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Consider Your Audience

consider your audience

Why do most marketing, communications, and sales pitches fail?

They lack connection to the audience. Sellers try to stay in control of the conversation and present what they think are the most compelling reasons to buy. Often it is the same reasons to every audience.

Before my sales career began; I spent a couple years as a professional buyer for advertising agencies. Here, I got to interview hundreds of sales people from lots of different industries and had my fair share of industry leaders feed me empty promises about their best practices, highest quality standards, and their list of past clients.

Most of these presentations left me with an overall feeling of blah and overwhelming un-interest.

As I transitioned into a sales role; I was fortunate enough to have mentor take me under her wing. She told me,

One of the most important aspects of sales is to get genuine interest. Take some time to get to know somebody and their situation. Ask them questions that keep the dialogue going, and pay attention.

Like that phrase suggests, we as sellers must first pay your attention to our audience before asking them to give us their attention. Take a few moments to review the social profiles of key audience members and cater your message in concepts most relevant to them.

This is just as easy when you are presenting to a group of 10-20 as it is to a group of 600+. Know who they are and what interests them, and speak from that point.

This worked incredibly well and helped me build my sales territory quickly, and in a way that would actually help buffer the high turnover of clients, their employees, and a diverse product offering. Rather than being focused on earning my commissions, I was focused on earning respect. Commissions were part the process; as were a number of good friends.

As our lives become increasingly interconnected, this will continue to be increasingly more powerful as our connection and sense of purpose will serve as filters for where we choose to invest our time, talent, and money.

The Power Of Connectivity

Connectivity

It’s one thing to be connected to the Internet. This connection enriches our experiences working, playing, shopping, sharing, and communicating.

It’s another thing to be connected to another human being. This connection enriches our entire lives and brings an entirely new meaning to the concept of sharing.

Both of these connections are pretty insignificant when compared to the power of connecting people to ideas. THIS type of connection actually changes people’s lives! This connection is what makes new millionaires, teachers, doctors, and all manner of rock-stars. It is in connecting people with ideas that our passions are ignited. This releases dormant energies and capacities we didn’t even know exist.

Improving any of these connections will lead to business growth opportunities, and it is pretty easy to imagine which one will make the most impact. As you might expect; the most powerful connection is between people and ideas – perhaps because it cannot be regulated, enforced, or demanded.

There are two tools that help connect people with ideas while allowing them to benefit your business. They are Purpose and Vision.

Your PURPOSE is your why – the fundamental reason for operations to exist. Get clear as to what this is and share it with others in simple language. Doing this will connect to people (customers, vendors, partners, employees, etc) on an emotional level and help them not only understand your motives; but to actively support them as well.

Your VISION is your depiction of the future you hope to create – it helps direct the collective ideas and efforts of people. It creates excitement and motion that inspires new ideas while providing a framework for their expression.

The businesses that excel in the 21st Century are the ones who master this type of connection and openly communicate and follow their purpose and vision. When these become the priority, loyal customers, raving fans of all sorts, and substantial profits will follow – along with amazing new technologies, patentable innovations, and amazing new products.

 

 

Blazing New Trails

Teamwork means going together

“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”

People are the key to a 21st Century business. They are not a mere resource that needs to be managed. They are the most valuable asset to an organization and the driving force behind growing businesses. The job of an entrepreneur or leader is to build systems, opportunities, and situations that allow your people to contribute their best to you and be an active part of your journey.

Here are four categories to help focus and align operations with your Compelling Purpose to effectively grow over the coming decades.

Talent 
Think of talents as the recurring thoughts, feelings, or behaviors each of us have and choose to apply. While we are born with these tendencies; they absolutely grow with us throughout our lives and careers.

Our talents need different types of scenarios and situations to show their value. This makes it simple to understand how when we engage in tasks that fit within our specific talents, we are energized. And when we engage in tasks that do not fit within our talents, we are drained.

21st Century businesses will shift from seeking people with ‘proper experience’ to do a range of tasks; to finding people with ‘ideal talents’ who will be energized by the tasks you need done. It is already happening as the trends of outsourcing, or temporary contracting.

Collaboration
We define collaboration as the process of working together to achieve mutually agreed best results. It is not about negotiation where sides concede aspects of their desired outcome. It is about working together to create something better than anyone could have done by himself or herself.

The idea of collaboration is only possible within the framework of one shared purpose, vision, and language. It is further made easy with an understanding of each other’s talents, and the fact that everyone has value to contribute. In collaboration, each individual’s strengths are seen as ‘opportunities to contribute to others’ while weaknesses are ‘opportunities for others to contribute‘. Collaboration allows each participant to contribute his or her strengths for the betterment of the organization.

21st Century businesses need to not only master the art of collaboration, but be able to do so across distance, time, various media, and through complex combinations of roles and positions.

Relationship With Conflict
The complexity and pressure of collaboration will often bring about differing or opposing ideas, opinions, and expectations known as conflict. This is something to be embraced rather than avoided. It is in collaborating through the very conflict that we get the most powerful ideas and solutions.

21st Century businesses will discover ways to leverage conflict in positive ways wherever it happens; be it external, internal, or even away from the office.

Celebrations
As soon as you implement systems that create adequate fuel for talent and collaborate together through a healthy relationship with conflict; great things are bound to happen! Responding precisely to these successes in the right way, at the right time, and for the right reason will actually build the momentum towards bigger and better successes.

Keep in mind that individuals are motivated differently than they are satisfied. Quite often something that highly motivates one person might hardly satisfy (or even de-motivate) others. More importantly, motivation is of little impact when people are not yet fully satisfied.

21st Century businesses need to devise systems to assure that celebrations are done in ways that honor, satisfy, and motivate both individuals and groups to continue contributing their talents and ideas.

 

For as much emphasis we have on ‘fast-growth’ companies; starting a business is about traveling a long distance. It is NOT a journey to be taken solo! The advantages of teamwork have been around for centuries and that they will continue to be relevant for centuries to come.

Your business venture will directly benefit from the encouragement, protection, sharing of tasks/labor, diverse areas of expertise, and more that are contributed by the people you invite to join your endeavor.

How are you working with the dynamic contributions of your team?

 

 

* * * * *
david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a
consulting firm focused on helping owners and entrepreneurs through
a holistic approach to building organizations that meet the needs
of the 21st Century business environments.
Follow, like, comment, & share his postings here or on twitter (
@drfrick)

A Foundation for 21st Century Business

pisa-tower-landscape-business-foundationWhether we are ready to admit it or not; the way we do business today is different than it was 10, 5, even just 3 years ago.

  • Buyers either seem to care about different things or care about things in a different degree.
  • There are more competitors offering highly similar products and services.
  • Consumers have an almost insatiable desire for information.

Rather than hopping from one fad to the next, merely chasing the latest ‘breakthrough technique’; there is a way to build both stability AND a flexibility for growth.

The construction industry offers a simple analogy in a foundation. For centuries, we have understood that digging into the solid earth or rock was the way to build bigger, taller, more massive structures that can stand the test of time.

To thrive and grow in today’s marketplace; businesses need to dig down below the surface until they find a stable, consistent, supportive foundation that will allow them to build higher than ever before.

The foundation for business should consist of purpose, vision, and culture.

Compelling Purpose
The purpose of your business must be simple and compelling. Not just to customers, but also to employees, partners, and strategic vendors. Today’s consumers respond less to manipulations and gimmicks like “New and Improved”. They want to know what your company represents, what you deliver, and how your company or products will improve their lives.

Your purpose does not, however, have anything to do with your customers or competitors (how you serve, innovate products, or otherwise out-perform). It must be substantial enough to stand on its own.

Once refined; your purpose will connect deeply with people on an emotional level and will literally become a beacon that attracts passionate customers, top talent, and even enthusiastic funding sources to your organization.

Vivid Vision
The vision of your company is not just a plaque on the wall (no one reads it anyway). It is a clear and inspiring description of a specific point in the future that your company is headed – a beautiful destination or bold accomplishment.

This vision is to be shared openly and often so that everyone associated with the organization knows exactly where it is heading, if it is on-track, and how to help us get there. While the purpose is a beacon that attracts; vision is a specific direction to which all the attracted energies will be directed.

Culture
Culture is about aligning internal communications, systems, leadership, etc. to support the claims we make in the marketplace. There is a plethora of review sites where employees, former employees, and consumers can publically rate a company and share their insights/experiences about how consistent a company is.

No longer can companies rely on slick sales materials or catchy campaign slogans to persuade consumers to buy. Potential customers and employees alike consider these highly valuable; putting incredible pressures on company culture. Consumers want products that actually make their lives easier. Employees want trustworthy partners that truly respect and appreciate their talents.

How stable is your business foundation? Will it crumble or shift under the weight of your future growth?

How to Achieve 2x, 5x, 10x Growth

Everyone in business wants to grow! Some might see 20% or 30% as effective growth. Others might set their sights on 50% or over 75% growth. But from the viewpoint of earning a return on your investment (time, money, energy, talent, or any other resource), these are pretty paltry.

Most businesses need to double their revenues at least once or twice before owners/investors can begin to relax about having enough cash flow and worthwhile budgets to accomplish the things they wanted to when they first began.

Working ‘a little harder’ will bring a little incremental growth. Working ‘a lot harder’ brings more growth; but it is still incremental – not transformational. In order to achieve 2x, 5x, 10x and more growth, you need to change the way you think, act, lead, and engage with others.

transformational growth

Exponential growth is compounding acceleration!

Here are 8 steps that WILL bring about transformative growth.

1. Decide the following:
THAT you want it! Decide that you deserve it as well as why you want it in the first place.

Decide what you are willing to invest/change to achieve it (hint: The vast majority of your current systems and habits will not make the transformation).

Detail the things that ignite your passions, creativities, and curiosities?

2. Write it down in clear, specific language.
Work with these ideas until you have refined them in simple terms or concepts that you can explain them to others. It will never be perfect, the beauty is in their continuous evolution.

Each of these notions will come with their fair share of fears, considerations, and roadblocks. Write those down clearly as well. Only once we admit and understand them can we deal with them and see ways to overcome them.

Write in terms that are important to YOU. Then write it in terms that are important to others (ideal audiences). I like to end my dreams and desires with “… or something better”.

3. Share your dreams, desires, and goals with others  with everybody!
It is not an ‘elevator pitch’ or a request for money or support. Say it like your 6yr old niece says she is going to be an astronaut or firefighter – with sincerity and conviction as if nothing will stand in her way.

Some will listen, offer to help, want to join, while others will offer some form of accountability. You should know that the majority of people will either ignore you or laugh at your idea. You’re not likely to win them over with further explanations; but those new explanations are perfect for someone else.

Accept help along your journey – from those you already know, from new friends/associates, as well as from total strangers. There is no limit to the diversity of ways help will be offered. The most important thing to remember is that it is not possible to do everything by yourself.

4. Act daily towards your dreams and desires.
Meditation is an action. Thinking, pondering and planning are too; as are writing, talking, sharing, and engaging.

Don’t just take action. Take chances, gambles, guesses, and numerous half-brained attempts without fear. Keep diligent notes on your results and what you learn from such action.

5. Learn what you don’t know.
You don’t need to be an expert, but it is crucial to know enough to ask worthwhile questions and call someone out on BS. Money, finances, legal, accounting, sales, marketing, and leadership can each be boiled down into basic fundamentals anyone can understand and follow.

While you focus most of your time on your preferred subject areas; do dedicate some time to learn about other areas of business. There are thousands of books, blogs, webinars that can help you build your knowledge base with very little investment in time or money. Your local branch of public library is often an under-utilized resource.

6. Celebrate often!
Celebrations build confidence and momentum within yourself and your teams. Having lots of little celebrations as well as major celebrations helps keep you and your team focused on growing.

Catch others doing great stuff; even if it is approximately great. Share successes with those who helped you earn it. Thanks and gratitude can be expressed in millions of different ways. Practicing them will continue to keep you and your people engaged.

7. Track your progress.
Some things are best measured daily, weekly, monthly, or annually while others are best over period of 5 or more years. Dedicate yourself to a 20-year journey with lots of milestones. This journey will be filled with challenges and victories.

Challenges are overcome by momentum, education, and sheer determination. Documenting and tracking such progress helps provide insights and physically shows your momentum

8. Help others along their journey.
Share information and experiences or volunteer to speak with kids in school. Invest time and/or money into new ideas whenever you can to help someone else avoid or accelerate through the same challenges that slowed you earlier.

Every day is not only a chance to learn something new; but to help someone else learn as well.

 

As you can see, business growth isn’t difficult per se. There is no such thing as magic pixie dust that makes it happen. It is the result of simple things done with daily discipline.

I encourage you to like, comment, re-post, or otherwise share this with others. This helps me fulfill my purpose to Build value. Build people. And Build business.

 

 

* * * * * * *

david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a consulting firm focused on helping owners and entrepreneurs build transformational growth and
helping companies meet the demands of contemporary business environments. 

He regularly writes about leadership, success,and integrating marketing with sales.
Follow, connect, comment, and share if you like what you read.

The Power Of Systems In Marketing

Contrary to beliefs throughout the industrial age; marketing and sales are not interchangeable words. Independently, they seem to be infinitely complex and divergent, but when blended together properly they blend create powerful synergies.

Described separately and in overly-simplified terms;
‘Sales’ is about creating and maintaining a relationship that results in a transaction. ‘Marketing’ is about the communications that help give value to the relationship.

Borrowing one of the most powerful tools known to man;

Marketing is to sales what a pulley is to lifting. It doesn’t do the work necessarily, but it makes the work easier AND more effective.

single pulleyLet’s explore how pulleys work for a brief moment. They help you reverse the direction of your lifting force – to lift a weight up; you pull down.
Now let’s say that the weight we are lifting represents the increase of revenue through a salesperson. In this image we can see how using one pulley makes the job possible, and there is a direct connection between effort and result. Improvements in techniques (building strength, active encouragement, performance rewards, and the like) will get incrementally improved results.

 

Adding members to the team (all doing similar work) will generate more revenues as well. However as dictated by the laws of physics, there is only an additive impact on outputs – the force of effort is perfectly balanced by the results it can produce.

When we invest into building a system of connected pulleys (known as a block and tackle), one person can produce what 2, 4, or 10+ people could with a simple system. There is a multiplier effect, not just one of addition

pulley systemIn physics we refer to this as the mechanical advantage of the system. For thousands of years we have been developing practical applications of getting multiplied results from comparatively little effort. In business there are far more variables that are more challenging to measure, but there is an undeniable parallel.

The more integrated we make our sales and marketing systems; the more effective we can become at generating revenues.

Think of flyers, brochures and print materials as one pulley; media advertising as another; social media and engagement; Website; digital media and outlets; CRM and content engagement; sponsorships; distribution channels; advocates and loyal customers; public relations, and so on. They are simply additional pulleys that help magnify the results of your invested energy.

It is critical that business leaders understand that none these tools (independently) are as powerful as several (why not all) of them together. Rather than just putting your head down and getting to work; it helps to design a system that makes better use of the work you can do.

What is really amazing is what you can do when you lead a team of people to use and design ideal systems! THAT is the key to transformational growth!!

 

* * * * *

david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a consulting firm focused on helping
owners and entrepreneurs through a holistic approach to transformational growth and
helping companies meet the demands of contemporary business environments. 

He regularly writes about leadership, success, and integrating marketing with sales.
Follow, connect, comment, and share if you like what you read.

Leadership in the 21st Century

21Cent Leader

The summer I turned 13; I attended my first formal leadership training workshop. I was hooked!

I have served hundreds of leadership positions in the 25 years since that weekend – formal, informal, elected, appointed, volunteered, etc. Some were for pay while others were just necessary. Some were as brief as 10 minutes; while others lasted 10+ years. The size, shape, and purpose of those I lead have been so varied that I can hardly comprehend it myself.

Throughout my entire journey; I continue to learn and explore ways of being the kind of leader that I want to be as well as the kind of leader people want to follow.

While there are hundreds of thousands of books on leadership skills and techniques; the art of leadership seems to be getting increasingly more rare. This is especially challenging as we delve deeper into the 21st Century where technology gives us more options for selecting how, where, and most importantly, WHO to follow.

Anything similar to a ‘command-and-control’ model is as contemporary as a computer running MS-DOS. Today’s leadership is about collaboration and open communication. Notions of just one supreme Leader are quickly fading into irrelevance, as they do not work well with growing trends of remote and distant workers or the Millenial generation that are now beyond starting professional careers.

Contemporary businesses operate with LOTS of leaders who have knowledge, experience, and the ability to make critical decisions about processes that affect them.

To qualify as a leader, you must be doing something or going somewhere new. (The new thing doesn’t need to be extreme or bold – a faster process, different design, developing additional features, etc.) No significant leadership skills are required to stay within well-established boundaries.

