Don't Just Communicate, Make Me Feel Something

Seeking a bit of respite in different environs after being cocooned in my office for four days, it was time to venture out to a new coffee shop/restaurant/barber shop I'd seen while trudging home from the subway.  As I sat down at my table, this little sign greeted me.

The advent of the remote worker has inundated coffee shops with neighborhood denizens, faces stuffed in screens. These blue-faced laptop dwellers limit the shop's chances for customers who help them pay the rent and maybe even bring a bit extra home for the fancy wine they like to drink at night. It takes a whole lotta cups of coffee + tea to make rent, especially where I live in New York. No wonder they zealously guard their over-priced retail shop against these space invaders.

As someone who finds white noise the best sort of writing environment, I'm guilty of littering coffee shops with my presence. There's a shop I used to frequent whose method of driving away low-paying, long-staying laptop users was to  remove all power outlets in the seating area. One day they were simply gone, their sparks of light never to be seen again on this side of the counter. We've all seen the signs in establishments that are signed by "management." If this company wanted to go the authority route, they might have placed signs that said: No laptops after 5pm, the Management. 

One Goal, Different Messages

All of these coffee shops had the same goal: to limit the number of low paying, low turnover customers in favor of higher paying, higher turnover ones. Now, which of these places do you think you'd feel most comfortable? The one that was playful + upfront, the slightly passive-aggressive place or the one that used authority + control to set the tone in their establishment? 

Your intent is revealed through your words + actions. The place with the playful sign may need to maximize their earning opportunities but they communicate it in a way that makes me feel like they actually care about me. 

What Are YOU Communicating? 

There are plenty of ways to show your personality and influence how your customers + prospects feel when they interact with you. Of course there's your 140, the land that practically inserts humor into your tweets with lol cats and animated gifs. But there are plenty more.

Your 404 page. 

Landing page. 

Your newsletter signup. 

Your CTAs. 

Your email sign-off. 

Take a peek at these communication outlets. Ask yourself: Do they communicate rigidity? Do they sound drier than a tax document? How do they make you feel? Do they make you feel anything?

Most people walk around zombie-like, stumbling through the day. Wake them up. Make them pay attention. If you make them feel something they're going to remember you much longer. Now that you have your answers, don't you think it's time to get editing?

What Happens When You Put Love Into Your Product

Putting love into your business is branding in itself. In fact, putting love into your business might just be the #1 way to grow your brand. 

Let me illustrate. 

I have a favorite coffee shop. The baristas and chefs treat their work like a craft despite the fact that most of them are musicians, writers and the like whose real craft is something else. The drinks are pricey but their frothy, perfectly balanced confections are worth every cent.  Except for one barista. Pretty sure she’s actually the owner who is most often at the register except on Sundays—when she’s behind the bar.

Her drinks have zero style. Want the beautiful leaf etched in the top of your foamy latte? You’re lucky if your latte has any froth at all. Want your drink to be just on the edge of hot on a cold day? You’ll be happy if it’s just on the other side of lukewarm. Sometimes they're barely drinkable and on occasion I have to throw her drinks away, forgoing $4 and my favorite chai tea after having walked more than half a mile.

Disappointed? Nah. I'm downright dejected when this happens.

This full-time owner, sometime barista operates the bar slinging drinks like it’s an assembly line. It’s feels as if she's simply counting the dollars coming in rather than focusing on the quality of what she’s putting out. When you focus on the dollars and not the craft you not only put out a shitty product; you’re actually doing more harm to your business than you might think. Without love or mindfulness, your product just becomes yet another item of consumption, it doesn’t stand out. When your customer doesn’t feel love oozing through your service they’re less likely to get hooked on it and they’ll go somewhere else. 

I’m not gonna pretend that I’ve never done this. There were whole stretches of time back in the late 90’s when I hated what I was doing. Rather than crafted with love, my work was laden with fear. Yep. I was doing this work because I was afraid I couldn’t do what I loved. I was motivated just to survive financially rather than to thrive. It was pretty obvious. If that company was still in existence  Sure, I showed up to work everyday, working 60+ weeks regularly. But. I was slogging away, being dragging along rather than gleefully leading the way spreading my love for my tasks.

When you find yourself in this position you must take action: Bake some love into your product and if you can’t, perhaps you need to pivot what you’re doing or make a career change.

When I realized that I had no love to give this particular kind of task, I left that field and moved into my current work. Now I love each and every client. I tend to their brand as if it were my own brand child. If I don’t think I can love someone’s brand I pass on their business. 

