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Doesn’t it feel like there’s some kind of magic in a great e-letter*?

*Credit is due to Kate Swoboda of Your Courageous Life and The Coaching Blueprint, who is the first person I noticed online (some years back) referring to her e-newsletter as an ‘e-letter,’ which sounds much more elegant and approachable, doesn’t it?

Abby KerrThe truth is, I’ve started writing this particular article three different times from three totally different angles, with the intention to tell you more about The E-Letter Atelier, my latest online course. Each time I would begin, I’d try to write my way into why an e-newsletter is an important asset to your business.

But you know why it’s important. You’ve wandered around these online entrepreneurial parts a bit, you’ve gotten the lay of the land. You know that you “should” have an e-newsletter, an ever-growing list of people who have ‘opted-in’ [industry parlance] to hear from you in their inbox.

You know that ideally, you should be “sharing valuable content” with your “list” 80% of the time, and 20% of the time, you should be making them an offer: buy my e-book, sign up for my new coaching program, check out this affiliate offer.

You’re subscribed to several other business’s e-newsletters and you’ve seen other people do their newsletters both well and badly. You’ve unsubscribed from more lists than you are currently subscribed to. You’ve gotten more choosy about what you’ll allow into your inbox.

And yet, knowing all this, seeing all this, doesn’t necessarily make it easier for you to see the possibilities for your own e-letter.

At least not a possibility that feels wholly worth it — from a time investment standpoint and from the perspective of your Right People, the people you feel drawn to serve.

You may have started and stopped your e-letter at some point in the past, or perhaps you have one but only get to it intermittently.

And yet you still have a desire to have a really great e-letter, one that serves your business, inspires your Right People, and feels worth it to you. You want it to be a working asset or nothing at all. I get that. Because: me, too.

Here’s what I typically hear from The Voice Bureau’s clients when it comes to concepting and creating a great, ongoing e-newsletter:

  • “What I want to write is neither a diary entry not a straight sales pitch, but something in between. What does THAT look like?”
  • “I want to be consistent and I’d rather not send anything at all, ever, than be inconsistent.”
  • “What the hell do I write? Why is this so hard?”
  • “I love it when other business owners curate links from around the web for their e-letters, but I’m not sure if this is the right choice for my business. How do I know?”
  • “I’m so afraid of offending my readers by sending them more email that I just freeze and do nothing.”

And so back to my angle for this writing this article today.

I think what we REALLY want and need to talk about, when it comes to our e-letter, is how to make this little piece of email feel like an experience, not just a piece of digital detritus.

Delivering an experience to someone’s inbox doesn’t have to mean that it’s long. It doesn’t have to mean that it’s heavily designed. (Heck, my own Insider Stuff e-letters are just line of type with a logo header and a photo I took.) And it doesn’t have to mean that you open a vein and leave your blood on the screen. Nope. None of those.

Let’s have a conversation about approaching your e-letter with two goals in mind:

1) To make it feel worth it to you, as a creator and as a business owner, and

2) To make it a worthwhile, looked-forward-to read for your Right People.

I believe that the magic in a great e-letter is found at the intersection of these two possibilities. Let’s talk about it.

And let’s do it voice-to-voice, why don’t we?

Sign up BELOW to join in on a complimentary call, Writing an E-Letter Your Right People Want to Read, or to receive the recording. If you’re there live, you’re welcome to ask questions, or just to listen in quietly. There’s no special offer attached to this call, it’s just part of spreading the word about The E-Letter Atelier, and giving everyone (whether you become an Atelier member or not) something to think about and work toward in their business.

CALL DATE: Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

TIME: 8 AM PST/11 AM EST — here’s a world time zone converter so you can see what time it’ll be for you

SIGN UP BELOW TO RECEIVE CALL-IN DETAILS . . .

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To me, there’s only one sexier phrase in all of business-speak than ‘brand identity.’

That phrase is ‘brand voice.’

When I was in my mentorship semester for my (now defunct) English teaching career, my amazing mentor teacher Mark Jamison allowed me to create and teach a themed unit of my own from scratch. The theme I chose: Identity & Finding Your Voice. When I left teaching to open a brick-and-mortar lifestyle retail boutique, I was inspired not by the prospect of hawking wares or working the sales floor, but by the prospect of conceptualizing and creating a 3D world that didn’t previously exist: breathing tangible, visceral life into a brand identity, giving the merchandise a cohesive voice and story.

