Are You Sure Your Content Marketing
Strategy Is a Good Fit?


When I was on vacation a few weeks ago, I went out to dinner with my friend Isabel. She wore a simple dress and a really cute cotton hoodie. Ever since I got home, I’ve been trying to find a hoodie just like it.

So far, no luck. Why?
[Read more...]

What’s Your Tribe’s Secret Language?


I picked up a couple of Nancy Mitford novels while I was on vacation in Taos a few weeks ago. Mitford wrote acidly funny, impeccably observed novels about her own background, which was as a child of the minor aristocracy growing up in Great Britain between the world wars.

It’s probably a bad idea for me to read any of the Mitfords (there were six sisters, all brilliant, some nasty, each with her own brand of insanity), because I find myself wanting to refer to things as heaven, or begin sentences with Any Danube peasant knows better than to . . .

Nancy Mitford became notorious in 1954 for a semi-satirical essay she wrote about “U” and “Non-U” pronunciation, the “U” standing for upper class.

(She didn’t coin the term “U,” but she did make it ubiquitous. U vs. Non-U was still a rowdy discussion when I first went to London in the 1980s.)

She outlined the situation neatly in her earlier bestselling novel The Pursuit of Love, in which the family patriarch is outraged because a young girl who’s a friend of the family is learning to say note-paper at boarding school, instead of writing-paper, and mirror instead of looking-glass.

Like her female characters, Nancy Mitford didn’t attend school at all, and thus couldn’t go to university as she had very much wanted to do. But by damn, she would have endured torture before she said note-paper.

It’s not about money

Mitford’s observations caused a lot of hand-wringing about snobbery and social class, which I suspect she found hilarious. She was born and bred to be a comic novelist, a brilliant observer but unable and unwilling to take anything very seriously.

What I find fascinating about it all is how fiercely tribal Mitford was, and how good she was at describing her tribe’s customs.

It wasn’t just about money. At various points in their lives, the real Mitford sisters lived on much more modest means than Nancy’s fictional characters did. (Money was a significant factor in the girls not going to school, for example.)

In fact, The Pursuit of Love details precisely the conflict between the rich middle class and the poorer (but in Mitford’s eyes, much more attractive) aristocrats and landed gentry.

Every tribe has a language

Whether it’s rabid fans of a sports team, residents of a neighborhood, members of a social class, or just people who share an interesting obsession, every tribe has a language.

When you’re writing to persuade a particular tribe, you’ve got to find the language that they use every day. Every time you say note-paper when they expect writing-paper, you send a signal that you’re not one of them.

Develop the novelist’s habit of writing down scraps of conversation that you hear. Keep file folders of customer comments, and go through it looking for interesting turns of phrase. Don’t “clean up” client testimonials too much—leave the linguistic quirks and oddities.

Listen more than you talk, and read more than you write.

If you’re building a tribe

You don’t just have to stick with the tribes that exist already. Creating your own is one of the most effective (and fun) ways to build a business or project.

When you build a tribe, remember that every tribe needs its own language. (The six Mitford sisters had one just among themselves, in fact.)

Over on Copyblogger, we’ve started to use the expression Third Tribe to mean “smart, ethical business based on great content and solid direct response copywriting.”

When I write about audience there, I talk about each of us building a village of customers.

We define ourselves as content net creators, as opposed to the “harpooners.” (Defining “the other” is also a big part of creating a tribe. I try to do this with respect and without vilifying anyone.)

When we overcome objections and build trust with customers, it’s called killing trolls.

You don’t have to force this “secret language.” (In fact, trying to force it is probably a terrible idea.) But you keep your ears open for the ideas and metaphors your villagers respond to.

When you come up with a good turn of phrase, keep using it. Repetition is your friend.

How about you? What’s the secret language of your tribe?

Flickr Creative Commons image by aturkus

New Formatting

In the interest of protecting your eyesight, I’ve bumped up the font on the body copy of the blog by a couple of points.

It looks good on all the machines I can test it on, but if things look wacky on your machine, will you leave a comment on this post and let me know? Thanks as always!

Oprah, The Biggest Loser, and Your Success

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do get to the gym a few times a week, generally right when Oprah is on. (Could be a lot worse. Jerry Springer, for example.)

A few weeks ago, she had some of the old contestants from the reality show The Biggest Loser. This is, to me, vastly more interesting than watching the actual show could be.

It’s one thing to lose tons of weight while at a ranch where there’s nothing to do all day long but work out and get yelled at by trainers. (Still an incredible and impressive amount of work. But not reality.)

It’s another to make the choices every day to maintain a healthier weight and lifestyle.

One gentleman in particular made a big impression on me. “For 15 seconds, I weighed 182 pounds and won a game show,” he said. His weight has gone up quite a lot since then, although he’s still managed to consistently stay 100 pounds below what he weighed when he first appeared on the show.

If you’re still a fat person in a skinny body, nothing’s going to change

He understood (intellectually) what to do. He knew all about working out and nutrition. And he wanted to be thin.

But his mindset didn’t match his temporarily sleek exterior. And as soon as he wasn’t in the hyper controlled environment created by a TV show, he started to revert to what his mindset told him was his “true” nature.

Money works exactly the same way

I’ve been working for the past few weeks with a money coach. (Actually, Gary’s more of a financial and business and lifestyle and happiness and freedom coach.)

A lot of what we work on is getting me to get what I already know. Internalizing it. Making it real. Strengthening my self reliance. Weakening my tendency to be cheap with myself. And knocking holes in the idea that Nice People Don’t Make Money.

To be successful, you need three things

You need good-quality information about ways to create success. (There are lots and lots of ways to do it. You just need to focus on one that suits you, and to make sure the information you’re getting is reliable.)

You need the will and the ability to translate that information into action. If you’re locked in Guantanamo, you won’t be able to do much to create the results you want. That’s true even if your Guantanamo is mainly psychological.

And you need a mindset that won’t set off little booby-traps to undermine all your work.

The thing about working on mindset is, if you get it in the right place, the first two become a whole lot easier.

Of course, you still need to take action. It’s not the Law of Attraction or magic beans in any way. It might look and feel like the universe is shifting around to take care of you, but actually it’s just what the world looks like when you get out of your own way.

As we weather the massive “economic climate change” that’s occurring all around us, we’re going to need to think about the world very differently.

We’re going to need to unlearn the mental habits we picked up by working for companies. Even good companies.

We’re going to need to re-evolve, from cube dwellers to hunter/gatherers on the open plain.

It’s more fun. It’s more stressful. It’s more difficult. It’s more dangerous. It’s more rewarding.

I don’t believe it’s optional, personally. The corporate cube isn’t the safe haven it was even a year or two ago. We need to find our true self-reliant nature again.


My coach, Gary, has a new group program available with really excellent introductory pricing. If you’re looking for someone who can help you gently but effectively shift your thinking, I can highly recommend him.

This isn’t an affiliate link. I don’t make a nickel, whether 1 person signs up or 100 do. I’ve just gotten so much out of working with him, and I’d love to see more people benefit from what he has to offer. Max Life Coaching

I’m going to be Gary’s first guest speaker, so if you want to hear our call on the real way to use social media in your marketing, that’s how you would do that.


Gary and I are also working with a terrific designer to make his site look less generic and show more of the warm, nice, generous person he is. So if the design makes you think it might be too corporate or business-y or “not you,” keep that in mind.


The self-serving bit for me, of course, comes when you have a killer financial mindset and are ready to start or grow your business. Then you’ll be in a great position to buy lots of marketing information from me. So really it’s all about me and my needs. Pretty sneaky of me, eh?