woman with long hair on a porch tossing a ball

CATCH Your Clients (and build your brand) – Without the Overwhelm

When you’re just starting out, it can feel overwhelming.

I get it.

But if you put a plan in place before you start, you can be much more strategic about how you spend your time and money to reach your audience.

I developed the CATCH Branding system as a framework to help you get started and make it easier to remember.

Your mission? Every thing that you do, every piece of content you create should be CATCH-tested so you can focus on getting your message across, and being memorable, to your perfect client.

The CATCH System

C – Consistent Look.

Create a look and feel that people can recognize as you. 

Here is all you need to get started:

  • Create a simple text logo with your name. Put your logo on all the content you create.
  • Write a simple tagline that sums up what you do. 10-12 words max – less is better. Use the tagline in your email signature, your social profiles, your business cards, and on your website.
  • Start your “style bible” which can be just a simple Word document. It should list your two (not six) colors that you use for everything (list the hex color number which will look something like this #ABEBC6), the fonts you use for headlines and the font you use for the body your documents.

Please (please, please) don’t spend weeks or months agonizing over a logo. A simple word logo built in Canva will get you started. Use it everywhere: website, social, email, ads. Start to build name and image recognition – but don’t get bogged down.

I have had to do “interventions” with clients who spent months and multiple rounds of edits and changes rather than getting their business going.

So pick something that you can grow with and start using it consistently.

A – Authentic Voice.

Be honest and open about your area of expertise. Tell people about what you struggle with – and how you overcame problems. Offer help without being condescending. We are all on this journey and all on different parts of the path.

There is the school of “fake it till you make it” and frankly, I am ambivalent about this. 

On the one hand, it can be a boost to your mindset when you act as if you have already achieved. There is real science that says it can be a psychological boost to your performance and success.

But on the other hand, there is also fatigue from your audience. There are w-a-a-a-a-y too many faux successful Internet hucksters who project an image of success. But check behind the curtain and the cars are rented, the house is not theirs, and the women are hired models. Fake it till you make it might not be your best strategy.

What I typically advise is to adopt a mindset of success and expertise – but don’t lie. If it ain’t your Ferrari and you have less in the bank than the average fast food worker, don’t give the illusion that you are more successful than you really are. It not only will come back to bite you (and it will) it will simply not read as genuine to your audience.

If you approach your audience with honesty about your struggles and sincerity around your success, you stand a much better chance of actually gaining the trust of people you can help. Click To Tweet

So sure, preach the gospel of success, but be honest and open.

T – Targeted Audience.

Know exactly who you are talking to.

Fitness guru? You are not selling to “everyone” you are selling to “people interested in fitness.” But unless you want to compete on a race to the bottom on pricing, you need to dig deeper into who you really serve as your audience.

Let’s go back to you as a fitness expert. Your specific audience might be “pregnant women looking to manage their health” or “18-30 year old males looking for washboard abs” or “experienced marathon runners looking for faster recovery and nutrition guidance.”

All three audiences are interested in fitness. But they are very different audiences with completely different messaging. Know who you are talking to and then help that specific group achieve their goals.

This is probably the #1 mistake that new businesses make. In their push to just sell something, they throw a bunch of different messages and offers out. Rather than make you a versatile business, it dilutes your message and your brand.

Specialists make more than generalists – and typically have an easier time attracting the right clients. 

If you have tax problems, you go to a tax attorney not the woman who is an ace criminal attorney (unless your tax problems go to the criminal…whoops). The tax attorney is also not interested in representing you when you sue the guy who hit you in the parking lot.

Micro-target your audience so that you become the obvious solution to their special problem. You need to be the specialist who can get the job done rather than the generalist who is often stuck with commodity status  – and competing on price rather than value.

C – Creative Content.

Be creative when you are helping your audience. The fitness guy might make some serious videos around proper weight lifting techniques for pregnant women, and also create a Pinterest board with easy-to-use fitness flash cards, some downloadable nutrition guides, or five-day fitness jump-start challenge.

