Matthew Sloane, Author at Soulful Brand

The Temptation to Copy a Competitor

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It was a line that stroked my ego. And in the same moment, I knew there was a misunderstanding about the role we were really playing.

A client of ours, on a core working team for our engagement, spoke the words that caused my concern.

He said something to the effect of, “we need you to tell us if we should change our offer to be more like our competitor’s.”

On one hand, I love to imagine myself as someone with “the answers”. On the other, as a consultant, my role is to cultivate the conditions in which the leaders of a company can see the best strategic directions for themselves.

Furthermore—and this is important for all companies that are feeling stuck in their marketing efforts—becoming more like your competition is only a good idea if it’s coming from a place of being more authentic to what your organization truly stands for.

Let me say that a slightly different way: Don’t try to be like the popular kids. Get to know yourself better and let what you uncover guide your decisions about who to be and what to offer. Read More

Great testimonials

The Art of Gathering Great Testimonials

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In our work with organizations, we often do a messaging audit up front to get a sense for how our clients are communicating online. One area of review is: what kind of testimonials is this organization gathering and sharing?

A testimonial is a positive experience that’s conveyed through the voice of your customer (or client).

Your customer’s voice is important to both understand and showcase. Why? Because there’s only so much your organization can convey about what you offer before coming across as self-aggrandizing. And hearing the language and experience directly from real customers gives potential ones a more believable sense for what they might actually get by engaging with your product or service.

During our review, the main question we ask ourselves is, “what useful information is the testimonial giving and what’s being left out?”

Read More

A Space for Visionary Women

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Michelle walks to the Ocean, a mere 5 minutes from her home in Santa Cruz, California. The waves are crashing on big boulders, leaping over the cliffs and into the street. She walks around the rough water that interrupts the sidewalk pathway, looking to the Ocean to feel more grounded.

It’s a few days before she’s hosting her first ever women’s retreat at Esalen, a personal development center in Big Sur, California. For Michelle, entering into the unknown like this has sometimes felt terrifying. She used to be someone who just gets things done, moving into action. However, these days, she’s driven by something that’s less about her, and more about a vision that’s been coming through her. A vision with a long gestation period… Read More

Building Brand Alignment Before Building a Website (part 2)

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In part 1, we outlined the tendency for organizations to head right to a new website before understanding how they’re unique in the marketplace. We also uncovered what happens with conflicting voices in the organization related to marketing communications, and how those voices can impact clarity, whether they’re spoken or silent.

Now let’s get into the purpose and process of getting aligned…

The Desired Outcome: Getting Internally Aligned

When it comes to multiple stakeholders, coming to agreement around communications in the marketplace can be tricky. In our process, we don’t encourage alignment by way of everyone being an equal decision-maker, but we do recommend that representatives of all groups inside the organization are given a chance to be heard, in some form or another.

The purpose of this method is to capture all the perspectives and give voice to the differences so that in the end, people have had a chance to express and there’s no internal fracturing of the group’s shared brand intentions. As a result of a more interactive approach to brand strategy, organizations can develop a culture of clear and aligned expression. In such a culture, the people inside the organization are the main stakeholders for their marketing message and efforts—able to sense when things are on the right track and when the essence of the brand is not being honored—rather than always needing to farm that awareness out to a contractor. Read More

Building Brand Alignment Before Building a Website (part 1)

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If you see the potential of what a website can be, you might imagine how a new website could lead to objectives like:

  • an increase in sales
  • a competitive distinction
  • more inspiration inside your organization

And if you’re part of a purpose-driven organization that either doesn’t fit into the mainstream or is trying to stand out in a crowded market, you probably desire clarity around one or more of the following questions on the way towards a new website:

  • How can we tell others about our work in a relatable way?
  • How can we do this without losing our sense of who we really are?
  • What does our work boil down to?
  • Why does it matter to us and why should others care?
  • How can we get noticed without being pushy?

Read More

The Choice to Follow Marketing Advice (or Not)

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I’ve been studying an aspect of marketing recently. So I’m in a learning mode and curious to soak up what people have to say.

An opportunity to learn appears, and moments later, I’m offering my email in return for a few videos. I start watching the first one, eager to feel connected to the topic, the speaker, and more clear about my own marketing plans.

After watching for a few minutes, I start feeling disconnected. I notice I’m judging the speaker in the video. I’m making him wrong for what I believe is a fake “personality” he’s acting out behind the camera. Now I don’t want to ignore that line of thinking, but it feels like I’m hiding something from myself. After all, judging someone that I don’t know has never really helped me in any way.

