What does your website’s About page say about you?

I stumbled over the most swell website “About” page the other day (don’t ask me how) and I knew I wanted to share it with you. I’ve done that below, but before that, I wanted to pour a cup of coffee and have a little chat with you about your About page.

I’ve learned from our product The 90-Minute Website that there’s one page that seems to take the longest for participants to complete, because it never quite feels right, and it gets revised and revised and revised.  You guessed it: The About page.

Most of my clients agonize over their About page, some to the extent they don’t put one up at all.  They worry over what to say.  How personal to be.  Whether it should be first-person or third-person (or second person…wouldn’t THAT be interesting…)  Should I include a photo?  Should it be a studio headshot or a relaxed, approachable view of me?  Does anybody read those things?

Because I don’t believe this much pain and suffering is required, I wanted to show you a couple of examples of About pages that work, tell you why they work, and then give you a little formula that might help you feel good about yours. Would that help?  I hope so.

First, a small company.

From http://mariecatribs.com/about/

I’m so toughened against marketing that there isn’t much that catches my fancy for more than a few seconds at a time these days (sad, huh?)  Restaurant websites are not something that usually keep my attention.  But I literally read through this entire page, flipped through every one of the 20-odd photos in the slideshow, smiled all the way through, and wished I lived in Grand Rapids.

Why does it work?

  1. We get to see Marie (of Marie Catrib’s restaurant) doing her thing and obviously just delighted to be doing it
  2. The page title pulls you right in – it’s a universal truth that intrigues you from the first glance. What does that have to do with a restaurant?  Inquiring minds need to know.
  3. It shows that she has been lovingly crafting the whole experience of her restaurant in her head since she was little. That’s the kind of place you want to eat.
  4. It explains why she does this work, why it matters to her.
  5. It gives you a crystal-clear idea of the owner’s values, warmth, creativity, and caring.

In short, it humanizes the restaurant, and makes it the kind of place—and person—you want to support.

Now, a big company


What sets this one apart from the standard, boring corporate About page?

  • Another grabby and fun photo, like Marie’s montage. This one plays off their current humorous ad campaign that centers on the fact that people (apparently) regularly mispronounce the MailChimp name or get it wrong
  • What the company does, and where it came from
  • Their leadership team and their people, displayed in a fun, informal and engaging way
  • Their corporate culture and their work in the community, described in an unstuffy, approachable way  (“MailChimp serves the people and organizations in Atlanta that help make our city better, weirder, and more human.”)

I have a lot of choices when it comes to email marketing services, and most of them are to me (as my friend & mentor Judith Morgan would put it)  “Much of a muchness,” offering very similar services.

I want to work with the one that’s creative, human, approachable, and fun — AND good at what they do. This About page seals the deal for me.

Having trouble with yours?

Here are a handful of tips for making your About page a super-useful page in your site:

  1. Have one.  And call it “About”.  That’s what most peoples’ eyes are looking for when they want to learn more about you.  
  2. Tell people your name, and what you do.  Don’t worry about redundancy. Always remember that, through the mystical world of Google search, they may land here FIRST when they visit your site.  Reiterate, in a very short blurb, who you are and what great thing(s) you offer.
  3. Tell your story, but don’t make it a novella.  Keep it focused, keep it tight.  This might not be a comfortable topic, but it has to be said:  If your About page is a thousand-word tome that rambles through your life journey and work history and trials and tribulations, the intuitive takeaway to potential clients is that a working relationship with you will be similarly unfocused and one-sided.  Instead….
  4. …Start with them.  And end with them.  Wait, you thought the About page was about you?  Well, that’s partly true.  But what you’re really doing out there is connecting with the human being who clicked “About” in your site’s menu. Tell them why you’re good at the thing they came to the site to learn about.  Tell them how your unique history prepared you to help them. Tell them—show them—how passionate about your work you are.  This kind of energy establishes a bond between you and your audience. They know you, like you, trust you
  5. Show yourself.  Yes, the dreaded photo.  Sorry.  But seriously:  If I am online checking you out, with the intent of recommending you to someone important to me, or taking the next step into a business relationship with you, I need to get a sense of you first. I need to see you, hear you, and decide whether I like you.  The best choice for a photo isn’t always a formal headshot. Showing yourself doing the work you love, or in the environment where you do it, can make a stronger connection than just donning the spiffiest suit in your closet.
  6. Don’t use jargon.  Oh, don’t get me wrong. You can use the language of your industry, but steer clear of trying to prove how much you know on your About page by packing it full of niche terminology. By limiting yourself to business-speak and obvious self-promotion, you end up sounding just like everyone else. The idea is to set yourself apart, not prove you’re just as good as the other players in the room.
  7. Write it in your own voice.  Read it out loud to yourself or to a colleague/friend.  Rank it on the stuffy meter, wherever it falls from super-formal to ouch-maybe-too-much-information.  Lean it a smidge more toward the latter than the former.
  8. Answer the question:  Who are you, how can you help me, and what passions/tools/background prepare you to do so?  No more.  No less.