Your audience will consume different content in different ways. It does pay dividends to pick 1-2 social channels and create content.

Note: Yes, I am serious about 1-2 social channels at the beginning of your business. Unless you are hiring a creative team, there simply is not enough hours in the day to run your business – which should be your #1 priority – and create endless content for 4-5 social channels. Go deep on 1-2 channels and nurture your audience rather than scattershot on 4-5 where you will never get traction because your audience does not hear from you often enough.

Content creation can get out of control. It can feel like you’re on the content hamster wheel. That’s why it’s critical to understand where your audience is so your content creation helps with your marketing rather than wasting time and money. And to focus.

The key to sane (and profitable) content creation is to spend the most time and money where your audience is. Your fitness mommies are probably on Instagram and Facebook and may be active on mom boards, healthy family eating, or wellness groups. Your washboard ab young males may also be interested in tech and cars. But you can’t know that unless you talk to your audience and spend time getting to know them. Deeply.

Once you find your audience, listen. React. Comment. Take notes about what comes up over and over. Answer questions (bonus points if your answer can refer back to your website).

You will also hear exactly how they phrase their problems, wishes, and desires – and you can tailor your message with their language. Not to fool them, but rather to demonstrate that you hear and understand. Customers you can genuinely help find you and put their faith in your ability to solve their problem.

 Know where your audience is, how they prefer to consume content, and help them achieve their goals with shareable, interesting content.

H – Helping

Reach out to your audience and offer help and guidance. Be the person known for spot-on, kind advice. Give your expertise willingly and often. Offer the helping hand without asking for anything in return. It does pay off in the long run.

Helping can be anything from instructional videos to eBooks to in-person clinics. 

Your “helping goal” is two-fold:

  • demonstrate your expertise and experience in solving problems
  • set you up as the most logical solution when it comes time to hire someone.
Ideally, you will refer your potential clients back to your website. Unlike social channels, you control how you interact, the information you collect such as a name and email address, and a deeper understanding of the content that is resonating with your target audience.

Final thoughts…

If you follow the CATCH system, you can laser-focus on delivering your message to the right audience, with a consistent look and feel, and building your reputation as a thought leader in your niche.

Spend some time on the front end using these strategies, it can make the process less confusing and get you launched right.

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Tell Your Story to Stand Out In a Crowded Market

September 5, 2017

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black and white image of old TVs, speakers, and records with a lonely Elvis in the center

Social Media for the Rest of Us

“I’m not worthy”
“My opinion doesn’t matter”
“I’m not like other people”
“I’m just shy”
“Social media exposes too much”
“I don’t look/think/feel like everyone else here”

Any of those things resonate with you?

Social media has a lot of layers. To some people, it’s a big ol’ party. They are out, sharing everything from morning to night.

Instagram their breakfast burrito? Facebook Live their wardrobe? Check their boss on LinkedIn? Chat, comment, check-in, snap…Some people’s lives truly are lived online. Everything is an open book, shared, commented on, liked, and upvoted.

That’s not me.

For a very long time, I used Facebook in “lurking” mode. Reading comments by high school friends. Keeping up with old neighbors from afar. I was quite content to observe and not report.

I suspect that there are a lot of people like me.

But I also suspect that many people long to be part of the bigger social conversation – but don’t feel like they belong. They are not sure. Uncertain. Vulnerable. Maybe even fear that people on social would reject them…if they only knew.

If they only knew that I am not as successful as I appear.
If they figure out that I’m not as smart as they think.
If anyone guesses that I’m different.
I can’t let down my guard because…
I have to fake it because that is what everyone expects.
I am different…but I can’t share that.

Social is often the highlight reel of people’s lives. You see the bright, shiny, pretty, perfect part of their lives. You don’t see the struggle with weight that’s behind the swim suit shot. You miss the uncertainty that’s under the congratulations on a win. You don’t hear the vulnerability in feeling that they are not like everyone else – but that has to stay secret. Not wanting to disagree because of what people might think.