Babette's Artisanal Bread, Denver, CO
Babette's Artisanal Bread, Denver, CO

Let me tell you about another brand; a place where love is baked right into the product. Babette’s Artisanal Breads. This husband and wife driven shop makes the most delightful artisanal bread you’ll ever have outside of France. Each loaf of bread is tended to by the loving hands of Steve, the owner who adds flourishes like a beautiful stencil on the top of the loaf. While the pretty design doesn’t change the taste, it does delight the eye. It makes you feel special. I once bought a loaf just for that stencil. Even though I can’t eat much of it due to serious gluten issues I love giving this man money.

When you put love into your business…

- Your clients notice 

- It makes you happier

- You’re more proud of your work 

- You produce a better product 

- You transition away from things you don’t love faster

- Your brand grows much more faster

This applies to all sorts of businesses, not just those which makes things to delight your taste buds. Other businesses where love is apparent include: Maptia and The Pack. And if you’ve ever flown Southwest you know that they LOVE what they do. 

I know there are plenty of brands who bake love right into their product. What are some of your favorite examples? 

Why You Should Rethink Your Startup Uniform

Uniforms are just for school kids right? Nope. I just passed a crowd of 15 people -- every single one wore a blue or light colored button down, dark suit pants and a black soft briefcase slung over their shoulder. The two women in the crowd had the same outfit -- just substitute pants for skirts.

There it was, the corporate uniform.

My corporate days a dim career memory and firmly ensconced in the technology and startup worlds, I'm grateful I spend little time trying to be "appropriate" these days. Though I have more freedom I wouldn't say my current career world is immune to the notion of an industry uniform. The startup industry has its own: jeans, a pair of converse and of course, a free logoed t-shirt or hoodie. Um, uniform kettle, you're black.

It's more casual, there's less pressure to wear "appropriate" attire but still, we can't claim superiority as much as we might like. We need to wipe that smug smile off our faces and accept that going along with the crowd is sometimes easier than doing the hard work to figure exactly who we are and how we wish to represent ourselves.

I have my own uniform battle. The irony of my uniform noticing moment is that I was on my way to the Denver City Council meeting when Denver Startup Week, where I'm the marketing co-chair, was going to be honored with a proclamation. We were all instructed to wear our startup t-shirts to make a strong showing. In my case it was a Denver Startup Week t-shirt. Of course I wanted to pimp out the event I'd been working on for 6 months so naturally I was going to wear our t-shirt. But still, I wanted to feel like me. So I wore funky Tom's wedge shoes, boyfriend jeans and blazer with a punk vibe over my t-shirt. Yes I was still pimping out my event -- I am the person in charge of marketing after all -- but I made it mine.

Maybe you're thinking Suzan, I get dressed by doing the sniff test every morning. Or perhaps, I'm so busy coding or building out my idea that my clothes are my 10th priority. Or, why does this even matter?

It matters because every moment you're in public you're transmitting an image. Perhaps you don't want to think about that. It's too much pressure. People shouldn't judge a book by its startup t-shirt or ratty jeans. I get it.

But still.

They do.

Do you want to wear a uniform? Or do you want to carve out an uncommon physical presence that gets you recognized?

I'm not completely heartless. I know it's easy to fall into the uniform trap. Sometimes the subtext is "I need to fit in so it calms my imposter syndrome." Other times it's a lack of realization that others actually notice. 

I'm not telling you to become metrosexual (is that a thing anymore?) or, spend an hour getting ready. I'm also not saying you need to retire all your startup t-shirts. I'm simply saying be in charge of your image -- and your career. Don't wear something just because you think you should. Figure out what your signature is -- understand the DNA of your personal brand. Oh yes, I did just use personal brand -- and on purpose -- because it really is just an extension of you as a person.

Understanding what drives you, your values and how it looks visually might affect your success more than you think. This isn't just all hyperbole. Here's a quick anecdote with hard facts and lots of dollar signs. I once worked with a pair of developers turned entrepreneurs who went from making 1 sale on very high-end products (read: expensive) to more than 100 in less than a year after understanding their personal brand and then bringing out the best of it.

So whaddaya say?

Time to give up the sniff test and the cattle call in favor of a more effective method that brings you the things Brick2-1you want? 

p.s. This also goes for your website, business cards and anything else that transmits your "brand" or serves as your public face.