Deb Gabor

Sol's CEO Featured on Hit Radio Show "Doc Thompson" by The Blaze

Radio Show_Doc Thompson

"Born to brand" is an understatement when it comes to Deb Gabor. Tune in for the story on the "Building America" segment of The Morning Blaze with Doc Thompson on how Sol's founder and CEO became an "accidental entrepreneur" with her unique branding philosophy. So, what IS Deb's approach to branding, you might ask? You absolutely, positively MUST understand your customers to establish your brand! And always remember -- Brand or be branded!

Why is Branding like Sex

Business Woman
Why is branding like sex? The answer is simple. The best brands in the world are the ones that get their customers laid, the brands that make their customers feel like they have life by the balls.
Your brand doesn't come exclusively from you. Your brand has to include the hearts and minds of your customers.
How does YOUR brand get your customers laid? Find out how in the latest episode of the @Rise Business Podcast, "Why Branding is like sex with Deb Gabor".
Sol Marketing founder and CEO, Deb Gabor gives her mini MBA in branding in this enlightening talk with host Antonio Da Mota. This is some free business advice you don't want to miss out on.

Erase Your Bad Social Media History

Social Media

Ever wish you could go back in time and tell yourself NOT to post that embarrassing or inappropriate photo? Today, employers are adding social media pages to the screening criteria for jobs. Does Get Suitable have the “secret sauce” to erase negative or inappropriate posts from your past and prevent those type of posts in the future?

Listen to "Erase Your Bad Social Media History" on Surviving the Startup podcast with host Marc Amazon and special guest Sol founder and CEO, Deb Gabor to find out if this startup is merely "selling a better mousetrap to people who don’t realize they have a mice problem."

Be sure to show some love by subscribing and giving a 5 star rating!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/surviving-the-startup/id1123822513?mt=2

The Grueling Truth about Sports

Golf

Figure out why you need to differentiate yourself in order for your startup to survive. What does your startup provide that customers can't get anywhere else? Listen to this week's episode of Surviving the Startup Podcast, "The Grueling Truth About Sports", with host Marc Amazon and special guest Sol CEO,Deb Gabor. Give this one a 5 star rating and subscribe here!

 

Branding on a shoestring - Deb Gabor at General Assembly ATX

Money
When starting your business, there's a lot to think about -- your product/service, your team, your employees. But there's also your brand. You want to make a big splash, but you don't have a big budget. So where to you start?Learn from Deb Gabor, founder of Sol Marketing, noted brand dominatrix and author of "Branding is Sex: Get Your Customer Laid and Sell the Hell Out of Anything." Register today for

Branding on a Shoestring General Assembly 600 Congress, 14th Floor Monday, August 8

Free social media is a good place to start, but there are strategic things you can do up front to dial in your strategy to ensure you maximize the use of your limited funds and unexpected low-cost opportunities to build your brand's visual and verbal assets. This class is highly interactive, so expect to roll up your sleeves and begin the process of defining your brand's core DNA and go-to-market strategy.
This session about branding for early stage companies will expose you to the following ideas:

  • Basics of branding -- what it is and what it isn't
  • Why and when to brand your early stage company
  • Using DIY techniques to define your brand's core DNA and story
  • Building a visual and verbal identity on the cheap
  • Growth hacking your go-to-market strategy
  • Getting in market without going out of business
  • Using your resources wisely

Create your ideal customer profile

IdealCustomerProfile

By Deb Gabor

What’s the one thing that should always be at the center of your brand?

It isn’t design, color schemes, or masterful copywriting.

It’s your customer.

Some business owners have a hard time understanding this, but your brand isn’t about you. Your brand exists to bolster your customer’s self-image, lead them to achieve their goals, and help them become the kind of person they want to be.

To accomplish this requires you to think carefully about who your customer is. You need to understand them better than they understand themselves.

First, ignore traditional marketing advice Traditional marketing has always taught us to think about segmenting and dividing markets.

When you’re bringing a new product to market, the traditional textbook methodology is to think about who are all the potential people who could possibly buy this product, and then segment based on the potential use cases, the possible purchase channels, and their reasons for buying and not buying the product.

