July 26, 2011


before and after (click to enlarge)Authenticity is doing what you promise, not “being who you are”.
— Seth Godin

You're a faker. I am too. That's fine.

There's so much talk about the importance of being authentic. Who would want to be inauthentic? Yet we are and need to be.

We're continually working to make ourselves look better than we really are. Our studio photos look better than we do (at least mine do). Wordsmithing makes our words more convincing. Our clothing and accessories affect our impact. We get coaching. Our designers make our logos and websites look better than we could. Today, I changed out of shorts into a suit to visit a client who was … wearing shorts.

There's makeup too. Who would argue against us being ourselves, but better?

Like It Is

Please don't tell me about authenticity. Brands and personas are made, not born, and we use them because they work. — Seth Godin
Some people will “tell it like it is”. They think this honesty is admirable and don't seem to care who gets offended. This blunt “take it or leave it” approach limits their success. They may be authentic but they're hurting themselves. What good is that?

Is Coke still authentic after corn syrup replaced the sugar? Some changes may be better for shareholders than customers and lead to cynicism when discovered.

Who Are You?

If you catch yourself making a promise that's been made before, stop. Don't spend a lot of time and effort building credibility with this sort of promising, because it doesn't pay off. — Seth Godin
If we're inauthentic, how does anyone know who we really are? They'll have trouble seeing through our facade because our behaviour often changes with the situation. I’m back in shorts.

Clues help. That's where your digital tapestry makes a difference. It's difficult to maintain a facade over time. Consistent persistent generosity shines through. People have innate ways to sense what's genuine.
Showing our better selves can make us better as we work to match our image. That's virtuous.


PS How authentic are you?

July 19, 2011


road sign: better than straight?The usual way to sell Q is by showing your expertise in Q.

There's another way. Show your expertise in R (something else) to imply your expertise in Q. This works best if
  1. your expertise in Q is indisputable
  2. R is more interesting than Q

Twist Mitch

Mitch Joel gives great presentations and writes a thought-provoking blog, Six Pixels of Separation. He rarely discusses the marketing services his firm, Twist Image, provides. Yet, I’m left feeling that he and his team must be excellent at what they do. Perception becomes reality.

You probably have your own examples. Maybe you see someone who’s devoted to fundraising. Don’t you figure they’re generous, successful and excellent at what they sell?

Transference isn't guaranteed. You may be a wonderful singer but that doesn’t mean you’re great at fixing leaky basements. There’s such a disconnect.

Why Detours Work

How you do anything is how you do everything.
— T Harv Eker
What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
— Stephen Covey
People may have trouble gauging how good you are at what you sell, especially if you provide a service. Both quotations show why the four habits of the highly referable are so powerful: they imply you do other things well.

What do your clients really want? Probably to increase their revenue without buying what you sell. Help them reach their goals and they'll assume you're great at what earns you money. Why wouldn’t they then hire you or refer you? That’s reciprocity and authority in action, two of the universal principles of influence.

The Core

To imply expertise, first become excellent at the core of what you do. Apply the 10,000 hour rule and then expand. This will be easy for you but difficult for others to copy since few push through The Dip to mastery.


I've designed life & health insurance products and advised top advisors. When I blog or speak about marketing, you’re likely inferring that I’m still expert in the dull world of insurance. Why discuss marketing? That topic opens more doors and attracts large audiences. Discussing social media has been especially effective since 2008.

What you sell may be seen as a periodic unpleasant purchase. You might not get repeat business for years. If you have a more appealing topic, you’re more likely to maintain ongoing contact. Maybe your magnet is your hobby?

You might even find another stream of revenue.

Do You Charge?

Marketers like Dan Kennedy advise you to sell everything you can: a better mousetrap, a book/video bundle on how to design mousetraps, a seminar and a paid newsletter. Maybe that would work for you.

I've been offered money for my marketing help. I've refused for two reasons. First, I'd get distracted. Success comes from focus … which comes from saying no … which frees up time to focus. Second, my advice would be less credible. You make more money when others rely on you (selling them fish). Without any marketing services to sell, I focus on sharing quick ways to self-sufficiency (teaching them to fish). That works well.

The scenic route is more enjoyable than the boring freeway. You never know who you’ll meet along the way.


PS Would a detour help you too?

July 12, 2011


If you're looking for help with social media, you'll find many vendors ready to take your money. How do you hire a social media expert you trust to deliver on the promises? Let's look at some of the warning signs.

Wrong Author

You'll likely be shown examples of social media success. The vendor implies they participated but this isn't always true. One firm showed Facebook pages for well-known companies and said this was the kind of work they do. That does not mean the vendor did the work shown.

