What I’m working on this week (Mar. 16 – 20, 2015)

Happy Monday! Hope your weekend was great. I confess: I spent a good chunk of Saturday and Sunday catching up on work that I intended to finish last week. That’s not always how I want to work (I like having at least one day to recharge mentally, since I find that I write better when I do) but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

Now it’s the new week and it’s time to rock out more work!

And this week is going to be extra exciting because I have two personal challenges I’m running concurrently:

I have a writing challenge that I’m doing to push myself to stay focused and write a specific amount of work each day. And, my wife and I have a workout challenge in which we’re each trying to push ourselves to workout daily on a very difficult exercise routine.

So, what am I working on this week? Same as usual (but more of it because of my challenge!)

  • I’m writing chapters for a couple of books (200 page 6×9 print books) for real estate investors.
  • I’m writing a couple of reports (most stuff that people will use as downloadable enticements to encourage email subscriptions.
  • I’ve got blog posts galore that I’m writing for clients (as an added bonus, I’m starting to pre-write content for April, just to get ahead of the game).
  • I’m writing a bunch of copy for a real estate investing magazine — the content is due April 1 and the issue is being published in May.
  • And along with all this client work, I’m cranking out some content for my own businesses — too much to mention here but it includes autoresponders, blog posts, and website copy.

Stay busy, my friends!

Television networks are overlooking the opportunity for shorter television shows

When I was a kid, Thursday night was our family’s “TV night”. My dad would come home from work with chips and pop tucked under his arm, my sister and I would need to get our homework finished right after supper, and then at 7PM we’d all squeeze onto our couch and watch TV for a couple of hours. If I recall correctly, it was probably a couple of half-hour comedies followed by a one-hour drama.

Then PVRs changed how we view television: It gave us an opportunity to record shows and watch them when we wanted, while fast-forwarding through commercials. Netflix broadened our options and provided a similar benefit of watching shows we wanted without commercials.

Another benefit, not always considered, is the reduction of the episodic timeframe: A show that once took 30 minutes to watch (with commercials) now takes 22 minutes, and a show that once took 60 minutes to watch (with commercials) now takes 44 minutes. I think people want shorter entertainment, if only to give them the option of more stories in the same amount of time.

I think we see this in YouTube. How often do people find themselves sucked into the blackhole of YouTube, watching short videos… for hours on end? (Guilty!!!) The entertainment draws us in but it’s the shortness of the entertainment that keeps us there. We think “oh, it’s only a 2-minute show” or “oh, it’s only a 5-minute show” so we watch 10 of them in row!

I’m reminded of a friend in college who showed up to class looking very rough. I asked him why he was in such bad shape and he told me that he spent the entire night playing Minesweeper. Each game was only seconds long so “just one more game” of a few seconds lasted the entire night.

The time we spend on a show has shortened, which is not a huge surprise in our tweet-sized, sound-bite, fast-food world. Marketers will tell you that attention spans are diminishing as we’re inundated with content. In spite of this, television shows persist as 22 minute or 44 minute segments. Even Netflix-only shows are about that same standard duration, regardless of the fact that they aren’t burdened with a specific scheduled run-time.

I think the opportunity is ripe for shorter television entertainment. Specifically, we need more 10-15 minute shows.

I’m not presenting an entirely new concept — there are online shows already, whose episodes (often called “webisodes”) are in shorter formats:

  • Of course there are many online-only shows (series and one-off shows) that are well-crafted and entertaining but only a few minutes long.
  • TV shows will do promos, special bonuses, or off-season teasers in the form of webisodes. For exampe: The Office offered a short series of off-season webisodes with regular cast members, and The Walking Dead gave us webisodes with non-cast members that existed in the same universe but outside of the main storyline.
  • BMW entertained us with a few short adventure-style stories in which their cars were featured prominently.
  • A show like Saturday Night Live hints at the opportunity for shorter entertainment, not just because of how the show is presented on TV but also proven by the extended life that some skits get on YouTube.

I think this same short-show concept should be applied to television: Shorter shows in shorter seasons. For example, why not have a 4-episode season, with each show only 15 minutes long? This could work in both comedic formats and dramatic formats. As I write this, I’m reminded of the 6-episode series of shows, each 5 minutes long, on Acorn TV for a show called Girl Number 9.

This will shorten the story cycle, turn shows into one-camera shows, and will also change the cost structure of shows and how shows are monetized.

But this could be a great way to attract audiences looking for shorter entertainment, who will be more willing to watch something if it’s only 15 minutes long. This might also be a great way to test audience reception of a show on a smaller scale (i.e., a network might buy a 4-episode series of 12-minute shows before investing more heavily into a larger season of 22-minute or 44-minute of the same show).

For networks struggling to keep viewers, I think this has a powerful opportunity for the network that does it right.

What I’m working on this week (Mar. 9 – 13, 2015)

Hey! Hope you had a great weekend. My weekend was good but it’s nice to be back in the chair, cranking out content.

