HOW TO NEVER SELL AGAIN (AND STILL SELL A TON)

Hate sales? Us too.

Most who run small service businesses don't like the idea of sales, they are an unfortunately means to an end. Selling to people can be frustrating, and as any consumer can attest, being sold to is the worst.

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However, sales is the lifeblood of your business. Without sales techniques, how are you going to seal the deal and convince people to buy from your brand?

Well, there is another option:
 

Build a Badass Brand that Sells Itself

While this sounds too good to be true, my personal experience says otherwise. We help create kick-ass, self-selling brands for clients on a regular basis, without the yuck factor.

Personally, when I think of icky sales, I picture someone trying to convince me to buy something. I don’t like being in that position, so I avoid putting other people into similar situations. Most consumers, it turns out, feel the same way.

But let's play with a different scenario. How do you feel when you're shopping for something specific that you really want or need? In that situation I know I don’t feel like I'm being sold to; when there’s a problem that needs solving and I'm happy to find the solution.

For example, how would you react if your roof was leaking, and a roofer showed up at your door, claiming he could fix the leak?

When you frame your service as a solution to a dire problem, your audience won’t hesitate to hire you. Instead of thinking, What is this company selling to me? they’ll wonder, Why haven’t I done this yet?!

The difference between using this as a sales technique, and having a badass brand, is that when you have a badass brand you are genuinely looking only for the people who are looking for you! This approach helps potential clients understand what you do, why you do, and how well you do it--an understanding that sells.
 

Cats out of the Bag: When you're "selling" nobody likes you

Salesy talk can pollute the conversation, reducing trust and creating doubt on both sides. Simply put, when you’re worrying about selling, and potential clients are worried about being sold to, conversations aren’t 100% honest.

But when your message is clear, you don’t have to spend time convincing people to buy from you. Instead, interactions become discovery sessions...for you to figure out if they are the right clients for you.

This clarity gives you the opportunity to learn about a potential client’s challenges, and whether your unique skills can solve them. Rather than talking up your brand, you’re asking strategic questions to dive deep into someone’s mindset.

Also, you may not even want to work with every prospect that comes your way. Why sell to someone you can’t helpor someone who seems toxic? If you realize a client isn’t right for you during the discovery conversation, recommend some other options. This helps build trust, and prospects will know you aren’t just trying to close the deal.
 

The Opposite of Sales is Integrity

Integrity goes a long way in the services industry. Even if you don’t end up working with certain people, they will have a deeper respect for what you doand it often leads to well qualified referrals! By establishing your reputation as a brand that sticks to its beliefs, and serves clients who honor theirs, you can carve out a nice niche for yourself.
 

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Want to eliminate the sale completely?

Focus on working with the right people. Develop clear, committed messaging for your business. Create a brand that knows what it does well and lets its work speak for itself.

Learn how on our FREE upcoming online training:

WHAT'S THE GOING HOURLY RATE OF AN "EXPERT"?

What you charge, and how you charge, says a lot about your level of skill whether you like it or not. I meet so many people that want to be experts, thought leaders, gurus, yet their pricing, and how they handle the situation, tells a different story.

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Here's what an expert looks like

I met Steve the week he moved to NYC. Through a mutual friend at a bar on Bleecker St., we were quickly drawn to each other and a first date the following week was scheduled.

Now, Steve had just moved here; I was born and raised in the east village. Did I ask him what he wanted to do on our date? Of course not! As an expert New Yorker I knew it was my job to put together an impressive itinerary of insider hot spots.

Neither of us had any money, so I had to plan an intriguing date that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I knew he was an artist, so with a dignified quarter I took him to the bar on the roof of the Met to sip a beer next to some oversized Jeff Koons animal ballons. I followed up that impressive and classy spot with a few locals-only joints in the east village, including a sushi bar on St. Marks that is both delicious and crazy affordable. 

Had I asked what he wanted to do, his uninformed requests may have landed us at an overpriced hotel bar in midtown manhattan full of out of towners showing off, or worse, TGIFridays.

Therein lies the difference between and Expert and a Service Provider.

Nuanced but not minuscule, Experts learn their trade over a lifetime, and Service Providers execute ideas based primarily on your direction. 

And like any expert, had I been charging for my expertise I certainly would have charged, and earned, top dollar. Because little secret spots are not easily found in Zagat and Frommers, they are known only from a lifetime of living in the city.

How to Spot an Expert

CHARGING

Most people are service providers and they usually charge based on time. Even if they are proposing a project rate, they formulate that rate based on a forecasted amount of time. This is because they are at the mercy of the client, so they have to predict how much time the client will need!

An Expert’s fee is related to his or her value contribution. They know how long it will take them because they've done it a million times, but they don't charge based on that time. 

He or she has spent years, sometimes a lifetime learning, and clients pay for that knowledge regardless of how long it takes.

Imagine a plumber. I've had a plumber come and snake my clogged drain in 10 minutes and charge $200. And it's worth it! Because he knows how to do it, and I don't. He solved my problem, didn't ask me how, and came when I needed him. That's value.
 