Clearly, brand voice is one of our primary obsessions around here.

But many idealistic business owners — including some in The Voice Bureau‘s own readership and clientele – have some discomfort with thinking of themselves as a brand, and with thinking of their ‘brand voice’ as anything but the pure, unadulterated them putting fingers to keyboard and letting it fly.

I’d like to introduce a slightly different perspective — yes, even for solo businesses with a personal feel.

There’s your brand. And there’s you.

The two are not one.

One popular teaching about branding these days is that you and your brand are one and the same. By extension, people say that if you know yourself, you’ll know your brand.

To that I say . . . yes and no.

In the sense that as a solo or small business owner doing values-based work in the world (this is you, right?), it’s easy to feel that our brand is something we walk around inside of. Some people even go so far as to think that in their business, they’re really marketing themselves. I personally don’t ascribe to this point of view, though it’s a popular one. So I understand where the habit of overidentifying with one’s brand gets started.

But in my world, a brand is something we get to create and curate. A brand is never quite ‘complete,’ in the sense that it’s always active and re-engaging with its Right People and responding to trends and other factors inside and outside of its control.

But a brand — unlike a person — should always be ready to face the world and  always be ‘on.’

You see why it’s helpful to think of your brand as a creation apart from your self?

Your brand has the capacity (and, some would say, the responsibility) to always be ‘on.’

You, the business owner, don’t have that capacity. And shouldn’t try to. The very best brands have REAL people leading them, not coldhearted robots or glossily coiffed personas. Real people get to have off days, quiet seasons, and resting phases.

Brands and businesses can be built to function much more consistently than the typical values-based business owner can function. You get to be fluid while your brand provides the flexible architecture needed to support an important conversation over time with the people you want to serve.

Let’s get back to the YES for a moment.

As a business brand with a personal feel, there’s a lot of YOU in your brand. And you need to know where YOU come in, and where the brand can take over.

Discover Your Voice Values brand voice self-assessmentI’ve developed and methodologized a way for you as a business owner to understand your own brand voice — originating out of your natural communication strengths, but to be beheld as an entity separate, complete, and organic unto itself.

It’s called the Voice Values Paradigm for Branding. The Voice Values are the centerpiece of how we work with clients, and we want YOU to have access to it.

Enter your email below and click GO to get access to your complimentary brand voice self-assessment, Discover Your Voice Values.

You’ll be subscribed to our weekly-ish Insider Stuff e-letter when you do, and you can unsubscribe at any time.









 

 

For those who have taken this assessment before, we’re proud to introduce our new scoring system. It should lead to more honed results (fewer ties) than you may have had in the past. NOTE: If you’re already an Insider Stuff subscriber, you’re receiving a link to access the NEW self-assessment in your inbox today, April 30th, 2014.

I look forward to hearing your Top 3-5 Voice Values — what we call your Signature Mix – in the comments of this post, or on Twitter or Facebook.

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Occasionally I like to pause and think about the goodies that make my daily life and work feel richer, easier, and all around better. I often do this when I’m caught in a tidepool of glittering possibilities (like right now) and am trying to step firmly toward the soft shores of clarity.

Abby Kerr is Creative Director of The Voice BureauHere are the 6 best things I’ve discovered/done/read in 2014, so far.

(No affiliate links; just sharing because I love.)

DDP Yoga

DDP Yoga’s Voice Values, most likely: Power, Audacity, Helpfulness, Community

Being the purist and the aesthete that I am, I never imagined myself taking a former WWF wrestler as my yoga teacher. (I know.) I saw Diamond Dallas Page (DDP) pitch his yoga-at-home DVD program on Shark Tank, and was almost immediately sold. As someone who has been alternately very physically active for years at a time and then pretty sedentary, due to pesky overuse injuries and lifestyle (the writing habit is a pretty sedentary one if left unchecked), I had a feeling DDP’s approach to yoga-as-physical rehab could work for me.

I deal with chronic inflammation in my tissues and ligaments. I trained up to 30 hours a week as a pre-professional classical ballet dancer through my adolescent and teen years. I’ve always been hyperflexible with hyperextended joints (i.e. when I straighten my elbows or knees, they go past straight). Ballet’s emphasis on being super stretchy and elongated had already jacked me, followed by years of heavy lifting at the gym on overstretched ligaments (I used both machines and with free weights, all with great form, but still), followed by overzealous stretching during yoga practice. All this plus a decidedly high inflammatory diet — one of my unprettiest admissions, but true: when I’m not eating clean, I’m eating cheese, butter, white flour, and burgers and fries — makes for a very inflamed body.

