Nothing in Business is Free

Let me just repeat what you have heard before, NOTHING is free, especially in business. Free will cost you something. The individual or company that offered you something for “nothing” is expecting “something” in return, whether it is your time, your information, or your money.

Yet, we seem to easily succumb to free offers. Marketers have been ringing that bell for centuries and we continue to show up! Pavlovian Conditioning has taken hold of our reactions and behaviors towards free. It is as if we are hardwired to respond to free. It often requires thought-processing and discipline to not react to “free,” even for curiosity’s sake.

As defined in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we are motivated by our hierarchy of human basic, psychological and self-fulfillment needs for survival. Free brilliantly feeds our deficiency and growth needs, as it can be perceived to be less work, little time, no money. It’s free! Or is it?

Businesses have long engaged in serving up plenty of free. It’s common practice in sales and marketing to drive a response and entice you into engagement. It is every consumer’s responsibility to select and filter what is offered for free. Determination of the right outcome should be guided by the general economics rule that there is nothing for “free” and everything costs something, including doing nothing.

Ways Businesses Utilize Free to Win You Over

  • FREE Content and Media
  • FREE Software and Hardware
  • FREE Goods and Materials
  • FREE Expertise and Advice
  • FREE Tools

What did you give up in exchange for free?

The holy grail for any business, beyond revenue, is data and intelligence about your identity, your activities, your interests and most importantly, your needs.

Quid Pro Quo

Content is king to marketers. It’s the best “perceived” free offer to get you to engage. What is understood in the exchange of information, is that the all important free whitepaper you download, webinar your register to attend, article you read online has a price – usually your identity. Simply, content has economic value.

You see, it wasn’t free to produce the content and the business needs a return on their marketing investment. For you, that give-back will undoubtedly end up in a difficult unsubscribe moment if you aren’t really ready to commit to an ongoing relationship. If the marketer is savvy, they will want to also get your phone number, address, title and some other profiling data bits for future courting. It is quid pro quo.

Quid Pro Quo: Something that is given to you or done for you in return for something you have given to or done for someone else.

Your action, your click, your interest is valuable to a marketer. The intent was there all along and if you play along, it is assumed everyone understands how “free” works. Businesses will entice you with expertise, knowledge, fun facts and top secret insights to get you to volunteer your privacy and enter the game of quid pro quo.

Game or business, it is how the process works. Nothing is assumed and nothing should ever be hidden in the way it all works. It should all be out in the open and transparent in the collective activities. You opt-in, you share, you provide open ownership of your data and you are officially connected as a prospect. A lead of sorts, unqualified perhaps; however, still a potential buyer. A customer in waiting.

In the end, this work of trying to engage you all leads to the creating a “pool” of contact-worthy participants. What is often not considered by the willing participant in the quid pro quo game is the cost of the free content that openly converts you to the property of that collector, and potentially being sold to other “like” collectors who have a shared interest in your interests.

Free Creates Data

It’s money, it’s transactional, it’s business and you are now an asset. You see, there are fortunes to be made in owning your data. In fact, we are now in a new era where capturing and encapsulating it all has led to a lot of hording of data that businesses are trying to now figure out how to better monetize.

Businesses have become data-driven in all aspects of how they function, market and drive growth.

Data is entwined with nearly all facets of sales and marketing today. Being the controller of interested buyers or attentive consumers is gold to a business.

The data economy is driving corporate growth. Your data has value and it requires ROI for those that are putting the effort and resources into the collection process. Your data fuels the pipeline of opportunities, so there should be no surprises when the emails land in your inbox, the phone rings or there is a knock at the door to pry into your true interests when you responded to free. It’s just business.

Marketers strive for a qualified participant in the free quid pro quo game that willingly provides some level of profiling qualifications to subject themselves to continuous follow-up by people and technology. These subjects become part of the bits and bytes in corporate databases and lists, that may or may not be sold to others. Of course this doesn’t only apply to the collective efforts around “free” content and event trafficking.

Quid pro quo is not just a philosophy, it’s a tool for businesses.

Sometimes it isn’t as visible as a registration to get free content. The agreement to engage is deeply embedded into automation and intelligence to drive deeper relationships. To a business, that means converting you to a customer and driving up your customer lifetime value.

The free hardware to use the service provider or software, that’s not free. That’s a tool to get you to be committed to a long-term relationship. The coupon for a free sandwich is to get you to pony up for another item on the menu. The offer to buy-one-get-one-free is to drive you to put that item in the shopping cart, along with more items because you got such a great deal.

And the offer to use the software for free at the basic level (also known as a freemium offer), is to get you in as a subscriber. Once converted to a user, the intent is to upgrade your service to the feature-rich version. Nothing new or nefarious, it’s just the software business.

Marketing wants you to engage, face-to-face, virtually or through your actions. You are part of the customer acquisition costs (CAC). Companies are heavily investing in and relying on technologies for gaining your identity They are collecting IP addresses. they are buying into marketing tools and utilizing sniffing techniques that can identify your geography, company email extension and maybe full contact details to win you over as a customer.

Actions Pay Volumes

These digital sniffer advancements watch, harvest and store your every move. Yet, you didn’t get anything for free… or did you? Your free browser, your free social platforms, your free operating systems, your free applications, your free videos are NOT free. You are paying for them through your actions.

Smartly, the collectors of all this “free” stuff then sales the insights and actions based on your profiles to advertisers and other businesses for a hefty premium. Businesses exist and thrive on your shared experiences. It is what has built today’s largest global companies. Of course we all know (or should know) that it’s never really free. There is a cost to using what you perceive is free. It’s your mind-share and eventually, your wallet-share.

One of the most costly free offers to business is corporate advice. We all like to believe that advice from experts, who willingly share expertise and opinions, is all free. Actually, it can create quite a bit of distraction to those that willingly collect “free” tidbits from those that don’t have a truly vested interest in your success or business. It’s easier to give without consequence. As the receiver, you are the one that must pay the price for how your respond and react.

Advise is also quid pro quo. Advisors might want your like, your share, your referral, your call, maybe just an bit of recognition and praise. Taking the advice has a cost in your time. How you apply the advice will determine the actual cost. If right, it may be a total win. If it’s the wrong “free” advice, it could cost you and your business a fortune.

You may think you are getting something for nothing, but there is a price to pay for everything in business as well as daily life. 

Opinions cost you if they are generic. The best advisor needs to spend time understanding your vision, strategy, goals and anticipated outcomes.

There is no doubt that the voluminous amounts of content in all forms is flowing fast and can be head-spinning. There are countless free ideas, suggestions, opinions, facts and sometimes falsehoods to help you do better. Proceed with caution! Words have consequences, even when they are free. Even if you are just giving your eyeballs and time, it has a cost to you and value to the creator of free.

My free advice, remember it’s quid pro quo and there is no free lunch.

Jamie Glass, CMO + Founder of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.Additional Read:  What is the Real Value in Free

 

Corporate Communications Set Expectations for Experiences

Corporate communications are carefully crafted key messages that provide the face and voice to your brand. They define your culture and company to the world.

From vision statements to corporate manifestos, these critical communications describe your business to all stakeholders, including employees, partners, customers, prospects, investors, regulators and the general public. They detail what experiences people should expect when they engage with your organization.

It is true that in the rawest form, the words used in these types of statements are just text. However, words used in formalized corporate communications should be deemed priceless to a company.  A corporate communications platform requires significant strategy and investment simply based on the purpose, longevity, and frequency for which the content is used by all facets of the business.

The initial investment is the hardest. It begins in selecting the words to be used in the core components of the communications. The selected words set expectations. These words should convey a story that inspires and articulates purpose.

The words matter. Corporate communications should be viewed as declarative expressions, lyrical prose, contextual abstracts and emotional portrayals of the company experience and stories behind the brand. Selection requires time, money and resources to get it “right” for all constituents.

The words you choose to define your business must be carefully chosen to elicit emotion, create a visual expression of your culture, pronounce your priorities and expose your principles and aspirations.

Words used in corporate communications must be intelligible and “common sense” to the target audience, as they define your distinct character. The outside world should instantly affirm, “Yes, these words perfectly describes who they are, what they do and how they do it.”

A company should never hear from a customer or employee, “I don’t get why those words were chosen because it’s not representative of my interaction with the company.” Sound the alarms!  Something is drastically off course.

More than likely, it means you went for bumper-sticker branding to define your business and your true identity and the culture does not align to the words you chose to represent your brand. When the words you use to communicate do not reflect real experiences, it’s misleading and creates irreparable harm that needs immediate attention from the top down to address alignment, training and perhaps new messaging.

Corporate Communications Depict Your Culture

Corporate culture is defined by the beliefs, behaviors, values and attitudes that characterize a company and guide how it operates. It represents actions and engagements with the company, reinforced by the statements and words selected to describe the company in communications.

From values to about us statements, these words are translated and interpreted by those that make up the company culture. The people are your universal brand, your culture is reflective of the brand experience. The people are your best promoters, both inside the company and outside. They must feel the truth, transparency and value in the words used if they are to expected to share them and communicate their own experiences with honesty and pride.

The Core Components of Corporate Communications

Every company should have a foundation of defined communication components. Corporate communications are used in all types of content, from web to collateral. They are essential for sales presentations, PR, annual reports and other types of marketing content. The power of consistency in branding and messaging shows up in well-defined corporate communications that can be shared by and with all stakeholders.

Mission Statement

Definition: A mission statement is intended to clarify the ‘what’ and ‘who’ of a company. It is why the company exists by stating the goals, purpose, and work of an organization.  A mission statement may evolve as goals change; however, this carefully crafted statement is the “face” of the organization and should be created with the “test of time” in mind. The words should transcend immediate goals and focus on why the company is in existence.

Examples of Mission Statements:

  • Tesla – Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. Source
  • Twitter – To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers. Source
  • Microsoft – Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Source
  • Coca-Cola – To refresh the world… to inspire moments of optimism and happiness… to create value and make a difference. Source
  • Facebook – To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Source
  • Starbucks – To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time. Source
  • Nike – Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body, you are an athlete. Source

Real strategy converts the mission of our company — why we exist — into our vision for our future. Robert C. Wolcott 

Vision Statement

Definition: A vision statement explains the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of a company. Specifically, the vision should articulate the roadmap for how the organization will achieve their stated goals and mission. It is futuristic and sets a clear direction and priorities for the organization.

Examples of Vision Statements

  • Cleveland Clinic – Striving to be the world’s leader in patient experience, clinical outcomes, research and education. Source
  • IKEA – To create a better everyday life for the many people. Source
  • Southwest Airlines – To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline. Source
  • Ford – People working together as a lean, global enterprise to make people’s lives better through automotive and mobility leadership. Source
  • BBC – To be the most creative organisation in the world. Source

Values and Value Statements

Definition: Values humanize the company.  They represent the culture. Value statements describe the anticipated actions and associations of the company values. As adjectives, the values express the culture and purpose. As nouns, the values associate to the people and beneficiaries. The words used to craft the value statements should be expressive of the expected experience and journey. Types of values frequently used in corporate communications include: integrity, fairness, learning, discipline, honesty, innovative, dependable, creative, responsive, grateful and caring.

Examples of Value Statements

  • Dell – What we value. Our top culture attributes that drive the company’s success include: Customers: We believe our relationships with customers are the ultimate differentiator and the foundation for our success. Winning together: We believe in and value our people. We perform better, are smarter, and have more fun working as a team than as individuals. Innovation: We believe our ability to innovate and cultivate breakthrough thinking is an engine for growth, success and progress. Results: We believe in being accountable to an exceptional standard of excellence and performance. Integrity: We believe integrity must always govern our fierce desire to win. Source
  • American Express – Our Blue Box Values reflect who we are and what we stand for as a company. Customer Commitment: We develop relationships that make a positive difference in our customers’ lives. Quality: We provide outstanding products and unsurpassed service that, together, deliver premium value to our customers. Integrity: We uphold the highest standards of integrity in all of our actions. Teamwork: We work together, across boundaries, to meet the needs of our customers and to help the company win. Respect for People: We value our people, encourage their development and reward their performance. Good Citizenship: We are good citizens in the communities in which we live and work. A Will to Win: We exhibit a strong will to win in the marketplace and in every aspect of our business. Personal Accountability: We are personally accountable for delivering on our commitments. Source
  • United Nations – The WFUNA’s (World Federation of United Nations Associations) mission is grounded in what we value: Impact: We value performance and results. We set and hold ourselves accountable to high standards. Respect: We listen to and learn from our constituents, partners, funders, and one another. We value diverse perspectives and strive to incorporate them in our work. Empowerment: We believe in the power of knowledge and its capacity to mobilize human beings to create a better world. Collaboration: We work as a team within WFUNA and with our partners. We share ideas and try to align our efforts with those of others who are dedicated to the goals of the United Nations. Innovation: We seek original approaches for achieving our goals, taking advantage of creative communication for our outreach. Passion: We are committed to making a difference. We strive for what can be; we do not settle for what is. Source

“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” – Roy E. Disney

About Us Statements and Boilerplates

Definition: An about us statement is a concise standard description of the company. There may be requirements for a short version and long version, depending on the content type and medium. About us statements are used primarily for web pages named about us, our company, corporate overview or who are we. An about us statement can be a mix of multiple descriptive paragraphs, facts, figures, historical references and stories. A boilerplate statement is a condensed version of the about us statement. It is usually only one paragraph. It briefly summarizes the company in current state and is used most frequently in press releases and media materials.

Example of About Us Pages and Statements

  • Harley-Davidson – Fulfilling dreams of personal freedom is more than a phrase. It’s our purpose and our passion. We bring a commitment exceptional customer experiences to everything we do – from the innovation of our products to the precision of our manufacturing – culminating with our strong supplier and dealer networks. We are Harley-Davidson. Source
  • eBay – We’re Creating a Better Form of Commerce. We connect millions of buyers and sellers around the world, empowering people and creating economic opportunity for all. Source
  • Google – Our story: from the garage to the Googleplex. Source
  • Dunkin’ Donuts – Dunkin’ Donuts is the world’s leading baked goods and coffee chain, serving more than 3 million customers each and everyday. True to our name, we offer 50+ varieties of donuts, but you can also enjoy dozens of premium beverages, bagels, breakfast sandwiches and other baked goods. Source
  • Honeywell – Honeywell is a Fortune 100 company that invents and manufactures technologies to address tough challenges linked to global macrotrends such as energy efficiency, clean energy generation, safety and security, and globalization. Honeywell’s businesses – Aerospace, Home and Building Technologies, Safety and Productivity Solutions, and Performance Materials and Technologies – are all built on differentiation through technology. With approximately 132,000 employees worldwide, including more than 21,000 engineers and scientists, we have an unrelenting focus on quality, delivery, value, and technology in everything we make and do. Source
  • Four Seasons – We have chosen to specialize within the hospitality industry by offering only experiences of exceptional quality. Our objective is to be recognized as the company that manages the finest hotels, resorts and residence clubs wherever we locate. We create properties of enduring value using superior design and finishes, and support them with a deeply instilled ethic of personal service. Doing so allows Four Seasons to satisfy the needs and tastes of our discriminating customers, and to maintain our position as the world’s premier luxury hospitality company. Source

Other components of corporate communications that are essential to defining a company include: tag line, manifesto, company history, our story, the elevator pitch, and statements regarding company goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). These are important for all functions of the business, including sales, marketing, product development, legal and finance.

TIP #1: As part of the communication strategy, an accessible brand guide or corporate facts guide can help manage the corporate communications content. The content should be reviewed quarterly, to ensure the messages are accurately reflecting what is being said at all levels within the organization.

TIP #2:  It should be noted, that using data references and figures in corporate communications that are constantly changing can be a challenge due to version control issues. These data points, though great for websites, can be overwhelming for marketing in re-purposing and updating efforts given the number of references within existing content such as corporate presentations, PR and media materials, branded collateral and digital media. Sometimes it’s best to just leave figures out that are changing every year. This includes office locations, number of customers, revenues and years in business.

TIP #3: Content needs to be updated when changes are made to corporate communications or the intended target will interpret this as a lack of consistency or “care” for your messages. About us pages are usually neglected online. It’s sloppy and should be a priority to keep them up-to-date. Frequent changes to the content can also create audience fatigue and cause disengagement from standardized corporate communications, so try to limit the number of updates to annually (if possible).

TIP #4: Corporate communications are how the company defines their culture, mission, vision, values and purpose. The words you select are priceless artifacts that will be viewed through the archives of your organization’s timelines and achievements. Treat them like gold.

Corporate communications provide clarity to who you are, what you believe in, how you will accomplish your goals and expected behaviors.  It is important to choose your words carefully, define your statements with precision and use facts to ensure the experience is truly representative of the culture.

Jamie Glass, CMO and President of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

ADDITIONAL READING:  Leading Brands Caught in a Deep Division of Values – The 2017 World Value Index report unveiled people’s perceptions of 150 leading brands and their perceived value to the communities and audiences they serve.

Jamie Glass on The Worldly Marketer Podcast

Why It Pays to Hire the Right Experts When You’re Going Global

Listen here

Favorite Quotes and Shared Insights

EXPERIENCE

TIP: Based on 20 years experience, what works best is when you are a trusted advisor and that comes from really listening, learning and understanding what a business needs and where they want to go.

“My vision is to always work with the CEO, because sitting at the table I’m able to understand what their vision and mission is and then statically advise them on the best way to accomplish that.”

MARKETING

TIP: A good marketer needs to understand all touch point strategies and how communications are being used in representing the brand experience.

“Now marketing goes much further in the process of sales engagement. And that is because there are so many touch points that occur through technology and there are so many channels to use your voice.”

TIP: Digital is changing the world and it’s a global economy so you need to be prepared to have all the conversations, all at the same time, without losing representation of who you are and what you deliver.

“Meet the customer where they expect you to meet them, and this along their journey”

LOCALIZATION

TIP: On the topic of localization, the unsung heroes are translators, project managers and internal localization team members that empower organizations to go global.

“Going global really requires working with people that are creative, strategic, have access to talent, get to know what processes work, align with your technology in the most efficient ways .”

“It is the talent and resources that makes the language services industry so amazing.”

GOING GLOBAL

TIP:  Most common pitfall for businesses is they don’t think about being global from the beginning.

“Having to go back and retrofit your products, services, content, communications and strategy is a lot harder than if you had thought it about in the beginning.  You can’t assume you are not going to be global.”

“You’ve got to rely on experience to go global.”

TIP: Think and plan your global market strategy with the same precision of how you orchestrate a great campaign.

“Everything that you do in your source language applies as well in a foreign market.”

TIP: Use in-country resources to test your products and services or the competition will eat your lunch! 

“The risks are too high. For what you shortcut in your investment to get it right by preparing and planning in advance or relying on the expertise to do it, whatever you shortcut there will shortcut your returns exponentially.”

“Taking shortcuts is the wrong way to get into the c-suite. It is the wrong way to get the attention of the CEO. Don’t make that mistake.”

INNOVATION

TIP: We are in a nano-second world! Speed and agility are critical in marketing success.  

TIP: Science, data and technology run the world! Marketers need to be aware and know how to use it to seize the opportunities that are global.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

“The dialogue is the same for the past 20 years, you need to meet the customer at their door. But they way in which we are doing that and the way in which we ensure our services and solutions match their journey and the way we tell our story and where we tell it is changing all the time.”

Podcast

The Worldly Marketer Podcast is the show that brings you valuable insider perspectives on what it takes to grow your business in today’s global marketplace.

Go here to access the series: https://www.verbaccino.com/the-worldly-marketer-podcast/ 

 

Rewarding Your Loyal Customers

Whether you are selling products or services, every customer that has made a commitment to buy from you deserves the “loyal” treatment. Why? It is in the best interest of every business to retain customers. Loyalty impacts revenues, profitability, satisfaction and even productivity.  In other words, customer loyalty ultimately defines long-term success.

Here are a few other compelling stats that reinforce the value that retention and loyalty provides to an organization:

  • A repeat customer spends 67% more than a new one. (BIA/Kelsey)
  • Increasing customer retention by just five percent, boosts profits by 25 to 95 percent. (Bain & Co.)
  • 75% of companies with loyalty programs are seeing a return on investment. (Experian)
  • Once a provider loses a customer, 68% of consumers will not go back. (Accenture)
  • It is 5-25% more expensive to find a new customer than get a previous customer to buy again.

Market and analyst research commonly reinforces the fact that customer loyalty drives profits and growth. Sales leadership will often concur, as most of those hunting for new customers agree it is harder to get new buyers than to sell additional products and services to an existing customer.

The most common disconnect in business is the failure to ask customers to buy again. The competition loves when companies fail to invest in retention and loyalty.

Loyal customers are an extremely valuable asset to your business. 

Loyal customers are the best advertisers, through word-of-mouth, testimonials, case studies, and events. They are social, sharing experiences in person and online, which heavily influences buying behaviors. 49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions. (Twitter and Annalect, 2016) Loyal customers are willing to actively help build better products and services with feedback, testing and exposure to development processes.

In order to gain and maintain loyal customers, it requires an investment in retention. Customer retention is part of the buying journey and it should be part of the core sales and marketing strategy. Retention can not be taken for granted, it requires significant effort. The worst investment for a business is to heavily invest in finding a new customer and then losing them to the competition through ineffective retention programs – or just failing to ask them to buy again!

Companies must dedicate people, processes, programs and budget to maximize the true value of loyal customers.  

Retention strategies require a deep understanding of who your customer is and why they buy from you. It requires customer intelligence beyond the basic demographic, social and behavioral details archived in deep data archives, like CRMs or financial repositories. It begins by knowing your customer.

Can you answer these questions about your most loyal customers?

  • What does it feel like when they buy from us?
  • What needs do we satisfy or pains we resolve?
  • How do we improve our customer’s life?
  • Why do you trust that we will deliver what we promised?
  • When have we exceeded your expectations?
  • When have we let you down?

Because customers are the best marketers for your products and services, they require your constant and consistent attention to retain them as loyal buyers. Maybe start with a simple thank you. When is the last time you thanked your customer for just that, being your customer?

One retention strategy that is often used in consumer product and retail industries (B2C) are loyalty programs. However, programs for rewarding loyalty have are now more common in B2B industrie

A loyalty program is a rewards program offered by a company to customers who frequently make purchases. A loyalty program may give a customer free merchandise, rewards, coupons, or even advance released products.

