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What is Storytelling?

Really, what does it mean? Telling a story with a picture, a video, a paragraph of text, a website?

The difference is feelings. Touching hearts. The recognition of humanness: I am part of this and this is part of me. I get it! Or: They get me! Energy. Imagination. Feeling connected and less alone. Braver, maybe. Part of something bigger.

Authenticity, imperfection. Genuine, unstaged and unscripted. Moments. Messy and real and human and honest. Soul. That’s the difference. Created from a place of truth and courage. And people can’t help but recognize it and be drawn to it.

There are two donut shops on my way to work. Both have a signpost. One reads: Berkeley’s best donuts. The other one: Donuts: The juiciest sin of your day.


It’s a pair of worn, aged, muddy work boots next to a pair of tiny pink ballerina flats standing by the entrance door. It’s a tray of cookies fresh from the oven, one missing, and a little hand sneaking in… The genuine emotion of a moment versus the empty smile in a posed portrait.

The Patagonia mission statement: “Committed to Uncommon Culture. We prefer the human scale to the corporate, vagabonding to tourism, the quirky and lively to the toned-down and flattened out.”


(Comparison. The Exxon Mobile mission statement reads: “Continuously achieve superior financial and operating results while adhering to the highest standards of busin…”) Did you fall asleep? Yeah. Me too.

The opposite of storytelling: Unsurprising, uninspired, unimaginative. Empty. Expected. Playing it safe. Business jargon. Perfection, sterility, façade, machine-made, conformism.

It’s why I’m so certain that we need stories: They help us remember that we are human. That we’re in this together. And that we’re so much more alike than we are different.

Logo Design – Barr Necessities

Businesses, so very often, are started in a living room or spare bedroom, a garage or a home kitchen. Managing the hundreds of tasks that come with the new (ad)venture, branding, by necessity, is often a second thought. A friend with mad design skills creates a logo and packaging, a neighbor with WordPress experience builds the first website, and a former colleague with photography experience generously agrees to shoot portraits and product pictures. It’s the universe rising up to meet and support courage and determination.

When the business takes off and grows bigger, there is often a need and an opportunity to dedicate resources to intentionally building a brand. That brand-building process starts with some serious business soul-searching, research and customer feedback, and ends with a clearly defined identity that is the basis for everything that is created to visualize and communicate the brand to the world: Logo, website, photography, videos, slogan, copy, social media- and blog posts, packaging, collateral, display- and/or store design, email newsletter… Everything.

When we finished the brand-building process for Barr Necessities, we realized that the new identity called for a new logo. On top of the playfulness and sweetness the old logo communicated, we wanted the new one to stand for the other brand aspects we had determined: Health, nature and sustainability, courage and confidence, youth and simplicity, and the fierce determination to make an impact on the world by changing the food industry.

Below are the two logos. Old and New. Do you recognize the additional aspects we wanted the new logo to communicate?



Storytelling: Start Here


Define the gift that your company offers to your customers.
Find out what that gift means to them.
Create authentic conversation around that meaning.

Make sure all communication is created for people: Connecting, inspiring, giving, entertaining.

Focus: Brevity. Simplicity. Structure.

Tools: Design. Photography. Writing. Video. (Motion)-Graphics. Beauty helps!

If you get stuck, listen to your heart. It’s the best marketing consultant you never paid for.


It’s not the new and shiny that tells stories. It’s not the perfect, the cookie-cutter, the predictable. It’s not the straight road. Not the easy, not the painless.

You find stories in the cracks. In the light that gets in. In the gold that fills them. Mends them. They talk about sweat and tears, those cracks. About gritted teeth, hard work and courage. About the refusal to give up. They talk about detours and getting lost.

They talk about trust and faith and grace. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Gratitude. About learning and growing, and about the strength that is vulnerability.

Hope, mostly. Beauty, of course. And love. It always comes back to love. Showing the cracks takes courage. But here’s the thing: It’s the only story worth telling.