PROCESS

Service Providers are the hands: they execute. They ask, “What do you think? Do you like this?”

Experts are the brain. They tell you why a decision is the right one and give thoughtful reasoning and innovative ideas to back it up.

Service Providers need to put guidelines and restrictions on their work in order to regulate the potential for a deluge of client change-requests.

Experts similarly put in guidelines, but don’t typically need to enforce them due to clients not typically needing more than one round of revisions.
 

RESULTS

Experts and Service Providers strive for you to be happy, but Experts are less likely to sacrifice the truth of a situation to make you feel good. As in, that dress really does make you look fat.

Web designers, for example, are often Service Providers. They ask for page examples, content, photos, and other websites as examples; they are acting as the hands for your vision. But when web designers are Experts, they ask what the client is looking to accomplish. They ask about the brand, the market, what is currently on the site. They ask about the goal.

When Experts asks these questions, they can charge a premium. After all, it costs more to tell the client how a website should look and function than to simply put things in placed based off client notes. Experts will tell the client what pieces of content they need in advance and recommend additional outside help, if necessary. 

Knowing these distinctions not only helps with planning and executing your next project, but with your bottom line as well. Even if Steve had hired me (at a premium) to take him on the date, considering that date would change the course of his life I think we can all agree the benefits he received far outweighed any investment ;)

 

Want to go from "Service Provider" to Expert

 

Sign up for our upcoming training and learn how to instantly elevate yourself to expert status >

Business Partners And Still Married: Here's What We've Learned

I get a lot of funny reactions when I tell people I own a business with my husband. From the quick “I could never” paired with a dramatic eye roll, to a wondrous “What is that like?” uttered in disbelief, to “awwwwwww”—and everything in between.

So for Valentine’s Day I’m going to spill the beans—it hasn’t always been easy (shocking, I know!). But I’ve learned that working with your spouse can be one of the most valuable and beneficial things you can do to enhance your marriage—if you make the effort to use it as a motivation to grow.

These principles also apply to any partners in business who want to grow a successful company. A colleague recently shared that she is bringing in a therapist to work with her and her two business partners to help with their communication issues.

Whether you are spouses, friends, or colleagues, sometimes your differences are exposed only when you start working together: differences in how you feel about money, risk, being right, failure, and what to do when you experience success. These differences may come to the surface over time no matter what, but they are amplified in business, and they can be the source of exhausting conflict.

My husband and I had to learn a few key lessons if we wanted to build a successful business we loved without killing each other. These are key lessons for a team to be an unstoppable force in business. Without them? You probably won’t last very long—as a couple or as a business.

There Will Be a Turf War If No Treaty Exists

When we first started Worstofall Design out of our little railroad apartment in Brooklyn, our roles were clear: Steve was the designer, and I was “the business.” I knew nothing about design at the time, and Steve was happy to abscond from all business responsibilities, so it worked out perfectly. Because of this, we created a well-oiled machine during that first year-and-a-half. People cocked their heads in disbelief when we told them working together was breezy, but we thought we just naturally had an amazing relationship.

The honeymoon ended when we hired our first two employees. Our weak spots were exposed, and suddenly we were bickering more, things got tense here and there, and we fought regularly. It was exhausting.

We had a business to run and we agreed it was unfair to make our team uncomfortable with our conflict, so we knew we had to deal with this head on. That’s when we decided to go to therapy.

Sitting down with a therapist helped expose differences in our communication styles, as well as unexpressed emotions and expectations. But one of the most tangible things we learned was the source of much conflict: We had never discussed who was in charge of the two employees! We had hired a talented graphic designer and a spunky assistant/social media marketer/photographer to support us, but we had never discussed how they would be managed. On the one hand, managing employees seemed like my job because I was in charge of running the business. On the other hand, Steve was in charge of design, and James was his designer.

It turned out that almost all our conflicts arose from a power struggle over this undefined territory. Once we learned that, it was almost as simple as communicating and delineating responsibilities. In the years since, we have been able to stop conflict in its tracks just by realizing that it often starts because we both believe a decision falls under our domain of responsibility.

Make Sure You Agree on the Big Idea

If you and your partner don’t have a shared big vision for your company, you are going to have infinite conflicts. I learned this the hard way. A few years in, we realized we had never discussed our goals for the business. At some point I hadn’t even realized I had taken a sharp turn toward building a huge agency, while Steve, on the other hand, hadn’t really thought about it. All he knew was that he didn’t want to build the big agency I was imagining.

(More on that story, and how powerful defining success can be for your business, click here.)

Picture us trying to make any decision in this situation, pulling each other in different directions without even realizing it.

For example, we got an opportunity to pitch to a huge client, but it required us to stay up all night to do so. I wanted the client because it would get us closer to having the big agency. Steve didn’t share that vision, and the project didn’t sound inspiring to him, so he thought it was silly for us to bend over backward for this long-shot pitch. The poor guy had no idea why I was insisting that we push ourselves in this way. My actions made no sense to him, and it made no sense to me that he wasn’t on board.

