24

Feb

by Jeff

Every Dad’s Ver­sion of Fancy-Pants Visuals

New recur­rent col­umn: Fancy-Pants Friday!

Most often the visu­als — mean­ing videos, charts, graphs, car­toons, pics — play only a sup­port­ing role to my posts. Hey, I’m a copy­writer at heart; I skew towards words. But each Fri­day I now promise to bust out a Fancy-Pants Visual.

First up is a humor­ous but pointed video cour­tesy of Roy H. Williams:

I posted this not only because it’s a video wor­thy of Fancy-Pants Fri­day, but also because it gets back to a point I made ear­lier about the impor­tance of reach­ing peo­ple not yet in the mar­ket for your prod­uct.

Also, this video was posted to Vimeo as a sam­ple of Wiz­ard of Ads Live.  If you liked what you saw, you might want to check it out. And if you’re inter­ested in get­ting a copy of that Kijiji Snow­blower Ad for your own enjoy­ment, you can down­load it here.

Oh, and happy Friday!

P.S. For those that are won­der­ing Kijiji is an ebay sub­sidiary that’s become the Craigslist of Canada


2010-04-22-Insults1Kind­ness and Pro­fes­sion­al­ism — that’s what great cus­tomer ser­vice boils down to, accord­ing to my col­league Tim Miles.

And while Tim has drilled down to dis­cover the 7 ele­ments in small busi­ness Kind­ness and Pro­fes­sion­al­ism (which you should con­sider a must-read), for me the real genius is in his gen­eral for­mula of “Kind­ness and Pro­fes­sion­al­ism.” Why?

Because it’s the oppo­site of “Adding insult to injury.”

Believe it or not most med­ical mal­prac­tice suits, along with most “United Breaks Gui­tarsPR and word of mouth cat­a­stro­phes all promi­nently fea­ture both ele­ments — often with the “insult” tak­ing prece­dence over the injury.

Imag­ine what would typ­i­cally hap­pen with­out the “Insult.” If united broke the gui­tar and then apol­o­gized and even only par­tially com­pen­sated Dave Car­roll for the loss, do you still think he would have made that video. Think about that: even if the ordeal still cost Dave hun­dreds of dol­lars — even if the “injury” part of the equa­tion was still present — that ele­ment alone would never have sparked a viral YouTube revenge with­out the added injury of an uncar­ing and cal­loused bureau­cratic response.

But flip­ping the equa­tion goes beyond avoid­ing PR night­mares; adding kind­ness to pro­fes­sion­al­ism offers a pow­er­ful men­tal frame­work for cre­at­ing emo­tion­ally com­pelling cus­tomer ser­vice.  And these ele­ments are present in every “WOW” cus­tomer ser­vice story you’ll ever hear or expe­ri­ence, whether it’s the I Heart Zap­pos story, the var­i­ous Nordie sto­ries, and so on.

So, think about it: Kind­ness and Professionalism.

And then head on over to Tim’s blog to see every­thing that can go into each part of that dynamic duo.

Before any­thing else, watch this not-so-safe-for-work video (lots of cussing):

YouTube Preview Image

Now, here’s what the Alamo Draft­house has to say about the inci­dent:

We do not tol­er­ate peo­ple that talk or text in the the­ater. In fact, before every film, we have sev­eral warn­ings on screen to pre­vent such hap­pen­ings. Occa­sion­ally, some­one doesn’t fol­low the rules, and we do, in fact, kick their asses out of our the­ater. This video is an actual voice­mail from a woman that was kicked out of one of our Austin the­aters. Thanks, anony­mous woman, for being awesome.

Just one ques­tion: after watch­ing that video, do you have any doubt that the Alamo Draft­house is seri­ous about pro­tect­ing the customer’s movie-going experience?

Of course not. Why? Because you know that they not only are will­ing to kick peo­ple out for dis­tract­ing vio­la­tions, but that they’ve done it in the past and are not at all afraid to take some heat for it. This video serves as a mas­ter­ful dis­play of trans­parency in adver­tis­ing, a per­fect form of proof, and a strong sig­nal of intent to any prospec­tive customer.

alamo-drafthouseWhat’s the intent? To pro­vide the ulti­mate in seri­ous move-watching expe­ri­ence. The Alamo Draft­house is a movie the­atre with steep sta­dium seat­ing guar­an­teed to pro­vide an unob­structed view of the screen, and wait­ers and wait­resses that serve real food and beer, allow­ing cus­tomers to bet­ter enjoy the movie and to avoid any hunger or thirst-induced interruptions.