DDP’s approach couples basic yoga poses with basic physical therapy. Plus he uses dynamic resistance (i.e. intentional body weight resistance) to help “jack up” your heart rate for greater fat burn. It feels good and it works. Plus, it’s guy-friendly and safe for those who have no interest in traditional yoga’s spiritual component.

While I’m still zenning out my tissues with rest, ice, gentle massage, and ibuprofen (and moving toward eating clean more consistently), I’m also gaining rapidly in strength, core fitness, and postural alignment. I feel back in my body, and that makes everything better.

Tara Brach’s podcast

Tara Brach’s Voice Values, most likely: Intimacy, Depth, Legacy

I was never attracted to Buddhism because of what I perceived as its ascetic austerity and denial of the self. But ever since TWO people who know me well recommended her podcast to me, it’s become my daily (and often nightly) listen. Brach is a clinical psychologist and a leading western teacher of mindfulness meditation. Her gentle, embodied, humorous, intelligent guidance on being “right here” (I can hear her saying the phrase as I type it) and accepting exactly what is has really helped defuse my nervous system and make me a more present business person, partner, friend, and person.

Body Oil from Etta + Billie

Etta + Billie’s Voice Values, most likely: Transparency, Clarity, Excellence

I’d been in search of a smartly packaged, organic, just-right-smelling body oil line to forever replace lotion, and this one is it. Etta + Billie is handcrafted in San Francisco by Alana Rivera. I always flip my wig over modern vintage design, so the packaging of this line turned my head. I’ve been alternating Lavender one day with Grapefruit and Cardamom the next. Slicking this oil on after a bath or shower makes me smell delicious and feel rapturously anointed.

THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt

Tartt’s Voice Values, most likely: Legacy, Enthusiasm, Depth

This is the 2014 Pulitzer Price winner and rightfully so. Ten pages in, I knew I’d be giving it 5 stars on GoodReads. Terrorism, adolescent drug and alchohol use, awareness of class issues, New York City legend and lore, and the fine art and antiques world. It’s all here. A chunk of a read at 800+ pages, this book’s epic scope makes it the twin to Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, but set in contemporary times.

I’ve especially loved reading up on the notoriously private Tartt herself, to whom my own fiction was compared by Lee K. Abbott, then director of the MFA program way back at Ohio State when I was an undergrad (!!!).

Deleting my color-blocked “What I Should Ideally Be Doing At This Time of Day, 5 Days a Week” schedule from Google Calendar

Google’s Voice Values, most likely: Innovation, Playfulness, Community

I finally did it. No more time tyranny by pixels. I like the idea of being a structured-to-the-quarter-hour person who lives happily by her calendar, but I’m just not. I need to flow like a stream, buffered by several well-placed rocks. Segmenting my Monday-Friday into color-coded blocks of time prescribed for “yoga, coffee, shower” or “prolific time: write!” just hasn’t been working for me for a good while, and I finally decided to stop pretending it someday might.

Not changing my brand’s color palette on a whim

My Voice Values (for sure): Power, Excellence, Depth, Clarity, Intimacy

Some months back, I’d emailed Allie and told her, “I need to shift something up, visually. Can we try recreating a similar vibe with this new color palette I found?” I sent her a secret digital passel of images showing the new palette, and we tried it on for size, but it just didn’t sing. And I kept comparing all the mockups to what was on my site already, and missing the signature pop of saffron yellow we have going on.

So instead of mixing up the palette, we tweaked the Home page in subtle ways, and I’m adjusting the intimacy level of the whole brand conversation. On some level, I like formal; I like official; I like ‘comfortable prestige’ — it’s me, it’s my personality. Someone close to me once described me as “an 80 year-old grandma, a 19 year-old rapper, and a 40 year-old Victorian lady all in one package.”

Yep. That feels about right. My natural tendency is to maintain a polite, polished reserve until I can see you eye to eye, one-to-one, and then I’ll use my inside voice — that is, inside closed doors. Like Donna Tartt, I’m pretty private.

But this year, I’m cracking the door just a bit wider open. For one, with posts like these.

In the comments, I’d love to know:

What’s one of your best non-business finds of 2014 so far? And, if you care to share, what are your top Voice Values?