Still have questions?   As always, feel free to drop me a line. Your About page is the second-most important page in the site, after your home page—it’s worth the effort to really make it great.



There, That’s It! Finding the Typefaces that Serve You Best

When I begin building a website with a client, there can be a lot of elements that fall into the category of “Gosh. I’ve never really had to think about that before.”

In addition to the obvious decisions like how many pages you want and whether you need a PayPal account or an email opt-in list, there are more fundamental elements like the right colors, the right photos, and the stickiest wicket of all, the right fonts.

The fonts you use in your site DO matter. Granted, no one is going to say, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly buy my jewelry from someone who uses sans-serif headings.” (And if they do, that’s probably a client you really don’t want.) But fonts can really differ in terms of their readability, their effectiveness, and the different impressions they can make on web readers. Don’t believe me? Here’s a test.

Put yourself in the shoes of a physician who is starting up a new housecall practice. The hurdles in his new business include establishing his credibility, instilling trust in potential new clients, and convincing people that a housecall physician is just as capable and professional as a hospital physician. Here are three typefaces that he’s considering using prominently in his website:


The first font says, “I’m professional, smart, and trustworthy.”

The second font says, “I spent too many years in a M*A*S*H unit and have the bedside manner of a drill instructor.

The third font says, “I’m going to show up at your house with a red ball on my nose.” (now if you WANT a doctor to make your kids laugh while they get their immunizations, that’s a good thing.)

Granted, this an extreme example.   More often than not, we just need to be sure our headings and our main text look harmonious together, and are easily readable even in long blocks of text (p.s. – the web isn’t the place for long blocks of text.)  And the most important of all?  You have to like how your site looks. It has to feel right to you. It has to feel like you.

Many people on the web have created visual cheatsheets that show you some great font pairings that work well with each other. As a visual person, this is really the only way I can imagine how certain things will look.

These three are my favorites … the first is just plain beautiful to use.  The second one gives you the ability to type in your own headlines and text so you can really get a sense of how it will look on your site. The third one … well, I’ll let you play with that. So many choices, but powerful.

Have fun!






If you need your website, please take two minutes to read this note

As much as I prefer to write about the more “human” side of our businesses in my blog posts, this week I really need to go geek on you for just a second.  Please don’t stop reading. This is important.

In a recent newsletter we published a recommendation that you update your WordPress website so it would be safer from attack. While a few people responded to us about this, stats show the majority did not read it.

Everyone’s busy, and so believe me there’s no judgment here. But I would feel terrible if I didn’t impress on everyone just what a big deal this oft-procrastinated thing is, and what it may cost you if you don’t.

(Lest you think this is some kind of sales pitch, it isn’t. I have no vested interest in how you get this done; I just don’t want what’s happening out there to happen to you.)

There was a recent security “hole” discovered in WordPress that opened the door to what’s called a “defacement hack” — the hacking of websites to post spam, porn, ads, or just nasty messages, on your web pages.  If you’re up for a little geeky language, you can learn about this here, but it’s not essential. If you do read it, bear in mind that the numbers they quote of infected sites has grown. A lot.

Three separate clients reported issues over the past week, and it was a bit of mayhem.  Two were just mildly inconvenienced. One site vanished entirely.  The most recent information shows that millions of sites are being hacked.  To be clear: Your clients may visit your site and see . . .shall we say . . .not what you intended. If you do nothing else, please go out and be sure your website is still there, and that you can get into it.

Getting the hackers’ dirty work out of your site is not a simple affair. Their code can reach deep into your website’s guts where it’s very difficult to find and get rid of. Some of it regenerates itself as soon as you delete it. Some tactics change your login name so you can’t get in to manage your own site. Some brings your entire site down, forcing you to rebuild it from a backup copy or from scratch.

I can’t be any more honest than this: Unless you feel you’re in a position to spend a LOT of money and risk your site being down for days or weeks, please go out to it and make sure your version of WordPress is the latest (that would be version 4.7.2, which closes that door).

