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Sound Bite Culture

Sound bites are sexy. They are attention grabbing. They are clear and succinct.

Trouble is? Our world isn’t.

Our world is complicated, our challenges multi-faceted and our solutions, they are shades of grey.

And although they have their place in marketing, they should not have a place in our decision making. We seriously undermine our ability to understand and appreciate the many facets of the truth when what we hold true is a sound bite.

Remember, the sexy sound bite doesn’t lead to the nuanced truth.

Want to be interesting? interested.

It’s simple: at any given moment, 99% of people are craving validation in the form of interest in themselves, their ideas and their experiences.

Ask a few good questions, add in an anecdote that conveys understanding and connection and – tada – you’re their new favorite person.

Another way to think of this is that the best way to connect people is to develop curiosity in them. Curiosity is contagious and irresistible.

Want to be interesting? Be interested.
You’ll be irresistible.

Is more or less a luxury?

Growing up American, a hard thing to understand is that less can be a luxury.

We are conditioned to want more, to leave our options open, to value choice. Some of this is human (more food is greater than less food if we’re fighting for survival), some of this is cultural (with Americans taking the cake).

More can be great. 

I’m a feminist, and believe that both men and women should have the whole rainbow of choices.

There’s also the famous spaghetti sauce realization: there is no such thing as one best spaghetti sauce, rather there is a best spaghetti sauce for any number of tastes. (And I totally believe that having your favorite sauce is a good thing!)

But, choice does not equal satisfaction.

I remember coming back to the states from an ethnographic (anthropology) expedition in Tonga, where I went for months and months without seeing a store, let alone buying anything. Upon return, I was tasked with buying toothpaste. I remember standing in the store feeling utterly overwhelmed by the choice before me, thinking how the hell am I supposed to figure out which one to buy? Although I’m better at tuning it out now, I still feel that overwhelm every time I visit a supermarket.

But here’s the really bad news: making overwhelming decisions is not only momentarily uncomfortable but also dissatisfying because there remains lingering doubt that you made the correct decision. Any resistance or downside can be perceived as a fault in choice and, therefore, a fault in yourself.

This is the cause of the quarter life crisis: overwhelm, decision fatigue and fear.

Barry Schwartz expands on this overwhelm and the subsequent sense of dissatisfaction in his fantastic book The Paradox of Choice (also, TED talk).

Less can be a luxury.

Releasing yourself from the burden of choice can be a real luxury and the best way to do this is to set yourself up so that there is no bad decision.

If you know your favorite kind of spaghetti sauce, no need to have the others.
If you hone your personal style, a capsule wardrobe reduces the uncertainty.
If you know what interests you, shut some doors! Delight in shutting them.

Less: relinquishing choice for freedom, emotional bandwidth and overall better decisions, can be a luxury indeed. 


The truth is that it gets much, much worse before it starts to get better.

Overwhelm, confusion and mess sneak up on you. It feels like you had more clarity, cleanliness & safety before you started.

And THEN you have to start making hard decisions. Does this add to my business / life? Am I ever going to use this again? Is this who I really want to be?

It’s not comfortable and it is extremely tempting to give in. To just go back to what worked in the past… to just move everything… But that’s not what we came here to do.

With strategy & with moving, the discomfort needs to be moved through to get to somewhere better, somewhere with greater clarity and quality.

It’s always darkest before dawn.

The Purpose of Social Proof

Great businesses know that social proof works (hello Yelp & Amazon reviews!). But many businesses miss the whole point of social proof.

Social proof has two goals:

  1. Prove that it works for someone like ME
  2. Prove that people overcome MY problem

Essentially, the goal is for me to FEEL that I belong in the group.

You’ll note that all of these are about ME seeing MYSELF and MY problems in the social proof. ME, ME, ME. The focus is all on the prospect.

Collect your social proof with this in mind: organize it by WHO the person is and WHAT their problem is. Solicit quotes and photos from your ideal customer demographics, specifically on the biggest challenges.

Highlight the quotes (and photos) of people closest to your ideal customer… starting with the biggest, most pressing challenge and working your way down from there.

Remember: if it’s not making your IDEAL customer feel like they belong in the group (no matter how glowing the praise), your social proof is doing you a huge disservice.


What’s Your Limiting Factor?

When things aren’t working, we’re often tempted to do more of what worked in the past.

Many times, that’s the best solution… but it fails miserably if the real issue is a bottle neck, a limiting factor.

How can you tell? Imagine 10x-ing your efforts, would that offer proportionate rewards? If not, you’ve got a bottleneck.

Your purpose is to identify & release the constraint.

Then repeat… and repeat… and repeat.

Put another way, improving your website conversion won’t do much if your constraint is a lack of traffic… And getting more traffic won’t make you any more money, if you have nothing to sell.

What is the limiting factor that is preventing you from achieving your goals?
Focus on that.

There are three key levers for growth in any business.

  1. Add new customers
  2. Get existing customers to buy more frequently
  3. Increase the average order value (dollars per transaction)

And within each of these levers, there are countless ways to achieve the end goals.

The real questions come down to:

  1. What kind of business do you want to be in?
  2. Where are your biggest opportunities?

If you want to run a boutique, high touch business, get your customers in the door more frequently, spending more money each time.

If you want to run a high volume, lower touch business, growing your new customers is going to be integral for business health.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have any customer, 100% of your focus should be on #1.

Get clear about what kind of business you want to be in.
Get clear on which metric is your weakest and focus on that one first.
It’ll be the biggest bang for your buck!

The other day, I was talking with a friend about her business.

She was a little stressed out about the quality of her sales copy and specifically feeling like not all of the words were “quite right”.

Screw the words.

Okay, okay, yes, words are important… and copy can make a big difference, but I say focus on what really moves the needle.

Get clear on what message and feeling you want to convey.

Copy gets so much easier after that. Then every sentence, every word, can be evaluated by a simple litmus test: Is this creating the message and feeling I want?

It also means you can write from the heart. After all, the message & feeling IS the heart.

And here’s the thing, getting to the message and the feeling isn’t necessarily harder. It’s just not the question we usually ask ourselves.

In the end, the words don’t matter that much… but the feelings, they count for everything.

Why quizzes are so addictive

Our society is into the quiz.

I’m convinced its a main selling point of trashy magazines. Some of the highest converting opt-in offers online are quizzes. Hell, there are approximately 17 million different personality quizzes.

I’m hardly immune. I’m an ENTP and proud of it. Shenee’s right, I’m a thought leader. And my fascination profile is the Avant-Garde.

But why?!?!

Because quizzes simplify the complexities of reality, they make concrete judgements when things feel fuzzy and, most of all, they make us feel seen.

When you simplify, concretize and make others feel seen, you win.

The Luck Formula

Think luck is random? No way.

The formula for winning at luck is simple:

Quality of Content x Strength of Strategy x Quantity of Tries

Sure, you might hit the luck jackpot on the first try… but its much smarter to stack the odds in your favor by producing high quality content with strategic intent. Then you don’t have to worry if it happens on try one, or try thirty, you know it’s coming.

What does this mean in real life?

  1. Make your content the best available.
  2. Reverse engineer success (aka be strategic).
  3. Repeat.

If you aren’t getting lucky, your problem is with your content or your strategy. Otherwise, its just a numbers game.