I think the purpose of life is, above all, to matter; to count, to stand for something, to have made a difference that you lived at all. – Leo Rosten
Maybe you didn’t change the world, but you changed somebody’s world. – Brendon Burchard
What does it really mean to ‘make a difference?’
Do you “matter” if you’re invisible to others? It’s kind of like that question, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it does it make a sound?”
Can you ‘leave your mark’ in this life, can you be remarkable, if no one is remarking about you?
While it’s important to be remarkable in your own eyes, making a difference by definition means being seen as remarkable by others. And, in order to be remarked upon, you’ve got to get in front of people – you have to be visible. In the past that may have literally meant a soapbox on the corner where one attempted to influence by hollering at whomever happened to walk past.
But, today, it’s about getting in front of the right people – your people.
This is the primary reason we are passionate about content marketing.
Using content marketing on the Internet, you can reach the right people – people who might find your particular voice and message remarkable. Content marketing allows you to build a tribe while simultaneously building a business.
A tribe is not just an “email list.” You’ve got to have an engaged, interactive list. If you have a list of readers who are active, then you have a perfect audience to test the “remark-ability” of your ideas and products.
How do we create remarkable things? Is it the luck of the draw, fate, or just connections that make some people or products remarkable? Let’s find out.
How to Discover Why You’re Here
We’re here to improve our own lives and the lives of those around us. We know when we’re doing work we feel matters, but how do we gauge if we’ve touched others and done something that matters in their lives?
We know because we get feedback. People remark about us, and about our work.
Being remarked-about is a way to know you are making a difference. So, how do we become remarkable?
A friend of mine wasn’t feeling very remarkable a while back.
She told us as much in one of the forums I hang out in.
Here’s what she wrote:
I go out and do something I think is amazing. Stuff that no one has done before. And often it seems like almost no one cares or thinks it’s remarkable. Or a very small group anyway. Then someone else goes out and does something similar a year later and makes ten million dollars.
Maybe I’m just not remarkable. If so, then what?
Can You Measure Remarkable?
Seth Godin apparently now officially owns the word “remarkable” after the success of his most popular book, The Purple Cow.
In an article for FastCompany magazine, Seth defines remarkable:
The world is full of boring stuff – brown cows – which is why so few people pay attention. Being remarkable is the art of building things worth noticing right into your product or service.
A Purple Cow would really stand out. The essence of the Purple Cow – the reason it would shine among a crowd of perfectly competent, even undeniably excellent cows – is that it would be remarkable. Something remarkable is worth talking about, worth paying attention to. Boring stuff quickly becomes invisible.
A lot of people misunderstand Seth. To them, it sounded like he was suggesting you had to do something outrageous – get “talked about” – in order to sell stuff.
And Seth has something to say about that, too:
Being noticed is not the same as being remarkable. Running down the street naked will get you noticed, but it won’t accomplish much. It’s easy to pull off a stunt, but not useful.
To me, remarkability requires two things: First, you bring a level of engagement to your work (or your “art” as Seth calls it) – create something good; and second, you have a willingness to let an audience tell you what they find valuable about it.
Or, to say it simply, being remarkable is not just about being purple. It is about being good and being purple. You can be as good as everyone else, but it’s the purple that makes you remarkable.
My friend who wasn’t feeling remarkable creates work that’s both good and remarkable.
The challenge was, her work just wasn’t yet remarked-about.
What if You’re Just Not That Remarkable?
It can be difficult to know what is remarkable about yourself or your own work.
That’s because few of us can create in a vacuum. We need others to see and respond to our work.
Some people just don’t have the ability to see how others perceive their work, so they use the only visible measure there is: “will they pay me?”
Is being paid for your work a reliable sign of remark-ability?
Being remarkable is often different than being paid; I think we’ve all seen examples of remarkable artists the critics may love, but who labor on in poverty.
If we’re going to use the measure of “remarkable equals paid,” then let’s cut to the heart of it: There’s a big difference between being remarkable and remarked-about. And then, there’s a big difference between being remarked-about, and being paid for it.