If your site has a backup system, whereby it backs itself up periodically to keep a safe copy somewhere, then please manually back it up yourself prior to updating.

We are here to help, and the safest way to do this is to buy a smidgen of our time to do it. We’ll back up the site safely, run malware scans to be sure it’s clean, update you to the new squeaky-clean versions of everything, and make sure your site security is good.  BUT I understand that many will want to update their site themselves, or get a techie person in their circle to do it, for cost or other reasons. That is absolutely fine.

However you do it, please do. You are all doing wonderful work in the world, and nobody has spare time to waste on this kind of thing.

Thanks for listening.


How can you help more people and do more good in the world?

I’ve always had a little trouble with the phrase, “passive income.”  It brings up a mental image of someone lying on a fainting couch, the back of her hand draped across her forehead like a white dove, while $50 bills slowly float down to cover her.

This, of course, is my childish imagination at work.  But it was that sort of mental image that kept me from embracing any sort of passive income for many years.  My work was my pride, and exchanging my time and expertise for income felt like “an honest day’s work.”  The personal, one-on-one nature of consulting/helping gave me an inner feeling of making a big difference in the world, one small business or nonprofit at a time.

That cast-iron self-assessment has been unraveling slowly.  It started fraying when a mentor asked me, “How many people do you typically get to help over the course of a year?”  Sitting down and counting was a rather sobering exercise. The answer? Not enough.

She pointed out that there were two ways I could make more of an impact: One would be to find a secret science lair willing to clone me as a full-fledged adult, and send versions of myself all over the world, like some sort of benevolent Orphan Black.  The other would be to create helpful programs and products that could reach the hands of many, many people, without the need to be there one-on-one (also available, of course).

Point taken.

What does passive income look like for small businesses like yours?  It means you create something that benefits many, without you physically having to be there with them. Let’s bring the people you most want to help into the room to help flesh this out.  (Learn about my ideal-audience avatar shown, “Jean,” in this blog post.)


If you’re a life coach, you might offer Jean an email series—an e-course—that gives her a structured program to help get through a challenge  (financial, emotional, career, transition).  These can be set up through email providers like Mailchimp fairly simply with their $10/month package.

If you’re a business consultant, you might bundle your knowledge from a specific area of expertise into a collection of materials you can sell as an e-book or an entire digital toolkit. This could be something you already know that Jean needs/want to learn, in order to advance her career, or build her small business quickly, or acquire needed skills that make her work & life easier and more efficient.

If you offer classes or workshops, Jean might not be able to attend in person or at a set time, but she might be able to benefit from a video, audio, webinar capture, or podcast series that’s not time-dependent.  Many people love to learn this way – the popularity of services like Udemy and Lynda.com will attest to this.

These are just examples, the low-hanging fruit—there are many, many variants on these.  But perhaps it’s enough to entice you to give this all some thought.

Look at what you want to offer the world, and brainstorm a bit about how to offer some of it without needing to be omnipresent.

And yes, all of this serves to create another income stream for you as well.  Which gives you additional resources to create more good in the world. And so forth. It’s a beautiful wheel that can keep going ’round and ’round.

If you’re having trouble visualizing how this might work for your unique situation (I know I did) you might like the free guide to passive income sources offered by my friend and client Laura Brandenburg on her website.  I refer back to it frequently and love her clarity and passion for this topic. Her site and especially her blog posts are spot-on.  She’s pretty amazing.

If you’d like to explore how this might come together for you, please drop me a line and let me know what you’re thinking.  Although I’m far from an expert like Laura, I can discuss the logistics and costs that might be involved in bringing your idea to life via your website and social media.

Have a great February, all.


Finding the Right Images without Brain Damage

While it’s possible to make an interesting site without a single photograph or graphic, I think that’s the (tiny) exception rather than the rule. So if you write blog posts, put things on social media, or just want to keep your site fresh, seeking out the right images is something we’ll almost all need to do from time to time. But where do you get them? Where do you go to look, and how do you find something good once you get there? Read on, MacDuff.


Who Are You Trying to Help? Go Beyond the “Ideal Client”

In my circles, a good website is an invitation to a conversation that will show people they can believe in you, so you can take the next step together toward something better. Knowing who you’re conversing with has to come first.


Life Lessons from 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

No, not the song. Though once in a while I will try to recite that in my head to combat insomnia. It’s much more interesting than sheep.