So while this video may indeed repel some customers,it’ll likely attract a lot more. In fact, it’ll be sure to attract the seri­ous movie-goer — which is exactly the kind of cus­tomer the Alamo Draft­house wants.

Not a bad way to turn a cranky, complaint-ridden phone call into a bril­liant piece of viral adver­tis­ing, no?

What about you? How could you take what might be con­sid­ered a down­side or “cost” or com­plaint and turn it into proof of your main UVP?

all_saints_day-thumbSo, today being All Saints Day, I couldn’t help but think of inter­ces­sory prayer and the idea of inter­ces­sion in gen­eral. Thoughts which some­how made their way over to mar­ket­ing, and word of mouth adver­tis­ing in particular.

For those unfa­mil­iar with the terms inter­cede and inter­ces­sion, to inter­cede for some­one is to act as both a go-between and advo­cate for them to some other per­son or author­ity. If a friend of yours has ever been friends with a girl (or boy) you wanted to date, and you asked your friend for an intro­duc­tion and endorse­ment, then you prob­a­bly already intu­itively under­stand the concept.

Now, most busi­nesses make the mis­take of think­ing that WOM is a form of inter­ces­sion; they think that the cus­tomer endorsed the com­pany out of a desire to help out the com­pany. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, that’s sim­ply not the case. Unless your busi­ness is a char­ity or the cus­tomer in ques­tion is a per­sonal friend or rel­a­tive, most WOM rec­om­men­da­tions are not moti­vated by the customer’s desire to help you, the business.

In fact, most Word of Mouth is meant to ben­e­fit the cus­tomer who pro­vides it.  I’m not being cyn­i­cal nor am I refer­ring to direct kick­backs, affil­i­ate links, and loy­alty rewards; I’m sim­ply point­ing out that the ben­e­fits of WOM are typ­i­cally every bit as social in nature as the act itself.  Here’s how it works:

  1. The cus­tomer ben­e­fits from what her knowl­edge, dis­cern­ment, and asso­ci­a­tion with the busi­ness says about her, and
  2. The cus­tomer ben­e­fits by the built up good­will that the rec­om­men­da­tion gains her

If I rec­om­mend a really cool place to eat or a par­tic­u­larly fab­u­lous prod­uct, or even way-above-average car­pet cleaner, then — assum­ing the rec­om­men­da­tion pans out — I end up look­ing just a bit more in-the-know or with-it or relat­able.  And this same dynamic extends to more pro­fes­sional or cor­po­rate realms as well; hav­ing the know-how to rec­om­mend a great Word Press theme, rel­e­vant blogger/author, or graphic designer aug­ments your pro­fes­sional status.

Much the same can be said of the good­will that devel­ops if I save you from a cri­sis by rec­om­mend­ing just the right ser­vice provider or prod­uct.  You’ll remem­ber the rec­om­men­da­tion as a favor or help — again, assum­ing that my rec­om­men­da­tion pans out.

So why don’t more peo­ple spread the word via WOM?

Because of the “assum­ing it pans out” caveat.  Theres’s a risk to WOM rec­om­men­da­tions as well as a reward. If I rec­om­mend you and the advice proves ill-founded, it reflects back on me.

So how can you min­i­mize the risk and max­i­mize the reward?