The Ladder of Remarkability
If you want to eventually be paid millions of dollars for your work, you’ve got to climb the ladder.
Rung 1: Create something good: from the seed of a great idea in a blog post to an innovative, relevant product.
Rung 2: Paint it purple. It is not enough to just be good. What will you do that will cause your tribe to see you and take notice?
Rung 3: Put it in front of an audience – preferably your own active audience. Don’t be a tree in an empty forest. Get some feedback. Listen and watch for responses. Is your idea or product remarked-about? Does anybody want to “tweet” it on Twitter, or “like it” on Facebook?” Do people comment in your blog comment section? If not, maybe it is not “purple” enough.
Remarkability is not instant – it often comes only after responding to what your audience tells you about your product. Once you find the right message – the message your tribe will pick up as a mantra, then you can start planning for remarkable paydays.
One of last year’s best marketing books was The Micro-Script Rules. Bill Schley’s subtitle for that book really says it all: “It’s not what people hear, it’s what they repeat….”
In other words, it’s not what people see on your site, and it’s not what they hear you say: it’s what’s remark-able.
So, if someone else is pulling in $10 million with something very similar to what you’ve been laboring on in obscurity over, what’s the difference between you and them? Are they personally more remarkable? Probably not. But their messaging clearly is.
Those with remarkable products either have the ability to put themselves in the customer’s shoes – their mindset and/or worldview – and become remarked-about, or they hired someone who did it for them. This is why the world pays designers and copywriters.
If anyone can put the finishing touches on our chat about remark-ability, it’s Mr. Godin. We’ll close with a relevant blog post of his from a few years ago:
If the marketplace isn’t talking about you, there’s a reason.
If people aren’t discussing your products, your services, your cause, your movement or your career, there’s a reason.
The reason is that you’re boring. (I guess that’s what boring means, right?) And you’re probably boring on purpose. You have boring pricing because that’s safer. You have a boring location because to do otherwise would be nuts. You have boring products because that’s what the market wants. That boring staff? They’re perfectly well qualified. . .
You don’t get unboring for free. Remarkable costs time and money and effort, but most of all, remarkable costs a willingness to be wrong.
Remarkable is a choice.
Remarkable Summary . . .
1. Find what matters and is remarkable to you, and get perspective about that.
2. Create something good. You have to have value first.
3. Get in front of the right people – your people – and listen to them.
4. Infuse it with some purple. Which shade of purple? Well, you’ll have to work that out.
Over to you: What’s your next step to remark-ability? Or am I full of hot air? Let us know in the comments!
This one’s a thinker. I’ll admit I had some reservations after my first read through.
When I was small, I constantly heard two refrains – make that three refrains:
1. You must matter to yourself, nothing else matters.
2. Nobody else’s opinion matters, only God’s
3. If you seek to get people “talking about you,” you’re prideful, and shame on you.
It took growing up and experiencing a lot of different folks to recognize that I’m not the only one raised with those messages.
So, that’s the mindset I brought to your piece today.
Then I started thinking about it: I think I get what you’re saying here.
If you look at all the truly successful “altruistic” people, they succeed in their cause because either their persona and/or their cause is seen as “remark-able.” The best of these people are superb marketers, first. They know how to infuse their good cause with “purple,” as you, or Seth says.
Thanks for the food for thought!
Thanks for your comments.
I was raised with the prideful meme myself, wrapped up with the confusion around whom it is important “to matter.”
I’m happy you saw the point I was attempting to make here — I even *almost* included Mother Teresa as a great example of the point you make: To me, she is a great example of what the best “marketing” can achieve in this world. She had to “paint her cause purple” to get anyone to notice and join her cause. And join her they did.
Keith, I think this is the first time I “get” the whole Godin purple cow thing. (I guess it would have helped to read the book, maybe?)
And “painting it purple” seems a lot different than “building it purple,” or as you said above, “infusing it with purple.”
To me, painting implies slapping on superficial hype, while building or infusing it into the product as you create seems more honest, more organic.