But then I turn into . . . well . . . me. And my mind wanders off to, “What kinds of beer? Is there a good IPA? Who am I drinking with? Haven’t they had enough? Who’s going to drive them home?”

And after that it’s just counterproductive.

So no, this 99 Bottles of Beer is a jigsaw puzzle, currently in residence on our dining room table, about one-fifth complete.

When I can’t sleep, because I can’t seem to turn off the mind chatter, I’ve been doing a bit of puzzling. It un-tethers my brain and lets it float. And as the bottles on the wall slowly begin to show themselves piece by piece, it occurs to me that there are a lot of similarities between my business life as a whole, and this puzzle. See if you agree:

I can’t be linear with everything.

No one I know does a jigsaw puzzle by starting with the bottom-most row of pieces, and then the next row above that, and so forth to the top. (If they do, they have a lot of time on their hands.) In life, things don’t always go 1-2-3 either, and I have to dial down the frustration with that, and trust that sometimes it’s the best way to where I want to end up.

The edges are the easiest and best way to start.

I get a feeling of accomplishment when I “frame in” a puzzle, a project, a new business offering, or anything else. It not only gives me a much-needed dose of optimism, it also turns it from an amorphous blog into something with shape, structure and possibility.

Some days I have the time and space to make a lot of progress, and lots of pieces fall into place.

But on other days, I have to settle for just a couple of bits of improvement. That’s all okay. There’s no good purpose in self-flagellation here. Instead of grousing, I DO try to create more breathing room, even if it’s just an extra fifteen minutes a day, to improve my business and my life. And I keep on keepin’ on.

I have no choice but to proceed with complete faith that eventually it’s all going to come together.

When you have a thousand pieces to assemble, you can’t do it all at once. Puzzles force you to live in the mindset that all the little pieces and parts, if you calmly keep working on them, will add up to a beautiful whole.

Capitalize on—and relish—my small successes, even if it’s not “all done” yet.

Isn’t it cool when all of a sudden, you’re able to assemble a big block of pieces all together, to make a face, or a flower, or a Newcastle Brown Ale label? Who cares if it’s just a disconnected blob of pieces smack in the middle of the puzzle, with space all around it? That successful cluster, and others like it, all give me firm ground, another place to start and grow from.

Sometimes, it’s the tiniest detail that gives “the right piece” away.

Jigsaws teach your eyes to look for detail. And not just any detail—but the specific thing you need. A picture or letter, or a specific color or shape, when planted in your brain, will attract your eye in an almost magical way. In my work, when I’m clearest about what I’m searching for, and about what purpose it will serve, it is many times more likely that I’ll find it.

Sometimes what I need is sitting right in front of my face and I overlook it a hundred times before suddenly seeing it.

Even when I feel as though I’m asking the right question (such as “What helpful action can I take to make XYZ happen?”), the right answers sometimes don’t want to come, day after day. Then one day, I’ll look at something I’ve been tripping over, ignoring, or being irritated by for days, and realize it’s the perfect answer. Staring at me. Patiently waiting for me to pay attention.

Just because I can’t find it doesn’t mean there must be a piece missing.

Sometimes what I need just doesn’t seem to be there, no matter how hard I look. Then, suddenly, it is. If I stop looking because I convince myself there must be something fundamentally wrong with the game, I’ve done myself a great disservice. I’ll only know for sure when there are literally no more pieces to place.

So until then, I’ll keep going. Piece by piece.

Puzzle on, everybody. It’s all going to come together.


Need help putting some pieces together of your own?


I love helping both clients and not-yet-clients do what they do best, by saving them time, helping them get the word out about their work, and being their sherpa for all things Web.

Contact me and let’s talk about how—together—we can make 2017 an amazing year for you and your business.





Social Media for the Sensitive Entrepreneur

My dad would’ve called it a “hissy fit.” I prefer “tantrum” myself. Whatever it was, it wasn’t pretty.

There I was, minding my own business, checking up on a client’s business page on Facebook. Not just any client, but a thoroughly kind and thoughtful soul. Poking through posts and their replies to see what conversations she was sowing, I came across a bizarre, politically-biased response so full of vitriol that it made me instinctively lean back, away from the screen. It was a profanity-laced paragraph labeling my client as “one of those nut jobs who’s ruining America,” and other choice proclamations.

Social Media frustration

The advantage of having someone like me manage your social media? They know how to make those things go away. But after I did, I stormed away from my office, slamming the door and putting my coffee cup on the sink so angrily it shattered into pieces.