  • Give them some­thing they can bank on — I can’t bank on ser­vice because ser­vice is vari­able with the server; you might not get the same con­sul­tant, waiter, or tech­ni­cal sup­port staff mem­ber that I did.  But I can bank on hand-tossed pizza and an exposed wood fired oven, or a ser­vice guar­an­tee, or cer­tain gra­tu­itous ser­vices that are always offered.  So what­ever you want cus­tomers to talk about, make sure they can be con­fi­dent that your WOM-worthy ele­ment will be there for the per­son they send your way. Make sure they can be con­fi­dent that their rec­om­men­da­tion will pan out.
  • Give them some­thing they can talk about - Roy Williams breaks WOM-worthy busi­ness ele­ments down into three cat­e­gories: Archi­tec­tural, Kinetic, and Gen­er­ous.  So the exposed wood-fired stove would be an archi­tec­tural WOM trig­ger, the hand-tossing of the pizza dough would be a kinetic trig­ger, and the free house-wine offered with every large pizza would be a gen­er­ous trig­ger.  Notice how these ele­ments also meet the “bank­able” criteria.
  • Make what you stand for eas­ily shared through sto­ries —  If you have a great “how I got into this busi­ness” story, or strong core val­ues that are proven through actual business-practices, then you should make sure your clients and cus­tomers know those sto­ries.  You should make sure the pub­lic knows those sto­ries.  That way a rec­om­men­da­tion for your busi­ness helps to asso­ciate the refer­ring cus­tomer with val­ues she shares and admires while also giv­ing that cus­tomer a neat story to share.
  • Give referred cus­tomers a great deal and go easy on ben­e­fits for the refer­ring client — Let your client feel that she wasn’t just pass­ing along a great rec­om­men­da­tion, but help­ing their friends and acquain­tances get a deal they couldn’t oth­er­wise get. Don’t make your clients feel guilty or con­flicted by giv­ing them a too-big reward for rec­om­mend­ing you. Remem­ber, out­side of well-defined affil­i­ate mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, clients rec­om­mend you largely for social benefit/reasons, and pro­vid­ing a large com­mer­cial ben­e­fit kills the social nature of the recommendation.

And those are my thoughts on this All Saints Day.  But I’d love to hear yours…

What have been your expe­ri­ences with WOM mar­ket­ing and rec­om­men­da­tions?  Are you one of the excep­tions where cus­tomers really were pulling for you and inter­ced­ing on your behalf rather than just talk­ing you up as an act of social groom­ing?  Let me know.