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“My mother loves small things,” the customer said to me.

A photo of a Paris France cuff braceletShe was describing what she saw as a particular quirk of her mother’s, but the truth was that many people love small things — for very particular reasons. When I owned my retail shop, this seemingly idiosyncratic detail was one my shopgirls and I heard often.

On this day, I’d been working the sales floor, chatting with regulars, greeting first-time customers, and giving some of them a quick tour of new finds we’d just unpacked and displayed. This particular customer (we’ll call her Marta — she was a regular) was shopping for a Mother’s Day gift. She picked up a set of tiny, glazed ceramic salt and pepper shakers in the shape of bluebirds, painted in a soft wash of robin’s egg blue (natch).

“She’ll love these,” she said, walking them up to the counter where I ran her credit card, wrapped the bluebird shakers in our signature kraft-and-chocolate polka dotted tissue paper, and tucked them into a logo gift bag. Then she was on her way, to return again another day seeking a new find, hoping for an experience that felt very much like the one she’d had on this particular day. Particular. Personal. Curated.

People love small things — for very particular reasons.  

Most of the business owners we’re lucky to work with at The Voice Bureau have very small businesses. While their revenues might range anywhere from $20,000/year (in ‘just launched’ mode) to multiple six figures, they insist on designing and running a business that feels small. Particular. Personal. Curated.

Usually, their “team” is just them, or them and a VA. Or them, a VA, and a few other collaborators or team members.

It’s fun for my team and me to work with these types of values-based microbusinesses because that’s the type of business The Voice Bureau is. We get why small and particular appeals to you.

In these online entrepreneurial realms, we hear so much about the importance of scaling a business so that more parts of it can be ‘hands-off,’ leaving the business owner with more time and energy for a life outside her business. While I totally agree with the second half of that equation, I don’t think that scaling for volume is the only way to go about having a business that feels good and is profitable. I think it’s time we talked about scaling for a tiny little jewel box of a brand.

Scaling for small

In my own business, I am scaling to be a tiny little jewel box of a brand. That’s how I think of The Voice Bureau.

Right now, and for the past couple years, I’ve been working at scaling my business for four things:

  • IMPACT – which, to me, means seeing my message and my work reach as many Right People as far as it can go
  • GROWTH IN REVENUES – which, to me, means having operating leverage, being able to bring in as much income as possible while being as modest and sustainable as possible in growth efforts
  • PLEASURE – which, to me, means getting to do mostly the stuff I truly love doing that’s within my zone of genius, and building the business in a way that’s beautiful, and not doing the things that don’t actually bring me pleasure or an internalized sense of adding value (like hustling for speaking gifts, going after PR opportunities, etc.)
  • PARTICULARITY — which, to me, means serving the exact Right People in the exact right ways in the exact particular tone and style that works for them and for me

I want to be known for really specific ideas, concepts, and approaches. I want to feel particular, selective, curated, and well-appointed.

I want my business to be well-honed, lithe, and supple where it counts (which is always around the needs of The Voice Bureau‘s Right People). I want flexible architecture. And I want to give my clients an experience that feels small, regardless of the revenues I’m bringing in. Because ‘scaling for small’ does NOT have to equate small profits.

Think about it.

Maybe in your business, the dream is to work with three carefully vetted clients each quarter, and that’s it. You’ll make fully a quarter of your yearly income each quarter from your engagements with these clients. You’ll maintain the emotional and psychological bandwidth to deliver a truly great experience for them. And you’ll have a tiny, quiet team behind the scenes engaged in building the infrastructure to support the clients’ experience and your experience. To keep focused, you’ll lean on your high Love, Security, and Excellence Voice Values.

Maybe in your business, you plan on building a suite of courses around the topics you teach and model. Your goal is to eventually license your own material so that other practitioners can teach using your work as a guide. Someday you’ll create a high level private mentorship for people who really want to go deep. You’ll lean on your high Community, Depth, and Helpfulness Voice Values to get this done.

Or maybe you’re a visual artist who works on commission, always in a very particular style and medium. You have no desire to ‘scale’ in terms of client volume, but you are interested in opening an online boutique where people can peruse and purchase non-commission works. You plan to hire a terrific Virtual Assistant (VA) to help you carry this out. You’ll lean on your high Intimacy, Accuracy, and Enthusiasm Voice Values to make this work for you.