I’m here to tell you that everyone feels this way. Yup. Even the Kardashians of the world feel vulnerable, different, not-great, fake, dumb, unsuccessful, imperfect, fat, skinny, out of control, uncertain, loser….I could go on. But you get the picture.

You are not alone.

So what does all this have to do with business?

Even the “big guys” are not as successful, shiny, and happy as they appear. Even the Tony Robbins of the world are only seen in their highlight reel. You don’t see the behind-the-scenes struggle of running their business.

It is human nature to want to present the best side of ourselves. There is nothing wrong with that. Where it can become toxic is when we start comparing our imperfect reality with the perfect, edited highlight reels of everyone else.

I am telling you to wipe the perfection right out of your head.

It’s okay to be different, only half as successful, a few pounds over your ideal weight, stressed from doing it all, uncertain, imperfect. Because that is the true reality for everyone. That is the behind-the-scenes reality that you don’t see…but it’s there. Own that.

What you have to say is still valuable and worthy – even if you don’t feel that way.

I want you to truly believe that your point of view – imperfect, different, left-field, overweight, indecisive, bad-hair day, exhausted, stressed, uncertain – is valuable. In fact it is more valuable than all the buffed, polished, edited, highlight reels.

Different is the thing that sparks the conversation. That makes it valuable, vulnerable, real, connected.

Be willing to admit that you don’t have all the answers and ask for help. There are lots of people waiting with the answers. Be willing to admit that you’re struggling with something personal or in your business. Most people will react with kindness and a (virtual) outstretched hand.

Will there be mean people? Of course. Just like your offline life, there are always going to be people so entrenched in hurting or belittling or making someone feel less because it is their only way to feel important. And just like in your offline life, you have to let your anger and fear go and give them the grace that they are unable to give themselves.

So if you’re online talking up how successful your business is when the reality is that you’re struggling to stay afloat, ask for help, advice, support. There is someone out there who might have that one thing that will make the difference.

Before You Spend Money on Marketing…Do This (Please)

I know, you hear about the latest shiny thing in marketing and want to dive right in.

It’s tempting to think that the latest thing will be the thing that finally rockets your business to the top. But without a deep understanding of your current marketing, spending on new and shiny is usually disappointing.

Can I beg you to please hit the pause button?

Wait to start on any new marketing or ad spend until you truly understand and can state the following:

  • Your most productive, profitable, and reliable source of leads
  • What it costs you to acquire a lead/prospect/client
  • Are these costs increasing/decreasing?
  • How long does it take to get a lead/prospect/client?
  • If you’re like most business owners, you probably only have a vague idea of what is working and instead rely on your “gut instinct.”

Sorry. Your gut instinct may be costing you time, money, and clients.

If you want to truly understand the best use of your resources, it’s time to do a marketing audit.

I am going to help you do a deep dive audit on your marketing.

A what? Like numbers and accounting?

Well…sort of. And yes.

My clients are surprised when this is the first part of what we do.

But before we start down the path of figuring out what we need to do, we need to figure out not only where we are, but where the holes are. The good news is that the first time is the hardest – and the most eye-opening.

I had one client whose “gut feeling” that one advertising source was too expensive turned out to be wrong. This advertising source is expensive, but the audit showed it to be their most lucrative – delivering $10-$15 in profit for every $1 they spent. The client asked for the audit because they wanted to justify ending this ad spend. Instead, they will now devote more money to this source and less to other, less-lucrative sources.

This is the time where we toss everything onto the kitchen table and sort through it all.

Get yourself a notebook, fire up a spreadsheet, and clear off your whiteboard. Time to dig in.

Let’s dive in and start at the beginning…

  • What is the product(s) or service(s)?

This is where you need to look at your product offerings. Dust out the corners. Rank them in order of most profitable to least profitable, most popular to least popular, legacy and new, growing and stagnant, future and past.