In other words, traditional marketing methods tell us to identify as many potential audiences as we can and then divide them further based upon demographics or shopping behaviors or desires and attitudes.

Using that old way of thinking often means taking your brand message and dividing it rather than multiplying it. Segment marketing suggests that you’re going to create a different brand experience for each of those different audiences. When you start dividing and segmenting your market, you start creating more and more marketing messages that are dissimilar from each other. If not managed, that practice can dilute your brand’s impact.

I’m not against segment marketing. In fact, part of my company does quantitative psychographic research with the goal of creating and identifying market segments and then coming up with marketing strategies and tactics for companies to go after those segments.

But when you create your brand, you need to look to what’s similar among all of those segments to create a singular brand for a singular customer archetype. That customer archetype is called the ideal customer, and it’s an in-depth profile of the customer who is most highly predictive of a brand’s success.

Who is your ideal customer? The ideal customer archetype is something that serves as a guiding principle for everything you do in branding and gives you a singular, highly identifiable customer persona toward which to point your brand’s story.

The ideal customer archetype is a fleshed out, detailed, hypothetical profile of your absolute ideal customer.

This doesn’t need to encompass anyone who might engage with your brand. I like to think of the ideal customer archetype as the profile of that single customer who will spend the most money with you over the longest time because he or she has so strongly bought-in to your brand experience.

Create your ideal customer profile This is where your creative skills come into play. After you’ve spoken to enough customers and people in your social networks who use the product, it’s time to write down a description of your ideal customer.

Close your eyes and conjure up a vivid image of who the perfect person is to buy your brand. Who are they? How old are they? Are they male or female? Married or single? What is their income?

Conjure up an image of who that person is, and write down everything you can think of.

Once you’ve written down everything you can think of, dig deeper.

The best trick I’ve found is to try to imagine his or her lifestyle. For instance, for a hypothetical online grocer in the Northeast, the ideal customer might be a thirty-five-year-old mom with two school-age kids at home.

That’s great as far as demographics go, but we can dig deeper by picturing the rest of her life. She works thirty hours a week outside of the home. She lives in the New York suburbs. She shops for groceries once a week in a big shopping trip, and then she does fill-in shopping every other day. She’s a technology user — she has a smartphone and a laptop and a tablet. She wears high-end casual clothes with designer labels when she shops. She carries a gigantic pocketbook. She keeps a yoga mat in her expensive European SUV, and she does not like minivans. Her total household income is around $200,000.

Now dial in your vision even further. Imagine her getting out of her SUV wearing one of her pairs of high-end designer jeans that cost around $200. She’s wearing a puffy down vest from North Face because that’s what all the other moms are wearing when they pick up their kids from private school.

Continue to go through the process of envisioning who this person is and what their life looks like. Write it all down. Even draw a picture of her if you have to.

Identify the Ideal Customer’s Needs Once you’ve created this ideal customer profile, the next step is to think about that person’s needs.

This is the hardest part of the ideal customer archetype process. This is the part where you have to really dig in.

Let’s go back to our suburban, working mom with two kids. From that detailed description, I can probably deduce some of her needs. She needs to feel like she is the best possible parent she can be. She also needs to look like the best parent in comparison to other moms at her kids’ school. Since she works outside the home, she likely feels the strain of balancing her job and spending time with her kids at this critical age. So she has needs for activities and services and products that give her as much time as possible to spend with her kids in the way that she wants to that also makes her feel like she is fulfilling her potential as their mom.

We also know that she values quality in the products that she buys because she doesn’t have time to drive around town making returns. In thinking about food, for instance, she probably wants to have the healthiest, most nutritious meals she can get for her children without the need to do a lot of shopping or preparation. She certainly doesn’t have time to shop at multiple grocery stores, and sometimes she doesn’t have the time to cook everything that comes to the table for a family meal. However, she still wants to feel like she’s the provider of tonight’s dinner and that the meal meets her very high standards.

Understanding your ideal customer in depth enables you to understand what that person needs most from you and your brand. By getting inside the head of your ideal customer, you’re able to extract from it the story that the customer wants to tell themselves and the world about who they are.