Common Types of Loyalty Programs:

  • Frequent Buyer and Affinity Programs: These programs often have a gamification aspect through tiered point systems or memberships. They provide special incentives, access or upgrades to products and services. Cash back rewards can also be used as incentives in these types of programs. These types of programs have long been used by travel companies, though they are now more common in other industries.
  • Exclusive Offerings: Companies will often reward their most loyal customers with offers that are not open to the general public. It is a way to create a special bond and relationship with the customer. Exclusivity is best when personalized to the customer, exclusive and inclusive.
  • Advisory Councils:  Customer voices can help drive innovation and should be at the forefront of all development, marketing and sales programs.  Listening to customers can save companies time and money in product development, go-to-market strategies and testing of product features and new services. The most loyal customers appreciate the opportunity to offer their advice. An advisory council is a prestigious recognition of the value the customer provides to the company.
  • Buyer and Community Groups:  These types of programs can be virtual and local. It provides loyal customers an opportunity to engage with like-minded fans, while making a social connection to the brand, product or service. It is a great way to drive influence through the customer’s shared experiences and sense of belonging to something special.
  • Samples and Free Trials:  Freemium offers help build an audience of loyal fans that can be later used to market and sell paid value-add solutions, products and services. This is common in the digital world and for SaaS offerings. Consumer products have long used sampling to find and attract new customers. It is also a way to retain existing customers by extending lines of product types.
  • Program or Product Upgrades: Software companies learned early on that if you get a customer to continually upgrade their product, lifetime value increases exponentially.  It takes major disruption to move loyal customers off products and programs that have frequent upgrade components, as the investments are usually pretty heavy in the implementation phase and upgrades are a way to sustain value.
  • Customer Events: Opportunities to personally engage with the “faces” that create the products and services for a particular company are best at live events. They can be exclusive to customers and also be opportunities to invite in prospects. Software and technology companies have used customer events to reward their clients through high-end productions and activities, including access to founders, innovators and celebrities.
  • Rewards and VIP Incentives through Earned Points: Customers earn points based on purchases to use for additional services, products of special offers. Through loyalty cards, coupons and even online programs, customers can see the tangible benefits of staying loyal at time of purchase or through customer-only reward websites.
  • Discounted Renewals and Subscriptions: Commonly used in SaaS programs and media, this is a way to retain customers with deeper discounts for longer renewals. The best way to retain a customer is through auto-renew subscriptions and continuous service agreements.

When you create the structure of your loyalty and retention programs, ensure that the benefits and reward system is relevant to the customer experience. Know what is most valuable to your customer. Ask your customers, listen to their requirements and watch the competition when you are designing loyalty reward and retention programs. Research is paramount to the ultimate return on any program investment.

In order to effectively implement any type of customer retention strategy, it means you need start with good data.  Know your customer, what they buy, the average purchase, frequency and their value. This will help determine the budget and costs to retain customers.

The data can then be used to create strategies for account-based marketing loyalty campaigns and retention programs, as well as (ABM) programs for sales. The more data, the better the targeted planning and results of any reward program.

Finally,  loyalty requires carefully devised communication and marketing strategies, internally and externally, to fully benefit from any loyalty program and retention ROI.  Awareness and engagement will drive influence and action. The time that it takes to create the program needs to be met equally with the investment in time and resources to get the word out about how it ultimately benefits the customer.Your

Retention and loyalty is very rewarding.  With all effort and investment in capital, time and resources, be sure to measure the results in sales, productivity, profitability, satisfaction and lifetime customer value.

Jamie Glass, CMO and Founder of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Be Loyal to Your Brand Loyalists

Brand loyalists are committed to the vision, demonstrating unwavering allegiance and constant support to a product, service, person or institution.

These brand ambassadors embrace the culture and community created through the brand experience. They understand and speak the language of the brand. And they eagerly embrace the symbolism and association of everything that the brand represents.

Brand loyalty is expressed through a faith and commitment to an organization, a product, service, an idea or philosophy. It is measured through the consistent interactions, such as a purchases or tenure, irrespective of the cost, time, competition, or convenience.

Brand loyalists are flag-wavers, collaborators, devotees, steadfast and should always be viewed as trusted advisors.

Loyalists are truthful. They speak their truth. They will share the good, bad and ugly and often remain loyal through the ups and downs. They are committed to the success of the brand and feel it is representative of them, as showcased by their admiration. That relationship means they will not hold back. They will fight the disloyal and challenge the brand owners to be heard and understood. They have an important voice and they expect to be trusted and respected by those they show such abiding support.

It is essential that owners and representatives of the brand facilitate the valuable conversations and engage directly with their loyalists by first knowing how to identify them. Brand ambassadors have unique and collective traits, motivations and characteristics. They are individual and they are part of groups. They are consumers, clients, influencers, employees, partners, community members, competitors, investors and family members. They all are vested stakeholders in the brand. Brands must be able to identify them individually through demographics and behaviors, as well as by their affiliations.

Once the loyalists are identified, it is critical that the brand knows where their loyalists are hanging out.

  • Where can you meet your loyalists face-to-face?
  • How do they communicate and share experiences?
  • Where are they spending their time?
  • How do they buy your products and services?
  • Where do they get their information?
  • Where do they buy the t-shirt and flag?

Healthy brand cultures are supported by communities and provide opportunities for loyalists to gather, share and participate in the brand experience. Forrester analysts noted that insight communities allow companies to build a relationship with their customers, and gain a better understanding of the deep-seated values that their customers hold. Many marketers emphasize the online experience to develop communities; however, this is only one way to engage directly with your loyalists.

Where to Build Brand Communities:

  1. Your own backyard. Start at all your location(s). Communities should be onsite, both for consumers and employees. Create meetup spots at your offices, plants, retail outlets and corporate headquarters as hang-outs. People that gather in your space get to witness firsthand the brand ecosystem. They are able to see and learn how the brand is built, engage with the people that create the experiences and participate with those that operate in the day-to-day and are faces of the brand.
  2. Neighborhoods where you serve. Go local and elevate your brand in the communities where your loyalists engage with your company, products and services. Participate in local events and support local interests. People want to be able to interact directly and know they are joined in the communal causes. This is extremely important when you are looking to grow your global brand. Loyalty must be localized, driven from those that are able to provide a native experience, with all the cultural nuances and represented on the ground in those geographies. Authenticity is when you let go of your “center of the universe” and show up on their turf, anywhere and everywhere your loyalists participate with your brand.
  3. Social gatherings. Join in the conversations taking place where you don’t own the medium or channel. In addition, create your own conversation channels where your stakeholders can engage with fellow loyalists. Sponsor events, both virtual and in person. Be live and alive, listening and learning through active participation. Provide opportunities to socialize and share, whether it is a company gathering spot, retail hot spot or social platform.
  4. Digital experiences. Create two-way digital exchanges. If your website is just a site for information download and only pushes out content, it is not an experience! You want to share experiences and allow followers to participate with the brand. It should be a push and pull mechanism. Otherwise, it is not an experience. It’s content. Loyalists will consume information; however, they really want to engage. They want to feel worthy of providing insights, advice, experiences and know they are valued beyond just providing revenue. Give them the forums and ability to participate in your digital world.
  5. Direct service. Every touch and conversation is an opportunity to invest in and create new loyalists. Do not let this moment pass by without taking active measure to participate in a direct dialogue. Question what is top of mind for them. Why are they carrying your flag? How can they help you address challenges and provide feedback? This is for all stakeholders – every person that touches your brand. Service is more than just fixing an immediate problem, it is awareness, communication and a pledge. It is how you create a brand experience, promise and value.

Four Ways to Engage Brand Loyalists

#1: ASK – If you want to know how loyal your ambassadors are, ask them. Use surveys like Net Promoter Score to gather feedback and rate their experiences. Identify who and define your audience by individual characteristics. What journey did they take to become a loyalist? Gather the data and use it as a basis for measuring loyalty over time.

#2: SHARE – Let your loyalists share their experiences with others. Don’t hide your loyalists! Their stories are your best brand apparatus. It is estimated that more than 70% of people will buy based on the recommendation of others, so let the people speak! The best employers get their loyal team members to recruit and refer people for open positions – it saves money and deepens loyalty. Provide the opportunities via forums, media, channels, events and content where people can tell their stories about being a brand follower. This is not brand content created by the brand, let it be user generated. If you have three places where people are sharing their stories and producing UGC, find three more. In fact find 30 places and imagine how many stories can lead to referrals and fill your pipelines with new and loyal buyers.

#3: PARTICIPATE – Brands are built over time and they need nurturing and attention. Be front and center with your most avid fans and understand the pains and fears of those that are not embracing your brand. Get involved in feedback groups, onsite visits and exchanges with other brands and experts. Create loyalty programs and utilize reward systems, if applicable. A 2016 study found that customers who are members of loyalty programs generate between 12 and 18 percent more revenue than non-members. First and foremost, show up and listen. How can they help you improve processes? How can they test new product and service ideas? What can you do to ensure they stay loyal to the brand? These are conversations that can advance your company and brand. Reward them for their participation. Ignoring them will only cost you, as it is five to 25x more expensive to find a new customer than retain an existing relationship.

#4: UNDERSTAND – Every person that touches a brand, from the maker to the buyer is part of the brand experience. Why are they your customer, employee or partner? How are you visible in the community? Why does the competition love you and fear you? How do investors and family members of your team talk about the brand? Know that makes them tick, their pains, their experiences and how to create (and recreate) happy moments. Highly-engaged customers buy 90 percent more often and spend 60 percent more per transaction, according to the Rosetta Consulting study. Analyze the information on a regular basis and use it to improve the company, the buyer experience and leverage those that are most committed to the brand. Know the value and exploit it.

For a business, engagement leads to retention as noted by Rosetta Consulting, in that engaged customers are five times more likely to buy only from the same brand in the future. It is dollars and sense.

For marketers, brand enthusiasts are the best source of content. They are the real-time storytellers, the dreamers, the advocates and the believers. They are also the protectors. They are vested in the brand. They want it to do well.

You don’t earn loyalty in a day. You earn loyalty day-by-day.  Jeffrey Gitomer 

Loyalists are essential to long-term success. Be part of their world and go to where they hang out. Know them, listen to them, grow with them and value their service. Gratitude and appreciation will accelerate loyalty.

Be loyal to your loyalists.

Jamie Glass, CMO and Founder of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Listen Up or Lose Out

We are taught at a very early stage in life to be quiet and listen.  In contrast to the enthusiastic encouragement to speak those first words, once spoken we are then told that we need hush and just listen. It’s reinforced by our parents, family members, teachers, friends, bosses, partners, colleagues and others. The mixed message has good intent. Listening is core to our survival and the way that we learn.  

Listen: to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.

So why is listening so difficult? We have ears and it appears obvious that we should easily be able to use this amazing gift. Listening should be inherent; yet, it is considered an acquired skill – a very basic and important communication skill that requires tremendous discipline and continuous practice.

Listening Skills: The ability to pay attention to and effectively interpret what other people are saying.

The challenge to being a good listener is that we have competing senses, active brains and a world filled with an overwhelming amount of distractions. The Internet and multitudes of devices have not helped in our degradation in listening skills. We also are challenged with the threat that “success” demands we always speak up, which comes in direct conflict with listening. If we are thinking and speaking, we probably are not listening.

How does listening impact business? Listening is by far the most critical communication skill that contributes to success in business and life. Listening is a particular skill that requires development, nurturing and investment by the company and leadership.

“If you aren’t listening, you are missing out.” Richard Branson

Beyond the standard people requirements of requiring good listening skills to do your job, listening is a core function of marketing in business.

Listening is required in every role; however, marketing serves the purpose to be the “chief listener” within the organization. Organizations should mandate marketing be the “listening post” for the organization.

Why marketing? Listening impacts the customer experience, how products are sold, what products go-to-market, customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, retention and positioning of value-added services, to name a few. All of this requires listening to start the process and it should be done through marketing’s participation.

Marketing should act as the gatherer, interpreter and reporter of information and data that results from listening.

Everything about the business starts with listening. The information gathered through listening needs to inform business plans and strategy. All marketing strategies should be defined by what is learned by listening. Assumptions are risky and expensive. As we celebrate heroic unicorns that went to market on a “gut feel,” there are countless examples of failed launches, campaigns and businesses that resulted from not listening first.

Listening is the most important skill for any marketer.  Marketers are constantly challenged to cut through the noise to reach their audience. Listening requires concentration, focus and determination. Poor listening skills often results in misunderstandings and ineffective messaging, which can frustrate and annoy the recipient.  Worse, it can result in lost revenues and customers. In other words, failure in marketing.

As a marketer, what does it mean to really listen?

L = Learn:  Top marketers will use every opportunity to learn from customers, prospects, employees, and partners about what is most important to them. Listen to learn.

I = Identify:  Brilliant marketers use listening skills to identify the buying signals, values and goals of their target audiences in order to create informed and personalized conversations that produce results. Listen to identify.

S = Study: Smart marketers will study the evidence obtained by listening to align with data and other marketing tools in order to better understand habits, trends, opportunities and demands from their stakeholders. It will also validate or negate assumptions. Listen and then study.

T = Team Up with Sales: Wise marketers will not let sales and marketing function separately. They will team up with their sales and business development professionals to go on prospect calls, sit in on client engagements, attend events together, participate in regular sales meetings to best know how sales is selling. It is the only way to truly support sales and without sales, there is no need for marketing. Listen to sales.

E = Engage: Shrewd marketers will engage all stakeholders at every opportunity to set up times, places, and occasions for listening. This includes participating in social listening, going to events to listen to experts, soliciting input and continuous feedback, listening to customer stories to replicate success and  listening to the voices that have influence on your brand. Listen by engaging.

N = Nurture: Resourceful marketers build meaningful relationships by listening to their market stakeholders and then using what is learned to nurture and foster those relationships with that information to validate their needs, ultimately creating sustainable value for the buyer and seller.  Listen to nurture.

Marketing is responsible for sending clear, concise and effective communications. The only way to begin this process is to listen to everyone that has a stake in that message, internally and externally. This includes past, present and future customers, employees, partners, shareholders and investors, suppliers, community members and regulators. They all have a stake in a company’s success and they need someone listening to their interests and needs.

A marketer has many tools to utilize as a listening post. This includes social channels, digital media platforms, websites and content distribution forums, direct mail, emails, phone, survey and feedback tools, martech, thought leadership and customer events, meetings and onsite visits.

Listening impacts growth. It is fundamental to how companies grow globally. The first step toward entering new markets is to listen to the target market to understand the cultural differences and required market nuances that will meet the demands for your good and services. Listening starts locally, in order to grow globally. Utilize resources in local markets to listen, test and create marketing content and messages that will reach your intended audience.

In a recent sales and marketing study by Altify, they found that one-third of marketers admitted that their team does not understand the company’s customers. My advice, start listening!

Jamie Glass, CMO + President of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

EXTRA:  How do you rate yourself as a listener?  Here is a quick quiz that can help you assess your listening skills. This is not an endorsement of this quiz or do I have any affiliation, I believe it is easy and provides interesting insights.

 

Do It All Marketers are Mythical Superheroes

I can do it all, yes I can!

This is a great motivational pick-me-up in the morning. This meditative mantra might get us excited to tackle the day’s challenges; however, it lacks realism, sensibility and truth.  This type of ambitious self-talk is often a set-up for over-extending ourselves, disappointing others and ultimately failing.

Yet, in today’s marketing world there are many organizations that still value this type of mythical marketing superhero.  The one marketing person that can do it all. It’s often disguised with terms like universal marketing expert, hands-on professional, self-starter, or the dreaded marketing generalist.

The “know it all, do it all” marketer may be admirable for any business to actually find, as we are all chasing rainbows, unicorns and lucky charms. This type approach is also very risky and harmful to a business strategy.

The marketing “do it all, know it all” generalist doesn’t exist today. 

The universe of marketing is extremely complex and requires a variety of specialists across a broad continuum of services, solutions and tactics.  What might be perceived as those fluffy, cushy marketing jobs of the past (if that ever existed), now demands talent with skills of scientific application, data analytics, user experience and design, implementation of marketing and sales technologies and the financial acumen to run growth analysis and projections. In other words, not so puffy and fluffy.

Moving beyond the numbers, today’s marketer also needs to be steeped in knowledge that defines and understands omnichannels, digital media, transformation, bots, AI, mediums, audience types, languages, platforms and even globalization. And that’s just the beginning.

Marketers have to also be versed in outstanding corporate navigation to work confidently upstream with executives, across in collaboration with peers and downstream with all employees, partners and stakeholders to gain support and drive the best brand experience.

The marketer of today has a large microcosm of responsibility to manage within a very complex environment.  Marketers need not be a specialist in “everything” to succeed today. They need to recognize the requirements and speak the “macro” language of marketing, so that they can engage the right experts to effectively execute the tasks at hand.

Successful marketers need a robust network that is diverse in talent and skills and rich in resources to manage all of today’s marketing responsibilities.

The intricacies of current marketing requires micro-level experts that can deliver a varied set of tactical solutions. Great marketers need to be exceptional in building great teams, along with being visionary and extraordinary in supporting global teamwork. These team members can be internal resources, as well as a external alliances who have exceptional skills and provide resources to create, build and deliver specific tasks and jobs.

Danger Will Robinson! Stretching even beyond the illusion of a marketing superhero,  some companies will try to create the “do it all” super hybrid who is responsible for both sales and marketing. This often comes from the desire to meld together a cost center with a revenue generating group to off-set the “pains” of spending money on marketing. It is a frequent starting place for small companies with very limited budgets.

Every marketer knows it is unrealistic and dangerous to assume one individual can advocate and grow your brand, as well as develop lasting customer relationships that are profitable over time.  It is not a matter of knowledge, it is a matter of prioritization and time.  Short-cutting will happen somewhere and investing in both sales and marketing are extremely important to the long-term success of any organization.

Here are seven tips on how to think about today’s marketer and plan for the role they have in your organization.

  1. Marketing is an investment in the long-term growth of your organization.
  2. Marketing is often outspending technology functions today with implementations of systems to manage customers and sales, budget accordingly.
  3. Marketing requires expertise and one person will not be an expert in every responsibility managed within the marketing function. They need a team of people within the organization or outsources, along with access to resources.
  4. Marketing is the fuel for your sales engine and you need to buy sufficient fuel for the engine to run.
  5. Marketing needs organizational support at the top in understanding the complex nature of the function, preferably with a seat at the table where executive decisions are made for the future of the business.
  6. Marketing needs to set clear KPIs that align to the business goals so that outcomes and achievements are measurable and communicated to the organization based on results.
  7. Excessive turnover in marketing disrupts business and performance so build a team to last, not fulfill a short-term gap or immediate need to get by for now.

As we all operate at Internet speed, it is impossible for one person to know and do it all. Setting up an organization with this type of mythical marketing superhero is a recipe for disaster.

Organizations need marketing leaders that are great in  macro-thinking and know where to acquire the micro-skills and resources to deliver results. Start with a leader that is good at big picture planning and strategy development, and who has a broad knowledge base to recognize trends in skills, technology and processes.  Empower this person to build the best time for executing all the marketing tasks and activities required to grow your business.

Jack of all trades, master of none” is a figure of speech used in reference to a person that is competent with many skills and not necessarily outstanding in any particular one. You need a master of marketing leadership that will bring together many Jack and Jill resources that can deliver across a broad landscape of specialized marketing tactics. That is the recipe for marketing success.

Jamie Glass, CMO + President at Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

10 Reasons for Hiring an Outsourced CMO

What is an outsourced CMO?

Let’s start with the easy part, the CMO is a Chief Marketing Officer.  The C-suite designation is earned through experience in leadership and management of the marketing function within an organization. Typically CMO’s will have a dozen or more years’ experience in both strategy development and tactical execution.

The CMO’s role is to advise the CEO and other executive team members how best to expand markets, increase awareness, build loyalty, drive engagement and grow revenues.  The high-level marketing leader is responsible for creating the “voice” for the organization through the brand experience.

A CMO is the brand ambassador, loyalty activist and customer champion.

Internally, the function of a Chief Marketing Officer is to bring together the talent, processes and technology that helps an organization realize the vision and execute upon the strategy that is aligned to specific organizational goals. It is the CMO’s responsibility to build the marketing plan that outlines roles, responsibilities, budgets, resources, timelines, tactics and measurable outcomes.  They lead the marketing organization and orchestrate their day-to-day activities.

Outsourcing for a company or organization is to purchase (goods) or subcontract (services) from an outside supplier or source.

Outsourcing is simply giving the responsibility of the position to someone that does not reside within the business. Why would you outsource an executive-level position?

Top reasons organizations outsource:

  • Experience and competence
  • Budget and/or need to reduce costs
  • Assessment of people, processes and/or technology
  • Gaps in skills and capabilities
  • Need for industry and market expertise
  • Resource constraints within existing teams
  • Urgency to drive initiatives or deliver critical projects
  • Strategic development
  • Team leadership
  • Tactical management and oversight
  • Need to streamline operations and workflows
  • Test job requirements and long-term business needs
  • Reduce risk
  • Advise and consult with leadership

Startups, SMBs, high-growth, turnaround and transitioning businesses can lack the time and dollars required to invest in bringing aboard a full-time senior marketing executive.  Outsourcing the CMO function allows leaders to leverage high-level talent in smaller increments of time and budget, while still gaining qualified and capable expertise that can help accelerate strategic business plans.

When do you need an outsourced CMO?

  1. You have a strong tactical marketing team; however, you do not have a marketing person sitting at the table where company decisions are made about the vision, mission, strategy, tactics and growth plans for the next 3-5 years.
  2. You lack a marketing strategy or plan.
  3. You desperately need a sustainable marketing engine that can deliver predictable results.
  4. You spend money on marketing, though you see little ROI or do not have the capabilities to track budgets, measure performance or forecast results.
  5. You need better competitive analysis and market research to know if you are talking to the right people and delivering the right products and services.
  6. You need a comprehensive assessment of marketing tactics, team members and capabilities to ensure you are built for long-term success.
  7. You know digital transformation can greatly improve your business, yet you lack the expertise that can represent marketing’s role in that process.
  8. You want to implement advanced tactics or implement marketing technologies to help the organization best utilize their data and assets to improve the customer experience.
  9. You need an expert that can help you improve brand loyalty, reduce churn and supports the business development team to achieve their growth targets.
  10. You are dissatisfied with results of marketing and the impact on revenue and know that you are missing out on existing market opportunities.

Today’s marketing function is complex. Business are operating at Internet speed, content is coming in from right and left, technology is taking over the world and digital transformation is accelerating the way we operate in our global economy.

Compounding it all are needs to manage vast amounts of data, utilize advanced analytics, define complicated customer journeys, understand the infiltration of artificial intelligence, manage talent, assess numerous marketing technologies, facilitate demands for personalization and improve customer experiences and create endless amounts of content to stay relevant. And that’s just the beginning. It’s overwhelming for most organizations, along with managing everything else that impacts growth.

It can’t be overstated, marketing is getting more and more complex. Companies need experienced executive marketing leadership to help manage growth, breakdown internal silos, and improve efficiency and economics.

Senior marketing expertise and leadership is essential at a macro-level to bring together the micro-level experts needed to deliver results in this entangled environment.

Having a competent leader that can help an organization stay abreast of trends, recognize opportunities, align resources, implement strategies and resist temptations to waste money is critical for any organizations’ success – whether working within the leadership team or as an outsourced contributor.

An outsourced CMO can provide the experience required to create, define, build, manage and execute the multitude of tactics needed to achieve your business goals.  

If you don’t have the resource internally, outsourcing the Chief Marketing Officer function provides flexibility for a business to utilize an experienced resource for the required time, scale and budget that the business can afford today.

If you have questions about the benefits of an outsourced CMO or are looking to assess your current marketing function, contact me at jamie@artfulthinkers.com.