Marketing Goals


If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.
~Lawrence J. Peter

When you start building your Marketing Strategy, please feel free to use the example goals below to determine your organization’s goals. I’m hoping this work will help you spend your marketing resources (time and money) wisely and more efficiently:

      1. Increasing revenue
      2. Increasing profit
      3. Increasing profitability (ratio of profit to revenue)
      4. Increasing Return on Investment (ROI)
      5. Growth
      6. Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, Profit)
        1. Increasing contribution to society
        2. Investing in sustainable business practices
        3. Improving employee benefits, happiness, comfort, salaries…
      7. Increasing market share
      8. Developing new markets
      9. Optimizing service portfolio structure
        (creating opportunities to offer specific products/services)
      10. Optimizing pricing structure
        (creating opportunities to charge a certain price)
      11. Optimizing distribution structure
        (creating opportunities to use or expand specific distribution channels)
      1. Increasing brand awareness
      2. Increasing brand recognition
      3. Conveying benefits
      4. Cultivating preference
      5. Seo lead generation
      6. Image change
      7. Increasing conversion rate
      8. Increasing customer value
      9. Customer retention
      10. Deepening brand loyalty
      11. Differentiation
      12. Collecting customer feedback
      13. Increasing intensity or frequency of use
    1. Getting permission for continuous contact
      (Facebook, Twitter, email newsletter)
    2. Upgrading permission
      (Twitter follower to email newsletter subscriber)
    3. Building brand ambassadors
    4. Collecting public endorsements
    5. Increasing website traffic
    6. Extending website visit time
    7. Reducing website bounce rate
    8. Increasing Search Engine Ranking
    9. Improving Organic Search Engine results
    10. Increasing number of blog subscribers
      (total or number of target group subscribers)
    11. Increasing number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, Google+ connections…
    12. Receiving more comments on a company blog
      (or more high quality comments or more comments from target audience members)
    13. Receiving more incoming links
      (or more incoming links from high quality sources)
    14. Getting people to interact with content more
      (sharing, commenting, tweeting, pinning, liking…)

Why People Share Ideas


I attended an online seminar by marketing legend Seth Godin a few years back. I have used the following part of his advice in my work ever since and I hope you will find it as eye-opening and helpful as me:

In the Digital Age, the success of your marketing (and ultimately your business) depends on people spreading your story. Knowing this, it’s a great idea to think about the actual reasons people spread ideas: What motivates them to share something with their network? What moves them to talk about you? Once you know this, you can craft your stories and create your content in a way that makes them share-worthy for people.

Here are the reasons people share ideas:

  • Because your idea says something that they have trouble saying directly
  • Because sharing your idea makes them feel smart
  • Because the idea is funny, and they don’t want to laugh by themselves
  • Because they feel lonely, and sharing an idea makes them feel less lonely
  • Because they are angry and want to share that anger
  • Because they want to connect people to one-another
  • Because they want to be generous
  • Because they want to help people by providing them with valuable information and insight
  • Because they want you to succeed
  • Because they have no choice
  • Because there is a financial benefit
  • Because they want their network to avoid an external threat
  • Because they have no other way of re-paying you for the work that you do other than to share it
  • Because if everyone knew what they know, they would be happier
  • Because they want to amaze and entertain their friends
  • Because they want to reveal aspects of their true selves to friends to build stronger relationships

If you can think of more reasons, please share them with in the comment section.

And as always: Thank you for reading!

Business Plan, Marketing Strategy and Communication Strategy


I have a thing for logic. I cannot work or be at peace with or even memorize information that has flawed logic.

When I started studying marketing, I couldn’t find a comprehensive model of a marketing strategy that combined all the seemingly complex marketing terms into a logical order of how they relate to one-another. So I built my own from the information I could find in books and publications. I refined, restructured and extended the model with the experience of building marketing strategies for companies in real life in the Digital Age. If you are also interested in different software that you could use for your business, then have a peek at this site.

Please feel free use the model below to help you develop a Marketing Strategy for your own company. It will take more time upfront to use a systematic approach, but you will have a chance at actually building a consistent, recognizable brand with measurable results from your marketing efforts. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help or explain.