ANYway . . . thanks for a provocative piece. I always like these more edgy pieces, ’cause I want to see if anyone takes you on 🙂
Craig, I’ll come clean: I never read that Purple Cow book either! I caught the purple thing through his articles in FastCompany mag. Frankly, the book never appealed to me. And it was his #1 bestseller, out of some really stellar books. Go figure.
I love your point, nice. And I think you’re spot on with what Seth says as well: it’s not about slapping on a coat of paint, but rather baking remarkable right into your product from the ground up.
The colored cow is odd, I have to be honest – even so, I am intrigued by your piece, and also again you reveal why I read your articles: you tell it “like it is” as you Americans say 🙂
I enjoyed your “Remarkable ladder” idea, because you’re right of course, being considered remarkable hardly happens overnight. It is a journey, a series of discoveries like everything else, I would think. Some of the workshops I’ve been to in the past actually teach you to just throw it together “get it out there” as quickly as possible and if it doesn’t stick overnight, move quickly to the next thing. That doesn’t make sense to me, and you offer a new framework with your “ladder.” It is comforting to know there are steps to being seen and being seen as remarkable.
Hello Iala, nice to hear from you again.
It’s all about the progression. We are surrounded with a culture that understands the language of “now,” as opposed to steady, measurable growth, and one foot in front of the other. You may deal with this in your practice.
Thanks for commenting.
Oh yes! You are very right. Everyone is in a hurry, it is not just your culture. In fact, I’d say it is this expectation of life that is quite a hurdle for most.
And yet, I catch myself wanting to purchase that very thing: instant satisfaction. Curious.
Susan Daffron says
I agree that this post makes you think. I went back and found my excerpt from Purple Cow (it was and probably still is a free download from Seth).
Interestingly, he says that the opposite of remarkable is not “bad” it’s “very good.” So you can create something that’s good, but it’s not remarkable. That’s the problem that the original person had. I think it’s a problem that MANY people have. If you’re a barber, you cut hair. You might be great at it. So what? If you’re a book publisher (like me) you create books. My books are very good. Are they remarkable? Probably not. And I have no idea what I could do to make them “remarkable.”
In publishing, Seth himself is trying to do something remarkable with the Domino project. To me it’s not remarkable at all. The copy on the site spins it as something new, different, and remarkable, but to me, it just sorta falls flat. It’s a little too boring and too similar to what’s gone before.
Which goes to show that even those people who constantly tout “go be remarkable” can’t see the forest from the trees either. As you point out, remarkable is only remarkable if OTHER people say it is. Seth saying the Domino Project is remarkable kinda doesn’t cut it. Yes, he’s gotten a lot of press about it, but only because he already HAS name recognition, not because the Domino Project is remarkable itself.
He points out in the excerpt that Purple Cows are so rare because “people are afraid. If you’re remarkable, then it’s likely people won’t like you.”
There’s a conundrum. You want people to like your products/services. So you create something you think they’ll like. But to stand out and be remarkable, you have do something that some people also hate.
Chris Brogan has mentioned that a LOT of people really hated his most recent product (Blog Topics). And every time someone rants about how much they hate it, he gets more sales and a bunch of love email/Tweets/etc. from people who like it.
He has said that at first he was (understandably) upset by all the haters. Now he doesn’t care because the product sells and that shows that there was a need for it. To me it shows that it takes a lot of guts to be remarkable.
Susan, couldn’t agree more with your thoughtful dissection of the topic at hand.
Before I dive in, I received an email from a shy reader complaining that I don’t make the distinction between remarkable people and remarkable products. Remarkable people can indeed create lots of unremarkable products, and vice versa. I’m really not talking about measuring people, per se, but their work.
That said, you make the point perfectly, Susan: You say, “I have no idea what I could do to make them remarkable.” That’s just it. There is no magic remark-ability formula. As you correctly pointed out, even Seth himself doesn’t know if Domino Project will be seen by others as remarkable, or just another publishing venture with a coat of purple paint. I vote for the latter. NONE of us know in advance what others will find remarkable and share.
