Category: mars dorian

Adopting a successful pandemic mindset

pandemic mindset

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Woah, the difference a week can make.

About ten days ago, I met a client in Berlin and sealed a sweet artwork deal. We were talking about meeting up again with potential buyers.

Only a couple of days later, the government restricted movement. My home of Berlin is on lock-down.

I have canceled now all of my client meet-ups and gallery talks.

For how long? I don’t know.

The status quo has been upended, but instead of catastrophizing, we want to focus on pragmatism and a successful pandemic mindset.

The pandemic mindset to cultivate now

Even if you’re well off, people are suffering mentally and financially during the pandemic. It’s vital to think of those around you. Unfortunately, the opposite is happening too often:

Whether it’s college kids flocking to Florida’s beaches for spring break, not caring about catching Covid-19 and spreading it to others, or rich Hollywood celebrities singing songs including “imagine no possessions” from their lavish mansions…

We can all develop more empathy now, moving the mindset from “how to sell” to “how to help” …

  • Can you support the indigent people in your neighborhood?

The street where my mother lives is full of placards where presumably young and able people are offering doing groceries for elderly people. Free of charge.

  • Do you have spare cash to support the small businesses which are hurt the most?

Restaurants especially are hit the hardest. They have to let go of staff and negotiate with loan agents, suppliers and insurance companies.

As for me, I’m ordering comics and books from my local (comic) book shop because they’re equally challenged.

  • Do you buy groceries in moderation or do you excessively stock up on goods like noodles and toilet paper?

News from all around the world, including the US, report on panicked shoppers emptying shelves. I did that too but now shifted my approach.

  • If you sell digital services and products, can you offer discounts?

Software companies like Serif Affinity are creating apps for visual creatives and offer free 3-month trials and 50% discounts now. Every day, new companies offer reduced products or free services in response to the crisis.

This act can be a business calculation or a sincere desire to help.

I want to believe the latter.

Mark Schaefer suggested that we need to approach people right now as if they’re at a funeral. Everyone is suffering through loss and disoriented.

With a helpful pandemic mindset, we can move to the next step:

What works right now

Speaking events, conferences, meet-ups…every physical interaction and transaction is a no-go for now.

Which means digital is winning big time.

One’s home becomes the hub for education, entertainment and work.

In fact, the demand for streaming content is so high, the European Union industry chief has urged Netflix, Amazon Prime and Youtube to reduce their streaming quality to NOT break the Internet.

Because with so many EU countries on lockdown, hundreds of millions citizens work from home, exhausting the bandwidth.

You don’t have to be a big streaming network to benefit. Content creators and marketers are already adapting their businesses to the Corinavirus crisis:

Virtual conferences
Todd Tai’s mivision website is geared towards eye care professionals in Australia and New Zealand.Their 2020 Australian Vision Convention will now run exclusively. Even with physical medical conferences canceled, doctors want to get educated and receive training.

pandemic mindset

Isabelle Rizo

Digital consulting
Isabelle Rizo is an artist entrepreneur who shifted her public work to giving online courses and providing digital consulting. She says more entrepreneurs are booking calls and cites a need for assurance and personal feedback in these trying times.

Online entertainment & teaching
Content creators on platforms like Patreon are still doing fine, because people still want to laugh and learn. Whether it’s artists creating daily cartoons for giggles, or educators teaching you to play the Ukulele…the potential to serve is endless!

Think about which category your skill falls under–education or entertainment, and then turn that skill into a product or service that you can give away for free or a fair price.


As I was crafting this article, a quotation from a cheesy CW series called Smallville came to mind: “You’re about to face your darkest hour my son but, remember the lessons we learn from pain are the ones that make us the strongest.”

I believe this is true for us. We can use this crisis to better ourselves and serve others more than ever before, thus staying relevant. Hopefully, we grow stronger for the time when everything turns back to the new normal.

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

The post Adopting a successful pandemic mindset appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

Why you really should care and optimize for voice search now

optimize for voice search

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

As a digital content creator, I’m using my hands a lot.

Typing stories, writing articles for big marketing blogs, drawing digital artwork for myself and clients while playing games on Steam in-between.

It’s fun unless it hurts.

Hand strain is a growing issue. I know artist friends who had to quit their creative work for months because they hands need bandages and medical treatment. So to ease the strain on my hands, I’ve been outsourcing many online requests to my voice.

I don’t know about Windows users, but voice search on my iMac works pretty well on the Mojave OS and helps me find every app with ease.

And to no one’s surprise, voice search is not only a blessing for German digital artists un-straining their hands. It’s a growing global trend.

Why? A couple of observations and innovations shows us why voice is becoming more important and it’s time to optimize for voice search:

Smart tech needs your voice

I’d never put a smart speaker in my four walls, but then again, I also said I’d never disclose my credit card details on a website. Ehem.

