Ship Something.

It has been six weeks since I last wrote this way. It almost feels new again. 

Before you go any further, I want you to know something about this post. This post doesn't really have anything to do with digital marketing at all. It has everything to do with shipping. 

 Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.

I am writing this because I want to ship something; ironically, I am writing this because I want to tell you what it feels like to not ship something.

Many weeks ago, I started something new. This newness has: taken up much of my mental space, brought me joy and has also given me a justification to not ship something on this blog. The conversation in my head says, "Well you are now shipping a lot of new things elsewhere, so that's great! Focus on those. The blog can wait." 

The most dangerous thing about not shipping something is that over time, that feeling of uneasiness that you have in the beginning starts to fade away. The urge dies. You become comfortable with this new norm.

We should never let time get the better of us. Time should never rob you of the chance to show the world something it hadn't seen before. The feeling of uneasiness that comes when you haven't done something in a while (In my case shipping something on this blog, in your case ... whatever you can equate), take it as a sign from within your gut saying ...  

Do something.

There are plenty of things that could hold you back, most of which are probably rooted in fear but understand that certain things are hard ... only if you make them so. In my case, writing this post has been difficult simply because I have forgotten a little bit about what it feels like to write. Seth Godin equates writing to speaking. Imagine not saying a word for six weeks.  

Despite how hard it has been to write this, the main idea driving this post is the same one that has driven and will continue to drive every post on this blog (please apply this to your own situation): 

By shipping something, you are sharing something that did not exist before. In doing so, you are creating new possibilites and opportunities for the world around you. 

Let this knowledge be the fuel for you to overcome the uneasiness, satisfy the urge, not get comfortable with your new norm ... and just ...

ship something.

What's Your Quesarito?

 Timeless Cafe - A secret cafe in Waterloo.

Timeless Cafe - A secret cafe in Waterloo.

I recently came across a brilliant article in Fast Company about a secret 1,500 calorie super burrito by Chipotle called, "the quesarito." The article details the author's quest for this secret menu item in a fairy tale like fashion. 

Every year for the past few years, Gary Vaynerchuck has hosted a secret wine party at South by Southwest. He tweets out a location late at night and then that location suddenly turns into a raging party. It's magical. It's the power of community building. 

These kinds of things got me thinking about secrets. If used in the proper way, secrets can be extremely valuable to brands. Secrets almost always have a story behind them and stories are easy to share. 

Here are three characteristics of secrets and how to use them:

  1. They make someone feel special -- Start with your most loyal customer, or a loyal group of influencers. Tell them something, show them something. They already love what you do so why not give them a reason to love you more? Whatever you show them has to be exclusive and has to be legitimate. It has to be something so good that they will actually be bursting at the seams wanting to share it. 
  2. They can be remarkable -- A 1,500 calorie burrito. A free-flowing wine party. Do something outrageous. Don't do it often. In fact, the less often the better. Allow the secrecy to build. When it comes to light though, make sure that it is worthy of being remarked about half-way across the world. That's the kind of outrageous I'm talking about. 
  3. They can be designed to spread -- If you could make your secret one thing, make it an experience. If it's a restaurant menu item, use a different language to order it. If it's a party, use some kind of code sign to get in. Make your secret revealing experience like a scene out of a thrilling spy movie. The experience is what will make the story. The story is what will spread. 

Humans can keep good secrets. Brands can keep them too.

What's your Quesarito?

Lessons

Today is a very significant day in my life. Today marks the last day of my first job after being a university student. I've been with Christie for almost three years and soon I will begin a new chapter in the start-up realm at a company called Axonify.

 "Watch a sunrise, at least once a day." - Phil Dunphy

"Watch a sunrise, at least once a day." - Phil Dunphy

This will be one of my philosophical posts again because I wanted to write down some reflections on what I've really learned from my first job. I wanted to keep it simple, so in no particular order, here are my first lessons:

If you want to quickly understand a very large business, do the grunt work. The work that others may shy away from.