There are many different ways to scale for small, and not all of them require you to be “hands off,” to enroll huge numbers of buyers or clients, or to hike your prices sky high so that only the heavily invested can work with you.

Toward a tiny little jewel box brand

I’m kind of in love with this ‘tiny little jewel box’ of a brand idea. It’s what I’m going for these days, and it’s what we help our clients move toward and into in their own work.

WHAT’S INSIDE A JEWEL BOX?

Only what fits.

Only what’s precious.

A few heritage pieces.

A few current favorites.

Lots of eminently wearable standbys.

And lots and LOTS of value.

If you’re intent on building your own business brand as a tiny little jewel box, I invite you to join me. There’s lots coming up — in terms of more articles, a new complimentary gift (later this week!), to help you scale your business and brand for small, curated, and particular, using your Voice Values as a guide.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What does ‘scaling for small’ look like in your business? What would you LIKE it to look like?

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When I read that Gwyneth Paltrow and her musician hubby Chris Martin were ‘consciously uncoupling’ (AKA breaking up), I gasped and smiled.

But not for the reasons you might think.

Abby Kerr of The Voice Bureau and Tami Dawn Smith of The Dawning Point discuss their business uncouplingYou see, I’ve just gone through an uncoupling process of my own. My primary collaborative partner over the past two years and I are going our separate ways. We’ve consciously uncoupled — and we’re co-writing this post to tell you all about it.

If you’ve been following The Voice Bureau for a while, you know that a big part of my work over the past 2 years has been accomplished in collaboration with Tami Smith. Together we created a holistic consulting service called Empathy Marketing, as well as four successful DIY programs for values-based solo business owners. For the past couple years, Tami and I have been meeting at least weekly to collaborate, plan, design, create, and facilitate our joint ventures.

And then, beginning a couple of months ago, Tami and I began a series of really honest conversations. It turns out that even as we enjoyed collaborating, we were both feeling called to pursue individual projects. And we both came to the realization — organically and yet with a tinge of surprise — that pursuing these projects would mean laying down our collaboration for the foreseeable future.

“I can’t believe it. We’re breaking up,” I said to her one day, over the phone.

“We’re not breaking up. We’re UNCOUPLING,” she said.

“Uncoupling,’”as described by Katherine Woodward Thomas, was a process Tami had recently gone through in her romantic relationship.

Tami, I’ll let you take over from here.

TAMI:

The truth is, my whole uncoupling process with Jeffrey was painful. Eeek. Wouldn’t want to go through that again, and of course, I never will. That is the way of it. Once the principles of uncoupling are understood, they apply to everything. Uncoupling doesn’t always mean ending a relationship, which is surprising to most people. Uncoupling, as I’m interested in it, is about unhooking from the needs of a relationship and seeing what remains.

I think having gone through an experience where I uncoupled and yet stayed in the relationship changed the way I view relationships in every form. Because of the level of consciousness you and I were both at, and the way we communicated, our uncoupling was much smoother! It is a joy to begin and end when we are aware of what we are doing.

ME:

Agree. The decision to begin working separately, on separate ventures, as opposed to collaboratively under The Voice Bureau, seemed to arise really naturally for the two of us. But it wasn’t without some, shall we say, emoting on my part. Working through the kinks is always a part of any transition. Most of my kinks weren’t even with YOU, but within myself — what it meant that we were uncoupling, what it meant for the brand, for my work. Existential narcissism.

Because our collaborative work has been such a huge piece of The Voice Bureau’s approach and offerings up until now, I wanted to share some of our internal process with you readers and friends around deciding to go our separate ways.

In the past, we’ve had questions from our clients and course participants about how we manage our collaboration. Now’s as good a time as any to talk about one important part of collaborating, which is knowing when, why, and how to separate.

TAMI:

Yes. I know some people are wondering about what happened, and what we are going to do about Empathy Marketing and the work we co-created.

It probably seems like something that happened abruptly, to outsiders.

The real story might not be as juicy as a falling-out over an incident! LOL :) I’ve seen a few people in social media talking about collaboration and if there are any good teachings on how to make it work, so I know there’s interest in what we did and why we are going separate ways.

ME:

I also really want you to talk about what you’re doing next.

TAMI:

I would love to talk about what I’m doing next. It really did come from insight through our collaboration.

One thing I realized is that the more we moved away from deep interaction with clients, the less happy I was. Our collaboration highlighted our individual strengths and the types of relationships we want to have with clients. The beauty is neither way is right or wrong. As long as we are in our strength, and operating from our values, we can’t go wrong.

