Tell Me a Story vs Sell Me a Product

You can shout from the hills all day long about how amazing your product or service is, but there is so much competition out there that it is difficult (even rare) for you to stand out from the crowd.

There is no meaning in a product description, but there IS in the story behind it or the company that developed said product. Our brains process information in story-like patterns and words into meanings. So when someone tells us a story, it reaches more than just the language center of our brain – it activates other senses.

Invite People to Experience Your Product Through a Story

This isn’t a “Once Upon a Time” scenario, but more of a mini-documentary or biography. Remember the VH1 show Behind the Music? That show brought so much attention to artists who were long forgotten and it triggered huge music sales. Why? Because we (the viewers) engaged on a deeper level with that musician or band, felt connected, and wanted to be part of their story somehow.

Brand Story, Marketing, Company Story, Marketing story, storytelling

Yes, there are absolutely instances of huge companies that do not tell their story in the way that I’m describing. They simply have a tagline that includes sensory words to trigger your interest. Then they repeat the phrase everywhere you go so that you can’t forget.

“Mmm Mmm Good”

Melts in your mouth, not in your hands”

“The Happiest Place on Earth”

Customers want to hear about why the company or product exists, the way the founder feels about the product, the first-ever store opening or sale made. Those small moments in time will take people from liking a quality product or service to connecting with it and becoming loyal.

 

30 Of The Hardest (But Most Necessary) Things That Must Be Done To Achieve Success

This article was originally posted in Elite Daily. 

Success is defined differently for everyone; however, facing difficulties on the road to success is a common denominator for anyone pursuing his or her passions.

Road Diverged, CEO Candi

What separates those who see their dreams through and those who don’t is the ability to do what others will not. Everyone can dream of eventual success, but accomplishing one’s goals requires taking on the difficult tasks and functions for which many people do not have the courage or stamina.

Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Taking on the hard tasks time and time again is what defines a person’s character and generates the most rewarding results. Success is not a tangible product. It is a lifestyle and a mindset. And those who have found their version of success did not avoid the most difficult steps.

Here are the 30 hardest things you need to do to be successful:

1. End friendships if they are not beneficial to your overall goals.

2. Prove the doubters right by making mistakes, before proving them wrong in the long run.

3. Realize if you are unable to maintain a romantic relationship.

4. Avoid the “fake it ’til you make it” belief and focus only on making it.

5. Allow the idea of “the greater the risk, the greater the reward” to lead your actions.

6. Fail with your head held high.

7. Wake up earlier than others.

8. Maintain self-worth even when nobody else sees your value.

9. Talk about ideas, not people.

10. Put in more than you get in return at first.

11. Stick to a strict schedule, even if it makes less time for excessive fun and relaxation.

12. Over-deliver, don’t over-promise.

13. Respect the competition.

14. Support the success of others, rather than hoping they fail.

15. Understand that the first version of your idea may not be the best.

16. Sacrifice your social life and weekends.

17. Admit you need help and ask others for guidance.

18.Turn the complex into simple, so people can best share your vision.

19. Be accountable for all failures without blaming others.

20. Accept insecurity and fear as unavoidable emotions.

21. Don’t actively seek credit for success.

22. Track finances to the penny.

23. Celebrate the small victories even if the end goal is far away.

24. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

25. Embrace change and adapt accordingly.

26. Place money at the end of your priority list.

27. Don’t overthink and learn to trust your gut feeling.

28. Do what others would say is an impossible task, without making excuses or feeling like a victim.

29. Get up after getting knocked down, stronger and more prepared than before.

30. Smile at the people who doubt your abilities.


Networking in a Big Small Town

Networking is More than Exchanging Business Cards

No matter where you live, building a network of people to support you and vice-verse is one of the keys to business (and personal) success. I love attending networking events and meeting new people – connecting with others is a huge part of my personality. Not everyone is bubbly and outgoing, so speaking to strangers does not come easy.

After many years of meeting strangers and creating connections from coast to coast, I can safely say that making 1 or 2 genuine connections is more valuable than collecting 20 business cards from people you may never speak to again. Business Cards are not a form of currency. If you’re the shy person worried about what to say or who to approach at a networking event, just take a deep breath and think about the true possibilities. The worst thing that can happen is someone may be too blind to see how great you are, and he/she could choose to talk to someone else. Try approaching the person in the room who appears to feel just as uncomfortable as you do, smile, and ask a simple question like “how are you doing today?”

