The one-star review I semi-regret

Since moving to Ireland, I've been trying to get an idea of the delivery places in our area. We eat fairly healthy in my family, but sometimes you've just got to have that pizza, right?

Last week I ordered a pizza from a new place. It was...okay. Nothing impressive, nothing amazing.

That night, however, I got what I can only assume was food poisoning. The pizza had been the only real thing of substance I had eaten that day, so of course I blamed the pizza.

The following day I received an email in my inbox, asking for a review and any feedback I had to offer.

I gave one star for food quality, two stars for business interaction, three stars for timeliness, and in the review box I wrote: "Got food poisoning."

Once I hit the submit button, I continued on and forgot all about it.

The next Sunday I received a phone call from an unknown number.

It was the owner of the pizza place.

He had seen my one-star review that, unbeknownst to me, had actually been submitted to a public review site. It was not just an internal feedback tool, which I had originally thought it was.

He was kind enough to simply ask for more feedback and if I could provide any more clarity on my experience, which I did. He apologized for the experience, thanked me for my feedback, and ended the call.

The owner of the pizza place didn't do anything to make me feel guilty, but I feel a bit of regret for that one-star review.

There is always a human on the other side of our feedback. When we leave comments, feedback forms, or reviews, these things always affect another person in some way.

Oftentimes as a consumers we tend to react before thinking about the consequences of our words or actions. We're the customer, right? We should be getting the best deal here, right?

What if we remembered to treat other businesses as we would like to be treated? To give the opportunity for them to make it right?

Business owners want the opportunity to make it right. They don't want you to have a poor experience with their brand. They want to you share about a great experience with the people you know.

I semi-regret that one-star review because I didn't give the business a chance to make it right. Even though the pizza made me sick, if I had stopped and remembered there is always another human on the other end of a transaction, I would have responded differently.

Before you leave that next review or drop some negative feedback their way, send an email or a private message or make a phone call. 

Give them the chance to make it right.

A vlog about seanwes conference 2016

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to help the team at seanwes put on our first ever conference in Austin, Texas.

We'd been planning this conference for over a year, and it felt incredible watching it become a reality.

I was going to write up a recap on my experience there, but I decided to share my experience with you through my YouTube channel (did you know I had a YouTube channel?)

This is not the "official recap video" (which is being produced by an incredible video creator), but instead a look through my eyes during the conference. I hope you enjoy this special edition of my weekly vlog!

An inside conversation about target audience

Last week I had a conversation in the Community with a friend of mine, Shannelle, about getting deeper clarity in her target audience.

This is a slightly-edited transcript for readability, but I wanted to share this with you to show you two things: that a deep understanding your target audience is vital, and that sometimes the best clarity can come from a good conversation in community.

I intentionally left the format of this email as a conversation, so I encourage you to take a moment watch how we navigate deeper to get more clarity.

This was our conversation:

Shannelle: Hey Cory, I did the Behind the Brand guide, and I was wondering if my why has two parts to it?

Cory Miller: For example?

Shannelle: I did it for the lettering series that I want to do, and I started it wanting to get better with lettering. But I realized I also want to put something out there that could make someone stop and think.

Cory Miller: Who's your target audience?

Shannelle: Someone who wants to start something but she's holding back because she's scared. Scared of failing to achieve what she wanted. Scared of failing to get things perfect. Scared of going unnoticed.

Cory Miller: So how does what you do help her not be scared, or hold back anymore?

Shannelle: I'm basing it off a lot of things that I experienced, but I realized that so much of my fears only thrived when I gave it the space to thrive. I fed myself so many excuses, and I didn't realize what they were until I took a break and recognized that. I want to make something beautiful out of these things that I learned from a really bad time so that someone else out there in the same position can notice and realize what she's doing to herself

Cory Miller: Okay so take all of that, and answer this: Why do you want to do that?

Shannelle: My mind went blank there, but the first thing that came to mind was it was something I would have loved to find when I was in that period

Cory Miller: Keep exploring that. We're getting pretty deep here, but I'm pushing you a bit because I get the feeling you're really close to something powerful, not just about your work but about yourself.