  • Are there entry-level, mid-level, and high-ticket products/services?

Do you offer different levels of different products? Do they produce different profit level? Do high-level products/services require more hands on? More resources? How many clients are you serving at each level? Is there an upgrade path?

  • What is the average client spend?

What do clients spend money on? How long are they with you? Is there a glide path to upgrades?


  • Is there a website?

Do you have a website? Is it aligned with your current products/services? Is it updated regularly? Does it convert lookers to leads? Is it fresh and appealing?

  • Are there social profiles?

Does the company (and you) have updated profiles on social media? Which social platforms are most closely aligned with your clients? Concentrate on those platforms first.

  • Is everything up to date and aligned with the current product/service?

Are products/services clearly listed? Is messaging aligned with current products/services? Is it clear who you serve?

  • Logo?

Do you have a logo? Is it consistently used across all platforms and on all collateral? Does it look updated?

  • Branding?

Have you built a recognizable brand? Is the brand tied to a product/service or to an individual? How is the brand deployed?

Client customer profile

  • Who is the customer?

Sure, you can tell me that “Chris Anders is 47 years old and has 3 kids and drives a Chevy and is interested in gaming and professional sports.” But rather than create a limited client avatar, do a deeper dive. Why is Chris interested in your product/service? Career advancement? Pride? What problem do you solve?

  • What are their demographics – age, income, location, needs?

Who is your typical client? Dig deep into who you already sell to. Who buys your entry-level product/service? Who buys your high-end offering? What similarities exist? What differences?

  • Have the demographics changed?

Have your clients changed as you have changed your offerings? Over time? What do you think caused this shift? Pricing? Positioning? Product? Brand awareness?

  • What does the client do for their customers?

Do your clients have clients of their own? Does your product/service impact your client’s bottom line? Is your product/service a profit center for your client?

  • What is the typical time from lead to customer?

From the time your client first becomes aware of you to the first time they buy, how long is the sales cycle? From first sale to upgrade?

  • What does it cost to acquire a customer?

This is often something that is guessed at – or completely unknown. Understanding this is an absolutely key indicator of where and how to proceed with your marketing. From advertising to collateral costs to time to whatever is specialized to your industry, tally up the costs and divide by number of clients.

Is this number declining or increasing?

Current marketing sources

  • Where do you currently advertise?

Industry publications, social, Adwords, print, online listings, pay for influencers, PPC. This is where your spreadsheet comes in handy to tally up the costs.

  • What is the ROI (Return on Investment) of that advertising?

What was the total spent on ads? How many clients did you get from that ad spend? How many leads? How many prospects. Sixth grade addition and division problem but for most clients this is eye-opening.

  • How do you get on the radar of your ideal client?

Where do you get most of your clients? How do they come to know you, like you, trust you? What are your client’s trusted resources for understanding your product/service? Are there other products/services that are on your client’s radar, competing with yours?

  • How long have you been using these marketing sources?

Do you have a history that you can track your results over time? Are they becoming more or less productive for you? What new sources have you tried?

  • What are all the sources of advertising and marketing?

Add these to your spreadsheet. List them all out with all pertinent details of spend, dates, and results.

Current lead sources

  • Where do leads come from now?

Advertising, social, email, website, word of mouth, industry reputation…list them all on your spreadsheet along with the numbers of leads that each source produces. Is this true across all your products/services or do some sources produce better for some of your products/services than other sources?

  • How many leads per month? Are they cyclical?

Break down the spreadsheet leads by month and over years if you have the data. Do you get more leads from some sources at different times of year? Are these lead numbers increasing or decreasing? Are some sources more productive than others?

  • What is the cost per lead?

Is your cost per lead increasing or decreasing? Is the cost per lead different for different products/services? Use the data from your spreadsheet to make these calculations.

Lead nurturing

  • How are leads nurtured?

Once someone expresses interest in you and your product/services (they become a lead), how do you turn them into prospects and then sales? What is your process?

