We now interrupt this blog about living an awesome creative life to bring you an object lesson in marketing. (Yes, marketing. It’s fun — trust me.) In fact, it’s a sociological study of what makes a person (in this case, me) choose to buy, or not.
Why? Because marketing is part of living an awesome creative life as an internet entrepreneur. (Or any kind of entrepreneur, actually.)
Think of it as the business side of creativity. Or the creative side of business. Or something. It’s actually pretty fascinating when you start getting curious about it. (Trust me.) Even if you’re not personally interested in running your own business.
(Or just come back next time — after all, if this isn’t your thing, another blog post [on an entirely different subject, no doubt] will be coming out in a few days.)
Oh, and be advised, if you proceed, that affiliate links abound below. They won’t bite you, but if you click on one and end up making a purchase, I’ll earn a commission. Just thought I should warn you.
El made a comment on my last post that really got me thinking over the past few days about what makes people buy.
Specifically, in this case, what made me buy… and not buy… when two very similar products came out within a couple of months of each other.
A Tale of Two Publishing Guides
When I got an email from Chris Guillebeau back in mid-December that his new Unconventional Guide to Publishing (aff [that means “affiliate link,” in case you were wondering]) was coming out on January 10th, I knew I wanted it, and unless it was just crazy expensive, I knew I was going to buy it.
Before I even saw the details about it.
This in itself wouldn’t be so notable, except that just a few weeks before Chris’ announcement, Danielle LaPorte of White Hot Truth launched a very similar offering — Your Big Beautiful Book Plan, co-created with Linda Siversten — and though I had looked at the sales page, and I had thought seriously about getting out my credit card…
…I ultimately nixed it.
As El pointed out, the two packages look very alike from the outside — they both have lots of insider tips, real-life examples of winning book proposals, interviews with industry veterans, and fairly comparable pricing: the price point of Chris’ top-tier “Hemingway” package clocks in at $129, just $21 less than the $150 that LaPorte and Siversten are asking for Your Big Beautiful Book Plan.
And yet I have to say it was pretty easy for me to say no to one, and a total no-brainer for me to say yes to the other.
Why the difference?
Besides being strangely fascinating (to me, at least), the answer is also an object lesson for any entrepreneur, because it has everything to do with one of the maxims that appears in every basic marketing class or book:
People buy from people (or businesses) they know, like and trust.
I know both Danielle’s and Chris’ work (though, granted, not Linda’s). I know from past purchases that they both produce excellent products, and hold themselves to very high standards, so I trust that they have each made another excellent, high value product. I’ve even met each of them in person (though to be fair, Danielle only briefly), I like them both, and I strongly resonate with the big vision message they each bring to the world.
Know, like and trust are all covered, then. So what else would explain my purchasing decisions?
Beyond Know, Like and Trust
Ultimately, just knowing, liking and trusting wasn’t enough — I bought the product from the business that I felt more strongly connected to.
You can get a snapshot of my connection by my reactions to the news of the product launches:
When I saw Danielle’s announcement about Your Big Beautiful Book Plan, my first thought was, “Hmmm, I definitely have a goal of writing a book, so this would be useful… but I’m not ready to write a book right now, so there’s really no reason for me to shell out $150 at the moment. I can always get it later.”
On the other hand, when I got that email from Chris saying that his Unconventional Guide to Publishing was coming out in a few weeks, my first thought was “OMG, I have to buy that!”
Even though I was no more ready to write a book than I’d been a few weeks before.
Yep. Strong connection.
I suppose that “strong connection” could be said to fall under the “like” category, but there’s a distinction I think is important. For me, feeling strongly connected is more than just liking, and comes down to a couple of different things:
1) How much I resonate with their brand
2) How personally connected I feel (which falls under the “know” category, and is in turn strongly tied to how much I resonate with their brand)
In Action Studio, a month-long intensive course I took with Sinclair over the summer, I learned about the idea of brand archetypes. Sinclair has her own proprietary take, but the concept of archetypes has actually been used by corporations for decades to help them define their brand personality. (A quick Google search on “brand archetypes” yields over 785,000 results.)