ABBY:

You know, I didn’t realize that you felt you were working outside your strengths in our collaboration.

I definitely felt, especially toward the end, that we were biting off way more in our offerings (especially in the DIYs, at those price points) than was advisable or sustainable (or good for clients, who only have a certain amount of bandwidth within any time period). But I didn’t actually know that you would have wanted more 1:1 time with clients.

What is so interesting to me is that you, Tami, were feeling like you weren’t getting enough one-to-one client time, and I was feeling like I was having my upper limit of it.

Any more would have been too much for me. Owning what I want here, so publicly, makes me feel like a jerk, in a way. I’m afraid someone’s going to pop out from the wings and say, “You’re an asshole! What do you mean you want LESS client interaction? Why do you even have a business?” It’s that whole there’s a best way to own and operate a values-based microbusiness and getting cozy with clients is IT! But rationally, and from my heart, I know that’s not the case.

So, you’re right, Tami: our preferred ways of working are fairly different, and neither is “good” or “bad,” “right” or “wrong” — they just are. I am definitely the “creator in the garret” type. I love the experience of working in near isolation, and do best with less connection overall. Of course, I NEED connection — we all do — but perhaps I’m just in a season where too much connection throws me off my center. For my own work and my own spiritual path right now, I’m learning to trust what is inside, at my core.

TAMI:

I think I could talk about this stuff ALL day. This is the first truly inspired insight I’ve had and it only came through the experience of working outside of my strength, in our collaboration. I’m so grateful for all we did and created together; for what it showed me about myself. It fits so perfectly into the Voice Values methodology.

ABBY:

Well, I think sometimes we don’t even realize we’re NOT in our sweet spot until we’ve been out of it for a while, consistently. We then realize what we’re missing or what we’d like more of. It’s like trying out veganism or vegetarianism — some people realize that hey, this is totally what my body needed this whole time. I feel so much better. And other people feel like, wow, if I could just have two eggs a day, I’d feel more satiated. Or, I’m really missing animal protein. I need to eat some grass-fed beef a couple times a month.

Funny comparison, but I think it works. We know what we need, if we listen closely.

So let’s talk about what we learned from collaborating, and how it’s shaping what we’re doing next.

TAMI:

The biggest lesson, for me, came from the mirroring I saw in clients who had these BIG, hard to understand services and fuzzy value propositions. I could see that was being mirrored to us. We had a way-too-big service.

My desire to hone-in led to a problem I really wanted to solve. In The Dawning Point I’m working with a slice, not the whole pie. I understand the other pieces of the pie, which makes me better at what I do, but they are not mine to work with directly.

My slice is working with the brainworkers.

Those pioneers, strategists, and consultants who don’t work in the realm of tactics and tangible deliverables. There are a whole lot of us out here trying to work in the same mold as handworkers — the beautiful crafters, freelancers, designers, artists, and writers — because that is all we know. Things work differently for people who “have a hard time describing their work” and value prop. I’m ready to take it on and create a solution for this pressing problem.

ABBY:

I love that you’re bringing up the differences between traditional service model businesses and the more amorphous, coaching or consulting businesses we see out there. You’re right: it can be REALLY hard for some businesses to say what they do in a simple way because the results aren’t tangible or even quantifiable.

One thing I learned through our collaboration is that I was working with the right clients — finally! — but for me, the bespoke consulting, 2-to-1, wasn’t my ‘flow format.’ It wasn’t a WRONG format, but it wasn’t my total sweet spot, either. I used to be a classroom teacher (I taught high school), and for me, the 1-to-many model is where it’s at. I just feel creatively electric and compassionately synergistic delivering my work in that way.

Not to throw Enneagram into it, but . . . okay, I’m bringing Enneagram into it. I’m a Type 4, the Individualist, so for me, one way I identify is through autonomy, being unique, being different. Too much ‘people time’ or ’identifying with others’ or even ‘service’ time can easily make me feel overwhelmed, clouded, lost. (Confessing this makes me feel like a real diva. I don’t want to be too attached to labels or identities. I know I’m more than a ‘type,’ but I also appreciate the universal shorthand.) Also, the stress point for a Type 4 is to start acting like a stressed-out Type 2, which is The Helper/The Servant/The Caretaker. When I’m caretaking and busy-bodying and trying to be all things to all people or even just involved in lots of people’s affairs — that’s NOT me shining, that’s me being extremely stressed out. Noticing and honoring all these discoveries about myself help keep me centered and balanced and in-flow.

