve also potentially gained some reverb marketing – that is, every time this person sees a BMW on the road, guess what just might reverberate in their mind?

You – and your offering. You clever thief. There are many marketing approaches in the world. But do you see how John Jantsch made his memorable?

The most direct and memorable way into the mind of your (potential) customer is to latch onto something already there. After a Clarity Therapy session, my clients never look at M&Ms the same again. Why? It’s one of my props, and it has tremendous reverb value. I didn’t need to create something new. Just “steal” something that was already there.

What image or analogy will you use to bridge quickly and memorably into the mind of your audience?

Be a Fog-Lifter (part 1) – Job Number One

You, in the mind of a client

Is this you, in the mind of a client?

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

For two days, we’ve been buried under a thick layer of fog. The kind that just makes you want to go back to sleep in the middle of the day.

At least it serves one purpose – it’s a reminder of how welcome light and clarity are.

When it comes to the domain where your business operates, it’s very likely that your clients and prospects live in a perpetual fog. They barely have time to process all their responsibilities – how can they process and remember everything that YOU are, and can do for them?

Don’t believe me? Think about your suppliers. How many bullet points can you jot down to fully describe each of them? See what I mean?

Maybe Job Number 1 for you is to be a fog-lifter. <<–(click to tweet this)

Jot down, in the next 60 seconds, all the kinds of work you can do for a client. Now circle the ONE which you’d like to be doing most of all. Or, alternatively, the ONE thing at which you are absolutely the best.

That’s the starting point of your core, fog-lifting message. Consider it your foot-in-the-door offering, your differentiator, your strong suit.

Example: What is Charles H. Green all about? In a word: Trust. That’s the heart and soul of his identity and message, whatever else he may do.

Remember, you can only occupy a very small space in the mind of a client. Don’t be foggy, or you’ll be forgettable. Narrow it down to one main thing.

There’s a lot you have to bring to your clients. First and foremost, you need to bring light. Be Clear.

Next, in part 2, we’ll look at how to position this one thing in the domain of your marketplace.

(here’s a nice angle on developing your USP – Unique Selling Proposition – from Jeff Howell)