  • Is there a customer list/email list/social list?

Are leads nurtured in some type of automated/semi-automated system? Has is been tested and updated? How are you collecting these leads? What is the typical engagement rate or open rate on your emails?

  • What is the sales funnel?

What does the sales cycle look like to your client? What steps do they go through? Is there an automated sales funnel? What does it look like? Does it take into account all your products/services or it primarily to “get people in the door”?

  • How long does it take from lead to sale?

What is the typical time between lead and sale? Does it vary based on which product/service they ultimately purchase? Has this changed over time?

Putting it all together

After digging through everything. It’s easier to see where things are – and where they are missing. While there are a lot of questions here, there may be some that are more specific to your industry or process. Going through this marketing audit should get you thinking more deeply about your particular sales cycle.

Don’t skip this process.

It is exciting to want to try “new and shiny” things, but you don’t know if the new and shiny is the answer to your problems or just a Band-Aid on a wound you don’t have.

It is critical before you start spending money and time that you understand what is working – and what is not.

Expecting to get new and better results from faulty data is a waste of efforts.

Bottom Line:

  • Put everything on a spreadsheet and work your numbers so you understand what it costs to acquire a customer.
  • Understand where your best customer leads come from and how you acquire them.
  • What collateral do you have (website, social, email lists) and is it aligned with current service/products?
  • How are leads nurtured?

I am constantly surprised by the number of clients who truly do not understand what it costs them to acquire a client. Or where most of their clients come from.

But this is critical information. Double down on what is working. Fix or ease off what is not working.

Marketing is a process.

Your “snapshot” should be done at least annually – ideally 2-3 times a year so that you can stay on top of shifts.

Has this article been helpful? Do you have questions? Happy to help you get your marketing sorted and on track.

Eleven Things “The Princess Bride” can teach you about business

When it comes to growing your business, “The Princess Bride” is probably not the first movie that comes to mind. “The Princess Bride,” a fairy-tale about a farm boy turned pirate who rescues his childhood love from the evil prince with the help of a giant and a vengeful swordsman does not seem to be Harvard Business School case study material.

But, you might be surprised by how this film’s scrappy start to fairy-tale ending has lessons that you can apply today to YOUR business.

Here are ELEVEN lessons from “The Princess Bride”

1 – It might take you awhile to really succeed:

The Princess Bride was published in 1973. It was immediately optioned for a movie but one studio after another failed to get it made. Various directors including Richard Lester, Norman Jewison, John Boorman, Francois Truffaut – even Robert Redford – were at some point rumored to direct. Production was on and off for over 10 years until Rob Reiner bought the production rights – with a financial assist from Norman Lear, who gave Reiner his start when Lear directed Reiner in “All in the Family.”

The film was released to theatres in September 1987. It was a modest success at the box office and a critical favorite. It was not until it was released on video a year later that it began its trip to cult classic. Thirty years after its video release, The Princess Bride still attracts new audiences.

2 – You don’t need an all-star cast, but you do need talent:

The relatively low budget of the movie meant that director Rob Reiner, had to recognize undervalued, unknown talent and create a cast of future all-stars. He leveraged a great script and combined it with great casting to create a film that was greater than the sum of its parts.

“The Princess Bride” featured a cast of mostly then-unknowns including Robin Wright, Carey Elwes, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, and Wallace Shawn. The best-known cast members (Fred Savage, Billy Crystal, Peter Falk, and Carol Kane) were in cameo roles.

Cary Elwes had a few small roles when he auditioned for the role of Wesley. Reiner knew he had the Errol Flynn-good looks to pull off the role but was concerned that Elwes might not have the comedy chops. Elwes nailed the role when he pulled off a dead-on “Fat Albert” routine.

Cary Elwes as Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts

Robin Wright had a small role in a daytime soap opera at the time she was cast – and beat out nearly 500 other women who auditioned for the role including Whoopi Goldberg, Courtney Cox, and Meg Ryan.