Leadership takes vision and imagination to see something different than anyone else does – something that doesn’t yet exist. It takes courage and conviction to push beyond the fear of risk and speak out from the status quo so that others might join with you. It takes passion and dedication to push through the rejection of doubters content with sameness. It takes love and listening to connect with those who do join you and want to contribute their skills.

That might seem like a tall order at first. But one thing leadership does NOT need is a lot of people or policies. I am continuously amazed at how much a handful or two of connected leaders can change the world. In fact, leaders like this that are the only ones who DO change the world – one person at a time.

A version of this Ancient Chinese Leadership Poem has been with me for over 2 decades and continues to serve as a powerful reminder that everyone can be a leader.


Go to the people. Live among the people. Learn from them.
Love them
Start with what they know. Build on what they have.
But of the BEST leaders; when their task is complete and their work is done…
The people will say we have done it ourselves!

Who will you lead today?

 

* * * * *

david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a consulting firm focused on helping owners and entrepreneurs through a holistic approach to building sustainably-growing companies that meet the needs of contemporary business environments. 

Follow, connect, comment, and share if you like what you read.
Conversations are welcomed and appreciated, but not invoiced.

Profit is not an indication of Growth

Engage for Growth

Profits are great! And quite easy to figure out. They are simply the monetary surplus left to a producer after deducting all expenses (wages, materials, rent, etc.) from the total income or revenues. This can be calculated per transaction about as easy as it can be for a given time frame (month, quarter, year).

While this is an important measurement for business professionals to be concerned; it is certainly not the only one. Nor it is the most effective.

When profits are the focus; managers are often pressured towards making decisions to lower expenses. Cutting or off-shoring labor; systematically removing non-vital parts; seeking alternative material suppliers; and the like are common manipulations of those seeking only profits. While these strategies do indeed have short-term results; they often come at the expense of long-term growth.

Growth is an entirely different thing. It is about increasing size or scope, expanding, improving, or progressing. Growth often comes after investments of time, labor, attention, and/or learning. Rather than a straightforward calculation, it is a comparison from where we are today versus where we were – like marks on a doorframe to reflect a child’s change in height. Because it can be applied to nearly everything (not just business); it seems to be a natural measurement of change.

Both the Gallup Organization and Aon Hewitt regularly conduct and compile research that overwhelmingly connects employee engagement to both business growth AND profitability.

One Aon Hewitt report examines employee engagement for companies experiencing double-digit growth (DDG) versus Single-digit Growth (SDG).

“double-digit growth is about execution: getting the right people doing the right things to manage a portfolio of separate, clear, and achievable growth strategies.”

In 2012, Gallup conducted its eighth meta-analysis on the Q12 using 263 research studies across 192 organizations in 49 industries and 34 countries. Within each study, Gallup researchers statistically calculated the work-unit-level relationship between employee engagement and performance outcomes that the organization supplied. Researchers studied 49,928 work units, including nearly 1.4 million employees.

This study confirmed that:

“Employee engagement continues to be an important predictor of company performance even in a tough economy.”

The difference in performance between engaged and actively-disengaged business/work units revealed:

  • 10% increase in Customer Ratings
  • 21% increase in Productivity
  • 22% increase in Profitability
  • 49% decrease in Safety Accidents
  • 28% decrease in Shrinkage
  • 37% decrease in Absenteeism

There will always be doubters; bit I think this makes it pretty clear that through developing and building a culture of engagement, businesses experience more growth in revenue, and do so at higher profit margins.

 

* * * * *

david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a consulting firm focused on helping owners and entrepreneurs through a holistic approach to building sustainably-growing companies that meet the needs of contemporary business environments. 

Follow, connect, comment, and share if you like what you read.
Initial discovery conversations are welcomed and appreciated, but not invoiced.

6 Benefits of Transparency

Glass House

Transparency, authenticity, integrity and the like are not just overly-idealistic buzzwords for today’s business world; they provide long-lasting AND immediate benefits to those who invest time and energy to make it a prominent aspect of their business operations.

Consider the image above: Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, CT. Construction was completed in 1949 and, yes; all the walls are glass. To allow easy airflow and lighting; the only walls within the house are that of a brick cylinder that contains the bathroom on one side and features a fireplace on the other. Everything else is open and completely exposed.

Here are a few predictable benefits such transparency can have on businesses:

1. Culture of transparency leaves no room for ‘hidden agendas’.
Everything then, is to be done on purpose; with purpose. Ideas and issues are openly discussed for all who want to be involved. Preferential treatment, closed-door meetings, and back-room deals are how rumors get started. Finances, salaries, contract details – everything. This lays the groundwork for a culture of trust.

2. Personal gains happen through service to others.
Win-win situations are incredible; likely because they are about as rare as four-leaf clovers in most organizations. Too often, those with proper information to make such decisions are rewarded for benefitting a select few at the cost of so many – mass layoffs; pollution, decreasing quality, insider trading, etc. When everything is open and free to be discussed; the basic premise of Servant Leadership is not only allowed to thrive; it will be standard operating procedure by everyone.

3. Hiring, firing, and promoting becomes easy.
Even compensation strategies and packages become a non-issue when they are directly tied to a clearly stated, singular purpose.

Does Mary have skills or experience that bring more value?

Did John’s team design new product line that catapulted revenues?

Did top leadership guide business towards expected goals?

All too often people are compensated for external or hidden factors that don’t directly connect to the business. Some pioneering companies allow employees to name their own salary. They report that employees are more committed to delivering value. AND that while individuals’ pay varied widely; the overall payroll for the entire company was remarkably similar to when it was controlled.

4. This culture of transparency protects itself by supporting ‘right’ behaviors.
People don’t stay with (or leave) companies. They stay with, follow, or leave select managers. A culture of transparency allows for more autonomy, greater levels of innovation, and overall higher productivity. It also results in significantly higher retention of talent. These have a compounding impact of a company by naturally lowering the costs of operations and allowing higher margins of profitability.

While the above benefits can be rather exciting; they do seem to hint more towards results that develop over time. How does transparency help bring immediate results?

5. Simple conversations with interested people.
Sales presentations are often awkward and tense. Transparency helps streamline the process and conversations become more comfortable – without pushy sales techniques or market manipulations like contests, gift-with-purchase, promotional discounts, free goods, etc. (These only produce temporary results at lower margins.) One company I talked with sold nearly 70% of their clients at 20% discount!

The clients and customers who truly believe in and strongly desire your products/services will see value at whatever price you name (think an Apple store the day of a new iPhone release). Build meaningful connections and let your customers become advocates.

6. PR, Media, and Marketing efficiencies.
Rather than investing into ‘image protection’ or ‘PR Spin’ as some call it; transparent businesses of all sizes can easily become valid media sources themselves by simply sharing information in meaningful and relevant ways and allowing employees, customers, and fans to share their content. It won’t take long for other sources to begin featuringstories about your business (on your terms) simply because you are making an impact.

It turns out that it costs significantly more to convince people to talk about how what you are doing is somehow cool, interesting, or remarkable than it does to actually do something cool, interesting, or remarkable and let people passionately share what you are doing with millions of others. It still helps to have great partnerships with industry experts who can help plan and implement your message; but by being transparent; the entire process works significantly more efficiently – and everyone will have fun representing your business with authenticity.

 

The obvious thing about transparency is that it cannot be faked. It reveals everything. It won’t happen overnight. In fact it will take quite a while to accomplish. Buy we can each can make key steps every day to become more transparent and more authentic knowing we have lot’s of powerful advantages heading our way.

When will you start your Transparency Journey?

 

 

* * * * *

david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a consulting firm focused on helping owners and entrepreneurs through a holistic approach to building sustainably-growing companies that meet the needs of contemporary business environments.  Follow and share his regular postings here or on twitter (@drfrick)

More Than ‘Closing Deals’

open relationship

 

Sales is a complex process; not a destination or single event. It is about solving problems, introducing new ideas, building and maintaining relationships. In just one word, sales is about TRUST.

While I do see the temptation to pay sales people a percentage of the end result (deals they close); I feel that this act alone is the breeding ground for underhanded, greedy sales tactics that seem to ruin the reputations of the dedicated professionals working their craft. It also sets a precedent that some people are ‘more important’ or ‘more advantaged’ than others within an organization. Few things prevent trust more than greed and favoritism.

The Internet, with ready availability of information, has re-shaped the way consumers and businesses make purchasing decisions. Buyers are much more informed by the time they step out from the shadows of anonymity and become a ‘prospect’.

‘Buyers’ are not just limited to consumers or purchasing agents. The term includes your new sales staff as well. They must buy your message before they can sell anything. It is time to update your compensation structures – your entire organization – to better reflect a modern scenario.

Such radical departures from the norm are frequently met with resistance. Why would someone opt for changes when ‘everything seems to be working’? (Revenue from sales does NOT necessarily mean your process is working – much less that it is working efficiently.)

Here is a glimpse of what will happen if you don’t update. Actually it is already happening.

  • You will fail to attract new talent that will keep your catapult your brand, or even keep it contemporary.
  • Your existing top producers will become less effective or will leave (taking experience and relationships with them).
  • Your up-and-coming producers will find it increasingly difficult to reach their potential.

While there will never be a definitive way for every company’s sales operations and compensations; it doesn’t mean there are no guidelines to follow. Here are some to consider:

Appreciate contributions. Each of us has plenty to offer – critical thinking, innovative approaches, personal connections, experience, and a variety of personality strengths we are willing to contribute for the good of the organization. Build ways for your people to invest themselves into your brand and they will extend it to customers.

Reflect business culture. Trust comes from authenticity. Your sales team must personally project the core values of your business. They are not outsiders with a different mission; they are an active part of the company. Convincing potential buyers to ‘believe’ doesn’t come from a script, nor does it come from brilliant marketing. Belief is only transferred through other believers.

Reward effort AND results. Commissions and bonuses put value on results, salaries value effort; but both come with pre-conceived ideas about what is expected. The best compensation systems come from intimately understanding the buyer’s journey and relating best interests of sales people, company, and buyers.

By building your systems to appreciate individuals’ contributions, reflect the business culture, as well as reward their effort and results you will keep both sales team and buyers excited about the process. This excitement will build engagement and commitment; minimizing much of the traditional incentives (carrot and stick approaches) that diminish loyalty throughout your organization. And it will allow you to close more deals.

 

* * * * *

david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a consulting firm focused on helping owners and entrepreneurs through a holistic approach to building sustainably-growing companies that meet the needs of contemporary business environments. Please feel free to follow and share his regular postings here or on twitter (@drfrick)

What Every Entrepreneur Needs To Hear

nobody-cares

NO ONE CARES!

No one cares about your newest technology; your office décor, open floor plan, pet policy, or employee perks.

No one cares about how much funding you have received, CEO salary, business valuations, or analyst predictions.

No one cares about your warranty, customer service rating, latest promotion, or even sales price.

We don’t care about your stuff because we can’t care about it.

As long as humans have roamed the earth; our senses have been bombarding us with more information than we can ever hope to process. We rely on clever filters (Reticular Activating System) to help us determine what is important, and what should be simply ignored. Some things are deemed so important that we become hyper-aware. Ever wonder how ‘cat-people’ notice subtle things that indicate others are also ‘cat-people’; or how you notice other versions (different year, color, or options package) of ‘your’ car as you drive?

This goes on automatically in our brains millions of times a day. We ignore lots of things that happen right in front of our eyes simply because they have no relevance to us. Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons made a couple powerful videos to demonstrate this phenomenon. (click here for link)

Traditional sales, marketing, and advertising techniques are based on sheer volume because they are extremely inefficient – 1% or 2% of impressions showing interest or making a purchase can be considered a ‘good’ result).

Savvy sales pros can make this system for FOR us rather than against us with one simple step (note: simple does not always mean easy).

MAKE CONNECTIONS!

Only then will people begin to care.

“People don’t care how much you know until they
know how much you care”
~Theodore Roosevelt

Once we make a connection with someone; we become important. Their filters not only allow us and our information through; we are given a little priority. The stronger the connection; the greater the effect. This quickly leads to them sharing us with their friends, family, co-workers, etc.

Connections are difficult to fake or manipulate. They are deeply rooted in our emotions and will always remain fully under control of our audience. As entrepreneurs, we need to stop the sales techniques and focus our energy on making connections with ideal audiences.

To make connections, we need to talk about things and in ways THEY want to hear. In order to do this; we must ask questions and genuinely listen to the response (not just listen to gather ammunition, but actually listen to understand and relate to them). A good rule to follow is to listen twice as much as you talk (suggested by the two ears and one mouth on our faces).

Though it sounds counter-intuitive; this is a fundamental part of what drives Southwest Airlines. (The airline industry is known for being excruciatingly competitive and full of bankruptcy; yet Southwest is the only one that has posted a profit for every year of operation.)

When you build connections; PEOPLE CARE!

Modern Sales: Facilitate The Purchase

Facilitate Sales pt2

This is the second part of an article started (here) earlier this week.

 

 3. DESIRE: to wish, long for, crave, or want.
Decisions are driven by emotions and deep desires. It has been said that there are only two reasons that people make purchases: To feel good; and To solve a problem. Though these get expressed in a myriad of unique ways, they are at the root of all purchase decisions. Keep in mind that addressing both – as in helping a buyer look good to a superior or otherwise earn favors – is often more powerful than the simple premise of saving the company money.

At this point in their journey; it helps to let buyers paint a picture of your solution benefitting them and company. Of course this is accomplished through direct conversations; but that is not the only way. Events, articles, stories, images, and even social media interactions help drop hints about how great it would be as a regular client.

While it is tempting to move towards a close now; this should only be done with the actual decision-maker (not an influencer). Besides, buyers need to be escorted through one more important phase.

4. CONVICTION: fixed or firm belief.
Many who attempt to skip this stage and go straight for the close find themselves in a cycle of revising proposals and unanticipated delays. Some delays even trigger the buyer to question their interest or attention.

During this stage; direct interaction and dialogue become more frequent and detail oriented. This phase alone is closest to the entire ‘traditional sales’ process, but negotiation tactics should be avoided altogether.

To cement such a firm belief; I find it helps to have buyers actively participate in assembling their own proposal. This not only assures that it fits within their budgets and expectations; it also represents a true collaboration and sets the stage for a successful outcome.

5. CLOSE: stop, conclude, bring together, unite, complete, or contract.
The close is simply the natural conclusion to a sales conversation. There is no need to be forced or uncomfortable (goodbye to those long, awkward silences, pounding heartbeat, last-minute modifications, etc.). Rather, each close should be celebrated.

A close ‘with signature’ indicates that the entire process went well; resulting in a new partnership. A close ‘without signature’ indicates that there is an opportunity to revise the process. If you followed the process with good intentions; the business refusal will come with some form of feedback as to what areas were not properly handled. This feedback should be interpreted without emotion in order to properly adjust the process.

Thoughts on common objections:
Objections are extremely valuable bits of information. Most importantly, they indicate that we moved too quickly through one or more of the stages. Like a board game, take appropriate actions to move backwards to the last completed phase and proceed while filling in the apparent gaps.

Objections typically fall into the following categories:
PRICE: either too low or too high for comfort or established budget. Rather than merely altering the price; be sure to add or subtract items/features to reach the desired price point. Not everything needs to be a-la-carte, but there is a value associated with everything. Find creative ways to change the value so you don’t merely digg into margins.

PRESENTATION OF PRODUCT: Performance beliefs are typically the biggest concern. Push off addressing this until they are clearly in the conviction stage; then introduce stories and successes from past clients that are relevant to the particular objection. Recurring objections of this nature might suggest reorganizing the way information is presented in the first place.

PROCRASTINATION: This typically shows up as wrong timing or needing ‘more info’. While there is no specific speed or timeline for this process; each buyer and situation has its OWN timeline that is to always be respected. The solution to this objection is often simply taking a slower approach to build a stronger relationship.

PERSON: There isn’t much you can do when a buyer doesn’t like an individual with the company (sales rep, VP, CEO, board member, etc) and doesn’t want to conduct business. Sometimes it can be smoothed over with team re-structuring, personal conversations, and simply allowing time to pass. These tend to be more rare; but do pop up once in a while.

 

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david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a consulting firm focused on helping owners and entrepreneurs through a holistic approach to building sustainably-growing companies that meet the needs of contemporary business environments. Please feel free to follow and share his regular postings here or on twitter (@drfrick)

Modern Sales Is About Facilitating The Purchase

sales facilitate purchase

The most important thing to remember about sales is that it is both a process, with a definite start and a finish, and an art form with endless opportunities for expression.

Thanks to the popularity of the Internet; the flow and availability of information dramatically changed the way people buy (impacting both B2B and consumer purchases in the same manner). Isn’t it time we shifted our sales models to facilitate the purchase?