Kitty Kilian turned me on to The Storybranding Group, which has its own, very similar archetypal system (and a free inventory you can take to determine your personal archetypes). You can dig into their website (and all the other archetype systems out there in the Googleverse) for a more in-depth look at the whole concept, but as a quick shorthand, here’s a chart from the Storybranding Group system’s creator’s website of the archetypes of a dozen different individuals and organizations:
|Caregiver||Mother Teresa||Campbell’s Soup|
|Lover||Rudolph Valentino||Victoria’s Secret|
|Magician||Martin Luther King||Calgon|
|Jester||Tina Fey||Ben & Jerry’s|
Think about the feeling you get from Dolly Parton, say, versus Tina Fey. Or Apple versus Microsoft. Totally different personalities and associations, right?
Some on this list you probably resonate with a lot, others maybe not so much. When a brand (which could be a big company or a solopreneur, or anything in between) is in perfect alignment with you — when you totally dig what they’re about, why they do what they do and how they do it — you’re what the wise and brilliant Havi would call that brand’s “Right People.”
My decisions to buy (in Chris’ case) and not to buy (in Danielle’s and Linda’s case) revealed to me that I am very much Chris’ Right People, but I am Danielle and Linda’s not-quite-exactly-Right People.
The reason lies in their archetypes.
I don’t actually know what Danielle’s primary brand archetypes are, but the ones that seem most likely to me are archetypes that contain a certain amount of distance, such as Ruler, Sage and Magician. Her brand (or my perception of it — yours might be totally different) sets her apart from her audience, up on a hill, invulnerable. While that form of leadership is powerfully compelling for many, it doesn’t really resonate for me.
Although I’d love to emulate her business success, her reach, and her consequent power to positively impact the world, I don’t want to emulate her brand. I’m a heart-on-my-sleeve type, I can’t relate to her super-polished packaging.
Again, I LOVE her message and mission, but I honestly find her web presence, the super-professionally-produced (and can’t-take-your-eyes-off entertaining!) videos, a bit… intimidating. And since I’m so much about making people feel comfy, all that polish feels off-putting to me.
I’m an authenticity junkie. I don’t want to see your mask, no matter how beautiful; I want to see your humanity.
(I should note that when I met Danielle at the World Domination Summit last June, she was the essence of warmth. I introduced myself in the bathroom line and stuck my hand out for a shake, and she said “Oh, honey, hugs, please, I don’t do handshakes” and wrapped me in a genuine embrace. Her stage presentation also emanated a warmth I personally don’t perceive on her website. But again, your perception may be entirely different.)
None of this is to say that there’s anything wrong with Danielle’s brand. It’s perfect for her, and she clearly does not lack for customers. In a single day, her book, The Firestarter Sessions, hit #2 on Amazon — right behind Steve Jobs’ biography. The woman kicks ass (and I bought the book, btw.) She’s one of my heroes.
I’m just not quite her Right People, from a brand/customer perspective.
I also don’t know what Chris’ primary brand archetypes are, but apparently they’re archetypes that my own relate to with a lot less friction. I’d guess he’s got elements of Explorer, Hero and Everyperson.
These archetypes — and his entire way of being — resonate more fully with me.
He’s visibly human. He allows himself to show vulnerability. He shows his imperfection, doesn’t try to mask it. His style of leading is more, “Hey guys, let’s do this! Come join me!” than “I hold all the answers, so come partake of my great wisdom.”
His videos are so obviously “homemade,” so obviously not polished and professionally produced, and that’s part of what I like about them. He seems not like a High Priest With All The Answers, but … like me! And I like that.
I like it enough that I’ve sent a lot (a lot) of money his way. And I fully anticipate sending him a lot more.
I also follow and admire Danielle (and again, I’ve bought some of her stuff), but I follow more from a distance. Chris brings me along for the ride.
A Bit More Marketing 101
Even if I resonate with your brand, of course the product has to be a good fit, too. It has to answer a need or solve a problem of mine, otherwise I won’t buy it. Not all of Chris’ offerings are up my alley, so I’m not a True Fan in the pure sense of the word (ie, a fan who buys every single thing you produce, from this post on the concept of 1,000 True Fans).
