Innovation: Jump in the Pool

Still Pool in the Storm
Last week I attended Connecting Innovation – an event designed to “look at the opportunities to work together, the ways creativity is cultivated and how productive partnerships can be formed”.

For me the event was worthwhile because of the interesting people I got to meet, and because I got to hear Charles Leadbeater speak.

When Charles was talking about innovation, he referred to the way most people learn to swim. While you may practice strokes on dry land, you only learn to swim when you get in the pool. Innovation can’t really happen until you “get in the pool”.

Charles’ point resonated with my experiences. I’ve learnt most of what I know by combining research (reading online and offline) with doing. I’m a firm believer in learning by doing. I recommend it.

If you’re tackling something new, try getting in the pool.

You don’t always need to wait for approval or a certificate to authorise you to do something new. Sometimes the best way to learn is by experimenting independently.

Internet Marketing Gurus – What do they know?

Have you ever bought a product or service from an Internet Marketing Guru?

I’m trying to learn more about the curious world of the Internet Marketing Guru and would love to hear from anyone who has worked with people like:

  • Ewen Chia
  • Andrew Reynolds
  • David DeAngelo (Eben Pagan)

Nyouse: Connecting People to Press

To diverge slightly from copywriting for a moment; I’ve been busy cooking up a side-project which might interest you:, pronounced “news”, is a new website that connects people with journalists.

Do you have a story to tell? Do you have breaking news that the world needs to know? Do you have a whistle to blow or an announcement to make?

If you do, then use Nyouse! It’s very easy…

Just follow these steps:

  1. Log in to (you’ll need a Twitter account to use Nyouse. But they’re quick to set up and free to use.)
  2. Write a message that explains your story. Twitter messages (a.k.a. tweets) are limited to 140 characters so you’ll have to provide a flavour of your story, rather than all the details.
  3. Direct your message @nyouse or include the hashtag #nyouse
  4. If you want to indicate the location that your story is connected to, include the first half of your postcode as a hashtag. e.g. #bn1 for Brighton
  5. Wait for a journalist to get in touch.

Find out more about Nyouse on the Nyouse Blog, or read my post on Words By Me.

Nyouse is built on Inuda’s SocialPlume Twitter application, and is sponsored by Inuda and Kendall Copywriting.

How to Do More on the Web – A Few Ideas

How to Sell More on the Web:

A Thoughtful Approach to Crafting Success

This guide isn’t just about selling more on the web: it’s about achieving your goals, whatever they are.

That might mean selling tickets to your gigs, or getting donations for your charity, or building support for your big idea. Whatever you’re trying to do, the principles and ideas covered will apply to you. Just bend the suggestions until they make sense for you.

Good websites are full of people’s ideas. Anything worthwhile needs a bit of brain-space. As soon as you start thinking about your website your chances of success increase dramatically. Most websites suck and fail because they are designed and built in haste and then left to gather dust. Always view your website as an evolving work in progress.

If you get stuck, and can’t find a way to progress, email – if I can spare a few minutes I’ll think about your conundrum.

This guide should answer questions like:

  • Why doesn’t anyone visit my website?
  • Why do people come to my website, but never buy anything?
  • What can I do to create interest around my website?

Who is this for?

This guide is designed to help anyone with a website. If you’re a very experienced website creator/owner/manager then this guide might not offer anything new. But if your website doesn’t do a lot, then you might find a few useful ideas.

Success Doesn’t Have to Lead You to Evil

Selling more things, or recruiting more donors, or persuading people that your scheme is brilliant does not need to involve under-hand tactics. Success does not require evil.

If you’re offering something useful then you should let people know. This guide is all about how you can let people know.

Part 1: Thinking about Your Customers

Before you think about your website, you need to think about the people that you created it for: your customers.

  • Who are they?
  • What do they want?
  • Why do they want your products?
  • What can you offer them?
  • Where are they?
  • How can you get in front of them?

Who Are Your Customers?

If you’re going to sell anything to anybody, you’ll need to establish who wants what you’ve got. Are they:

  • Young, old, or in-between
  • Male or female
  • Organised around a niche
  • Highly web-literate or borderline Luddites
  • Pinko liberals or conservatives?

Identify your target audience. Think about who they are. Imagine you are them. Step into their shoes and consider their motivations. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want?
  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What are my concerns?
  • What would make me happy?

Why Do Your Customers Want Your Products?

Okay, so you know what you’re offering, what it does and why people use it… or do you? Do you really know why people use your things, or engage your services?

You might think you know exactly what people are doing with your stuff, but you might be surprised to learn that people are misusing your products – or that they really just want your services for a reason other than the ones you intended.

Luckily, it’s easy enough to find out what your customers are up to. Just ask them. And you don’t need to set up a survey and harvest reams of data. Just call a few people and have a chat.

A few examples of products that have found unintended uses:


Thanks to the following for their suggestions:

Meeting Your Clients in the Middle

Your products and services might be valued for reasons other than the ones you know about. If people think about your work in different ways to you, address this in your website’s copy.

Related blog post:

Apple’s Honesty Policy

What Can You Offer Your Customers?

Are there other ways you could help your customers? Are there additional products or services that fit with your existing range? What would people like from you? How can you make people’s lives better, easier or more fulfilling?

Don’t just assume that your products and services have to stop where they are now. If there’s something more you can offer – something real, something useful and desirable – then start offering it.