Robin Wright as Buttercup
Mandy Patinkin as Ingio Montoya

Mandy Patinkin was known primarily to Broadway audiences – but director Rob Reiner was such a fan that he offered Patinkin any role he wanted. Patinkin chose Inigo Montoya because he had lost his father to cancer and the role reverberated with him. (Buzz Feed – 43 Inconceivable Facts about The Princess Bride)

Mandy Patinkin was known primarily to Broadway audiences – but director Rob Reiner was such a fan that he offered Patinkin any role he wanted. Patinkin chose Inigo Montoya because he had lost his father to cancer and the role reverberated with him. (Buzz Feed – 43 Inconceivable Facts about The Princess Bride)

3 – Your biggest fans will be your best viral advertising and promotion:

“The Princess Bride” became a word of mouth success because of its fans. They love to quote the film and recite parts of the dialogue back and forth. Fans argue passionately about their favorite characters and scenes. Fans convert friends who have not seen the movie into new fans.

In a nod to Internet popularity, according to director Rob Reiner, Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya) is still asked at least once a day to quote his most famous line: “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

In an interview with The New Yorker, Cary Elwes speculated that if social media had been around at the time the movie was released, it would have been a much bigger box-office hit.

4 – Fan popularity can gain you official credibility:

From its modest beginnings, it has endured to be listed on the American Film Institutes “100 Laughs,” “100 Passions,” and nominated for “100 Movie Quotes” and “10 Top 10” lists.

Fans routinely vote for The Princess Bride for a variety of awards. More fans mean more opportunities to be nominated. The owners of The Princess Bride keep their fans engaged and their fans return the favor by keeping the movie popular.

Since its release on video in 1988, approximately eight “special edition” and behind-the-scenes versions with exclusive content have been released. Short features, cast interviews, varying cover art, and games keep interest high – and fans buying new copies.

There are websites, fan clubs, YouTube videos, Facebook pages, and countless Pins and memes with The Princess Bride themes. You can buy Princess Bride t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, and chocolates. Fan engagement continues to increase.

5 – If you make it memorable, fans will want to take part. Great content (dialogue) rules:

• “As you wish.”
• “Inconceivable.”
• “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
• “Mawwiage, mawwiage is whha bwings us togewether today.”
• “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” – but only slightly less well-known is this: “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line”!”
• “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.”

What gave The Princess Bride great quote-ability? Great content. The movie is well written with unexpected turns of phrase, sharp observations, and tag lines. All the elements of great content regardless of the media.

Ask any fan, they will probably each have their own favorite scene or quote. Mine is Wallace Shawn and Carey Elwes facing off in the poison cup scene.

Cary Elwes said an Iraq war veteran’s commanding officer used to send his troops off with a wave and a hearty “Have fun storming the castle” to inject a little humor into an otherwise deadly routine.

6 – Competitors can become allies when interests align:

Carey Elwes character, The Dread Pirate Robert aka Westley and Mandy Patinkin, Inigo Montoya, start out as enemies. In one of the epic scenes of the movie, they have a three-minute sword fight. Smartly, the book and movie treats them as equally skilled and gentlemanly. No low blows or anger. When Inigo is defeated, Westley doesn’t kill him (telling him it would be like smashing a beautiful stained glass window) but knocks him unconscious and continues his mission.

When Inigo regains consciousness, he and Fezzik (Andre The Giant ) follow after Westley and rescue him from the Pit of Despair. They take the “mostly dead” Westley to the Miracle Max, the local wizard. Max has no initial incentive to help – in fact he wants to remain uninvolved. Not until he realizes that helping Westley and Indigo can defeat and humiliate the king is he willing to revive Westley.

Westley wants to rescue Buttercup. Montoya wants to find the man who killed his father. Once they realize that the people who stand in their way are teamed up, Westley and Montoya set aside their differences and work toward their separate happily ever afters.