Eventually you’ll get a clear image of who your ideal customer is and, ultimately, whom your brand is for.

The ideal customer profile exercise This is great, but how do you actually do it? How do you figure out who your ideal customer is?

The ideal customer archetype exercise is ideally done in a group brainstorming session with the staff in your company who are most involved in customer-facing roles.

Don’t just invite the top executives! Often it’s your salespeople, customer service reps, returns processors, and delivery drivers who are closest to the customers. They actually know more about your customers than your marketing team ever could.

What I’d recommend is bringing a group together with a big roll of butcher paper, and dividing up into smaller groups to answer the following questions:

  • Who is our ideal customer?
  • What does their average day look like?
  • What are the needs they’re looking to fulfill?

This seems easy enough, but companies often struggle with these branding exercises because the conclusions are sometimes difficult to swallow. It’s hard to leave behind the myths and beliefs that are part of the company history.

But, ultimately, this ideal customer process is extremely galvanizing for companies.

I’ll give you an example. One of the companies that I worked with for a long time was iVillage.com. Back in its heyday, iVillage was probably the largest online destination for women. At the time I started working with the company, it had just become part of NBC Universal. With a mid-2000s onslaught of “mom media,” iVillage struggled to remain relevant and knew it had to reinvent itself in order to compete. Additionally, the proliferation of highly focused digital media sites in passion verticals, such as food, entertainment, parenting, fashion, and beauty, was stealing their readers.

By late 2011, iVillage was struggling to figure out how to both narrow its focus and grow traffic. As part of a branding engagement, I had them do the ideal customer exercise.

For iVillage’s ideal customer exercise, we did exactly the process described above. My team brought out a big roll of butcher paper and cut it into six-foot lengths. We divided up the staff of about one hundred employees into smaller groups. We gave each group markers, art supplies, magazines, photographs, glue, and scissors. Then I gave them the assignment of creating an image of iVillage’s ideal customer, using all that stuff.

One group actually had one of their team members lay down on the butcher paper, and they traced her body with magic marker. They gave her big eyes and big ears because they wanted to communicate, “Our ideal customer is somebody who has a curiosity about the world around her and is seeking information from other people.”

Another group drew their ideal customer as a woman with a gigantic pocketbook filled with items from different categories, such as parenting, beauty, fashion, and health. Their idea was, “Our ideal customer is somebody who is super engaged and productive in her world and needs inspiration, information, and connections in all of these different areas of her life.”

Another group drew this Picassoesque Cubist version of a woman with five arms and six legs and ten eyes. This was their version of a woman who is doing a lot of things at once.

Each team presented their ideal customer diagrams to the rest of the teams. Then I challenged them as a larger group to combine those traits to come up with a singular ideal customer profile. That group of one hundred people used all of those inputs to create the North Star version of their ideal customer.

Although it was difficult for them to give up some of their company’s tribal knowledge and assumptions around who their audience should be, it was extremely galvanizing for them to narrow their focus to align on a singular profile.

What’s next? The ideal customer profile is just one exercise I recommend for companies to align their focus on exactly who their customer is and what deep needs they are fulfilling.

For all the tips, tricks and exercises we use with our Sol Marketing clients, as well as a deeper understanding of how to think about your customers’ needs, check out my book, Branding is Sex.

 

The brand values pyramid: get to the top

Brand Values Pyramid

by Deb Gabor In Marketing 101, professors taught us that customers make rational purchase decisions. However, as a student of branding and marketing over the past 25 or so years, I’ve learned that reason informs, but emotion persuades.

The practice of branding requires digging a lot deeper into your customers’ needs, wants, and desires and then trying to uncover the inner stories customers tell themselves.

Marketing 101 was a good start, but to really understand branding, we need to leave the business school and walk across campus to the psychology department.

Maslow Was a Marketer If you think back to Psychology 101 class in college, you probably remember studying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow shaped his hierarchy like a pyramid, with the most basic human needs—food, water, shelter, air—at the base and loftier, more emotional needs at the top. The theory is that all humans must first solve for the lower levels of the pyramid before moving to the upper levels.