Jamie Glass, CMO + President, Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Empowered Voices Define a Brand Experience

Empowered customer and employee voices are in control of your brand’s future. This empowered voice is no longer an interesting phenomenon exposed through nascent channels that allow for reactive PR pros to utilize carefully constructed “just-in-case” responses based on dusty old crisis communication plans.

Customers and employees have an incredibly high-level of power to influence marketability and brand value today through their shared experiences.

Are your prepared to react? There are multiple examples this year of how global brands get easily swept up through social engagement in reaction to reported experiences and affiliations.

One tweet, one blog, one video, one ad, one review and the next thing you know the company stock is tanking, advertisers are fleeing, millions of people are boycotting the company, and news chyrons are highlighting the customer experience as breaking news. What used to be analogs in communication and public relations textbooks, are now daily case studies in crisis management. Brands are not in control.

Ready. Aim. Fire.

Today, major organizations must think like the military – ready to respond within a second’s notice. Brands must actively listen and monitor all communication channels, and provide global surveillance around-the-clock. They must also be fully prepared to act in real-time to a variety of scenarios across multiple mediums, whether it be from a customer complaint or association to another “brand” in crisis.

The voice of the customer is at its highest value today due to the nature of how information is shared through media channels.

A customer’s experience has incredible power and in an instance can dramatically impact a company’s value, negatively and positively. Brands need to be prepared with every scoped out “what if” scenario and shared with all those that will go on active duty when “it” hits!

Whether capitalizing on a positive experience like Kohl’s branding of the Chewbacca Mask Lady, or reacting to the global negative perception of Silicon Valley employment practices resulting from Uber’s former employee detailed experience of discrimination that was shared on a blog, companies today are forced into action through other’s experiences. Customers and employees know they have unique powers today that require global brands to stand up and take immediate action. And they are using this power to their advantage.

The customer experience voice has unyielding power and is putting ill-prepared companies on their heels and at risk.

Failure to react has great consequences. Time is not on the side of the brand. Marketers must be fully prepared and crisis management action plans need to be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to ensure there is a timely response to all types of customer experiences. There are no excuses and no forgiveness will be given by those in power – customers and employees.

There are consequences to failed responses. Beyond the enormous financial exposure to revenue and profits, it also can impact a company culture, ability to recruit top talent and long-term market sustainability in a very competitive marketplace. It is all at risk with every shared experience.

No organization today can take for granted the power of the customer voice.

The ability to take advantage of good publicity provides a little more flexibility to capture the upside. Leadership will turn to those in charge of communication for the failure to respond and act appropriately to anything negative, so put your plan in place today.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. – Benjamin Franklin

Time is the enemy in a crisis, no matter the scale. Today’s cycles can often be at tornado wind speeds that grow in exponential exposure within minutes. It is inherent in our constant feeds of news and information. There is nothing that can stop it, so it is imperative that an “emergency response team” be in place to act swiftly in response. This is where a crisis communications strategy has it’s greatest value.

Don’t underestimate the value to the company of a well-defined crisis communications plan.

The idea of putting together a plan may seem fairly simple; however, they are often very complex and require time and resources to properly construct. The investment will pale in comparison to the expenses related to a viral “bad” customer experience. Utilizing a good communications team or experts at a PR agency can help in this process for planning and execution. This should be an annual exercise for upkeep.

To understand how deep and broad this plan needs to be, start by outlining all the stakeholders that need to informed in a crisis communication plan: customers, sales, HR, IT, employees, media, suppliers and partners, as well as potential regulatory, community and elected officials. Now you can see why planning pays off!

Breaking news

Essential Elements of Crisis Communications Planning

RESPONSE TEAM: Define the members, roles and responsibilities of the Communications Response Team (CRT).

CONTACTS: Identify all audiences that will be updated by the response team, internal and external.

LIST SOURCES: Classify all lists and sources for contacts, including: customers, media, investors, leadership, employees, partners, suppliers, regulators and others.

TIMELINE: Create a sample timeline for Communications Response Team to update in an activated response.

SCENARIOS: Build a series of responses to scenarios with constructed timelines and messages that can be used for preparedness training of Communications Response Team members and spokespeople.

MESSAGING: Create key messaging guidelines for Communications Response Teams based on audiences, scenarios and channels including holding statements to express that further responses are coming from the organization.

SYSTEMS: Establish listening posts, processes, technologies, people and alerts used for notifications to CRT with defined activities based on “level” of action required for response.

PREPARE: Set a location to host all resources that can be activated by all members of the Communications Response Team, including scripts, contact information, timelines and lists. Communicate with all necessary constituents on how and when to engage with the CRT. Set up notification systems. Train the team members based on roles and responsibilities.

REVIEW: Set up periodic reviews of the plan to update channel information, lists and messaging. Post-crisis, review the activities and effectiveness of the response to ensure continuous improvements are made from learning and experiences.

It is important to define the action and activities based on the type of customer experience and how the experience in shared with others. As an example, an irate email to customer service may not need to be part of the company’s communication alert system. It also should not be ignored as a potential source for an escalation.

Today, a customer can take an email that does not get a timely response to outside media sources like social or television triggering a crisis and need for immediate response. It is the power of the customer experience their empowered voice.

Definition of a Crisis:  A situation that has reached a critical phase (Merriam-Webster)

For an organization, a crisis can be defined as any action that adversely influences the reputation, integrity or value of the brand. Knowing that customers and employees have the power to create a crisis based on their shared experience, is a warning to all marketers.

Prepare now. Failure to do is inexcusable in today’s world of constant communications. Your customers will tell you so, if you are aren’t listening!

Jamie Glass, CMO + President at Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Building Trust with Facts and Truth in Marketing

Trust is core to any and all relationships. This is particularly true between buyers and sellers. A brands trust builds brand value and equity in the marketplace. Without trust, you don’t have buyers (or at least not for long). Trust is derived from telling the truth and truth is represented through facts.

Marketers are critical in building trust based on truth and facts. They do so by ensuring what is said by the company is factual and will be delivered to the customer. This all begins with a unwavering commitment to using truth and facts in all communication types and across all mediums.

DEFINITION: Trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Trust grows over time. It is often referenced that trust takes years to build and seconds to break. This requires attentive brand management through active listening posts, internally and externally.

Marketers must value the relationships a company spends years building through constant and consistent fact-telling. Say what you do and do what you say, without exception. If you can’t do it, don’t say it. Seems pretty elementary, yet it is how brands are tarnished and customers are lost every day. The easiest way to lose a customer is to not follow-through or to ignore a customer. The ultimate sin is to lie, which usually has greater repercussions.

When a brand sets an expectation through marketing, it must deliver. It is the brand promise. If the brand can’t deliver to a single consumer or marketplace, state so immediately and swiftly move into reputation management.

Facts are hardened by evidence. They are proof points that should easily define your products and services. Marketers often site facts that are obtained through customer experiences or results of use. Product tests, trials, use cases, satisfaction surveys, ratings and performance metrics are good mechanisms to produce data for fact-based marketing.

Statistical evidence is often easy to communicate and understand by buyers. A good example of how statistics are used in marketing is through published survey results. “82% of our customer’s said they would refer our company to a friend or colleague based on our latest quarterly NPS survey.” To further back-up the facts, link the inquirer to the published survey results.

DEFINITION:  Fact is a thing that Is indisputably the case. Reality, actuality, certainty.

What hurts the marketing profession more than anything is when brands focus so heavily on spin, pitching and hype that they stray from the facts. Some may brush this off as “over-selling,” yet the danger is that this can often creep into communicating falsehoods. By aiming to create a viral buzz and generate demand, a truthful message can soon spin out of control downstream. Creativity in messaging and pushing to get your message heard must be held to truth standards or consumers will see through the hype and hold the brand accountable for violating their trust. Without trust, you don’t have buyers and without buyers, marketing fails.

Marketers also need to heed the warnings of making assumptions and using projections. We have heard that everyone has their “own truth” and that perception often comes through that person’s conviction and belief. One good review online can help market an experience; however, projecting it as evidence or proof of “everyone’s” expected experience is where distortion of facts leads to betrayal of trust.

There are no alternative facts. Facts should not be disputable; however, one’s truth is where we enter can into a universe of animated reality. Marketers should not bend the rules to utilize one’s truth as evidence of fact for all.

DEFINITION: Truth is the quality or state of being true.

Persuading others of what is the truth is a primary role for a marketer and that persuasion must rely on facts. There are laws that prohibit factual misrepresentations in advertising. These rules are governed by the Federal Trade Commission in the United States.

When consumers see or hear an advertisement, whether it’s on the Internet, radio or television, or anywhere else, federal law says that ad must be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence. The Federal Trade Commission enforces these truth-in-advertising laws, and it applies the same standards no matter where an ad appears – in newspapers and magazines, online, in the mail, or on billboards or buses.” Source: FTC

An area that often challenges marketing is the reliance on spokespeople for advertising. Spokespeople are recognized as endorsers of products and services. No matter how the message is delivered, whether word-of-mouth, online videos, TV or through written communications, it is critical that the spokesperson does not set expectations or guarantees. Often it is the intention of a brand to use a spokesperson to build trust. That means the spokesperson must speak the “universal” truth, as evidenced by fact.

Unfortunately, we have a long history of barkers, pitchmen, raconteurs, braggers, blowhards and gossipers who have all engaged to sell a product or service. They have hurt the reputation of brands and marketers, as they were not viable truth tellers. Trusting paid endorsements is subject to much debate and criticism in advertising. Besides the high costs in securing reputable spokespeople to pitch your goods and services, be sure you understand all the legal concerns and risks associated with this form of advertising.

Another caution to marketers who focus on storytelling as a method for personalizing brands. It is essential that storytelling portray an actual experience. Unfortunately, there is a branding issue with storytellers. In history, they have been seen as tellers of tales, liars, minstrels, fibbers and betrayers of truth. If storytelling is key to your marketing strategy, rely on known and trusted sources that can support the messages with evidence (facts) in the stories they tell.

One way that the consumer has taken control of brand’s truth telling through stories and and endorsements is through the use of reviews. Reviews are seen as “of the people” and representative of an individual’s “truth.” Reviews are now one of the most trusted forms of advertising for brands.

84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. 91% of consumers regularly or occasionally read online reviews. Source: BrightLocal

This phenomenon has given rise to the need for significant investments in reputation and brand management functions and technologies within corporate marketing. Online customer reviews have given consumers decision-making power based on others perceptions and experiences. This can have a significant and even immediate impact to revenues. We’ve all read about how one bad review soiled a company’s reputation and value. Or as we know today, one bad tweet and you are toast! Interestingly, reviews are “one’s truth” and may not be supported in fact. It is up to the marketer to listen, learn, be prepared and act quickly!

ADDITIONAL READING ON THE IMPACT OF REVIEWS: How Online Reviews Can Either Make Or Break Your Business? by WebsiteBuilder.org

What has led to a revolution in how consumers use their own storytelling and sharing of brand experiences, now defines corporate marketing’s role.

Areas that require constant monitoring, fact-checking and focus for effective brand and reputation management, include:

  1. Social Media Platforms
  2. Online Consumer Forums, Location and Review Sites
  3. E-commerce Channels and Distribution Sites
  4. Website and Blogs
  5. PR and Media Mentions
  6. Search Ads, Rankings and Keywords
  7. Online, Google Alerts

As marketers listen in, watch the online chatter and put into effect means to engage with the empowered consumers, it is essential that brands respond and stick to the facts. Tell the truth. Trust will follow. Without trust, you have nothing to market and nothing worth selling. Trust me.

Jamie Glass, President + CMO, Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

EXTRA 1: Who are the most trusted brands in America? More than 5,000 Americans across the country participated in the online survey, which awards the “Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Brand” title to winners in 40 product categories, including travel, food and beverage, automotive, beauty and healthcare, retail and customer service, financial services, household items, consumer electronics and more. Reader’s Digest Trusted Brand survey results are here: http://www.rd.com/trustedbrands/.

Coordinate and Communicate Touchpoint Strategies for Greater Impact

How many touchpoints does it take to convert a target into a buyer? 

Marketing and sales experts will often quote a common belief that it takes seven touchpoints to convert an identified target to a customer. This is a good rule of thumb for budgeting and planning. Pipeline data and analytics should confirm whether this is true within your organization.

Whether three, seven or 13 touches are required to convert a target to a buyer, the fact remains that well-coordinated touchpoint strategies between sales and marketing are critical to fully maximize the value of any investment in customer acquisition. This applies to people, methods and technology. The key to successful returns on this investment is identifying the “best” mix of touchpoints that amplify results. And this requires constant analysis, agility and oversight by sales and marketing executives.

The initial step in maximizing the impact of touchpoint strategies begins with a coordinated sales and marketing plan detailing each touchpoint used for awareness and engagement.

The touchpoints plan should outline every organized touch along the customer’s buying journey. From the initial stages of targeting and brand awareness campaigns to engagement with a sales professional, all touchpoints should be deliberate in activity, call-to-action and expectation of results. This applies to both B2B and B2C.

A touchpoint is defined as the contact made with a customer or prospect in the buying and selling process.

What are the most frequently sales and marketing touchpoint strategies used to convert a target from awareness to engagement?

  • Email: Outbound, Inbound
  • Phone: Outbound, Inbound
  • Web: Sites, Landing Pages
  • Advertising: Digital, Print, Display, Broadcast
  • Social Media
  • Content: News, Opinion, Blog, Online, Print
  • Events: Webinars, Trade Shows, Sponsorships, Speaking Engagements, Hosted Events
  • Direct Marketing: Mail, Email, Phone, Subscription
  • Point-of-Sales Display and Storefronts
  • Meetings: Online, In-Person
  • Employees and Stakeholders
  • Referrals, References and Word-of-Mouth

As you can see from the list, it is easy to find at least seven methods to reach your target audience. Each method can have multiple uses and characteristics. Experience, time, target types and cost will help determine the most effective methods for selling your products and services.

It is vital to utilize a mix of touchpoints and apply them to every single target to increase your conversion probability. Obviously, the goal is to convert with fewer touches; however, it is essential to plan for the complete mix.

Touchpoint strategies should not be left to circumstance. A touchpoint plan must answer who is responsible for each touchpoint, the medium that will be utilized, what will be said and how it will represent the brand. It needs to outline the schedule of activities and KPIs set against the expected outcomes to benchmark and measure success. Again, touchpoints should be married to the customer journey to ensure that every touchpoint is fully utilized to push and persuade the contact to buy.

A touchpoint plan should outline:

  1. Roles and responsibilities
  2. Medium
  3. Frequency and timing
  4. Key messages
  5. Call-to-actions
  6. KPIs
  7. Investment

Consistency in outreach, timing and messaging for all areas within the plan requires alignment to the business goals and should be shared company-wide.

One of the greatest failures is not leveraging the entire customer journey to completely benefit from all touchpoints. This happens when sales and marketing are not setting expectations on how, what and when touchpoints are utilized and who is responsible for delivery.

Resources that can help coordinate effective and consistent touchpoint strategies across an organization include:

  1. Company fact sheets and FAQs to ensure everyone is speaking the same language
  2. Brand guidelines help organizations articulate and represent the company in look and feel
  3. Content libraries and online resources that are maintained with the latest marketing and sales support materials
  4. Corporate templates for presentations, emails, marketing communications
  5. Marketing technologies (MarTech) and customer relationship (CRM) management platforms to help organize and manage critical touchpoints in the sales and marketing process
  6. Communication and event calendars to keep the organization informed of when there are opportunities to engage with key targets and customers
  7. Company events and training that detail the plan and set expectations for everyone’s role to support the outcomes
  8. Reports and dashboards that show the results of each touchpoint and ROI

Everyone in a organization sells. This means everyone should fully understand and value the sales and marketing coordinated touchpoint strategies. It is the leadership of sales and marketing that must then work hand-in-hand to ensure that the investments made into touchpoints are actualized to generate results.

We all can hope for the one touch that leads to a conversion. Those tales often are ones that are repeated in company folklore. The facts remain, it most frequently takes multiple touches to successfully convert targets to leads, then leads to buyers. Coordination between sales and marketing only increases results and impact.

Work together and expect more. Create your plan, set your targets, define your activities and measure your success. That is how you will maximize the results of your coordinated touchpoint strategies.

Jamie Glass, CMO + President, Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Analytics and Data-Driven Marketing Trends

Transformation has taken hold of corporate marketing in a big way. Analytics and data are framing the top priorities for current investments by CMOs, who are increasingly responsible for predicting profitable growth for their organizations. This shift requires advancing and centralizing the practice of data-driven marketing people, processes and technology in order to effectively achieve the defined business goals and expected outcomes.

Data has long been part of every major function within a company. However, the current intention of CEOs and stakeholders is to unite the massive amounts of acquired bits and bytes to better inform decision-making throughout the organization.

It is the expectation that marketing, sales and finance data be combined and proactively analyzed to help understand the customer journey, improve company performance, predict revenue growth and increase profitability.

In order to bring together these disparate data sets and effectively utilize collected insights to predict, businesses are heavily investing in marketing technology (MarTech). In a recent survey of marketers by Squiz, these investments are essential to better understanding customers and prospects (62%), which is a key priority and as well as a challenge for enterprise marketing teams. The survey also noted that 55% of marketers are investing in MarTech in order to take a data-driven approach to marketing and 97% of the respondents said marketing technology has enabled them to be more strategic. (Source)

Businesses expect marketing to lead the way in achieving revenue growth targets. Data-driven playbooks are critical tools used to define the journey, understand customer preferences and capitalize on trends. Key to the playbook is the interpretation and translation of data through marketing analytics to support the tactics and activities.

Marketing analytics is the practice of measuring, managing and analyzing marketing performance to maximize its effectiveness and optimize return on investment (ROI).

Analytics empower businesses to recognize patterns and set priorities. Analysis centralizes the focus on outcomes and achievement of business goals by moving beyond standalone marketing metrics and reporting, to fully realizing the value of marketing from data insights.

Success comes from applying the insights that marketers acquire through data, learning from the input and then creating actionable playbooks to manage performance.

Because of the vast amounts of data and the fact that many of these complied repositories are nested throughout the organization, marketing leaders must work with the entire corporate landscape to realize the vision of data-driven marketing and decision-making. This includes researchers, digital and financial analysts, technology and innovation team members, IT, data scientists, product developers and sales operations. Collectively, this group must work together to continually challenge assumptions, push for collective understanding and master the “math” to increase predictability and usability of business intelligence.

What should marketers measure and analyze in order to create an effective data-driven marketing playbook?

Common Data Sets Analyzed by Marketing Data-Driven Organizations

  • Customer Journey Analytics: CJA data is acquired from CRM and MarTech to identify, analyze and measure each stop in the customer journey, from prospecting through acquisition to retention. Marketing data sets come from target data, marketing activities, lead generation and segmentation. Sales data sets come from pipeline activities, conversion, satisfaction, loyalty and retention programs. Financial data provides revenue, acquisition and retention costs and profit information.
  • Mobile and Web: Data from digital systems and online properties, including CRM, call center and web analytics platforms. Data sets include search, behavioral, and demographic information gathered via SEO, ecommerce, conversions and engagement.
  • Voice of the Customer: VOC includes perception and opinion data learned via sources such as structured surveys and feedback mechanisms, as well as unstructured data from open-ended survey questions, texts, reviews, customer service emails, social media, and human interactions via phone and in person.
  • Customer and Prospect Personas: Target and customer data gathered in profiling, segmentation, lead scoring and personalization campaigns. Data sets used in persona analysis includes demographic, physchographic, transactional and behavioral.
  • Lifetime Customer Value: LCV data measures net profit attributed to the entire relationship with a customer, often valued over defined periods of time. Net profit of a customer is lifetime customer value measured against customer acquisitions costs.
  • Media Analytics: Attribution and marketing mix modeling (MMM) data is used to analyze paid media results in all channels and includes campaign and spend details.
  • Social Media Marketing: SMM data includes all acquired information from social and digital media platforms such as Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WeChat, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn. Data is often used to measure targeting, reach and engagement.
  • Product Life Cycle: PLC data is acquired as a new product moves through a sequence of stages from introduction to growth, maturity and decline.
  • Reach Cost Quality: RCQ data, gathered at each touch point, measures the number of target buyers reached, cost per unique touch and the quality of the engagement.

In contrast to the obvious need and growing investments in data-driven marketing, it is a widely reported fact that most companies today are far from getting the “full value” of all the data available to them to help make better decisions. Most organizations are in the early or mid-stages of the shift to bring all data together in order to effectively guide and predict growth and profitability decisions. The undertaking is often very complex and expensive.

Marketing must press forward and lead the way!

Good news, a recent study by the Global Alliance of Data-Driven Marketing Associations (GDMA)Winterberry Group and MediaMath shows eight in 10 advertising and marketing professionals worldwide use data-driven techniques to maintain customer databases, measure campaign results across both individual and multiple marketing channels, and segment data for proper targeting. (Source)

Now, we must work together throughout the entire organization to ensure that driven-data marketing and analytics provide the proper insights that we can learn from and create successful outcomes, like increased growth and profitability.

Jamie Glass, CMO + President, Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

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Marketing is Growth Hacking

Marketing is defined as the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising. Is that not really a definition for growing a business?

There are many applications and tactics used in marketing today to build audiences, engage customers and drive revenues.

Separation of growth and marketing does not serve any business well, small or large. Metric-driven association to the business goals must be the primary function and purpose of marketing. In the present, this often has a digital orientation whether you are defining these outcomes to market share, product sales, customer loyalty, new customers, retention, clicks or pipeline velocity. Marketing results should be measured by growth, no matter the tactic or application.

When we entered into the digital age, marketers began to alter course in search of new ways to best attract eyeballs, motivate actions and engage with consumers. In this shift, there were many in the start-up world that felt that marketing was not fluid or quick enough to make this transition. The inertia of the start-up needed immediate and innovative solutions to meet the high volume growth requirements, most of which were heavily reliant on online methods of marketing.

A scramble for “new” resources and technologies ensued and marketers were soon heavily influenced by a community of “outside” thinkers and doers that had unique skills and talents not housed within their formal marketing departments. It was the beginning of what we know have come to know today as “growth hacking,” which is sometimes referenced as the antithesis of traditional marketing.

The term “growth hacker” was first introduced by Sean Ellis in 2010. Sean Ellis  is CEO and co-founder of GrowthHackers.com, the number one online community built for growth hackers, with 1.8 million global users and over 350,000 new monthly visitors. Sean is an author, lecturer and the producer of the Growth Hackers Conference.

Yet, great marketers principled in traditions also see growth hacking as core to how they have always viewed their progressive role within an organization. Marketing is helping a business grow. To meet the demands of the business, top marketers are always in pursuit of new tools, processes, people and technologies to apply to the discipline in order to help the organization achieve its goals.

Marketing is core to any growth-oriented business that seeks to improve results on the investments that are designed to expand markets, promote products and drive sales.

Marketing should never be stagnant in thought or application, or it is useless (and probably needs a new leader). Marketing can not be motionless and standard. It must be dynamic, agile and fast-paced to keep up with the ever changing environments that impact financial results and performance every day.