Perhaps my judgement is a boundary I’m up against in myself. A boundary that goes something like: if I were to behave like this speaker is behaving, then I would feel inauthentic. Fair enough. That’s about me then, not him.

What else is going on here? Read More

Loonity: A Champion for the Farmers (Client Journey)

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Claudio Ghiringhelli drives his Nissan minivan over the Monte Ceneri pass, about 40 kilometers from his home in Ticino, Switzerland. He passes buildings and restaurants until a valley opens up below—a mixture of agriculture and industrial land.

Some twists and turns later, he arrives at Marco Francini’s farm, greeted by a pair of dogs that growl until their owner welcomes Claudio onto the property.

It’s their first meeting, and Marco only knows that Claudio wants to help local farmers. As they sit under the shadow of a grape plant, Claudio listens to the reality that Marco faces. Read More

Creating an Authentic Audience Connection

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Two common questions I hear:

  • How can we connect with our potential customers?
  • How can our message be more compelling?

At their root, both questions can benefit from the same inquiry—understanding the mindset of one’s audience.

I recently went to an event where speakers were sharing their business innovations. One start­up founder rattled off a laundry list of problems that his product solved. One or two of the problems were interesting to me, but he kept going and I couldn’t keep up. I felt he really wasn’t speaking to me—that I must not be his core audience because I didn’t hear him say anything I was trying to solve for my own business.

He spoke widely, avoiding detailed examples that I might relate to. As I see it, the main problem with his communication:

He couldn’t relate by giving relatable examples
because he didn’t know who he was trying to relate to.

Read More

It’s not just about Telling your Story, it’s about Who you Become as you Prepare

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You’ve probably heard about the importance of storytelling for engaging and being relatable to listeners. In the world of marketing, storytelling is the popular kid right now—he’s got the attention of all the cheerleaders, and for good reason.

However… here’s the big misunderstanding: That it’s only about the story as a finished product.

In other words, I believe it’s a mistake to think, “I just need to figure out my story and get it out there so that X, Y, and Z will happen” and pursue this goal only with the end in mind.

The problem with this approach is that words are cheap. Anyone can craft a narrative, memorize it, and deliver it to a group of people with the intent to get something out of doing so. However, not everyone will resonate with a storyteller that is purely goal-oriented. A storyteller in this mindset has too much riding on that moment to make something happen later as a result—in other words, they’re future-oriented and not present. Read More

Trusting the Sale: a marketplace that honors choice

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Who is responsible for a purchase that never should have happened?

You—or the marketer/salesperson that convinced you it was the best thing for you to buy?

When I used to make an offer in the marketplace, and ask people to consider buying my product or service, my default goal used to be: get the sale (no matter what).

At times, I’ve momentarily slipped back into that mindset, so I’m familiar with how it lives in me.

From this place, I only attend to my financial goals being met, and forget to think about the buyer’s experience or if they’re truly getting what they need from our transaction. Read More

Accessing the Deeper Voice Behind Your Work

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It’s very hard for me to be involved in projects that don’t have some personal meaning to me.

When Ryan and I started Soulful Brand, it wasn’t just about creating jobs for ourselves where we could lean on our past experience. And it wasn’t just about delivering brand positioning so that our clients could stand out in the marketplace.

There’s always been something deeper.

“Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain, but rather to see a meaning in his life.” ~ Viktor Frankl

I’ve worked with start-ups which initially turn to technology for surface-level meaning while leaving their humanity in the background. In telling the story of their business, they speak of machines and tools. But without human characters, they’re missing the connective thread behind stories that others can relate to. Read More

The Painful Addiction of “Did They Click?”

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I recently saw some advice about creating the best attention-grabbing headlines for emails and blog posts. The advice mentions using superlatives to establish distinction (e.g. “best, worst, always, never”) or using a number to identify how many nuggets of gold you’ll give (e.g. “The 3 Ways You Can Improve…”).

Each time I see this kind of advice, I get a bit queasy. This reaction always puzzles me — after all, these recommendations are being shared as proven methods that provide marketers a way to ensure click-throughs so their content can get seen.

So why the queasiness? Read More

Client Journey: From Negative News to Positive News Stories

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It’s a cold, foggy day. Cara Jones drives over the Bay Bridge, from San Francisco heading east.

She thinks about how it used to be. There’s no photographer there to drive her around in a big news van. Nobody to figure out the directions or carry all the gear.

