One Big Thing

By | lead generation, leads online, Marketing, Story, Uncategorized | No Comments

Clarity is essential to telling your story and making your brand easy to buy. Chances are pretty good you have more than one product or service to offer, so how can you distill what you do down to one simple idea? Let’s look at an organization that does this exceedingly well.

Just One Thing

charity:water uses effective messaging that spells out quickly and clearly what they do. It’s easy to understand why it’s important and how to get involved.

Take a look at charity:water’s about page. The first thing you see is their mission statement. It’s blunt, bold and concise—less than 20 words and you know exactly what charity:water does. Looking at this page, you can instantly understand why they exist, what they do, who they serve and why it’s important. Scroll down and you find paths to follow further into the details.

Many nonprofits and businesses are in the trenches doing the work. They know all the details of what they do, so when the time comes to focus on marketing they have way too much information to share with their donors or customers. To anybody just learning about your organization, too much detail is confusing. Successful marketing is crystal clear and focuses on one thing.

Among the many causes, projects, services or products your organization offers, which one do you choose? The clearest one. What one thing is easy for people to get involved with? What one thing is easy to grasp as extremely important? You probably have more than one big thing and it’s hard to narrow it down because you know how important all of them are, but keep in mind that more than one will confuse your audience. One thing is easy to support. One thing is easy to get involved in. One thing is easy to understand. And one thing is just the beginning. It’s the gateway through which people enter into your organization. Over time your supporters and customers will discover you do more awesome things. “I see you bought gardening gloves,” you can eventually tell a customer. “Did you know we sell seeds, too?” Think of it as spoon feeding instead of opening up the firehose.

Once somebody is highly engaged with your organization, involved in multiple causes or buying a variety of products and services, your one big thing will make them a more effective evangelist because they can tell their friends, concisely and simply, what you do, why it’s important and how to get involved.

The Big Guys

If you look at huge companies like General Electric or Coca-Cola, you know they do a thousand things. If you’re running a $100 billion company, you’re probably not reading this blog. Once you’re that big, you handle marketing differently. Ask the CEO of a multi-billion-dollar company anything about marketing. They’ll likely tell you about the consulting firm they keep on a million-dollar retainer to handle it.
But even though you know Coke sells chips and water and a huge variety of products, the one big thing rule still applies. Each department might have its one thing. Each major division has its singular focus. No matter the size of the company, the principal is the same: focus on one thing.
Ironically, the bigger a company the more likely they’ve figured out how to focus on one thing. This is because growing that large in the first place requires this kind of clarity. Walmart sells a million things from thousands of warehouses and it still managed to narrow down what it does to a two-word slogan: better living. Compassion International operates worldwide with enormous impact but boils everything down to one thing: sponsor a child for $38 a month.

Find Your One Thing

You can do a lot of things, you just can’t lead with them all publicly. You can start the process of figuring out what to lead with by making a list of everything you do. Work on narrowing it down to your one thing by asking what will your leads online find easy to understand and easy to engage with. This is an ongoing process requiring a lot of thought and it will take time. Be patient.

Once you have your message distilled to your one big thing, test out your messaging publicly, measure the results and try again. You will probably be honing this message for some time before you land on what really grabs people.


The Elements of Story

By | Story, Uncategorized | No Comments

Last week we talked about how stories can be an effective marketing tool to communicate who you are, what you do and why your target market should care. How to tell your story can be confusing, so let’s take a closer look at what a story is and why it moves people to action.

Once Upon a Time

A story has a series of events, but that’s not what a story is. This is an important differentiation because distilling everything down to a chronology takes the wind out of the sails of your story. This is why we read the book in English class instead of running through the CliffsNotes. Imagine if I told you the story of Hamlet like this.

  1. Hamlet sees the ghost of his dead father.
  2. He watches a play
  3. Acts like a crazy person
  4. Yells at his mother
  5. Kills his girlfriend’s father
  6. Goes to England.
  7. His girlfriend kills herself.
  8. Hamlet comes back and fences with his girlfriend’s brother.
  9. Everybody dies.

The end.

Technically this is what happens in Hamlet, but this isn’t the story. Had Shakespeare simply cataloged the events, we wouldn’t be producing  the play 500 years later. So what story are you telling in your marketing?

Imagine if my marketing went like this:

  1. I moved to Seattle.
  2. I started a business.
  3. I sold printers.

The end.

You’ll notice everybody lives in my chronology, but that’s not enough to make up for what it lacks. Hamlet and other enduring stories, like them or not, endure because of their elements, the stuff beyond their events. These elements range from language to historical relevance to characterization, but one of the central elements which takes a chronology and turns it into a story is change.