This post is the first part of 2 posts that explain the 5 Phases of Purchasing Journey

1. ATTENTION: concentration of mind, awareness, or consideration.
In the Attention stage; buyers are curiously seeking some form of information. They might not be able to pin exact wording to it; but there is a definite openness to ideas.

While yelling and screaming will often get you a lot of attention in the short run, this tactic is highly manipulative and rarely beneficial over time. For better results; make yourself attractive, easy to reach, and otherwise available in the places your ideal buyers are. Create opportunities for engagement – social media/blog posts, infographics, white papers, etc.

Study and apply the art of conversation. Discuss things directly relevant to business as well as slightly less relevant ones to build a genuine human relationship.

Your role at this phase is simply to help buyers to the next phase with you in mind – nothing more.

2. INTEREST: curiosity, concern, involved, engaged by something.
Attention spans tend to run short. It’s a good thing you started to build that relationship because that is the key to holding their Interest for longer than a few moments.

The best way to be interesting to someone is by being interested in them. Practice Steven Covey’s habit of “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Transparency and authenticity are key here. It often helps to start by simply stating your intentions to better understand their situation so you can best relate your experience, company strengths, and various products/solutions as they are relevant.

This is often done through direct conversations, but can also be conducted over a series of automated interactions like brief surveys, interesting correlations, client stories, videos, webinars, and/or tutorials.

The role of the sales professional is to gage buyers’ interest, strengthen the relationship, and help escort them to the next phase.

Part 2; the conclusion of this piece will be published in this same channel on Friday 15 May 2015

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david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a consulting firm focused on helping owners and entrepreneurs through a holistic approach to building sustainably-growing companies that meet the needs of contemporary business environments. Please feel free to follow and share his regular postings here or on twitter (@drfrick)

Re-Defining MISTAKES

Univ Mistakes

MISTAKE: A moment of great learning, discovery, or insight; often described as powerful, emotional, and/or life changing. Synonyms: error, mishap, failure.

We celebrate our educational achievements with all the pomp and circumstance of graduation. From university down to pre-school, educational programs seem more significant when they come along with some form or certificate of completion. Yet we tend to sweep mistakes and failures under the rug in an attempt to ignore they even happened.

Why? By doing so, we are discarding some of the most valuable information available!

ALL moments of great learning should be celebrated, regardless of the source. Learning is about internalizing experiences. It is powerful that we can read a book, listen to a lecture, or watch a video to learn from someone else’s experiences. They take the time to make the necessary connections and boil it down into simple ideas that are easily shared. While there are many benefits to learning this way (not everyone needs first-hand knowledge of gasoline’s combustibility); it is not always the best way.

We can learn the principles of sales, leadership, drawing, love, and more from books. But the real value comes from the daily application and refinement that comes from making mistakes.

When we experiment, theorize, and try things ourselves; we get a lot more raw data to process into worthwhile information. Working through the experience gives us unspeakable insights that lead to the phenomenon of improvement through the ‘learning curve’. Through our internal processing; we also get to compare and connect learnings from other life experiences – giving us a multiplied effect of learning.

We can facilitate learning from mistakes in a business settings by devise systems to lower the negative emotional association. Think of it as a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card where team members can easily admit error with absolutely zero penalties.

Have them share what they learned from the experience so that others can understand and grow from it, rather than following a new policy that merely minimizes the risk of it from happening again. The experience and learning should be shared informally among the team as well as in some form of writing (as in data capture, not reporting in personnel file). It helps to celebrate these learning experiences so that it lowers fears, and increases trust, confidence, and collaboration.

Join me in celebrating some of the most powerful methods of learning.

After thousands of experiments; one of the many things I have learned as an entrepreneur and sales professional is to build genuine value into all that you do. If you find this valuable; please like, comment, follow, or share this with others so that my experience might help them draw stronge connections in their own careers.

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david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a consulting firm focused on helping owners and entrepreneurs through a holistic approach to growing companies that meet the needs of contemporary business environments.

Technology and Connection Drives Entrepreneurs

Tech Drives

Just the other day while getting my hair cut; my barber told me about a new hire he is excited about making in 12 months. A longstanding client of his just quit her job and took HIM to a coffee conversation about the next chapter of her career. She was interested in going to school to join the barber trade. Her motives: personal connection to clients; knowing exactly where money comes (being able to directly influence it); great service (her husband loves his monthly straight-razor shave); and – most of all – creative expression.

Though her previous corporate paid her well; it was MISSING ALL OF THESE TRAITS.

Sadly; the number of times I have heard this story is too high to count! More and more people are drawn to the idea of supplementing or completely replacing their jobs with some form of entrepreneurial activity. If the popularity of Etsy, AirBnB, Uber, monetized blogs, and food trucks don’t show the numbers of new entrepreneurs; perhaps the mainstream TV shows like Shark Tank and Food Fortunes will do the trick.

20+ years ago Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles wrote an amazing book called Raving Fans – A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service. Its inspiration was the dreadfully low levels of service throughout every aspect of business. While a number of businesses of all sizes have experienced great success by incorporating their simple but powerful concepts; I still hear owners discard the message even while customers leave in droves.

In a slightly different area of business; the Gallup Organization has done extensive research on workforce development over the past few decades. Some of their most recent surveys reveal that customers aren’t the only ones left unimpressed. With only 35% of Managers being engaged in their work; it isn’t much of a surprise that only 5% of workforce is maximized? If it is too bold of a statement to say that our current business structures are broken; let’s agree that they don’t work that well and could use an overhaul!

One cause for this Technology advances like social media have made it much easier to communicate, and connect with audiences about what matters to THEM. This has always been important, but was very difficult to produce until recently.

Another advantage technology brought is significantly lower barriers of doing business. Operational licenses, LLCs, credit card processing, and hundreds of marketing outlets are all available within just a few clicks or screen-taps.

Technology even helped us overcome banks’ traditional models of financing; Micro-financing/crowdfunding sites like Kiva Zip, KickStarter, Indiegogo, and others allow people from your neighborhood or across the planet help fund your project.

While none of these systems are perfect; they continue to empower people to make business decisions in ways that will positively impact them along WITH their customers.

Regardless of what model you choose for your business; it is crucial to remember that 100% of customers are people – same applies to your employees. People bring unique strengths, creativity, personality, passions, connections, ideas, solutions and tons of intangible assets. Treating them like people and developing ways to accept, appreciate, and incorporate their contributions into your business goes a LONG way to keeping them excited and committed to helping you grow.

Creative explanations and gut feelings don’t often fit into performance check-boxes. It can be messy and unpredictable at times. The good news is that there are not only plenty of companies who have figured out effective ways to do it (Disney, Rackspace, Nordstrom, Zappos, Ritz Carlton, and Google to name a few); there are hundreds of books and training workshops that explain how they do it.

You can use technology to drive people to your business; or away from it.

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david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a consulting firm focused
on helping owners and entrepreneurs through a holistic approach to growing companies
that meet the needs of contemporary business environments.

Content (aka stories) is Crucial For Sales Growth

story time

From what I can tell; most people are terrified of the concept of creating content. They clam up at the notion of writing a blog and actually publishing it. In workshops and meetings; the most common excuses are centered around perfection (their writing ability is not quite up to the same level as they might like), and not knowing what is worthy of posting.

However they have no problem reciting a story of a recent client interaction.

Everybody loves a good story. Stories have been an essential part of human life for likely as long as we have been able to communicate. The combination of words, images, and emotions does something in our brains that lets us remember large amounts of detail quickly, and for a long time.

Few people care about the latest features incorporated into your products because they have no context or frame of reference in their life. Stories help fill those gaps and connect people to products. Great sales professionals not only have hundreds of stories readily available; they know how/when to deploy them to help escort their audiences through a purchasing journey.

The one about the client who began incorporating your services and was able to cut departmental costs by 30% in just 4 months

How about the one where the location manager was very hesitant to make the commitment – after all, your proposal was nearly double what they had in the budget. After nearly 18 months of follow-up and helping combine the budgets of three locations; the deal was signed and results were so incredible that she was promoted to regional manager and was now talking about incorporating your ideas across 15 locations.

Such stories help efficiently build trust and confidence.

To match the purchasing and research patterns of today’s savvy consumers; many of these stories need to be moved from sales into marketing. With a few refinements in format and flow; these stories are ideal for blog posts, white-papers, client-endorsements, even quick social media posts, and engaging content throughout your digital presence.

It is important that you understand that your stories already exist. You don’t need to write them, per se – simply type them out. Take inventory of your stories and categorize them based on function or purpose. Some are better to gain attention or interest. Others build desire and preference. Still others are best for developing/maintaining long relationships.

Business stories are far from fairy-tales. In order to be effective and engaging they MUST be accurate, authentic, and human-centered. Stronger connections happen with less focus on perfection, formality, and ‘political-correctness’.

Some of these stories are best told in the exact words of clients. I keep a file of praise from happy clients – telling me how much working with me has impacted their life/business. They come in a variety of formats; voicemail, email, text message, written letter, personal conversation, and occasionally in video. As you find ways to share these stories, you’ll discover stronger connections and more sales.

Here is a list of important, yet often forgotten stories to share. It is just a starter. Please add more in the comments section.

  • How and why the business was started
  • Where the business is going
  • What each employee/team member likes best about working for the company. Why they joined.
  • First client; Best client; Most recent client
  • Big impact clients
  • Surprise impact (unexpected results from clients)
  • What clients like best about working with your company
  • How you have fun (or express humanity) within your business

 

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david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a consulting
agency focused on helping owners and entrepreneurs through a holistic
approach to building sustainably-growing companies that meet the
needs of contemporary business environments.

Design-Build Your Reputation

Reputation

Though the fundamentals of building a reputation – personal or business – hasn’t changed much in the last couple thousand years; we are in a time of rapid technological change that is impacting many of the specific details of how our reputations are both built and experienced.

Thank you to reader August Lizarraga Jr. for the specific request to follow up my last article Building Your Business Reputation with some specific techniques to build a reputation and differentiate yourself (business) from competitors.

One of my mentors impressed upon me that;

“The details don’t matter nearly as much as the fundamentals. Simply mastering the fundamentals of anything will take care of at least 80% of the situation.”

What’s even more amazing is realizing that there are only a few fundamentals that you need to learn – no matter what sport, activity, endeavor. You can probably count them on one hand.

If you have not yet read Dale Carnegie’s masterful work How To Win Friends And Influence People, I highly recommend it (click the title for a link) as it serves the fundamentals quite easily.

Technology changes how we interact, but it is critical to remember that Facebook didn’t invent friends; Twitter didn’t patent followers; and connections were heavily used before LinkedIn – all were around before the Palm Pilot, before the Rolodex, even before the telegraph! Social media simply digitized, quantified, and in some ways simplified the diverse social connections humans have always made.

One key I have learned with today’s technology is that the demands of communication and responsiveness are steadily increasing in speed. Phone calls (especially to a land line) almost require an appointment, and seem to take a lower priority when compared to sending a text, tweet, or various form of instant message. Email is a great way to convey large amounts of info, attach small files, and link to websites/articles/sharing drives. The way we consume information has changed, but the concept of engaging people with worthwhile content, stories, and interactions is fundamentally the same.

Rather than a write a ‘how-to guide to building a social reputation; I’m providing a design approach to reputation-building that can be implemented practically anywhere.

Make some time to contemplate and answer the following questions.

1) How do you want others to perceive/speak/think of you?
First and foremost, your reputation is completely up to you! Just like the Cheshire Cat told us “If you don’t know where you want to go; any road will take you there.” Put pencil to paper and write down words and ideas that come to mind.

They will likely be vague terms at the start. Work past this knowing the more you get this into focus, the easier EVERYTHING else will be (especially the difficult and unpleasant situations). Break up the assignment into just 1-2 ten-minute segments each day and shoot for at least 50 words or ideas. Continue to keep your mind open to other influencers and people you already respect.

Here are some of my first terms to get you started: Honesty, integrity, relationship, authenticity, legitimacy, connection, approachable, creative, interesting, unique+valuable, relevant, innovative, progressive…

1-B) What sort of actions might bring this to fruition?
As these words begin to shape your actions; make sure to define what these aspects of your reputation mean (Why is honesty important? How will you tell if people trust you? What does integrity mean to you? How might creativity be expressed to others?).

To be interesting to someone, it is best to start out by being interested in them.
To become trustworthy, it also helps to start by trusting others.
Before you can become valuable to someone, it helps to understand what they consider value-able.

2) Who is your ideal audience and what do they value?
I’m sure your initial audience is similar to your customers. Let’s define a customer as all those touched by your product/service. That means the ‘buyer’ as well as all users and influencers like accounting/billing, shipping/receiving, quality control, manufacturing processors, customers’ sales agents, etc. They each have different different needs that, when considered and met, will lead to an incredible reputation.

It is likely that they are looking for similar words to what you wrote in the first question, yet have their own interpretations/understandings of them. Having specific discussions on what ‘quality, responsive, and valuable’ mean to each party will go a LONG way in building a great reputation before a single purchase is made!

3) Who are your competitors?
Not just those who offer similar products to similar audiences (direct competitors); but also those tangential opportunities (indirect competitors) vying for precious resources such as time, attention, and funds.

In researching competitors; look at the claims they are making; the verbiage they use in marketing; pricing and sales strategies; as well as their results. Do you notice most do not say anything worthwhile? Since the vast majority of anyone’s competitors all claim to be low-cost providers who merely keep up with a small portion of industry innovators; it leaves lots of room for you to claim or even ‘own’ a worthwhile niche that is both valuable and underserved.

With this foundation; the task of building the reputation you designed becomes remarkably easy – regardless if you are using social media, face-to-face networking, personal connections, or combination of them all. Once built, your reputation requires constant maintenance. Remember that your reputation is accessible every second of every day; make the investment to build one that will actually work for you.

 

If you have topics you would like me to explore in a future article; please feel free to make the suggestion. I invite you to like, share, comment, tweet, and follow as you see fit.

 

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david r frick is a business artist and founder of SuccessVentures – a consulting
agency focused on helping owners and entrepreneurs through a holistic
approach to building sustainably-growing companies that meet the
needs of contemporary business environments.

Building Your Business Reputation

Ask anyone with a good reputation how they got it and you’ll likely get an answer similar to; “Doing the right thing. Even when nobody is looking, when it is not fun, or when it is difficult.”

It is no surprise really, the extraordinary actors, musicians, athletes, and business professionals talk openly about how much they dedicate towards their craft. Early mornings, and late evenings of eating, sleeping, breathing their dreams into reality.

Their reputation is built along the journey.

Ask someone with a bad reputation the same question and you’ll likely get a different point of view – perhaps hear some blame thrown at a broken system or general unfairness.

Those who have taken responsibility to repair their reputation all take the same path – building trust through small steps taken consistently over time.

This all seems pretty easy to grasp as we have lived through building and protecting our personal reputations.

Ask a CEO how to build a good reputation for their business, and you’ll likely hear answers along the lines of “Hire the best Advertising or Public Relations firm”

How absurd!

Building a business reputation is NO DIFFERENT. Do the right thing. Even when nobody is looking, when it is not fun, or when it is difficult.

When nobody is looking:
Many corporations’ headquarter their offices or manufacture products in countries that allow for certain tax, waste, or labor advantages. Whether there are no regulations or officials simply look the other way; it can make for drastically lower cost of doing business, but makes it difficult to build a quality reputation. As consumers, we have the ability to either support or deny support through our purchases.

When it is not fun:
Nobody looks forward to a decrease in their income or hear honest feedback suggesting areas they need to change. It is almost common practice for executive committees to slash hundreds or thousands of jobs in order to earn bonuses and maintain their benefits.

How can this build a quality reputation?

Meanwhile, leaders like Japan Air Lines CEO cutting HIS own salary and slashing executive benefits to help keep employees working (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqFxK3GMEkA) go a long way to building trust and maintaining a quality reputation.

When it is difficult:
Product recalls, shipping delays, backorders, and lack-luster product sales are never easy to explain to customers or stakeholders. When a major backorder happened to me earlier in my career; I relied on open and honest communications with my clients and told them everything I knew was that there would be extensive delays. Several of them began purchasing exclusively from a competitor, making my sales take a serious nose-dive. However, once inventory was again consistently available; they came back to me knowing that they could trust me with their business.

My friend Vinny Tafuro started a little project in 2012 that he calls Corporate Empathy. He wrote a book and offers some catchy shirts and buttons. One of my favorites reads; “If corporations are people; shouldn’t they act like adults?” Click the button to learn more and for support options.Corp Empathy

Strategies For Growing Your Business

customers help sell

When asked; most people claim that growing their business requires either New Customers or New Products. While these are indeed viable strategies; they are perhaps the most expensive. They might look at the above image and see themselves (or the company) as the character with megaphone and the others as customers.