Traditional marketing is good for textbooks; however, rarely is meaningful in the real-world. Marketing changes daily because of the innovations in platforms, mediums, design, research, intelligence and so much more. This constant change impacts how marketers drive awareness, engagement, influence and the customer experience. Growth hacking may be a a term that makes marketing feel youthful, hip and in tune with the digital world; however, marketing can never be successful if it stays traditional in its approach and utilization.

Growth hacking is marketing in the digital age.

Calling marketing “growth hacking” or renaming a Chief Marketing Officer to a Chief Growth Officer only puts words on activities and titles that should be at the forefront of every good marketer’s strategic playbook. The words may be necessary to focus an organization on strategic objectives and rally the troops to identify with the direction of the organization; however, relevance of growth should always be leading marketing’s responsibilities and role within an organization.

Growth should be marketing-led by which the business is representing and enacting strategies for brand, loyalty, satisfaction and the customer journey. This means that marketing strategy must deploy a variety of tactics that fall into a “growth hackers” profile and required expertise, including:

  • Web
  • Analytics
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Social Media
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Digital Media (Graphics and Video)
  • Content Marketing
  • Customer Feedback
  • MarTech and Automation
  • Lead Generation and Sales Operations Software
  • Mobile and App Store Optimization

Experts in each of these areas of responsibility often require unique skills and diverse capabilities. While some of the tactics may be combined into roles, marketing leadership must often rely on internal and external resources to deliver in all of these areas.

Leading a marketing organization today also requires access to experts beyond the walls of the marketing function. One suggestion is to assemble growth hacker work groups from functional areas within finance, technology, sales, product development and innovation. Some of the roles that can contribute to growth initiatives include: software developers, engineers, analysts and qualitative researchers, business intelligence analysts, AI and robotics, data specialists, as well as QA testers and reviewers.

In the 1950’s, Neil Borden defined the “Four P’s of Marketing” as product, price, place and promotion. Traditional and still applicable today; however, how we market is always changing because of innovation in products, services, delivery and experience.

Most customer journeys are influenced by digital involvement. Often, products and services are completely or have some components of digital today. Price is influenced by the research available to consumers online and most decisions are made before even engaging with the brand. The places people acquire products and services are online and expanding faster than traditional brick and mortar. Promotion is often part of or solely on channels and platforms that are online. All of this requires growth hacking resources, skills, processes, technologies and expertise.

Growth hacking is fundamental to marketing. Marketing is essential for growth, whether hacking or traditional. How we combine efforts, expand our expertise and work together will define how fast we get to our goals.

Jamie Glass, President + CMO, Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Marketing with Emotional Intelligence

In the era of automation, most of the focus has been on the impact to the doer. Those that have “doing” skills and who provide labor to craft, manufacture, architect and supply goods and services have felt the quake of automation for decades.

Automation is evolving and so is the conversation related to the skills it impacts. This comes in the wake of explosive opportunities resulting from artificial intelligence (AI). There are many that believe AI is a form of automation for the “thinker.”

“There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better. I want to be clear. These are not things I wish will happen; these are things I think probably will happen.” Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and Space X

The consequences of automation is very prevalent in sales and marketing, as companies heavily invest and rely upon technology to create, engage and deliver their brand promises and customer experiences to targeted audiences.

The amount of marketing technology available today is staggering, along with the voluminous amounts of data that is produced from its implementation. By example, check out the 2016 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic to get a sense of what marketers are trying to digest as to the vast array of automation options available to deliver “better” results.

As marketing strategy becomes more and more reliant on data and analytics to formulate effective content and messaging, what skills will be required of a modern-era marketer?

One of the most critical skills of a marketer required in the current and future state of automation, is the ability to apply emotional intelligence to both strategy and tactics.

What is emotional intelligence? Psychology Today defines Emotional intelligence as the ability to identify and manage the emotions of others.

Engines, bots and platforms will gather data, analyze content and interpret results. A marketers use of emotional intelligence will motivate the person to take action.

It is the marketer’s responsibility to implement and execute upon what results from machine learning, robots, data and artificial intelligence. Marketers must articulate the next steps and these steps do require an application of emotional intelligence to produce the desired outcomes.

To start marketing with emotional intelligence, it is essential to keenly identify beyond the data-driven personas and profiles the emotions that motivate individuals to act. Emotional intelligence defines how a person sees things and what triggers the feelings they express for solving problems and seizing opportunities. Marketers have to relate to their target’s greatest emotional needs.

Marketers must be able to identify the emotions of the target audience beyond the AI, analytics and data, then execute strategies and tactics that apply this emotional intelligence to motivate their target to take action.  

Emotional motivators can range from fear to joy, with all levels of extremes. Common emotions that marketers frequently use to get their targets to act, include:

  • Success
  • Security
  • Happiness
  • Trust
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Assurance
  • Love
  • Heroism
  • Joy
  • Anticipation
  • Surprise
  • Protection
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Panic
  • Anxiety
  • Scarcity
  • Consternation
  • Sadness
  • Disgust

Steps for applying emotional intelligence to marketing, above and beyond the data-driven analytics from automated systems.

1. Identify the Emotional Motivators for All Your Targets:  Prospects, Customers, Partners, Employees, Stakeholders, Competitors. Utilize human interaction to identify the emotional triggers through such mechanisms as surveys, interviews, market research and face-to-face events.

2. Create Value Propositions for Each Emotional Motivator.  Write each proposition by defining how the company, product or service addresses the emotional motivation to act. It must be a statement that articulates “why” someone would act and answer WIIFM (what’s in it for me).

3. Link the Emotionally-Driven Value Proposition to Desired Outcomes and Actions.  Clearly outline the expected outcome and desired action that will result from the target through the adoption or application of what is being “sold,” whether it is an idea, product or service. This will be a basis for measuring success.

4. Test Your Value Propositions in a Series of Solution Statements for Different Mediums to Identify Bias. Never assume that you have nailed the value proposition until you have tested it on your target audience in each type of medium. Motivations can change across different content types, such as social versus white papers.  Then sample test audience targets to help refine messages, evaluate emotional intelligence triggers and prove/disapprove the theories applied to expected outcomes and actions.

5. Apply the Value Propositions to Marketing Tactics.  Once the value propositions are tested, create content and marketing campaigns. Utilize the proven value propositions, created with emotional intelligence motivators, as the foundation for all messaging.

6. Measure the Results. Evaluate the outcomes and action results monthly for the first six months of use, along with conducting ongoing testing for enhancements to the content and messaging for continuous improvements.

A marketer is the invaluable connector to a target audience that can answer to what success and failure feels like. 

Take for example the topic of cyber security.  The risks today to business and marketers are high.  It is estimated that more than 75% of companies will be at risk in the next year.  What does this mean?  Every business must prepare to identify, prepare for and solve for the risks related to protecting intellectual property, customer or personnel data. What does success feel like when the cyber security solutions provider help a customer succeed at eliminating threats and risk to their business?  What does failure feel like if the company does not prepare and solve for these threats and risks?

Those “feelings” are the emotional intelligence triggers that a great marketer in any industry will use when defining their brand, customer and user experiences to drive the best results.

No matter the machine learning or level of automation, marketers are essential to executing programs using tools and analysis that create an understanding of the target audience’s emotional needs. Marketers must identify motivation and interact in person to develop reliability and loyalty. It will always require a human touch with the right skills to understand, manage and motivate others to act.

Fear not my fellow marketers and business leaders, as machine learning, robots and AI are our friends and they need us. Our only real enemy is not marrying automation with emotional intelligence to seize upon the market opportunities created by all the data and analytics available to us today. It is the marketer’s skills that will manage, motivate and influence others to act.

Jamie

Jamie Glass, President + CMO at Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Marketing Works for Sales

How does marketing best function in an organization?

Marketing works for sales. Marketing works to generate revenue. Marketing is part of the sales engine.

The primary role for marketers is to coordinate with revenue-generators on the required plans, tactics and activities to successfully identify buyers, build pipelines of opportunities, accelerate conversion of new customers and grow existing business.

Marketing must work hand-in-hand with those that have the responsibility for generating revenue to grow and sustain a business. As head of both sales and marketing in my career, I can definitely affirm that success only happens when the two work as one!

Marketing is not a silo and should not operate as one. Marketing must have a symbiotic relationship with those responsible for selling. Unless a business takes on debt to fund operations, there is no revenue in which to function until something is actually sold. The more that is sold, the more operating cash there is to flow into marketing programs and initiatives. If marketing requires a bigger budget, it must facilitate more sales.

Sales is also not a silo and should not be looked upon as a single functional group within an organization. Sales must inform and coordinate with marketing to make this relationship achieve maximum success. The fact is everyone in the company is in sales. Every employee has influence and everyone should directly or indirectly support the selling of an organization’s products and services.

One of the most important steps for sales and marketing leadership, along with the CEO, is to agree upon how the organization will communicate and measure success. The organization needs a common language that everyone understands.

A CMO or head of marketing must ensure the entire marketing function is equally accountable for revenue based on these terms, as are those working in a sales role. Everyone in the marketing organization must be knowledgeable and operating daily to achieve and/or improve upon the identified business performance metrics. The marketing benchmarks must also align to how the entire organization articulates business goals and measures success.

Key Business Metrics for Sales and Marketing

Revenue – Revenue is the amount of money a company takes in over a specific time. It includes deductions and discounts. Most companies will reference this in a P&L as top line and measure it over time as top line growth. Sales and marketing share responsibility in generating revenue for a business.

Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) – This is the price paid to acquire a new customer. It is the combination of sales, marketing, research, and product or service related expenses used to bring in a buyer. Businesses can utilize this important value to set budgets for sales and marketing. CAC management ensures the business is putting enough capital toward winning the number of customers it needs each year to achieve the revenue goals. CAC should also be used as a barometer for efficiency and effectiveness, along with a benchmark on how the company performs related to their competition.

Customer Retention Rates – Customer retention rates are the percentage of acquired buyers (customers) who continue to buy services over a certain time period. You will often hear that it costs seven times more to find a new customer than retain an existing one. Retention is an important metric. Existing customers are also a gateway to value-add services. Retention should also be analyzed over time and value.

Customer Attrition Rates (CARs) – Opposite of the retention rate is rate of attrition, also commonly called “churn.” Customer attrition rates is the percentage of customers lost over a defined time period. This metric is also usually a leading indicator for customer satisfaction, efficiency in delivery, product use and product or service value. Sales and marketing strategies to reduce CARs are as important to acquiring new customers.

Lifetime Value (LTV) – This is also sometimes called lifetime customer value (LTCV). It is revenue (value) of a customer over the life of the relationship (time). LTV helps sales and marketers understand the potential impact of growing the value and extending the timeline as a customer. This important data point also helps businesses understand the costs of losing a customer. LTV can be used to measure brand equity.

Overhead – Overhead is all non-labor related costs used to operate the business. It is considered fixed expenses regardless of the number of customers or revenue generated by the business. Overhead is often seen as controlled costs and a topic of discussion during budget reviews. Sales and marketing should combine efforts in overhead management to ensure processes, technology and people are not overlapping or creating extra costs. For example, sales automation and marketing technology should be evaluated together to ensure the business maximizes value and works unilaterally to combine all data inputs and resources to effectively manage the customer journey.

Fixed and Variable Costs – These are the monthly expenses used to operate the business. Variable costs align to the amount of goods or services produced and these will increase or decrease based on the volume of production. Fixed costs are not associated to production volume and include costs such as office space, equipment, advertising and insurance. Businesses will utilize costs as a metric on how much is invested into sales and marketing for production.

Profit Margin – Profit margin is the percentage of revenue above the cost of the product and/or service. Think of it as the mark-up. Profit margin can be evaluated by the overall business revenue, as well as by product and service lines to determine the health and ROI on costs related to sales and marketing. Gross margin is the percentage of difference between revenue and cost of goods sold (COGS), divided by revenue. Net margin is the percentage of revenue after operating expenses, interest, taxes and preferred stock dividends. If you are operating in the black, your profit margin is positive and if you are operating in the red, your costs and expenses are greater than the revenue coming into the company. Profit margins can also be utilized to evaluate the health and sustainability of individual customers or segmented customer profiles. It is an important metric for sales and marketing in strategic account management.

Pipeline – Pipeline is a defined series of steps and stages between starting and completion the sales process. It is often valued by the total dollar amount of all identified sales opportunities. The process can be defined as a variety of sales and marketing actions, most commonly prospecting and buyer identification, qualification, meeting, proposal, close and retention. For evaluation, each step or stage will often be assigned a weighted dollar value (percentage) based on the likelihood to close (win). This calculation is often used in forecasting and predicting sales run-rates.

Pipeline Growth – This is the percentage of growth of the associated dollar value of the sales pipeline over a period of time. Pipeline growth can also be measured by numerous variables such as number of prospect opportunities (deals) in the pipeline, types of opportunities, product or service lines, or by territory. Most organizations evaluate pipeline growth monthly. It is important for sales and marketing to analyze growth over different intervals to determine any seasonal or buying cycle variables that will impact sales. Pipeline is a critical metric to determine the future health of the business. Sales and marketing activities are directly connected throughout the pipeline journey and coordination is critical for supporting growth, conversion and retention.

Sales Forecast – This is an estimate of future sales. Forecast accuracy is often a hot topic within a business, as it enables a business to make operational and investment decisions based on predictive future revenues. The sales forecast, often prepared by sales reps and weighted based on analytics and accuracy, informs the business leadership on how to manage daily cash flow and resources. Ideally, forecasts should be visible to the entire organization in real-time through shared sales automation tools and online pipeline reporting. It helps inform employees how the business is predicting performance. Transparency keeps people accountable.

Conversion Rates – Conversion rates can be applied to multiple marketing and sales tactics within the sales pipeline. It is calculated as a percentage of specific actions. Marketers often use this in the early stages of the sales cycle, as defined by a call-to-actions. It is measuring the rate a person converts to the next stage by taking all types of actions. These can be measured as response rates, volume of calls, incoming emails, online comments, web visits, clicks and purchases. Sales often measures conversion as a percentage of win/loss on proposals or quotes and purchases. This is a valuable metric and it should be combined with the length of the buying cycle to determine where sales and marketing can invest resources to accelerate conversion rates.

Customer Satisfaction – Most businesses utilize a customer satisfaction rating or ranking to measure the health of the customer relationship at a given point in time. A common metric for measuring customer satisfaction is Net Promoter Score®, or NPS®. The NPS rating is derived from participants that are surveyed based on one question, “How likely is it that you would recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague?” Those that provide a rating of 9-10 are considered promoters and 0-6 are detractors. NPS is calculated from the percentage of detractors minus the percentage of promoters. Those that score 7-8 are considered passive. Influence is a strong category for marketing initiatives. NPS can help an organization determine the best way to build a strong influencer campaign for existing business referrals and add-on sales, as well as utilize to increase LCV and retention.

One of the common pitfalls that occurs when businesses align sales and marketing metrics is to try to give single credit to one function. Obviously, this happens inherently through commission programs. However, visibility and communication can be universal in a business. It is a shared responsibility that does not have to be solely recognized through compensation. The common language for defining success is the starting place!

Let it be known, when a company surpasses revenue targets, everyone wins. If a company misses their revenue target, everyone is accountable for the performance. That means everyone must answer to the identified measurements the company puts in place to track performance and results.

The purpose of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is to empower the organization to achieve the business goals through a series of strategies and tactics. Marketing is reliant on the sales function to convert identified opportunities into actual dollars. If we all work united in the pursuit of revenue and customers, then together everyone achieves more! Go TEAM!

Jamie

President + CMO at Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

What is Your Gig?

Have you been reading all about the gig economy and the massive expansion of people taking gigs and working independently?  Payroll numbers keep dropping and gigs are up!

In the past when I thought about people who are doing a “gig,” I assumed they were playing in a rock band. That is not true today. In fact, there are millions of people doing “gigs” that are not at all related to music or putting on a show.

What is a gig today?

A gig is often a job and project that is temporary, without a set number of hours or defined length of time. A gig is not employment. Gigs are global. Those that take on gigs can often do so working remotely, sun-up to sun down. Gigs offer flexibility and diversity.

Gigs became more prevalent through the expanded use of the Internet, beginning with old school job boards and temporary work websites. These have now morphed into specialization communities, social sites and platforms for crowd sourcing, online recruitment, talent management and project collaboration based on identified skills and types of expertise.

Though the term is trending now, gigs aren’t just for hipsters and millennials. They aren’t only relevant to teens, working moms and dads or those that need a little extra cash driving people around in their own car. Gigs are growing across all types of industries, geographies, and for all ages and levels of expertise.

We call this collective group of alternative workers the gig economy. They are contingent workers, freelancers, contractors, outsourced talent and independent workers, often doing short-term engagements without a set number of hours or employment benefits.

Some say we are in a freelancer revolution. Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40% of American workers would be independent contractors.

More than 53 million Americans are now earning income from work that’s not a traditional 9-to-5. That’s 1 in 3 workers. Source: Monthly Labor Review, October 2015

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Gig workers could be in contingent or alternative employment arrangements, or both, as measured by BLS. Contingent workers are those who don’t have an implicit or explicit contract for long-term employment. Alternative employment arrangements include independent contractors (also called freelancers or independent consultants), on-call workers, and workers provided by temporary help agencies or contract firms.”

Companies are driving the gig economy.

People are in high demand to fulfill gigs. They provide immediate expertise for limited work or short-term assignments and they often are able to provide quick turn-around on projects. Businesses are highly motivated today to utilize people that will take on work as a gig. Global corporations often utilize those in the gig economy for a variety of projects and tasks, from technical to creative.

As an example, language service providers have a huge network (600,000+) of translators and linguists that work independently or as freelancers. This group consists of native language experts that localize and translate all types of content in hundreds of languages, as well as do gigs for product testing and reviews for some of the world’s largest consumer, manufacturing and technology brands.

It was reported by CNBC in October 2016, that over the past 20 years, the number of gig economy workers has increased by about 27 percent more than payroll employees, according to CNBC calculations using data from a study by the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

The top industries sited for utilizing freelancers for gigs include transportation, healthcare, communications, technology, arts and entertainment and construction. Companies often list cost savings in benefits, overhead and administration when utilizing people to do gigs. Most will work remote, require little training and can work from any where in the world, reducing office space requirements. They will often use their own equipment and materials, which also creates further savings for businesses.

Why would an experienced corporate executive want to be part of the gig economy?

I believe the inherent richness of taking on “gigs,” where you can apply creativity, inventiveness, and strategy experience across various companies, is perfect for an executive. Imagine collaborating and advising all types of businesses, applying your seasoned experience and knowledge gained from other “gigs,” to then celebrate in your client’s success. It’s rewarding and stimulating. It is also feeds a need and desire to problem solve, stay relevant and never stop learning.

The gig economy is trending today with great buzz, yet it has been long in existence across all functions. As a corporate executive, I’ve been hiring people to take on gigs for 20 years in marketing, including web developers, creative designers, digital pros and software integration experts just to name a few. In finance, I’ve recruited accountants, auditors, controllers and investment managers for gigs. In technology, I’ve hired people for gigs related to coding, implementations, data management, process and workflows and so much more. Gigs are part of every company.

The gig is up!

No matter how you classify those working “gigs” today, they are actually profiles that span across all levels of expertise. They are growing in demand requiring extensive know-how to advise C-level executives and upper management on strategic initiatives and projects. Though they are designed for short-term projects by definition, I’ve worked for some CEOs for five or more years on what started as a gig.

Gigs are important to all business sizes. I’ve worked on gigs for small start-ups, as well as established multi-million dollar businesses. It’s the expertise that matters most. You could even say board members and advisors are all participants in the gig economy, providing a high level of practical skill and judgment.

The richness in experience I’ve gained through a variety of gigs that I’ve worked on over the past 20 years, has enabled me to apply my knowledge and skills across all types of industries, including retail, finance, technology, professional services, localization, media and even golf. The more gigs I get, the more experience and best practices I can share with other businesses in pursuit of their goals. It’s fulfilling and mutually rewarding.

I’ve long said, sales is sales and marketing is marketing no matter whether you are selling custom golf clubs or sophisticated business intelligence software. Without the overhead of taking on another executive, gigs enable a CMO and senior executive like myself to advise multiple companies across various functions – a big savings that can drive even bigger results. Whether I help a CEO set up a sales organization, write a business plan or implement complex marketing programs, the ability to apply past experience benefits everyone.

So what’s my next gig? I’ve had a very rewarding experience as the CMO at Welocalize. Working with this growing and vibrant organization since 2013, it is now time for me to venture on to my next gig (or two). I’m now going to apply the knowledge I’ve gained from a very interesting industry to helping more CEOs and business leaders – whether it is in globalization, product marketing, service line management, executive leadership or just plain old sales and marketing. It is my journey in an exciting history of being part of the gig economy through my own “gig” business, Artful Thinkers.

So, I’m ready to take on some new gigs! How can my expertise help you?

Jamie Glass,  CMO + President of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

EXTRA #1:  Today the gig economy is growing: Last year it was estimated that 34% of the American workforce were freelancers, and that number is projected to be 43% in 2020. How can you survive in the gig economy?

EXTRA #2: Do You Need an Outsourced CMO? 10 Reasons for Hiring an Outsourced CMO

Marketing Jargon and Acronym Overload

Let’s face it, every day we are flooded with the latest marketing trends, tips and predictions. Marketers selling to marketers! Much of this is related to the time of year and it’s “trendy” to predict. It is also very opportunistic to describe the latest inventions and offerings with a snappy new acronym or invented word that gets a bit of brand attribution to the promoter.

Admittedly, I love to read these prognosticator’s reports and declarations. I’m a marketing nerd and trend junkie. I’ll often promote these ideas and reports through my various social feeds.

I’m also highly motivated by fear. The fear is of not knowing what all these new terms and acronyms mean. If it is buzzworthy, trending and top-of-mind with all other marketers, I need to know! My personal nightmare scenario is being completely lost by the latest lingo when quizzed by an executive, peer, or worse, a client. “How does NLP help marketers?” What? NLP? Who? Uh. Um.

Yet, three weeks into the new year and reading these predictions and trends, I’m saturated. I’m done. Chats, bots, blockchains, CX, CAC, SERP oh my! This CMO is overloaded! Not by the content and concepts, by the jargon and acronyms. No matter how strong the fear is of not knowing, the fact is I’m at the tipping point, tipping over.

It’s the words and the over-use of something that has caught fire in trending topics which is now dominating everything we discuss online. Basically, we are being over-marketed with complexity and spin mixed with new and old terms, to a point where it doesn’t have meaning.

An example, nearly every marketing solution that lands in my email has some new incredible AI feature. It is as if marketing invented AI. Not true. A machine to perform reasoning was written about in the 1300’s and a calculating machine in the 1600’s. It’s not new, it’s trendy. It makes me question the validity of these offers. Is this hype or reality? Why do I need AI in list segmentation? Are you talking basic algorithms or scientific invention?

As marketers and content producers, I confess that many of us are notorious for over-marketing words. It is inherent in our function to continually create, reinvent, brand, own and define the words used to sell our value. The problem is we are all talking in inflated expressions and a complicated vocabulary that in the end, business owners and CEOs are tuning out. They want us to generate revenue. We are burying the benefits of what we do with jargon.