      1. Business Description
      2. Business Goals
      3. Business Organization/ -Structure
      4. Financial Projections
      5. Business Calculations
      6. Cost Calculations
      7. Revenue Projections
      8. Projected Service/Product Unit Cost
      9. Profit- and Loss Projection (Bottom Line. Income Statement.)
      10. Cash Flow Projection (Money in versus money out.)
      11. Projected Balance Sheet (Needed resources and funding.)
      12. Breakeven Analysis (Marks the beginning of profit-making.)
      1. Market Analysis
        • Rich description of 2-3 major competitors: Service portfolio, distribution- & pricing model, USP, UVP, UAP
        • Market size. Market trends. Market segmentation.
      2. Keyword research:
        • Commonly used words
        • Words used by target audience
        • Search volume
        • Rankings of competitors for keywords (page-/domain-) authority
      3. Target Market
      4. Target Audience (3-7 Marketing Personas)
      5. Distribution Model
      6. Product-/ Service Portfolio
      7. Unique Product-/ Service Description
      8. Pricing Model
      9. Marketing Goals
      10. Positioning
      11. History
      12. Story
      13. Unique Selling Proposition
      14. Unique Value Proposition
      15. Unique Advertising Proposition
      16. Brand Gift
      17. Proof Of Benefit
      18. Brand Identity
      19. Mission
      20. Brand Archetype
      21. Brand Personality
      22. Tonality
      23. Visual Identity
    1. Communication Goals
    2. Budget | ROI Calculations
    3. Media Mix
    4. Website
    5. Search Engine Optimization
    6. Social Media Platforms
    7. Online Advertising
    8. Offline Promotions
    9. Content Strategy
    10. Tracking | Analysis | Optimization

Helping is the New Selling


When you sell, everything you say is about YOU. When you help, everything you say is about THEM.

Here’s how a “sales meeting” is different when your objective is helping, instead of selling:

  • You spend more time listening, understanding and advising than posturing, pitching, and bragging.
  • You don’t waste anybody’s time by telling them things about you that don’t apply to them.
  • When you understand their problem, you offer a solution.
  • The solution you suggest is designed to optimize their bottom line, not yours.
  • You occasionally say: “I don’t know and I’ll find out.”
  • You also occasionally say: “For this part of the job, I know people better than me, and I’ll bring them on board.”
  • It’s a conversation more than a presentation, although you may be showing the same material.

When you walk away, you leave behind a feeling of honesty and sincerity. They have confidence in your ability to solve their problem. They feel understood because you listened. And you walk away with something that’s more valuable than everything else: Trust.

How’s that for a successful sales meeting?

P.S.: The New Sales Person is not the one with the thickest smoke and the shiniest mirrors…

Dear “Hampton Inn and Suites:”

Hotel Sign on a White Facade
I’ve been traveling for the last couple of weeks. In Maryland, I chose to stay at the “Hampton Inn and Suites.” It’s a hotel I was prepared to like. I would call it upper middle class; rooms run at about $170 a night.

The service underwhelmed me with each interaction: Staff members were bored, inattentive and impersonal, going through scripted motions in their conversations. They also fell short on the few services I asked: A toilet that kept flushing every 3 minutes never saw a handy man in 4 days. (I ended up disabling it myself by strapping up the float valve with the cord of the (complementary!) hair dryer.) A door key that kept locking me out of my room, room service that made one attempt at cleaning and then never came back, a laundry service I needed to be returned slightly sooner than their standard 1½ days declined with a shrug…

On the road the next day, we passed a series of massive billboard ads on the freeway for… the “Hampton Inn and Suites”. Promising, you guessed it, heaven and earth. And the moon.

Here is the thing about Marketing: It does not stop once you get people in your door. That’s when it STARTS. That‘s when you have your opportunity to show off: Overwhelm people with your greatness, delight them, enchant them. Make them life-long, enthusiastic customers who go out of their way to stay at your place. And bring their friends.

If you already have the infrastructure of a hotel chain empire in place, the difference between underwhelming and awesome comes down to your people. The effort is minimal compared to what you have already invested:

Hire outstanding human beings and pay them outstanding money. Find a way to make them fall in love with their job. Make sure they are happy about the way they are treated. Make sure they are being heard, and their needs are being met. THEN ask them to pass that level of care on to your guests, and give them the guidance and education how to do it. Make sure they know how you want your guests to FEEL instead of giving them a soul-less script of what to say and do. Give them authority to do the right thing. Trust them to know what the right thing is. Allow them to be human beings.

Give them a way to communicate. Let them share their experiences with one-another, so they can share their pride and learn from each other. Take part in that conversation so they can learn from you. Take that opportunity to instill your culture. Social enterprise platforms make it so easy.

If you need additional funding to do it, here’s a tip: Skip the billboards. Make fewer promises, keep more.