CHALLENGES WITH NEW CUSTOMERS
Sales are the result of building trust. Because we have very little experiential trust on the first purchase; we often need to offer incentives to offset the risk – price discounts, additional features, and a variety of free goods often do the trick. Each of these comes at a cost.

This lack of context also opens us to a variety of judgment errors. When a new prospect says ‘price’ is utmost importance, it is easy to assume they want a lower price, and we begin whittling away at our margins. Context gives us the opportunity to find out if they mean that price needs to be low or high; inclusive or itemized; if they are willing to agree to long-term purchasing plans; or how interested they would be in premium upgrades versus considerations for downgraded priority. I don’t mind sharing that I personally learned each of these scenarios by assuming one way or the other – and getting it wrong.

We might ask about how they came to us; but again their answers are often misleading. The CRM program says that their first contact was in downloading a white-paper on a particular topic of interest. What we don’t see is that their first introduction was from a comment in a LinkedIn discussion group on an article we didn’t even write. It doesn’t tell us that Mrs. New Customer really struggled with service from a competitor who was offering low prices. We don’t get to hear how this new customer used to sell for our biggest competitor and left because she no longer felt connected to their direction, leadership, and policies.

This context only comes from dialogue and relationship building – as in with an intelligent sales professional. One of the most common statistics states that most sales transactions happen after the 6th meeting between sales and prospect. That represents quite a bit of cost just to get the first sale, and then an additional investment of time to secure their loyalty.

CHALLENGES WITH NEW PRODUCTS
Properly managed focus groups and market research can give us insights to potential new product offerings; but there are too many variables for these to accurately predict success.

Design, development, field tests with prototypes, and subsequent updates represent major investments to be made without any sales revenue in support.

Once a new product is approved, it takes quite a bit of education (likely new staff and equipment as well) to ramp up production. Then comes the communication investment in educating, promoting, incenting the market to purchase.

EASIEST ROUTE FOR GROWTH
Relationships with your existing customers are perhaps the most important assets to your business. They already trust you enough to buy on a regular basis. It costs very little to encourage them to purchase either larger quantities, or more frequently.

Existing customers not only give feedback about product performance and updates, they do so with a context of how it will be used. Simply saying that they prefer your product better if it were red is not the same as a customer wanting your product to be the same color red as their logo so that it gives them a more consistent look to their business. The contextual feedback gives the opportunity to color coordinate products for other customers (as a premium upgrade).

Current customers are not only the easiest to get to purchase more; they also provide a solid foundation for referrals, endorsements, introductions and all manner of valuable interactions that actively help you attract new customers who are already interested in your products. In my experience such referral customers do not need as aggressive price considerations – leaving you higher margins.

Referring to the above image; you can now see how your current customers are advocates for your business. They are the ones holding the megaphone, actively helping your company grow.

 

If you like what you read, I encourage you to take action. Connect, follow, tweet (@drfrick), like, or otherwise share with others.

How Do You Accept Ideas?

ideas_suggestions

Raw ideas have little value unto themselves. They need to be expanded, tweaked, massaged, and refined. Painters and sculptors often display a collection or series of pieces that are variations of a single theme or idea. Over a period of time, their art evolves and we can enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Authors and songwriters are often invited to a variety of workshops where they share, showcase, and openly collaborate on ideas that have caught their imagination. These constructive sessions help bring different experiences, perspectives, and advice to help ideas become something that connects with others. As artists, we are more comfortable with the notion that ideas merely pass through us rather than belonging to anyone, and that everyone benefits from openly sharing ideas.

When it comes to ideas in the business world however; we seem to get it wrong – quite often. I think it is because we make two critical errors.

1) We extend a law of money over to ideas.
If you and I were to share a sum of money, we could each expect half. This is expressed in a simple math equation of 1 / 2 = 0.5. But when an idea is shared, we both get a full idea. The equation changes from one of division to one of multiplication, such as 1 x 2 = 2. On top of that; each idea can be independently adapted or can inspire a variety of new ideas. This doesn’t happen with money.

2) We consider the source of ideas.
Due to the hierarchy and responsibilities within a business, we rarely challenge ideas from those above us and hardly consider ideas from those below us. Would you risk your job to be the one to tell the CEO you think her idea won’t work? All too often managers’ egos prevent good ideas from building momentum simply because they came from someone else.

This is not a new challenge. Charles Edward Montague (English journalist, essayist, and novelist 1867-1928) understood this phenomenon when he famously wrote;

“There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit.”

Businesses today need to adopt more idea workshops where such barriers are removed and everyone can openly collaborate to help bring raw ideas to maturity; regardless of the source. Such collaborations should include representation from every department. This not only helps generate ideas that actually work for every department, but also helps with the all-important ‘buy-in’ of ideas that are implemented.

A few final notes about ideas:
1) Ideas are never perfect in their raw form. In fact, they are often quite fragile. They require a delicate touch in regards to the input and experiences of a diverse group or personalities.

2) Ideas don’t do anybody much good just bouncing around in our brains. Besides opportunities for improvement; sharing helps make ‘room’ for more ideas to come.

3) Each of us have unlimited potential for creating ideas. It is one of the gifts of being a human; yet this skill needs to be developed and supported throughout our lives or else it will wither away.

4) None of us has exclusive rights – or even a higher percentage – of good, bad, large, or small, etc. ideas. The only way to have more ‘good’ ideas is to simply have LOTS of ideas; and to share them with other people. You never know when a ‘silly’ idea like an automobile made from an assembly line, or an electric incandescent light bulb, or a personal computer can come along and change the world.

When you build better mechanisms for handling ideas; you will get better ideas!

If you like what you read here; please feel free to comment, share, like, follow or connect with me here or @drfrick.

Personal Connections

"ACMA 1333 Samian decree 2" by Marsyas, 07.04.2007. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ACMA_1333_Samian_decree_2.JPG#mediaviewer/File:ACMA_1333_Samian_decree_2.JPG

“ACMA 1333 Samian decree 2” by Marsyas, 07.04.2007. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ACMA_1333_Samian_decree_2.JPG#mediaviewer/File:ACMA_1333_Samian_decree_2.JPG

Building valuable connections is not a complex process. All you really need to do is take the time to show that you sincerely care about building them. These connections are the result of investing and sharing something personal – regardless of the format.

It starts with a smile, genuine compliment, pat on the back, eye contact during the length of a handshake. Larger investments of time might include personal conversations, phone calls, ‘I was thinking about you’ messages, etc.

These might not sound like much; yet they are fundamental to great business as they are purely human interactions that generate emotional responses and memories. These impact us over hours, weeks, months, and years. Not to merely spout hyperbole; many of these brief, even tangential interactions impact us for several decades.

15 years ago I attended a leadership conference and was introduced to Zig Ziglar with over 15,000 other people. My tickets were close to the back of the arena, and I didn’t get a chance to actually meet him. Nonetheless, I connected with what he said, and the event was significant to my being here today. Countless other thought leaders have heavily influenced me as well, but they all stem from the ideas that I learned from Zig that day.

It seems ironic that our digital lives are spent building ‘connections’ between our devices via Bluetooth, Wifi, Internet, the cloud, social media, etc., yet we spend little effort connecting with humans. Our company policies are created to minimize the chance of offending someone or some group; we go to great lengths to polish our elevator presentations and mission statements; we invest huge sums of money to be ‘more interactive’ with employees and customers; yet all of these fall short of truly making valuable connections.

Hard-nosed executives, bankers, business brokers casually chalk this sort of thing as ‘fluff’ that is good to do if you have the chance, but comes a distant second to the business at hand. Even our entire accounting system considers equipment, facilities, revenues, receivables, and sometimes the mysterious ‘brand recognition’ as assets. Yet classifies employees, training, and engagement as expenses.

The REAL value of a company are its personal connections. It always has been.

Personal connections to customers and vendors allow a company to continue doing business in spite of higher prices, lower quality, slower delivery times, lack-luster products, and even product recalls. If the connection and process for handling things is enjoyable enough; these incidents may actually even strengthen the connection.

Personal connections to employees allow them to invest their ideas, emotions, AND labor into making your company better, and they stay at your company longer. What’s more; the stronger the connection, the less they actually expect in return for their additional investment.

What are you doing to build personal connections within your organization?

What is Modern Marketing?

mkt_vs_manipulation

Do you ever wonder why there are so many disclaimers on advertisements these days?

The medical and pharmaceutical products seem to spend more time telling who should not use it, or the long list of side effects that happened in clinical trials, but they are not the only ones.

Cereal boxes and almost everything with a package showing photography put a little asterisk and note indicating that the image has been enlarged in order to show texture. After working for a photography studio and being on-hand for several food shoots; I can tell you that practically nothing is edible on set.

To explain a simple version of it; I found a video McDonalds produced to answer questions from their customers. It seeks to answer the question; ‘Why does the photography look different than what is served?’ It is actually shot on one of their sets in Canada and is narrated by their Director of Marketing. While she says all the ingredients are the exact same, none of the preparation techniques are. THEN they enter the realm of digital retouching.

How McDonalds Fakes Their Food

By this, and nearly every major brand; it would seem that marketing is about manipulating perceptions, but not so much that it exposes them on a legal front. Many corporations staff attorneys and compliance departments just to help them navigate through these treacherous waters.

I offer a modern definition of Marketing.
The sum total of all the outward communications of your company.

Media and advertising, Branding, Public Relations, brochures, websites, company social media, blogs, as well as a variety of sales operations and materials; those are easy.

Customer service is typically associated with sales operations; but I am only infuriated when I hear an actor enthusiastically recite an on-hold message telling me how much Company A “appreciates its customers, yet are experiencing abnormally high call volume.” (I understand this as, “we want to keep call center staffing costs to a minimum”).

Today, social media is bringing tremendous power back to consumers. One trend among savvy marketers is to develop and empower Brand Advocates – a powerful army of enthusiastic customers who voluntarily help promote the brands they love. Ironically, most advocates are turned off by compensation or rewards of any significant value. You can’t buy authenticity.

Other aspects of business operations are influencing public opinion through social media – therefore too are part of marketing.

Your company’s approach to hiring and human relations/human capital (it doesn’t stop at a good job description or posting). The way resumes are screened; interviews are arranged and conducted; as well as the array of communications throughout the hiring process communicate volumes of information about how a company truly treats people. What about when you congratulate your neighbor on getting a new job; the one with an awesome title, new car, expense account, etc. but tells you at a backyard barbeque that he is miserable and is already looking again. I’m thinking that does NOT make you eager to buy products from his new employer. However if he were to downsize his life and found a great company; you would be more eager to support.

 

A company who is truly dedicated to building a quality reputation will incorporate all of these aspects (and more) into their mix of authentic marketing. Modern marketing professionals understand the totality of their efforts and actions. We know that people are tired of being manipulated and don’t appreciate being deceived for their money.

Transparency and Authenticity are buzzwords because they are so valuable.

There Is No Value In Your Product

Value Beholder

Value is not a rational computation of the parts, labor, talent, skill, connections, associations, etc. that go into making a product. It has almost nothing to do with the product itself; and even less to do with the various features you might have incorporated into it.

Value – defined as relative worth, merit, or importance – is an emotional expression of what someone might anticipate getting from the item. Value only comes with some sort of context

Early in my career, I sold screen-printed items; t-shirts, pens, and coffee mugs were among the most commonly ordered items. It should come as no surprise that by themselves; these items had little value. Yet the moment customers saw their own name, company name, or logo on them; they had real value. One customer came back with a t-shirt that was clean, but had plenty of grass stains from a recent company softball game. He paid 10x the price of the shirt to have it custom framed as a MVP award for one of his team members for the extraordinary work she did in the office. That same shirt now had tremendous value.

The golden rule in real estate is ‘Location, location, location.’ Realtors know how much the condition, and appearance of the neighboring properties impacts the value of their listed property. Some sellers will not only landscape their own properties, but will also spiff up others (with permission of course) on the street because they know this small investment can bring them big returns. They are not selling a 3 bedroom dwelling with 2.5 baths and countless other niceties. They are selling the value of the neighborhood.

No matter what product or service you are offering; it is critical to understand that most people don’t want what you are offering. They want what they can do with or gain from what you are offering. Ideas like ease, convenience, safety, trust, flexibility, guaranteed delivery, professional expertise, or the overall experience that comes with purchasing it from you weigh significantly more heavily than the facts and features of your product.

HOW CAN WE BUILD VALUE?
In Steven Covey’s landmark 7 Habits of Highly Successful People; he talks about the importance to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Here is an ideal opportunity to begin to practice this habit.

  1. Start by shifting your focus away from you/company/product; and towards your customers. How will they use/enjoy your products and services. Help them complete the dream about already possessing whatever it is they are considering.
  2. Ask interesting and dialogue-generating questions prefaced with; ‘In order to best serve your needs; may I ask a few questions to understand your unique circumstances?
    The more specific details you get, the easier it is to make relevant and worthwhile recommendations of products and services you offer.
  3. Build an arsenal of customer success stories and unique ways they have used your products or services.
    Stories should come from both your perspective as well as directly from customers (voice message, recorded video, written, or arranged phone call).You might even categorize them as they fit into the situations listed above.

    Share these stories with new prospects to build engagement and communicate trust.

In doing this; you will not only speed up the buying process, but also be able to do so with higher profit margins.

Fairy Tales, Architecture, and Business

We share fairy tales with children as a method of imparting sound advice in a way they can easily remember. It seems that the one about Three Little Pigs building houses is particularly well-suited for business.

In case you forgot:
One pig builds out of straw, another out of wood. These two enjoy the benefits of both a shelter, basic as it might be, and plenty of relaxation time while the third invests considerably more effort in building with brick. Life seems to be jolly until a big bad wolf comes to town. He huffs, and puffs the first two down while the house of brick sturdily protects all three pigs.

3_Little_Pigs___Houses_by_mcapplbeeMany business owners, founders, and CEOs are tempted by fast-tracked mergers, acquisitions, IPO’s and the like. They follow trends with insatiable appetites for ‘market share’. And provide media sources with countless stories of compensation structures that reward them for making numbers even when it is through temporary tactics of slashing workforce.

These sound like great examples of building businesses out of straw or wood.

Some, realized the tenets of the third pig and cleverly adapt another architectural method of constructing elaborate façades (definition: an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or credible reality). From the surface; it appears to be made with care, detail, and longevity in mind; yet the story drastically changes once you walk through the doorway.

IMG_0191

In the case of this Louisville, KY landmark known as Heigold House. At one time there was a mansion attached that housed a prominent stone cutter and German immigrant. Notably, the façade was one of the few structures in the neighborhood to survive a major flood (referenced in this previous post).

Today it serves as a symbolic gateway into a reviving neighborhood close to its original location.

Business fundamentals from the story of Three Little Pigs:
1) It will take longer to build
2) It will require larger up-front investment
Doing this will ensure that your business will stand the test of time, competition, and a variety of big, bad wolves.

Is there more to your brand than just the façade?

Where Leadership Begins

truman quote

Leadership begins with, “I have an idea…”

There is no definitive ending point, because the end is not the point of leadership. The point is to incorporate the resources to bring an idea to life and nurture it through maturity. Crucially, the idea never belongs to a single person. Rather, it belongs to the entire tribe of people who come together to make it happen.

Some years ago, I was inspired by an idea and wrote a song. The time to write and tweak the lyrics was likely less than an hour.  Then it sat dormant for a couple years.

Inspiration struck again when my band decided to write and record a new batch of songs. My lyrics were added to the list; the four of us discussed how each song originated and what it meant to the writer. Then we put our own interpretations into music that would carry the emotion of those words.

After months of experimenting, evolving, and rehearsing; we were ready to record. In the studio, each song got bigger and more expressive with each additional layer of instrumentation. Importantly, the original intent of the song was not only kept in tact, but was amplified.

Weather it becomes the next radio sensation or merely connects with 1 other human is immaterial. The point is that it will continue to grow. Only after significant investment of emotion and talent from others did this grow from scribbles on paper into a form that others can easily appreciate, understand, and share.

Click here to enjoy a free listen

The same pattern happens with ideas in business – manufactured products, software, service offering, or just a tweak for improving what already exists. Ideas never come to life in a vacuum. They need the collaboration of others to truly grow.

Businesses need contributions of:
Visionaries
Nurturers
Doers
Sharers
Influencers
Challengers
Buyers
Sellers

Each of us exhibits all of these roles throughout our day. Don’t get bogged down with traditional titles. They can’t fully explain the complexity of relationships and human interactions that must take place to bring an idea to life.