The Power of Change

This one thing will alter how you tell your story because people want to hear about the day everything changed and the character who changed in turn. Brian McDonald has taught storytellers at Pixar, Disney Feature Animation and Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic how to tell a story. According to him, great stories follow a simple but specific structure and that structure always involves change.

Think about what you’re selling, and the change you want to illustrate should be clear. What were things like before a client came to you and how did your product or service change that? Telling the stories of your clients is incredibly effective. You can focus on the amazing work your client does and highlight your expertise without being salesy. Upon hearing the story of your client’s transformation your audience will see how effective you are at what you do. In a world where pushy advertising repels leads, storytelling offers a strong and attractive method for marketers.

Most companies sell facts and features. Great companies sell stories. No matter what changes affect an industry, technology, economy, business model, whatever—stories will always be the heart of effective marketing.


How to Generate Leads and Growth Online 

By | content marketing, lead generation, leads online, Uncategorized | No Comments

Like any activity involving strategy and execution, marketing starts at a high level. You have to be able to look at the big picture and provide leadership for where your marketing is taking you and how.

Your first priority as a marketer is to get in touch with every single person in your demographic. Your second priority is to keep in touch.

This sounds really simple but if you’ve done any marketing at all, you know better. Finding your target demographic takes research, lots of research. Once you know who you’re aiming for, you have to research where they go for their information. Once you’ve figure that out, you have to decide what content you’re going to create, when, how often and where you’re going to put it to attract that demographic. On top of this, every communication needs to be in the voice of your company and reflective of your brand.

Getting In Touch

There is no end to the tools you can use to reach and serve your audience. This is great because it gives you options. It’s also overwhelming—because it gives you options.  As a business owner, you just want to invest your resources into what works.

To start with, who is doing your marketing? Many small business owners are used to doing everything themselves. But are you wired for marketing? The best results come from having the right people in the right roles. Even if you’ve passed on the marketing responsibilities, you still have to have the right people in the right roles. If you’re relying on your sales people to do the marketing, make the sale and keep the customer happy, that’s still too much diversity for one role. The skills involved in marketing and sales are completely different. So let your salespeople sell and get marketers to market.

Staying in Touch

Having the right automation tools will make a huge difference in your marketing. If someoe comes to your site and fills out a form, that expect an instant response as well as content catering to their interests. That’s simply not possible unless you’re using automation software.

Even a small company can do an extraordinary amount of content marketing with the right software. And while your software is doing the marketing work for you, your marketing team can focus on creating the next campaign, targeting specific segments of your audience while the software continues to serve and shuffle your leads through the sales funnel.


Giving Before Receiving

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Inbound content marketing is all about giving long before you receive. Giving helpful content, referrals, resources—this is all part of marketing. So is listening, understanding and then—and only then—helping in a way appropriate to the individual and their situation.

These are the same skills great salespeople use, because great salespeople know they need to diagnose the underlying problem, not the symptoms. Your marketing is the same. You need to know what your audience needs and address those needs in a manner that will attract and inform your leads online.

Business owners sometimes get distracted by the short-term win. Likes on Facebook, Twitter followers and signups for your mailing list are great, but remember they’re not the end game. Focusing on tactics can get dangerous when you start chasing likes and views instead of increased business.

Keep your eyes on the prize. If you gain five new followers this month and each one fits the profile of your perfect customer, that’s a bigger win than attracting more, but unqualified, leads.


When you join an online community to get and give referrals and leads, show up. Participate in the community and be involved so you can get to know the people, hear their concerns and meet them where they need it. As you participate, they’ll get to know you, your products, your services and your ability to deliver.

LinkedIn in a great business resource and, for many businesses, a worthwhile place to spend your time. Not only can you connect with people, post helpful content and build relationships, you can find out a little bit more about people before you meet them face to face. This will not only prepare you for your meeting, it will help the person you’re meeting with to feel seen. Wouldn’t you be impressed walking into a meeting with someone who was already aware of your business, challenges and potential answers?


According to Dr. Frumi Rachel Barr of Scaling 4 Growth, brevity is more than the soul of wit.

“Sometimes people talk too much, and they really have to be careful that they don’t ruin their own brand by having an opportunity to stand up and introduce themselves and then going on and on and on. Be very clear about who you are, what you’re looking for and what differentiates you.”

People like to fill the space and keep talking. This can be due to nervousness, fear of missing out on something important or even just a fear of silence. Relax. Practicing will keep you from missing the important points and listening will do far more for growing your business than a meandering talk about yourself.

The Big Picture

Marketing is a long game. It’s slow when you start and it’s painstaking to run each campaign, analyze, regroup and launch a new campaign based on what you learned. But it pays off over the long run. Remember, by plodding onward with quality content, you’re building a backlog that’s going to continue giving you good returns for years to come.