Eight years after it was first pub­lished, Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art has sold sig­nif­i­cantly more copies this year than any year fol­low­ing its ini­tial release.
In indus­try where writ­ers expect to lose money on their non-fiction books and to have their titles all but lan­guish after the ini­tial pub­lish­ing push, this rep­re­sents am incred­i­ble suc­cess story – one accom­plished with­out a tra­di­tional mar­ket­ing push, or a plug by Oprah (though it darn well deserves it, if you hap­pen to be read­ing Ms. Win­frey), or even a re-release from the publisher.
How did Steve do it?
A few rea­sons come to mind, some more salient than others:
1) The book has proved itself a mod­ern clas­sic for its intended audi­ence of writ­ers and reg­u­larly makes appear­ances in Top 10 lists of books for writ­ers.  There’s noth­ing like solid con­tent and great user expe­ri­ence to drive cus­tomer evangelization.
2) Steve has actively wel­comed and encour­aged a new audi­ence for his book, one that even­tu­ally saw that the book was only super­fi­cially about writ­ing or fine art, and was, at heart, a text­book for any­one look­ing to do valu­able, cre­ative, and remark­able work.  Don’t under­es­ti­mate this, not many authors would have both­ered to notice the inter­est of an unan­tic­i­pated audi­ence, let alone actively wel­comed and courted it.
3) Steve has given away lots of new con­tent writ­ten in the same spirit of and along the same lines as the book.  He has embraced the coun­ter­in­tu­itive notion that giv­ing away con­tent expands your base of fans will­ing to pay for content.
4) Steve has actively engaged with his fans and the increased engage­ment has resulted in increased sales.  This goes beyond just open­ing his blog to com­ments and respond­ing to them.  In fact, Steve has actively given inter­views, appeared in guest posts, been avail­able on Twit­ter, and gen­er­ously cor­re­sponded with even the lowli­est of bloggers.
OK, so the list hardly sur­prises, right?  It basi­cally reads like an online marketer’s check­list of “What’s Work­ing Now.”  Who hasn’t been told to “be authen­tic,” or to “do great work,” or espe­cially to engage in the “gift econ­omy,” after all?
So rather than detail­ing the oft dis­cussed items within the list, let’s look at the hid­den forces and moti­va­tions behind the suc­cess­ful imple­men­ta­tion of those items.
The Emo­tional Dynamic Under­neath “Authenticity”
The most strik­ing thing about Steve’s suc­cess is also the most strik­ing thing about his writ­ing and his “style” in gen­eral: his pro­found abil­ity to relate insight into the human con­di­tion in a way that’s prac­ti­cal for those of us slog­ging through our own work-a-day worlds.  If you’re inter­ested in a “from the fox­hole” per­spec­tive, shared from a gen­er­ous intent to share what actu­ally works down in the mud and the blood and the sweat and the tears, you won’t do bet­ter than Steve’s stuff.
But a rec­om­men­da­tion to copy this par­tic­u­lar virtue of Steve’s sounds sus­pi­ciously like yet another exhor­ta­tion to “be authen­tic” dressed up in fancier language.
So how do you bridge the gap? How do you get at how to imbue your own online mar­ket­ing efforts with some of the same magic that took a nearly 10-year-old non-fiction book on the psy­chol­ogy of writ­ing and turned it into everyone’s favorite hand­book for doing work that matters?
Ter­ri­tory vs. Hierarchy
As it turns out, Steve pro­vides the answer both in his book and in his inau­gural Writ­ing Wednesday’s post.  Here’s a quote from that post, talk­ing about what sep­a­rates suc­cess­ful pros at blog­ging from the also-rans:
“There are many excel­lent and extremely pro­fes­sional blog­gers and their stuff is a plea­sure to read. They are mak­ing con­tri­bu­tions. They’re part of the solu­tion. But I also see no few writ­ers of blogs who are stuck in their own egos. You can tell it from the first sen­tence, even the first phrase. It’s in their tone of voice. The text reeks of jeal­ousy, pet­ti­ness, com­pet­i­tive­ness and bile. It’s like the tone aca­d­e­mics take when they’re stick­ing knives in each other’s backs. It has noth­ing to do with solu­tions and every­thing to do with fear, ego and nar­cis­sism. They are writ­ing as ama­teurs. Their aim, though they will deny it even after being water­boarded 283 times, is to advance (or sim­ply pre­serve) their own egos.  I know, because I’ve been in that place. When the happy break­through comes for those writ­ers, their work will rise an entire level overnight, then keep ris­ing for lev­els and lev­els beyond that.” [Empha­sis mine]
With this quote in mind, look at the list again.  Now ask your­self how easy any of those things would be if your pri­mary moti­va­tion was to climb to a higher place in the peck­ing order?  How easy?  How about next to impossible.
To act out of ego is to engage a hier­ar­chi­cal frame­work, and no one can look to main­tain their place in the hier­ar­chy while actu­ally, truly giv­ing of them­selves to their audi­ence and fans at the same time. You can’t be enam­ored of your posi­tion within the “group” while fear­lessly, openly invit­ing out­siders to join in.  Nor can you reject the urge to second-guess your audi­ence if every­thing you write, say, and do is aimed at impress­ing or manip­u­lat­ing them.