Once we realized the discrepancy we sat down to map it out— together. Until then, I had assumed we had the same idea for how to build the business. To me, it was the obvious choice. But when we started to brainstorm what we wanted out of life and our company, I realized I didn’t want a big agency at all! I had just made that assumption at some point and never questioned it. (For more on this, I wrote about the importance of defining success here.)

Together, we developed a vision for what we wanted—for both the business and our lives. Our vision has adjusted over the years, but we revisit it often. And having that shared vision has made all the difference in how we work together.

Once we were both on board with a common goal, our teamwork skills skyrocketed. Suddenly we would happily do almost anything the other person asked because we understood why we were doing it. And we were both willing to be more flexible in areas where we tended to be stubborn because we knew we were headed toward the same ultimate goal.

This also helped make all our large decisions revolve around the actual goal, rather than our personal preferences. And that has been key to working together—really believing that we both prioritize our shared business and personal goals.

You Both Have Your Shit; Don’t Be Afraid to Own Yours

I share our experience of bringing a therapist into these conversations because although it’s possible to make these discoveries on your own, we didn’t have time for that. Business doesn’t stop, and we needed conflict resolution as soon as possible.

Plus, therapy still has a stigma. If you go to a therapist, especially with your spouse, somehow it means there is something wrong with you that needs fixing. What if that’s not the case? What if, instead, any two people engaged in something as intense as building a business can always benefit from being better communicators? The stigma is stopping business/life partners from being more potent in the world because they don’t feel comfortable dealing with these issues head on.

And if you’re reading about issues and thinking “not me,” you definitely have them. The unwillingness, or maybe even fear, to entertain the idea that you could actually get better at communicating with your business partner might even represent the potential issue itself. If you’re too afraid to admit you’re not perfect, and worried about imperfections that might be exposed when you go into a room that is meant to expose them, that might represent the very thing that can create conflict in a business relationship. One that is almost impossible to overcome if you don’t deal with it.

Everyone has their shit. Own yours and your business will thank you.

Without our business, my husband and I may have never taken the steps to learn these skills, and they have had measurable positive results in our business and personal relationships. Without the business, though, there may have been no impetus to start the exploration in the first place.

Working closely with another person is always going to be a challenge, regardless of whether you are married. But if you’re both willing to put in the effort, any two people who want to build a business together will find that it is possible to do so without killing each other—if you have the desire to build these skills. And because of, and not despite, all the challenges, working with my partner has been one of the most rewarding and special things we have done for our marriage.

This article was originally published on Forbes

TURNING DOWN WORK: PROOF THAT PAID WORK CAN BE UNPROFITABLE

The Carrot

I am constantly goading people to turn down work, and am often met with resistance. Seems counter-intuitive that if you want to make more money you would turn down paying clients. So let me give you an example to illustrate the point: paid work can be unprofitable, and some paid work can actually hinder the achievement of your overall business goals.

Meet Russell, a wedding photographer who generally shoots on the weekends. Though there is a great deal of post-wedding work, weekdays are fairly flexible.

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So when Sally asks if he can do some headshots for her LinkedIn profile, he says yes. He could use the extra income.

He thinks to himself that headshots are easy and can probably be done in two hours: one for shooting, one for editing. Since he charges $5,000 for weddings, $300 feels like a fair rate to him.

Sally shows up to the shoot holding a pile of clothes. She has no idea which outfit to wear. She asks if it’s OK to take photos in a few different looks.
 

The Fall Begins

No problem, says Russell. But once the shoot gets rolling and she’s on her third outfit, Russell realizes this is going to take longer than expected. He didn’t know outfit changes were going to take up so much time. Plus, she did her own hair and makeup and it’s not looking right in the photos. Russell doesn’t know how to do makeup and hair since his brides always have it professionally done. When he looks at the shots, he knows immediately that the lighting is washing her out. He tells her to put on more makeup. This takes up time.

The shoot ends up being two hours. He was an hour off, but hey, he’s still going to make $300 he wouldn’t have made otherwise.

He could have just been watching TV during that time anyway, so what’s an hour?

The next day he looks through the shots. Because of the makeup debacle, only half of the shots are even usable. He finally finds a few good ones, picks his top five and sends them to Sally. She writes back immediately. The ones he sent are not what she had in mind, she really wanted photos of her looking more professional. Sally thinks she looks too friendly.
 

The Fall Continues

Too friendly is not how Russell is feeling right now. He goes back through the photos again and finds some that could be considered more “professional”. Sally writes that these are better, but could she just take a look for herself and pick the ones she wants?

Frustration has now turned into annoyance. He’s already spent almost an hour sifting through the photos and doesn’t want to spend any more time on this project. But Russell doesn’t feel as though he has a choice. Sally clearly doesn’t like what he’s picked and he just wants her to choose the photos so he can move on to editing them.

Sally picks a couple photos, but her hair looks weird in them. She asks if Russell can Photoshop her hair from a different picture onto her face in another. Russell knows how much time this will take, but Sally has made it clear that she doesn’t like any of the other photos and Russell doesn’t want to upset her. After all, he’s bent over backwards thus far and would hate to have spent all this time and still send away an unhappy client!