Sometimes, though, even if the offering itself isn’t a perfect fit, my resonance with the brand may lead me to buy for other, more “meta” reasons.
Take Pace Smith and Kelly Kingman’s Way of the Peaceful Entrepreneur.
Just over a year ago, having discovered Pace and her partner Kyeli (not to be confused with Kelly) through Johnny B. Truant and Lee Stranahan‘s interview “course,” Question the Rules (aff [and another one!]), I bought Pace & Kelly’s previous joint venture project, a collection of excellent interviews with a dozen or successful e-course creators, called Engaging E-Courses (aff [omg, will they ever stop?]).
I loved it.
And though I can’t say I’ve been a devoted follower of either of their blogs, I pop into Pace and Kyeli’s (again, not to be confused with Kelly) Connection Revolution every so often, and always love what I find there. I love their message and mission (sound familiar?) and I also love their style of transmitting it — with humanity, humor, vulnerability, and total authenticity.
(Check out this video of Danielle LaPorte & Linda Siverten, and this video by Pace and Kyeli, to get a sense of the difference in styles I’m talking about here.)
Let’s face it: I just think they’re really cool.
And as with Chris Guillebeau, I want to emulate not just their success, but their manner of creating it.
Meta Meta Meta & Ulterior Motives
My archetypes (Lover/Creator/Hero – you tell me which one you think is primary), resonate with the archetypes I perceive in Pace (Hero?/Rebel?), so when she and Kelly (not to be confused with Kyeli) announced the Way of the Peaceful Entrepreneur (and yes, it’s still an affiliate link, in case you’re wondering), my ears perked up.
And even though I’m well beyond the just-starting-out (or thinking about it) level the course is aimed at, I decided to hand over my credit card.
Why? Two reasons:
- I suspect there will be value to be gleaned in a review of business basics from Pace and Kelly’s unique perspective
- I want to learn from them with my teacher hat on
As a teacher/leader/creative entrepreneur myself, every course I sign up for I take with at least two different hats: my student hat (in which I learn from the actual content presented), and my teacher hat (in which I learn from the way the content is presented: what do I want to borrow? what do I want to make sure I don’t do in my next class or offering?)
Plus here’s a secret I’ve learned from experience: taking courses is a great way to grow my own network. I get to develop or deepen my relationship with the instructors, and I’ve made some amazing, lasting connections with other participants in the interactive courses I’ve taken online.
The Real Ulterior Motive Part
One lesson that Jon Morrow brought home in his awesome Guest Blogging Apprenticeship (amazingly, this one is NOT an affiliate link — Jon, if you take affiliates, can I sign up?), is that one surefire shortcut to building a relationship with a blogger (though of course this applies to anyone, not just bloggers) is to buy it — take an interactive course from them (and interact); pay for coaching or consulting.
Believe me, I have a much stronger relationship with the members of my Creative Ignition Club, and Creative Ignition Circle, and one-on-one coachsulting clients, than with subscribers to my blog who haven’t actually worked with me. Duh, right?
Yep, Pace and Kelly, if you’re reading, full disclosure: part of why I’m signed up for the Way of the Peaceful Entrepreneur is ’cause I want to get to know you better! (And yikes, how scary and vulnerable does it feel to admit that? Like saying “Will you be my friend?” to the intriguing stranger kid on the playground. Can you say “I’m a dork”?)
All this is to say, if you run a business, or are thinking of doing so (this includes solopreneurs), your business has a personality, and the image you present will determine what kinds of people you attract, and who ultimately buys your stuff.
So make sure your mission, message, brand personality, graphics, copy and everything else you put out in the world is consistent and says what you want it to say, in order to self-de-select your not-Right People, and to attract your Right People.
Um, yeah. Have fun spending the next few decades getting it right.
That’s exactly what I’m working on doing.
If you’re ready to start — or grow — your business in a humane, peaceful way, I’d love to have you as a classmate with me in Pace and Kelly’s course, the Way of the Peaceful Entrepreneur. Tuesday is the last day to get in — registration closes on January 17th.
Full disclosure (again, in case you didn’t see the multiple other times I mentioned this): if you click through that link (or any of the Way of the Peaceful Entrepreneur links [←like that one]) and buy, I’ll make a commission. Which would, of course, make me wildly appreciative.
