Marketing and Writing - Tips and Events

Writing For Your Life Today

Five constant human truths

Here are the five constant human truths, we’ll explore together in the next section of the book. 

People want to:

  • Feel loved:  Loyalty isn’t dead yet. It’s just not coming from your current marketing efforts. (P.S. A hug can change everything.)
  • Belong: You can belong to a church or a sports team. Can you belong to a company? We’ll find our answer by observing laptop stickers.
  • Protect self-interests: Research shows that consumers want to see proof of the value you provide to them and their communities. You can no longer be “in” a city. You must be “of” a city.
  • Find meaning: We grew up with the “Four Ps” of marketing, but there may be a fifth one: purpose. What happens when you need to take a political stand to remain competitive?
  • Be respected: Consumers will follow you if there’s a fair value exchange. But first, we have to understand what that means in a world where technology dominates our strategies. How do we use technology in a way that truly respects our customers?

from “Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins” by Mark Schaefer

Pare down the customer’s ambition to a single focus

A critical mistake many organizations make in defining something their customers want is they don’t pare down that desire to a single focus. I’ve had countless conversations with frustrated business leaders who push back at this point and say, “Wait, we provide about twenty-seven things our customers want. Can’t we mention all of them?”

The answer is no, at least not yet. Until we’ve defined a specific desire and become known for helping people achieve it, we shouldn’t add too many conflicting story gaps.

from “Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen” by Donald Miller

What readers really want is the story

I’ve been writing a book of memoir-essays for at least three years. The first set seemed pretty good, but the feedback I got from writer friends was lukewarm, so I took that as a sign that they weren’t ready. I went back to them a year later and thanked God for honest friends; the writing was stiff, and I had barely engaged with most of the topics.

So I had another go at it; I think the second draft is what I sent to my agent. She was encouraging but said, “Let’s keep this on the back burner for now.” That was fine; I had other projects in the works, and by then I sensed that the essays might be the toughest projects I’d ever taken on. 

When I approached them for the third or fourth time, I recognized the biggest flaw. I was trying to come to some sort of philosophical closure on matters that were deeply personal. And while the philosophy can be helpful and, when written artfully, satisfying to read, what readers really want is the story.

– from “The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life” by Vinita Hampton Wright Loyola Press

The minute I believe I know the mind of God…

I can respect almost anyone who admits to being human while reading a divine text. After that, we can talk—about why we highlight some teachings and ignore others, about how we decide which ones are historically conditioned and which ones are universally true, about who has influenced our reading of scripture and how our social location affects what we hear. The minute I believe I know the mind of God is the minute someone needs to sit me down and tell me to breathe into a paper bag.

– from “Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others” by Barbara Brown Taylor – HarperOne


Perhaps the reason I shuddered at the idea of writing something about “Christian art” is that to paint a picture or to write a story or to compose a song is an incarnational activity. The artist is a servant who is willing to be a birth-giver. In a very real sense the artist (male or female) should be like Mary, who, when the angel told her that she was to bear the Messiah, was obedient to the command. 

Obedience is an unpopular word nowadays, but the artist must be obedient to the work, whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a small child. I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius or something very small, comes to the artist and says, “Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.” And the artist either says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses; but the obedient response is not necessarily a conscious one, and not everyone has the humble, courageous obedience of Mary. 

As for Mary, she was little more than a child when the angel came to her, she had not lost her child’s creative acceptance of the realities moving on the other side of the everyday world. We lose our ability to see angels as we grow older, and that is a tragic loss. 

from “Walking on Water” by Madeleine L’Engle

A world with diminished loyalty

There are three essential strategies for adjusting to a world with diminished loyalty:

  1. Take exceptional care of the 13 percent of your customers who are true loyalists. Give them the tools to be a referral engine for your brand. Stop bombarding consumers who don’t want a relationship with endless emails or complex loyalty programs, and lovingly reward your best customers. Do you know them by name?
  2. Prioritize marketing efforts that will keep you among the top brands in a consumer’s mind when considering a purchase. The brands in the initial consideration set are more than twice as likely to be purchased as brands considered later in the decision journey.
  3. Focus on consumer-generated marketing such as recommendations, conversations, social media posts, referrals and reviews that occur after the sale. These conversations are either creating or destroying the emotional connection to your brand and driving two-thirds of your sales, as the McKinsey study tells us.

from “Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins” by Mark Schaefer

Something your customer wants

When we identify something our customer wants and communicate it simply, the story we are inviting them into is given definition and direction.

Here are some more examples:

  • Financial Advisor: “A Plan for Your Retirement”
  • College Alumni Association: “Leave a Meaningful Legacy”
  • Fine-Dining Restaurant: “A Meal Everybody Will Remember”
  • Real Estate Agent: “The Home You’ve Dreamed About”
  • Bookstore: “A Story to Get Lost In”
  • Breakfast Bars: “A Healthy Start to Your Day”

When you define something your customer wants, the customer is invited to alter their story in your direction. If they see your brand as a trustworthy and reliable guide, they will likely engage. 

from “Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen” by Donald Miller

Creativity: Begin with What’s There

When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” . . . Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

—John 2:3, 7–10

We don’t create something out of thin air; we begin with what we have. Could Jesus have simply made jars of wine appear at the wedding?We assume that he could have provided wine however he chose.He chose to take what was present—water—and create wine from that. On another occasion, when he fed thousands of people, he began with five loaves and two fishes that were on hand.

We can find encouragement in these examples of Jesus’ “creative” work. Like him, we can begin with what we have. What the Holy Spirit guides us to do with it—that’s the creative part.

What is your creative work, and what do you have to start with?

Lord Jesus, show me what I already have; may I work with you to create what that material will become.

from “small simple ways: an Ignatian daybook for healthy spiritual living” by Vinita Hampton Wright, Loyola Press

However many other religious languages I learn, I dream in Christian.

One of my favorite authors, Paul Knitter, has written a book called “Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian”. In it, he describes the “double-belonging” that led him to become a more committed Christian at the same time that it led him to become a more devoted member of a Tibetan Buddhist community in the United States. When one of his students at Union Seminary in New York asked him if this was “spiritual sleeping around,” Knitter took the question seriously. His core identity is Christian, he explained, but it is an identity that flourishes only through mixing it up with others.

Well, that’s true, I thought, counting how many other religions Christians mixed it up with during their early years—not just Judaism, but also Samaritanism, Zoroastrianism, and Greco-Roman, Egyptian, and Syrian religions. When Islam arrived in the seventh century, it changed the way Christians thought about their religious images. During that same century, manuscripts blending Buddhist, Taoist, and Christian teachings were being written in China under the influence of a Syriac monk named Alopen. In all of these ways and more, Christian teaching has flourished from its mingling with other religious Teachings.

“The more deeply one sinks into one’s own religious truth,” Knitter says, “the more broadly one can appreciate and learn from other truths.” That has been true for me, both as a teacher and as a spiritual seeker. Unlike the young man bent on keeping his Christian faith uncontested and pure, I have gained insight every time I have put mine to the test. Sometimes the results are distressing, as when I find the silence of the meditation bench more healing than the words of my favorite psalms, or when I take greater refuge in the Buddhist concept of impermanence than in the Christian assurance of eternal life. Yet this is how I have discovered that I am Christian to the core. However many other religious languages I learn, I dream in Christian. However much I learn from other spiritual teachers, it is Jesus I come home to at night.

– from “Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others” by Barbara Brown Taylor – HarperOne

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