Here’s what’s cooking this week:

  • Writing a chapter or two in a book for a real estate investing client
  • Hammering out an outline for another book for the same real estate investing client
  • Publishing blog posts for a real estate investing network
  • Writing an article for a magazine
  • Writing blog posts and a chapter in a book for a client who is associated with the real estate industry
  • Writing a subscriber report for a real estate investor
  • Writing blog posts and social copy for a real estate developer

… You get the idea. I’ve got a few other things cooking for clients, plus another big project of my own is going live this week. (More on that shortly).

Stay busy!

Here’s the simple way to avoid this catastrophic error when creating your brand

You’ve got a business. You’re building a sales funnel. You’re putting together your product or service.

And somewhere in there you need to build a brand.

If you’re starting to build your business’ brand, avoid this catastrophic error: They create a brand… but they don’t create one that is unique. They create a catchy-sounding business name, design a nice looking logo, write a smart-sounding slogan, assemble an attractive collection of colors, and maybe develop a helpful description of their brand’s “personality”…

… but they fail to explain EXACTLY how they are unlike anyone else on the market.

Their accountancy firm then seems just like every other accountancy firm out there.
Their real estate agency then seems just like every other real estate agency out there.
Their hair dressing salon then seems just like every other hair dressing salon out there.
Their car dealership then seems like every other car dealership out there.
Their grocery store then seems like every other grocery store out there.

That’s only the first part of the problem. It gets worse:

  1. Customers can’t tell you apart from other businesses so they just go to whichever one is closer or cheaper.
  2. You end up competing with your competitors on price because that’s the only way to attract new customers in the door.
  3. You ultimately end up becoming a low-cost competitor because even giving good service to your existing customers won’t sustain your business (plus your customers will come to expect your low cost offers).

A generic brand means that it’s harder to find new customers, it’s harder to generate profit, and it’s harder to retain existing customers.

But the solution is SO SIMPLE…

Create a brand that clearly and succinctly explains why you are unique… why you are the ONLY one in the marketplace to offer what you offer.

And here’s more good news: There are many ways you can be unique:

  • Your product or service can be unique
  • How you deliver your product or service can be unique
  • What your customer needs to do to purchase from you can be unique
  • Your guarantee can be unique
  • Your pricing structure can be unique
  • Your sales funnel can be unique
  • Your personality can be unique
  • Your marketing methodologies can be unique

… I could go on and on but I think you get the idea.

So if you are about to create a brand for your new business (or if you are sick of fighting for customers with your existing business) figure out what your competitors are doing and what you can do differently and then create a unique brand that expresses it.

9 things that are awesome even though we usually think they suck

Warning: You’re not going to agree with me on some or all of these. That’s okay. That’s actually the first one! :)

1. DISAGREEMENT

It seems like most people try to agree. They try to find common ground, achieve alignment, come together, whatever. And sometimes that’s helpful because when you work together with someone, you tend to achieve more when everyone is moving in the same direction. Agreement is ingrained in us because every story (whether book, movie, TV show, etc.) is basically about people who disagree and then discover a resolution (sort-of an agreement, even if it involves explosions). We tend to agree with our heroes.

BUT… a dissenter is good. History is built on dissenters. Businesses are founded on dissenters. Even countries are founded on dissenters. We don’t always have to agree. Disagreements (when healthy) breed discussion and growth.

2. RISK

Risk is fascinating. I love studying risk! Most people’s ideas of risk are broken. The average stock market investor tries to reduce risk. We’re wired to avoid it.

But who are the most successful investors? They’re the ones who accept some level of risk. (Warren Buffett understands that there is risk in the market and he accepts it. Even though he’s thought to be a safe and risk-free investor, he’s actually not and it’s to his benefit). And here’s a great example of how people are insanely risk averse: So many people dream of quitting their job and starting their own business but they can’t take the risk of giving up that paycheck. (By the way: I have a solution for that. If you want to start a business without the risk of quitting your job, do this).

Risk is good. Period. Yes, it needs to be managed and monitored closely and it should always be in balance with reward but risk is a good thing. (I talk a lot more about this at the blog post Ideas about risk that we have totally wrong.)

3. MISTAKES

We want to avoid mistakes because we don’t want to look foolish. But mistakes are what help us innovate. I love making mistakes. If I’m not making mistakes, I’m not trying. (Here are 5 business failures I’ve had and what I learned from them).

My advice? Do more stuff. Make more mistakes. Love those mistakes and learn from them.

4. BULLIES

This will be perhaps my most controversial addition to the list. Even before hitting “Publish” on this post I was tempted to remove it. But here it is anyway.

I was bullied in school. It sucked. I wished it never happened and I have emotional scarring as a result. (Gosh, am I actually admitting this on my blog???) And I support how bully-intolerant we’ve become as a culture.

BUT… because of bullies, I am where I am today. They solidified who my friends were (and weren’t), they were a key factor in me moving to a different city in my late teens (which launched some very positive changes in my life), they showed me that the world isn’t always fair but I need to be a good person anyway, and they motivated me to do well in life as a sort-of revenge for how they made me feel in grade school and high school. (Where are they now? I have no clue, and I’m not about to devote any bandwidth to finding out. But success is sill the sweetest revenge).

