… received a follow-up email from Staples.


They wanted me to “share my experience and rate the quality of my recent purchase.” They even invited me to share a photo.

Well, let’s see. I bought 5,000 sheets of printer paper. I’m only through about 15 at this point, but so far, they appear to be uniformly white and more or less rectangular.

I get it. Staples sends this email to every customer.

And while printer paper is the ultimate office commodity – it’s like my gas station asking me to rate the quality of the fuel I just bought – it might not seem so ridiculous as a follow-up to a computer purchase or other big-ticket item.

But it does demonstrate that the big guys are severely disadvantaged relative to you and me when it comes to pretending they care. If it can’t be automated, they can’t do it.

All that to say that if you’re outsourcing all of your relationships – to social media, automation, virtual assistants, etc. – you’re giving up your biggest advantage relative to the lumbering giants.


… accidentally sent the wrong email to a client.


I was emailing my tech guy, Barry, to let him know that one of my newsletter clients wanted to switch email platforms and that he should expect to hear from her.

But … in the process of grabbing the client’s contact info to share with Barry, I accidentally included her in the email as well.

Fortunately, I didn’t say anything bad or embarrassing.

Other than witnessing the ongoing game that Barry and I play in inventing new greetings to each other (e.g., Howdy Partner!), the email probably seemed perfectly fine.

It was a good reminder, though, of my personal rule: never write anything in an email that I wouldn’t want someone to share more broadly.


… watched an ad for weather.

It was for a local news channel.

It kept switching back and forth between showing the weather person working in the studio and showing her at home with (I assume) her daughter and dog.

What’s a person’s family got to do with the quality of weather forecasting?

I’m no meteorologist, but I’m going to guess, “nothing.”

But, when your weather is literally identical to the weather on every other channel, the only reason to watch you instead of them is because I like you more.

You probably don’t sell weather reporting.

Of course, if you sell financial planning, management consulting, freelance writing, accounting, legal services, leadership coaching, recruiting, or one of a hundred other professional services, you may as well be.

I know you’re better/different than the competition. But it’s really hard for anyone else to tell.

One thing they can tell pretty easily is whether or not they like you. And people refer/hire the people they like.

Maybe it’s time to include some non-business aspects of who you are in your marketing?

See you later; I’m off to borrow a dog and/or adorable child.


… “wasted” half an hour on the phone.

I got a call from a prospective client.

Five minutes in and I knew that I wasn’t interested. I could have ended it right there.

Instead, we talked about our respective businesses, realized we knew some people in common, and complained about winter (a popular New England pastime).

Waste of time?

Yes, if you think you need to monetize every interaction immediately.

No, if you think of every interaction as “marketing;” a chance to expand/reinforce your network and brand, knowing that this is where word of mouth is born.


… had to rewrite a client newsletter.


They hated the draft I sent.

That was disappointing – but it served to remind me of how rarely this happens.

If even 20% of what I write for clients had this response, not only would my work take a lot more of my time, but it would be way less fun.

It’s tempting to believe that, “any paying work is good work.” I don’t agree.

When your work is centered around doing what you are uniquely good at, your clients are happier, you are happier, and you make a lot more money for the time and effort involved.