In short, the more hier­ar­chi­cal your value sys­tem, the more dif­fi­cult you’ll find “new marketing.”
And yet, we’re prac­ti­cally pro­grammed to think hier­ar­chi­cally in school, at our jobs, and socially.  There are the alpha dogs and the under dogs.  The queen bees and the wanna bees.  Think­ing hier­ar­chi­cally is the default posi­tion for most of us, and it’s what our lizard brain/_______ /Resistance steers us towards.
So there’s no jet­ti­son­ing hier­ar­chi­cal think­ing with­out replac­ing it with some other mind­set; self-identity has to come from some­where.  The other option, as Steven describes it in The War of Art is ter­ri­tory – claim­ing a ter­ri­tory of practice/service and draw­ing your iden­tity through that prac­tice rather than your place in the peck­ing order.  As Steven writes:
We humans have ter­ri­to­ries too. Ours are psy­cho­log­i­cal. Ste­vie Wonder’s ter­ri­tory is the paino. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s is the gym. When Bill Gates pulls into the park­ing lot at Microsoft, he’s on his ter­ri­tory. When I sit down to write, I’m on mine.
What are the qual­i­ties of a territory?
1. A ter­ri­tory pro­vides sus­te­nance.  Run­ners know what a ter­ri­tory is. So do rock climbers and kayak­ers and yogis. Artists and entre­pre­neurs know what a ter­ri­tory is. The swim­mer who tow­els off after swim­ming her laps feels a hell of a lot bet­ter than the tired, cranky per­son who dove into the pool 30 min­utes earlier.
2. A ter­ri­tory sus­tains us with­out exter­nal input. A ter­ri­tory is a closed feed­back loop. Our role is to put in effort and love; the ter­ri­tory absorbs this and gives it back to us in the form of wellbeing.
When experts tell us that exer­cise (or any other effort-requiring activ­ity) ban­ishes depres­sion, this is what they mean.
3. A ter­ri­tory can only be claimed alone. You can team with a part­ner, you can work out with a friend, but you only need your­self to soak up your territory’s juice.
4. A ter­ri­tory can only be claimed by work. When Arnold Schwarzeneg­ger hits the gym, he’s on his own turf. But what made it his own are the hours and years of sweat he put in to claim it. A ter­ri­tory doesn’t give, it gives back.
5. A ter­ri­tory returns exactly what you put in. Ter­ri­to­ries are fair. Every erg of energy you put in goes infal­li­bly into your account. A ter­ri­tory never deval­ues. A ter­ri­tory never crashes. What you deposited, you get back, dol­lar for dollar.”
Beyond that, a ter­ri­tory is where we can go in humil­ity, to serve our higher call­ing, not as a bid for atten­tion but as a gift to our tribe, specif­i­cally, and to the world in general.
As my men­tor and part­ner, Roy Williams says,
“Any goal that begins with the words, ‘My goal is to have…’ is cer­tain to bring unhap­pi­ness. Goals that scratch your life-itch are the ones that begin, ‘I will serve peo­ple by.…’
…So who are your peo­ple and how do you plan to serve them?
Yet even though it would seem your tribe would come first, and your method of ser­vice would come after­words, in rela­tion to the tribe, this doesn’t often work in a mod­ern and (in an anthro­po­log­i­cal sense) post-tribal world.  You find your ter­ri­tory first, and your peo­ple come later, drawn by what your work has produced.
You iden­tify your ter­ri­tory by know­ing what you’d do if you were the last per­son on earth.  What would still be worth doing if there were no one to impress and no way to move up in the peck­ing order?
And you claim your ter­ri­tory through putting in the work, self­lessly, as a pro­fes­sional.  When that hap­pens, you’re no longer afraid to share your best stuff, because you’re always get­ting bet­ter, always com­ing up with new stuff.  Wel­com­ing new mem­bers becomes sec­ond nature, as does engag­ing in open con­ver­sa­tion with peo­ple regard­less of their sta­tus in the peck­ing order.
Territory-based iden­tity, as Steven defines it, makes Web 2.0-style mar­ket­ing work­able.  With­out it, you’ll be fight­ing your own instincts and, ulti­mately, sab­o­tag­ing your efforts.
And yet, even though fol­low­ing this path makes life eas­ier, Resis­tance – Resis­tance in the form of pro­cras­ti­na­tion, ratio­nal­iza­tion, and ego — gets in the way, mak­ing it feel like the harder option.  Yet the more you focus on claim­ing your ter­ri­tory and the more you derive your iden­tity in rela­tion to your claimed ter­ri­tory, the bet­ter you’ll fair in your bat­tles against resistance.
Sound like some­thing worth pur­su­ing?  Well, real­ize that this, poten­tially life alter­ing stuff on Ter­ri­tory vs. Hier­ar­chy is com­pressed into only a few pages of a 165-page book – and the rest of the books is every bit as good, if not better!
Most of the The War of Art is about over­com­ing resis­tance, the nec­es­sary first step to doing the hon­est work needed to claim a ter­ri­tory, mak­ing it pretty much THE book for cre­ative entre­pre­neurs who strug­gle with procrastination.
If that sounds like a must-read book to you, YOURE RIGHT!  Go buy a copy.
Bet­ter yet, buy the new, dig­i­tal copy for your favorite e-reader.  The sooner you start read­ing this stuff, the faster you can begin mov­ing past resis­tance, to claim your ter­ri­tory, and achieve the real work you were meant for.