Connecting with People in a Tightly Webbed City

While I absolutely love Austin, sometimes it can be unsettling when you realize the brand new person you just met has 3 friends in common with you. Occurrences like that were rare and exciting in New York, but here they are very common. This means a few things (all of which may be obvious, but I’ll list them anyway):

  • Be careful with the stories you share. While the story about your friend John drinking too much and causing trouble is hysterical to you, it will be less appealing to his boss. After John’s coworker’s best friend retells the story in the office cafeteria, the boss and other coworkers may not be so happy.
  • Be an open brochure, not an open book. By this I mean that it’s great to be open about who you are and what you love, but avoid giving away too much detail about yourself upfront. Information can be misinterpreted and things can get awkward.
  • Not everything you do belongs on social media. I won’t even explain all of the reasons for us to remember this while networking. You get it. Check-ins and posts are fun, but be aware of the long-term possible affects.

Networking in a Big Small CityWhere Should You Go and What Groups to Join?

I’ve enjoyed mingling with lots of different groups in Austin. Here are the ones where I made the best connections.

  • Austin Open Coffee Club (meets at Houndstooth Coffee on Congress)
  • AWIG – Austin Women’s Investing Group
  • AGLCC Toastmasters (Membership based. Don’t need to be LBGT to join)
  • Creative Mornings (A new favorite group of mine)
  • Metropolitan Breakfast Club (Membership based, but you can attend up to 3 times before joining)
  • Network in Austin (First group I ever joined in Austin)
  • Young Women’s Roundtable (not around anymore, but may resurface)

I also recommend searching Eventbrite.com and Meetup.com for the topics you are most interested in. You would be surprised how many other people are out there looking for the same things you are.

Listening and Respect

Bad Habits

I have a new appreciation for good listeners after practicing my active listening skills over the past week or so. When I asked myself, “why do you talk so much” the answer was not completely clear… until my mom called me. I barely got a word in with her. She talked at me, rarely listened to anything I had to say, and then talked over me to complain. We really are shaped by our parents at such a young age that the habits become unconscious.

After that frustrating phone call, I sat back in my chair and reflected for a moment on what had just happened. It felt like a talking attack. I don’t ever want someone to feel that way when he or she is with me. While I am definitely a better listener than my mom, I absolutely have my work cut out for me.

There’s Time

I still have some deep seeded habits like wanting to tell people my parallel story or offer advice. What I have noticed in my practiced listening is that there is time for my stories, but I need to provide a space for others to share their stories first. It’s like holding the door open for someone. You don’t hold it open to then push past him or her and go through the doorway.

Part of me always feels like there is a time limit on things, like the opportunity to share my “hilarious story” is a short time period and I may miss it. Lately I realized that my story doesn’t always matter to the conversation, and the more I listen the more I realize how unrelated my first story may have been.

Focused Listening

Slowly I’m also noticing my attention span for truly listening to improve. Clearly, I am of the “ADD Generation” with all of our fast technology, short video clips and 140 character updates. I can be easily distracted at times and wander off in my mind. However, when I listen to someone with my whole self it feels better – the conversation feels complete and more meaningful.

This was more of a stream of consciousness rant than a blog post, but consider it a check-in on my 2014 resolution progress. Thank you to all my friends who love me no matter how much I talk. Looking back, I know that you are the few whom I made time and space to listen to (even when I wasn’t practicing it).

A Clever Little Cartoon About Listening

A Crack in the Rose-Colored Glasses

Cracked Rose Colored Glasses
An Imperfect World

My mom explained the concept of rose-colored glasses to me when I was young. She told me that I had a beautiful perspective of the world, but I should be aware that it would not always look that way. Other than bullies in school, I viewed the world as this awesome melting pot of colors, shapes, religions, beliefs and ways to communicate. I loved it!

With New Friends

A new girl moved into the house across street in the summer of 1993. Naturally, she would become my new friend…that is how us extroverts think. She felt totally overwhelmed by my bubbly personality at first, but we bonded over our love for dance and singing. She introduced me to Bollywood movies, and I introduced her to Broadway show tunes. By the time school began (5th grade), we were close friends.

Speaking Up

She rarely, if ever, spoke up in class, but as soon as we hit the playground she would chat up a storm. Our teacher noticed this trend and pulled me aside. He asked, “Do you think you could help Mandeep come out of her shell a bit? I can tell that she knows the answers, but she seems scared to speak up.” My response was clear, “Um Yes! Of course!”