Once a person is no longer worried about finding food and water, he or she can move up to solve the problem of safety. Once that person figures out safety, he or she can move up to love, and so on.

brand values graphics for blog-04
brand values graphics for blog-04

Just as Maslow’s hierarchy explains human motivation, the brand values pyramid illustrates the idea that, when a person makes a decision to purchase or use a brand, they are motivated to achieve certain needs. After fulfilling one need, a person seeks to fulfill the next one, and so on.

As customers move up the pyramid, brands must meet more of their customers’ emotional needs, and as those emotional needs are met by more and more companies, the best brands must support customers’ process of becoming self-actualized.

Branding Lessons from My Garage Currently, I have two cars parked in my garage. I drive a sweet midsize Audi SUV, and my daughter drives a midsize Hyundai SUV.

Baseline Requirements The things that make both of these products midsize SUVs are what we call baseline requirements, which equate to the base of Maslow’s hierarchy.

In Maslow’s pyramid, those basic physiological needs are food, water, shelter, air, and so on.

In midsize SUVs, the baseline requirements are wheels, an engine, and a steering wheel, as well as seats, mirrors, windows, and the basic functional benefit of getting you from point A to point B.

The basic things that these two cars have in common with one another that make them function as midsize SUV’s are the baseline requirements for anything in the midsize SUV category.

All cars must meet these baseline requirements and deliver these functional benefits, or today’s market of SUV buyers will not take them seriously.

Emotional Benefits The next levels up in Maslow’s hierarchy are safety, belonging, and affiliation and esteem needs. These are the benefits that make you feel like you’re part of a group and protected.

In the brand values pyramid, these middle tiers describe how certain features make the consumer feel. In car talk, these are the options. In branding, we refer to them as emotional benefits. Emotional benefits can provide a competitive advantage, but they are not your brand.

The options packages in the middle of the pyramid for today’s cars are things such as Bluetooth, voice-activated navigation, heated seats, self-darkening mirrors, bi-xenon headlamps, and a variety of other cool things.

Not every model of car in a category offers those features, so they’re still somewhat differentiating and can command a premium purchase price. However, these features are easy for other brands to imitate, so they don’t define the brand and certainly aren’t sustainable long-term brand differentiators.

Like the functional benefits we discussed before, emotional benefits alone will never be enough to create and sustain a brand. As today’s options become tomorrow’s standard equipment, these emotional benefits aren’t enough to differentiate your brand.

brand values graphics for blog-02
brand values graphics for blog-02

Self-Expressive Benefits Self-expressive benefits—the stuff at the top of the brand values pyramid—enable customers to complete the statement, “When I eat/drink/drive/wear/use this brand, I am___.”

This is where brands become transcendent, symbolizing their customers’ self-concept and giving consumers a vehicle to express themselves.

When brands provide self-expressive benefits to their users, they can engender deep emotional connections. For example, consider the difference between the self-expressive benefits associated with Heineken beer, which may heighten a person’s self-concept of being a sophisticated, discerning, worldly person, with those of Budweiser.

Back to the two cars in my garage: the Hyundai and the Audi both meet the baseline requirements for midsize SUVs and provide some similar and compelling middle-of-the-pyramid features and emotional benefits. These two cars are so similar in their physical makeup, features, and benefits, that if you were to take the brand names away, they’d be virtually indistinguishable.

But everyone can agree that an Audi is an Audi, and a Hyundai is not an Audi. It’s a Hyundai.

Each of these two brands is unique and singular in what they let their owners say about themselves. For me, driving an Audi makes me feel powerful, cool, and in control. For my daughter, driving the Hyundai makes her feel responsible, stylish, practical, and safety conscious. Those feelings connect us to each of the two brands in very powerful ways, and elevate our concepts of ourselves and support us in telling a story to the rest of the world.

The most powerful brands are the ones that say something about their user. The key to successful branding is to make self-expressive benefits part of the brand value proposition to add richness and depth to the brand and the experience of owning and using the brand.

brand values pyramid for blog-01
brand values pyramid for blog-01

How to Discover Your Brand’s Self-Expressive Benefits There are three questions that every brand must be able to answer in order to understand how the brand values pyramid impacts their brand. These questions can be difficult to get to the bottom of, but once you understand them, they allow your brand’s strategy to flow naturally.