There's a related caution. Are you shown the sources for videos, graphics and other content? Sometimes the credits are suppressed, which is disrespectful to the creators and misleading. You might think the vendor created something they nabbed from YouTube.

Wrong Examples

What works for Starbucks, Zappos and Coca-Cola isn't the right or only answer. It's not as if fools have marketed Tim Hortons and Pepsi to the edge of bankruptcy. What works for other companies need not work for you.

Wrong Country

What works in the US may flop elsewhere. Wal-Mart left Germany. Are you shown examples suited for your country?

Wrong Category

What works for mass market products may not work for niche products or intangibles. For instance, buying insurance is not as simple or routine as getting your daily coffee. If you choose the wrong brew, the cost is low and damage minimal. If you spill the stuff and stain your clothing, you might sue because there's no warning that this might happen. (Note: this is not legal advice. Consult your lawyer before seeking lawsuit windfalls.)

Wrong Timeframe

A search engine optimization vendor said that getting on Google's first page takes six months. That's a nice way to get a contract for half a year. You can get on page one anytime based on factors like your content (though Google Realtime search is currently unavailable). You could also buy Google Adwords if earning attention takes too long.

Fish or Fishing

Is the vendor teachingg you to fish or selling you the catch of the day every day? There are often low-cost, easy-to-use, easy-to-implement options that will give you reasonably good results instantly.

Say you want to gauge how your company is mentioned in social media. Why not start with Google Analytics, Google Alerts, Twitter searches and Facebook searches. They are all free. Going beyond, there are other tools like Google PostRank, Klout and PeerIndex --- free or inexpensive. As your needs and understanding grows, you can upgrade to fancy dashboards with nice graphs.

Once the novelty is gone, what actions will you take based on the data you receive? If you aren't likely to do much, how does gathering more help? If your primary concern is crisis management, do you really have a problem that Google, Twitter or Facebook won't quickly spot? You connections with phone or email are part of your early warning system too.


What's left out is often matters. How do you know what's missing? Seek a vendor that's an advocate for customers like you. You'll see this in how they educate you for free via text, audio or video.

David Ogilvy's brilliant 1,900 word ad from the 1960s shows customers how to advertise. Do you think education hurts sales?


PS Have you had bad experiences with "experts"?

July 5, 2011


Social media workshop speakers (click to enlarge)Does social media feel as normal to you as using email or a smartphone? That's my reaction.

I started blogging in 2007 and speaking about the benefits of social media in 2008. I'm often asked for how-to help but this is impractical to provide.

The solution? Hands-on bring-your-computer training by experts.

I arranged THE Social Media Workshop for the nonprofit Association of Independent Consultants (AIC). I "volunteered" to be VP Programming from Dec 2010 to June 2011. This role involved auditioning speakers and selecting 9 in total during my term.

If you'd like to organize or attend a practical social media workshop, here are ideas.

The Topics

The four hour workshop started with an explanation of the why of social media. The challenge was finding a credible, unbiased keynote speaker who doesn't sell social media services. Who better than Sean Stanleigh (LinkedIn profile), the Report on Small Business editor for The Globe & Mail? He actively uses social media and has contact with many entrepreneurs. Sean agreed to participate. He used a Q&A format, which was effective.

Next, the focus was on the how
  • hands-on LinkedIn: improving your Profile with Paul Van Wart (LinkedIn profile) of Paul 2 The Max
  • hands-on Twitter: applying the basics with Stephanie Goodman (LinkedIn profile) of Venture Accelerators
  • creating content: learning how to get going and keep going with Susan Corcoran (LinkedIn profile) of Indigo Oceans (not hands-on)
Combining why and how worked well and might suit you or your group.


If you don't have time for a workshop, you can get an overview in 45-75 minutes. To avoid bias or pitches, select a speaker
  1. with consistent persistent generosity and
  2. who doesn't sell any social media services
Attendees who need help can hire a social media expert afterwards (or attend a workshop).

Where's Facebook?

Facebook was not covered despite the current hype. The value remains unclear to me, especially for small businesses selling services. Even so, I auditioned several presenters and rejected them all.

Depending on your audience and the time available, you might want to include sessions on Facebook and/or newsletters.


As a supplement to the afternoon workshop, Julia Hidy (LinkedIn profile) spoke after dinner about
  • ePress kits
  • how to use social media to find and retain the best clients
And so ended my term as "speaker finder".


The 2011 Speakers for AIC (click to enlarge)PS Here the other 2011 speakers for AIC (click to enlarge). If you're looking for excellent speakers, do consider: Donna Messer (networking), Lisa Kember (newsletters), Adeodata Czink (etiquette) and Susan Gregory (mind mapping)

PPS I didn't select myself. That's another example of "volunteering".