And then you segue nicely into the only obvious next step: All one can do is be brave, take the risk, step up to the plate and put it out there, which you are an undisputed master at doing. Few “ship” like you do, Susan! And we wait: for the feedback. For others to remark. Good or bad.
Speaking of Chris Brogan, negative remarks certainly count as “remark-ability,” I would think. His true fans will jump in to defend him.
In the end, for all of us, this is all about the “level of remarkable” you’re after. Some of us are satisfied to hear one reader tell us how our book touched them and changed their life. Others need 10,000 tweets. All I’m (attempting) to say with all of this is: If you have produced something that has indeed touched a life or two, by all means discover what you can do with that book/product/project to infuse it with some purple marketing and get it remarked-about. Leverage that positivity!
Thanks Susan, insightful as always.
Connie Lee says
Keith and Susan,
Re: ‘Speaking of Chris Brogan, negative remarks certainly count as “remark-ability,” I would think. His true fans will jump in to defend him…’
Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker created ‘I Hate Elvis’ buttons to sell to those who otherwise wouldn’t have parted with their cash. Talk about taking a negative and turning it into a marketing (purple cash cow) positive. Ingenious!
Love that Elvis story, where the heck did you find that? It’s classic.
Connie Lee says
This won’t surprise you, but it was in a Col. Tom biography I read.
It didn’t matter if you loved him or hated him, Col. Tom was going to get people to part with their money, on Elvis’ behalf.
It’s pure marketing genius. Someone was probably going to sell ‘I hate Elvis’ buttons, so why not have it be the Elvis camp?
Ditto what Susan wrote.
I think it’s interesting considering the span from products or experiences that are merely “good” as opposed to those we find remarkable.
Good isn’t enough anymore because there’s so much that’s good, or good enough. I thought about this yesterday while we were out shopping. We experienced some out-and-out “bad,” which you almost expect these days in the service industry. We experienced a few solid, good things: namely a meal we enjoyed. Nothing stellar. And then caught a movie that was genuinely remarkable: “True Grit” on DVD – see, this is me remarking about it 😉
Long story not so short, I get what you’re saying here . . .
Connie Lee says
I believe I’ve got # 1 & # 2 down.
I’m struggling with #3, getting in front of the right people, my peeps, so I can listen to them. My ears are open. I’m ready, I’m willing, I’m waiting…
I trust it’ll happen, that my peeps and I will be united, but until that gains momentum I’ll have to wait to implement #2.
Thanks for throwing down the challenge to all of us, Keith!
Thanks for your comment!
I would definitely agree you have numbers one and two on our summary list down pat.
You’ve already successfully navigated the hardest part, most never get past the first two in order to attract an audience, let alone attract “their” tribe.
When it comes to point number three — getting in front of the right audience – your tribe – your audience arrives as you continue going back to the well and creating more remarkable value. It only seems “slow” at first because not all readers are naturally inclined to share. In fact, I’d venture to guess that many readers may get a lot of value out of your work, and really love it, but maybe have a small circle of friends, or just don’t have that “sharing” personality.
When it comes to the whole “remark-ability” thing, we all cheer the arrival of our first tipping-point “connectors” to discover us, and connectors are always a small – but vocal – minority of any list.
Let’s say someone has an email list of 250 readers, and among those readers are two “connectors,” the kind of person who knows lots of other people and who readily and easily connects with others and spreads the word. When you have two connectors out there spreading the word, growth can seem to crawl. But add another connector, and then two more, and soon you have a small army of connectors. That’s when growth becomes exponential.
So, bottom line: Keep focused on the basics, creating value, getting in front of as many potential readers as possible, and when you have something as remarkable as you do, your tribe – complete with your own small army of connectors – will find you. That’s the way this works.
Susan Daffron says
>>soon you have a small army of connectors. That’s when growth becomes exponential.<<
Wow, this is a great point! I think waiting for that tipping point is where a lot of people give up. It can feel like forever to get to the point where enough people are actually spreading the word, so it makes a difference in your bottom line.
