Elementary school ruined everything.
They tattooed horrible cliches onto our 8 year old hearts to “think big!” — “aim high!” — “walk with your head down in single file OR DIE” —
— which probably explains New York City.
While I know they REALLY wanted you to become an astronaut (or at least make sure you knew how to spell astronaut), I really want you to come back down to earth because every time you run off and “think big,” you know what you forget to do?
Not small as in horrifying microscopic bugs that live on your skin small, but small as in details small.
Because when you're running a business, the devil isn't in the details—the profits are.
A website is never just a website. Your services are never just some services. Your book is never just a book. Your tweets aren't even just tweets.
They're all opportunities to grab people by the back of the neck and, in your breathiest voice say, “Are you with me? Or are you against me?”
Which, despite sounding sort of mob-ish, IS ACTUALLY MEANT TO BE SORT OF MOB-ISH. Because with every single thing you say and do, you want to elicit an “us against them” response.
Fourteen thousand people probably just frowned at that statement because it flies in the face of all of the glossy, sincerity overload of, “My competitors aren't competitors, they're companions!” but guess what?
You're either becoming an “us,” or becoming a “them” as we speak.
And, bad news bears: If your customers want them? They'll buy direct from them.
You didn't get into business to take orders. You got into business because you've got ideas. So what are those ideas? What do YOU think? How can you use your ideas to become an us?
Give people an obvious reason to choose you. Make an official enemies list! Who and what in your industry are your enemies, and why? And then use that to reverse engineer your own message. What makes you an us—not a them—and why does it matter? To you? To anyone else?
And then, once you've got your message nailed, work to weave hints of that message throughout every single thing you do in the form of the details.
Because you don't tell your story; the details do.
For example, it's why I make sure every single TMF email always has a funny little unexpected opt-out message at the bottom. Because our entire message is about revolting against the sea of sameness & business as usual in favor of unusually better business, and I want every single piece of the puzzle to consistently tell people who we are, so they can instantly decide if it aligns with who they are—and whether they're with us, or against us.
If you don't give people any flagpole markers to help them identify you, they can't identify with you. And if they can't identify with you, they won't choose you. Because you aren't giving them anything new to choose from. You're just sort of laying there. Limp. Like a lump.
And that's not called marketing. That's called missionary.
And it's one position you never want to find yourself in as a business.
Not if you were hoping to come out on top, anyway.