Here is how leadership thinks about a marketers role: find a customer, support selling goods and services to the customer, retain the customer so they buy more. Find. Sell. Retain. That’s it.

Now put that proposition out to the marketing world and here is what you get.

“Our highly-intuitive marketing campaign targets SMBs using WOM, PR, SMM and DM by BI-based personalized content distribution via our CMS. Through supporting initiatives utilizing MarTech, SEO, PPC, ASO and a new UI, we will generate MQLs with lead scores based on CTRs in a custom digital UX with strong CTAs. All activities will captured in our agile SaaS CRM for immediate follow-up by ISRs. Upon conversion, AI and GA data will be used to create a buyer personas for ABM programs, supported by established BANT criteria and measured through NPS results to increase LCV and renewals. All of which will demonstrate incredible MROI.

Too much? Yes! We have entered jargon and acronym hell. The competition between marketers to have a unique proposition is resulting a language that no one beyond the marketer (and maybe not even the marketer) understands. CEOs don’t want to hear about this word salad that is defining how and what we do. They want results.They want revenue. It’s not complex.

Yes, we need rankings, clicks, eyeballs and earned media. We need to be great at driving awareness, engaging and influencing. It is also easier to use an acronym than spell it out. The problem is that we have so many references to our marketing activities, tools and technologies, it is difficult to have a conversations in the C-Suite that focuses on the value of marketing without an appendix or dictionary.

Maybe we start with the definition of marketing.

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (AMA approved definition July 2013)

It may help get through the swarm of trending hyperbole and phraseology. Perhaps it is time to go back to basics and focus on the value. Saving time, creating new customers, reducing costs, increasing loyalty, generating revenue seem like great trending topics. Boring perhaps and a little old school, yet it is the financial reality of a marketers role. We need to be talking about how we contributing to bottom-line results.

We’ve fought hard to gain the attention of the business leaders and get a seat at the table. How we can help organizations achieve results? How can we contribute to the success of the business? Let’s not bury our message and value in a dictionary of terms that seems to be growing exponentially in size and devaluing our contributions.

Trending now, KISS! Let’s go find some customers, sell them something and make them happy so they buy more.

Jamie

For those, like me, that need a dictionary to keep up, here are two great references.

75 Marketing & Business Acronyms & Abbreviations Every Industry Pro Should Know

149 Marketing Acronyms that Every Online Marketer Needs to Know

 

Decide to Be Resolute in 2017

Business leaders are faced with a myriad of opportunities and choices every day. It is estimated that on average the C-suite will get 150-300 emails per day vying for some decision-making attention about an opportunity. Each opportunity requires some logical reasoning and prioritization.

From the outside world, we are flooded daily with proposals and suggestions from eager vendors and sales people to help us do more and be better at everything. Internally, we are presented opportunities to evaluate new ideas, review solutions and provide recommendations to tackle the complexities within the business.

Ignoring it all is not the solution. The emails and calls keep coming. There is no doubt that both outside and inside opportunities need assessing. Equally, all perspectives are important. Today, the speed of innovation and change require leaders to be in constant evaluation of ideas and solutions or you will be left behind!

Therein lies the challenge. Constant assessing is time. Nothing is simple and time is our most valuable resource. Each opportunity is often laced with all kinds of variables related to resources, timelines, spending requirements and business needs. It can be overwhelming and stagnating. Yet, the business requires ongoing opportunity assessment to progress.

Insert decision-maker! The solution is to make time to make decisions.

What is critical in the evaluation of any opportunity is that ultimately a decision is made. Great business leaders decide. Do it, revise it, throw it away – just decide. Endless evaluation kills momentum.

The best leaders eliminate the clutter, clear the noise, create the pathway and direct us forward. They lead the way for others to go do. Implement and execute. Without decision-making, we can all drown in opportunity and accomplish nothing.

Anyone in sales will be able to tell stories about their encounters with people and organizations that couldn’t make a decision. Two weeks grows to six month and two-year sales cycles. It’s an immediate recipe for stress and heartburn, even failure! As well, we may have experienced in a our personal lives. OK, we likely have all experienced it with a friend or family member. Have you have been shopping with someone that can’t make a decision. Exhausting!

It happens in companies too. Lack of decisions lead to stagnation and chaos, at worst. Right or wrong, the failure to decide is the greatest failure of all. It leaves everyone in flux and wanting direction. We go nowhere, we don’t progress.

In 2017, imagine what we can accomplish by being resolute. Making clear decisions every day. It is not about the goal or resolution, as we like to call it this time of year. It is about deciding how to get to the goal. Businesses grow from ingesting new approaches and ways to get things done. Take it in, set the target, decide and then go! Resolute.

Be determined and purposeful. The best leaders in the world are resolved, adamant and unwavering. It doesn’t mean they are “right” all the time, they just decide. They empower the organization to fail and learn. They simply give context to doing. Resolute.

Respect in business is earned. It is earned by those that are steadfast, unfaltering, and persistent. 2017 is time to commit to being tenacious and strong-willed, no matter the objective or goal. Decide and do. Resolute.

It’s not the resolution that will make 2017 a great new year, it is being resolute. Decide now. Be resolute.

Jamie

Leading Transformation in the New Year

Executives around the world are locking down budgets, business plans and growth strategies that will lead them into a new year with confidence and clarity. Or, at least that is how the process is supposed to work as we exit another year.

The reality is we are often distracted from planning our future, as we are buried in the real-time business demands of “now” for closing out the year, assessing our performance and measuring the success of our current year stated business goals. Our future is ahead, not behind us. We need to look ahead.

The actions we take today to change how we do things in the next year really deserves our full attention. Transformation requires prioritization.

There are many businesses who have great stories to share about the past year, highlighting lists of remarkable accomplishments in growth and opportunity. They have expanded into new markets, launched new products, added new channels for business development. The simple recipe for those businesses will be to double down and do more of the same. We’ve all heard it, GROW MORE! Those that look at how they might have done better over the past year will be focused on clarified business plans that pivot from where they have been to a future path of prosperity.

One thing is certain, whether looking to exploit past success or tearing down the obstacles that led to failure, transformation is imperative for any business in the new year.

Transformation is more than updated goals or repeating the past, it is doing things differently. It is tackling “big” things that others can’t and won’t do.

Transformation is change. It is new coordinates, new variables, new operations and new formulas for success. It is what leads to great. As marketers, we often hear about digital transformation. The way in which we consume information, the speed of the Internet, the Internet of Things, all driving behaviors and pushing businesses to behave differently with their consumers, partners, employees and even regulatory agencies. Yet, transformation applies much more broadly today than just digital. It applies to everything.

Change will happen. The upcoming 12 months will be loaded with transformation for most people, some of which they will have no control or input. It is taking place all around us. Point to the many global examples ripe with political change, where we will see instances of transformation in a new year that can and will change our existence in the world as we know it today. It will likely change how business is conducted globally.

It’s also personal. We’ve all rehearsed transformation to some degree. Personal and professional transformation will be veiled in the guise of declarations of resolutions in the next few days. We all need something to work on and often will state so “out loud” to be held accountable for our changing ways.

What about business transformation? How will businesses change in the new year to capitalize on the new, inspire the potential consumer, foster team development and capture the imagination of dreamers through vision and execution? Well, businesses like people, have to do things differently.

There are five signs a business is ready to lead through transformation.

  1. A focus on globalization will transform any business, as it is not just about selling products beyond a geographic region. It is thoughtfully reaching out through cultural connectivity to orchestrate engagement, learn and drive meaningful (and profitable) relationships around the world. It is understanding the global economy and embracing differences that are ripe in worldwide opportunity through relative experiences. A bit of advice on this point, rely on experts to guide you through the market, cultural and language complexities if you really want to take advantage of transformation through globalization.
  2. Acquiring talent with new insights, skills and competencies that do more than align to a job description will transform a business. Hiring smart and passionate people to join the “team” to challenge the status quo, rule outside the governing boxes and raise the ceiling on what can be done by thinking and ACTING differently is transforming. These individuals will bring experiences and richness of ideas that can expand the possibilities when embraced by an environment of collaboration and exchange.
  3. Diversity of thought and leadership that spans across all functions and roles is encouraged and celebrated by businesses that lead through transformation. Create an environment for bringing people together through idea generation, expanding digital and remote work spaces and systematically rewarding those for participation in solving problems and offering ways for capitalizing on change.
  4. Go beyond innovation, as it is an overused word in the lexicon of business strategies. Innovation is survival today, part of the life blood of existence as a business. Leading in innovation requires transformation, going beyond what has been done in the past and exploring the possibilities through new approaches, processes, technology, thinking and knowledge sharing capabilities. Innovation should be flowing throughout the organization and fundamental to how a business directs and drives transformation. Leaders must ask every team member, “How are you transforming what you do today to take us into the future?”
  5. Predictive analytics must be a basis for transformation, using smart data to guide decisions and empower actions with a bet on the future. Reporting is old, tiring and can paralyze an organization with constant reviews of the past. Using data as intelligence to guide decision-making and focus on outcomes that are in front of the business will free businesses from spending all their time looking in the rear view mirror. Let data push you forward.

Change is constant. Change is here. Transformation is critical to success.

Executives and business leaders that are thinking about their global journey, pushing the boundaries on talent acquisition and diversity of thought, living innovation and predicting the future with accuracy are the leaders of tomorrow and beyond. They will transform the world, doing more and doing things differently.

How are you transforming your business?

Jamie Glass, President + CMO at Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

What’s Your Story?

storybookImagine what you would say if someone came up to you on the street and asked, “What’s your story?” It’s not the standard, “What do you do?” or “Tell me about yourself.” If you took the time to answer (and you should), you would probably put a bit more creativity into how you would respond, beyond telling them your current job, name, number of years of service and any other rank and file information.

Storytelling taps into pure imagination and goes beyond recitation of facts. It’s bonding. It creates a commitment. There is more of a sensory investment into the word selection, the visual representations and the emotional connection you build with someone when you tell a story.

You have the permission to be more animated, persuasive and invested into getting a “desired” response when you tell a story. Unlike a listing of data points or a mindless update, you can draw people in, get them to behave differently, react or just connect. People pay closer attention to your words when sharing a story.

Storytelling often humanizes your content. As marketers, we continue to look for ways to personalize our message and relate to our target audience. Maybe the first step is to tell a compelling story. Storytelling helps to nurture a relationship between the teller and the listener – an attachment beyond the words.

Can you recall a time you listened to someone tell you a great story that left a lasting impression? How far back in time do you have to go to remember that experience? A great TED Talk? Your favorite book? The perfect sales pitch where you bought all the upgrades? Or was it in elementary school, visiting a grandparent or maybe when your own child read you a story. Maybe it was the co-worker who shared their story about a spontaneous get-away to a tropical island that left you with great envy or surfing online to match that experience. Any single memory of a story that really stands out?

Once you can identify that past experience, close your eyes for a second and picture where you were, what they said and why you felt so committed to their words. Capture that moment. Hold on to it and use it. That is the “mark” for you to measure your own storytelling skills. Use that experience for the next time you create content, provide a presentation, write to a client or sell someone on your invention – tell a story that leaves a lasting impression.

In business, storytelling lets you enter into the consumer psyche to drive behaviors – good or bad. We all know that a really “good” story may get a person to react negatively toward an idea, product or person – a fear of all marketers. We often read about the statistical difference for remembering the bad experiences we are told over the good. Why? We pay close attention to those negative experiences – the stories are often told with great vigor and emotion. We listen intently to the story about bad customer service or being oversold. Perhaps it is because most people are far more animated and creative in warning us to “stay away” versus inviting us in or getting us to buy.

You know the old adage, people buy from people they like. What better way to generate some “buying interest” than creating likability through storytelling. Build a relationship, set the expectation and persuade them to act – with a really good story.

Storytelling is an art. It is harder to do in writing than in person. Both require a lot of practice. Storytelling needs investment, thought, creativity and inspiration. There is no better place to start than with your own experiences.

So tell me…what’s your story?

Jamie Glass, Artful Thinkers

First published on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140423232730-149124-what-s-your-story

Impacting Your Global Communications Strategy

global communicationsEvery organization that reaches across their borders through words to educate, explain, engage or encourage others to consume their content requires a well-defined global communications strategy.

What are the important considerations for defining an effective multilingual communications strategy?

1. Return on Content (ROC). First and foremost to every global communications strategy is how does it align to corporate business goals? Alignment to outcomes related to market reach, revenue and event profit margins should drive the top line global communication planning to effectively demonstrate meaningful ROI. We call this impact. Global communications is more than a marketing approach; it is a roadmap to achieving success in your organization.

2. Defining Your Target Audience. One content type does not fit all. Along with demographic definitions and assigned attributes, there are requirements to understand socio-graphic and behavioral traits. These can amount to hundreds and imagine defining these across multiple geographies. It requires time, market experience and research to match target to content. Culturally, there are differences in approach, positioning and key market messages that without proper definition can offend or create irreparable harm to your brand or organization.

3. Logistics and Statistics. Global communication strategy requires an understanding of how information is consumed by your target audience, where and through which medium. Mediums for delivery are not universal. We can all cite the growing number of mobile devices; however, there are places in the world where certain types of content are not effective for a mobile consumer. There may also be times where content will be primarily delivered via mobile, impacting a buying experience if the content is not easily consumed and understood. Common Sense Advisory* research indicated, “…billions of people don’t read English at all or well enough to make buying decisions, so they’re increasing information in other languages to reach many more prospects.” Data matters and the experience can impact your overall ROI simply by not following through the entire customer communication experience.

4. Language Trends. In the language services business, we encourage people every day to translate their content into every language. There may be exceptions. Certain languages may find a specific content media acceptable in the source language. This requires analysis, testing and research; however, what has highest value should always be considered when evaluating opportunities, budgets, timing and impact of language requirements. Equally important is the need to understand demand on a global scale of languages that have the greatest opportunity. What are the trends in emerging market?

5. Rate and Regularity. Understanding frequency and timing of your communications can also help dictate tactics for global reach. Language tools and automation can assist in getting translation done faster and more cost-effectively when the driver is close to real-time frequency. As an example, building machine translation programs, terminology technology and content source analysis can assist in meeting growing demands for fast translation user-generated content (UGC). Every communication type will have a demand requirement that can be matched to your supply for “global” reach. Public relations may have an immediate need; whereas, software updates may have a planned communications strategy over several months.

6. Your Brand. There are times when brand overrides all decisions related to speed and time-to-market. For example, transcreation of content may be less frequent and require a much higher devotion to ensuring there is absolute brand-alignment and adherence to your global brand standards.

Global communications strategy requires a customer-focused and data-driven methodology to maximize reach and impact with your audience, both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C). Welocalize language services help global brands evaluate, plan and execute their strategic communication initiatives to produce the best ROC results.

What has the biggest impact on your global communications strategy?

*Report: Can’t Read, Won’t Buy by Common Sense Advisory

Jamie Glass

First published on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140507160656-149124-impacting-your-global-communications-strategy 

Increasing Your Content Value

Black and white numbers backgroundMarketers today are faced with the increasing challenge to produce more and more online content. The volumes are staggering. We now refer to the amount of online content and words in terms like metadata, moving from terabytes to zettabytes and beyond!

Publishers like Buzzfeed, HuffingtonPost, Business Insider and even the New York Times are pushing out an estimated 350 new content pieces a day according to Digiday. Consumers of content have a continuous twitter feed of new content. UGC, social media, newsletters, blogs… it’s endless. How much is really out there? As of today, the size of the Internet is estimated to be at least 1.79 billion pages. (Source:http://www.worldwidewebsize.com/)

So where is the value? Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves as publishers, marketers and content producers, this question. Is there greater value in trying to win the daily news feed cycle by overwhelming the feeds with our words or should we take your best performing content we have already produced and make it available to a broader audience?

The volume and frequency strategy is supported by the eye-ball attraction game. It’s high risk, sort of a gamble. You hope you hit the mark; however, in the end you just keep pushing out more content to hedge your bet. Hitting it big is measured in minutes and hours. Instead, the expanding reach strategy is taking an investment into quality content and growing it exponentially. Doubling down. If your content is worthy and has universal appeal, perhaps the best best is localizing or translating that content to increase the value.

One informative whitepaper on business intelligence could prove to have 3x or 10x the value when translated into the equal number of languages. Granted, not all content has a global appeal. It requires a measured assessment to determine if extending your geographic reach could leverage your existing asset by simply taking your “words” and making them available to a broader market.

Frequency or expanding your reach – what’s your gamble?

This article was first published on LinkedIn.  You can visit the article and subscribe to updates here: https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140221011502-149124-increasing-your-content-value

The Name Badge Does Not Sell Your Business

Blank name tagAt the close of a large entrepreneur event, a small business owner came up to the registration desk and offered a suggestion. He felt like his name badge should have more than a name. He wanted a badge filled with all his information: name, company, title, website, email and phone. Then, he would talk to more people and more people would talk to him.

In an effort to help himself, he went ahead and scribbled all his identifying details in fine print below his name. Unfortunately, his details were written so small it required someone to lift his badge up close to read it.

In his view, his networking experience was hindered by only having a name to identify himself and others. The name-only tag “forced” him to have a conversation, instead of oddly reading someone’s detailed badge to self-select whether he should engage them.

My empathetic response, “I understand how you might feel more information on the badges could help you. I appreciate your suggestion. I do feel that you can open more doors, when you directly talk to people. Perhaps we have a different view of the value of these type of events and networking.”

My non-empathetic response, “Your name doesn’t open doors. It won’t sell you or your business. Your story, your enthusiasm and your passion are what engages others. It’s awkward to read someone’s name and then turn away. Then again, maybe we have a different view on what sells you and your business.”

What was not revealed to him was that it was intentional to only have a name on each badge. Why? To provide an everyone the opportunity to connect, share and learn. A convenience for each attendee to have an open door to sell themselves, their solutions and their business. Written words never sell. Written words affirm. It is the verbal story, the questions, the conversation that closes the deal. It is the interaction that really matters. It is looking someone in the eye and asking, “What do you do?” The name on your badge only facilitates an easier way to start the conversation.

No matter how many words you use to invite someone into to your lair, the offer is only as good as what you have identified through an engaging dialogue. A conversation. A two-way exchange. It answers, what can you do for me and what can I do for you? Value is created by the time you invest to ask, listen and qualify. It is the ongoing assessment that takes place during the conversation that defines opportunity. The number of conversations you have helps you measure the success or failure of your valuable time spent at an event or networking.

Business owners sometimes feel if they are equipped with mountains of content, leave behinds and written justification, the buyer will sell themselves.  In fact, written content is just an invitation. Invite to learn more. Invite to perk interest. Collateral and content does not sell a product or service. Collateral documents and illustrates. People are best for selling goods and services.

Networking and events give you a formalized occasion to have a dialogue. To learn and share. Those that will not talk to you because of your name-only tag are short sighted and often losing the opportunity to learn the real value of you, your offerings and your ideas. Conversation requires a back-and-forth tailoring of information that can be customized to your address your precise needs.  We only buy what we need. The listener is always waiting for you to make it about them. In their mind, they are waiting for you to tell them how you help them or solve their problems.

Less information on a name badge gives you the polite excuse to inquire, “Tell me what you do.” A badge or name tag should never give you reason why not to engage. Ask. Inquire. Question. That is how you benefit from any event. Do not hide behind a 3 x 4 card hanging around your neck. Use it as a chance to address the person by their name. “Jim, what is your reason for attending the event today?”  ”Mary, are you an entrepreneur?”  This provides you the best opportunity to qualify, inquire, learn and discern if the person has something to offer you and you have something to offer them.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. – William Shakespeare

By Jamie Glass, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers, follow: @jglass8 @artfulthinkers

The event noted in this post was the Innovation Arizona Summit 2013.  Read more about the event here.

Innovate Like a Lean Startup

iStock_000009200146XSmallEnterprise organizations are taking a rigorous look at the principles used in the Lean Startup movement. They are carefully considering how they can incorporate the approach for building and launching new products faster to increase revenues and reduce costs.

Why? Speed of innovation and time-to-market can translate to millions in revenue gained or millions in lost opportunity costs for organizations of every size. One known fact for product-based businesses is that the typical time for market development can no longer take years for planning to launch. Competitive forces require organizations to be in cycles of continuous improvement and a constant state of innovation.

Some businesses acquire other businesses to gain momentum, others set up lean approaches within their product development and design centers. If enterprises want to compete with the “young and restless” entrepreneur community, they need to consider moving faster in definition, development and bringing new products to market.

The father of the lean movement is Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. The Lean Startup methodology promotes shorter product development cycles driven by experimentation and validated learning. Instead of waiting until the final product is “complete” before launch, the lean practice recommends to use iterative releases to confirm adoption and use cases for a minimum viable product.

The constant develop-release cycle provides for ongoing feedback to modify and pivot to meet buyer and user needs faster. The goal for this technique is to speed products to market, maximizing early product adoption cycles and capturing the most market opportunity. This all translates to revenue.

The risks associated to this approach are primarily related to creating products that seem to never be finished. Consumers must have a strong loyalty to stay committed to products that are always upgrading. Businesses have to evaluate the risk-rewards of being first to market with products that are viable and utilize the information gained in the customer feedback process during each release to keep customers happy.

The growing consideration of going lean for many business owners today is whether they do so through an M&A strategy or reorganization of the product development operation. “The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” – Eric Ries

By Jamie Glass, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers, @jglass8

This article appeared in the CKS Advisors CKS Updates May 2013 Newsletter.  Visit www.cksadvisors.com for additional information.

When Do You Create a Board of Advisors

iStock_000005458028XSmallThere comes a time when assembling a group of experts to help grow your business is considered smart leadership and a business best practice. When you reach a stage in your business where you have exhausted the collective internal experience, knowledge and skill to achieve your next phase of growth — create a Board of Advisors.

Every purpose of creating a board will differ for each organization. A business owner may be faced with great opportunity for rapid growth or significant challenges from conquering the next ascent in revenue, market or product expansion. The appropriate time to consider assembling a board is when the business path forward is less clear or cluttered with obstacles that could derail you from achieving your business goals. You have reached that period in your business when their is more “unknown” and you fear what you don’t know.

A Board of Advisors is different from local peer groups, leadership councils, service providers and executive mentors. Your board is a committed team of individuals working on your business. Advisors should have congruent skills that compliment your leadership. As an example, you may find that by adding a distinguished industry expert or technical guru best serves the next phase of your business  Adding market or sales expertise can open new doors, while a finance or legal expert can provide insight to reduce risk.

Experienced executives want to help entrepreneurs, startups and leaders that seek advice to grow their business.  It validates their business “wear and tear”, while providing meaning and value to their experience. The board should round out your executive court, as these advisors are typically not available to hire as full-time employees and can be “unaffordable” for smaller businesses. They also may be those exclusive experts that will always be in a role of advising and never work for a single entity.

The reason you bring experts together as board members is to increase effectiveness and efficiency in decision-making and strategic planning. A board will perform best when there is an exchange of ideas in an organized environment, centered around a single business issue. The board format is designed to solve problems. Each board member brings a different set of experiences, viewpoints and resources. Having a board working together with you to assess challenges and discuss opportunities, gives you invaluable advise that can save you significant time and money versus the “learn as you go” approach.