We need you to take the lead; make emotional investments; and share more interesting ideas without concern of who started it or who gets the credit. As the number of people are involved, the base for communicating it grows as well. Even after customers make the purchase; they are contributing to it in many ways as they share and introduce it to others.

What is the next opportunity for you to lead the collaborations?

Embracing Non-Sense

Seuss FantasyBusinesses are too dependent on our 5 physical senses (which are inherently flawed). To grow and succeed; businesses need to build a culture that embraces nonsense!

What do I mean by our senses being inherently flawed?
Our senses of taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound are all constantly ‘on’ – sensing things and relaying that information to our brains. But because the amount of information this represents would likely render us immobile; it is drastically filtered. The filter is our highly-evolved Reticular Activating System (RAS) and the flaw is the vast amounts of information it ignores.

In simple terms; the RAS focuses your attention to familiar or important things in your life. If you recently purchased a red car; you likely notice the red cars on the road more than the blue ones. As beneficial as this can be; it comes with drawbacks and blind spots. A famous study reveals how significant our attentional blindness can be that we miss things happening right in front of our eyes.
(click here for a famous experiment)

Traditional business professionals are too focused on making rational, logical, or sensory-based decisions. In an effort to streamline, control, and force some sort of predictability; we have silenced some of the most powerful tools of humankind and refer to creativity, intuition, and imagination as NONSENSE!

If it weren’t for this sort of non-sense, we would never have any fun or pleasure (no entertainment or art). Nor would we have inventions such as the wheel, indoor plumbing, automobiles, airplanes, light bulbs, computers, or peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches. Who would want to live in that world?

Each of these world-changing creations started out as an idea in one person’s mind that someone else deemed as ‘silly nonsense’. Some feel Dr. Seuss to be a little too silly but accept the notion from Albert Einstein; “logic will get you from A to B, but imagination will take you everywhere else.” Companies like Pixar/Disney, Google, and Apple are known for business cultures that foster creativity, insight, and imagination.

If you want to discover new opportunities in your business/industry; develop ways to embrace nonsense. Note: by definition, they won’t make logical sense; so here are a couple criterions to help filter or assess the potential of each new idea.

PASSION: The best creations come from people who have a burning desire to tinker and toil with an idea for countless hours (over months, years, or decades) without any real reward. This requires a level of dedication and passion by the developer that cannot be mandated or assigned. Allow some resources (time, funds, expertise) to help these ideas mature. Look towards university research funding for ideas or models on how this can be fostered. Research requirements, publishing quotas, and paid sabbaticals are great ways to support such developments.

Passion needs the investment of time and energy. As a high-school and college student; Bill Gates was introduced to computers and programming. But it was his sleepless nights spent at the lab where he could build experience and expertise through lots of safe failures.

DIRECTION: While many people tinker at home on projects that simply amuse them personally (with the idea that they will leave their ‘real job’ at some point); publicly sharing the direction and vision of the company can be a powerful tool to inspire and harness the passions and ideas of your team.

JFK and advisors didn’t know what it would take to put a man on the moon; but announcing the goal in such a public forum helped form the very vehicle for the ideas that would make that goal a reality. Similarly, Bill Gates wanted to see a computer on every desk; thus Microsoft became a framework for tools and ideas to make that happen.

PURPOSE: The world of nonsense is pretty big and is open for a great deal of interpretation. A clear concept of purpose, intent, or reason things are done is perhaps the most crucial. It inspires constructive debates, brings together seemingly different ideas into shared solutions, and allows for innovative thoughts.

The purpose of putting a man on the moon was not just to achieve that feat, or to do it before any other nation. With it came a sense of national pride, it helped us develop a reputation for innovation and technology, and lead directly to countless textiles, fabrics, inventions, and understanding that many of us now take for granted.

Bill Gates purpose was to help people reach their fullest potential and knew software could be a significant aspect of it. It is difficult to imagine an aspect of life that Microsoft hasn’t improved (or inspired).

The next time someone tells you an idea doesn’t make sense; thank them for the compliment and know that you are on to something new. Keep at it, share it with others, and build a culture where it can thrive.

Powerful Communications: Grammar & Timing

Grammar Police

Last week we discussed the power individual words have on your communications and how a simple exercise can help focus your communications. But great communication is not only a matter of what words you say; it is impacted by the manner in which the words are composed, as well as the how they are delivered. In this week’s article; you’ll see how grammar and timing influence overall communications.

The Power of Grammar
During my career in advertising agencies; I got to work with many talented writers. Regardless of the client, medium, length, scope, or cost; they were always focused on what emotions were to be communicated to which audiences. Complete, well-constructed sentences say much more than just the words they contain. This correct use of language instills confidence in buyers that supports higher price points. Just how much higher is difficult to measure, but there are plenty of luxury brands who enjoy significantly higher prices than their moderate competition.

What is more significant is how much the use of improper grammar costs businesses. Such errors introduce doubt and cause shoppers to question quality of the product or seller. With similar products just a few keystrokes away (or even pictured on the same Amazon.com page), shoppers regularly opt for products using proper grammar and premium prices. Some experts claim such errors for half their non-purchases.

You won’t have to worry about my uncle (pictured above) and members of the Grammar Police chasing after you with citations. You’ll likely just have to deal with the abandoned shopping carts. Hint: abandoned carts just tell you there are problems. They don’t tell you the details of the problems.

The Power of Timing
Besides well-constructed sentences composed of great words, the timing of said messages (regardless of format) wields tremendous power.

I love how Amazon.com sends simple emails (that I don’t even need to open to understand) about the progress of each of my orders. One to confirm the order, one when each items ships (including tracking numbers), then one more after delivery. They even follow up a couple days later with a prompt for feedback on the product, or their services.

There is no doubt that an incredibly intricate system is running such a colossal operation. Yet when it comes to smaller easier-to-manage businesses; we rarely get the same treatment.

Do you know what types of communications do visitors and customers want to receive?
When do they want to receive them?
What will help them move through your sales process?

You can simplify communications into three types of activities:
1) Gain Attention or Interest
This information should be available all the time to all people. Websites, branding, positioning, what you offer, who is in the company, what makes you different from others, etc. Social media is a big opportunity to build initial fans, likes, shares, retweets. The possibilities are endless, but be sure to have a strategy.

2) Build Desire or Move Towards Action
Blogs are great as they can work as static information, and also help move visitors towards action of subscribing to get automatic updates. Things like whitepapers and e-books are even better as you can build profiles of what interests individual visitors and collect contact info for responsible use. Clever variations might be to offer a simple assessment for free, or an invitation to seminar (local or webinar).

3) Make Initial or Repeat Purchases
Once you have their contact information, and a purchase history, use it… responsibly. These customers are asking for engagement and would be disappointed if they didn’t get it. Monitor your open rates, click-throughs, additional views, and unsubscription lists for vital feedback.

As you start to build a profile of ideal customers, you can begin to predict when they are about to disengage or become uninterested. This is a perfect time to offer some new information or a story of a similar customer’s situation.

Making special offers or promotions that are relevant to your customers, will help them become bigger fans of your organization.

I encourage you to leave a comment about how this helps your communications. You can follow me here as well as on twitter @drfrick.

Words Have Power

wordshavepower

The purpose of communication is to help someone else to understand something in your mind. At the beginning of 2013, I started the foundation for my own communication strategies when I published Law Of Communication. I suppose this time of year is ideal for me to think about communications.

While few other animals have sophisticated vocabularies; we all communicate through a variety of vocal grunts, calls, songs, etc. as well as a range of silent gestures. The words we use indicate a great deal about our beliefs, methods, attitudes, and approach to business. They form opinions and mini contracts in the minds of audiences. One of the few parental sayings I will argue is that “sticks and stones might break my bones, but words cannot hurt me.” Words can be intensely powerful!

According to LanguageMonitor.com, there are over 1 million words in the English language, and a new one gets created about every 90 minutes – making it impossible for any one person to know them all. Thankfully, we don’t need to. According to the Reading Teachers Book Of Lists, an average adult has an active vocabulary of about 20,000 words. More interesting, the top 25 are used in over 30% of our everyday writing; and the top 100 are used in 89% of our writing.

One of the assignments I give to clients is to develop a word bank of at least 75 words and phrases they want to use regularly in their business communications. Words that reflect positioning or status, reinforce culture, elicit ideal responses, describe best customers, explain what the business does as well as how the it interacts with customers. Words can be common or proprietary, though it is best to minimize the use of industry jargon.

Like any other asset, this word bank gains value the more it is used. I find that this helps focus communications across a variety of formats, social media posts, article topics, presentations, and product design, as well as various stages along a sales cycle.

From its inception, Apple had a notion of being rebellious, breaking the rules, and attracting the round pegs that don’t fit into square holes. Notoriously, they had Steve Jobs’ strong ideals of how they were going to change the world, and likely didn’t need a word bank to help focus ideas. Even if you do have such a dominant, focused figure; I recommend this simple exercise.

In the early days of Internet, we had lots of choices in terms of search engines, yet Google rose to the top by keeping things ‘simple’, ‘straightforward’, ‘powerful’, and ‘easy to use’. I consider what they do to be highly technical, yet the company is so focused on these words that it hardly shows through.

From my own list, I am happy to explain how ‘attract’ and ‘positive’ influence me. Rather than targeting potential clients and trying to convince them to work with me; my approach is to create the circumstances where ideal clients will come to know me and trust me. Besides expressing ‘positive’ in the obvious manner (i.e. my positive outlook); I challenge myself to avoid using complaints and find new ways of re-working sentences and ideas to reflect what something is or could be (as opposed to what it is not).

As the calendar year comes to a close; I encourage you to make these two lists and incorporate them into your 2015 communications. I am sure you will be pleased with the impact they will make.

Purpose Simplifies Critical Decisions

Decisions are powerful tools of transformation. Before a decision is made; everything is possible, yet nothing is done – a blank canvas that overwhelms and terrifies many people. The moment a decision is made ideas begin to take both shape and form (even if only to apply, or not-to apply gesso). Though they might seem insignificant, these early decisions become a system that impacts the direction and dimension of all decisions to come.

Painters often start with a sketch of glorified stick figures and reference marks to roughly transfer the basic composition of ideas from their imagination onto canvas. Though unseen when finished, these early decisions serve as crucial framework that helps focus the details and proportions of works of art commonly referred to as masterpieces.

One of the ways business leaders can apply this is to formalize a clear statement of purpose (sometimes called a mission) that will provide framework for critical decisions down the road. It should be simple and specific, yet open-ended so that there is room for interpretation and growth.

Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useable”. Compare this with Yahoo!, who strives to “make the world’s daily habits inspiring and entertaining”.

Both offer many similar services like Internet searching, relevant display advertising, and free email accounts; but they do so in very different ways. Though similar in some services, they also offer very different services – each reflecting the company’s culture, expertise, and purpose. You can see how these early decisions set the course for financing, staffing, product design, and customers.

Here are a few ideas about how your PURPOSE can guide you through some of the toughest business decisions.

FINANCING/INVESTING
Banks, Venture firms, Angels, Wall Street, and private investors all want the same thing from their money. The main difference is their appetite for risk and timing of their returns. Regardless if you are seeking initial funding for your start-up, or are an established Fortune 100; the nature of your financing plans impacts nearly every aspect of operations.

Use your PURPOSE to help identify and align money sources before making commitments.

BUSINESS PARTNERS/LEADERSHIP/EMPLOYEES
Attracting and retaining ideal staff is never an easy task. Your people are often the loudest (if not largest) voice for your business. No matter what is said in outward communications (marketing, PR, paid advertising, etc); consumers will believe, read into, and respond to the actions and thoughts of your people – especially those in leadership positions. Consider how much negative PR was generated by the tweets and leaked emails from Uber executives. This has directly lead to crowds of customers leaving for other services.

Use your PURPOSE to help focus the thoughts and actions of your people, and unite them into a true team.

PRODUCT DESIGN/FEATURES
It is vital to listen to feedback from existing customers as well as would-be customers. They provide us with a never-ending stream of ideas about what to improve, new features to add, and a variety of solutions they might potentially purchase from us. Many of these ideas are great. Many are great for someone else to pursue. Decades ago, Apple launched an innovation called Newton that was supposed to launch the pda market. It was a flop in the market, and the division was sold off to a fledgling company called Palm who made the technology work with their hugely-successful Palm Pilot devices. Ironically; this lead to the smartphone, which Palm could not significantly compete.

Your PURPOSE helps serve as a filter and ranking system for this myriad of ideas to keep you on your ideal path to profitability.

SALES/DISTRIBUTION/PRICING
The point of the transaction itself is one of the most significant (yet often overlooked) aspects of the sale of the products you offer. Whether you design and control your own environment (think Apple Stores or Southwest.com) or rely on an outside/established channel (think mass retailers or selling through Amazon.com); the place and price you select communicates a lot about who you attract as customers.

Your PURPOSE helps align the right qualities and characteristics to bring about ideal sales.

As you can see; a clear statement of PURPOSE serves as a frame of reference for ALL critical decisions within your business. Invest time into developing this and communicating it throughout your company.

Policy Schmolicy

No Policy

I just read a report from US Travel Assoc. claiming that the reason travelers skipped out on 38Million trips in 2013 (resulting in a negative economic impact of $35BILLION – $9.5Bilion specifically to airline) was the hassles associated with flying. Some of the listed hassles include baggage fees, flight cancellation/delays; and security lines; and they all seem to involve rigid adherence to policies.

This reminds me of a steakhouse here in town that is infamous for upholding their CASH ONLY policy for over 50 years. After some resistance; they did arrange to have an ATM installed in the entryway. Similar to airlines, they offer a valuable service; yet continue to turn away customers in order to defend their policies.

Policies, defined as a course of action adopted for the sake of expediency or prudence; are typically designed to benefit the organization that created them (by dramatically minimizing risk or exposure).

I understand that most policies are ‘deserved’; or put into place after a specific ‘incident’ that brought about an undesirable result. But in the quest of making things safe and predictable; policy makers sacrifice quality, originality, judgment, any hopes of a remarkable experience, and limit the maximum performance to a mere marginal improvement over the minimum standards.

Compare these with the revolutionary behaviors (and resistance from policy defenders) of businesses like food trucks or ride-sharing services (like Uber and Lyft). They tend to operate without using cash or many other traditional policies – preferring to work on a ‘natural system’ of serving customers in a way that also benefits the business. This allows them infinite opportunities grow, expand, and evolve that cannot be outlined or contained in a sales binder.

Do you find established policies hinder your creativity or ability to serve customers needs?
What do your policies say about your company and perspective of customers?

It’s All About The Experience

Regular readers might already know this; but I enjoy cooking. I also enjoy exploring a variety of foods thanks to a thriving restaurant scene here in Louisville, KY. Some time ago, I was at a particular restaurant with a date. Upon hearing the specials from our server, I chose the sea bass while my date chose a dish from the regular menu.

We both decided the dish I ordered was the better of the two. We must have not been alone, because days later, that very dish was very favorably reviewed by a popular blogger. By the next week, the newspaper also published a favorable review, featuring an interview with the chef, and included the actual recipe for the dish. That next weekend, I bought all the ingredients and we had a dinner-date at home.

Though it was delicious; it wasn’t quite the same. So we made reservations to go back to the restaurant and pre-ordered the dish to make sure it was available. It was just as delicious as I remembered the first time. Maybe it was the excitement of the fancy restaurant that made it taste better, or the fact that I didn’t cook or clean. Or was it the cucumber-lemon water served at the table that shifted flavor receptors in our pallets? Perhaps hotter burners/ovens of the restaurant kitchen added to the crust and texture. Who can say how much these things enhanced the experience?

Humans are experiential beings. We associate complex emotions and input from multiple senses into our memories about key events. As my story depicts; it is not just about having everything checked off from a list, or following a recipe verbatim. While we both agree that the home dinner was very delicious; it merely a different experience.

No matter what you do; you can apply key elements of this anecdote to help grow your business.

  • Deliver a great experience – consistently.
    It is important to know that the restaurant has an advertising budget of approximately $0.00. They enjoy and protect a great reputation for dining experiences like this – they’ve been doing it like this day in and day out for more than a couple years. First-time customers quickly come back, and either share stories or invite new friends to join them.
  • Encourage customers to share their story.
    After receiving a great experience; most people want to talk about it and share it with friends/family. After sharing the story with another friend; he was the one who sent me blogger’s review and someone else clipped the recipe from the newspaper. With all the social tools available; it is easy to get instant reviews, check-ins, and post pictures on multiple channels that allow customers to share their experiences with vast connections. And it can be tracked with simple #Hashtags
  • Interact with them on a human level.
    After telling our server the story about making it at home and still coming back to enjoy it at the restaurant; she told us that we were not alone. Even though it is a simple recipe (as far as ingredients go) it takes some finesse to get it just perfect. When she presented our check, it included an invitation to their website where they regularly feature recipes for favorite dishes.
  • Give something for free – besides great experience.
    Offer the exact recipe, specific instructions, how-to’s, etc. Today’s technology allows for easy distribution of electronic files, books, and music. David Ogilvy, one of the forefathers of modern advertising famously posted full-page newspaper ads explaining his process for creating newspaper ads. One of the ways this attracted clients was for them to ask competing agencies to make an ad just like his. When clients received a less-than-perfect experience, there was only one place to go to get it right – just like we went back to the restaurant.