The three questions are:

  1. What does using your brand say about your customers?
  2. What is the singular thing your brand delivers that customers can’t get from anyone else?
  3. How do you make your customer a hero in their own story?

These questions may seem simple, but very few companies are able to answer them clearly. Those who can are usually the brands who win.

How to accurately answer these questions is beyond the scope of this blog post. In fact, there are three full chapters in my book, Branding is Sex, that focus exclusively on better understanding these three questions.

If you’re a brand struggling to deeply understand your customers, that’s the best place to start.

Branding is Sex: Get Your Customers Laid and Sell the Hell Out of Anything

Brandind_is_Sex-cover
Brandind_is_Sex-cover

If you hate making money and the feeling of a mind-blowing, toe curling orgasm—stay far away from Deb Gabor's new book.

In Branding is Sex: Get Your Customers Laid and Sell the Hell Out of Anything, the Sol Marketing founder and "brand dominatrix" explains how proper brand positioning gets your customers in the mood.

In just seven short and sweet chapters, Deb covers these juicy topics and more:

How the most successful brands in the world get their customers laid How to never fail The Bullshit Test Who your brand should hop in the sack with (and it’s not who you think)

Don’t rot in the brand graveyard like Blackberry, Oldsmobile, Circuit City, Compaq, Blockbuster Video, and Pets.com.

Get your sexy back and move from being “just friends” with your customers to being long-term “friends with benefits.”

Branding is Sex provides you with a concrete foundation and a basic how-to plan for building or re-igniting your brand without needing a PhD.

Buy your print or e-reader copy here, or read more about it at brandingissex.com

SlideShare: Your Ideal Customer Archetype

Sol Marketing is ecstatic that we were able to help a great group of fellow marketers identify their ideal customer. Deb Gabor gave a unique presentation at AMA Austin's event: Building Your Ideal Customer Archetype. It was a wonderful interactive experience in which we were able to dive deep into the questions you must ask yourself in order to define your #IdealCustomer. If you missed out, or you just want to refresh your memory, take a look at the Ideal Customer Archetype Presentation and Ideal Customer Archetype Worksheet. In this presentation you will:

  • Discover the three existential questions you must ask yourself
  • Understand how to protect your brand using individualized interactions
  • Learn how to create your ideal customer archetype

If you enjoyed the AMA luncheon, we hope to see you at some of our upcoming events such as

Interested in more information? Let's start something great together!

Why understanding your customers' desires and needs will drive irrational loyalty in 2016

2015 was all about content marketing. Brands realized they needed content, and a lot of it. Things kicked into high gear as marketing teams struggled to fill nurturing programs with assets. Customer journeys, personalized marketing, retargeting, account based marketing and increased implementation of marketing technology stacks all fueled this insatiable thirst.

The results, not surprisingly, were often a case of more not being better, but simply more being more.

A huge challenge – and thus, we predict, a huge trend in 2016 – will be for brands to up the quality level while producing enough quantity to fill their programs.

Making better content is important, got it.

So, how do we do it? The old processes and rules need to change. You need to streamline workflows, put serious resources into repackaging already-good content into new forms targeted appropriately, and most importantly, get a thorough understanding of your customers.

It’s not enough to create personas based on demographics or even behaviors. You need to understand what motivates people, what they’re trying to accomplish.

Once you know what drives someone, the path to creating content that engages and moves them toward purchase and loyalty becomes clear.

The megatrends of mini-customer insights, people looking for emotional connections and a maturation of the content marketing ecosystem are converging. We predict 2016 will be the year a deep understanding of your customer will power quality content that creates irrational loyalty and bonds between your customers and your brand.

Investor pitch archetypes

Archetypes abound in all sorts of storytelling, and investor pitches are, after all, storytelling. Which archetype best represents these classic startup stories? archetypes_V6

Austin entrepreneurs say branding is their biggest challenge for 2016

Finding funding isn't it. Even making key hires isn't it. Instead, members of the Austin chapter of the Entrepreneur's Organization say increasing brand awareness and lead generation will be their biggest challenge in 2016. Are you ready? Ready to go from startup mode so you can scale and grow? It's going to be a great year.