My little dog Gordon found me on the couch staring straight ahead, and talked me into taking a walk in the forest. That got some of the poison out. But I knew that day that, effective immediately, I had to find ways to move through social media without letting it ruin my peace of mind, my blood pressure, or my cortisol levels.

The Social Media Jungle

Depending on who you listen to, the world of social media is either A) a handy way to keep tabs on friends, family members, clients, and other interesting people, all in one place, or B) a vast wasteland of self-absorbed people who use it as a bully pulpit because they love the sound of their own voices. Astute readers will note that it’s actually both. Beautiful conversations and connections take place on social media. And terrible ones take place there as well.

It’s the latter that make dealing with social media so stressful for people like me, who need (and want) to engage there for business purposes. Not everyone finds it stressful, but as an introverted intuitive person who’s sensitive to the needs and pain of others, it can be utterly overwhelming at times.

Why Does It Have to be So Hard?

1) Social media is something impersonal masquerading as personal. No matter how pretty a picture you want to paint, it is always going to be a poor substitute for true human interaction, which is rich in inflection & tone, body language, the meeting of eyes, and (generally) social boundaries. It’s not real. Real is real. Mind you, it can close up distances, such as the 5000 miles between my wonderful coach and I. But when a good friend who lives down the block says “Happy birthday” via Facebook rather than taking the 2 minutes to call or even leave a kilogram of Belgian chocolate in your mailbox, it’s a sign our species is going somewhere I don’t want to follow.

2) As we’re all aware, the anonymity of the online world – real or perceived – brings out the worst in certain people. Perfectly rational people say things online that they would never in a million years consider saying if they were standing in the same room with you. Sometimes these things are vicious, spiteful, critical, even hate-filled. I’ll often get an image of a snarling, chained dog, spraying spittle as he tries to get free and latch onto your throat. It unleashes the inner jackass of many people.

3) Conversely, others tend to put only their best foot forward on social media, wanting so badly for the world to think of them as good people, to approve of them, to socialize or work with them. With words and pictures they have carefully crafted an online persona that, upon meeting or working with them, turns out to have little basis in reality. You’re expecting the Dalai Lama; you get something more like Rush Limbaugh in a “Save the Whales” t-shirt.


When You Have to Enter the Jungle

Social media is no longer just a place to share vacation photos, post upcoming life events, and say hi to Cousin Bob. More often these days, it seems like a place to stake out your value system and defend it to the death. Lurking amid the sharings of Kahlil Gibran and favorite Thai restaurants, waiting to spring, are people desperate to be heard, and to prove at any cost that they are right.

Express virtually any original thought online, and it’s a safe bet you’ll become a jerk magnet, attracting people eager to argue, to show you the error of your ways. And that’s tiring.

Turning our backs on this dysfunctional space isn’t really an option for entrepreneurs. Many of us have Facebook pages and groups we manage. In order to reach out to far-flung readers everywhere, we need to spend a certain number of minutes each day or each week in our accounts. We answer questions. We disseminate useful tips and information. We offer support and encouragement. We intermingle with people interested in what we do.

In order to get to talk to those readers, and even when we’re interacting online with them, we have to brave the rest of it: the complainers and the attackers, the armchair critics of all stripes, the interrupters and the conversation-dominators.

How can we reap the best of social media without having it drain the joy from our day and replace it with tension and stress?

Map, Compass, Machete, and Bug Spray

Here are some tactics and tools that may help make it easier to enter that space and keep your sanity:

1) Get clear about why you’re on social media in the first place.

Very few of us set up social media accounts with the express purpose of getting into arguments with people we’ve never met, listening to rants, or hearing endless tales of woe from distant relatives. Be purposeful about social media. Decide why you’re entering that world—what you want to get out of it. Here are my reasons, just to offer an example:

  • I want another way to stay in touch with people who add to my life – people I love, people who are wise, people whose presence in my life feeds me.
  • I want to connect with people doing good things in the world. I want more access to good news, which isn’t as profitable and therefore is harder to find.
  • I want to keep up with my clients, and share their wonderfulness with others who might not yet know them.
  • I want to share bits of myself with others, in the hopes it’ll make someone’s minute/day/life better in some small way.

When I’m tempted to start bickering with someone who’s being insulting, obstinate, pushy, or downright hateful, I try hard to remember my list . . . and to note that “Teach a lesson to jerks who desperately need a beat-down” isn’t on it.

Why are you out there? Get clear. Write it on a brightly-colored sticky note that will catch your eye when you’re tempted down the Facebook/Twitter rabbit hole especially.