As I finish writing this; I am listening to the latest U2 album Songs of Innocence. Check your iTunes account as a free digital copy is being distributed to every user weeks before it is available for sale. I think it rocks!

What do you think this is going to do for album sales?

What are you doing to deliver a great experience to your customers?

Satisfaction vs Loyalty

Satisfaction_LoyaltyAt one time; satisfied customers must have been a meaningful statistic. Why else would we make such a big deal about such surveys? Today however, a satisfaction is more synonymous with a lack of disappointment.

There is a big difference between not disappointing and actually satisfying – an even bigger difference stepping up to building loyalty.

While many companies brag about their independent, third-party rankings for customer satisfaction on TV advertisements as they solicit facebook fans; it gives the rest of us an incredible opportunity to actually connect with people on a human level. Hint; studies show that less than 5% of your facebook fans actually interact with your page.

Humans are complex emotional beings that rarely make sense from moment to moment. Most of our claims of satisfaction or loyalty are merely a matter of circumstance or convenience. Ask when the emotion is good and you will get a good response. Ask when the emotion is bad and you’ll get a bad response. •

  • We rationalize the value of a new car purchase for several months, maybe a year – with excuses like, the old one needed new brakes, and new tires, a tune-up, the suspension was soft, and the air conditioning wasn’t working properly. Yet we also develop nostalgia for the very vehicles we use as a trade in deposit. •
  • We justify a new smartphone purchase by talking about how much faster it is compared to current model, or how much a new data plan (switching to a new contract) will save them each month. Hint; it is doubtful that the savings will amount to the purchase price of the device.

We have all heard stories about uber-loyal fans of musicians who sit for hours in line waiting for the box office to start selling tickets for a show that is at least 6 weeks away. Each new release of a new mobile device from Apple comes with a similar frenzy from loyalists. Some people call this behavior crazy. But to them, waiting like everyone else or missing the show would be crazy behavior.

These companies, and musicians grow into super-brands because they connect with people on an emotional level. These brands deliver what they want, what they do best, and give their fans an experience to remember. Decades from now, we might think of iPhone 6 as primitive technology; but the story about how you waited in line for 8 hours to be one of the first to own can still be relished and shared – kinda like stories from a Rolling Stones concert.

In a previous business; I got to see the power of these connections on a first-hand basis. I personally knew dozens of people who got tattoos with the company logo. They not only invested tens of thousands of dollars in products, training, and accessories; they also showed their loyalty in ink. This loyalty was never up for sale. Because they made this commitment with their hearts, heads and skin, they continued to defend the company throughout a lengthy back-order; and later through a product recall. They helped soften the blow. They even kept converting fans even while the company was not at full strength.

Harley-Davidson has a great reputation for creating legions of extremely loyal fans – both with and without company tattoos. It is no surprise when you read the mission statement.

  • Customers for life… Harley-Davidson values the deep emotional connection that is created with our customers through our products, services and experiences. We are fueled by the brand loyalty and trust that our customers place in us to deliver premium quality and the promise of a fulfilling lifetime ownership experience. We exemplify this commitment by embracing a culture of personal responsibility and stewardship for quality in everything we do.

The cost of building a company like this from the beginning ranges dramatically. In 1981, thirteen Harley-Davidson executives bought the company back from AMG to the approximate tune of $80Million. They had enough vision to see this as a bargain.

Regardless of whether you are into tattoos or not; I’m sure you can see that this type of loyalty is more powerful than mere satisfaction.

Are you building the type of company that people would be happy to support for the rest of their life?

Theory of Abundance

We all want more abundant lives, businesses, and careers. We seem to think of this word only as a good thing, but I have discovered that abundance applies to everything – the good, the bad, and the mediocre.

Without getting too metaphysical or philosophical; I’d like to share my thoughts on how each of us can attract plentiful opportunities and ideal people into our lives. Don’t dismiss the formula’s simplicity as a lack of validity or limited application.

Throughout my life and career, I have found myself in both disastrous scenarios (managing to pull myself out) as well as in the midst of incredible opportunity and fortune (often without realizing at the time). It is by analyzing these extremes that I have come to study how ideas like Creativity, Passion, Effort relate to each other and contribute to my circumstances as well as those of others.

Creativity is the portion given by our minds – It is the way we think and use resources around us to increase value. We are all artists and creative thinkers; yet often let critical voices silence the urge to create something. Where one sees a pile of scraps, another else sees shapes and makes a sculpture that stirs our imagination. Where some see challenge; others see a business model that connects technology with solutions. Where some hear nothing, others hear symphonies that stir our emotions.

Creativity is about making personal and emotional connections. It is often scary to be open for judgment by those who choose criticism over support, but it is exactly these investments in creative thinking that lead to breakthroughs of all sizes. The more we think about something, and let it run through our filters of education and experience, the more sense it makes to us.

Passion is the portion given by our hearts – I refer to it as the intensity we each have towards an idea, thought, or person; how much we care about it; or how it ‘resonates’ within us. Often described as a burning desire within us, passion is what compels us to continue with an idea even though it is not commonly supported. It is what gives us the will to dedicate endless hours of practice; often large sums of money as well.

Passion and creativity support each other seamlessly to build an amazing synergy. The more passion we invest into a project, the more creative ideas arise in our minds. The more ideas we have towards a project, the easier it is build more passion and inspire others to participate.

Effort is the portion given by our body – It is the physical work or activity we put into our creative ideas – be it in writing, researching, refining, rehearsing, presenting, etc. to individuals or groups. This can be effort of a single individual or collected across a team.

It is one thing to have a great creative idea, another to get excited about it, but without the activity to actually produce it or share it; there is little to no value in that idea. What I find amazing about effort is that when creativity and passion are high, the effort required to produce something is much easier to muster – in many cases, the effort is actually less because of the passion and creativity.

abundance equation

C: Creativity   P: Passion    E: Effort      A: Abundance

This formula helps me understand how such forces work in relation to each other to attract abundance into our lives. Inside the parenthesis, Creativity and Passion work to enhance each other while also serving as a multiplier to increase the benefit of any amount of Effort that is contributed.

Music Theories In Business

louisville-orchestra

Even without coherent words; music is a powerful communication tool. Composers throughout the ages have expressed and communicated complex emotions through this invisible, yet tactile medium.

Throughout my entire life; I have been exposed to music. My formal education began when I was young and I have been playing music consistently for nearly 30 years. It is easy for me to say that music has shaped my life and learning more than anything else (aside from my family influence, but they don’t count because they are not chosen).

Music helped me understand many concepts of math and science, as well as the complex human emotions in relationships. As I began my career in business; music was again there to serve as reference for my journey.

I have always liked the concept of SYNERGY – what we intellectually refer to as “the whole being greater than the simple sum of all the individual parts”. Since it comes from the Greek word synergos translated to mean ‘working together’; I can see why it is repeatedly used by managers to inspire us to create functional teams, find an extra gear, and work harder at finding and maximizing efficiencies so that Together Each Achieves More (overused acronym for TEAM). Synergy is not necessarily an efficiency gain as it is something extra that happens.

In music, when you play 4 tones at precisely tuned harmonic intervals called thirds, a fifth harmonic that is audible, yet not voiced, completes the chord. This is true synergy. Each note is good by itself, yet adding the other harmonics produces a richer, more complete chord.

We can apply this simple concept to business marketing by looking at a variety of efforts used to create revenue-generating transactions. These transactions can come from digital marketing alone, from a contest/promotion, a published article, or sales professional. When all of these are precisely layered and presented harmoniously; our message is naturally amplified and begins to resonate with more people than we previously thought. Those extra voices might be customer testimonials, additional PR, social sharing, and more. This buzz resonates with new people and spreads very efficiently to places we didn’t initially invest.

Another lesson I learned from music was that of SUPPORT. For most of the years I played clarinet; I was in the third and second sections and played slow-moving, long notes with the occasional counter melody. I thought it was dreadfully boring because I was only focused on my part. What kept me from quitting was hearing a recording of us playing a particular piece – I got to hear how my part supported and significantly contributed to the overall melody. Without it, everything sounded dull and thin.

Support is critical to building synergy anywhere. Synergy, harmony, and complexity often come directly from those seemingly dull and boring things like press releases, personal invitations to events, reply emails, return phone calls, etc. With so much attention placed on star players, highlight reels, Big-time CEO’s, and project managers; support roles often get overlooked or relegated to a remote back-office. Even worse, their compensations are hardly indicative of their true value. In an orchestral setting; all players are on the same stage, playing to the same audience.

I think every leadership team should take at least one course in music theory together in order to understand how these simple principles work to produce great companies that can resonate and inspire audiences throughout the ages.

 

Completing the Service

Bats Game

A couple weeks ago; I enjoyed a perfect summer evening at Louisville Slugger Field – one of the best ballparks in the entire sport. There was a good crowd (always helps when you go with friends) and though we lost; there were plenty of hits, runs, homers, as well as some errors to keep the game interesting.

While the sun was setting; I contemplated this experience from a business perspective. Unless they sell-out every home game; it is unlikely that they will make any profit off ticket sales alone. They count on revenue from concession stands to keep the team and field in working condition. I suppose we don’t seem to mind paying $6.00 for a drink or hot dog (something that we can get at home, or at a gas station for $2.00 or less) because it is engrained into our memories.

As we all sung the classic “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch; it really hit me how much ‘peanuts and Cracker-Jacks’ are part of the entire baseball experience. In order to be published in 1908, it must have been popular enough for Jack Norworth to put it in his lyrics.

Because we expect this as part of the experience, we don’t look at it as merely an upsell. We can either select to have the full experience, or just a partial one.

One of the first times I set out to make a major purchase in my life; I was disappointed by the incompleteness of the service. I was 14 and I had saved my lawn mowing money to purchase the new Sony Discman. Before heading to the store, I selected the CD that would inaugurate the device and intended to rock out the entire trip of errands my mother scheduled while she was out with me.

We were already in the car and running late to pick up my sister when I discovered that batteries didn’t come with the player. On top of sulking the rest of the trip in defeated silence; I had to walk several blocks to the drugstore (carrying my brand-new, but useless purchase) to buy batteries just so I could listen to it on the walk back home. Weeks later, I also replaced the cheap headphones that were supplied. The experience would have been so much better if it was offered in its complete form!

This memory has stuck with me for over 2 decades. As a result; I often make the easy choice when a complete service is suggested – “Such-and-such entrée pairs particularly well with the wine you ordered” gets me every time!

Call it a clever ‘upsell’ if you want; I recognize it as good marketing when it is done responsibly.

Take a queue from Amazon.com and start recommending relevant accessories or peripheral items to your customers. Whether it is a bottle of leather cleaner or conditioner for those new boots; or a technical training/orientation workshop for the new software system; offering it as a package will help you stand out as an informed professional who is looking out for their best interests. In the case of Amazon.com, their “customers who bought this also bought…” program accounts for nearly 30% of their revenue. The best part about it is that the customer wins by getting everything they want.

What items can you package together that comprise a complete service to your customers?

A Good WHY Leads To The Best HOWs

Just over two years ago I decided I was going to enjoy living a healthier lifestyle. I specifically remember it NOT being a difficult decision; and it was not about making abrupt radical changes. However, it is important that the decision was made and WHY it was made.

I wanted to improve my physical health, as well as my financial and emotional health; friends and family were in the mix somewhere too. I specifically did not have any goals in mind and just let the idea of enjoying being healthy serve as my guiding principle.

One of the first things I did was quit my job – more specifically, I quit the stresses and often-toxic relationships that I endured to receive a paycheck.

Every couple months after that, I added a new element to my life that I enjoyed doing (so that it didn’t feel like work), and that would bring me closer to my objective of enjoying being healthy. One change was to increase the amount and variety of vegetables I ate each week. This lead to exploring dozens of new recipes (I do enjoy time in the kitchen), as well as a greater appreciation for food. Other additions were along the lines of exercise, stretching, de-cluttering (friends and possessions) meditation, and reading.

As I continue what I anticipate being a lifelong journey that excited me; I noticed several positive things were happening. I smiled more, gave and received more hugs and hi-fives, was clearer about my passions, had more energy, met new people (both friends and clients), explored new areas of my city, my clothes started fitting better, and people asked what I was doing to lose weight.

My answer is always about the same; “I am not exactly sure, as I do not own a scale; but it is likely about 20-25 pounds. As far as how I did it; I just continue to make simple healthy choices that I can enjoy doing. Anyone can do that!”

Scales are easy to get and use, and our pants are a suitable measuring device for our waist. The boxes of packaged foods make it easy to track the calories, grams of fat, sodium, and carbohydrates. But monitoring and measuring these will not lead to a healthy life. But just because they are easy to use, doesn’t make them beneficial. Rather than relying on what is convenient; I choose to measure important things that actually relate to happiness and healthiness. While they offer a lot of flexibility and interpretation, I have found them to be surprisingly consistent.

I share this story because it is easy for others to relate and understand. It makes simple sense that by setting my focus on enjoying being healthy; changing the shape of my body was going to happen along the way, but the journey was much more tollerable.

The same thing works for businesses of all sizes as well. Sales, profits, and share prices are easy to measure. But I suggest they are the wrong metrics. When we use the wrong metrics, we open the door to unsustainable methods.

Like my focus of enjoying being healthy, a broader, holistic, approach with clear values is likely to produce long-term enjoyable results for all involved. The phrase Triple Bottom Line (coined by John Elkington) has been around since 1997, but many small and private companies have operated this way for centuries.

Develop a clear and compelling purpose for WHY the company was founded. Talk about how your personal passions support the business ones. Make it a part of your culture to encourage employees to do the same.

Get specific on where you want to go, and how you want the business to feel while it is growing. Share these with employees, customers, and vendors. As they understand these things, they will begin to bring you new ideas that support your quest.

Want proof that it works?

Disney, Ritz-Carlton, and Zappos.com built cultures and reputations on amazing customer service. Dozens of bestselling books have been published that explain their operating methodologies. They have training divisions that are completely focused sharing their systems with people OUTSIDE their organizations. All three are also industry leaders in revenues.

Along my journey, I was introduced to Simon Sinek’s book Start With WHY. I highly recommend checking it out.

A final point is the steady growth of B-Corporations who developed a new set of rules for operating a responsible, public company. Even though this is still in its infancy; more and more companies are beginning to behave this way. And consumers are supporting it with their purchases as well.

A Difficult Decision

Creativity is inspiring. It encourages people to think, present ideas with the hopes of moving the business forward; employees are more engaged; customers can easily tell the difference and are likely to talk positively with their friends.

But creativity, by its nature, is messy, emotional, difficult to manage, and nearly impossible to predict – it doesn’t scale well.

Conformity scales almost perfectly. Once the ‘ideal’ is established, it can be managed by training or disciplinary systems, and rewarded by hierarchy perks.

But by its nature, it is uninspiring, absolutely predictable, and boring. It rarely respects the skills and talents of employees, disconnects people from the work, and often leads to lackluster products and services. Customers can easily tell the difference.

Which will you choose in your business?
Which do you think has better long-term results?

An Upward Spiral

By their very nature; innovation and creativity are not very predictable or consistent; they do not scale well; and there is virtually no way to calculate an ROI. While many innovative or creative ideas are VERY scalable; the process of creating something new takes huge investments of time, materials, passion, training, mess, and support.

On the other hand, by their very nature; consistent and predictable tasks are easy to automate; are infinitely scalable; and rather often dull and boring. However, this creates opportunity for new innovations and creativity.

Tomorrow’s business icons will not only embrace both automation and innovation, but they will use to create opportunities for each other.
How will you create such an upward spiral in your business?

What IS your Brand?

Brands are usually associated with a unique mark or logo emblazoned onto an item. But your Brand is way more than your logo. It represents a structured system of beliefs about the company, the products, the people, the customers, and the experience they can expect across all interactions.

This structured system of beliefs can help reduce the emotions of multi-million-dollar questions to just one simple question: “How well does this initiative support our core strengths, and brand values?” Answer on a scale from 1-5. The higher it scores, the more resources should be invested in it.