So he does the work. After another hour he has produced the photo she wants. He sends it off relieved that it’s over and psyched to spend the $300 of some rightly-deserved beers.

But like a zombie, she keeps coming back. Sally writes that she is pleased with this one, but didn’t he say he would provide three final shots? Unfortunately, unlike a zombie, his brain is still intact and he has to continue to deal with this “side project”.


The Lesson

And on and on it goes. If you think this is an exaggeration, then you don’t work with clients. The thing is, it’s not Sally’s fault, it’s Russell’s and his lack of process.

You see, if Russell regularly did headshots, he would have given Sally instructions ahead of time. He would have recommended hiring a makeup artist for an additional fee. Even better, he would have included it in the price. He would have said she is allowed up to three changes of clothes. He would have asked her ahead of time to show him some examples of photos she liked and wants to emulate. This way, when he picked the top five photos, he would know that they were in line with what she wanted (and if she didn’t like them he would have been able to refer to a concrete example). Then he would have told her he only includes one round of editing and any additional rounds or extreme editing, like editing two photos together, would cost extra.

But this is not something Russell does every day so he doesn’t have a process for it. Meaning he doesn’t have a way yet of making it profitable. Had he developed that process just for Sally, it still wouldn’t have been lucrative since he would have spent that extra time developing the process. And unless Russell wants to add headshots to his repertoire, he needs to say “no” to customers looking for work outside his niche of weddings.


Turn Down Work, Make More Money

Imagine if he had spent that same 4-5 hours working to land another $5,000 wedding client instead? That marketing work may have even planted the seeds for a few additional wedding clients. The value of his time spent is incomparable!

Plus, the last thing he wants is for one of Sally’s friends to contact him for more LinkedIn headshots, so he didn’t even receive the value of more potential business. Sally is unlikely to give him a referral for weddings because that’s not why he was hired. For her he’s not top of mind for weddings, if anything he’s top of mind for headshots.

TIPS & RESOURCES: BRANDING ON A BUDGET

When you’re starting out, there are so many things to pay for, and sometimes really beautiful design just shouldn’t be your highest priority.

Here is a list of amazing tools that will allow DIYers build a professional brand on a bare bones budget:

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SQUARESPACE

We build websites for our clients exclusively on Squarespace because it’s a solid platform that even the most tech-phobic can learn to use with relative ease. The templates are beautiful, and with a few nice photos and some catchy text you can have your website up ready to sell your services in minutes!

Are you a Wordpress fan, or have you heard rumors like Squarespace isn’t good for SEO? Read our comparison of the two platforms here: Wordpress vs. Squarespace

MOO

Online printing has come leaps and bounds in the last few years, and it’s hard to justify paying a higher price for a traditional printing company unless you are printing something very complicated (which you shouldn’t be!) For standard pieces like business cards, we love Moo. Their standard paper quality is silky, thick and delicious and because moo exists there is no excuse for having flimsy cards anymore. Your business cards are usually the first impression of your brand— if you cheap out on them you are telling potential clients you don’t value yourself. So how can they value you!?

Moo also has even thicker paper stock, foil stamping and other fancy offerings but if you’re on a budget, I don’t recommend splurging. You don’t have to! Their standard paper is gorgeous and it’s what we use for all of our clients.

CANVA

A great tool for making beautiful designs for documents and social media posts. This drag and drop tool allows you to edit images like a pro without high powered editing software. Truth be told we haven’t played with this too much since we, you know, have the pro software, but our clients swear by it.

MAILCHIMP

A free mail service with very robust offerings and similarly easy-to-use drag and drop features will allow you to start email marketing to your customers in a polished and professional way. Mailchimp also seamlessly integrates with Squarespace, making it simple to have people sign up for your list right on your homepage— again, without needing any coding or technical knowledge!

WORSTOFALL FREE TRAINING

Graphic designers are going to hate me for saying this but if you’re a solopreneur selling your services you can design your own brand and be successful and I’ll tell you why: YOU are your brand, and what is going to get people in the door is not the color of your logo or how fancy your website is, it’s your message and how clear and compelling you are. Yes, it’s important that your brand and website look good, but with these tools it’s not hard to put something up that is simple, clean, and polished.

However, if it’s boring, cluttered, or unclear you are going to have a problem. Unfortunately, a lot of graphic designers are simply focused on making a beautiful design, they aren’t helping you with the messaging or how you’re actually going to sell your services. Without that piece, you have a lot chance of success.

 

Badass Your Brand training

That’s why we built a free online training to help you figure these critical pieces out. Click below and sign up to take our free training where you can get some clarity on what your sell and why you’re different— because that is really what’s going to move the needle for you. When you have that taken care of, the tools above will help you build the brand you need on your own.

Now that is Badass!