2) Turn off notifications on your desktop or mobile.

Have you ever been seated next to someone at a restaurant whose phone bleeped, pinged, squeaked, and buzzed through the entire meal? How would it feel to have someone following you all day long, randomly poking you in the arm without warning, without rhyme or reason? “Hey. Hey Margaret. You know what? Hey, hey, are you listening?”

Unless your business depends on getting immediate notifications of every small detail that happens in your world (think stock broker, surgeon on call, political PR director), do yourself a huge favor and turn off “push” notifications. 

3) Take time to get to know your social media settings.

There are a lot of people on social media who don’t know how to change their settings in order to keep out the things and people they don’t want to see. A friend expressed frustration at the sheer volume of notifications flying past all day long – unaware that with a click she could control who appears in her feed and who doesn’t. Learn how to use each service. Check out their how-to regarding privacy, timelines/feeds, and notifications. On Facebook in particular, learn how to turn off notifications if and when you need to, so you stop seeing what you don’t want to see. And…

4) …Make friends with the Unfriend/Unfollow functions.

We are all pulled in a hundred different directions every day, and most of us suffer from the insidious effects of stress in one way or another. Do you really need to add to it the complaints, insults, demeaning jokes, and arguments of distant relatives and sorta-friends? Are the photos of your middle school friend drinking at the football game adding something to your life? Does your happiness hinge on being perfectly up to date with the latest gory news stories, gross injustices, political outrages?

Consider paring down the people in your online world to just those who make you feel better, not worse. People you actually know, like, and trust. Or even those you don’t know personally but who have something kind, or wise, or supportive to say. For the rest, either turn off their voice in your feed or delete them altogether. And watch your blood pressure go down.

5) Get relief with helpful tools

Lucky for us, software developers get just as annoyed on social media as we do. They’ve been hard at work dreaming up ways to give us more control.

Want to filter out specific topics, people’s names, ads, that annoying celebrity news feed on Facebook? Social Fixer and FB Purity are add-ons that allows you to block, hide, and filter out annoyances of all kinds — literally giving you the power to control exactly what you see. If you’re a Twitter user, Lifehacker has some suggestions for filtering your Twitter feed. When in doubt, google “filter posts on {insert a social media service here} and see what’s available.

Can’t stop yourself from spending too much time on social media? Try one of the blocking tools like Freedom, Self Control, Stay Focusd, or Cold Turkey.


Social media outlets can be useful tools for keeping connected with people who help us have the kind of life and work we want. If we can all make conscious choices about why we are using these tools, and put intelligent, thoughtful limits on how we engage there, we can have the best of both the “real” and online worlds.

Do you have any tips, tactics, or tools that you use to engage in social media without losing your peace of mind?  What has helped you?  Please share in the comments below — thanks!


Marketing Integrity: Can We Ditch the Pitch?

“Can we just stop with The Secret you Need to get XYZThe Successful Women Upleveling Strategies; and The 7 Steps to Having it All? Seriously. Let’s stop that. You’re implying that you know what I need; you have it and I don’t; I’m less-than without it; and only you can open the door.”

Okay. Picture this:

You’ve just received two emails, each promoting an upcoming workshop. Both sound super-useful. You believe that either one might truly help you ratchet your business or organization up to a better place. You’re thrilled you have the time to attend, but there’s a catch: you can only afford one of them.

One of the workshop promoters ends her email with,

“You don’t want to miss this amazing opportunity to invest in yourself and your amazing business! We won’t offer this again until 2022! We’ll see you there on March 7th!”

The other promoter says,

“We’d love to help you craft a business that supports you and your clients. Does this workshop sound like something you’ve been looking for? If so, we hope you’ll sign up for our next session on March 7th.”

Which do you respond to – which makes you feel like hitting the signup button? Which feels better in your gut?

This isn’t a trick question, and there’s no correct answer. But how my differing clients have responded has provided some food for thought for me this week.

The integrity thing.

I’m into integrity. It’s been one of my favorite words since I was an impressionable kid, and heard it on TV. (Yes, I was that geeky kid who had her own dictionary at 6.)

  1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles;
    synonyms: honesty, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, virtue, decency, fairness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness, e.g. “no one doubted her integrity”
  1. the state of being whole and undivided;
    synonyms: unity, unification, coherence, cohesion, togetherness, solidarity, e.g. “upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty”
  1. the condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction.
    synonyms: soundness, strength, sturdiness, solidity, durability, stability, stoutness, toughness, e.g. “the structural integrity of the aircraft”

Honest. Whole and undivided. Sturdy and strong.