5. BAD CLIENTS

Bad clients make you work hard and then pay as little as possible while complaining about it, or they disappear with out paying. Or they leave a bad review. Or they take advantage of your guarantee. It happens and it sucks and sometimes it causes some short-term financial pain.

But but clients strengthen your “jerk-o-meter” and help you know for next time. And I’ve learned that bad clients are also an indicator of your success: When you’re just starting out and you’re willing to accept any clients, you put up with the bad ones. But as you get to be more successful, your ability to say “no” to a client — to turn them away if you don’t think it’s a good fit — is an AMAZING feeling.

6. LACK OF MONEY

I’m mostly speaking about having a lack of money in business, although I suppose this also applies to personal life as well.

Being short of cash sucks. It feels like you’re handcuffed and can’t do everything you want to do in your business. You wonder how you’ll afford a key investment or how you’ll pay your staff this money or how you’ll pay yourself this month.

But, when your business is short of funds, it is a fantastic motivator to get your ass out of your seat and start selling. It refocuses you on the important stuff. Being short of funds alerts you to the fact that your expenses seem to outpace your income, so you need to take a closer look at those expenses and trim them, and you need to boost that income. A lack of money also forces you to get creative.

Several years ago my business ran out of cash when I got a MASSIVE tax bill that I was simply not prepared for. I had to buckle down and work HARD, putting in long days every day for months in order to cover the tax bill. It was a very dark period in my business. But the result was incredible: I learned a lot, I raise the bar on what I could achieve when motivated, and it even opened up a couple of new opportunities for me.

Business tends to run in cycles: During the fat times, you spend a lot and you don’t hustle as hard. During the lean times, you spend less and you hustle hard. And so it goes like that, back and forth and back and forth (this happens in the economy, too) and hopefully you learn enough in the lean times that you make the fat times less silly, and you put away enough in the fat times that you make the lean times a little less lean. But lean times are still good.

7. DEADLINES

My entire life is built around deadlines. Every week I jam out content like a maniac because of deadlines. I hate them.

But… there have been a few clients who have said, “oh, just get me the project whenever you can” and guess what happens. The project gets deprioritized over and over and over again. And my own projects (like my first book, and now like my second and third books) get pushed farther and farther back. Deadlines give us a goal and keep us focused.

8. DEATH

The death of loved ones is very painful. When family or friends pass away, we’re left with a hole in our hearts and our lives, and sometimes even a bit of regret that we didn’t get to spend more time with them.

But death is a kind of deadline. The ultimate deadline. I don’t say that to be morbid, I’m just tying it back to my previous point. Like any other deadline, death reminds us to live now. When someone I know has died, I find myself revisiting my own life and considering whether I’m living the life I should be living.

When my grandfather passed away just the day before my 35th birthday, I was (of course) very sad at the loss (although it was not unexpected as he’d been in ill-health for a while) but it made me reflect on the way he lived his life to the fullest and inspired me to do the same. And when my friend and business colleague Rod lost his life unexpectedly, I renewed the commitment I had made in several areas of my life that he had impacted. These are just two stories but I’ve experienced more myself and know of many other stories that are similar. In fact, I’m writing a book for a business that started when a couple made a commitment to a friend of their who died of cancer — it’s a fascinating story and one I hope you get to hear someday.

9. PAIN AND DISCOMFORT

No one likes pain. We’re wired to avoid it. Just look at anyone who thinks they’re about to be in pain and we see them throw all personal pride out the window — whether it’s a flinch from a near miss, or hearing a bee buzzing around your head, or hitting your thumb with a hammer… whatever. When there’s pain or we think there’s going to be pain, we react in a primal way.

Pain hurts, discomfort is uncomfortable. (Duh). We do what we can do avoid them because our DNA is embedded with a desire to reduce pain and discomfort and increase pleasure. Nothing wrong with that. And hopefully our businesses grow to give us more time and money to enjoy the pleasures of life.

But there is good that can come from pain and discomfort. Some of the examples I’ve listed above (bullies, death, lack of money) all cause some amount of pain or discomfort and I’ve shown how they can make us better. The most successful people are not those who avoid pain and discomfort but who find a way to get through in spite of it. The best business example I can think of is selling. Selling can be hard. when I first graduated from college I went into sales and struggled at first. And then, for some bizarre reason I ended up in financial sales where I was making cold calls and even selling door-to-door. At one point during that time, there was so much discomfort that I threw up all over myself in anxiety before going out to sell. (Why am I making all these crazy admissions in this post???). But I pushed through. I prevailed. And now? I feel like I can sell anything. I can navigate my way through a sale confidently and comfortably because I pushed through the discomfort.

Or here’s another example: When you’re just starting out in your business and not sure how to do something. At first it takes you a bit of time and it seems difficult and slow. After a while, though, if you can push through the discomfort without giving, it becomes easy.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I’ve listed many things that suck. But they’re also awesome, not because of what they are or what they put us through… but because of what we become as a result. We become better people — stronger, more resilient, with renewed focus, and a sharper desire to succeed.

So accept and embrace those challenges and push through because the other side is better.