Listen to this interview on Zbooks: http://www.zbooks.co/2016/05/reinvent-yourself-and-your-business.html
I started reading this book, totally unaware of the shock I was going to get. I had heard of brand identity before, but every book and article I read about it was BOOORing!
That’s why I was freshly surprised and STOKED that I got an ARC of Gregory’s book to read, and LEARN , and BETTER myself and my business.
This “brand identity stuff” is so important, I think everyone should read this book, even if they don’t have a business.[click to tweet]
It’s about the cornerstone of human happiness — personal development.
And if you can only have one book about brand identity, then make it this one.
At the END OF THE POST is the link to pick it up for onl $.99, get it now while it is still on pre-sale!
I decided I must share this with you and, interview this young guy who is slowly putting Tim Ferris in the shadows as he travels across 40 countries:
You’ve got a new book coming! Is this your 1st book?
It is. I’ve contributed chapters to a couple other books on things like travel and unconventional education, but this is the first full length book that’s truly all mine. I finally get to get my whole message out there exactly the way I want, and that feels really good to me as an author. So far at least, my early readers seem to appreciate the strength and uniqueness of the message. And judging by the early success it has seen, it definitely won’t be my last book. I’m already thinking ahead to what comes next, particularly about the elements of this one that relate to self-discovery and education.
Your book is ranking #2 right now in “small business”?
I’m not sure of the exact ranking because that changes pretty frequently, but it already hit #1 bestseller status in the Public Relations category two weeks before launch from preorders alone. I think it has a good chance of doing the same in Small Business. I’m not an expert on Amazon launches or rankings, but I think that’s pretty darn impressive considering how little I knew about book marketing when I started this journey. It’s now up there next to books that have hundreds of five star reviews, and some really well-known names like Dan Norris, Gary Vaynerchuck, Peter Thiel, Chris Guillebeau, and Jon Lee Dumas, I had initially hired someone to handle the marketing for me because I didn’t want to to have to think about it, but that whole thing ended up blowing up in my face and I had to learn to do it all myself. I’m glad I was able to recover so well, though part of me wonders if it could have gone even better.
Your street musician days:
That really takes me back. About ten years ago when I was still in high school, a friend and I would go out to the coast highway of North County San Diego with a violin and an acoustic guitar and play on the street for tips. It started as a playful experiment, but our entrepreneurial brains quickly figured out there was a system there to exploit, so we can up with a list of about 50 songs arranged in a specific way that we knew we could play to get a really positive response from that particular crowd. We also learned when and where to play, and even invested in equipment like amplifiers and microphones to broaden our reach. Soon we were making up to $300/hour on busy days, and getting hired to play as a duo at weddings.
I don’t think we truly appreciated it at the time, but it was a cool little obscure way to learn about concepts like market response, optimization, and brand personality that now affect everything I do in business. I think the biggest thing I learned from it was that even though we were pretty talented musicians and our performance was certainly good, it was more about the narrative of two young teenagers going out there and playing with such spirit and entrepreneurial ambition that impressed people the most – and prompted them to drop $20 to $100 in my guitar as they walked by or stayed to listen for several minutes.
I love the section “can you tell a good story” can you elaborate on that?
Sure. That’s actually the first chapter in the book in the section on why identity matters, and in a way it is the crux of the entire message. It’s about that merely having value is irrelevant. Being good at something means nothing without communication that gets others to acknowledge and accept it. And as every good teacher or salesman knows, just listing the facts about anything is not a good way to get it to stick in someone’s mind.
You have to talk or write in a way that corresponds to how we take in information, which to me is all about the use of narrative. Narratives are how we structure complex information through the use of emotion and change. They paint a picture in our mind that we find attractive and easily remember. If you can learn to talk about yourself or your company or your products in the right way, people will actually listen and become engaged. That’s very having value becomes viable.
How about authors, obviously branding applies to authors too right? Any specific tips for authors?