Amazon’s Echo, Apple’s HomePod and Google’s Home are just a handful of smart speakers in the ever-increasing market. And they all use your voice search to function.

Now you might say smart speakers are still too niche to be relevant, but smartphones surely aren’t.

According to Google, 27% of the global online population is using voice search on mobile.

Back in good old 2016, it was ‘just’ 20% on the Google app, so the increase is steady.

Voice search is so freaking easy

Seriously, what’s more convenient when you’re walking down the street in the cold, looking for the nearest subway station–typing the query on the mini-keyboard or simply ‘asking’ your phone?

When the answer is just one question away, we always pick the lazy option.

Even my cousin, who didn’t use a PC until her mid-twenties, is now a zmombie (German slang for smartphone junkies), using voice search when looking for the nearest restaurant.

According to Google, searches for “near me” business have increased by 500% from 2015 to 2017. These were mostly mobile searches with variants of “can I buy” or “to buy”.

So if your business relies on local customers finding you, and you’re NOT optimizing for voice search…well, you better stop reading this post and wait until CD Walkmen become a thing again.

How to optimize for voice search:

I’m diving deeper into the topic myself. These are the current to-do’s, which keep evolving.

Using casual and ‘human’ language
Writing like you speak has been a trend in writing for years, also thanks to the explosive popularity of podcasts and services like Audible. But since voice search is basically a simple dialogue, you need to keep honing your natural language.

Targeting question keywords. This seems like a d’uh moment, but voice search obviously contains a lot of questions. If you want to know who Facebook’s current CFO is, using your keyboard, you’d probably type in: CFO Facebook

Via voice search, however, you’d say: Who is Facebook’s CFO?
So including “how, what, when, why, where” in your keywords makes sense.

Filler words should also be included in questions. They make the requests more conversational. Some filler words are “I, the, of the, on the, to, for,” etc.

Another no-brainer is to make sure your contact info, address and opening hours are up-to-date. But honestly, that counts for every business, regardless of whether they want to optimize for voice search or not.

The traditional SEO principles still apply, so you want to rank well on search engine result pages, making sure you rock your domain authority.

Speaking of which, if you want to check your domain authority, you can try Moz’s free domain SEO analysis tool.


Optimizing for voice isn’t a fad like hip social networking apps that come and go. Remember Meerkat?

Voice recognition, while still acting clunky especially if you use English as a non-native speaker like me, continues to grow. Tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple improve their algorithms to be more accurate in detecting languages and accents.

And while voice search is essential for local businesses, I still don’t know how it’s going to convert into sales if you’re a global content creator like me. But hey, we’ll see.

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

The post Why you really should care and optimize for voice search now appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

What online marketers can learn from creating empathy in the sales process

creating empathy

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Selling your ‘stuff’ in person is hard, hard work … especially when your product is an artwork and thus highly subjective in value.

But during the last months, I’ve learned tons about the process, which is helping sales for me and my artist peers. I’ve learned the value of embedding empathy in the sales process.

Below, I want to share three examples of closing sales that have taught me to be a better marketer online:

Use the the ‘two drawers’ mentality

Vera F. Birkenbihl, the late German entrepreneur and productivity coach, once introduced the two drawer analogy in her books. It’s a simple mental model where you put every statement of a business talk into two mental drawers:

  • What’s in it for them
  • What’s in it for you

This simple model works incredibly well, whether you’re buying or selling.

For example, if someone wants to sell a product to you, you use the two drawer model to determine how many of his sales arguments benefit him or you. The best deal then benefits both parties equally.

I used the same model to seal an artwork sale for a close friend.

A client wanted to buy one of her artworks worth a couple of thousand euros. He claimed the price was too high, and that he would definitely buy the work at a discount.

My artist friend soooo wanted the sale, but desperation is a deal killer.

Now, what to do?

If you discount your work, you risk reducing your artistic value, conditioning your customer to bargain and never accept the price you’ve set for yourself.

But if you straight-up deny your client’s request, you can easily lose the sale.

I used the two drawer mentality:

  • What does the client want: Making sure the artwork is affordable
  • What does the artist want: Selling the artwork for the full price

The solution was dead simple: Allow the client to buy the artwork in installments over a couple of months.

This way, he was easily able to afford it while my artist friend received the full sum without discounting her value.

Foster genuine customer care

I’m just about to finish my first art catalog, featuring the best 32 pieces of my work.

It’s an expensive venture, especially if you want thick and premium paper and vibrant colors.

So I was looking for a printing company in Berlin and checked many outlets offering competitive prices. I picked one company that an artist friend had recommended and promptly showed up at their Berlin HQ to pick up samples.

Unannounced, by the way.

