Who Can You Trust?

Trust is huge. 

Not just with others, but with ourselves. If we can’t trust ourselves to do right more often than not, then what hope do we have of being able to trust others?

When running a business, we’re forced to trust others constantly. Employees and 3rd party product/service vendors like printers, manufacturers, and designers are critical organs in the organism that is your company. If one fails, the rest of the body feels the effect. This fact alone is enough for some of us to be somewhat distrustful of others.

The impact of that mistrust can be just as devastating as an unreliable employee or vendor. People have a tendency to catch onto “vibes”  or “energy”  that you put out that can add toxicity  to any relationship, regardless as to whether the mistrust is justified or not. So how do we move forward with confidence in the people around us?

Get or give clarity on the process.

It’s important to understand the process that will accompany that relationship. Setting or understanding the ground rules of any exchange can drastically enhance satisfaction for both parties if the process is effective and followed correctly.

For your employees, that means being crystal clear on what activities and results are expected in their position. For your vendors, it means making sure they’re able to easily and thoroughly explain that process before they follow through on it precisely. Both are great ways to screen for compatibility and alignment in your relationships, as you can gauge a person’s reaction to these practices.

Having people in your corner that you can rely on is so powerful. How do you develop trust? Who do you have in your corner? An exceptional employee? A loving romantic or reliable business partner? A supportive creative agency with a deep, consultative approach? 

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How to Draw Your Brand’s Roadmap & Plan for Success

Do you have a roadmap?

Getting where we want to go involves knowing how to get there. Many people feel they know exactly where they want to be but have no idea how to get there.

So how do you figure that out? It may feel like you’re treading uncharted territory that’s impossible to survey. There are a few hacks to undo this halting mindset.

Research the Competition

Firstly, look for examples of business models that are remotely similar to yours. 🔎 I’ve had clients and prospects alike claim that their idea was just too unique to find these examples, but I urge you to get creative. I was approached by someone who was creating a website designed to help people creating wildlife habitats in their backyard. They thought there was NO ONE who ever had a platform specifically designed for those interested in that topic. She was right…sort of. While there were no other websites in the same, highly specific niche, there were lots of environmental and home gardening/landscaping websites discussing the topic. With those sources, she was better able to reverse engineer the content and audience participation to figure out what those people were like to better solve their problems.

Goal Prioritization

Secondly, prioritizing your business goals is a fantastic way to project your business’ trajectory. 📈A journey consists of a series of challenges to be met. Without a clear understanding of what those challenges entail, we’ll often find ourselves stumbling looking for the next step. I went over how to do this briefly at live stream in our brand development group, Tactical. The basic idea is to list all of your goals, then give each goal a score based on how quickly it can be done (BE REALISTIC), how doable it is, and how desirable that goal is. Your first stops should become crystal clear. Shelf those other goals until you start tackling the smaller ones. You’ve got to go to point A before point B.

Expert Branding Guidance

Finally, hiring a branding sherpa to help you on your way can be an invaluable investment.  It’s a scary world out there, and if you’re not experienced with the dangers, even the most prepared adventurers can fall victim to the unforeseen. When the going gets tough and rations are low, your guide can help you get resourceful quickly. Their creativity is a survival asset first and foremost, so having an expert on your side can mean the difference between success and failure.

How do you draw a map? Where are you on the journey? Did this post help you think of any new ways to clear the path?

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How to Get Your Brand to Stand Out in a Crowded Market

Being different is better than being better. 🐧

You may be feeling a bit of discomfort with that statement, and I understand why. Many of us are striving to make the world a BETTER place, after all, and not just a DIFFERENT place. That’s admirable, and I am also interested in moving humanity upward and onward. 📈

Unfortunately, changing the world for the better has a few prerequisites that our idealism may not be fulfilling. A fantastic idea that merely improves upon an existing one is rarely valued and embraced quickly or enthusiastically. To be convinced to invest in a new product, service, or infrastructure, the inherent value must be made perfectly clear. Value, unfortunately, is often obscured by familiarity with what already exists to provide a similar value, even if the new value is objectively higher with faster returns than the old. That’s because we are creatures of habit. If it’s already “working”, then why bother changing it? Change is hard!

That’s why emphasizing your differences, or unique value, in contrast to the competition can make all the difference with regards to widespread acceptance. While it’s true we are all creatures of habit, it’s also true that few of us are truly content. It’s that lack of content that drives the human race forward, encouraging us to try new things. That last bit may seem contradictory to what I just explained but bear with me.

There are plenty of people out there who highly value the every day low prices of Wal-Mart while simultaneously feeling uncomfortable about their compensation of employees or cutthroat business practices. Enter Target. They provide a service remarkably similar to Wal-Mart, but do so at HIGHER PRICES! How can they do it if their prices are WORSE than Wal-Mart’s? By being different. Target offers employees wages much higher than Wal-Mart with a better design sensibility regarding their brand identity and stores. Those two points alone were enough for Target to expand nationwide and remain relevant since the mid-90s.