the-war-of-artEight years after it was first pub­lished, Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art has sold sig­nif­i­cantly more copies this year than any year fol­low­ing its ini­tial release.

In an indus­try where writ­ers expect to lose money on their non-fiction books, and fur­ther expect their titles to lan­guish, unsold and ignored after the ini­tial pub­lish­ing push, this books recent surge in sales and pop­u­lar­ity rep­re­sents an incred­i­ble suc­cess story – one accom­plished with­out a tra­di­tional mar­ket­ing push, or a plug by Oprah (though it darn well deserves it, if you hap­pen to be read­ing, Ms. Win­frey), or even a re-release from the publisher.

How did Steve do it?

A few rea­sons come to mind, some more salient than others:

  1. The book has proved itself a mod­ern clas­sic for its intended audi­ence of writ­ers and reg­u­larly makes appear­ances in Top 10 lists of books for writ­ers.  There’s noth­ing like solid con­tent and great user expe­ri­ence to drive cus­tomer evangelization.
  2. Steve has actively wel­comed and encour­aged a new audi­ence for his book, one that even­tu­ally saw that the book was only super­fi­cially about writ­ing or fine art, and was, at heart, a text­book for any­one look­ing to do valu­able, cre­ative, and remark­able work.  Don’t under­es­ti­mate this, not many authors would have both­ered to notice the inter­est of an unan­tic­i­pated audi­ence, let alone actively wel­comed and courted it.
  3. Steve has given away lots of new con­tent writ­ten in the same spirit as the book.  He has embraced the coun­ter­in­tu­itive notion that giv­ing away con­tent expands your base of fans will­ing to pay for content.
  4. Steve has actively engaged with his fans and that increased engage­ment has resulted in increased sales.  This goes beyond just open­ing his blog to com­ments and respond­ing to them.  In fact, Steve has actively given inter­views, appeared in guest posts, been avail­able on Twit­ter, and gen­er­ously cor­re­sponded with even the lowli­est of bloggers.

OK, so the list hardly sur­prises, right?  It basi­cally reads like an online marketer’s check­list of “What’s Work­ing Now.”  Who hasn’t been told to “be authen­tic,” or to “do great work,” or espe­cially to engage in the “gift econ­omy,” after all?

So rather than detail­ing the oft dis­cussed items within the list, let’s look at the hid­den forces and moti­va­tions behind the suc­cess­ful imple­men­ta­tion of those items.

The Emo­tional Dynamic Under­neath “Authenticity”

pressfield_stevenThe most strik­ing thing about Steve’s suc­cess is also the most strik­ing thing about his writ­ing and his “style” in gen­eral: his pro­found abil­ity to relate insight into the human con­di­tion in a way that’s prac­ti­cal for those of us slog­ging through our own work-a-day worlds.  If you’re inter­ested in a “from the fox­hole” per­spec­tive, shared from a gen­er­ous intent to pass on what actu­ally works down in the mud and the blood and the sweat and the tears, you won’t do bet­ter than Steve’s stuff.

But a rec­om­men­da­tion to copy this par­tic­u­lar virtue of Steve’s sounds sus­pi­ciously like yet another exhor­ta­tion to “be authen­tic” dressed up in fancier language.

So how do you bridge the gap? How do you imbue your own online mar­ket­ing efforts with some of the same magic that took a nearly 10-year-old non-fiction book on the psy­chol­ogy of writ­ing and turned it into everyone’s favorite hand­book for doing work that matters?