One of the office workers quickly approached me, looking like a Berlin hipster including a lumberjack’s beard and skater cap.

I thought he was going to ask if I was lost but instead inquired about my project.

He generously shared valuable tips, including which paper format to pick and what kind of binding I should use and answered every question without being PUSHY or urging me to close the sale.

We ended up talking for almost 40 minutes before I left their little office with a couple of sample prints and brochures and a hurting head full of info.

Back at home, I thought: What a great little company, taking so much time to explain their stuff.

But after filling out my printing order online, I discovered that they were one of the BIGGEST printing companies in Berlin, which wowed my mind.

A giant company with the care and friendliness of a small, local biz.

It proves one of Mark Schaefer’s core statements that the most human company wins.

Supporting your client’s story

Selling artwork in person is hard work. I’ve learned the bitter lesson when I single-handedly screwed up a near-hit sale.

Here’s what happened:

During my last exhibition at a former military horse barn, a woman approached me with a glass of wine, raving about a particular artwork of a slob:

She explained her interpretation of the guy, involving a heavy political message which I hadn’t intended.

Being truthful, I quickly revealed my own intention behind the work, which contradicted her ‘story’.

You should have seen the gravity pulling at her face.

The conversation died in fewer than 30 seconds. Her smile vanished as my story obviously didn’t grab her as much as her own. She excused herself and shortly afterward, left the exhibition in her shiny Benz.

Lesson: When a potential client explains their reason for liking your work, don’t contradict them. Their interpretation and reasons trump yours. Adapt your approach instead, using empathy to seal the deal with their story.


If I were to find a common denominator of all three examples, it would be to develop empathy in the sales process.

Not just understanding what the client is saying but seeing the world from their eyes, showering them with so much value that they deem your product valuable without you have to be pushy.

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

The post What online marketers can learn from creating empathy in the sales process appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

How to be business cool while networking at a social event

networking at a social event

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Last week I attended a secret Christmas artist party on the distant outskirts of Berlin. The invite-only event was located in a garden colony, inside a former workshop for heavy machinery. The event was a Who’s Who of Berlin’s fine artists.

I went to the event for three reasons:

  • The organizer was a sculptor with whom I had co-exhibited two months earlier
  • I was hungry like hell and knew the event would feature a giant buffet
  • I wanted to meet previous customers of my art and hook potential buyers

This was a great opportunity to do some networking at a social event — but how to remain cool and appropriate while doing it? I’ll let you know how it went for me and share my lessons. 

By the way, this post features a dynamite-equipped Santa Claus so do read on…

A sample is worth a hundred sentences

Guests at social events, even art parties, are not interested in hour-long conversations. They want to talk to many other people so you want to hook them ASAP. And samples are the grappling hook snapping instant attention.

In my case, being a cartoonist, I always flip open my Instagram feed which acts as my art portfolio.

So in the main hall of the art party, I showed a real estate guy all my artworks tagged with Berlin keywords while explaining the thoughts behind each creation.

I’ve also seen a sculptor carrying an art catalog with his recent work. Every time he showed his cartoonish horse and people figures, he pulled a small crowd. He would have never enticed folks by just talking about his creations.

But you don’t have to be a visual creator to hook folks at a social networking event.

Two years ago, I attended a freelance networking event in Berlin.

There, a translator carried a small flipbook which featured bite-sized English and German samples of his work. And since he specialized in translating works dealing with sustainability and social enterprise, his flipbook and logo were dark green, printed on recycled paper.

What a great idea to hook folks at an event while staying true to your brand!

Bypass their auto-pilot mode

You probably have witnessed it countless times:

Two strangers at a social networking event try to small talk. To break the awkward silence, they unleash the dreaded “so what do you do” question.


It’s the quintessential generic question and thus triggers generic responses. They are often low-energy, and try building engagement with low-energy exchanges.

You want to engage the other person by triggering their expertise and passion.

When I learned about the real estate guy constructing private flats in Berlin, I didn’t ask him any generic follow-up questions.

Instead, I wanted to know what he thought of the government’s new rent regulation laws which dramatically impacts how real estate works in the capital.

Within seconds, the guy ranted with passion, calling out specific politicians, explaining how this or that regulation was blowing up prices per square meter and complicated his business.

After his rant was over and rapport was established, he focused 98% on me.

Listen, it’s not the BEST idea to make your conversation partner rant. But a specific question aimed at their passion and expertise is so much better than lame questions they probably answer a dozen times at the same event.

You want to elevate them from a low-energy to a high-energy state so engagement can happen.

Bridging gaps when interests are opposite

During the initial phase of the conversation with the real estate guy, I realized he carried no interest in a cartoon or comic art, which was my flaming passion.

Bummer? Nah.