Because I can ask again, why? Why would you have loved to find that?

Shannelle: It's getting hard to string my thoughts together...

Cory Miller: That's good! It means your brain is doing the work it needs to. Here's what I'm getting so far based on what you've written:

Your target audience is a young woman who has a lot of fear, but likes to explore new ideas through creative inspiration, and you want her to overcome her fears and live fully and free from insecurity.

Obviously there's a lot more we can get into with target audience, because that's still vague, but it's a start.

Shannelle: I started with finding all these awesome creative resources, like 99u and etc., and I feel like everybody right now is concerned with creativity and things like getting to travel while working for yourself. And as amazing as it is, I'm also tired of seeing nothing except that. All you ever see are the good things, but everything else gets swept under the rug. And I want to bring out those things from under the rug, from my situation, to be a voice out there that talks about the uglier side of things.

Stuff like jealousy. No one talks about whether or not they get jealous, or being scared that your work would never stand out from everything else out there.

Cory Miller: Ready? One more.

Shannelle: Lay it out

Cory Miller: Why do you want to help these women?

Answer this question without using the word "I" or "my" in the answer (or other words referring to yourself).

Shannelle: There's so many out there focused on the bright and sunny that there's no space for people to talk about bad days

Cory Miller: Dig a bit more. What I'm reading is you want to help these women talk about bad days, but I don't think that's really the answer

Here's how my thought progression would go:

  • Why do they need to talk about bad days?
  • Why is it important for these women to see themselves in these places?
  • Why is it important for these women to get out of these places?

That's how you get to the why, you keep diving into the answers to each question until suddenly there's a clear and desperate answer that cries for attention and demands action. That is the WHY.

If I were to ask you why you do what you do and you replied,

"There are women who seek creative inspiration who are trapped in the idea that life is only supposed to be "bright and sunny", and they need to know they are just as valuable, free, and strong on the dark days that will inevitably come."

That is a powerful WHY, one that says nothing about us or the WHAT, but only about the people you are trying to reach or impact.

I hope you enjoyed reading this conversation. It certainly gave me lots to think about.

The more clarity you have about your target audience, the more clarity you'll have in your message.

If your message or the definition of your target audience seems cloudy or lacks specificity, try asking yourself these questions:

  • Why do I want to help my target audience?
  • Why do I want to do what I do?

Here's the twist: answer these questions without using any reference to yourself. No "I", "me", "my", or anything like that.

Don't worry if it's really difficult: it's supposed to be. Asking hard questions is how you get deep clarity.

Do you know why you do what you do?

One of my favorite organizations is charity: water. I talk about them a lot, but probably not enough.

Charity: water has a mission I can recall from memory. I don't know very many mission statements of brands that I can remember immediately, but charity: water is one that I can.

Their mission is to bring clean and safe drinking water to every person in the world, primarily in developing countries.


They have a vast amount of reasons, including the decrease of water-borne diseases, upwards of 40 billion hours spent walking for water each year, keeping kids in school, and the empowerment of women.

Charity: water has a deep understanding of *why* they do what they do, and it drives the organization and is contagious to the people who interact with them.

Do you know why you do what you do?

Can people recall what you're about from memory?

Do you know the answers to these questions:

  • Who are you helping?
  • How will their lives improve from their interaction with your brand?
  • How is the world different because your brand exists?

I get emails all the time that say, "Isn't it enough that I love what I do? Isn't it enough that I just do what I want and hope people like it?"

Let me pose this question:

At the end of your life, if you are the only one who ever benefited from what you did, will that be enough for you? 

For me, it won't be enough.

Brands that have a deep understanding of why they do what they do have an unmatched hunger, a drive to see the world become a better place. Their success is tied to the success of the people they want to reach, impact, or help.

Is yours?

The Sock Company That Didn't Start by Making Socks

It's easy to start with something we like to do and do it.

It's easy to start with something we're able to do and do it.

It's easy to figure out our strengths and make something happen through them.

You know what's not easy? Getting people to care about us doing those things.

