Finish Strong

November 13, 2019

What do distance runners and great salesmen have in common?

They both know that winning depends on a strong finish.

And they also know that you have to focus on the race you’re in before moving on to the next.

With the holidays looming, it can be tempting to slow down and kick back…coast to the end of the year based on your results in the first 10 months. Planning for 2020 might feel like taking a breather from the hectic pace you’ve been keeping.

Don’t fall into that temptation.

In the next few weeks, you have the chance to make 2019 into a banner year and build great momentum for 2020.

Here are five tips that can give your business that last burst of energy it takes to finish strong:

  • Aim for Progress, not Perfection –Now is not the time to let perfection paralysis keep you from taking action. A project that meets 80% of its goal is worth more to you than a project you never start because success isn’t 100% guaranteed.
  • Focus on Quality, not Quantity-It can take a bit of effort to break through all the noise of the holidays and the “year-end specials” that your competitors are offering. Stand out by focusing on the quality of the message you’re delivering to key prospects, rather than the sheer number of leads you are generating. The extra effort you spend in communicating that you understand what your customer’s problem is and how you can uniquely solve it, the more success you’ll find.
  • Express Gratitude – Take the opportunity to thank your customers for their business during this year. Doing this at Thanksgiving rather than in December may give the customer one more chance to do business with you before the end of the year.
  • Revisit the “No” and the “Not Yet” List – Prospects who were not ready to buy earlier in the year may be ready now. You might have just what they need to finish their year strong. Pick up the phone and check back. A quick conversation may lead to the sale that takes you over the top.
  • Add Value Rather Than Discount – So many businesses offer discounts or special prices as incentives for buying before the end of the year. Rather than reducing your prices, consider adding value. Set yourself apart by bringing back an old favorite as a bonus or creating a high value, low cost addition to your current offering.
  • Get a Head Start on your New Year’s Resolutions – To finish the year strong, change some of the habits, approaches and attitudes that have been slowing you down or holding you back. Simple, strategic adjustments can make a huge difference in the outcome of things. Look at time management, organization, commitment, consistency, flexibility, resilience and see where improvements can be implemented and make them now.


In the next few weeks, give your business that strong burst of energy that will make you a winner this year. In the words of Gary Ryan Blair, “What kind of competitor sees the finish line and slows down?  Always finish strong.”

Go forth and do great things,

Martha Hanlon and Chris Williams

Martha & Chris


What Your Business Can Learn from a Bag of Rice

October 30, 2019

“Trader Joe’s Organic Basmati Rice comes from the foothills of the Himalayas.  There, the rice fields are watered by snow-fed rivers that give the rice lovely flavor, unique aroma and delicate texture.”

What does this have to do with you?

Which package of rice are you going to buy?  The one grown with snow-fed Himalayan water…or the one that came from aisle nine at Safeway?

Or how about their “Cave-aged blue cheese” and “Some Enchanted Crackers.”  Would you prefer those or cheese and crackers?

What Trader Joe’s does brilliantly…and we should pay attention to and imitate…is they create experiences through storytelling.  Forget about giving us all the boring details about the product!

They tell us a story, draw us a picture, create an experience.  And wouldn’t you rather live that experience than recall pushing a cart with a wobbling wheel down aisle nine?

Because of this unique approach, Trader Joe’s has turned normal human beings into zealots.  Ditto Apple, Zappos and a very small number of other companies who have stolen our hearts and devotion (and wallets) because they wrap us up in storytelling, painting a beautiful, desirable experience.

Here’s how they do it, and so can you:

  • A story touches our emotions, and draws us in; a product tells us about “facts.” Some Enchanted Crackers, “Multi-grain Crackers perfect for entertaining,” says “I can throw a pretty awesome party.” Crackers and cheese say “I was too lazy to make dinner.”
  • Storytelling engages. Trader Joe’s tells us about the interesting history, source or some fun facts about their products or services. Storytelling takes people behind-the-scenes for special access…and we all love being special!
  • Don’t line up with everyone else. While Trader Joe’s certainly has its share of canned chicken soup and raw cashew nuts, they also have a lot of “This Strawberry Walks into a Jar,” “Astonishing Multi-Flavor JoJos,” and “Pita Bite Crackers.” These aren’t simply quirky names. They’ve disrupted the usual grocery store experience.