Board of Advisors are not in a role of governance. They do not have fiduciary responsibility to protect shareholders or investors, though they should be very responsible in providing any guidance related to financials or spending company money. Only an elected Board of Directors for a public corporation or non-profit have governance over a company. The Board of Advisors is a non-binding group of mentors and experts that work collectively with company leadership to achieve your business goals.

Advisors should be completely aligned with your goal and mission and also be able to challenge you by providing recommendations and views that will differ from your own. You do not want a board that agrees with all your ideas or thinks as one. Why waste your time.  They should differ in expertise and have the ability to assess short-term and long-term strategies, out loud in a group discussion, without fear of reprisal.

A board is typically five to six members, excluding the CEO or business owner.  A Board of Advisors should consist of experienced and skilled individuals in varied areas where your business is lacking in comparable talent. In the early stage of a business, Board of Advisors are typically unpaid and may or may not have a long-term financial commitment through future equity.  As a business leader, be cautious of giving away ownership in your company early, this could be a note of contention with future financing.

The commitment of an advisor should be a minimum of two years.  It is valuable to set a term limit in reviewing board members, as you company is expected to grow and you need to be able to add new board members with different skills during later stages of your business.  Board members must also be committed to attend meetings.  A small business will typically meet with the entire board every 8-12 weeks.  If a board member misses more than two meetings a year, consider replacing the advisor.

Board members should not be family members, employees, contractors or service providers you pay for other functions in your business. It creates conflict of interests. Though a board of advisors are not employees, you should treat your advisors as accountable members of your C-suite. Set expectations, ask for help and use your board to help you achieve your goals.  If you simply assemble your Board and provide an update report on the business, you are wasting valuable resources and time.

Board of Advisors are trusted members of your inner circle. You can share with them confidential information and discuss highly sensitive matters that are not open for discussion with anyone else in your company. Your board should consist of credible experts that will provide insights you can not gain from any other resource. They should open doors, help you gain new customers or strategic partners and provide actionable ideas to help you achieve success. If you want to grow, create a Board of Advisors.

“You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it. But what chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas.” – Stanley Kubrick

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Investing in Co-Selling Partnerships to Grow

iStock_000022899520_ExtraSmallSmall businesses and entrepreneurs can greatly benefit by selecting co-selling partners to drive revenues. Utilizing another company’s sales and marketing resources may be a great channel to aggressively extend reach and acquire new customers.

Co-selling partnerships with businesses selling complimentary products and services to your target customer can be smart business. These partnerships can cut existing sales costs and even accelerate growth in market share. The best sales partners create a synergy between respective offerings. There should be a “natural fit” of how the products and services add value for the customer. The buyer should inherently understand why you would partner, not question as to why you did or if there is any benefit in buying from a single vendor.

Co-selling partnerships can reduce sales costs. There is a required investment in sales and marketing to grow a business. The costs of a sales team can be crippling for a new venture or small business.The overhead expenses that enable a sales person to be trained, productive, and armed with the right marketing tools, technology and product support can be onerous in the earlier stages of an organization.  Lack of initial investment often produces lack luster results and can actually cost the business even more with unexpected turnover or lengthy sales cycles. Businesses need a specific budget and defined cost of sales to properly staff, train and equip a sales organization to get results.

Time-to-market and time-to-close can be reduced through co-selling partnerships. A new sales hire ramp-up time can be 3-12 months, depending on price of goods to be sold and anticipated sales cycles. Ramp-up requires an “blind faith” investment of time and resources. A business has to invest in sales with nothing more than the anticipation and belief that something is going to be sold. It is a huge price to pay and has great risk. Utilizing a trained and experienced sales team through a co-selling partnership can help you bring revenues in while you invest in building your own sales team.

Co-selling is not free. There are costs of co-selling partnerships. A strong partnership requires investment in training and account management resources to keep top-of-mind awareness with your co-oped sales team. You also need to provide sales and marketing tools to properly equip the team to sell your goods and services. You need to be available when they have questions and to support them throughout the entire sales process.

You also need to create an incentive as to why a sales person in another organization should throw your offering into the mix. Higher commissions, faster time-to-close and value-add to the customer, are all good reasons; however, remember — sales people need to be sold too. If you extend the deal time or complicate the sales process, it will never work. Make it easy and valuable for the sales team through your co-selling partnership.

Incentives matter in co-selling. If the paired companies benefit but not the people selling, the partnership will fail. You need to set up a partner agreement for commissions and shared revenues.  A typical commission in a co-selling relationship starts at 10% of net revenue on the deal for a qualified lead pass. This type of agreement puts the burden back on you to close the deal. You are basically paying for marketing and an introduction. If the partner does all the work, including closing the deal, you may provide an incentive of 20% or more just to get that customer on your books. The structure of the agreement and commission rates should be based on your financial projections and cost of goods and associated expenses in managing the customer post-sale.

What doesn’t work? Relying on commission-only sales teams and partnerships that are by name only. There are business owners that believe they can get a motivated, committed sales person to work for free. The odds of making this type of relationship work are close to nil. The relationship between a company and it’s sales team, whether a direct hire or partner, is measured by the commitment from both sides. Small businesses may have to tier commission levels based on the ramp-up of sales or find ways to create early non-cash incentives; however, no one should be expected to go out and sell without a financial commitment. The words “you get what you pay for” should ring loudly if you are thinking about commission-only or finding people to sell for you because they like you.  Sales people that are really good at closing deals are expensive because they have a huge ROI.

Attributes of great co-selling partners to consider are the size of the partner’s sales team, market reach, relationships with your customer and available support the sales team receives in training for new products. The partner must have the means, connections and existing relationships to introduce your products to market. Co-selling means they will take an active role in selling. Again, partners by name only often produce little value.

If you choose to use co-selling partnerships, embrace the model and build support for the partnership. Show your loyalty through your commitment to make the partnership last and benefit everyone including the customer, the sales person and the partners. Create value by talking about the partnership and promoting the relationship. The results you get from this co-selling will be directly tied to the amount of time and resources invested in the partnership. You have to give to make it work and really pay off.

In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.” – Anthony Robbins

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Related to a series of posts on partnering.  Also read: Sales Referral Partners Lead to New Customers

Innovation Arizona Summit is June 11, 2013

Innovation Arizona Summit
Innovation Arizona Summit
Network with hundreds of your peers while meeting up with incubators, accelerators, funders and investors, entrepreneur program groups, education and supporting growth organizations. The Innovation Arizona Summit, brought to you by MIT Enterprise Forum Phoenix and the Arizona Commerce Authority, takes place on June 11, 2013 at the Tempe Center of the Arts. A must-go affair for all startups, business leaders and innovators! Attendees will experience an event jam-packed with resources and experts committed to helping entrepreneurs.
 
Your ticket is the biggest opportunity from the organizations committed to helping you grow your business with the best advice, tips on what has worked and hasn’t worked, along with how to avoid pitfalls are in one place! Three featured presentations are open for all attendees. Registration is $25 plus $20 for entrepreneur breakout sessions or seven special sessions for only $75.
 
Get you Ticket, RSVP Now!
  Event Schedule – details here
 
Exhibitors
 
Sponsorships available –

Good Business Leaders Use Intuition to Make Decisions

IntuitionDecision making is constant in business. Advancing products, engaging employees, responding to customers are top priorities, all while keeping a careful eye on the bottom line. It is the basic function of a leader to be continuously selecting priorities and taking action. Multitasking and constant awareness come with the territory of being in charge. The only stop to the ongoing process is shut-eye. Not resting, deep sleep.

Every person, whether in a leadership role or not, confronts hundreds, thousands even tens of thousands instinctual decisions throughout a given day. Some are instantaneous, or as we classify “automatic”, while others require in-depth analysis.

We all have an internal analytic engine, taking everything we know, we collect and can reference based on experience to churn out a decision. We are the greatest sources of our own big data!

As technologists find ways to host, gather and exploit bytes by the billions and trillions of data from others, our own brain functions as the largest processor of data. Enabling us to act quickly or deliberately, at the speed of which best suits the need for a decision. Not everyone utilizes their “big data” engine in the best way, whether from a lack experience or knowledge, impairment or perhaps ignorance to what the data shows. The result, bad decisions.

In business, some can be plagued by the constant role as Decider-in-Chief. This often results in procrastination or delayed decisions. The common impact is action taken “too late”. The organization depends on a leader to make impromptu decisions, while also taking deliberate actions to lead to the “best” decision given a certain set of facts. Organizations need deciders to execute plans, activate programs and assign activities that drive results.

Good leaders often have a good sense of intuition. They use gut check analysis and set plans into action, without the noticeable analysis that others might use in trying to determine the path forward.  Where did they acquire such skill?  Repetitive decision making. Leaders know they have to make decisions, they are accustomed to their role and have the experience of accepting fault and risk with taking action. This training builds confidence and a strong basis for intuition. Making decisions over and over again in practice builds an intuitive leader.

Some researchers claim that intuition results in a physical experience, a shiver, an image or the often unexplained deja vu.  Others may use the intuitive nature of a dream to set a plan into action. The remembrance seems to create a comfort in the decision, having the sense of knowing the outcome. Beyond the intangible means from which confidence results, the facts are that when decisions are needed, strong leaders will act. Knowing inaction often results in increased pressure, stress and potential problems, making a decision, right or wrong, seems to give a sense of relief.  Decisions invoke power and progress.

There is no magic in intuition, it’s brain power. It is knowledge. Intuition is using information, filtering and making a judgment based on experience. The continuous practice of using intuition creates a platform to control quality of decisions and use of perception or quick insight, without compromising confidence.

Intuition is not “inherent”, it is learned.  The origin of the word dates back to the 1400′s as a reference to contemplation. There are many times that intuition will lead to proven conclusions; however, a leader will not always use it quickly and without process. There is often a misnomer that intuition means instant, without regard for facts or experience. It does not. It means using your better judgement and trusting your thoughts, your ideas and your role as a decision maker. It is using your intuition to move forward.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

What is the Real Value in Free

freeFree is zero, nada, zilch, nothing. In the mind of the consumer, free means whatever you give away for free has no cost to you. The same applies to your time. If you are giving away your time for free, how do others adjust to understanding your “real” value? Do they realize your true worth?

Most people are very leery of free offers. Based on experience, we are trained to look for the fine print, the exceptions and qualifications.  Our better judgement tells us that there is usually a “catch” to getting something for free.  A free day at the spa comes with the catch of attending a vacation rental sales pitch. A free juicer included with a top priced refrigerator comes with the catch of spending more on a product just to get a small appliance you may never use. A free soft drink when you buy the big meal comes with the catch you have to super-size your entire meal. If we are always suspect to the catch, how does that reflect on the perception of you giving away your time for free? Maybe there is a catch.

We are all very susceptible to the attraction of a free offer. Free works. We often all like to take advantage of free! Significant purchases are emotional. Free sparks our interest, it draws attraction to possibilities. Free also plays on the strong emotion of fear. The fear of losing out on the free.  Will someone else get our free?

What is not often measured is the “buyer” remorse of a free offer.  Why?  Well, you didn’t pay for your free, how can you be remorseful. You got what you paid for – zero, nada, nothing. You can’t return “nothing”. Your stuck with your free.  The cycle continues, giving and getting for free and then we are left wondering was it worth our time as the giver or receiver. It might be easier to leave the emotions behind and get to the real offer of people paying for your services. Paying for your valuable time without an emotional gimmick.

Free feels like it should have value. We perceive that whatever we get will be of greater value than what we have to give to get it.  It is very difficult in business as a service provider and solopreneur to not give away your time. We often justify this as a “marketing and sales” expense.  Unfortunately, the expense is not something you can list on your expense records as a tax deduction. You can not expense your hourly rate as a cost of sales. It’s lost time or to put in a more feel good term, an investment.

When you give away your time, what you do and who you are is represented as free.  It may appear to be a good idea. If you give your time away regularly others will soon see that your time has no value and what you perceive to be a great gift often goes unused or disregarded. Are you creating the perception that you are “free” for the taking?

The best advice for giving away time for free is to set a specific free time budget.  How many hours can your afford to give away each week?  Also, keep your “power of negotiation” at your central point of where you do business.  Meeting at coffee shops and for lunch may seem like a convenient way to give away your free services; however, you are no longer in a business setting, which demonstrates that your business is the priority.

We all desire to help others, pay it forward and do good. The best good you can do is to make sure that you get value for what you do. Free is a teaser, a sample. Maybe it is required to build a relationship and establish an opportunity for a transaction.  Then again, maybe if what you give away for free is so valuable people will actually pay you for it. Limiting your exposure and risk, means you have limited availability to always give away your time and services for free. Use your time wisely.

If you were to offer a thirsty man all wisdom, you would not please him more than if you gave him a drink.” – Sophocles

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Additional read:  Nothing in Business is Free 

Patience is a Vice and Virtue in Business

iStock_000017171991XSmallPatience is virtuous when it empowers you to use good judgement. Patience is a vice when it is used as an excuse or method of procrastination.

Patience has a role in every aspect of business. Patience can be a virtue when leaders need time to evaluate and research the benefits and risks associated with critical business decisions. Patience can also be a vice when it hinders progress or is used by leaders to stall or delay difficult decisions.

In business, leaders gain respect when patience is used as a sensible guide. It can help define practical goals and set realistic expectations on performance. Patience is valuable in strategic planning, negotiations and critical thinking exercises that have significant impact on the future of a business. Patience also defines a business reality and sets a tone of perseverance.

Leaders can immediately lose respect if they show little or no patience. Rushing to judgement can sabotage activities or blur facts. Charging forward on key decisions regardless of the cost or potential dangers, can result in missed opportunities and less-than desirable outcomes.  Leaders that employ too much patience may be deemed as lacking confidence in their own decisions or lacking confidence in others.  It can spark insecurities and even instability in the business. No patience creates a perception of erratic and unstable leadership.

Patience needs balance. When patience is part of the decision-making process, be certain that there is substantiated purpose. For example, use patience in planning when you need to acquire experience, research facts, test an outcome or survey others for input. Patience used to delay a decision because of a lack of experience or knowledge can create a false roadblock. Set a timeline. Using patience to gather feedback is a good use of the virtue.  Patience becomes a vice when it drives you to continually seek consensus on all decisions.

Patience as a virtue gives you capacity to endure waiting. Patience as a vice is not setting a deadline, allowing difficult decisions or unexpected outcomes to linger and potentially harm the business. Patience, used correctly, is part of your business ethics. It helps in governance.

Patience gives you the fortitude to make decisions. The right amount of patience enables leaders to use levelheadedness and detach from emotions in the decision and use logic and facts. Patience is a vice when it is used so frequently that it creates an emotional detachment to any decisions or prevents you from personally engaging or taking responsibility for your decisions and commitments.

Patience in business needs to be modulated. It is a guide, a compass. It is never absolute. There are times you have to make immediate decisions. There are many times you need to trust your gut, your instincts, you inner voice and just go. True leaders have the courage to accept associated risk with making a immediate decisions, as well as knowing when it is important to deploy patience at the right time to get the best results.

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” ― Aristotle

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

What is Your Business IQ?

Fresh ideas, concept wordsThe question is not related to your personal or business intelligence, it is your business Innovation Quotient (IQ).  Your business IQ is connected to how you manage change and performance improvements in all facets of your organization, from operations to product. The origin of the word innovate goes as far back as the 16th century. It is simply introducing something new or different.

There are some companies that are perceived to “own” innovation and are frequently on lists of the most innovative companies. Expected and recognized mainstream mega brand companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Nike, Target, Coca-Cola recently topped Fast Company’s 2013 Most Innovative list, along with newer innovators like Pinterest, Sodastream, Tesla, and Yelp. They all have visible innovations and a high “product” IQ.  We come to expect they are doing something new and different all the time.  What we do not see is how these businesses innovative internally. How they get on these lists takes more than smart, cool products. We don’t know how often they change employee policies, management teams, adopt new software programs or retire practices that no longer get results – unless you are Melissa Mayer of Yahoo!

What is your business IQ?  How often are you “innovating” the 4 P’s: product, people, processes and policies?  If you were to rate how innovative your company is today, on a scale of one to 100, with 100 being the most innovative, where do you rank?  If you are never changing, you probably have a low business IQ.  If you are always changing, your business IQ should be close to 100.  The most realistic place to be, without completely disrupting or killing your business, is to aim for above 50.

If you are an innovative trailblazer with a high IQ, congratulations and press on!  It is difficult to stay on the forefront and constantly introduce “new” into a business. Trailblazers make change and as a result, often make money. They innovate, pivot and innovate again. Maverick companies with high business IQ are in a continuous cycle of innovation and change.

If your business is lacking in the innovation department, it may be time to set new company standards.  If you asked everyone on your executive team to provide you a recommendation of an old idea or way of doing something that needs to be retired, without measure of cost or risk to the business, what do you think would be on the list?  Perhaps it is time to find out.  Innovation begins by identification.  Where there is opportunity in your business to innovative, there is opportunity to improve.

Old or young, businesses need to always be monitoring their business IQ.  Innovation takes place within companies as well as in products and services.  Being an innovative company requires a constant and systematic evaluation of how the company will stay competitive and continue to grow or maintain sustainable profits.  The lack of innovation is a one-way ticket to performance doldrums.

Not all innovation is good and there are certainly small and big failures to note.  One point is certain, if your business is low on IQ, it is probably not maximizing the potential of products, people, processes or policies.  Start by asking the questions first. What needs to go? What is holding your business back?  Identify where you can improve your business IQ and then go — innovate!

If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” – Peter F. Drucker

Jamie Glass, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Avoid Being Distracted by Shiny Pennies

iStock_000014402814_ExtraSmallA common challenge for business owners and executives is to avoid “tripping over shiny pennies.” What does that mean? It is the attraction and distraction of the newest, latest, greatest shiny object in our path.

We all seem to have a trained eye to spot the bright copper commodity at our feet, no matter where we are headed. The shine is overwhelming. We stop. We pick it up. We put it in our pocket. Then we declare our latest “find” to be lucky. A sign of great fortunes to come.

Shiny pennies reflect a fiery glow that is hard to avoid. Old pennies lack the shine and sleekness that keep our attention. They seem drab. They are tried and have traveled far, gathering dirt and grime along the way. They often find homes in jars, drawers and bottles. New pennies have power. We have willed the new penny with charm, a source of inspiration, as we traverse along the pathway of possibilities.

The penny is representative of all the ideas and opportunities that land in front of us, one right after the other. Every time we stop to evaluate a new idea, we are taking our attention away from our current plan of action.

Navigating through the countless opportunities, or shiny pennies, requires determined focus and unbridled commitment to a planned strategy.

Unfortunately, in business the sparkling object we stop and pick up is often worth exactly the minted value – ONE CENT. Consuming ourselves by the possibilities of what the perceived lucky penny might bring can actually cost a business many pennies, if not fortunes.

New is not to be avoided. New keeps us innovating and testing. The overwhelming desire to continually focus on the new penny in our pocket, can be a big distraction from working on the current business plan. Shiny pennies have a time and place. Some will need proper evaluation and careful consideration. If you are feeling consumed by all the shiny pennies, set a time in your day or week to focus on these new ideas.  Plan for “new” within your plan. Budget the costs associated to testing the new ideas.

Apply the “penny test” in our course of evaluation.  What is the real cost associated to adding this penny to the jar of other shiny pennies?  Will you spend more in product development, sales and marketing?  How will it change your business model? Is there an impact in supply chain and distribution?  How will customer’s respond?  Every new penny that you stop to pick up needs thorough testing and vetting, with an effective cost-benefit analysis. The amount of work to evaluate the penny is expensive, so not every penny is worthy of much attention.

Be cautious of the allure of the sleek and sparkly new. After all, it is just one cent – shiny or not.  If you are always tripping over pennies, you might just fail to see the dollars falling from the sky.

“If had a penny for every strange look I’ve gotten from strangers on the street I’d have about 10 to 15 dollars, which is a lot when you’re dealing with pennies.” – Andy Samberg 

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers

Racing to Close the Sale

iStock_000003423890MediumThe sales process provides a road map to follow when you are driving toward winning new business. The course begins with identifying a prospect and traverses through a series of events to the finish line. The intended destination on the map is the “close”. The place where you complete the sale, where you can declare you have won the race!

All sales people desire the race to be short from start to finish. Sales people hope to navigate around a few laps versus taking a long and winding road trip with many starts and stops. Experienced sales people have the endurance for the longer trek; where as, new sales people often lack patience and the will to stay seated for the extensive ride.

Most “starts” in the race never make it to the finish line. They breakdown somewhere in the process. The early racers may believe they are driving a qualified opportunity, yet fail to make the needs analysis turn or drive off the road at negotiation. By laws of averages and experience, more than 90% of opportunities that start will fail to get all the way to close. No matter the product or service, for every 10 qualified starts only one winner will result.  In other words, nine out of 10 deals will never make it to the close.

Winning or losing creates great anxiety in sales. The race to closing is arduous. Gripping the wheel, staying on course, focusing ahead requires concentration, skill and patience. The better drivers know they need to use their road map and not veer off course. The effort to get to the finish line can be months and even years with large deals. The pressure to close can drive sales people to make some simple driving mistakes.They take shortcuts to get to the finish line, avoiding key road signs that tell you whether you are approaching the finish or have miles and miles to go. Worst, they give up and quit the race.

One of the best indications for assessing how close you are to the finish line is to ask for agreement at every turn. “Are we there yet?”  It is true, the repetitive process of asking “are we there” can get annoying for some; however, you need to identify your road markers.  You need to know how close you are to the end of the race. The only way to know is to ask if you and your prospect are in agreement. You don’t want to end up at the finish line and find out your paying passenger jumped out long ago.

Every turn you make in the sales process requires a pit stop. Stop. Check to make sure the prospect is still engaged, agreeing to the journey and willing to go the distance.  If you fail to engage at the check points, you will mostly run out of gas and never see the checkered flag. You successfully end the race when you cross the finish line with your new customer seated next to you and you both are headed to the winners circle.

“The winner ain’t the one with the fastest car, it’s the one who refuses to lose.” – Dale Earnhardt

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Wishing, Wanting and Hoping Does Not Work in Business

What works in business is “doing”. Executing the plan requires effort. It is the muscle, the labor and the heavy lifting that gets the job done.

If you are wishing a prospect calls you to buy something, the wait is long. If you are wanting people to respond to your awesome tweet, the anticipation is agonizing. If you are hoping a great venture capitalist recognizes your incredible invention, your desires can go unfulfilled.

The message is not harsh or meant to burst your bubble. It is a direct call to action. Your wish, want and hope strategy needs reconsideration. It is not time to give up. It is time to change your strategy. Winners get rewarded for hard work. They do what others won’t do and that is how they win.

The sales person that makes the most calls, nurtures the most relationships and asks for the close multiple times, makes the sale. The marketing person that gets their message out through multiple channels using frequency and smart engagement tactics sees return on their marketing investment. Business leaders who knock on many doors to showcase their compelling business models that are producing multiple returns with predictable growth get the call backs from the investor community. Those that are putting their nose to the grindstone are realizing the rewards. The rewards of hard work.