A lot of people start here. They think about what they want to create, make it, then try and find people to buy it or consume it.

It's really difficult to create a brand this way. It's not impossible, but it's difficult.

My friend Sean McCabe posed this idea to me earlier this week:

"We often start with WHAT we're doing and then follow up with WHO we're doing it for. What if you started with WHO you want to help, and then figured out WHAT they need or want?"

I recently stumbled across the brand Bombas. They make high-quality socks, but that's not why they're in business.

In 2010, Randy Goldberg and David Heath found a quote saying the most requested clothing item at homeless shelters were socks, because socks can't be donated. They wanted to help get good socks to the homeless people who needed them.

Randy and David started with WHO. They wanted to help homeless people care for their feet and improve their lives even in a small way. Their solution was to start a sock company with a 1-to-1 model where when a customer buys a pair, Bombas donates a pair.

In less than two years, Bombas donated over a million pairs of socks.

They didn't start by saying, "We want to make socks". There are dozens, if not hundreds of companies already making socks. They started with a care and concern for a particular kind of person, and they went from there.

If you have a difficult time determining your target audience, it's because you're doing it backward. You're starting with WHAT you're doing and trying to match it to a certain kind of person, instead of finding WHO you want to help or impact and doing something for them.

I often say that what you do is never as important as who you do it for, and WHO you're for can help determine WHAT you do.

When You Get Bored of Your Own Brand

Beginning is always exciting. It's like the first step on a long hike when everything is new and your heart is racing and you're ready for anything.

There is an exhilaration to getting started because it represents a freshness and a clarity. Your goals and direction are set and you feel like anything is possible.

Then a few months go by. 

You've been working, but you don't feel the drive anymore. You have the capacity to accomplish your goals, but it just seems boring now. It might not seem boring to other people, but it is to you. 

Coming back from a place of disinterest is not impossible.

In order to combat the stale attitude of indifference, you must commit to three things:

  1. Consistent reminders of why your brand exists.
  2. A dedicated and thoughtful approach to specific goals.
  3. The allowance of fresh, new methods of accomplishing those goals.

Remind Yourself Why

Some of the most common questions I ask brand creators is, "Why? Why is what you do important? Why does it matter? Why are you doing this?

I recently said this on Behind the Brand:

If there is anything that you should wrestle with through the night, it should be this question: how would the world would be any different if your brand did not exist?

You must know the answer to this question. If it wouldn't be any different, you may need to reevaluate what you're doing. If it would be any different, you need to hold on to that. 

There is a reason your brand exists, and you need to know what it is.

Get Your Goals Sorted Out

Every brand needs to have markers along the journey. These are goals, achievements on the way to the destination.

Ask yourself two questions:

  1. How do I this brand to be known in 15-20 years?
  2. What are some of the major steps it will take to get there?

The answer to the first question is your destination, and the second are smaller goals that help to get you going in the right direction.

I see a lot of people who have no idea what they are doing, but they're just doing it because they kind of like it. Doing something you like is great, but doing something you like with zero intentionality won't get you anywhere.

Mix Up the Journey a Bit

Mindless repetition is easily one of the biggest catalysts toward becoming bored of your own brand. It breeds stagnation, which leads to the desire to do anything different. Often this leads to wanting to work on things other than your brand or passion, which is antithetical to building a strong brand.

If you don't want to become bored of your brand, you may consider allowing yourself to deviate from the constant routine and introduce something fresh. 

This doesn't have to be a radical step, but simply exists as something to break up the monotony.

  1. If you only produce digital work, you could add in a physical component to your process.
  2. If you own a clothing company, you could try adding non-apparel products to your line.
  3. If you have a team, you could introduce a monthly or bi-monthly retreat to brainstorm ideas, have shared experiences, and simply get out of the office together.

As long as you're still headed toward the goal and maintaining your brand mission, feel free to experiment and try new things. You may be surprised at how much your brand flourishes.

If you find yourself getting bored of your own brand, ask yourself "why?". What's changed? Where did the spirit and passion go?

Self-evaluation is a vital part of the brand journey.