Ter­ri­tory vs. Hierarchy

As it turns out, Steve pro­vides the answer both in his book and in his inau­gural Writ­ing Wednesday’s post.  Here’s a quote from that post, talk­ing about what sep­a­rates suc­cess­ful pros at blog­ging from the also-rans:

There are many excel­lent and extremely pro­fes­sional blog­gers and their stuff is a plea­sure to read. They are mak­ing con­tri­bu­tions. They’re part of the solu­tion. But I also see no few writ­ers of blogs who are stuck in their own egos. You can tell it from the first sen­tence, even the first phrase. It’s in their tone of voice. The text reeks of jeal­ousy, pet­ti­ness, com­pet­i­tive­ness and bile. It’s like the tone aca­d­e­mics take when they’re stick­ing knives in each other’s backs. It has noth­ing to do with solu­tions and every­thing to do with fear, ego and nar­cis­sism. They are writ­ing as ama­teurs. Their aim, though they will deny it even after being water­boarded 283 times, is to advance (or sim­ply pre­serve) their own egos.  I know, because I’ve been in that place. When the happy break­through comes for those writ­ers, their work will rise an entire level overnight, then keep ris­ing for lev­els and lev­els beyond that.”

With this quote in mind, look at the list again.  Now ask your­self how easy any of those things would be if your pri­mary moti­va­tion was to climb to a higher place in the peck­ing order?  How easy?  How about next to impossible.

2010-10-13_1057Act­ing out of ego engages a hier­ar­chi­cal mind­set, and no one can look to main­tain or improve their place in the hier­ar­chy while giv­ing away their best stuff to their audi­ence and fans. You can’t be enam­ored of your posi­tion within the group while fear­lessly invit­ing out­siders to join in. Nei­ther can you com­fort­ably ven­ture out­side your group, away from where you hold sta­tus, exper­tise, power, etc.  Nor can you reject the urge to second-guess your audi­ence if every­thing you write, say, and do is aimed at impress­ing or manip­u­lat­ing them.

In short, the more hier­ar­chi­cal your value sys­tem, the more dif­fi­cult you’ll find “new mar­ket­ing.”

And yet, we’re prac­ti­cally pro­grammed to think hier­ar­chi­cally in school, at our jobs, and socially.  There are the alpha dogs and the under dogs.  The queen bees and the wanna-bees.  Think­ing hier­ar­chi­cally is the default posi­tion for most of us, and it’s what our lizard brain/yet­zer hara/Resistance steers us towards.

So there’s no jet­ti­son­ing hier­ar­chi­cal think­ing with­out replac­ing it with some other mind­set; self-identity has to come from some­where.  The other option, as Steven describes it in The War of Art, is to replace hier­ar­chy with ter­ri­tory: claim­ing a ter­ri­tory of practice/service and draw­ing your iden­tity through that prac­tice rather than your place in the peck­ing order.  As Steven writes:

We humans have ter­ri­to­ries too. Ours are psy­cho­log­i­cal. Ste­vie Wonder’s ter­ri­tory is the paino. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s is the gym. When Bill Gates pulls into the park­ing lot at Microsoft, he’s on his ter­ri­tory. When I sit down to write, I’m on mine.

What are the qual­i­ties of a territory?

1. A ter­ri­tory pro­vides sus­te­nance.  Run­ners know what a ter­ri­tory is. So do rock climbers and kayak­ers and yogis. Artists and entre­pre­neurs know what a ter­ri­tory is. The swim­mer who tow­els off after swim­ming her laps feels a hell of a lot bet­ter than the tired, cranky per­son who dove into the pool 30 min­utes earlier.

2. A ter­ri­tory sus­tains us with­out exter­nal input. A ter­ri­tory is a closed feed­back loop. Our role is to put in effort and love; the ter­ri­tory absorbs this and gives it back to us in the form of wellbeing.

When experts tell us that exer­cise (or any other effort-requiring activ­ity) ban­ishes depres­sion, this is what they mean.

3. A ter­ri­tory can only be claimed alone. You can team with a part­ner, you can work out with a friend, but you only need your­self to soak up your territory’s juice.

4. A ter­ri­tory can only be claimed by work. When Arnold Schwarzeneg­ger hits the gym, he’s on his own turf. But what made it his own are the hours and years of sweat he put in to claim it. A ter­ri­tory doesn’t give, it gives back.

5. A ter­ri­tory returns exactly what you put in. Ter­ri­to­ries are fair. Every erg of energy you put in goes infal­li­bly into your account. A ter­ri­tory never deval­ues. A ter­ri­tory never crashes. What you deposited, you get back, dol­lar for dollar”

Beyond that, a ter­ri­tory is where we can go in humil­ity, to serve our higher call­ing, not as a bid for atten­tion but as a gift to our tribe, specif­i­cally, and to the world in general.