“On that day,” Cara says. “I had to arrange all the shoot details and pick up the videographer myself. When I was a reporter, I used to show up at the station and everything was taken care of.”

Cara shared her business idea with Ryan Rigoli of Soulful Brand, feeling scared just talking about it. She had just graduated from New Ventures West and planned to offer her new coaching skills to single women entrepreneurs. As Ryan asked her questions, Cara started second-guessing that direction. Read More

A Desire for Fame Can Prevent Authenticity in Marketing

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For all my aspirations to be a conscious business owner, all the ways in which I believe in something I might call “slow business” (i.e. taking the “urgency” out of growth, for example), I have this gripping drive to be “famous” as soon as possible.

It is this area within which my patience can grow thin most easily.

For example, I desire to be known in my field. To have my reputation precede me. To be sought after for speaking engagements. To be treated to the perks of fame. In essence, there is a part of me that wishes to be a minor celebrity. Read More

Who Do We Become as Leaders When Sharing a Vision?

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I recently attended a panel discussion in Los Angeles, moderated by our friend Steph Belsky, addressing the current and most severe drought California has ever experienced.

The event capitalized on the trending “social media week los angeles” (#SMWLA) to explore how social media could play a role in addressing how LA conserves and uses water.

Have you ever been in a conversation and heard a problem-solving suggestion that scares you? And then heard people agreeing that it sounds like a viable option? That evening at the event, I found myself in that very predicament. Read More

Authenticity in Business––Letting Go of the Professional Mask

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I want to acknowledge that sometimes I wear a mask. It’s the mask of “everything is great!”

This mask can cast me into inauthenticity, even when it comes with a good intention. For example, I may think I need to appear to be something I’m NOT in order to “drum up” business. Or I might only share my success stories with others in order to “look good” or appear to have it “all together.”

When left unchecked, this is the mask of the professional—posturing in the best light possible and trying to minimize or hide anything that I believe makes me appear weak or incapable. Read More

Resonance Starts with What You Stand For

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Do you know and embody your ‘WHY’?

  • why does your organization exist?
  • why do you get out of bed in the morning?
  • why should anyone care about your organization?
  • why does your work matter?

Let’s unpack this term. One part of the “WHY” is a core belief, or a “stand” that commits us to something greater than ourselves. Here’s an example of ours: Read More

The Imperfect Speaker (authentic public speaking)

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(Wisdom 2.0 photo © Lori A Cheung)


Over Valentine’s Day weekend, Ryan and I had the pleasure of speaking at a breakout session at Wisdom 2.0 in San Francisco—a conference designed to bridge insights between the business-tech world of Silicon Valley and mindfulness from various wisdom traditions.

During our talk, we and our audience experienced an emotional ride together—including laughter and tears. Overall it was extremely healing and fulfilling adventure, though not without its share of learning moments along the way… Read More

The Visionary Leadership Paradox: How the urgency of creating change can keep us from realizing our visions

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As a visionary, I see possibilities. I see where the world is and where it could be. And I see where I am and where I could be.

The distance between those two points leaves a vacuum, and many times, I have found myself filling that space with the energy of anxiety, which becomes a fuel with which I leap into action… Read More

The Journey to Brand Clarity

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Before I got into brand strategy and messaging, I was a graphic designer for about 12 years (up until 2009). That experience prepared me to see that the best branding process leaves clients feeling ready to promote themselves. My design clients showed up asking for a visual representation of their identity, and left feeling confident and proud when talking about their business.

But at the beginning of each project, they often didn’t really know who they were. This was my favorite stage of the process—the unknown that held the potential for self-realization… Read More

How Appropriate are Personal Stories? (authentic storytelling)

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The idea of sharing a personal story and thereby revealing ourselves as entrepreneurs can be easier said than done.

A lot of entrepreneurs are concerned about becoming ‘unprofessional’ by being too personal in a business context. Mixing business with stories that evoke ‘feelings’ can be seen as self-indulging and socially inappropriate,… or brilliant, depending on how you look at it… Read More

My ‘Ideal Client’ Shadow

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As a coach who has adored his inner monk, I used to avoid the word “sales” at all costs.

It felt dirty. Wrong. Manipulative. And downright icky. Even in anticipation of a possible sales conversation, it was difficult for me to answer the question, “what do you do?”

I would often have an inner conflict about saying what I do. I felt attached to what others would think of me in that moment—attached to whether or not they will choose to work with me.  I still feel all of this at times… Read More