Ambition needs to be equally measured by production. In a recent board meeting, the discussion soon centered on what we want to accomplish in the next five years. A boisterous board member remarked that the question was not relevant. The room became silent. Finally, someone asked him why would we not want to focus on our goals and define our strategy. He starkly replied, “You don’t have anyone to do the work.”

Every business needs leadership, directing activities and measuring accomplishments. Great leaders inspire others to believe they will be winners and thus hard work will pay off. The fact remains that without the “doers”, leaders are really a figure head. A strategy without anyone executing the tactics is a failed strategy. Labor is what drives businesses forward. Those that execute in the business are those that bring in the revenue, open new markets, and create innovative products.

The amount of time defining the mission, vision and strategy of your business needs to be matched exponentially by the hours of “doing”. Plans without the work tethered to tactics are simply great ideas. Goals are achieved through sweat. A vision is actualized through production.

Wishing, wanting and hoping are great for daydreaming. Put your dreams into action. The performance of you, your business and your teams are visible in hard evidence. Facts. Results. Failures. Accomplishments.

As you analyze the hours in your day spent on strategy and planning; multiple that amount of time by 10 and that is the minimum time you need to apply to working in your business. In other words, every hour of strategy and planning needs to be matched by 10 hours of laborious action. Match your planning time with a report card of hours worked on your to do list. The outcomes are a result of the effort. Measure your business success by the achievements, the outcomes, the results.

Wishing, wanting and hoping in business creates a crisis in confidence. Wishing is obscure. Wanting is desirous. Hoping is improbable. Doing is concrete. Working is absolute. A commitment in confidence is defined by action. Execution moves a business forward. Nike reminds us all the time to “Just Do It”. The simple motto is one that all businesses and leaders need to follow. Do it. Get it done. Then start again and just keep doing!

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” – Thomas A. Edison

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Every Business Should Do a Harlem Shake Video

mqdefaultThe latest Internet phenomenon takes place in 30 second flashes. In a short two week span, tens of thousands of videos have been uploaded to YouTube and some garnering millions of views. Each video has it’s own unique interpretation of the same electronic dance mix song by Baauer.

There are versions underwater, on ski slopes, in locker rooms and on office desktops. The concept is the same for all. One person dances while others go about their normal business. The person usually wears a mask or some sort of limited disguise.The beat picks up, the video cuts and then entire group erupts into a spontaneous, non-choreographed breakout of “dance” in a variety of costumes. Move over Psy, Gangnam Style is out.  Now, we are crazed by the Harlem Shake.

College baseball teamscelebrities and high school clubs have Harlem Shake videos. Start-ups and tech companies have created their version of the Harlem Shake. Gymsmega brands and skateboard makers have a video. College campuses are doing the shake. Media companiesthe military and even the newsroom have created their own version. From all around the world, the Harlem Shake is shaking it up!

There are no skills required, just one song, a video camera, and a costume. It is self-evident dance skills are NOT a prerequisite. In fact, the less skills the better. Even Beanie Babies are making a comeback with their Harlem Shake.

ku harlemWho knows how long the Harlem Shake madness will continue.  It may be short lived and over before the real March Madness begins or it may go on for a long time.  Regardless, it is time to jump on the bandwagon. Avoid the critics, naysayer and those that don’t get it.  They won’t and it doesn’t matter. The benefits of making the video outweigh those that will forever be refusing to play along. We need to lighten up, have some fun and laugh! It’s time. It’s time to Harlem Shake.

Here are a few of the reasons why you should convince your friends, colleagues or teammates to make a 30 second video:

1.  Creativity – We all have an inner desire to use our creative skills and what better way to express yourself then dressing up and dancing with your friends at work.  Let the creative juices flow. We need a way to express ourselves and sometimes casual Friday’s aren’t enough. Let the creative side of your business take center stage and watch in amusement at all the pent up imagination in your office.

2.  Team Building – A company that dances together, stays together. There is a reason to get everyone out of their chair for 30 seconds of craziness.  It’s uplifting and rewarding to know you can work hard and play hard together. Show your spontaneity. We are all under a lot of stress to deliver, on time or ahead of schedule. What better way to be all in “it” together!

3.  Cooperation – Everyone has a role in the video.There are no superstars. Whether you put a banana peel on your head or give heart-to-heart resuscitation to a stuffed dinosaur, there is a place for you in the breakout version. All you have to do is show up and shake.  When is the last time you could get an entire group to center on a single initiative?  Cooperation is underrated.  It might spill over into other projects or initiatives.

4.  Culture – Who knew your workmates were so much fun?  Who knew that all your workmates had a costume waiting to be worn?  One is not to question the attire, simply let the values you post on your website standout in a 30 second commercial of your diversity in action. Show why you are a best place to work.

5.  Fun  All business, all the time is so 80s.  Let it go. We want to laugh with each other, we want to shed tears of joy, we want to get up and dance! If we enjoy what we do, we will do better. Give everyone the gift of having fun together. Recruiting might be a little easier when employees are talking about how much they love their job.

6. Promotion – Maybe, just maybe you create a video and it gets millions of views. Out of curiosity, a few of the million viewers then go to your website to find out more about the cool, fun people in the video. A little PR never hurts any business. Give us a positive reason to talk about you.

It is time to shake it up! Happiness is contagious. Get the crew together, make a video and add to our entertainment. We are searching out the videos. Do it before the craze is over and we are on to the next. We are laughing and we love watching you have make fun together.  It says a lot about your business.

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

2013 Marketing Forecast Report Summary by Software Advice

Guest Post by Software Advice, Ashley Verrill

Traditional forms of marketing, such as direct mail, print and television advertising, continue to fall out of favor with business-to-business marketers, according to our recently-released Software Advice report.

We received responses from 155 primarily executive-level marketers in a poll we called the B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Survey. They were asked about spending plans for the New Year; as well as which channels, content and offers they find most powerful for producing quality and quantity of leads.

The sample included primarily smaller businesses, with marketing budgets of $250,000 or less, although there was some representation in the tiers up to $100 million in marketing spend. The sample was also primarily from technology companies with less than 100 people.

01-channel-popularityOne of the first things we discovered were the most popularly-used channels. Email marketing to a house list came in as the most-used channel, followed by search engine optimization, social media (not ads) and trade shows.

These results reflect an increased focus on what’s popularly called “inbound marketing,” or driving traffic to your site from customers already searching for your product. Many times these channels are also lower cost. You’ll notice a correlation between the cost per lead of each channel and their popularity in the chart below. Trade shows was one exception to this trend.

04-cost-per-channelOne thing marketers need to be careful about, however, is the quality of leads from these channels. Even if the cost is low, it’s important that your return on investment translates over into the kinds of leads your getting from each channel. Lead scoring is one good way to measure this quality. This usually includes gauging factors such as the decision-making power of the contact, their purchase timeline, budget, industry, or what kinds of content they’ve interacted with or downloaded.

“If you just look at a program on the surface from a solely cost perspective you might never realize it’s just not bringing back the right people. You could end up with a whole database full of contacts of people that will probably never buy from you,” said Elle Woulfe, marketing programs director for Eloqua.

In this regard, the sample agreed that in-house email marketing and SEO provide the most high-quality leads because they are prospects that have proactively sought out your company or product. They’ve clicked on a link, and want to consume something that you are offering. While social media is popular, it has yet to produce such quality leads, at least as consistently as other channels.

Also interesting, 3rd-party lead originators and search engine advertising received the largest percentage of votes for being high quantity channels, yet they didn’t score high on the popularity scale. This is likely due to cost, but again these are often really high quality leads. Marketers should look at the total cost-to-spend ratio.

Despite marketers admitting social media doesn’t produce quality or quantities of leads on a consistent basis, the channel received among the highest percentage of votes for elevated spending in 2013. This more likely to do with the buzz than anything else.

10-future-spend-channelEven if you are a director of marketing and see how all of these programs perform, likely a CMO ahead of you is saying, “You need invest in these programs because that’s what everyone is doing.”

For questions about content, marketers didn’t mirror the trend as far as prioritizing high quality or quantity of leads. Videos, for example, was listed as the second most popular, yet didn’t score well on our scale for quality or quantity.

This is likely due large part to the marketers need to produce content in a way that customers want to consume it. Videos are popular because people don’t have as much time to read.

Content success has a lot to do with where you are targeting customers in the sales funnel. A video testimonial from a customer, for example, could convert really well for high-scoring leads that are near the end of the sales funnel.

Alternatively, a lot of content is used pre-funnel and not meant to be highly-converting. It’s more about getting the customer educated and developing preference over time. For this reason, a one-size fits all approach to content can backfire. You need to measure success against varying goals.

Guest Post by Ashley Verrill
Ashley Verrill is a market analyst with Software Advice. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. She is a University of Texas graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Sales Referral Partners Lead to New Customers

Coins and plant, isolated on white backgroundUsing partnerships to grow your business is smart business. Partnering drives market awareness, aligns your brand with other credible brands, opens doors to new customers and can even provide value-added products and services to increase your average sale.

There are different types of partners, which are defined by the level of engagement and the agreements each party enters into to manage the relationship.

Sales Referral Partners are the entry level of business development partnerships. This type of partnership has little accountability and responsibility for performance. The value of this strategy is often used to grow market credibility or to align with a partner that has strong relationships with your prospective customers.

Entering into a partnership for referrals is a first step to test the waters in a relationship. It allows both entities to measure the commitment, willingness and effort required in working together to develop business. A sales referral partnership gives you the ability to determine if this is simply a PR initiative or will actually grow revenues. You can also monitor the organizational support in sales and marketing required to get deals closed.

The relationship can be a one-way lead pass or a two-way referral agreement. Both parties need to determine the best opportunity to refer business by passing on leads, receiving referrals or both.

Sales Referral Partners can be “handshake” in nature if you do not plan to hold anyone accountable for the outcome. It is commonplace for business service professionals who network together to develop non-binding relationships to help open doors and extend value by making credible introductions to other service providers or their respective clients.

If you plan to use compensation as an incentive to drive referrals you need a legal agreement, signed and executed between both entities. Compensation is a way to show appreciation for the referral and is an incentive to work together. If your partner offers to pay you for referrals, you also want to make sure it is in writing.

There are two ways you can determine the referral compensation.  Referrals can be compensated at the same rate as your sales commission.  For example, you can offer a set figure between 5-10% of the net proceeds of any closed deal.  You can also set the commission rate at the percentage of your average marketing spend to acquire a new customer. No matter the rate chosen, it should be perceived by your partner as rewarding and drive the expected behavior. Make it worthwhile for someone to act as your front-line sales person and help find you new customers. If the rate is not worthy of the effort, you can expect to pay few or no commissions, as you will likely not drive the behaviors needed to get a referral.

If you do choose to enter into a binding agreement that includes compensation for referrals, you need to set rules just as you do for your own employees. Specifically outline in your agreement how payments will be made and when the partner will be paid. For example, will you pay when the sale is made or when you are paid by the new customer? Be sure you state in your referral agreements if the referral fee will be paid over the lifetime of the relationship or for only the first sale.

It is critical that you track all your sales referrals, whether you enter into a formal agreement or simply take an email of a lead pass from a trusted business partner in your network. Enter the lead into your CRM with the proper tag to identify who gave you the lead. Enter when you receive the lead and monitor the progress of the lead as it moves through your sales pipeline. Measure all your partners quarterly to see how they are helping you grow revenues. It will provide you intelligence in how to manage the relationship for maximum profitability.

If you do enter into a sales partnership where the other entity is representing you on the front-line, you need to equip your partner with the same tools and resources you provide to your own sales team. You need to give them the ability to introduce you, what you do, the problems you solve and the value proposition of your products and services. Spend time providing regular updates about your business and services to keep your partners informed and engaged.

Top of mind awareness in this type of partnership is essential to getting value from your relationship. When you provide value, you will get value in return.  A partnership requires efforts by the giver and the receiver. Be persistent in developing good partnerships, measure activities and reward the efforts of those that help grow your business.

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather to become a person of value.”
– Albert Einstein

Other types of partnerships that will be discussed in future posts include Co-Selling Partners, Channel Partners, Strategic Partners and Investment Partners.

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Growing Your Business by Word of Mouth

ChatIf you had to solely rely on word of mouth and referrals to grow your business, could you? Would you?

It depends on your word of mouth power, the factor from which you attribute new customer acquisition by recommendations from others. The ultimate test to measure your word of mouth power is to forecast the growth of your business through a single source — referrals. Would you miss your revenue target or exceed financial expectations?

Word of mouth (WOM) requires talkers. People who are willing to stake their reputation on telling others about you, your business and your value. Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) may be the most cost effective way for you to grow your business, if you have invested in creating an army of talkers. Talkers are promoters, followers, happy customers and raving fans.

WOM marketing and advertising is often advocated as free. This is simply not true. The outcome of word of mouth may be free from cost of sales. WOM requires a significant investment. An investment in resources that will carry your message forward. An investment of time educating others on the value of your products and services. An investment in exceeding customer, partner and employee expectations. Acquiring new customers may factually require a smaller investment than buying ads and cold calling; however, it is not investment free. You need to invest in your word of mouth strategy to make sure it really pays off.

You can invest in a WOM strategy by giving people a reason to talk and by continually asking others to talk about you and your business.

Invest in WOM by giving people the proper tools to share your message. Talkers are your most valuable source for marketing, if they can speak from first hand experience. You can buy fans. Buying fans does not create loyalty or truth telling. The best talkers are those that trust you will deliver your value. They are someone who has found your solution to be worthy of sharing and promoting to others.

Knowing what others are saying about you and your business is measured by the amount of customers acquired through word of mouth.  If no one is referred to you by WOM, that is a danger sign. People are not telling others about your value. A bigger red flag might translate to a reputation problem.  When is the last time you asked your fans, customers or employees to spread the word? Are they enthused to get the word out or hesitant to refer others to your business?

People talk about what they like, what they trust and what they value.  All of these are earned markers of success in business. You earn them by doing a great job and exceeding expectations. The markers are currency. A currency that is transferred by word of mouth referrals. Start by setting your marker to do great work and then ask people to start talking. When they start talking, you have power. You have the power to win new customers by word of mouth.

“I would rather earn 1% off a 100 people’s efforts than 100% of my own efforts.”  J. Paul Getty

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Over the Hill or Through the Woods

iStock_000021617437_ExtraSmallThe beginning of every year is an opportunity to set your direction and communicate your path forward. It gives you the chance to review and define your goals, personally and professionally. For everyone else, it gives them the ability to know how to best support and follow the leader. Does everyone that can impacts your business know your 2013 plan?

The lack of a defined plan for the year, leaves everyone taking their “own” best path forward. In the end, this may not produce or represent the organization’s goals or objectives. People will be moving, activities will be happening, yet you may be headed to exactly where you did not “plan” to go. It is up to you to stop the wandering effect of your business and your followers. Set the direction. Communicate your exact plan. If you don’t have a plan, create one now — before it is too late.

If you have a plan and you have not shared it, this is the week to get it done! People and businesses need goals and plans. You can work endless amounts of time, expend great energy and spend a lot of money to end up in the wrong place. How did that happen? Usually it is because everyone is not working collectively on the same outcome. Everyone is heading in a direction, but it may not be the “right” direction.

As a leader, it is critical to everyone working with you that they understand your strategy and goals for the business. A plan provides the road map empowering you to define the activities and tasks. It opens the door to assigning responsibilities and setting accountability. More importantly, it gives you the capability of making a pivot or shifting your plans by creating a benchmark for how you will measure success along the path forward.

Working on a shared and communicated plan, gives business leaders a reason to stay in touch with employees, measure their progress and assess performance. People thrive on accomplishments and desire feedback. Knowing how they are contributing to the success of the business can only be measured by stated goals and objectives.

Get everyone working together. Options may be limited or options may be bountiful based on the path you choose to take the business. Communicate your choice. Will you be headed over the hill or through the woods. What will be in the basket full of goodies you will offer to your customers, vendors, employees and partners. How do they prepare to avoid risks? What will be awaiting when they arrive at the determined destination?

Your team is waiting for you to tell them the story. How it begins this year and how it will end. Provide regular updates and know that people will be looking for you to lead them in the direction you have shared.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” — Henry Ford

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Don’t Confuse Confidence with Enthusiasm

Enthusiastic blonde woman wearing big glasses.

Business leaders, entrepreneurs, sales people and marketers utilize enthusiasm to draw people to their ideas. They passionately motivate us to follow and take action.  Enthusiasm creates an emotional attachment.

Beyond the emotion, we soon find ourselves wanting more.  We want to trust that we should follow, not follow blindly. We need proof that the words are supported by facts. We need evidence. We are convinced by confidence.

Enthusiasm opens the door, confidence is the closer. We are attracted by enthusiasm. We believe in confidence.  Enthusiasm is selling, marketing and promoting.  Confidence is demonstrating, providing proof and creating trust to solve problems and fulfill needs.  Knowing the difference is very important.  Knowing how to balance the two requires expertise.

A person that lacks confidence will often exude excessive enthusiasm to mask insecurities or lack of evidence.  Have you ever found yourself so engaged by a sales person that you forget you are being sold? Enthusiasm wins. The result may be buyer remorse or worse, deception. Perhaps a new hire enthusiastically convinces you that they can “do the job” and soon the facts do not support reality. A very expensive mistake for a small business – costing the company time and money.

On the flip side, a confident person can be so overtly confident they fail to listen to others or fail to create a following.  Confidence is not arrogance. Confidence can easily delude rational thinking.  The love of power convinces the most confident they can not fail, thus losing all sense of humility and gratitude. When you look around you and no one is cheering you along, your confidence has removed your ability to attract others. There is no emotional appeal. You are now the leader of no one.

Confidence is defined as full trust; belief in powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing, belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance.

Enthusiasm is defined as absorbing or controlling possession of the mind by any interest or pursuit; lively interest.

How do you create balance and avoid the extremes? The perfect blend of confidence and enthusiasm is pitchman Ron “Ronco” Popeil.  He used demonstration to prove his inventions were viable and trustworthy. He used hype and selling to capture our mind share and imagination.  Who can forget his famous, “But wait, there’s more!”  Son of an inventor, Popeil is one of the most famous marketing pitchmen.  He showed you how you could dice onions, so you won’t shed a tear.  How you could depend on his electronic dehydrator to feed your children healthy fruit snacks instead of candy.  The lessons in all the infomercials where about solving a problem. Confidently.

What is the financial impact when you expertly blend confidence and enthusiasm?  Many of the Popeil inventions, most designed by Ron’s father, sold over 2 million. Ron Popeil is not rich solely from his fishing poles and spray on hair inventions. He is rich because he used enthusiasm to get our attention followed by confidently demonstrating how he solved our problems. He sold it. We bought it. We bought his confidence.

Whether you are pitching for investor dollars or motivating your sales team, you must build trust.  Demonstrate reliability and accountability.  Show the why.  Why you, why your company, why your ideas, why now.  Then use your persuasive personality to make sure the message is received, understood and people are left wanting more.

Enthusiasm without evidence is hype.  Hype doesn’t convince anyone, only gives us reason to be suspect.  Don’t oversell, don’t undersell. Confidence alone is mundane. Lead with enthusiastic confidence. A moderation of the two, equal but not separate, wins.

“Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” Norman Vincent Peale

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Take the Chill Out of Cold Calling

iStock_000014805390_ExtraSmallCall reluctance is experienced by all business professionals, no matter their role.  Executives returning messages from upset customers, accounting personnel calling on past due notices and technology team members shopping for service providers.  Imagine if your entire day’s success was measured by the number of calls you made to convince strangers to buy your goods and services.

No. Not right now. No, thanks. Not interested. Maybe. Not in our budget. Hang up. Send me information. Yes.  That is the typical day of a sales person who is building their pipeline, repeated over and over again.  And we wonder why it is hard to find and retain great sales people. There are not many of us who would put at the top of our career ambitions to be rejected several times a day.

Cold calling is rarely listed as a favorite work activity; however, for millions it is what pays the bills. Selling is fundamental to our economy. There is no business until something is sold. Embracing the fact we all need to make cold calls, how can we take the chill out of one of the most important activities in business?  Here are a few tips to prepare for a day of cold calling:

1.  Know your target market. Every buyer is unique; however, they will have similar demographics, sociographics and psychographics. Spend time understanding the common data characteristics, along with behaviors and motivators.  For example, if you are targeting a small business owner, know what drives them to change.  What fears do they face in making buying decisions? What would benefit them the most personally and professionally when they say yes?  The more you know about them, the easier it will be for you to make a “warm call” into a known, targeted buyer.

2.  Feel the buyer’s pain. There is a natural tendency for inexperienced cold callers to talk about their reason for calling more than finding out why the buyer would benefit from their products or services.  Stop. Listen. If you are doing the most of the talking, you are losing.  You will never hear the buying signals when you are spewing facts, features, and generic benefits.  The best technique is to understand and relate to your buyer so they have confidence you are doing what is best for them, not you.

3.  Quantity matters. It is far easier to deal with rejection if you can get a “win” during your calling spree.  Plan with enough time in a single day to make calls in blocks of several hours. One, right after the other. Hang up, dial the next.  If you stagger your calls throughout the day or over longer periods, you are simply prolonging the pain. Dial until you get to yes and then dial more. Target how many yes calls you need in a day to hit your weekly and monthly goal.

4.  Needs analysis pays off.  Do your research on your buyer. You will be expected to speak to their individual business needs. There is no excuse to cold call blindly. “Google them”. It takes seconds now to find valuable data online about buyers.  You have access to profiles in LinkedIn, you have company websites with executive profiles, products and company information, public reports and news. Do your homework.

5.  Call with intent. What is your goal in cold calling?  What qualifies as a “yes”?  As with any business function, have a goal and objective with every call. The only way to get to the yes is to ask – ask for the sale. Get agreement along the way of your presentation and make sure you are aligned in your mutual objectives. You are solving a problem for the buyer. Countless deals are lost because people think making the call is the goal. That is not the win. The win is getting the deal.  Ask for their business.  It only counts when they say yes. When they say no, ask again.

A sales person has to remain calm in the chaos of measurable rejection. They have to keep their eye on the “prize”.  One more call to a yes.  One more opportunity to use their real skills and talents of negotiation and the power of persuasion to fulfill a need.

Respect and reward those that you depend on to make the calls to grow your business.  If you are the cold caller, prepare to win.  Know your target, be diligent in your process and never forget to ask.  It is the glimpse of hope, the possibility of acceptance and the incredible satisfaction of closing a deal that keeps a cold caller motivated. Commissions aside, most sales people will say they get the greatest reward from winning.  Winning when a customer says yes!