Haha well I’m pretty new to being an author myself, but I guess I get to use the label “bestselling” so I guess that counts for something, right? I don’t imagine it is much different than being known for any other particular theme or product. To me, everything comes down to the message, which is really an expression of core values which differentiate one person from another.
I think my background and love of education clearly come through in my writing, and that is echoed in a lot of the feedback I’ve been getting. I have never ever considered myself a marketer, but I guess you might expect something like that from a guy who wrote a book on brand identity. I’m a teacher. I’m a coach. I’m a salesman. I’m a communicator. Books are just a particularly good outlet to show those qualities off to the right kind of person. But I hope my own brand identity will extend far beyond just being an author or a guy who wrote a book that one time. I want to be known for the things I stand for, like producing specific value and improving the world through doing what you are best at.
One of my fav quotes:
“There is no faster way to garner the lasting respect of employees, partners, and consumers than to become the embodiment of an ideal.”
I actually stole that line from the movie Man of Steel. I’m a bit of a geek for superhero mythology and good movies with strong narrative themes in general, especially the big DC players like Batman and Superman because they become synonymous with themes and ideas so well. They rise above their identities as mere men. Superman is hope. Batman is fear or justice, depending on who you ask. But there’s a moment in that movie where Superman’s kryptonian dad is explaining to him why he sent him to Earth where he knew he would have incredible powers, and he says he wants to give humans an ideal to strive toward, and that he would become the embodiment and symbol of that ideal.
I talk about in the book how Superman has become one of the most well-known brand personalities in history. I think every passionate entrepreneur can have their brand become an embodiment of what they are trying to stand for – both internally with their employees and partners, or externally with their customers. It’s about more than just making revenue. It about being known for the things you stand for, and the principles you will never back down from. That’s what builds trust from others, because they know how you will always act and the things you will always strive toward, even in less-than-ideal conditions. If a man has no principles, can you really trust him with any responsibility at all?
How to educate your audience:
“The greater the meaning behind your business, the harder it becomes to communicate it to the world.”
In my opinion, there was a simpler time for growing business where a lot of marketing was just centered around simple, singular features like being faster, stronger, cheaper, or whatever than your competitors. Domino’s “30 minute delivery or it’s free” guarantee was a good example back in the day, which was really before my time because I am so young still. But I don’t think those branding or marketing tactics work for 99% of small business owners. I think a much more personal approach is needed, one which really shows of your personality and the dynamics of your relationship with your buyers.
And the more unique your product is in terms of the actual function it provides for people, the more you are going to have to be able to actually educate prospects why they should choose yours over another they are already more familiar with. The more expensive your product, the more true this becomes. The farther outside the existing paradigm of your audience your product and brand identity fall, the better you have to be at strategically widening it to include you.
This isn’t just about branding. History is full of great scientists, philosophers, artists, and inventors who were just too far ahead of their time. They were mostly ignored, or even scorned, while they were alive. And then generations later everyone else finally catches up to where they were and thinks they were the greatest. We just aren’t wired to accept things that are too new, unless we can be educated and lower our resistance to change.
I really like your questions at the end of the book – great guide that cuts to the chase…
A lot of the work I do with people revolves around the acts of questioning and introspection. Sometimes just being asked a highly targeted question and forced to sit with it until a meaningful answer arises is all someone needs to have a major breakthrough about their own identity – whether that’s for their business or life in general. A lot of people just don’t know what direction to look in, or give up too soon in the process when easy answers present themselves. You have to go deeper than that. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable and sit with that dissonance until you finally “get it”.
The kinds of questions I like to ask business owners make them think differently about something they think they understand. If you can’t tell me what might prevent someone from getting the full intended value of using your services, you haven’t really looked at them from an outsider’s perspective. If you don’t know what specific emotions customers should be associating with your brand, you won’t be able to direct that experience. If you can’t explain how your product accomplishes a specific result in a way a 10-year-old could understand, you haven’t learned to communicate well enough.