Branding is not a new concept of denoting quality. Clay pots dating back nearly 5,000 years have distinct brands on them. Nearly every culture has developed a system of associating quality with certain brands. In England, the Merchandise Marks Act of 1862 made it a criminal offence to imitate another’s trademark ‘with intent to defraud or to enable another to defraud’.

Traditional businesses like Disney, Ritz-Carlton, and Tide; as well as technology-based ones like Apple, Google, Zappos.com, and countless others have invested heavily in aligning their brand with their culture – and they enjoy many benefits from such efforts.

While I like how Keith Weed, CMO for Unilever described a brand as “a contract between company and consumer wherein the consumer serves as both judge and jury”; I think it lacks a connection to the importance of investing in building a brand.

Eating lunch with my 3yr old nephew gave me an even simpler perspective of the importance of a brand. It’s like the bread of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – without it; we would have nothing but a sticky mess!

Sammich

Sam shows that HE doesn’t need bread to enjoy peanut butter and jelly.

In this analogy, the marketing, public relations, creative advertising, social media campaigns, and even the products themselves are merely the stuff we choose to put in our sandwiches; but the bread is what allows us to consume it effectively. The simplicity from two slices of white bread helps tremendously; but getting more detailed and specific (whole wheat, sourdough, marbled rye – toasted, or even grilled) can add tremendous benefits.

We need the structure of the brand to help us understand, enjoy, and communicate our values to others. When Apple first launched, they communicated to us that their products were innovative, easy to use, and incredible to experience with our [relevant] senses. They delivered on those original brand promises with unique look to their products, distinctive sounds, pristine fonts, intuitive organization of files, and then a weird thing called a mouse that was used to navigate around a screen of icons. All are standards now.

Decades later; they launched a smartphone without any buttons, and … well you know how strongly that that was adopted. I don’t think it is a coincidence that every product they launched that was ‘on brand’ was successful?

YES! Every company needs to be clear about what their brand means.

What does your brand say about you?

Do your people, processes, and products support the brand?

Does your brand support your people, processes, and products?

Change The World With Vision

Vision1

Visionaries change the world. They always have, and always will.

There is something special about them; the way they think, act, talk, and enroll others. The ones who win us over, only do so through sheer determination (not determination to prove being right or generate great wealth or fame; but a determination to contribute to improving the world).

I am sure there was some way Copernicus would be financially compensated for his, then radical, theories about the sun being the center of universe with planets orbiting around it; but that fortune would likely not last as long as his ideas.

The same goes for Da Vinci, Newton, Columbus, Ghandi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and so many of history’s great visionaries that have shaped today. In modern business and entertainment; we cannot argue the merits of Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, and so many others no longer living.

They saw something so vividly, so clearly in their mind that few others could not. They were ridiculed; had laws written to prevent them from succeeding; even fired from the company they founded because they were willing to risk their life/career to change the world. They succeeded by surrounding themselves with a variety of talent who believed in their vision (often without being able to see it themselves) and individuals who could help bring their revolution to reality.

They gained popularity in spite of the ridicule – likely because of it.
They introduced us to things we had never seen, things that we didn’t even know we wanted.
Perhaps their courage came from the sheer amounts of detail they saw, and a willingness to see people enjoy life in a new way.

Maybe that’s just the way I see it with my vision.

I took the above photo during a glorious week that I vacationed on Maui. I think about the early explorers who had the vision to either leave the island in search of a bigger world; or those who left an established continent in search of something more exotic.

Every business needs a vision, a clearly articulated destination. My flight to Maui covered several thousand miles to arrive at one very specific island, airport, runway, and gate. Does your business have that sort of clarity?

Make time every day (start with 20 minutes) to think about it until you do have it. This level of clarity over a vast span (time, distance, product development, etc) is perhaps the single, most important aspect to a successful business. This post was inspired by the following quote by Ansel Adams.

Ansel-Adams-Quote

 

A Carpenter’s Perspective on Building Business

I have always been handy with tools. Combine that with a strong sense of curiosity to understand that I easily adopted a DIY mindset early on in life. It began by taking things apart after they had ceased ‘working properly’ to study the innards and how they were assembled. As my knowledge and skills increased; so did my projects. Through high school, college, and early years into career life; I did side jobs like installing and assembling furniture that came flat as well as restoring and refinishing old furniture. This led me to several repurposing projects and ultimately to completely designing and building some of my own pieces.

While my home is full of items that show my handiwork; it is pieces like this media shelf that I enjoy most. What started as a need to house/display my growing collection of CDs (this was back in the 1990s – before iPod and iTunes); formed a strong foundation for many of my current business processes.

Media shelf

Media shelf – built in 1995, photographed in 2014

Here are some of the immediate similarities:
1: Design. The best products in our lives are ones that perform AND look good (both are open to a vast array of personal opinions). The finish of a piece often dictates the way it is assembled and many aspects of internal structures. In carpentry terms, this gets into different types of joints and often impacts the dimensions of each individual piece of wood.

In business; this not only transfers to design of the product itself; but also to the design of the process that produces the product. Where a carpenter has a variety of specialized tools and jigs; so too must a business – perhaps it is a patented technology, proprietary software, or highly specialized training programs.

2: Raw Materials. Part of the design is specifying the materials to be used. Different materials have different strengths, characteristics, looks, and costs that all impact the final product. While engineered wood (like Medium Density Fiberboard) offers advantages of strength and cost, it lacks personality and I prefer to cover them with a veneer or several coats of paint.

In business; we can hire teams of people to merely follow an established process or an operations manual. This might offer some benefits of uniformity and predictability; but misses out on the important emotional connection to customers.

3: Passion and Personality. What originally drew me to woodworking was the individual characteristics of the wood. Different grain patterns draw your senses into a rich variety of colors, shapes, and textures. While two pieces of stock might have the same dimensions, they can act and look very differently, yet still perform the same function. Knots or features in the grain can often be accentuated or avoided with strategic cutting and fitting.

In business; we are constantly dealing with the variety of personalities from managers, peers, partners, distributors, vendors, and customers. There is no exact science to dealing with people, it merely requires patience, understanding, and a passion for bringing out the best in others.

I am compelled to share this thinking in light of pending mega-mergers where corporate giants (such as Comcast/TWC or AT&T/DirecTV) only look to grow through acquisition. It doesn’t seem like they understand how to build or create something with their own hands.

Building Innovation

lightning_19

We know that lightning strikes the earth about 100 times each second. We even know that nearly 70% of lightning occurs over land in the tropics where the atmospheric convection is greatest. But we still don’t know where or when it will happen. We don’t know what the results of each strike will be.

Perhaps this is why the term ‘brainstorm’ is used – to suggest creating the ideal conditions for ideas and innovations and ideas to strike. Sometimes the best way to describe how an idea comes to mind is that it just appears in a flash of brilliance.

Like lightning; Innovation does not follow rules of predictability. It is unpredictable, inconsistent, risky, and often unrefined. We understand many of the elements needed for innovation, but cannot mechanize it.

In society, we are surrounded by norms of conformity – highways, traffic signals, and paved sidewalks. These policies, and procedures are designed to deliver predictable and consistent results that can be managed; not necessarily be the most efficient or direct route.

Too many businesses treat innovation as a temporary disruption. The flash of lightning and boom of thunder might wake you from a deep sleep, or capture your awe temporarily, but only for a moment. Then it is back to the routine. Over time, this changes the atmospheric conditions that minimizes the likelihood of innovation and predictably grinds the company into nothingness.

If you want to build a culture of innovation; start thinking about the footpath below. It wasn’t ‘placed’ there like the sidewalk was. It evolved there.

Worn path

Make simple evolutionary changes – a personal expression or interpretation of the norms that is different, yet not enough to attract too much attention all at once. Build momentum. This path likely started as just a subtle depression in the grass. As more feet traveled, it wore the grass completely, but was narrow. Then it became wider and more pronounced as even more people use it.

Before long, the new way is just as established as the old way (though not set in concrete) and is able to handle greater traffic loads while delivering more efficiencies. Then it is on to finding the next evolution.

What Is The Structure of Your Business?

Tyler Arch

Tyler Park: Louisville, KY

Arches distribute weight loads over a span – providing windows, doorways, tunnels, and all sorts of internal volume. They are one of the oldest and most widely recognized aspects of architecture and are defined as a curved masonry construction for spanning an opening – consisting of a number of wedge like stones, bricks, or the like.

Properly designed and built; they can support tremendous loads … over long distances … for thousands of years. Arches get their strength from compression. Gravity, weight of the load, and the shape of the stones work to force the system closer together; therefore increasing its strength.

The stone at the top center of an arch is called a keystone; and while it carries the smallest stress-load, it is perhaps the most crucial part as it distributes the load through the system. During construction, the entire system is unstable and needs to be completely supported externally with bulky scaffolding and framework. But once the keystone is precisely set in place; the system will support itself and its intended load.

How much would your businesses, departments, or teams operate with a proper keystone; one who is 100% committed to and part of the system?
The role of a keystone (in arch or team) is two-fold:
Distribute the workload evenly through the system;
Provide strength to keep the system together

Unfortunately, too many see the upfront the cost of having to build the system (that won’t work until it is complete); they see the ugly scaffolding; and opt for a different type of system – perhaps one that is quicker, easier, or more contemporary.

They may not be revolutionary designs anymore; but each year, millions of people visit the ancient ruins of Rome and marvel at the strength and longevity of arches. Besides the architecture, the city has a history of ‘keystone’ leaders as well.

IMG_3028

Colosseum: Rome, Italy

The Other Side of FEAR

photo-1

My first ever attempt of public speaking happened during freshman year of High School. The assignment was to give a 3-5 minute speech on any subject that excited us. I honestly do not recall the topic I chose; but I remember vivid details about the way I presented it.

We were presenting in alphabetical order by last name, this was designed to be of utmost fairness so that everyone had proper time to prepare. The presentations before me only served to amplify my anxiety – palms were sweating and my heart was pounding so hard I feared it might burst.

When my turn came; I walked up to the front of the room – feeling 30 sets of judging eyes and ears focused upon me.

The only amazing aspect of my presentation was that I read 12 index cards in 1 minute, 37 seconds, then ran back to the safety of my desk. I think I only took 4 breaths through the entire thing.

Grades were given in a 1-1 conversation with the instructor along with notes, tips, and relevant feedback. Mine went much like this; “David, the only way I can rate your performance is… FAIL.” But before my confidence could drop at all; he followed it with, “You’re not alone. Everything you did poorly is easy to fix, and I am happy to work with you to not only change the grade, but help change your future. Are you up for that?”

I appreciated the brutal honesty, followed immediately with the sincere support; and happily joined a few fellow students for some life-changing training.

Over the next couple of weeks, this instructor helped us understand some of the physiological things that were happening. While my words were in hyper drive; a fellow student said less than 50 words before completely freezing. He helped us channel this energy to help our performance rather than hinder it. He gave us a structure on how to write, and prepare, our speeches; and powerful ways to rehearse, and deliver our lines.

These sessions absolutely changed my life as they taught me how to overcome one of the most common fears – of public speaking.

Since then; my presentation skills continue to improve. I have attended dozens of courses and training programs; I have shared my experience and knowledge with people; and I have presented to thousands of audiences ranging from 1 to over 700. Presenting is now a significant part of my life and career. I still get excited before every presentation, and even feel it before I hit the  ‘PUBLISH’ button on this article. These butterflies simply remind me that I am doing the right thing.

Understanding, experiencing, and overcoming the powerful grip of fear has led me to the amazing highs in my life. When I look at those terrible lows; I also see the familiar signature of fear.

While I am being so open; here are just a few of the places I discovered fear was holding me back:
Asking for what I want
Asking for opportunity, a sale, or an order
Setting my prices to ‘low’ or ‘average’
Suggesting a way to improve
Sharing my thoughts and ideas
Standing out in a crowd
Being alone / Not being accepted
Making ‘bad’ or ‘poor’ decisions

What are your fears preventing you from enjoying?

Advice For College Students

Yesterday I was fortunate to participate in my 3rd Sales Alumni Panel at University of Louisville College of Business. 6 other Alumni gave their morning to share wisdom, advice, and experiences to attentive students about to graduate. My 3-minute story began with…

“I remember this program when I took this class and how the panelists shared great tips and advice for my classmates. While things were a bit different back in 1998 (smiles filled the faces as they figured out how old they were when I was sitting in the same chairs); the principles and lessons of personal selling are applicable to all facets of life, regardless if the situation is in business, non-profit, or personal/family.

My career in sales has taken me across the country dozens of times and on two incredible trips to ITALY. I have made worthwhile friends, worthwhile money, and have lots of amazing stories that I get to keep forever. In thinking about what to share with you today; I have 4 Golden Rules For Sales.

 

4 Golden Rules

Quick photo of my actual notes

 

My question to you is…

What would you share with students at your alma mater?

Grow Your Business Through Networking, Not Karaoke


karaoke1_1271119874

 

Networking events are not for making sales pitches and closing deals. They are for meeting and connecting with other people. Sometimes you meet some really great prospects, but as most networking events are put on by an industry organization; you meet a lot of your competition – or at least people who already believe, support, and/or represent ideas similar to you. It is kind-of like a night at a karaoke club where everyone is waiting for their moment on stage.

There are a few fundamental flaws with this situation:

No Context:
The song before you might be a classic sing-along; like Billy Joel’s Piano Man. Or it could be a touching beer-laden version of Carrie Underwood’s hit about taking vengeance on a cheating man. Neither are the best set-up for your well-rehearsed, interpretive version of Jackson 5’s ABC 123. No matter how great each vocal performance is; it is hard to work the crowd into the necessary frenzy with just 1 song that – even though it might be YOUR favorite – they might not particularly want to hear.

At networking events, your message is often lost in the mix of everyone else’s – even if it is particularly clever or catchy.

Intent Of Crowd:
The biggest reason people go to karaoke clubs is to DO karaoke. Almost the entire audience consists of performers. Though they respect and support other performers, they are not in the club to hear YOU. And it’s a pretty safe bet that talent scouts for record labels are not hanging out at your favorite karaoke club.

In most networking events, the focus is on something else – the trade show booths; the great speaker sponsored by the chamber of commerce; happy hour drink specials; etc. The intent of the crowd is not primed for closing deals.

Luck Of The Draw:
Even though you have submitted your song; you never really know when you get your chance to shine. Anticipating there will be a wait; you might even make 2-3 submissions. In between your songs; you might be able to appreciate other performers; but staying relatively primed for your own performance dampens that appreciation.

In my years of business; I have heard enough people tell me how much they dislike networking, and meeting new people in this format. It tells me that they are likely more focused on their fears and internal dialogue than on things I (or anyone else) have to say.

Networking is a combination of business and social settings. Events and groups are a great ways to meet and learn more about people and the businesses they represent. The only ‘deals’ that should be ‘closed’ are additional meetings to explore potential opportunities.

Making quality connections is about having a discussion about relevant things that matter to both parties. While it is important to network with a game plan and know whom you want to meet, who they know, and how to get a quality introduction. These introductions only happen after you establish trust and value. Great ways to establish trust and value include: asking engaging questions, and listening to their answers.

Here is a reference to one of my first articles about networking nearly 2 years ago that is still relevant. Experts in Networking

 

Getting Started With Content Marketing

social media

One of the hottest buzzwords today is Content Marketing. Though the name might be new as it is part of your Social Media Marketing Strategy (you do have one of those right) the idea has been around for a very long time. A Press Release, Advertorial, Editorial feature, etc., even a simple brochure and product flyer are pre-cursors of today’s Content Marketing.

Salespeople use to be gatekeepers of information. If you wanted to know something about a company, product, or process; it was easiest to get it from the people who like to talk. Today, consumers are more informed than ever (at least they have access to information). They often have more timely and relevant info than sales department.

Consumers in all industries crave new content at insatiable levels. Businesses that capitalize on this can make significant growth. While it can seem like a daunting task; it can be done in ways that are relatively easy to manage. In simplest ways of looking at things, we already create plenty of content through daily interactions. By changing the way we think about how we create and distribute said content, we can find an easy place to start.

With a proper strategy; effective messages can be brief enough to fit within twitter’s 140 character limit. Blogs, infographics, videos, pictures, and various links can be shared around the world in just minutes! Clients often ask me to help determine what should be communicated, how, and when. Here are three places effective content likes to hide in many organizations.

Recurring sent emails: You know, the ones you save as a draft to mildly edit before sending it to a new/existing client. It can be re-purposed into a blog post or infographic.

Frequent conversations: After the tenth time you have ‘the same conversation’ with a customer, you should record it as a video and post it.

Customer experiences: Completed projects/installations, case study results, before/after pics, and testimonials are great opportunities to share. Once you get permission, tag/include customer and invite them to co-promote.

Now that you have a few places to start; mix up the content you supply. Encourage dialogue, sharing, and other forms of participation. Ask open-ended questions? Contribute to relevant discussions.