Was that a groovy word to fall in love with, or what?

Fast forward to 1997, when I started daydreaming about a business of my own. I wasn’t sure about the details yet, but I knew I wanted to make something that was breathtakingly honorable, that let me be in tight solidarity with clients, and that was sturdy and stable enough to support me financially.

So here’s what that idealism evolved into: I get to know other businesspeople. I’m honest, whole-hearted, and strong with them and for them. I’m a careful observer of what they need in order to be happy, or happier. I have products and services that might help many of them. I try to articulate those clearly, and then provide paths for the right people to work with me. It’s good, meaningful work that makes me feel good about myself.

Yet increasingly, all around me, I see marketers taking a different tack. And not just taking it themselves, but recommending it to thousands of people as the golden ticket to success.

Is this the only way to succeed?

In a recent newsletter from author John Parkin, he pondered statements like the marketingspeak I began this post with. “We’ll see you there,” “Thank you for your patience,” and “Thanks in advance for signing up” are everyday examples. He saw this use of language as manipulation, and wondered why people couldn’t simply speak more honestly and directly.

I nodded all the way through that newsletter. True, there are folks making a bajillion dollars on products and services with this sort of manipulation. You’ll know them from the 72-point headers shouting at you about what you can’t afford to miss out on. They kindly offer reminders that there won’t be another chance to (insert action), and won’t you be sorry? They sneak in subtle or not-so-subtle rebukes of those who won’t “invest in themselves.”

We all know this type. They’re everywhere. Because it works.

It works because there are human beings out there who see nothing wrong with being spoken to in this way. We are so inured to media manipulation that it may not even register as such. It’s just business, right?

But for me, and for most people in my circles, it’s not.

Ten times out of ten, I prefer consuming goods and services from people who see me as an individual, a unique person worthy of respect, capable of making my own decisions. And pushy salespeople—no matter how famous they are, how many books sold, how many followers, how many “Likes”—are, for me, the face of disrespect.

How many of us have been badgered to sign up for a marketer’s mailing list, only to have them flood our email box with aggressive, loud, bouncy sales pitches daily . . . even several times daily. It’s as though you’re trapped in email hell with a Chatty Cathy saleperson who loves the sound of her own voice, or are stuck standing next to a carnival barker. Let me tell you about this amazing thing!  Can you believe some people would pass this by?  You know you need it/want it/deserve it!  

In the most insidious cases marketers even use their mailing list manager’s tools to track your opens, responses and clicks, so they can—automatically—get up in your grill with nag emails: “We noticed you haven’t signed up for X yet and we’re curious why not…”

For me, it doesn’t get much more obnoxious than that.

Even a marketer’s repeated use of quasi-friendly statements like “Can’t wait to see you there!” (um, no, you might not), “Don’t wait—sign up now!” (can I finish my lunch first?), and “Thanks in advance for joining us!” (seriously?) can push me away from a perfectly good offering.

Why? Because I know these folks don’t see me. They see a prospect, with a pulse and a wallet. They see their almighty List growing by one. They see their PayPal account saying cha-ching as many times as possible in a day, starting with me. They’re on the third jab and they’re looking to land the right hook.

It doesn’t hurt my feelings a bit. But it also doesn’t get my money. It’s business, yes. It’s just one of the faces of business that I don’t feel obliged to support.

Food for thought

  • When you’re out there seeking supporters, buyers, clients, and customers for your business, do you use scarcity or manipulation to “seal the deal?”
  • Do you believe in a vigorously persuasive approach, using language to herd audience members into your solution rather than a competitor’s?
  • Are you tempted to point out the repercussions if they don’t choose to purchase?
  • Is the local online marketing guru trying to convince you that the hard sell is the ONLY way to “not leave money on the table”?

Here’s my two cents: I would offer that marketing yourself with complete integrity—and without manipulation—is a standout skillset that’s beneficial across the board, from attracting the kinds of clients you love working with, to seeing a healthy bottom line.

Your potential clients are intelligent, thoughtful, hard-working, sometimes stressed-out individuals. The carnival barkers are everywhere, so in this noisy world it can be integrity that stands out as courageous, comforting, and convincing.

In an upcoming post, I’ll give some examples of marketers that operate 100% from a place of compassion, interest, and honesty, and who are wildly successful doing it.

Thanks for listening, and remember to be honest, whole-hearted, and sturdy.