Isn’t that amazing how you can charge more for identical products in the same market as your industry’s largest competitor and still be successful?

That’s the power of branding and brand identity, folks.

How do you stand out? What makes your brand radically different than anyone else out there? Are you building your business now with this in mind?

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How to Develop Your Brand’s Sound

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. 👂

Don’t get me wrong; what you’re saying is still really important. The information you provide to your audience should be accurate and thorough in order to establish trust.

That said, setting information to a pleasant tone can make the difference between a lead stopping to look versus walking on by. Think of the Siren’s song in The Odyssey 🎶, but instead of trying to wreck sailor’s ships and devouring crews, we’re trying to solve our customer’s problems!

Ok, that analogy was a little dark, but that’s just part of my tone. That might turn some people off, but it’s also a perfect example of the other benefit of utilizing tone: repulsion.

But why would any brand want to shoo away potential customers? To make room for the RIGHT customers. If you’ve been in business for some time, you know how crushing it can be to invest time and resources into courting the wrong client. Whether it was an issue regarding price, personality, or expectations, you’re not getting back what you put into it. Using tone to deter certain types of leads can save you a lot of money in the long run.

How does your brand utilize tone? Are you using the sound of your brand’s voice intentionally? Did you ever run into an instance where your tone helped or hurt your chances with a prospect?

Consider sharing your feedback in our Facebook Group, Tactical, a community with daily content for business owners, marketers, and designers developing brands.

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7 Things You Need to do BEFORE You Make Content


This word, more than any other in the last decade, has been beaten to death in the context of branding, marketing, and business development. There may be a good reason for that. The world seems to have an endless appetite for it.

You probably know you need more of content in order to establish yourself in whatever market you’re trying to reach, but do you know the who/what/when/where/how behind not wasting your precious time developing it?

It probably comes as no surprise that this question is why so many businesses drag their feet when it comes to creating content. While others might try to encourage you to look past your doubts and just get started, I’d argue that this gut feeling exists as a survival response we’ve evolved as human beings to keep ourselves from squandering what little precious time we have on this earth.

So what exactly will fill this empty feeling of impending failure? The answer is a content strategy, and you can develop yours in 7 simple steps.

Step 1 – Define Your Goals

Start out by identifying all of the goals you’re trying to accomplish with your content. Are you trying to get new customers for your business, users for your app, attendees at an event, or just people in the audience to enjoy the show? What kind of product or service do you want to offer the viewer, reader, or listener? Do you want them to join a community of like-minded members?

Getting clear on your objectives first thing will give you an excellent point of reference whenever you’re making decisions regarding your content down the road. As you proceed, continue asking yourself, “Is this moving me closer to my goals?” If the answer is yes, you’re likely on the right track.

Step 2 – Define Success Metrics

How are we going to measure the achievement of our goals? Is it by the number of impressions, conversions on your webstore, or members joined? Defining success metrics keeps us aware of whether or not our efforts are yielding results, which can tame that emotional deficiency that comes when thinking about the hours it takes to craft the perfect video, blog, or podcast.

Step 3 – Content Audit

Before we act, we should reflect. Winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Sciences, Daniel Kahneman, says that human beings have basically 2 methods of thinking. System 1 is built for speed and specializes in things like reflexive behaviors for things like sports, casual conversation, or simple reading. System 2 is designed for more complicated tasks like complex equations, intricate movement, or listening intently to one instrument in a song.

The second System is much better at analytical reasoning, so it’s important to shift into it before we do something important. Slow down before you start shooting videos or writing blogs to take the time to reflect and review past content you’ve made to find both successful and unsuccessful attempts as examples of styles and techniques to either repeat or avoid, respectively. It can make a world of difference when it comes to the impact your content will elicit.

For those of you who have little to no experience creating content, try to review the most recent informational writing you’ve done. Old college or even high school reports can be quite revealing when it comes to our strengths and shortcomings with regards to communicating ideas, especially if they’re graded by an instructor.

Step 4 – Evaluate the Competition

Now that we’ve taken a healthy look inward, we’re better qualified to eye up the competition. Feel free to dig into them the same way you just tore into yourself. You owe it to yourself NOT to be nice in this instance. It’s not like we’re doing it to actively belittle them, anyways.

If you’re the kind that gets discouraged when you see the thousands of hearts and comments on your competitor’s Instagram posts, pivot to find the chinks in their armor that can be exposed to create an advantage. Their Facebook page could be an abysmal wasteland of low engagement. Take the time to reverse engineer both their successes and failures in order to turn them into your strategy.

Just remember: don’t imitate, innovate! The goal here isn’t to jack a popular hashtag or leverage someone else’s audience (though I’m not ENTIRELY against these ideas in certain contexts). We want to freshen up our own unique ideas by getting a good idea of what has been done before.