Evolutions are easier to deal with than revolutions, but revolutions are sometimes needed.

Empathy is everything. Ask your colleagues not just what they do but how they do it. This way you will truly understand what they mean when they say they are 'busy.'

When you walk the halls, do it with a smile. Someone may need to see one.

Ask your colleagues what they like to do for fun, you may just discover intraprenuers within your company.

Do everything you can to make the day enjoyable for the people who have to deal with you for 8 hours every day, 5 days a week. This is as easy as laughing once in a while.

Don't be afraid to draw your own map.

Understand where you add value and more importantly, where you don't.

"Strive for progress, not perfection..."

If someone new joins, go out of your way to make them feel welcome. You were that person once.

Do your own job in such a way that others around you are able to be better at their jobs.

Be real, be transparent and be honest at the end of the day, people will appreciate that.

Look forward to at least one thing every day.

The Genius of Simplicity

Square is easily one of the coolest solutions out there for small business owners.

From a marketer's perspective, Square has some of the most elegant, yet simple branding and messaging that I have ever seen. In 2012, Square was named one of the most innovative companies in the world by Fast Company.

Recently, Square launched a new hardware solution to go along with its Square Register app called: Business in a box.

 Business in a box.

Business in a box.

Here are some strategies that marketers can adopt from Square:

  1. Sell the solution, not the product - When people have a problem, they seek solutions. Think like a user. Identify all the possible areas of their pain points and figure out how you can solve them. In the process you may realize that there is an opportunity for your product to be supplemented with other products in order to provide an overall solution. That's what Square has done with 'Business in a box.' They have continued to focus on their own product offering but also brought in other specialized products to sell an overall solution. 
  2. Build an ecosystem - Square started with a dongle and an app. They have now evolved to become a bigger solution for small businesses. By expanding into hardware offerings and allowing the different pieces of hardware to communicate, Square is slowly building an ecosystem. This makes it harder for people to switch to a different service when they've bought into Square.
  3. Be simple at every turn - Everything I see from Square is simple. If you look at their product page, even the explanations of what is normally a slightly complex topic (credit card transactions) ... Square makes simple. Find as many ways as you can to simplify what you do. Perhaps you can have a hackathon on simplicity.  

Be simple. 

Be smart.

Be Square. (I heard it's hip to do so). 

Content Marketing The Sub Way

I love how creative companies are getting with their content marketing. This latest example by Subway is one I find particularly brilliant.

Subway has designed a new online contest where anyone can virtually build and run a virtual Subway store. Contestants will go through various challenges and be rewarded for completing these challenges and according to a PSFK article:

Five winners will receive an all-expense paid trip to the U.S. to meet founder Fred DeLuca and the global executive team, attend a special session of University of Subway, and get a VIP tour of the HQ.

What can content marketers learn from this?

1. Build it and allow them to come - The brilliance of this contest from a content marketing perspective is that the majority of the content is not coming from Subway but instead from contestants (users). Subway has ingeniously figured out how to create an entire campaign around user-generated content. In order to do something like this, brands need to spend time thinking about the platform that users will create the content on. 

2. Educate your audience - The really neat part about this contest is that it may actually educate the consumer on the process behind running a Subway restaurant or even just the process around running a franchise in general. Regardless of whether or not you're a Subway fan, if you have any interest in entrepreneurship ... this could potentially be something you engage with.

 Make social easy.

Make social easy.

3. Make it inherently social - If the content is engaging enough, people would find value in sharing that with others ... so make it easy for them to do that. Subway has done a great job with this by using social sharing buttons and easy calls to action. Consider building a platform with social in mind as opposed to adding in a social layer after you've got the core of the platform built.

Subway's approach to content marketing: Engaging, educational and social.

Three traits worth emulating.

A Remote Landing Page

I love a good landing page. I've written about this before but forgive me, I really love a good landing page. Here's one I came across recently for a new book by the great folks over at 37signals.

