One of favorite conversations with brands is the one around table stakes.
By the way, hi. We’re Spirit Animal – and we nerd out over messaging.
If you’re not familiar with the phrase “table stake”, then you’re probably not familiar with poker. A table stake is the lowest barrier to entry. In business, it’s kind of like the “no-duh” aspects of what your customers expect from your brand, product, or service.
Following? Cool. So, this one’s for free. Stop leading with table stake messaging as if it’s any sort of differentiator.
As a marketing agency, we often see brands communicating table stakes like these:
What your potential customers want to know is, like really, how are you different? If you’re not sure where to start, here are few places to explore:
See where we’re going here?
Now, messaging is more than your differentiator. It’s your brand promise. Your elevator pitch. Your pillars. Your reasons to believe... (We’ll nerd out on those, later.) And all of things have a place – in hierarchy, on your website, in your marketing and sales enablement.
A lot of brands need help here, and if you’re one of them, that’s okay. Really. What’s not okay is if you shrug it off and don’t tackle your messaging problems head on. If you have the resources to get clear on this stuff internally, throw some time on your team’s calendar to do a quick messaging audit. Hold yourselves to higher standards and commit to test and learn what truly resonates. Create a strategy for how you’ll optimize your website, marketing, and sales materials to begin working harder for you.
If you can’t do all of those things in-house, that’s what companies like us are here for. One of our favorite things to do with brands is offer them a free messaging audit. We bring subjective and objective feedback to the table – and can work together to create a roadmap for how to optimize your messaging in a measurable way.
Want to take us up on that? Email our business development dude, Matthew – and he’ll get the audit started.
Oh, and want to know what makes us different? Here are some things we’re currently testing right now:
But don't take our word for it. Here's what some of our clients had to say:
In this episode, we define what a unicorn is and why we're building a boutique agency full of them. With the workforce trending towards independent contractors, we're collecting the best ones in the world and setting them free to bring their full selves to work – skill sets, experiences, and personalities. But first, we talk about mullets.
Okay, let us first set expectations that this is not a fun internet quiz. It's a chance for us to tell you – really quick – where we got our name from.
You know that feeling when someone just gets you? And you get them? And before you know it, you're finishing each other's sandwiches?
Our company is built upon that – the core belief that if you can have Spirit Animals in real life, then you should be able to have them in business, too.
Why? It's simple.
1/3 of our lives are spent at work. Let that sink in.
Seriously. Life is too precious to squander it by doing work you don't want to be doing with people you don't want to be doing it with. So why not work with some of the most talented, fun humans on the planet?
As a result, we LOVE our clients and we LOVE our contractors – er, Unicorns. We have hard conversations together, celebrate epic successes together, learn lessons together, and feel like we're truly in everything together. We've all experienced companies saying, "We're unique b/c we operate like a real partner..." so we get it if you're tempted to roll your eyes and say, "Heard that one before."
Because, we had too. We just didn't give up on it.
There are startup unicorns and there are individual human unicorns. Both are called unicorns because they're extremely rare – and thus, incredibly valuable. A startup earns the term "unicorn" when it gets a valuation of 1 billion dollars. A human earns the term when they rock at so many things, it feels impossible to give them a title or discipline that accurate portrays what they do and doesn't put them in a box.
Today, we're talking about people unicorns, and what we've learned by building our entire company around them.
How to spot a unicorn
If you've ever met someone and thought, "Dang, is there anything they can't do?" – you may have found yourself a unicorn. Their insatiable curiosity and heightened sense of confidence, oftentimes, compels them to learn by doing. You may have heard them referred to as "generalists" vs. "specialists. This is because they generally master a volume of things as opposed to going really deep into one thing.
You can't put a unicorn in a box
We get it. Job titles help bring clarity. But when they become firm boundaries that prevent a unicorn from adding value, tension is certain to arise. That's why we recommend finding outlets for unicorns. Brainstorms, internal reviews, and invites to hear challenges straight from the client's mouth is a good place to start.
If you're someone who likes rules and ensuring that people stick to the rules, unicorns might be challenging, at times, for you. Unicorns have a hard time holding back if they see an opportunity to add value, even if it's outside of their role. So, if you find yourself thinking, "Why can't this person stay in their own lane," or "Why are they bringing this up, this isn't their responsibility," you might want to ask yourself, "Am I dealing with a unicorn, or just an asshole?" We say that only partially in jest -- because, you may be misunderstanding their intentions, which can create unnecessary friction on a team.
Unicorns are the startup's secret weapon
Early stage startups typically don't have the resources to hire a huge team of people to cleanly divide the work. So, they look for unicorns – the ones who can blur past boundaries to get the work done, fast.
This may look like someone who can do UX, UI, and code. Or maybe someone who's strategic, client-facing, and creative. You get the point.
What larger, more established companies hire three or five people to do, a unicorn may have the capabilities and experience to do it all. With this approach, you'll often find shorter timelines, lower costs, and a heightened sense of ownership. Who can argue with that?
Unicorns can be hard to keep
Why? Because they like solving new challenges. So, unless your company is bringing different opportunities their way, it might be wise to enjoy them while they last. We knew this would be a problem to solve when we built our business model around teams of unicorns. Here are a few tips, we've learned, on how to keep a unicorn engaged and excited about the work:
Unicorns are magical
Our agency model is 100% contractor-based, which allows us to build custom teams of unicorns based upon unique client needs. That means, when an opportunity comes our way, we don't start where most agencies do: "We'll need a creative director, a strategic planner, an account exec, three designers, two copywriters..."Instead, we say, "Oooh, we need a Chris, an Ethan, and an Emilee." This is our favorite thing to do in the world, and we've seen a ton of success doing it this way.
Not only does the client feel excited about their curated team, the individuals themselves feel even more bought in from the beginning. After all, we picked them for a reason. This is why we say " we deploy people, we don't employ them."
Are you a unicorn? Do you know one? Tell us more.
Want more information about Spirit Animal? Reach out.
It's an idea stolen from tech, rooted in the practice that collaboration is crucial and perfection is not the goal. Together, the agency and the client runs fast and hard (hence, the sprint). The creative process is iterative. And the goal is to create something that is good enough to give you data. (We call this an MVP or minimum viable product.
We've applied this methodology to content.
We're celebrating over here at Spirit Animal because we just sprinted with a health care brand, resulting in 70 assets in 2 months:
How'd we do it? We created an infographic to help break it down for you.