After having learned about his passion for urban planning, Berlin and its history, I knew I could reframe my art, making it more tasty to him.

I told him about my style which I dubbed Urban Cartoon Art, and how my characters were manifestations of the city:

  • Hipster Unicorns, partying in the infamous Berghain club
  • start-up yuppies wearing smart clothes spammed with social media ads
  • pensive street artists with elven ears, ruminating about life

All these creations were inspired by Berlin’s city vibes, which piqued the real estate guy’s interest. I also told him about my last exhibition inside a hall that used to be a military horse ban during the German Empire era.

Soon, the real estate guy started asking me specific questions about style and ideas. After fifteen or twenty minutes of passionate talking, he even ended up buying a limited art print he saw on my Instagram feed.



Small-talk at social and networking events can be a treasure hunt. By showing samples of your work, asking specific, expertise-related questions and linking them to your offer, you can make great connections and deals happen.

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

The post How to be business cool while networking at a social event appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

3 Ideas to realign your attitude and make freelancing work


By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

I faced a terrible burnout about a year ago. I had obsessed with my work, neglecting friends, family and my health. By working all night and ignoring life, I wasn’t getting much done.

After a decade of digital freelancing, and a dark night of the soul, I changed the way I work online. I had to fundamentally realign my attitude, becoming more humble, nicer, and more appreciative of my time with real human beings.

I want to be open and share my biggest personal lessons from this difficult time. Perhaps they will inspire you to become a better AND healthier freelancer.

1) Mix digital with local

Five years ago, and I would have PROUDLY proclaimed: Screw the offline world. You can get all the work you need from the internet.

(Insert younger and foolish ‘me’ flipping off the physical world).

Then I discovered the downside of my digital-only freelancer existence.

freelancingThe online economic system is built to disadvantage gig economy entrepreneurs like me. The most popular way for my U.S. clients to pay is Paypal, which consumes your profit with hidden fees. The company charges a transaction fee, an international fee, and a currency exchange fee where they even pick a bad exchange rate that’s not up-to-date.

Every time my healthy US selling price shrunk into its final Paypal form, my heart twitched.

However, with my IRL clients and artwork sales, I get paid in my local currency, sometimes even in cash on the spot. Working offline is like getting a raise.

The second downside of a digital-only is loneliness.

Allowing pixels to glow at your eyeballs for eight hours or more just isn’t healthy. Especially not when you’re working from home, where it’s you versus your four walls.

You’re surrounded by things, not people. Online video calls help you connect with folks you can’t physically meet, but nothing, NOTHING, beats human-to-human interactions.

This hit me hard during my art exhibition opening where dozens of folks, including clients, talked to me about my art and my plans IN PERSON. They asked for more samples and potential collaborations.

Since then, I’ve been working on two bigger projects involving traveling and collaborating with my carbon-based familiars.

The mix matters.


2) Kindness matters even more

Back in my early online days, I acted like a snarky gremlin at times.


freelancing gremlin

When a client took too long to reply or didn’t pay me on time, I shot back with passive-aggressive remarks.

And it’s so easy when you’re separated by screens, perhaps even thousands of kilometers apart from each other.

I thought I was expressing confidence, taking crap from no one, but I was just immature. After a decade of working online, I’ve become a part-time diplomat.

When your goals depend on other people — which is almost always the case — kindness gets you the best results. I don’t know anyone who likes working with, or for, a bully.

Mark Schaefer wrote a powerful post about whether to take a stand or be likable. I think it’s true –controversial people attract immediate attention and sometimes get quicker results, but they burn their bridges. Adios, future collaborations.

So how do you deal with “difficult” clients?

A creative peer of mine coined the term “friendly forward.” It means you reply swiftly and get to the point while always staying friendly. Because you never know what the person on the other side of the screen is dealing with.

So whenever a customer is not paying you on time, or not replying, or writing in a way that triggers you — assume nothing, because you don’t know.

Write again, get to the point; the friendly forward way.

3) Gaiman’s freelancing laws apply

I’ve recently bought a little inspiring book Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World by the famous comic and fantasy novel writer Neil Gaiman. He shared his three principles on how freelancers keep getting work:

  • Their work is good
  • They’re easy to work with
  • They deliver the work on time

Neil also states that if you fulfill only two of three principles, you will still get work.

So clients can overlook your unpleasantness if your work is good and delivered on time.

They can forgive your lateness if you’re likable and your work is good.

And you don’t have to be as good as your competition if your work arrives on time and you’re a pleasure to work with.

Speaking from personal experience, points two and three matter a lot. If clients can rely on you AND like you, they keep coming back.


I feel healthier and more aligned with friends and family since changing my mindset and tactics. Online freelancing is a rich ride if you know how to compensate for the downsides.

What’s a healthy tip that you can share as a digital freelancer?

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

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