The Morning Routine: Ten Minutes That Change Everything

It seems like I was a latecomer to the “early morning routine” trend.  I didn’t really trip over that concept until 2014, when suddenly (to me) it seemed to be everywhere I looked.  Leo Babauta had written about it long before on his great blog ZenHabits.net.  Tony Robbins has been talking about it for ages.  Hal Elrod wrote a whole book about the “miracle morning” in 2012. But somehow I’d missed all of that until two years ago, and then it took until the second half of 2015 to finally find a way of doing it that changed my life.

The morning ritual is something that’s been written about in Fast Company, Inc., the Wall Street Journal, and about a trillion other publications.  It’s been popular among high achievers for centuries. Marcus Aurelius had a morning ritual. Benjamin Franklin had one.  Mark Twain contributed the often-quoted advice more than a hundred years ago, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day” (translation: get the hard things out of the way first).  The theory is that, by starting your day with a routine that combines contemplation, goal-setting, and various kinds of activities, you can set yourself up to have a productive, focused, and happy day—by intent, not by luck.

Leo Babauta (one of my heroes) first wrote about his morning routine in 2007 here.  His routine starts at 4:30am and takes about two hours.  Tony Robbins often talks about his “Hour of Power” and even had a podcast you could tune into if you couldn’t motivate yourself to do it alone.  Hal Elrod has a handy acronym for his version of it, S.A.V.E.R.S. – short for Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, Scribe — which I tried for a while. It took about 30 minutes, and covered a lot of bases.

Each would last about two weeks. Then I’d find all the excuses in the world not to do it.

No matter what it says about me, I found that ALL of these were just too much of a time commitment to be sustainable.  I’m a person who does her most inspired work in the early morning within an hour of waking up, and I couldn’t seem to get myself to consistently postpone that creative window with a big block of time for a ritual.

In August of 2015, though, I attended a workshop offered by local entrepreneur Katy Moses Huggins called Kick Start Your Business.  Lots of super-useful stuff came out of that workshop, much of which still inhabit my work systems.  But the part I implemented immediately, and which has made a monumental difference in my work in the world, was her morning ritual, which takes about 10 minutes. It looks something like this for me:

3 minutes of movement.  Whatever gets breath, body, blood moving.  I usually click on the coffee pot, set a timer, and do 3 minutes of whatever movement seems to fit that morning.  Stepping up and down the carpeted step down into my family room, walking around lifting hand weights, easy yoga positions or stretching, standing crunches, whatever feels right.

1 minute of deep, rhythmic breathing.  I am a person who routinely robs her brain of oxygen when stressed, by shifting my breathing to shallow, short breaths.  Conscious deep breathing oxygenates my brain and gets me thinking more clearly almost immediately.

3 minutes of gratitude.  Even on the most stressful of mornings, I force myself to be quiet and think of all of the people, places, things, fateful life events, everything and anything good that has graced my life and made me what I am. Instead of diving right into everything that’s wrong and needs to be fixed, I start with what’s right.

3 minutes of powerful actions I can take that day to make progress toward the life I want.  I keep a special, inviting multicolored journal and pen on the coffee table to sit and do this part.  It guides my entire day.  Taking a hint from Leo Babauta, I write down my three “MITs” (most important things) that I want to be sure I complete before the end of the day.  And then anything else that my gut says would bring me to day’s end feeling complete, powerful and happy.

That’s 10 minutes.  This short amount of time works for me.  I have a very slow-dripping coffee machine, and I find that I can usually complete the whole ritual while it’s doing its thing.  Then I can move into my day, which usually involves doing some writing first (daily writing being one of my goals for the last few years), then working on my MITs.

I’ve never been one who could easily stick to a routine.  I’m just not wired that way.  I follow sparks of inspiration hither, thither and yon, and sometimes I get to the end of my work day and feel as though I had fun, but didn’t get anywhere near the work output I’d hoped for.

This morning ritual has been part of my life since last summer, and I can honestly say that when I DON’T make time for it, for whatever reason (insomnia, early morning crises, etc)  I feel it just as acutely as I would feel forgetting to eat, or having a bad cold.  I’m “off” in every way, and at the end of the day, it feels like I’ve been wandering around like a Roomba, running into limitations and turning around and around, covering the territory of my life but sooo inefficiently.

And frankly, there are too many things I want to do with my remaining days here on Earth to waste time that way.

Do you have a morning ritual?  What does it look like?  I’d love it if you’d share it with us below.