YOUR “ONE THING”: FINDING YOUR BUSINESS’ FOCUS

You’re at lunch with a new networking contact. It’s a Tuesday. Or a Wednesday. Okay, it doesn’t matter what day it is, or what you order. Following an hour-long discussion and meal, you head your separate ways and what matters is this: Even after that hour conversation, you still don’t have a clear idea of what that person does.

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You have every intention of sending business their way, but you can’t put your finger on who or when would be an appropriate introduction.

Now imagine this networking friend having the same experience with you. After an hour-long discussion about your business, she walks away unclear about your value proposition--or with a complete misunderstanding of it.

From a business perspective, that lunch would be a complete waste of time. Why? Because if people don’t understand what you door don’t rememberit’s like you never even told them.

This is why you need a ready-to-go elevator pitch for your brand--one that contacts will listen, understand, remember, and act upon.

Make Sure the Right Idea Sticks

With every new person you meet, you have a tiny window of time, focus, and/or attention span. Too many details increase the chances that the idea(s) that sticks won’t be helpful for your business.

For example, if you have coffee with someone who tells you he collects Godzilla dolls and likes to swim with sharks, you may only remember him as “Jim, the thrill-seeking Godzilla collector.” But maybe Jim’s a big data wiz, and you come away knowing zero about that. You won’t be likely to refer business to him.

Best to pick a focal pointand carve your inroad there!

By narrowing your brand down to a simple concept, you frame the conversation as it benefits you, answering questions, giving examples, and even floating a few referral phrases. This way, you increase your chances that your name will pop up at the right time, and in the right conversation. After that, you can still touch on sharks--and feel confident that your central point will stick.

How to Determine Your “One Thing”

Finding your brand’s focal point can be difficult. As part of our Brandup Bootcamp, we’ve devised a formula that we teach to Badass-Brands-in-training.

Your “one thing” can come in a variety of forms, and you can also have multiple “one things”--your focus may shift depending on your audience. But it must always adhere to one major rule: It has to be something your competitors can’t and won’t say.

For example, we branded a financial plan for Stash Wealth, a wealth management company called Stash Wealth. We productized the “Stash Plan,” a flat-rate plan designed as the first step of any client relationship, which dives deep into a client’s goals, cash flow, and future. Now, when Stash speaks to potential clients, the Stash Plan is the only thing they want people to remember--it’s different, unique, cool, and shareable.

So, even though there are a lot of interesting things about Stash Wealth--like the fact that they work exclusively with 20- and 30-something HENRYs (High Earners Not Rich Yet)--they understand that everyone who leaves a conversation knowing the benefits of a Stash Plan is well on their way to becoming a client.

We Know Our Focus. Let Us Help Find Yours!

At Worstofall Design, our “one thing” is building Badass Brands in less than three days. We call this “without the bullshit.” For specific audiences, we may shift focus to our Brandshrink--a 90-minute deep-dive interview, where we identify a brand’s badassery and create a plan for how to unmask it.

Depending on who we’re talking to, we strategically plot out our approach. Both ideas are clear, branded, and unique to Worstofall--so when we frame a conversation around Brandshrinks or “no BS” branding, we know people will walk away with a distinct differentiator.

What’s your “one thing”?

Explore your material, nail that phrase, and watch your business grow.

Small Business Lessons From Billion Dollar Brands

If you want to be like Ralph Lauren, you have to start by thinking like Ralph Lifshitz

Apple, Nike, Starbucks, Ralph Lauren: They all come to mind when we think of successful brands. These billion-dollar companies grow not just because their products are good (many businesses sell great products), but because the brand has value in the mind of the consumer. Once the buyer believes in the brand’s message, a coffee company can start selling sandwiches and coffee mugs and a clothing company can start selling bedsheets.

It’s a great macro example of the power of branding, but small businesses often miss the mark when it comes to applying lessons to their own businesses. They make the mistake of looking at the tactics and strategies successful companies are using now to grow their business. We can gain much more value by looking at how they started.

Each of the companies listed above began by selling something very specific to a well-defined group of people. And, even more important, they all started in a niche that was unique to them. These business owners had the guts to sell something they believed in, even though it didn’t fall into line with what was on the market.

What can we learn from this? If you really want to build a brand like Apple, or Nike, or Ralph Lauren, then don’t be like Ralph Lauren...

Be like Ralph Lifshitz.

I recently spoke with a woman who wanted to start a fashion blog. While entertaining different names and ideas, she said she wanted to leave room to grow into a larger brand. Although she was starting by selling styling services, eventually she wanted to launch an event company, home accessories, and possibly even a food line. Ultimately she wanted to establish a lifestyle brand that could sell high-end products but would also offer lower-priced items.

This is a common misstep for entrepreneurs. She was already planning for her Ralph Lauren empire and letting that larger goal influence the steps she needed to take in the near future while opening up shop in her basement.

Don’t get me wrong—thinking about your Big Hairy Audacious Goal is valuable. It’s a great way to connect with your dreams and stay motivated through the day-to-day challenges of starting a business. But it can also be a hindrance if it stifles your ability to succeed in the present if you are unable to focus your current message for fear of limiting your options later. Without successes along the way, you will never achieve the BHAG.