So much so that I’d love to thank you with a 3-month membership in my Creative Ignition Club as a special bonus. Yep — take the Way of the Peaceful Entrepreneur with me (using one of my links to sign up, of course), and you get 3 months in the Creative Ignition Club.
However, if for whatever reason you want to take the course, but don’t want to send me a commission, or get exclusive access to the Club, just do a Google search, and I won’t ever know the difference. 😉
Do you have any examples of brands you love, and brands that don’t quite do it for you? What works for you about the former, and what doesn’t work for you about that latter?
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!
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Kitty Kilian says
I had just decided to write a comment in order to compliment you on this honest, witty and very helpful article – if only because of all the resources – when I sawmmy name in it. Now I am not sure – if I comment, or tweet, or share it will seem like blatant self-promotion. Help! What to do?
kitty Kilian says
Only halfway through I had already decided I was going to comment to compliment you on this hugely informative and honest post … and then I saw you mentioned my name. Now what do I do? If I comment, retweet and share people are going to think I am just vain. Help!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Well, I’m glad you went ahead and commented, Kitty! It’s always a pleasure to see you around these parts. 🙂
I’m also really glad you liked the post! (And thanks for turning me on to the Storybranding Group — a new spin [for me] on something I learned initially from Sinclair. I especially like how they break each archetype down into sub-types.)
Pace Smith says
Yes, I will be your friend, enthusiastically and gratefully! That’s some awesome authenticity in action right there, and you are rockin’ it.
And for the record, that’d be a yes even if you hadn’t just given me money. *grin*
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Hehe! Yayyyy! 🙂 Looking forward to your class, Pace! This’ll be FUN!
Kat McCullough says
Thank you so much for writing this! You absolutely nailed a conversation I have been having this past weekend. I was discussing this very thing to include the players you’ve mentioned. You have brought incredible voice to something which could be perceived as super sensitive, or even sticky, but you did so with articulate grace. I NEEDED to read this: “I’m an authenticity junkie. I don’t want to see your mask, no matter how beautiful; I want to see your humanity.” (I can’t actually emphasis the word NEEDED enough)
Pace tweeted this article and when Pace tweets, I read. “Right People” = YES!!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Thank YOU so much for commenting! I seriously debated about whether to even post this, after spending hours writing it. I wasn’t entirely sure if it was something my readers would be interested in. But it felt important to me to share, so up it went. I’m really glad it resonated with you!
And yay for Pace! 🙂
Ellie Di says
I loooooove nerdy breakdowns like this (I mean that in the best of ways). The brand archetype thing so appeals to my storyteller brain. I even advertise my breakdown (Sage/Magician) on my site!
I have trouble with both Chris and DLC, the latter more than the former, because they both feel so far away, if that makes sense. DLC I find offputting for many of the same reasons as you, and I would buy from Chris first, too; I just find something about Chris also very arm’slengthy. But that’s just me.
Great info and ideas!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Nerds unite! 🙂 (And I’ve got some Sage in me, too. Magician not far behind… I actually scored ridiculously high on I think 10 out of the 12 types in the first archetype inventory I took!)
I actually get a bit of arms-lengthiness from Chris, too, but to me it feels like it’s coming from his introverted nature, rather than a “high priest” mask he puts on, if you know what I mean.
Thanks for the comment, Ellie! 🙂
Loran Hills says
Melissa, I like to order products to learn from them too. I also am learning how to create products. Sometimes I don’t have time to work through all the courses I keep downloading so I’m trying to “curb my appetite” and work more on my own stuff. Except that I don’t know that much about marketing and around and around I go. I do like meeting people, though, so I’m pleased to make your acquaintance!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Nice to meet you, too, Loran! I’ve had the same problem with over-buying products… In most cases, I find the ones with a live element more useful, because I can’t file them away and forget about them! :}
El Edwards says
Fabulous! I agree with Kat … this had the potential to ruffle feathers but you handled it with such grace and charm, aaaand, what you say makes perfect sense to me (and having read this, I think I know why, given the cash, I’d have bought Danielle’s over Chris’s.)