You know how we teach what we need to learn?

Well, the Voice Values paradigm for branding is my deepest teaching. I’m still unpacking it, methodologizing it, getting ready to share it with more transparency and fluency to my readers and clients. And I’m learning to honor and TRUST my Voice Values, and my values in general.

I have a high Power value, which for me, is all about personal power and self-efficacy and being able to teach and translate those to clients through my work. One way I express my personal power is by keeping a very sacred space around my daily hours, my creative time, even my mind and what I allow into it. I don’t think I’m overly precious or superstitious about it (good Lord, I try not to be), but I notice that the more I safeguard and honor it, the better I feel and the richer my work and easier my output feels. And it makes me a better friend and partner and dog mom and everything.

Another Voice Value I struggle with is my high Intimacy value.

(For those who’ve worked with me or followed my work closely, you know that I’ve tested previously as having a high Legacy value, but more recently, I’ve been testing with higher Intimacy than Legacy.)

I notice my high Intimacy value in the language I choose when writing or speaking about my work. It’s all about coming closer. And at the same time, I have a very LOW Transparency value. I’m extremely private, probably to a fault. So in my languaging through my brand, I have to make sure my Intimacy value doesn’t come off as a ‘bait and switch.’ Come this close, but WAIT — stop right there. Don’t come any closer. Intimacy, for me, is not the same as sharing everything. And it’s not the same as full access.

Tami, what does your high Intimacy value look like?

TAMI:

Intimacy as a Voice Value always puzzled me. Out of all the Voice Values I scored highest in, I was most interested in this one and what it meant, especially paired with high Innovation. I started looking at my experience over the last five years as a solopreneur to see what the patterns might be telling me about this combination of Intimacy and Innovation. I didn’t look like a person with high Intimacy. I couldn’t see closeness between my clients and myself and that really bothered me. I wondered if it was the high Innovation coloring my experience and overshadowing the voice that longs for rich, meaningful, and individualized conversations. Innovation was obvious to me. I couldn’t see how Intimacy played a role until I realized that what activated innovation was the desire to understand. I wanted an intimate understanding of my ideal client’s problem.

I thrive when I’m solving problems and when there is an exchange of ideas. I’ve been slowly uncovering hidden aspects of myself, unraveling my scripts to understand my own desire and what the hell I’m supposed to do with what I have. I know that my work in becoming intimate with who I am has been foundational and critical to the work I’m most interested in doing.

So Intimacy is starting to take center stage, and will be much more apparent in the new brand I’m launching.

ABBY:

To get back to slices — I want a really tiny slice, too. For me, that slice is brand voice. That’s my sweet spot, my obsession, and where I can feel most prolific and be most of service. And with my high Depth value, I yearn to go really deeply into it.  I suspect you feel the same way about your new project, Tami.

TAMI:

I think I’ve struggled with finding my sweet spot more than most!

I’m an INFP (borderline introvert/extrovert) and Enneagram Type 7 (The Enthusiast) which makes for a dangerous combination of always wanting to know more, experience everything, and share experiences with other people. I was the child who was adored for my sweetness and loathed for my talkativeness and questioning.

It actually makes a lot of sense as I think about the natural sanguine aspects of my personality. I value intuition, insight thinking, intimacy in relationships, curiosity, and being present in the moment. I’m finally trusting myself and giving myself permission to work in a way that leverages my strengths. It is amazing to see the difference in expression that is coming through my new brand. I can feel the shift as this alignment with my strengths come into focus, and for the first time I can tell people who I am, and what I want. This shift is a result of staying with the process of uncoupling, first in my romantic relationship and then through ending our collaboration. Reminds me of the expression, “Comfort and growth are diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive.”

ABBY:

Whoa. That’s a good one. I’m going to remember that one.

TAMI:

Should we talk about what Empathy Marketing meant to us, why we wanted to collaborate on this project? What is going to happen to Empathy Marketing now? What aspects are incorporated into our individual work and how is our individual work different from Empathy Marketing?

ABBY: 

Yep, definitely.