And this is where we can learn something from Ralph. I meet many people who want a brand like Ralph Lauren, and they talk about how Ralph is able to reach everyone: he has very expensive couture lines, but he also has mid-tier and more affordable lines like Lauren by Ralph Lauren and Polo. He sells clothes, shoes, home goods, and perfume—something for everyone!

What these RL fans usually don’t know is that Ralph Lauren was originally known as Ralph Lifshitz, and he didn’t start out selling all things to all people. He kicked off in the 1960s selling just ties. His big idea? He wanted men to make a statement with their ties. The fashion trend of the ’60s was skinny, plain ties, and Ralph’s wide ties in luxurious fabrics and colorful patterns stood out from the norm.

This was a bold move. Ralph wasn’t copying what he saw in the marketplace; he was swimming upstream toward his unique vision. Many people likely looked at his ties and laughed.

“Who’s going to buy those crazy colored wide ties? They’re not stylish at all. Skinny ties are what’s in style!”

He had to have the guts to ignore the voices telling him that wide ties were out. Instead, he boldly went in his own direction. Being different stood out, and led to him being recognized and remembered. That was the foundation upon which the billion-dollar brand was built.

If you want to be like Ralph Lauren, you have to start by thinking like Ralph Lifshitz. Many large brands share similar stories.

Apple is one of the most successful brands on the planet, and it’s easy to forget that the company was on the verge of bankruptcy for decades. It took almost 30 years of swimming upstream to become the behemoth we know today.

Apple believed that intuitive design was the future of computers, and it was a risky move. In fact, the first few attempts failed. But the company stuck with its focus, which was not easy when its competitors were growing by doing the opposite. Only after Apple stayed focused and found success with the iMac was it well equipped to venture into iPods and iPhones.

Apple’s rise to Brand Superstardom came after almost three decades in the business staying true to its vision. The brand remained committed to the bold and risky stance of being the more intuitive, design-focused, creative computer choice. Its current success illustrates how big the payoff can be.

Nike is a lifestyle sport brand these days, but for the first few years of business it was known as Blue Ribbon Sports, and it sold only running shoes for more than 20 years. Starbucks was a high-end coffee bean roaster for its first 10 years in business. None of these companies came out of the gate as a brand for everyone.

How does this relate to my small business?

It’s tempting to look to successful brands for the answer and try to emulate them. After all, why reinvent the wheel? If these tactics are working for other companies, they should work for you too—right?

Again, the mistake is looking at what these companies are doing now and trying to copy that instead of looking at where they started. And a common theme among successful businesses started by people on their own sweat equity (starting a business with investors is an entirely different game) is that they founded their brand with a laser focus on one idea. And that idea wasn’t a knockoff of someone else’s concept, but something with which they had personal experience. In addition, the founders usually had a personal excitement and passion for the chosen niche.

This is why one of my favorite questions to ask clients is “What is your favorite part of what you do? What do you love about what you do?” I’m amazed at how often they don’t have an answer. What you do that you love is the first place to look for the seed for your unique and powerful company and brand.

Ralph believed in his ties, and he loved them. He had to, because he had to overcome objections from people who didn’t share his vision.

Why we choose being BADASS

As someone who owns a company called Worstofall Design, I can personally attest to the need for vision. Imagine how many people told me we should change the name of our company when we first started! We had many reasons true to our vision to use the name and it has served us well, but that conviction was necessary to continue on in the face of adversity. (You can read more about naming our company here)

Another place we receive pushback is our process. We build entire brands in 1- to 2-day intensives for clients. Do you know how many people have shrugged and told us it’s not possible, and that they don’t believe the brands we build could possibly be any good?

But our model developed organically from a core set of abilities, interests, and goals unique to my partner and me. And it’s not for everyone. That’s why our homepage says, “ In order to be loved by some, you have to be misunderstood or even disliked by others. ” Because when you are doing something badass, not everyone is going to get it. But if you get it, and if it is born out of your unique abilities and interests and goals, that is where the magic is born.

So if you own a business, and particularly if you sell your services and expertise, I encourage you to channel Ralph Lifshitz. What do you love about what you do? What do you know about your industry that gives you the conviction to overcome the objections of some because you know “your people” will get it and be energized by your message?

Branding small businesses is nothing like branding huge global brands, but these brands certainly have lessons to teach us. All of them started with a simple badass mission and a narrow focus rife with game-changing vision. Just learn those lessons from where they started, not where they are now.

This article was originally posted on Forbes

TALK BEHIND MY BACK... PLEASE!

If you want a business that attracts all ideal clients, you need to give them something to talk about.

Gossip gets a bad rap, especially considering it seems all PR is good PR these days.

Hell, we've got a presidential candidate who barely had to spend money on his campaign because he was so gossip-worthy! At Worstofall, we want people gossiping about us, too. That is, talking about us to their friends. Because good gossip is the best form marketingfree and reliable! And it builds reputation better than anything else.