As my men­tor and part­ner, Roy Williams says,

Any goal that begins with the words, ‘My goal is to have…’ is cer­tain to bring unhap­pi­ness. Goals that scratch your life-itch are the ones that begin, ‘I will serve peo­ple by.…’

…So who are your peo­ple and how do you plan to serve them?”

Yet even though it would seem your tribe would come first, and your method of ser­vice would come after­words, in rela­tion to the tribe, this doesn’t often work in a mod­ern and (in an anthro­po­log­i­cal sense) post-tribal world.  You find your ter­ri­tory first, and your tribe will be drawn by what your work has produced.

You iden­tify your ter­ri­tory by know­ing what you’d do if you were the last per­son on earth.  What would still be worth doing if there was no one to impress and no way to move up in the peck­ing order?

And you claim that ter­ri­tory through putting in the work, self­lessly, as a pro­fes­sional.  When that hap­pens you’re no longer afraid to share your best stuff, because you’re always get­ting bet­ter, always com­ing up with new stuff. Wel­com­ing new mem­bers becomes sec­ond nature, as does engag­ing in open con­ver­sa­tion with peo­ple regard­less of their sta­tus in the peck­ing order.

Territory-based iden­tity, as Steven defines it, makes Web 2.0-style mar­ket­ing work­able.  With­out it, you’ll be fight­ing your own instincts and, ulti­mately, sab­o­tag­ing your efforts.

And yet, even though fol­low­ing this path makes life eas­ier, Resis­tance – Resis­tance in the form of pro­cras­ti­na­tion, ratio­nal­iza­tion, and ego — gets in the way, mak­ing it feel like the harder option.  Focus­ing on claim­ing your ter­ri­tory through the work helps steel you for those bat­tles against resistance.

Sound like some­thing worth pur­su­ing?  Well, real­ize that this poten­tially life alter­ing stuff on Ter­ri­tory vs. Hier­ar­chy is com­pressed into only a few pages of a 165-page book – and the rest of the books is every bit as good, if not better!

Most of the The War of Art is about over­com­ing resis­tance, the nec­es­sary first step to doing the hon­est work needed to claim a ter­ri­tory, mak­ing it pretty much THE book for cre­ative entre­pre­neurs who strug­gle with procrastination.

If that sounds like a must-read book to you, YOURE RIGHT!  Go buy a copy.

Bet­ter yet, buy the new, dig­i­tal copy for your favorite e-reader for 1/5th the price of the paper­back.  The sooner you start read­ing this stuff, the faster you can begin mov­ing past resis­tance, to claim your ter­ri­tory, and achieve the real work you were meant for.

con_conf_hearMeSpeak_east2010_200x115For every reader who clicks through to see your blog post, another 9 will pass you by, solely on the basis of your head­line, sub­ject line, tweet, etc.

Yes, Dorothy, head­lines really are that impor­tant.  Want to  get the hell out of your own per­sonal Kansas and over the rain­bow of attention-grabbing suc­cess?  Great head­lines are the ticket to your next whirl­wind success.

I’ll be speak­ing at the Con­ver­sion Con­fer­ence East on Octo­ber 4th on Head­lines that Work.  And while I won’t say that I’m an espe­cially bril­liant speaker, I can say that I’ve got con­tent worth com­ing to the event for.

Unlike the vast major­ity of head­line advice that is template-based, of the “Who else wants…” vari­ety, my pre­sen­ta­tion actu­ally shows atten­dees how to cre­ate com­pelling head­lines from first prin­ci­ples.  You’ll finally be able to under­stand what makes great head­lines great and how to make yours a whole lot better.

I know this is sort of a last minute announce­ment, but if you’re within dri­ving dis­tance of the DC, North­ern Vir­ginia area, I’d be thrilled to see you there and happy to share my promo code with you:

The promo code CCE627 pro­vides a $250-discount off of the cur­rent rate for all eli­gi­ble passes.

If you plan on com­ing, feel free to drop me a line so we can meet up for cof­fee or some­thing.