Read the story

Find out how YOU can generate irrational loyalty

Join the Austin chapter of the American Marketing Association for a professional development luncheon Thursday, January 21, 2016. Do you ever wonder how top brands create irrational loyalty among their users? The world’s most profitable and well-known brands bond in highly emotional and compelling ways with the customers who are most likely to spend the most money with them.

Deb Gabor, founder and CEO of Sol Marketing, will lead a highly-interactive workshop to guide you through identifying and profiling the customer who is most highly predictive of your success using the Ideal Customer Archetype methodology. Through the use of hands-on exercises, you will learn to use this method to go beyond traditional demographic and firmographic profiles to hone in on behavioral and attitudinal attributes that enhance the climate of consideration for your brand.

Once you intimately know your Ideal Customer, you can identify opportunities to make your brand part of your customers’ self concept, tell your brand story more effectively and focus your marketing efforts on the customers who will help you win.

Limited seating available: register today.

Get tickets now: Sixty seconds to Success

Get your tickets now! Deb Gabor's session at General Assembly will sell out fast. Sixty Seconds to Success: Hacking the Elevator Pitch at General Assembly on February 1, 2016. Deb is the founder and president of Sol Marketing and is known as the Investor Pitch Whisperer. This is a must-attend event. Register now

"What do you do for a living?"

"What is your company about?"

This is the perfect opportunity to tell your story. The infamous "Elevator Pitch" was created for just such an occasion.

An elevator pitch is a conversation starter. You typically have just 60 seconds to make an exciting, impactful and meaningful impression on whomever you come in contact with. So make them count.

Takeaways

  • Be exposed to the Anti-Elevator Pitch and how it serves as an invitation for further conversation
  • Start to think of yourself as a “brand” and leverage that to your advantage
  • Learn everything that needs to be in your elevator pitch and everything that doesn’t
  • Create the building blocks of your own pitch – starting with communicating from a place of “WHY” and culminating in the unique qualities that can make you stand out
  • “Hack” the elevator pitch at critical points to create a cohesive story about you and how you make a client or a hiring manager the hero in his or her own story.

Make the most of every media opportunity

The media loves Sol Marketing! Learn what Deb Gabor says about maximizing every media opportunity that comes your way, from understanding reporters' motivations to paying it forward. Thanks to Arthur Bryan Marroquin of ABMPix for this awesome photo of our fearless leader Deb Gabor. Learn how it works

Podcast: The 3 Big Questions Your Business Needs to Answer when Building Your Brand

Deb was recently interviewed by Tim Hamilton for the new Praxent Commanding Business podcast -- listen to it for a mini branding MBA, Sol style! Listen to the podcast in iTunes

Commanding Business Podcast by Tim Hamilton, CEO of Praxent

EP018: The 3 Big Questions Your Business Needs to Answer when Building Your Brand with Deb Gabor

Released Oct 13, 2015

From leadership to management and marketing to innovation, Commanding Business covers a variety of topics with an aim to uncover actionable takeaways you can implement in your own organization today.

Episode synopsis: To become a financial asset for your company a brand needs to have an essence, a promise and a personality. Building your brand requires sustainable differentiators, scientific research and most importantly, focuses on your customer’s point of view. Your brand should also closely resemble the strategy of the business to benefit your end customer. There are three questions your organization needs to answer to achieve top of mind awareness within your business sector. When you have answered the three questions you have the criteria for the top of your brand value pyramid.