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People share things that are… Entertaining

Whether it’s a polarizing political article or an adorable puppy licking a giggling baby, content that revs up our emotional juices are fun to share because they inspire reactions. This is obvious when it comes to Trump & puppies, but how does it relate to your business?

Take Night, a luxury pillow company that is as much a beauty product as a sleep buddy. We built their brand a couple years ago, and encouraged them to embrace the authentically sassy voice of their cofounders Kalle & Isaac. 

A recent blog post of theirs had me laughing so hard I had to forward it to a few friends. A behind-the-scenes story of Isaac’s trip across the country to personally deliver their product to Kim Kardashian, including a series of travel missteps and how airport miracle worker “Linda” made magic happen, was both entertaining and personal. It infused a brand (whose sole product is a black, silk pillow) with personality that makes you want to hang out with the founders.

What fun and entertaining stories can you share that let us in on the people behind the brand? 
 

People share things that are… easy to share

I bet there are a ton of people that know and trust you that would love to send you business... but they don’t. This is usually because you’re not easy to share with others because:

  • You are selling something generic that lots of other people are selling. In their most genuine tone the only reason they have to tell their friend to contact you is because they like you. “You should call my friend who’s an insurance broker because… he’s a great guy!” Not a very compelling sell. 
  • What you do is hard to explain, so it’s hard to bring it up. “My friend does this energy healing thing, I’m not sure exactly how she does it but she makes you feel better. You should try it!” Hmm… really?
  • It’s completely unclear how much you cost, so others are fearful of sending the wrong people to you because it may make them look bad. Either they send you someone who can't afford you (and wastes your time), or they send you a client who is ready to spend a lot more and then feels like their time was wasted when they find out you are at a much lower price, and therefore not in the league they were looking for.

Having a clear idea, action or product that makes you easy to talk about and share can change this. One example: we productized SAT test prep company Ivy Lounge Test Prep’s first meeting into an “Ace the Test Game Plan.”  Instead of an hourly test prep tutor, Ivy Lounge offers a $750 package where they do a full assessment of the student’s testing abilities, diagnose strengths and weaknesses, discuss test score and college goals, and gives a full report with an action plan on how to achieve said goals.

This is both easy for students and parents to share, and it lets everyone know the price range of their services. Instead of being another, albeit great, test tutor, they have something clearly defined that others can talk about.
 

People share things that… are unexpected

There are so many unexpected ways to be unexpected, but I’ll share my favorite one here: say "no" to clients that aren’t ideal for you. Nobody forgets the company that said “no” to them, whether explicitly ("we're not a match"), or implicitly by pricing themselves out of certain clients.

We just got an amazing client from a prospect who wanted to work with us months ago but couldn’t afford our services. Instead of feeling disillusioned, she was motivated to get her business to a more established spot so she could afford our services. In the meantime she became a raving fan who told her colleague that they had to work with us because they could afford it.


Are you gossip worthy?

Do you have something clear and specific that makes it easy for your friends, colleagues and fans to share you with others?

Sign up for our upcoming training and get clear on what makes you gossip worthy...

AFFORDABLE BRANDING... Say WHAT?!

Your services company needs a brand to attract clients and set itself apart. But we all know a branding strategy is damn expensive. As a wannabe badass brand, where will you find the budget?

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Well, here’s an Online Training in Badassery

Back in the day, we were struggling to find clients, too. So yeah, we feel your pain.

You probably didn’t go into business to be a salesperson. But here you are—head of sales (and chief cook and bottle washer, too). Why? Because it’s a business—not a hobby.

But when it comes to selling, the key is to build a business that sells itself, which is a key characteristic of a badass brand. This is the thing most people don’t get (and a golden opportunity for smarty’s like you). Your brand is the perception of your business inside your customers’ minds.
 

Whoa, what the hell does that mean?

We told you upfront: branding ain’t easy. Unless you’ve experienced the power of a badass brand, you can only imagine how incredible it can be. You’re left making the amateur assumption that it all comes down to your logo and website. While crucial elements of it, these are not the same as your brand.

You could hire a rising star on craigslist, or the super-talented graphic designer right out of school. The problem: they lack branding strategy or business insight. They’ll create a logo or a website they think looks nice. Since your business is your baby, you’ll make them edit it until you think it looks nice. Eventually, both of you will lose sight of your branding strategy and how it will increase sales altogether.

Don’t get us wrong: your logo is important. So is the color scheme and design of your website. But your brand? That’s something much, much bigger—and much more important.
 

Why are you telling me all of this?

Believe it or not, we want to empower you. Building a brand isn’t a complicated process if you have the right tools—and we want to share ours.

As a branding company, we have a seasoned ability to create a brand just by asking our clients the right questions. Once we have a concept in place, we build it out into a logo and website with a strong, clear, and memorable message that does their marketing—and selling—for them.

This takes a lot of practice—and time we know you don’t have. All you really need to do is to understand your business and industry. (We’d hope at this point you do!)

