Making Your List, Checking It Twice

List of names

If you use an e-mail service to send newsletters or blasts, how did you build your list? If the answer is that you invited people or they added themselves via a form on your website, three cheers for you! No coal in your Christmas stocking.

Email is still one of the most powerful ways to connect with customers or prospects short of having coffee together, even if automated (because you can personalize it with the recipient’s name). You’re not competing with a stream of cat photos in Facebook or random Twitter chatter. It’s a great way to further your brand and personality, and become a go-to person in your field.

But you don’t want people scratching their heads when your third e-blast of the week arrives in their in-box, wondering if they forgot they signed up for your list.

There are three types of emails from businesses: total spam, almost spam and not spam. If you invited people to your list or they signed up (knowing what they were getting), that’s not spam.

We all know what total spam is.

Almost spam is everything else, such as adding people to your list, even people you know, even good friends, who might very well have said, “Yes, sign me up Scottie!” if only you’d asked.

But they can delete emails, right? Trust and respect rule here. The burden shouldn’t be on the recipient. Your goal is to inform, inspire and delight. It’s a sign of respect to ask permission to add someone to a list, even a client. Read more

Today’s Harvest: A Potato Array

garden potatoes

……………………………………………….

One look at my potato gleanings made me realize how much of a farmer’s harvest they can’t sell — a splotch, an unsightly wrinkle, non-uniform sizes —because the American shopper is too fickle. Not shown are the very smallest potatoes, no larger than a pea. Imagine how wonderful they’d be whole in a soup.

But it’s just that irregularity of home grown or farmers market produce that is especially delightful. Fellow admirers of odd-shaped vegetables are nodding their heads in agreement.

You’d never find heart-shaped tomatoes or Dr. Seuss eggplants or twisted yellow bell peppers a grocery store. I’m convinced these vegetables taste better, too.

Different Matters

secret sauce

After picking many pounds of marionberries recently, I had to start getting creative. I’d already made jam, sorbet and tarts. (I’m officially banned from buying a separate freezer.) Then I recalled a marionberry barbecue sauce I’d made last summer, not the most obvious application of the berries. I found a recipe, switched up some of the ingredients, adjusted it till I arrived at a secret sauce, ready for pulled pork.

Now, imagine your business is the pulled pork (or roasted tofu for you vegetarians). What’s your secret sauce? That set of ingredients that only you have that lend your enterprise a flavor all its own.

In order to land on your secret sauce, you first have to embrace the idea that people need something to go on to pick you out of the crowd. Most businesses rely too heavily on the notion that because they exist, someone will want their product or service. Someone will eventually find them. Or they think their passion alone will carry them to success.

This works well for those rare businesses that fill a peculiar niche. But even that lasts only so long. Soon, there will be many more shops serving bacon maple milkshakes.

What makes you different is the very substance of your business. It defines your branding (both image and voice), it simplifies marketing efforts, it boosts confidence on the most trying days, it gives you connection-making mojo.

Someone like me can tease out your secret sauce, put it into a larger context, refine it and put it into service. But you are a big ingredient in making that happen. A business that’s fully engaged in shaping their own brand benefits enormously, even if you can pay someone to do most of it for you.

To be fully engaged means going beyond where you feel comfortable going. It means thinking through aspects of what you do that you hope to avoid, such as limiting yourself, living up to certain standards or, believe it or not, truly believing in how your endeavor will benefit someone.

Ways to think of your secret sauce:

• An unexpected or distinctive personality or voice.

• A surprising promise or set of promises.

• A collection of traits that, while not individually unique, together, are refreshingly distinctive.

• Using the stories or experiences of people who do business with you as a marketing tool in itself.

• A very specific combination of what you do, combined with who it’s for (not moms or CEOs, but people needing “x” or worried about “y”) and how they benefit (really benefit).

• Figure out what you can put limits around or make specific or singular.

• A way you buck convention or call out what others won’t.

Not what your competition is doing (who is that anyway?)

Adversity, the Gold in Your Brand Story

Landfill Harmonic instruments from junk

If necessity is the mother of invention, then desperation is the mother of necessity. Desperation made MacGyver cool, which is why failure, adversity or lack of good fortune might just be the missing ingredient in your brand story.

Most businesses boast of expertise, awards and successes to the exclusion of all else. People want to buy from successful, capable companies but they also want to buy from people they can relate to, people who act human, which includes failure.

Not every failure should be for public consumption, but think about a time when necessity in your business led to a new idea or better service or product.

Maybe you were forced to scale back because of the bad economy and turned towards specialization, which led to greater success. Or it forced you to get new training that allowed you to add new services or products.

Maybe you tried, and failed, to bring a new idea to life but it led to an even better idea?

Everyone loves a story of transformation or triumph. Take Dave’s Killer Bread, whose wild success came about by the touch of an unlikely person—Dave, himself, who had been to prison and back several times only to reemerge as the Dahl family’s best baker.

We all have a wealth of mishaps, slow periods or lack of resources. Adding them to your brand message in the right way might be the very thing that connects you to your best prospects. Another way of looking at this comes from Seth Godin, who suggests saying the typical message backwards. It not only piques interest but you come off sounding more credible when you’re willing to admit what you can’t do.

(Image is from the Landfill Harmonic. Check them out!)

………………………………….

Like this? Get more like this monthly with The Good Dirt e-newsletter.

Things that grow together…

Sauvie Island Farm

…go together.

June 1 was opening day of strawberry picking at my favorite pick-your-own farm. This means sinking your teeth into a sun-warmed Mt. Hood—the much-acclaimed Oregon berry. The berry that reminds you (or lets you know for the first time) just what a strawberry tastes like. Or should, anyway.

That my freezer is still full of last summer’s strawberries is only an indication of not knowing how to ration. Daiquiris anyone?

Just before my back said “enough,” I made my way to the rows of plump spinach, giving me the perfect dish for a friend’s party later that day.

Seasonal Salad: Spinach and strawberries with red onion and feta cheese

Fresh spinach (washed and dried)

Fresh strawberries (washed and sliced, not too thinly)

Red onion (sliced very thinly)

Crumbled feta (or goat cheese)

For the dressing:
3 T balsamic vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk the dressing ingredients together until emulsified. Toss with berries, onion, spinach and feta just before serving. Finish with freshly ground pepper.

If you want to get someone’s attention…

good 'ole fashioned snail mail

Even as I help people unlock and articulate what makes them unique, there’s a simple truth that goes beyond crafting the perfect brand.

It’s about showing you give a damn.

It’s even better when it’s unexpected.

Maybe it’s a gift where a gift would seem surprising.

Maybe it’s helping a client to take a risk where you know they’ll benefit.

Maybe it’s fantastic customer service where people have stopped thinking they’ll get it.

Maybe it’s a personal note to one person even though you serve many just like her.

…………………

You’re reading the blog of Allegro Design. Like this? You might want to subscribe to the monthly Good Dirt.