Final tip: Remember that your social media activities are public and make impressions on gazillions of people. Take the time to spell check and use proper grammar to be sure you give the best impression.

Making Valuable Connections

Social-Network-Vector1

Marketing today is about making connections – meaningful connections. This is done by communicating a message of value (or a series of them) to people who are interested. With the omnipresence of a variety of social media tools; it is increasingly easier to make and manage connections with lots of people

The message will be rather different; but the method is consistent. Define your particular audience and learn what is meaningful to them. Simply highlight the ways your brand, company, culture, process, etc. will authentically reflect these meaningful qualities and connections will be made in the form of likes, follows, shares, retweets, and more.

Connections are great, but goals, budgets, quotas, and salaries are based on SALES. Sales is simply a process of leveraging those meaningful connections into revenue – exchanging money for product or experience.

It is important to know that not all connections will become a sale; but increasing the meaningful connections will lead to an increase in sales. The key is to build stronger and more active connections; these are more easily converted into sales.

Today, more than ever, time and personal information are some of our most precious things. The more time a connection gives you (accurately measured in fractions of a second, or clicks) and the more information they give you (a given email address is an invitation to valuable contact in the future. If abused; they will more likely delete than unsubscribe) are indications of how easily they will exchange money for your products.

The time spent, and information transferred during engaging with connections can help refine the marketing process; expose new uses of an existing product; build initial momentum for new products; and determine potential geographic markets – all at a fraction of the cost that it used to take.

 

Marginal Impact – How A Change In Operations Becomes Great Marketing

img007

The dictionary refers to marketing as the total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the producer to seller to consumer or buyer, including advertising, shipping, storing and selling. Marketing is not something that is done TO a product; it should be part of every aspect in business.

Years ago, I was working with a client who’s operational focus was to not only to sell environmentally-friendly products and solutions; but to be a beacon, setting an example and encouraging clients to follow their lead.

In looking at their invoices; I noticed that simple changes could be made to the margins of the template that would allow a) their most common products to print on just one line; and b) more items to be listed on one sheet of paper. At first; neither of us thought much about the idea and it was nearly logged as one of those things that would be nice; but not pressing.

Until we looked at the entire scope of the change.

The average invoice printed on 6 pieces of paper; and these changes would get that down to 4 pages, and only rarely needing a 5th. At the time, they were printing nearly 10,000 invoices each month. While there were too many variables (like growth and variation of invoice length) to predict exactly how much it would reduce the paper consumption as an office expense item; we knew it might be expressed in pallets of paper over the course of a year or so.

This little change was aligned with the company message to ‘do more with less’ as it enhanced the profitability while reducing the environmental impact.

Realizing that this change in paperwork might cause confusion to clients (used to receiving the old invoices); a letter was drafted to explain the new look; suggest simple opportunities within their business to reduce, re-use, or recycle (one of my favorites was to use the back of previously printed paper for notes, messages, internal memos, and the like – a practice I still employ today); and to ask them to talk to their service representative about other ways company can help them do more with less.

At the upcoming sales meeting; all representatives were to be informed of the changes, and had time reserved to collaborate on a list of conversations that could be had with interested clients.

Changing the margins on their invoice not only made for some worthwhile operational benefits; it also enhanced the interaction between seller and buyer – clearly making it part of the marketing process.

I love hearing stories of how you implement similar changes in your business. Please share them here, and various social postings.

Is Your Business Viral – Integrate Marketing Into The Product Itself

In a traditional model, businesses had different departments with different responsibilities. Research & Development determined what products to make; Design & Engineering figured out how to make them; Manufacturing actually made them; Marketing decided what would be said or how to position products; Sales ensured the products got sent through distribution channel; all while Operations worked to keep things moving smoothly. And so-on and so-on.

This model hardly works any more; so I look to the music industry for inspiration.

Here is a scenario that has happened to me on more than one occasion.
A friend with different musical taste turns me on to a new band and I am quickly interested, find them on YouTube and play several videos to get a good sampling of their sound.

After following them on twitter, they soon inform me of an upcoming date in my city. I decide to attend, but until tickets are available; simply purchase a few songs and add them to select playlists.

2 weeks before the show; excitement drives me to buy the entire album and maybe their lesser-known first one as well. I don’t want to be one of those fans who only appreciates the songs that are played on the radio.

Day of show: I might tweet my seat numbers with a link to a favorite video and a hashtag or two. While keeping some degree of composure at work; my focus is on the show.

I get to the show early enough to listen to the opening band – after all, they have been getting some good reviews as well. More than once; I was so impressed that I signed up for their mailing list as the transaction of purchased CD is processed.

The main event delivers all that was promised – an incredible performance that was well worth the price.

We experience the event from the perspective of an enthusiastic fan. But as we go to bed recalling the memories of the event; the band and crew are tearing down, loading up, and heading to another city to play again tomorrow. For them it was just another ‘day at the office’; albeit a cubicle free office that produces 100 decibels.

While this fits perfectly into the model of a growing rock-n-roll act; here’s how it can be applied to any business or product.

Instead of finding customers and convincing them to buy products; create fans. Fans expect a performance, so be sure to create and deliver one. Your presentations are like their songs, make them something we will be repeating in the shower or on morning commute.

While revenue is generated through purchases of songs, cds, tickets, and merchandise; bands really seek to make connections with their fans. These connections are what drive the purchases.

Build excitement through engagement. Fans are more likely to open their wallets when you make them smile. Make stuff that puts a smile on faces, and is easy for your fans to share with others.

Along each step of the journey, offer a variety of price-points that deliver different levels of experience. YouTube videos are free, but often serve as the foundation for a viable tour. A free e-book in exchange for contact information can build your fan base and help you better see the geographic or demographic trends developing.

Musicians are start-up businesses that, in some ways, serve as great examples of how to use technology to infuse marketing into their operations. Click the picture below for a link to hear original music from my band St Johns Wort.

SJW on stage

abundance of success

#Success, like any other form of energy, is neither created not destroyed – it constantly changes forms. There is more than enough for everyone to have their fill.

It is so abundant that we don’t even realize how much of it we even throw around. There is no need to worry about who seems to have more or even how they got it. 

Thank a dreamer

Be sure to thank a #dreamer today. In spite of being mocked so many times; they continued developing their dream until people saw its value one at a time. 

Dreamers actively shaped nearly every facet of our lives today – the clothes we wear, cars we drive, technology we adore, music we crave, and everything in between. 

Besides support and sincere appreciation; dreamers like to know that they inspired others to dream as well. Share an idea with them and discover how amazing it feels to have someone believe in it. 

simplify and share

Having a simple and articulated #purpose acts like a magnet to not only attract ideal people, but also scenarios where they each can shine. 

It provides a framework for them to contribute their passions, skills, and ideas.

Dreams come true

No matter how big it is; #dreams only need directed action applied over time to come true. More action by more people working together with better directions makes dreams come true much faster. 

Surface tension

Merely pleasing others doesn’t win many loyal friends, fans, or customers. This kind of #dedication requires a type of friction that connects with some while leaving others a little roughed up. 

Your intent should not be to offend; but understand that it will happen

Are you measuring the right thing?

BIGGER is a comparative measurement of size. 
MORE is a comparative measurement of quantity. 
Neither of the two are accurate indications of QUALITY or #SUCCESS. 

Take time to determine the most worthwhile criteria to measure for your business. 

Thanks to technology; we have thousands

Thanks to technology; we have thousands of ways to show love and #gratitude to friends, family, customers & vendors. What are your favorites

You have to see and believe your #success

You have to see and believe your #success before anyone else will.
How do YOU communicate your vision to others?
http://ow.ly/i/7Aajc

The Art of Business

Art changes the world as much as it changes the artist. It goes beyond the painting, sculpture, or poetry that are produced and connects us to our emotions. Then it brings us to a resonant frequency.

The work we do every day is no different. The products we make, reports we file, and meetings we hold are merely a different set of tools than watercolor, chisel, or words. Even though money is exchanged for the products we buy and the labor we supply; there is much more to the scene when we consider what is really at play – our emotions.

A generation ago, most of us took great pride in working for our employers, and trusted our favorite brands to deliver as advertised. For the most part, companies responded in kind to complete the connection.

Today however, that connection is often broken. Far too many corporations are focusing their efforts towards winning on Wall Street, or in ‘pleasing’ the masses. This leads down a path that doesn’t offend anyone like the lifeless images that are featured inside the picture frames. Some companies have distilled out all the personality of their art and simply offer a variety of meaningless wall-hangings, betting they will achieve sales based on their position in market rankings or other statistical likelihood. Meanwhile, those who not only retain, but figure out how to maximize their human element will continue to gain loyal fans.

A business is much more than just the sum of its transactions. With every purchase, customers tell us how much they trust, value, and appreciate us. In the never-ending quest for lower prices, we are encouraging people to trust us less and less.

For me, the point of business is to make stories that connect with people. How often do you connect with customers?

Rather than reading through slides of PowerPoint; go low-tech – pull up a chair, sit eye-to-eye and tell a true story about how your product changed someone’s life.

Don’t have such a story? There’s no need to re-design the product yet. Talk to customers about why they bought it, and be sure to listen beyond what they say. Most purchases are made not to merely fill a physical need, rather they are made to fill an emotional need and outwardly communicate to others. The clothes we wear, music we play, method of transportation, etc. make up the complex bits that result in our first impressions.

 

What does your business/work say about you?
How much to customers value/appreciate/love your art?

Motivation vs Inspiration

As both words indicate a cause for action; they are often used interchangeably. May this be a simple guide that helps you choose between them.

Motivation is an external influence – typically from a person with authority or power. In marketing; we often use tactics like discounts, sales, gift-with-purchase, and loyalty programs to motivate customers to buy more, or buy sooner. In leadership settings, it is common to motivate with fear – loss of status or employment if a particular task is not completed – as well as with incentives – surpass quota and receive a financial bonus.

I like to describe motivation as lighting a fire underneath someone. While it is effective; the motivated behavior is often temporary. In sales, it is easy to monitor and track a spike followed by a dip. Other human behavior is similar, but not as easily tracked.

Inspiration on the other hand is an internal drive towards something. It is a self-contained idea that impacts people on a deeper level – a passion, a calling. Artists of all sorts talk about what inspires them to create their works. It is easy to see this in design and creation of new products or businesses. And, the first people to begin purchasing the goods talk about being inspired to purchase; as well as inspired to share the experience.

I like to describe inspiration as lighting a fire within someone. It is about connecting them with tools, ideas, and support that they can make a difference. Allowing them to use their creativity and imagination to results in long-term impacts that might be measured in decades, entire careers, or lifetimes. Inspiration is also amazing in that it can be done over great distances (geographic or time). Someone can read a book that was printed hundreds of years ago, and dedicate their life to a single idea contained within that book.

In all aspects of human behavior, it is critical to remember that humans are complex creatures with individual personalities. They need to be treated as such.

Making quality #connections with others

Making quality #connections with others is about being authentic, creative, & vulnerable; not on needs, compliance, or manipulations.

What if #Imagination was regarded as mor

What if #Imagination was regarded as more important than our sense of sight, sound, touch, smell, & taste? What would you improve first?

Selling Valuable Experiences

Every business strives to deliver value. Many even say so in their brand/company name, mission statement, and/or tagline. We are bombarded by the word hundreds, if not thousands of times each day – so often that we de-value and ignore the word itself.

Like the adage says about beauty; Value is in the eye of the beholder. But this is an impossible metric to quantify; and an even more impossible thing to scale. In spite of it being impossible; businesses sell on ‘value’ every day.

Value can be shown through larger sizes or smaller sizes; heavier weight or lighter weight; faster deliveries; plastic vs metal; metal vs plastic; custom options; permanence; disposability; and so on. Value is about what we, the consumer, consider being worth money. More and more, we are leaning towards things that create memorable experiences.

In order to sell valuable experiences we must connect on a human level with customers and take time to listen to their needs, wants and desires. Here are a couple very different examples of how one might experience Van Gogh’s Starry Night:

300px-Van_Gogh_-_Starry_Night_-_Google_Art_Project

Art.com offers a poster for $9.99 (shipping not included).
Does this sound like a good value? You can mount it on your wall with a couple thumbtacks or bits of tape and experience it every day.

At $25.00 (transportation not included) you can get a ticket for the Museum of Modern Art and see the original. Here, you will also get to se lots of incredible works of art and will likely leave with a greater appreciation for art, or even in a state of inspiration to create your own work. On your way out, you can stop by the gift shop and purchase a poster to re-inspire you for another $26. Chances are, that you will be more inclined to put this poster in a frame than the one bought online, because you value the experience of seeing the original.

Some estimates of the original say that it is valued at over $100 Million. Owning it would be an entirely different experience altogether!

Works of art are truly one of a kind and last a long time, so some consider this a very unique situation. Cheeseburgers on the other hand are pretty consistent from one maker to another; ground meat, melted cheese, bun, and a variety of fixin’s. Since the actual cheeseburger will only last a day or two, it’s value is much more about the experience.

Nearly every fast-food drive-through offers a cheeseburger at $0.99 on their Value Menu.

One of my favorite burgers is nearly $20.00. It is really tasty, and I don’t mind admitting that part of the reason I go to Proof On Main is for the service, ambiance, art, and experience of it.

Finally there is the Paris Las Vegas’, Le Burger Brasserie, where you can get a cheeseburger for $777.00! I have yet to try it out, but I am certain that it will be a memory I value for a lifetime.

Regardless of what the actual item you are selling, people want an experience. Take a moment to make it special for them while being authentic to you.

Clarity of #Purpose provides everyone in

Clarity of #Purpose provides everyone in your business a consistent framework for making decisions. “How does (action) reflect our purpose?”

Marketing In The Wild

Looking at animals’ physical characteristics; it is often easy to see how they evolved to thrive in different environments among fierce competition. A cheetah; with its long, flexible spine, narrow (yet deep) chest, and a slender head indicates it is built for speed and attacking nimble prey. While lions; with significantly more muscle mass, broader shoulders, wide jaws, and social skills were built for the power needed to hunt large prey.

The exaggerated wingspan of an albatross leads to near motionless, long-distance flight. With so much lift generated from their outstretched wings, their heart rate during flight is almost the same as when resting. Meanwhile, the heart rate of a hummingbird is over 1000 bpm helping its wings beat fast enough to hover as it drinks nectar from flowers. This consumes huge amounts of energy, thus they developed a metabolism that almost immediately converts sugars in into useable forms.

Developing unique strengths not only helps avoid becoming prey, but also creates powerful advantages for sustenance and lifestyle. These animals show us how to embrace the features/qualities we are given.

Like the lions; enterprise-level businesses with many mouths to feed must look for client opportunities of a significant size or else it would be a waste of energy. They likely have a longer cycle of engagement, and include many different disciplines to secure the client. Once landed, the workload and benefits are spread more evenly over many people. The clients they ignore are then ideal for smaller, faster firms. The same is true the other direction. A leaner structure doesn’t have such stores of energy and needs projects on a more frequent basis. When projects are too big for them or not suited for their strengths, the result is a waste of precious resources.

While many businesses have evolved to embrace their unique strengths; far too many seem to be modeled after the platypus. Native only to waterways of eastern Australia; these are egg-laying mammals that are extremely awkward on land (though not much better in water) with a tail like a beaver, short legs, webbed feet, venomous stingers on back feet, fur like an otter, and a mouth like a duck. It doesn’t seem particularly adept at anything.

platypus

You might know a business that operates with a Platypus Marketing strategy. They often have one or more of the following: multiple versions of their business cards/logo; a lackluster website; non-existent social media, hap-hazard sales incentives/promotions, and plenty of inconsistencies among sales persons. While this often plagues start-ups and companies with tiny budgets; it is not at all rare to see them amongst well-funded companies.

I challenge you to take a few moments to peruse your materials and methods.
Do they reflect your unique strengths as a business?
Do they support each other and build synergy?

Either question not answered with an emphatic ‘YES!’ suggests dramatic wastes of energy. Unlike a wild animal, businesses can be active and strategic in their own evolution.

Having a clear purpose provides the fram

Having a clear purpose provides the framework for ALL business decisions.
Do You have a clear purpose?
How do you communicate/support it?

Your specific words make a big differenc

Your specific words make a big difference on how you see things. What some people call an ‘opportunity’; others might label as ‘hard work’, ‘current deficiency’, or ‘difficult challenge’.

How can changing your perspective impact YOUR business?

Which do you think is a better practice

Which do you think is a better practice for growing business
To FOLLOW trends
or
To START trends?

Your comments are welcome

#Success is never about how many times y

#Success is never about how many times you do the same action; it is about passionately applying what you learn over the times you do it.