Empathy Marketing, to me, was the most validating collaborative experience I’ve ever had in business. Putting my unique perspective on brand voice and content creation together with yours on persona development and understanding ourselves in our businesses — for me, it was nothing short of feeling the earth move. It was so cool to see the power and the impact of two complementary methodologies working together. Now that is a takeaway for our readers — when you think you see someone out there whose approach complements yours in a magical away, it can be unbelievably important to explore that. If you want to. ;) (Speaking to my fellow Type 4s.)

I believe wholeheartedly in what you and I created together, Tami.

I ADORE the clients we were fortunate to serve in our DIY workshops and two-on-one in Empathy Marketing consultations. And I enjoyed working with you so much. You helped me to slow down and look a little more deeeply than I was used to looking (we share that high Depth value, you know), to question things not just once but twice or three times before making a decision. You helped me to reframe beliefs I’d had about the way things were supposed to work. And the best part of it, for me, was that we became true friends through our collaboration. We worked together virtually and person, you visited my home. We had dinner together in Seattle with our partners. It’s been awesome. And I am really glad we are maintaining that part, our friendship!

So, the business gist is, we’re putting Empathy Marketing into the vault for the foreseeable future.

We have no plans to relaunch the DIY Workshops we did together. We feel — if I might speak for myself and Tami here (and if not, Tami, let me know) — that we did the work we were meant to do together in the time we were meant to do it.

And now we’re in a new time.

Tami, what can you share about the work you’re doing in your new brand? How does it relate to Empathy Marketing, if at all?

TAMI: 

Well, going deeper into the intersections of brand Voice combined with Buyer Persona development, the work we did in Empathy Marketing was fascinating. Empathy Marketing was good at exposing the big picture and we learned invaluable insights from the work we did together.

As you said, it was more than a business collaboration because we shared our perspectives and ideas to allow something new to develop. Learning to collaborate at this level helped us to see ourselves and our strengths, which is an amazing gift. It was the best experience and perfect in the way it rolled out. I agree it feels like we did what we were meant to do.

As it became clear that we were moving in different directions with our individual preferences and where we wanted to focus, I gave myself permission to look at what I wanted to do in a way I had never allowed myself to explore before. I realized that while I can work in the details of organic SEO and translating buyer language to content strategy, what I wanted to do was to work at understanding and uncovering the things that block us from knowing what to do, and where to focus, as entrepreneurs. For people who are in the role of a strategist or consultant — you know, where what you are selling is intangible or pioneering in some way — knowing what to do and where to focus is doubly challenging.

ABBY:

Oh, yes. And we saw a lot of those types of businesses in our collaboration. Working with them can be richly rewarding, and also uniquely challenging.

So, your new brand is The Dawning Point.

TAMI:

Yes. The Dawning Point was born from the desire to honor the way insight informs business decisions. I think it is easy to understand the importance of dawning points and we instinctually know we should pay attention to our a-ha moments. It just isn’t easy to see a way to create a structure where we can use our insights in a practical way.

So to answer your question about how it relates to Empathy Marketing, I would have to say that I’m building on the foundation we laid but turning the attention and focus into a more specific area. Where Empathy Marketing connected many dots of a brand proposition, The Dawning Point connects the points of a buyer/seller relationship to create a conscious sales process. I’m excited about this intersection, or what I call convergence of harmony, that unblocks something in us and allows us to make offers that we want to deliver. I believe we all want to create a good experience for our clients and the key is understanding our own desire nature as entrepreneurs. That is where I’m going and what I want to give expression to in this new brand.

ABBY:

Tami, this sounds . . . sexy, lush, particularly beautiful, organic, and really satisfying. I know the quality of the work you offer and I’ve got to say, I am excited to send clients your way when they are ready to talk about sales process.

TAMI:

It has been an honor to be part of The Voice Bureau, especially as a co-creator of the methodology that exposed huge gaps in areas that need to be understood, developed, and implemented before bringing a brand online. I hope that our work together has been as transformative for our clients as it has been for us.

Thank you, Abby. I’m getting teary now and a lump is forming in my throat. Good thing this is in writing or I would have to stop before saying: thank you for being my friend and believing in me, for believing in our collaboration, and for listening when I needed it the most!

xoxox

ABBY:

Now I have a lump in my throat. Huge, happy sigh.

P.S.

I’ll be sharing about what’s next for The Voice Bureau in my very next post.

In the comments, we’d love to know:

What’s been your experience with uncoupling in business or ending a creative collaboration? Also, if you’ve worked with Tami via The Voice Bureau, please feel free to wish her well as she embarks on this new adventure!

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