Our upcoming training walks you through the first steps to build your brand from scratch. We ask questions: the same ones we ask all of our clients to find their special brand. Then, our Brandup Bootcamp shows you how to use the answers to find your brand yourself and then build your polished and professional new website and logo you’ve been drooling over.

Imagine having a business that people remember and praise after reading about it, hearing about it, checking out the website.

Now go out and get it. Take our upcoming FREE training in badassery here.

 

IS YOUR WEBSITE A DINOSAUR?

Crazy technological advancements have created a small business landscape of unprecedented proportions. You can see the ripple effect in how we view websites, what we expect, and what we won’t stand for anymore. Worstofall has broken down what separates successful websites of the future from the dinosaurs of yesterday and today.

So the question is... Is your website leading the revolution, or are you already a dinosaur?

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WEBSITES OF THE FUTURE...

1. Will be childishly simple in their message and purpose

We can now hop back-and-forth between articles, screens, and ideas multiple times per minute. Customers lose interest in something if they aren’t sold in a split second (or at least sold on the idea of reading more). Getting your point across stat-quick will only be more important as the online landscape gets better at it—and as the dinosaur sites get crushed.

Proof: Every successful company

2. Will sell only one thing

Everyone should understand immediately what you sell so they can determine if it is right for them. With a bajillion new websites popping up each day, users are getting more and more used to finding exactly what they are looking for on websites that make it easy to understand, order, or contact. Businesses that offer hyper-specific products and services will beat their generalist competitors. 

Proof: There exists a store called The Heatonist in the high-rent section of Williamsburg, down the street from the Wythe Hotel, that only sells hot sauce... seriously.

3. Will have very limited “Options”

Sheena Lyengar’s great TedX talk outlines “choice overload.” She explains a study where she set up a tasting table of jam in front of a supermarket. On certain days she had 24 different jams to choose from, and other days only six. People who saw fewer options were six times more likely to buy a jar.

There are countless examples of this phenomenon (Sheena offers a few more; the talk is worth a watch!), but we know it feels like the wrong choice. You’re worried that offering fewer options equals missing out on sales. Stop thinking like that. When customers are six times more likely to buy from you, your sales will go way up, not down.

Proof: Casper- Maybe you’ve seen the subway ads? They sell only one mattress in every bed size. Business Insider’s article, “I just bought a bed from the ‘Warby Parker of mattresses’ and I will never buy one in stores again,” says it all: This trend is here to stay.

4. Will speak in tweets, captions and headlines only

If you’re over 40, you may still have the patience to read five-paragraph “About” pages and laundry lists of services, but I doubt it. As businesses get better and better at communicating their value in a sentence, no one will tolerate lengthy prose. Stop reading. You get it, and I’ve already said too much.

Proof: Twitter and your shrinking attention span

Badass website checklist

Want to lead the movement with a "website of the future," now? First step is to simplify your message.

WANT SOME MORE ACTIONABLE TIPS?

We'd love to share our 5 Steps you can take to Badassify Your Website in our

'BADASS WEBSITE THAT SELLS' CHECKLIST!

WHY YOU DIDN'T GET WHAT YOU WANTED

MODERN. PROFESSIONAL. CLEAN. SOPHISTICATED. COOL. 

Everyone wants their brand to be at least a couple of these things. But what does Modern, Sophisticated, Professional, Clean + Cool look like? 
 

PROBLEM: 

Words often only give the illusion of communication and understanding; we all think we know what "modern" looks like, but we all think something different. 

 Two very different examples of "modern"

Two very different examples of "modern"

SOLUTION:

Mood boards get the client and the designer on the same page.

 

The mood board gives us a chance to understand, for example, whether or not our definition of “modern” matches up with their definition of “modern" (see example above.)

They create a foundation of understanding by agreeing on the definition of the most crucial sentiments that will inspire the creative work. Without such agreement, it's likely a designer and a client will have different ideas of where the project is headed, leading to the client feeling like they didn't get what they paid for.

And it’s why, time and again, our clients tell us our first round of brand concepts is spot on. Here are 4 examples of mood boards designed for our clients, ALL of which can be considered modern and sophisticated. However, each contains its own distinct imagery and style that represents the values and personality of each individual brand.
 

 This brand is futuristic and aggressive with an emphasis on mobile devices since it is an app.

This brand is futuristic and aggressive with an emphasis on mobile devices since it is an app.

 This brand is more artisan, with a handcrafted feel and imagery to match since it is for a specialty food product. 

This brand is more artisan, with a handcrafted feel and imagery to match since it is for a specialty food product. 

 This is a colorful, friendly and community-based board for a upbeat company that provides services for non-profit organizations

This is a colorful, friendly and community-based board for a upbeat company that provides services for non-profit organizations

 This board is elegant and minimalist, but with natural texture for a jewelry brand that uses uncut stones. 

This board is elegant and minimalist, but with natural texture for a jewelry brand that uses uncut stones. 

You can also check out the approved mood boards at the beginning of these 1st round brand presentations, and then see the brand concepts that followed. As you can see, mood boards are crucial to getting on the same page with your design firm to ensure you are happy with the results!