7 – If you are passionate about your quest, others will get on board:

Inigo Montoya has wanted one thing since he was a child: to avenge his father’s death. Westley has wanted one thing since he met Buttercup: to love her forever. Regardless of the obstacles, they both single-mindedly pursued their goals. They did not let Facebook updates or binge watching Game of Thrones derail their quests.

Because of their passion, it is easier for others to follow and become part.

8 – Don’t be afraid to ask for help:

Fezzik (Andre the Giant) had no real reason to help Westley and Inigo – but as unlikely as it seemed, the member of The Brute Squad was enchanted by the romantic quest.

Miracle Max (Billy Crystal) and Valerie (Carol Kane) had no incentive to revive Westley, but they also came to believe in the power of Westley’s love for Buttercup – with the bonus of humiliating and defeating the Prince who had dismissed and humiliated Miracle Max.

9 – Hook them on the story and keep ‘em coming back for more:

What many people forget is that The Princess Bride is actually framed within a story told by a grandfather (Peter Falk in a small role) to a grandson (Fred Savage) home sick from school. The grandson is initially resistant to hearing the story, since he does not think he wants to hear a love story. The grandfather starts reading the story – and soon the grandson is hooked.

When the grandfather offers to stop reading, the grandson begs him to continue. Great storytelling wins – and keeps ‘em coming.

Going back even further to the original manuscript, the book is framed as a retelling of an older folk tale – even though it is new material.

10 – Be willing to step outside your comfort zone. You might be surprised at what is waiting:

The grandson does not want to hear the story until he does. Buttercup does not believe that Westley is still alive and jumps off a cliff, surprised to find Westley following her rolling down the hill. Inigo Montoya does not want anyone to interfere with his mission to kill the six fingered man until he realizes that he and Westley can become an even more powerful team.

As for the actors, neither Mandy Patinkin nor Cary Elweys had any experience sword fighting. They devoted themselves so thoroughly to lessons that the only stunt doubles used were for the somersaults during the fight. It would have been easy (and probably cheaper for the production insurance) if they handed the sword fight off to professionals. Both Elwes and Patinkin have said it was one of the most enjoyable parts of making the movie.

11 – You can want what you want, but you must be prepared.

Westley was a farm boy whose only skill was pleasing Buttercup when he left to seek his fortune. After being captured by pirates, Westley learned the skills that would allow him to reunite with Buttercup: sword fighting, immunity to iocane, hand to hand combat, and the ability to lead people. He became the hero who could defeat the evil enemies keeping them apart – and threatening Buttercup.

Farm boy Westley would have been killed; Dread Pirate Roberts was ready. He had spent years fighting and living the life of a pirate (and becoming immune to Iocaine…) to be ready to overcome the obstacles to win Buttercup.

Inigo Montoya was the son of a swordmaker. He was 10 years old when the six-fingered man killed his father. At 10 years old, he was no match for the older man. When Inigo finally finds and confronts the man who killed his father, he has been preparing all his life. He is an expert swordsman and fighter and can defeat the six-fingered man.

How to apply the lessons of the Princess Bride

QUESTION: How did a 30-year old fairy-tale movie about lost love, a masked pirate hero, sword fighter avenging a murder, a giant, and rodents of unusual size not just survive – but thrive? And why do fans who were not born when the movie first arrived in theatres regularly recite dialogue and attend special midnight theatre showings?

ANSWER: With a couple of not-so-magic ingredients: great content and attention to the fan base.

First: great content.

Whether you are writing a technical manual or an advertisement, your first duty is to create something that not only serves the needs of your reader/viewer, but that delivers an unforgettable experience.

Yes…your user manual should be the very best user manual that your reader has ever held in their hands.

Second: attention to your fans and audience

The fan base attention is unusual in that the fans themselves continue to promote the movie. Sure, the studio helps things along with new releases. The actors don’t avoid their association with the movie. Carey Elwes wrote a book about being on the set and toured for its release.

So…how can you use the lessons of The Princess Bride to grow your business?