Rather than being my usual pushy self, I decided to be nonchalant by sneaking in supportive comments whenever I could. I found myself becoming her number one cheerleader. By the end of the school year she was talking to everyone, and no situation seemed to scare her.

Our Cultural Differences

Indian Beauty. Cultural Differences

Clearly Mandeep figured out my devious plan, because she sat me down one day to explain the reasons behind her shyness. Kids in small town suburbia are not accustomed to seeing a dark skinned girl who prays to many gods, occasionally wearing henna, and speaking with a “funny” accent. These were among my favorite things about her, so this realization confused me and broke my heart a little.

My Story Begins

Mom was right – the rose-colored glasses were now cracked. I think my mom always knew I would choose the rosy perspective. However, she didn’t account for my tenacity and drive for equality. The crack created in my glasses stirred a desire to support and protect others.

I was building a network of relationships with other inspiring people, and Mandeep was only the beginning of my story. No one would make the people in my community (or me) feel bad or stupid anymore. So it began…my journey to create a world of clear communication, trust, open information, and community. I’m still wandering down the path with my rosy glasses on, but I sneak a peek through the crack for a piece of “reality” every so often.

The Story of My Journey…So far

When I look back at my journey thus far I realize that there is a recurring theme – the weight of relationships. From childhood through college, and especially in adulthood, I have felt the impact of friendships, coworker relationships and even romantic relationships more than anything else going on in my life.

Growing Up

Going back to elementary school I remember the most difficult transition being all about my friends. The county changed the district lines for the elementary schools, so after third grade my brother and I had to switch from our “down to earth” middle class school to the new money middle class school. Having an awesome mom helped the process. She reminded me that I knew a few kids at my new school from preschool and kindergarten. However, she couldn’t protect me from the bullying and typical “new kid” issues everyone faces. It was so important for me to fit in and be accepted.  But Why?

By high school I had found a home among the nerdy outcasts. We were a powerful mixture of the smart kids, theatre geeks, musicians, and other creative types – Creative Outcasts. While some kids hated high school, I thrived. Everyday I was surrounded by people – asking questions, sharing stories, practicing music. It didn’t really matter, as long as we shared positive interactions.

Even the huge shift into college was centered around the relationships I made. Though my freshman year roommate and I were nothing alike, I adapted to her styles so that we could bond. While that sounds conformist and boring, I learned a lot from her. I had never met a vegan before or someone from a charter school or an animal activist. She brought out good things in me and the others around her. Eventually, I moved forward and found similar women. We founded the Pi Beta chapter of Delta Zeta sorority. Yes, that also sounds conformist; but at the time it was rebellious and revolutionary. We were in a small university with too many sororities already. Rather than going through rush and pretending to fit in, we made our own unique community of like-minded women. No hazing or cattiness. We were powerful women trying to improve campus and build ourselves into tomorrow’s leaders.

Adulthood

My work of choice has been in the arts – modern art museum, Broadway shows, music halls, and now my current business plan. As I reflect on my roles in these businesses I realize two things:

  • The arts inherently brings with it a strong community
  • Marketing is 90% about connecting with other people and engagement

Where do I go next?

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For your entertainment…this video is a peek into the world of my Creative Outcast friends as we produced Fiddler on the Roof. It was the first show of many. I’m the girl in a red shirt painting set in the opening shot.

Strategic Alliances for Your Business

My energy comes from other people, so the connections I make around my business are highly important. One often thinks of strategic alliances as a tool of manipulation. It assumes that we align ourselves or businesses with certain people purely for tools or power. I treat strategic alliances as deeper relationships that need to fit with both my core values and my professional goals.

At each point of developing a business, you need different things.

  • Beginnings: on-boarding strangers to understand and get excited about your idea. These people’s tools only matter to a small extent, because the excitement behind them is more important
  • Established: the people you align with your business begin to fill needs. You may need to find a CPA or a lawyer who has interest in what you are doing
  • Growing: you need to admit that there are some things you cannot do yourself. It is time to trust someone who is an expert in that area, and invite him or her into your circle of strategic alliances

Throughout all of these processes, we must keep in mind the key element that can easily break the connection made – trust. There is a world of difference between the person who is great at his job, shares an interest and passion for your business, and has mutual trust with you; and the person who is the best in his industry, sort of understands what the driver is behind your business and is questionably trusted.

strategic alliances