The best piece of Trader Joe’s advice I want to share actually aligns the difference between Wide Awake Business and all those other business development companies out there–center everything you create from your customer’s perspective, not yours.

Have insights into the mind of your customer.

Demonstrate you understand their problem.  And show them you work super hard to eliminate it.

Every day your customers evaluate you.  You’re either “rice grown with snow-fed Himalayan water” or rice from aisle nine at Safeway.

The choice isn’t cute versus boring.  The choice is break away from the pack and relate to your customers or do the same-old, same-old.

That’s what storytelling does for you…and most importantly, for your customers.

Go forth and do great things,

Martha Hanlon and Chris Williams

Martha Hanlon and Chris Williams


P.S.  What if you drafted just one story today rather than share the “aisle nine-style” details about your services

Tell Me a Story

October 23, 2019


Have you heard the saying, “Facts tell, stories sell?”

It’s true…and here’s why.

We’ve been hearing stories (and letting them capture our imaginations) since before we could read or write…and long before we could make “heads or tails” out of facts and statistics.

We know what to do with stories. We let them take us to new realities, better times, bigger dreams.

Isn’t that exactly what you want your marketing to do?

Stories invite your customer to be the hero of their business or their life. They can see themselves living “happily ever after” on the other side of the problem you solve.

So, how does it work?

Pretend I want to enroll you in a course about creating systems in your business.

Let me tell you a story:

Winter is coming. It does every year.

My family and I know that. Yet, somehow, it sneaks up on us all the same.

When it’s time to build the wood pile, it’s all-hands-on-deck. “Family Chris” has a plan.

We have developed a system…a firewood generating machine.

From the youngest to the oldest, everyone has a job. Grandpa finds the fallen trees and clears the path. Maybe he cuts down a dead tree that hasn’t fallen yet. Mom uses the chain saw to cut the tree into manageable chunks. Not too big, not too small. The right size for the chopping block.

Oldest child has splitting duty. She puts her whole body into the swing and gets frustrated if the log doesn’t split all the way on the first pass. Two middle children load the wheelbarrow, aiming for a perfect load…enough to make the trip worth it, but not so much the barrow becomes impossible to push. When the wheelbarrow is full, they take turns rolling it to the patio where the wood pile stands. Sometimes it takes them both, an exercise in cooperation.

At the patio, the youngest has unloading duty, taking the logs one at a time and carefully building the stack. When she gets impatient, the middle two unload and then return to build the next load.

A perfect machine.

Everyone has a job suited to their ability, and one job can’t start until the step before it is completed. To be efficient, jobs must be synchronized, or somebody stands idle for too long while someone else feels overloaded.

“Family Chris” has a pretty good estimate of how much wood we’ll need (with a little help from Farmer’s Almanac predicting how cold the winter will be). When we reach our targeted amount, we do an extra load or two, just for good measure.

When the task is finished, our little machine has done its job. We’ve worked together and have what we need to be warm all winter. A Family Machine built to keep us cozy.

This (true) story does a much better job of making our case than a list of statistics about the number of business that fail, because they don’t have a system or a long-winded description of the ideal components of a business system.

I’ll bet that, by the time we started describing the different jobs, you were making the story your own, substituting the various jobs that need to be completed to make your business a success.

This story has been a very successful part of our marketing for several years. We share it in workshops, webinars and stage presentations. It even appears in our best-selling book Customertopia: How to Create an Easier, Simpler, More Profitable Business.

We tell the story because it sells what we do. It can work for you, too.

Become a better storyteller…it will boost your business. We promise.

Go forth and do great things,

Martha Hanlon and Chris Williams

Martha & Chris