You often hear the word "fans" but I think "connectors" is a better way to describe these people. You can have a whole lot of fans that enjoy your work, but never say a dang thing to anyone else about it. Having fans is good, but having connectors is better 😉
It only takes a few connectors. The connectors know a lot of people – they are the kind of people who bring people together at parties – heck, they create the parties. When I was a shy kid in high school (OK, and college), I relied on my connector friends to force me to be “social.” So it is online.
Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” really freed me up to look at our online businesses in a whole new way. He gave me that very helpful label of “connector,” which led to the obvious next questions: Who are the non-connectors among our readers, and how do you engage those who would be willing to connect on our behalf? It was a short path from there to content marketing: The connectors among us have a very high bar, and require our best efforts at relationship building.
When I created the ideal picture of our audience member (so I know who I’m writing to), Among other things, I made that person a connector. And I create everything with that connector in mind.
Now, unless I’m reading them wrong, die-hard remarkability pushers (read: Seth) may tell us that if you and your product are remarkable enough, then even the shyest, busiest person will step up to the plate and spread the word. Cool, great if they do.
Therefore: maybe the number one business question online should be: “What do my connectors need to spread the word?” And the most obvious first answer is: They need “micro-scripts.” You know me, Susan, it always comes back to Micro Script Rules!
Great, another book to read! 🙂
I was mildly interested in one of Gladwell’s books – picked up his book with “Dog” in the title at the airport – not groundbreaking – entertaining. I checked out Tipping Point on Amazon and it seems this one is a bit more foundational. Thanks for the tips, as always
Susan Daffron says
I have NOT been able to get the Tipping Point from the library. Tis annoying. Mark…another book you might like is Gladwell’s Outliers. As I understand it, the dog book is mostly just essays, not his biz stuff.
I need to read Microscript Rules again. One of my foibles is making stuff too complicated. And as well all know, “complicated” doesn’t get remarked-upon. But “simple” does 😉
Susan has sparked quite a conversation here!
Now I’m wondering if I’m a “connector,” I will have to read the book to find out!
I’ve told dozens of people about your site, does that count? 😉
And I have to admit that Connie referred to something that has really held me up: I don’t know who my “tribe” is, or how I’d even find them, or talk to them, or listen to them. And so I wait to launch until I know this. Do I have something backward? Speaking of Connie, I checked out her site and it is *quite* remarkable, indeed! Who is able to write that much!!?? Another site to share with my friends – since it appears I am a connector!
Connie Lee says
Re: you not knowing ‘who’ your tribe is and me uncertain of ‘how’ I’ll connect with my tribe…I’m of the Field of Dreams mind-set, ‘if you write it, they will come…’
I’m believe we draw things to us, based upon the activity we set into motion and the energy we place behind it. It’s Newton’s Third Law of Physics at play. You know, ‘For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action.’
If we put forth the effort, the Universe will reward me by connecting me to my tribe and you by identifying who your tribe is and what they’re looking for.
Thanks for your kind words about my blog! http://ThePowerToLive.com
I appreciate it. I also appreciate your help in being a ‘connector’. :~}
What you wrote above rings true with me. Well said, I like the way you write, thank you!
I read several of your posts on http://www.thepowertolive.com and very much enjoy your approach to things. I am classically trained as a psychologist, and to be truthful, the American “new age” philosophy has always left me cold.
However, I hope you take it as a compliment when I tell you that your approach seems more direct to me, you are refreshing and quite delightful, too!
What a fun group hangs out here!
Connie Lee says
Thanks for stopping by my site and for your kind and encouraging words.
I’ve got subscribers who are MSW’s, but to receive a compliment form a psychologist…I guess I’m moving up in the world. :~)
Thanks for your compliment about my direct approach. I calls ’em like I sees ’em.
I don’t expect everyone to appreciate or even like that about me. I am what I am. I don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t like me or get me. After all, I don’t like or get everyone in this world, either.