Crafting Your Offer to Match Your Customers

Many businesses decide what they do, then create products and services that they think are required, then offer them for sale. Rarely do businesses ask what is required – what is wanted – and then offer it.

It’s easier to sell the thing that people want, than it is to sell the thing that you need to sell. So if you’re struggling to sell something, consider changing it until it meets people’s needs.

Again, it’s a good idea to spend time talking to your clients. And don’t make it complicated. Just pick up the phone, dial a number, say hi, ask some questions.

Related blog post:

Don’t Treat Your Website Like a Commodity

End of Part 1

That’s it for Part 1. Part 2 will look at your products and services (although really we’ve already thought about this, but in relation to how your customers think about your products and services.) Part 2 is the shortest section.

In Part 3, we’ll explore the aspects of your website that might be failing. This will cover SEO, social media and other wonderful things.

The Absence of Marketing

Oh, and did you notice that I haven’t mentioned marketing ? There’s a good reason for that. Many people in marketing are disreputable,  unlovable rogues who smarm their way through life with slick grins and thin lies. ‘Marketing’ is a word so loaded with negative connotations that I prefer to discuss ‘marketing’ without using the word.

Recent Contributions to Other Blogs

I’ve been a promiscuous blogger! Hope you enjoy the following posts:


Freelance Advisor

Freelance Supermarket

Invisible Copy – Why Your Copy Should Have a Small Ego

Short version

Good copy doesn’t attract attention to itself – it attracts attention to your products and services.

Long version

Occasionally clients expect copy to have some ‘wow’ factor. Perhaps they were expecting poetic, glorious prose. Or perhaps they were expecting copy that their clients would remark upon. Or perhaps they just expected something more sensational.

In most cases, for most organisations, copy should not draw attention to itself. Good copy does not stand out. It draws attention to your organisation, your products and your services. The best copy is like a ninja – it moves silently and people read it without even realising that they’re reading something.

So when you employ a copywriter, or write copy yourself, don’t aim for copy that is loud or spectacular. Aim for copy that communicates clear messages, sinking into the background and focussing attention on you and your offer.

Writing Things Down to Get Things Done

Obvious: If you write things down, they’re more likely to get done.

Less obvious: If you write down a commitment to do something, and give that written commitment to people you respect and admire, then you’re even more likely to keep your promises. This is because you will have engaged one of the principles of persuasion.

In Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini shares his comprehensive research into the psychology behind persuasion. Cialdini was, by his own admission, a terrible sucker for salesmen’s tricks and he sought to understand how marketers manipulated him into decisions he didn’t want to make.

One of the six universal principles of persuasion is commitment and consistency. Basically, you and everyone around you strive to remain consistent. Socially and culturally, it’s important that we are viewed as people who stick to their word, who make consistent choices and who can be understood on the basis of past actions. Inconsistent people are difficult, flaky, unreliable and undesirable. Clearly, in any society, consistency is a valuable trait, and the need to appear consistent is paramount.

It is this human need to appear consistent that marketers abuse. I won’t go into the depths of Cialdini’s fascinating research here (I recommend you read the book) but I would like to share one story from Influence.

A woman had struggled for years to quit smoking. In spite of reading numerous studies linking smoking to cancer, she hadn’t been able to quit. Eventually, after reading about yet another study, she realised that her pride was troubled. It was embarrassing for her to be smoking when it was so clearly a bad choice. She decided to use her pride and her need to be seen as consistent to help her quit.

She bought blank business cards and wrote, “I promise you that I will never smoke another cigarette”. She gave the cards to family, friends and, after some hesitation, the man she adored. Now, the woman hesitated before giving the card to her lover because she couldn’t risk him thinking less of her. By sharing the commitment with him, she was binding herself to it.

And it worked. She never smoked again.

So if you’re struggling to get something done, try writing it down and giving your promise to the people that matter most. Make your promise to the people that you could never disappoint.

Sometimes we can use the principles of persuasion against ourselves, in order to achieve positive goals.

Invention – The Ideo Way

I’ve just been watching a program about Ideo (an amazing design company), after Dave Stone mentioned it on Twitter (thanks Dave!).

It’s incredibly interesting to see how Ideo tackle design challenges.

My favourite thing from the program is the way Ideo employees are allowed to change their work areas. One guy rigged up a rope to lift his bike into the air, reducing clutter. Nobody complained, so someone else did the same. Soon, everyone was storing their bikes in mid-air. The process of innovation was not started with consultation: somebody tried something and waited to see if anyone complained. Nobody did.

I like that. Sometimes, life’s too short to consult everybody on everything. So if you want to dangle your bike from the ceiling, just do it. And ask forgiveness if anyone complains.

Networking not working? Why You Might be Getting it Wrong

Business meeting
I’m a big fan of networking events. I think it’s good practice for anyone in business to get out and be seen. Meet people, introduce yourself, explain what you do. It’s nice to meet the other people who are working around you. And it’s useful.

But networking isn’t always useful. Networking can become a circuit of the same dudes in shiny suits – everyone selling, nobody buying.

The key to good networking is to attend events that your customers go to. Meeting other people in business is nice, and it’s always useful to have a solid network of connections – but nice networks and connections won’t pay the bills. You need to meet potential clients, not a bunch of people who want to sell you something.

So, who are your customers, and where do they hang out?

(Picture courtesy of llawliet via Flickr)

Let’s chat about your projectContact us