I totally understand what you mean about Danielle’s style but I think for me that’s part of the appeal. I know I’m not her absolute best person but I loved The Spark Kit. The beauty of it appealed to me as much as the content and I anticipate this latest offering being the same.
And as someone who is very much of the home-made camp, there is something in me that aspires to be a bit more polished. She’s like this elegant super-momma that I could never be. 😉
Anyway, alls that to say that yep, I agree, this idea of brand archetypes really is good stuff and super duper important. Great post. 🙂
Melissa Dinwiddie says
That’s exactly what I’m talking about — every brand archetype has its own unique appeal, and will resonate with different people for their own reasons.
I totally appreciate the polish and aesthetics, too, and often wish I were more that way… while at the same time I find it a bit off-putting.
Thanks for commenting, my dear — especially since your previous comment is what kicked this post off! 🙂
Tina Robbins says
This is great Melissa. I love the way it makes me think about how and why I make decisions and why I question myself on some things.
Also, I am going to have to check out the Storybranding site!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Thanks, Tina! Let us know what you learn about your own archetypes!
Well done Melissa! This is a fabulous post and put into words so much of what I felt but wasn’t nearly as articulate when explaining. You really hit spot on.
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Thanks, Daphne! I’m glad it resonated for you. 🙂
Really well written post, Melissa. And, I totally agree that connection is a big part of who we buy from.
Interesting that maybe it has to do with how your brand archetypes match up. I am a big fan of both Chris and Danielle, but I have some sage archetype and seem to resonate more with Danielle.
Her Firestarter sessions were instrumental for me and, actually, I see her as authentic and not distant at all. I will never be like her because she is unique but I always learn from her.
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Thanks, Kim! I have a bit of Sage, too, and that’s probably the part of me that does resonate with Danielle. I’d never really thought about archetypes playing a role here until I wrote this post, but now I’m really fascinated by the idea. 🙂
wow, really enjoyed reading this Melissa….all the way to the bottom! 🙂
I found this very interesting and it seems I feel the same way about some of the people you mentioned here….makes me really want to take a step back and see what my brand is exuding as well.
And I’m so amazed for how big the internet is, it can really be quite a small world after all.
Thanks for this, truly enjoyed it and soaked it all in……..
Melissa Dinwiddie says
So glad I got you to read the whole thing, Gina. 🙂 Writing this post really clarified a lot for me. I’ll be processing all of this for a long time, I’m sure!
Thanks for commenting! 🙂
Wow! Perception is 9/10ths of the law here.
I know this was just your personal example, proving that each person is going to have *their* specific tribe, but for me.. I like Chris; but totally dig Danielle down to the tip of my toes. I don’t see her as sitting on a throne or overly polished — I see her as elegant, professional but also kick ass and tells it like it is. To be fair, she and I have our core Style Statement words in common (Sacred) so I personally think she oozes authenticity, it is one of my core values. But I see for you it isn’t a down-home, rough around the edges authenticity. Still, to me it is authenticity nonetheless. (I am a Truth Warrior — I hate bullshit!)
However, Danielle Laporte likes Helvetica, and her website is too black and white. It wouldn’t be my choice, I prefer warm and organic and serif fonts. It doesn’t change my mind about her one iota. 🙂
I loved this post! Really got me thinking about the real reason I feel so differently about Apple vs. Microsoft.
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Yep – that’s the thing I find most fascinating: that every entrepreneur/brand attracts different people. It’s what we’re all *wanting* to do, right? To attract our Right People. And Right People look different for different brands, just as different brands look different to potential customers.
You also bring up a great point about authenticity. One can be authentic, and polished, or inauthentic and polished. I personally appreciate the polish, but connect more to seeing a bit of edge. That’s just me, though — there are zillions of people who are probably turned off being seeing the “rough edges.”
All very interesting to think about…
Elinor Predota says
Hi Melissa, I just came across this post, but just had to comment and say how awesome it is! And also, how surprised I was by my archetype: Magician. Not what I would have expected at all! But then, I’m having a week of surprises, from my core value (LIBERATION, BABY!) to my business heritage (more than I thought), and now this 🙂
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Thanks, Elinor – glad it spoke to you. And rock that Magician archetype out!!