 

Building a kick-ass brand that wins

Sol Marketing was proud to participate in Austin Startup Week last week and share our brand love with a room full of startup founders and entrepreneurs! Our interactive session detailed the importance of branding for startups and guided them through practical tips for defining their company's core brand DNA. If you missed out, check out the slides and highlights from attendees! In this session you'll:

  • Learn what a brand is and why it's important for startups
  • Understand how a brand informs future business strategies
  • Know when startups should start building their brand
  • Learn practical "hacks" to accelerate the process of defining your brand and articulating it to customers
See the slides on SlideShare: Building a kick-ass brand that wins from Deb Gabor

 

 

The secret to targeting millennials: DON’T

Today's marketers have pigeonholed millennials into a vast group of faceless, nameless people. Let's be honest: between the ages of 18 and 34, they range from living on Snapchat to buying houses. Who truly thinks you can target consumers across so wide a spectrum? Please help our session make it into SXSW Interactive 2016 by voting for us in the SXSW PanelPicker!

Deb Gabor and Cliff Sharples have worked together to successfully profile, identify and target consumers to create business success for leading digital media and internet firms, including HomeAway, Cheezburger and now Fexy Media. In this session, they’ll discuss how to leverage consumer insights to understand who your customers really are, how they behave and what they care about -- so you can build a powerful emotional relationship with them.

What is the fallacy of marketing to millennials? How should you be profiling, targeting and segmenting your audience? What are the characteristics beyond demographics that allow you to dial in your brand to make the most powerful relationship with consumers? We'll talk about all this and more... if we make it into SXSW!

Voting closes at midnight this Friday, September 4.

To vote, visit our page on the SXSW PanelPicker. You can sign in with Facebook or create a quick and easy account, then give us the "thumbs up" to vote for our panel.

Thank you for the support!

"Sorry" doesn't cut it

Sometimes we mess up.  Royally.  Unforgettably.  Disastrously.  And sometimes when we mess up, we damage others’ property or even hurt their feelings.  When that happens, it’s time for an apology.  As our big Jewish Day of Atonement looms, it seems an opportune time to discuss what I’ve learned about how to say you’re sorry and do it right. For the Jewish people, this time of year is the season of repentance.  Starting with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and extending through Yom Kippur – the most serious and solemn of all holidays on the Jewish calendar – we Jews fall on our swords and ask forgiveness for our sins of the past year (for those of you familiar with Catholic traditions, it’s kind of like an “instant Lent”). During the past week, I’ve been systematically collecting and cataloging the last year’s mess-ups, preparing to amend my wrongs and ask others for their forgiveness.  Having been on the giving and receiving end of bad apologies, I realize that now is the time to give my apology skills an overhaul.  Now with this post you can benefit from my experience.

Making good apologies isn’t difficult.  The 12th century sage Maimonides said that true repentance requires humility, remorse, forbearance and reparation.

Not much has changed since then.

  1. Own the offense, even if it makes you squirmy:  Not “I’m sorry you misunderstood me,” rather, “I’m sorry I called you a fat bastard.”
  2. Be specific; own the sin:  “I’m sorry I smashed your smartphone with a rock.”  But don’t go overboard: “I’m sorry I destroyed your smartphone, which you so insensitively checked every two minutes, during our romantic dinner.”
  3. Use the first person, and avoid passive voice:  “I apologize for running over your smartphone with my car,” not “I apologize your smartphone was broken.”
  4. Acknowledge the impact:  “I know I was not respecting your time you when I showed up late to dinner. I know you had a busy day, and I’m sorry I made you wait for me to start.” 
  5. Don’t offer too much explanation:  Keep explanations short and relevant, and, above all, don’t use them as justification for your actions. “I’m sorry I rolled my eyes at you during dinner, but you were droning on and on about the same topic for what seemed like hours,” is not an effective apology.
  6. Finally, mean it when you say it. When you apologize, feel sorry in your heart.

When you’ve said your piece, let the other person have their say.  If they need time to process, let them process.  Even if they say nothing but “I accept your apology,” just politely say “thank you.”  If the other person remains angry, you have to sit with that for a while.  And, if they don’t accept your apology the first time out, it’s your responsibility to try at least two more times.  If they still don’t accept, it’s time to assess the overall state of your relationship.

In all, making a good apology means being a little vulnerable.  In his book On Apology, author Aaron Lazare said, “Apologies are one of the most profound interactions that can happen between people.  Apologies can heal humiliation, free the mind from deep-seated guilt, remove the desire for vengeance, and ultimately restore human relationships.”  I totally agree.