Step 5 – Ideate Content

Put on your thinking cap and get ready to write down all of the ideas that are likely already racing through your head after such a comprehensive dive. Draw inspiration from every success and failure you’ve observed in order to ideate content that can actively achieve your goals.

Maybe you retool some old content in the context of an Instagram tactic inspired by a competitor’s successful campaign. Perhaps you film a series of informational videos on a topic relevant to your business’ industry that got a competitor’s blog post a ton of engagement. Hopefully, these examples give you a good idea of how you can turn all of your recent research into actionable ideas.

Step 6 – Evaluate Your Bandwidth

What resources do you have available? Is there a competent crew ready to get on the job, or are you struggling just to turn on your computer? Believe it or not, both of these scenarios are capable of proucing some grade A content, but only if an accurate evaluation of the situation is made.

Don’t attempt to replicate your competition’s high production 30-minute talk show (complete with a live band and audience) if the only camera you’re working with is the one on your smartphone. Why bother setting yourself up for the dissapointment of inevitably not measuring up when you can focus that energy on getting creative within your limitations? Limitations are the whole reason why people get creative in the first place. What would be the point of challenging ourselves to make things that are greater than the sum of their parts if we had unlimited resources?

Step 7 – Establish a Content Creation Workflow

Now that we’ve got the ideas, let’s plug them into a schedule. I’ve touched on this before (https://www.facebook.com/aetoricdesign/photos/g.190424928224940/2176143502402473), but I want to make a few quick points on scheduling that are extremely important here…


Nothing discourages creativity like a missed deadline and nothing makes us miss a deadline more than overly optimistic planning.


Sometimes, there are emergencies that throw us off. Be prepared for life to try and buck us off our horse and to get back on after we fall off.


All good things take time. Your content is a continuous work in progress that deserves an appropriate amount of time to grow and blossom into the world.

I hope you feel much more prepared to tackle your content after reading and following through on this post. What kind of impact do you want your content to make?

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How to Utilize Customer Feedback for Your Brand

Most people will tell you that nobody likes a complainer. 

Someone who harps on what’s not working is generally seen as a “drain” on “positive” energy that demotivates.

It only takes a small shift in perspective, though, to turn complainers into one of a business owner’s greatest assets.

There’s a universal truth about complainers: They want to be heard. 👂📢 Over the last couple of decades, customers have come to expect a more democratic approach to their relationships with brands. The advent of the internet has given consumers instant access to a seemingly unlimited number of brands and direct access to decision makers within those brands.

If you’re willing to acknowledge and solve the issues of an angry customer publicly (say, on Twitter or in a negative review), you can build trust not just with that customer, but with all future potential customers who see it. You can also incorporate that feedback into your brand strategy, increasing the value of your product or service.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Not all complainers can be soothed, and some must be let go for the mental health of the responder.

Another issue is that people are not always fully aware of what they truly want. A study was done on coffee drinkers where they were first asked what kind of coffee they preferred to drink. Most said they liked it bold and strong.  A blind taste test revealed, though, that most people preferred their coffee weak and milky. 🍼 Sometimes, pleasing your customers means reading between the lines or going the extra mile to make sure that what they’re saying matches what they actually prefer. 🔍

With all of that in mind, talk to us about how you get customer feedback. How do you collect and analyze the data? Have you ever implemented something because of a negative comment? Has there ever been a time where an interaction with an upset customer became a positive for you?

Consider sharing your feedback in our Facebook Group, Tactical, a community with daily content for business owners, marketers, and designers developing brands.

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How to Share Your Brand Story

One of the greatest tools humanity has at its disposal is the story. 

Before the written word, stories were an incredibly effective way for information to be passed down from generation to generation. One could reasonably argue that stories are the most responsible for the advancement of mankind.

Not all stories are that memorable, though.

So what makes the difference between a story with impact and one that fizzles? Look back on the tales you were told that stuck with you over the years. Do you recognize any common factors?

It’s likely that the first thing you’ll spot is the fact that stories need impactful characters. So who are the characters in your brand’s plot? Let’s keep things really simple and just start with two.

NOTE: Both of these characters are going to consists of multiple people. They are going to be characterized conceptually, meaning that they will be personifications of more complex systems of people, products, services, etc. If that doesn’t make sense, leave a comment below for clarification.

The Brand 

This character consists of the owner, any possible employees, the products and/or services offered, websites, storefronts, etc. 

The Customer

This character consists of someone who is in need of The Brand’s offerings and can stretch to include other interested and attached parties such as business partners, pets, family members, etc.

Now we have to put these two characters in motion. It starts with an origin story for either character and eventually leads to a completed interaction between The Brand and The Customer. Feel free to write alternate endings with slightly altered characters to experiment with more possibilities. Writing this script will give you an immensely powerful tool to not only attract new customers but to refine your own business to better suit their needs.

Interested in telling your story? Get feedback by sharing it on Tactical, a community with daily content for business owners, marketers, and designers developing brands.

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