REMOTE_-The-new-book-from-37signals.jpg

Let's break this bad boy down:

  1. Clear header: Tells you when, tells you what and gives you a bit of reference (REWORK is a great book by the way).
  2. Relevant image: The book cover. What else would make sense here? Nothing, this is a landing page for a new book.
  3. Compelling copy: A sweet a succinct summary.
  4. The call to action: When you come to this page you have two options. Leave or give these folks your email address. Humans are more likely to choose when there are fewer options. It's science.
  5. The white space: A lovely design touch to keep your eyes on the prize (points 1-4).

Brilliant by 37signals. Check it out for yourself.

p.s. It would be interesting if they decided to make a book trailer (all the rage these days) and A/B test that versus the image to see if they get more email sign ups.

I don't need a menu

This is my standard Sunday brunch item:

 Breakfast Pizza from Timeless Cafe.

Breakfast Pizza from Timeless Cafe.

For the past four or five Sundays, my wife and I have been going to this wonderful cafe for brunch. It has become a lovely little routine we follow. This past Sunday, I went alone because my wife is away making the world a better place.

When I arrived, I was greeted by a new waitress and when she presented me with a menu ... I simply said, "I don't need a menu ... " Then I proceeded to give her my usual order.

Call me a regular, a loyal customer, a fan, the mayor on Foursquare ... any label you wish really, but you get the idea. I know this place and I love this place. Now let's take me and this specific restaurant out of the equation and look at the concept of someone who walks into a restaurant/cafe/bar and does not ask for a menu.

Here are some facts about this person:

  1. He or she has built this act into part of routine that he or she wakes up and looks forward to that day.
  2. To this person, the place (restaurant/cafe/bar) is more than an establishment, it's a place of rest. A place of peace. A place where you know exactly what you're going to get and you know you will like it, so it allows you to mentally relax and think of some other things. Entering this place is similar to the feeling of coming home after a long trip away.
  3. If asked, this person can talk someone's ear off about this place and can easily convince a group of people to go there.
  4. This person's love for this place will be exponentially enhanced if the employees of this establishment get to know this person on a first-name basis.
  5. If this person ever brings someone with him or her to this place, that new person should be treated with the same if not even greater admiration because this new person has entered a guarded sanctuary and must fall equally in love with it.

Knowing these facts, what can a restaurant/cafe/bar do to keep this relationship strong or attempt to make it even stronger? Here are some ideas, feel free to add your own in the comments:

  1. Get to know the person, ask them for a story, know something that you can ask them about each time you see them.
  2. Make sure that everyone on your staff knows who this person is and what they usually order. This should be easy because they probably come in at the same time on the same day.
  3. Treat them occasionally, give them something for free.
  4. Ask them to try something new that you think they may like. Take their feedback seriously.
  5. Ask them about how you could improve one thing you're doing.
  6. If they bring a friend (or more than one), definitely offer something on the house. You must impress the friends.

Relationship building is everything in the service industry (well, in every industry really), if you run a service business that offers a menu and you have a customer that doesn't ask for one ... it basically means this customer is offering you his or her hand in marriage ...

Take it.

Personification

I have always been drawn to brands that act human

Whether it be through design, writing or any other element, acting human is a very easy way for brands to connect with consumers; however, it is sometimes not easy for an inanimate object to act human.

For a while, I've wanted a new pair of headphones. The other day, I decided to start researching some potential options. After some time, I stumbled upon a brand called Urbanears. I was immediately drawn to their simplicity and was able to connect with them on a level that was very different to other headphone brands.

I ended up purchasing a pair of Urbanears and upon opening up the box, I realized why I was so drawn to this brand ...

 This is the first page. The brochure is speaking to me.

This is the first page. The brochure is speaking to me.

 A family of headphones sitting down to dinner.

A family of headphones sitting down to dinner.

 A couple of headphones playing cards.

A couple of headphones playing cards.

 Thank you for buying me, Shum.

Thank you for buying me, Shum.

You're welcome Urbanears.

Humans connect most easily with other humans.

How can you make your brand more human?