I can’t resist, now that I have you here: have you seen my website and “brand” – any quick suggestions?
Well, I’m not the guy to ask about visuals or website design. I’m kind of clueless when it comes to how things are supposed to look, beyond basic emotional qualities. I have other people who help me with that. But what I can talk to you about is your narrative – the story you want people to instantly be living when they encounter you.
I’m biased now because I’ve communicated quite a bit with you and worked with you, but it seems to me that your goal is to come across as the guy who can help independent authors have the same advantages they would get by going through a traditional publisher – putting power back into the hands of the little guy determined to make it on his own. So you’ve obviously have a few services listed that show me some of the ways you can help me do that, You use a certain phrase on there a lot, like “do-it-yourselfers”, which I think could be made a stronger part of the brand appeal so that when someone like me (whom that term very much applies to) hears about you or comes onto your site they instantly think, “wow, this guy knows exactly what I am looking for”. Even if your services are identical to some others out there, by showing off more what kind of person you are specifically offering them for, you become a lot more attractive to them.
The general advice I would give to anyone is to focus on who you are (your brand personality), what you offer (the function of your products and services), and why a specific type of person should care (your unique target demographic). Those can all be combined into a really attractive company narrative.
Any more books in the making?
Yes. I’m reviewing many of the articles I used to write on unconventional parenting and education during the years I was traveling and teaching in places like Iraq, China, and Italy and observed so many different ways that parents and society try to raise children. That will definitely appear as a full-length book at some point in the near future. Beyond that, I’d really like to start focusing more on the “Identity” part of what is covered in “Brand Identity Breakthrough”. As I see it, this first book is the concept of identity as applied to business. I would like to explore applying it to other domains of life like romance, child rearing, purpose, and self-discovery as a whole.
Do you get writer’s block?
That sort of depends what you mean. I think most people would consider writer’s block to be a state where you can’t think of what to write next. I think I have the opposite problem. I have so many ideas whipping around in my head at lightning speed that it can be hard to latch on to the right one for a significant period of time. I just have to go with what is available to me at the moment and try to organize it all together in a logically sequential way later on. To me it’s like being in the middle of a very busy intersection and dodging the thousands of cars going past you in all directions, and trying to spot the one your friend is driving before he passes by. I don’t know if other writers have this problem, but the right kind of driving string-heavy music often helps me thin out the herd of what I call my thoughtstreams.
What’s in the immediate future for you – projects?
I’m about to finish turning Brand Identity Breakthrough into an online course with the help of a group called Monetize Your Expertise who were thoroughly impressed with the message and really understand how to take big messages like this and make them work in the online course format.
As far as working with people directly, at this point I really only want to work with people who have something they are extremely passionate about and which is extremely important that they want to get out to the world in a better way. I love money. Money is wonderful. Every entrepreneur who produces something of real value should want to make as much money as possible because that is a direct indicator of how many people they are helping. But I’m at a point where is has to be about more than just the numbers. I need a real emotional contribution for myself, and that comes from seeing lives improved in specific ways that I find particularly admirable. I enjoy working most with people or companies involved in personal development, education, health, and social development of some kind, which includes personal sovereignty and wealth.
If you could do it all over again, what would you do different?
What do you wish you knew in the beginning that you know now?
Your first book making experience: You were ripped off for 5,000?
It is sort of a trick question to think if I would have done things differently at the start. There was a very unfortunate part of my origin story as an author that I will have to live with, but I have been fortunate enough to turn it into something with a net positive outcome.
What had happened was that about a year ago in the very early stages of creating Brand Identity Breakthrough, I had been in contact with a woman named Shola Abidoye, the owner of Convertport, who was a member of a location independent entrepreneur community I am part of called the Dynamite Circle. She made the offer to help me produce the manuscript, publish, and market it until bestseller status was achieved. It took me much longer than it should have to realize I was being conned by someone who didn’t know how to do the things she claimed, but I was so green in this area myself that I ignored my better judgment.