My blog posts will resonate with whomever they’re supposed to…
Susan Daffron says
>>Re: you not knowing ‘who’ your tribe is and me uncertain of ‘how’ I’ll connect with my tribe…I’m of the Field of Dreams mind-set, ‘if you write it, they will come…’<<
I only agree with this up to a point. If you don't know who your tribe is at all, you can't write material that will appeal to them.
When it comes to web sites/content marketing, not that many people come to your "field" unless you take steps, such as paying attention to search engines and using tactics like social media, RSS, and email to tell people your content exists.
As an example…my tribe is people who are interested in book publishing. I wrote an article for my Web site related to the Kindle. Since our sites are search-engine friendly, a reporter from Reuters found my article by doing a Google search. He contacted and did an interview with me. The resulting Reuters article he wrote had several quotes from me. Since the article was syndicated, some of the quotes are now also on sites like Forbes and the Los Angeles Times. Today, someone called us who had read my quote in the Times. (All she had from the article was my name and company name, so to find me, she too had to do a Google search.)
The reporter and caller would never have found me if the content I write didn't appeal to the market or wasn't findable in Google. So I helped "make my own luck." 😉
Fantastic @ Reuters! Congrats, that’s the way this happens. Very positive proof of your point.
I think we’re all in agreement here: you’ve definitely gotta’ know who you’re aiming at — and once you’ve got a good mental picture of “who” that is, and have nailed down your message – all that’s left is the work you speak of.
That said, yet even with all of that, I’ve seen some people toil for years – decades – to make things work, and seem blocked at every turn. When I’ve watched a client site begin to simmer and then soar into the stratosphere, in every case there’s been a bit of “magic” involved – kismet, whatever you want to call it. And those site owners who’ve made it happen ALL believed – to a man and woman – in the laws of reciprocity (for lack of a better term this late at night 🙂 Long story short, I think you’ve got to have both: the right, strategic work *and* a positive, hopeful “belief mindset.”
I think this is what Connie is saying in her comments, and I enjoyed the way she wrote about this – she says it way better than I can – and because I’ve watched her business grow, I know for a fact that she’s putting in the kind of effort that leads to success in this space . . .
Hey, thanks for another great comment!
Susan Daffron says
I agree. Part of the magic is doing the work and writing something in the first place. It kinda takes guts to “put yourself out there” and take a stand on anything.
Not everyone has what it takes to sound his or her “barbaric yawp” 😉
Connie Lee says
I’ve been wanting to reply to your comment, for 2 days. I’m in the Midwest and we were hit hard w/ severe thunderstorms. 300,000 people were without power and (gasp!) internet service. Finally up & running…
Thanks for challenging me, as I agree with your point, as well. I’m all for creating and posting interesting, challenging or amusing information, but you’re correct it must be relevant, too. You need to keep your eye on the target or target audience, in this case.
I’ve visited your site and it looks very inspiring and interesting. I love, love, love your Reuters story.
It reminds me of the adage: ‘The harder I work, the luckier I get.’ You’ve got to take personal responsibility and also be active.
If you hadn’t written the article, the reporter wouldn’t have known about you and the opportunity wouldn’t have blossomed as it was meant to!
Susan Daffron says
>>The harder I work, the luckier I get.<<
I love that too! I think it's a quote from someone famous, although I don't remember who 😉
I actually just wrote a follow-on article to the one that the reporter found, since the topic sort of became "news" for a couple days. It will be interesting to see if another reporter finds it. We'll shall see…
Thanks Susan for making that distinction – I’ll order both (for the Kindle….)
Connie Lee says
As long as you’ll be ordering for your Kindle, I’ve got to highly recommend one of my all time fav’s that Keith recommended to me…Steven Pressfield’s the War of Art.
A quick read, an easy read, but a profound, life-changing read, all the same.
Susan Daffron says
I don’t know how relevant this is, but I just ran across this in my archives:
“Read This When You’re Feeling Like a Boring, Unremarkable Loser”
Apparently, I spent enough time thinking about this topic that I felt compelled to rant. It’s probably most amusing to dog owners though 😉