What I should have done was taken this project on myself from the very beginning. I knew I was a good writer with good, original ideas. I just didn’t have enough confidence in myself to write a real book and really go for it with the marketing. Long story short, she wasted nine months of my time and stole $5,000 of my money with almost thing to show for it in return. I was pretty emotionally upset by that, more because of the betrayal and the fact that she had set my expectations so high before dropping them. I was really looking forward to finally getting my name and message out there.
So it was whEn all that when down that I had to make the choice of whether or not I cared enough to complete the book on my own and come up with a plan for getting it in front of enough people for it to mean something. That was back at the beginning of the year. I went into overdrive then and studied as much about book promotion as I could, while working with a group of beta readers to help me refine the very rough draft of the book I had.
A lot of people started coming out of the woodwork to help me in whatever ways they could when they heard about how I had been ripped off and hung out to dry by a woman who showed no sympathy or remorse. I definitely wasn’t going for sympathy, but it helped a lot to have advice from more established professionals who could help me avoid years of trial and error with my website, book visuals, and overall image. They are all acknowledged in the book.
So while it was pretty crappy that it happened the way it did, I can honestly say it is unlikely I ever would have written the book I have now, and which has already been a success, if I had not been so motivated to recover from that big hit I took from one very unscrupulous con artist who set this whole thing into motion. Subsequently, that means I also probably wouldn’t write and of the future books I foresee happening next. So I guess you could say I finally got my money’s worth!
I suppose that if I had to do anything differently, I would have gotten started sooner. I was always a good writer, and I had a lot of things to say years ago. I just never took the time to consider how relatively easy it would be to self-publish a book, once you make it through some of the basic learning curves. And there are people out there who can help you with the technical details you don’t want to have to tackle yourself. I just want to write and publish – not deal with cover designs, ebook formatting, and Facebook ads, you know?
You have a couple of ex-pat/digital nomad case studies which really interest me. Since you have been a world traveller now, which country do you think is the best balance between taxes, rights, freedoms and well the important things!?
[one of my favorite questions, no matter where you go, every country sucks in some way]
I’ve been to about 40 countries now in nearly every continent, sometimes staying a day, sometimes months, and up to a year with some others. For lifestyle, I immediately fell in love with Latin America – Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and even buying property in the lush valley of southern Ecuador when I am planning my “early retirement”, so to speak. I adore the slow pace of life, immersion with nature, low cost of living, and general welcoming personalities of the people.
That being said, I still love exploring and discovering both the good and bad qualities of other places. I recently received citizenship by descent in Armenia because of my family history there, and am putting down some roots just north of there in Georgia. That part of the world really feels like taking a trip back in time. It is so undiscovered compared to almost anywhere else that is stable and comfortable. I spent a lot of time in Asia, which I both loved and hated. China showed me some of the worst parts of humanity on a massive scale, while the Philippines were laid back and simple.
I have barely scratched into Africa, but I found volunteering in Ghana to teach the youth about entrepreneurship very rewarding and culturally enlightening. I’d like to see more because it’s just such a big place that relatively few travelers spend a lot of time in, and in some ways it feels so undeveloped.
I have worked with a lot of people who help others branch out of their native country by setting up companies, bank accounts, residency, investments, and citizenship in other places, so that has really taught me a lot on my global journey, and now I am in a position to help other people with similar goals do the same.
I started traveling when I was right out of high school, so I was very primitive and ad hoc with it at first. Now I’m a professional of sorts, and I’m very informed. I know how to run my business from a laptop with even a slow wifi connection in the developing world. Russia and Estonia are coming up next on my list. My goal is really just to understand humanity in all its ways of being on this planet. Again – it’s that whole identity thing again. Who are we? Why do we exist the ways that we do? What else can we become? Those are the questions which excite me, and why I keep doing what I do.
BRAND IDENTITY BREAKTHROUGH – BY GREGORY DIEHL
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