For every sale you miss because you’re too enthusiastic, you will miss a hundred because you’re not enthusiastic enough.” – Zig Ziglar


Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Additional Sales Related Posts by Artful Thinkers

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/prepare-to-hire-a-sales-person

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/questions-sales-candidates-ask-that-should-stop-the-interview

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/a-bad-sales-hire-can-crush-a-small-business

http://www.artfulthinkers.com/5-essential-topics-for-a-winning-sales-proposal

 

 

Think with Yes in Mind

iStock_000020490072_ExtraSmallOne of the biggest challenges business leaders and entrepreneurs face is to keep an open mind to new ideas and other people’s suggestions. Employees, advisers and sales people all seem to have a new and improved way for growing, building, doing or fixing something.

Emails flood your inbox while proposals stack high on your desk. The company suggestion box stays filled with endless brainstorms.  You solve one problem and then there are dozens of better, faster, cheaper ways you could solve the next.  You can not ignore the influx.  Nor should you.

Great leaders thrive on contributions of others, no matter the format or context.  There is always the opportunity that one recommendation could save or make the company millions of dollars.  A customer satisfaction survey could help you enhance your product.  An employee recommendation could help you reduce cost on your next infrastructure project.  A shareholder could enlighten you about a rewarding strategic partner opportunity.

Staying in a “yes” state of mind requires great skill and discipline.  It requires you to be approachable, literally operating with an open door for easy access to anyone and everyone.  You have to be focused and an expert listener.  The presentation of a suggestion may be masked within a complaint or shared by someone that doesn’t regularly get an audience with the ultimate decision maker.  You have to be able to decipher the hidden meaning.  You have to be thinking yes this idea or information could make a difference.

When approached, if you are thinking yes you are open to possibilities.  If you are thinking no, you are closed to suggestions and in the mindset of  impossibilities.  It is a dangerous position for the person at the helm to be closed to new approaches and ways of doing business.  You will soon be on an island as others are discouraged from sharing information or guidance.  You eliminate contact with those that can help you the most.

How do we get into thinking no all the time?  It requires time to be in a “yes” mindset.  Time is a precious commodity for leaders. We also have been trained to say no before we say yes.  In fact, good salespeople are trained to overcome your no.  Showing resistance when you are approached by a sales person is only a challenge.  Sales people learn early in their careers that it is often seven no’s to get to the yes.  Saying no only makes them more persistent.  It is far easier to say yes!  Yes, send me some information.  Yes, tell me why you would recommend we adopt this idea.

Always thinking yes before no does not mean that you implement every suggestion.  In fact, with being so open and approachable, it will be easier to discern what should be put on the list of possibilities.

Never limit what you can accomplish by thinking no before you think yes.  Maybe, just maybe, it will change how you and your business accomplishes all your goals and objectives in the coming year.

Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” ― Gandhi

Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

2013 is Here to Stay

iStock_000019254561_ExtraSmallAnother New Year. We made it, despite the ominous predictions of the Mayans and challenges that seemed insurmountable. We have a whole year to put four new numbers at the end of every month and day — 2013 is here to stay.

As the hours tick away and we realize there is no turning back to a year gone by, we may spend time reflecting on the past for all the greatness or demands that became part of our personal history.  How much time should we reflect on what was and what might of been?

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and others as we leap ahead into the first day of a new year. Though the date is only a marker in time, it brings significance to recall where we have been and where we want to go.  We are conditioned to set goals, broadcast resolutions, make commitments.  We are all lined up in business to start our annual sprint toward revenue targets, profits and sales quotas.  Departments and executives lay out the vision and business plan. We stand and cheer as we round the corner and “pass go” to do it all again. We give ourselves and others another year to achieve great success.

Yet it can be hard to forget some of our nagging challenges and failures of the past 365 days. The reflection of what we did not accomplish can cloud our view of what lies ahead. Obsessive reflection deters progress. Could have, would have, should have really needs to be can, will and shall in the coming year.

We are all moving forward, together!  The earth is rotating and time is passing.  We can not stop our momentum. Some may want to slow the inevitable; however, there is not a time machine to take us back.  If we continually reflect on the better days of the past, we will miss the turns we need to take in the future.  We will be left behind.  It happens to very successful businesses and leaders as they get mired in their own greatness and fail to see what lies ahead.

We must focus on what can get done, what we will accomplish in the New Year. Historical performance gives guidelines of the best path forward.  At every fork, we need to turn to previous decisions and analyze how well we executed on each task or goal to determine the reality of which turn we take in the future. We don’t drive always looking in the rear view mirror. Watching what is behind, does not allow us to focus on what’s ahead — in life or in business.

Memories serve great purpose. Predicting the future requires history.  It is important to use past performance, decisions, data, research to better predict future outcomes.  It does not mean we should get buried in our past or mesmerized by our own reflection so that we fail to see the path forward.

We should all take time to reflect – briefly.  Use our past to build our map to the future. Know our goals.  It’s time to move ahead. The 2012 bus is leaving the station. The calendar tells us so.

As we move forward into 2013 with celebratory optimism, it is up to everyone to make choices that make us better and more prosperous.  Hope burns eternal. So, clink that glass half full and let the confetti fly! One thing is absolute, 2013 is here to stay.

Happy New Year!

Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

 

Give Your Best Gift

There is one gift that you can give that is far better than any other, it is the gift of you. Your time. Your ideas. Your wisdom. Your intellect. Your generosity. Your kindness. These are all unique gifts that only you can give to others. “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” ―Steve Prefontaine

We all know there is no greater reward in life than giving. Giving showcases our sense of civility and humanity married in the richness of culture and values. Giving is a choice. We are collectively living in a world of complexity, tangled by individual adversity and challenges. When we give ourself to solving problems, sharing responsiblity and accountability of the burdens, we have the opportunity to do better. We must do better. We can accept nothing less.. The gift of you, is an opportunity to do better. “The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

You have to let a sense of self go when you give the gift of you. It takes your limited time that is often occupied by so many other important to dos. It requires you to prioritize values of what really matters. The gift of you demonstrates your willingness to put all other distractions and demands for your attention behind those that are are going to receive your most precious gift – you. “Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity, when I give I give myself.” ― Walt Whitman

There are no material possessions that are within the same measure of the gift of you. You are priceless. Giving the gift of you is wrapped in love and care. “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” ― Mother Theresa

The very best gift in business you can give is yourself. Your time has the great value. There are several ways that you can gift you. You can gift your experience, gift your connections and gift your advice to help others achieve their goals. All require you to take the time to be present in your offering and focused in crafting how to provide meaningful experience, connections and advice. “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ― Winston Churchill

In order to fully actualize giving you, expect nothing in return. Giving you should be void of temptations to think of what’s in it for me. There is nothing to capitalize, nothing to measure. The gift of you is simply a sacrifice that has exponential returns in knowing you did something selfless for another. “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ― Charles Dickens

During this holiday season, the gift I give to all of you is sharing this blog. It is a little bit of me. My ideas. My thoughts. My experience. My advice. I give this gift out of love and passion to help others. “Love only grows by sharing. You can only have more for yourself by giving it away to others.” ― Brian Tracy

Happy Holidays to You and Wishing You a Prosperous New Year!

Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

How May I Help You?

If you provide service as part of your value, the first opportunity you have to learn about your customer’s needs is to ask one very simple question, “How May I Help You?”.  These five words will enable you to define the pain and opportunity. Carefully listening to the response opens the door for how you can provide the greatest value, how you might actually help!

Asking someone how you can help them may be viewed as a conversation opener. It does provide a moment to engage. Engagement is critical in moving a target to a potential buyer or consumer of your goods and services.  What better way to get the dialogue started by asking how you might fulfill a request or need.

Asking someone how you can help them is different than using professional etiquette to ask, “How are you today?”.  Though this is a nice sentiment, it doesn’t require you to stop and listen. In fact, most people use this as a long form hello or welcome.  Many will respond with a trite and unemotional “good”, when in fact it may not be how they are at all. It limits your engagement.

The better way to open up a dialogue with a potential customer is to ask how to help them.  It requires you to pay attention.  It means you have to participate in a conversation that will have to use your perception skills, your listening skills and your problem solving skills.  A much higher demand upon your brain than a rehearsed canned response of “good”.

A person skilled in the art of providing outstanding service will anticipate the potential requests that will ensue from the question of how you can help.  The proposition of providing outstanding service also demands that the response demonstrates how you plan to deliver the help or better qualify the type of help that will best serve the customer’s needs.

Expectations of your engagement will be defined when you ask how you can help someone.  It is up to you then to determine how you can deliver that help or point them in the right direction.  The first impression is set by your willingness to open the door, invite someone in and learn of their requirements.

Here are some easy ways to remember how to create the greatest value of HELP:

H = HOW the person defines their need when you ask how you can help them. It is your opportunity to determine HOW you can be the best in serving them when you ask the question.

E = EXPECTATIONS are set when a person is asked how you can help them.  Knowing exactly what is expected gives you the opportunity to WOW them with your determination to provide outstanding service.

L = LISTEN carefully when you ask someone how you can help them, as they will assume you will hear and understand their needs.  Your first response will be their first impression of how good you will be in helping them resolve their problem or attain their goal.

P = PREPARE to deliver when you ask how to help.  Every request may be unique; however, you have standard services that will fit the needs with or without some customization.  Know your responses and the value that you will provide in helping them.

Most important, when asking someone how you can help them, is to respond with honesty.  If you cannot help, tell the person you are not able to help.  It is a measure of your integrity.  If you can extend yourself by giving them a referral to others that can help or pointing them to another resource, you will be a better service provider.  Your value to help does not require you to actually provide the help, only yield to a pathway to gets the person to where they can get the help they need.  Then you are truly a great service provider.

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.  ~Mohammed Ali

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Best Gift to Any Business is a Referral

Are you looking for the perfect gift to give your customers or clients this holiday season?  There is one gift that has far greater lasting value beyond a spoken word of thanks, a sparkly holiday card or overflowing basket of nuts and baked goods.  It is the ultimate gift — the gift of a referral.

When you tell a client or company that you believe in what they offer, so much so you are willing to tell others, you are bestowing a very special tribute. Beyond the confirmation, providing an unsolicited referral requires thought and work. It is a bit like the effort of making a homemade holiday gift versus buying all your gifts online. You have to think carefully about the need and fit between the referral and referee. You are attaching the value of your name as an endorsement to the product or service.  You will forever be the link between the buyer and seller. Your gift will often be appreciated more because of the effort you put into the “making” of the gift.

Another reason for giving a referral as your holiday gift this year is the financial value. Customer referrals are instrumental for business growth.  In fact, the value of a referral can even be more than a single purchase, especially if the client offerings are complex or dependent on developing long-term relationships with valuable prospects. Your gift can shave months off of the sales cycle.  A referral can reduce the cost of sales and customer acquisition costs. You could be gifting a customer and potentially a profitable customer with significant real lifetime customer value (LCV).

Your word matters and your actions speak louder than your words.  Everyone is grateful for a ringing testimonial.  It serves great purpose to have your endorsement out into the marketplace to attract buyers for your clients and show your support.  The actual gift of a referral is going beyond championing your like and approval.  It is an affirmation that you believe both sides of the transaction will benefit. You are providing a seal of approval for an engagement between the buyer and the seller.

Yes, we all want customer recommendations on LinkedIn, Yelp and on our Facebook and Google+ pages. It is good business practice to endorse your customers and clients when they buy your services.  This will encourage them to do the same for your business.  Word of mouth and online reviews are proven to work.  Market studies show buying decisions are impacted by referrals, as noted in HubSpot’s example of the impact of social media referrals: 71% More Likely to Purchase Based on Social Media Referrals [Infographic]. These endorsements are reviews of our work. They are critical to marketing today.

Knowing the value of a review and recommendation, the referral puts financial value to your words.  As you put together your shopping list this holiday season, think about the best gift for your customers.  A gift that only you can provide by making a meaningful connection.  A word of gratitude followed by an invitation to do well.  A contact that can lead to revenue. Give the ultimate gift to those that pay you. Give back by giving them a customer!

The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Have You Identified and Protected Your IP?

TrakLight

Intellectual Property (IP) isn’t just for the engineers – every business has IP. Have you identified and protected yours? This doesn’t have to be an expensive, lengthy process. Traklight makes it easy to identify and protect your IP today.  Traklight understands that every dollar counts when you are launching a start up.

ID your IP is an easy to use, cost effective program designed by a team of legal professionals specializing in IP identification. The result: A report unique to your business that outlines your potential intellectual property and what you need to do to protect it.

The IP Vault is used to store, organize and verify your IP.  Simply upload to Traklight’s secure site and we’ll time-stamp, store and protect your documents.  A perfect tool, giving you easy access and peace of mind that your ideas are safe and critical dates can be verified by the click of a button.

As inventors, you may ask if the AIA makes inventorship and some of the record keeping and dates obsolete? Traklight’s Chief Product Officer Eric Menkhus shares the following insights:

  • The US patent system is about to undergo one of the most extensive changes in its history, moving away from “first to invent” system that has been the backbone of the US patent system for as long as any of us can remember.
  • The America Invent Act (AIA) will start being phased in starting in March 2013, implementing many changes that will move the US patent system closer to the systems of many foreign countries.

Will the change make inventorship obsolete in the US? After all, most foreign jurisdictions operate on a “first to file” system that rewards those that file a patent application first and not those who invent first.  The short answer to whether inventorship will still matter in the United States is YES!

The AIA will not move the US to a pure “first to file” system. The AIA implements a system that rewards the first INVENTOR to file. So, proving inventorship of the patentable subject matter will still be an important step to obtaining and/or defending a patent.

Date of invention will still matter, although in a different manner than under the old system.  In the “first to invent” system, the person that invented first received priority when to applications were filed on the same invention, so proving an invention date was critical.  Under the new system, the date of invention can still be important in situations in which one party is trying to prove that the other merely copied their invention and are not inventors and cannot, therefore, obtain a patent on the invention. Being able to show when an invention was made and other important dates such as publication, etc. can greatly assist an inventor in proving that someone else filed an application based on learning about the inventor’s idea.

So what does this mean? This means that keeping updated notes and dates will still be important under the AIA.  Don’t throw away those inventors’ notebooks! Or, of course, you can migrate your inventors’ notebook and other records online using Traklight’s IP Vault so you can have third party verification of dates, times, etc.

Visit www.traklight.com to learn more about identifying and protecting your IP. Before you disclose your IP, before you raise capital, before you go to market.

By Mary Juetten, Founder of Traklight (Version of the article first appeared on Womentorz)

Disclosure:  I, Jamie Glass, serve on the Advisory Board for Traklight.

Steve Blank Opens Library of Entrepreneur Tools

Steve Blank creates Open Source Entrepreneurship by posting a series of tools and resources.  The guru of the lean startup movement continues to give back and support the entrepreneur community by organizing helpful resources.

Visit his post at http://steveblank.com/tools-and-blogs-for-entrepreneurs/ for the plethora of tools, tips and resources every entrepreneur should bookmark.

The link has also been added to Arizona Capital and Growth Resources: http://www.artfulthinkers.com/arizona-capital-and-business-growth-resources.

Prepare for a Happy Business New Year

There are only a few weeks left that will define how your business performed this year. Are you happy with the anticipated results?  If the answer is yes, are you prepared to deliver the same performance next year or go to the next level?  If the answer is no, are you prepared to deal with the obstacles and challenges that prevented you from achieving your goals this year?

There may be little time to change the results of 2012. There is plenty of time to prepare for changes in 2013, if you start now.  Pivoting from your current trajectory requires strong leadership and preparing a detailed plan to execute starting the first day of the new year.

Reviewing the past several months, is your business foundation strong enough to build the next phase of your expansion?  Your foundation needs to be durable, providing the necessary support to accelerate current business practices that will generate more revenues and improve overall performance.  A business that is built from repeatable practices for product development, sales, operations, marketing and service, is a business that is ready for sustainable growth.

In your evaluation of the past year, if you are not convinced your business is running at maximum capacity or operating efficiently, it is well advised to spend the final weeks of the year to identify the primary obstacles and demands your business require to get on track for better performance in the coming year.  In other words, now is the time to invest in your business to get it on track for growth.  Do you need to invest in people, products or infrastructure?  What will it require in time and finances to build a strong foundation for future growth?

One of the biggest challenges for small business owners is to look outside the day-to-day operations to see the threats and opportunities for growth.  If you do not have an advisor, seek help from peers who can give you an objective assessment.  You want to have a comprehensive plan with orientation toward your business goals and tactics that can be executed upon by your committed team members at the start of the year.  Your plan needs to be opportunistic and realistic.

Now is the time to plan for the coming year.  How much do you need to invest?  Will you need to pivot from plans that have not provided expected results in the prior months?  Your team is waiting for your definitive plan of action.  They want to know where they are headed so they can meet your expectations.  Take the steps necessary to get ready for the best possible outcomes in the coming new year.  The action you take today, will impact where you end up next year.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” ― Yogi Berra

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Letting Go of Old School Business

We are working in an agile, lean, bootstrapping world.  We are delivering big data globally, in nanoseconds.  We manage and run businesses 24/7 with on demand expectations from customers, employees and vendors.

Are you operating your business in modern times or like it is the 70′s, 80′s, 90′s or even the last decade? Your established ways of doing business may be holding you back. You may be out of touch with what can move your business forward now. It is time to let the “old school” business practices go and embrace progress.

Aged leadership techniques for running businesses that worked 20 and 30 years ago are great for television dramas, but not for motivating others to help you create a thriving organization.  Managing from top down with authority and control is counter productive to collaboration and innovation.  Dictatorial bosses are not respected today.  Confrontation and intimidation were once seen as ways to “control the population” of workers.  Today, it is misguided and creates resentment, all barriers to inspiring others to come together to solve problems and flourish in the workplace. Is your leadership style up-to-date?

Work environments that are open develop greater trust and equality in mission.  The millennial workforce is community driven, with a sense that you do well by doing good.  Parents and institutions work hard to instill the values of sharing. It is expected to carry over to the workplace.  Openness and freedom of expression are as important as basic rewards and even compensation.  Younger generations will work hard, but old carrot and stick approaches are less appealing than basic respect and the feelings they experience by doing good work.

Retro is cool for clothing and design. It doesn’t appeal to where people want to spend a good portion of their day. Are you keeping up with the times?  Are the visual clues in your office showing you are fresh with new ideas or stuck in generations past? Is your desk cluttered with paper files, stacks of business cards or even shelves loaded with management and leadership books that were promoted two decades ago?

Here are some clues that you may be stuck in your old school business ways.

Micro-management feels good.  No one wants to be controlled by the overlord.  If you are running the numbers every morning, watching arrival times and wondering how to squeeze out another ounce of productivity, it is time to refocus your energy. Today, results and outcomes move businesses ahead of their competition.  Align your team with organizational goals and expectations. Celebrate accomplishments.

Dress code policy is a regular meeting topic.  Ties and nylons are bygones as standard office attire. Loosen up! You want people to be comfortable when they are working hard.  Innovators want to collaborate with peers, not be addressed by the “suit” in the room. Do you represent yourself as an equal that inspires others or someone that dresses to impress?  If your employees are impressed, it is because you empower and motivate them.

You love your big executive suite.  Big offices represent old austerity days.  Everyone knows you earn the big bucks with your title. The expansive office gives the impression you are unreachable and untouchable.  It does not increase your cool factor. If you have spent a big budget on office decor, it shows your priority. How about an office ping pong table, an employee lounge or creative think tank room?  Big offices exclude you from working with your team.

If you have a time clock on the wall, you are truly old school.  There may be legal reasons you may need to track or “clock” hours; however, time clocks bolted on the wall give the impression you are still operating in the industrial world.  Computer software can be set up on any standing office computer or tablet and help you remove the visual of ancestral ways of tracking every second of work time.

Your technology budget for 2013 has a large line item for new desktop computers.  Laptops, tablets, smartphones are how productive people operate today.  Information available via online “secured” vaults and in the cloud storage provides convenience to vital documents and programs. Carry-on computing gives you freedom and accessibility to work from any where at any time.  Times are changing and desktops are definitely old school.

Are you still using out of office notes?  Throw the pink slips away. It’s not new, it is called voicemail. Use it. Return the calls left for you.  It reflects your follow-through and respect for others.  Better yet, encourage your team to find you via text and call you on your mobile device.  Make it easy to be in touch.

There may be financial, legal and security reasons that you can not leave all your old school ways of doing business behind.  Make sure that there really is a reason for holding on to the older ways you conduct business.  If the only reason you are using old school business techniques or tools is inability or lack of interest to change, you will be left behind. Your employees see it.  Your customers know it.  Your vendors and suppliers are pained by it.  It’s time to move into the new school of doing business.

Today is apps and accessibility, cooperation and alliances, nanoseconds and responsiveness.  Being a progressive in business creates more opportunities for growth, in people, profits and productivity.  Let the old go and go anew.  You might like the results.

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. – Benjamin Franklin

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Prepare to Hire a Sales Person

It is the time of year that businesses start to look at their anticipated revenues and question if they can increase the top line with additional sales resources.  A sales person is an investment in your business. Preparing for the role within your organization is as equally important as hiring the right person.

Before you hire anyone, have you created a sales plan?  The sales plan is where you define your revenue goals for the year, the budget for required headcount and support resources, and the tactics you will employ to achieve your goals.  At a minimum, you must define what you are willing to invest into the selling of your products and services for every expected new dollar of revenue.  Once you make this calculation, set your budget based on your investment requirements and expected returns with new sales.

Now that you have your sales plan outlined, here are some steps to help you get ready for hiring a new sales person:

  • Sales Role: Will your new hire be a direct, field sales person or an inside sales person?  A direct sales person will have a larger budget for travel and expenses, in addition to higher compensation.  The expense of a direct sales person can be offset by a putting in place a higher quota.  A direct sales person is expected to negotiate larger contracts and develop profitable long-term relationships over the phone and in person.  An inside sales person will conduct all of their selling over the phone. They will be qualifying opportunities, making online presentations, negotiating and asking for the business over the phone.  Inside sales people will have a smaller quota and also typically sell smaller priced products and services that do not require face-to-face presentation and negotiation.
  • Job Description:  Create a job description that clearly defines the requirements for the role, responsibilities and expectations of what the sales person must deliver.  Be specific. State the sales goals, types of customers they need to sell and how they will engage with prospects.  Will they be a “hunter” or a closer or both?  Will they need to have existing relationships?  How much experience in your industry?  Note how your sales person will be measured and how you view success.
  • Quota and Territory:  Generally inside sales quotas will start at $100,000 to $250,000 in new business revenue per year.  The defined quota will always depend on the sales price.  A direct sales person can be expected to have a quota of $500,000 to $1,000,000 a year in sales.  Again price of product will help set the quota, along with experience of the sales hire.  If you hire someone with no experience in achieving a million dollars in sales, they probably won’t hit a million dollar quota no matter how much they sell you on the prospects.
  • Comp Plan and Incentives:  Detail how the sales person will be compensated.  Typically there are three factors in sales compensation:  sales commissions on new business, incentives to exceed quotas and bonuses for quality or quantity.  Define your compensation and commission rules.  When will the sales person be paid?  You can set different commissions for different products, based on profitability.  The average sales commission is 4-8% of top line sales revenue.  One word of advice, the easier the plan is to follow, the more focused your sales person will be on achieving plan instead of trying to figure out when and how they get paid.
  • Sales Process:  The sales process defines the steps a sales person will engage to find, qualify, present, negotiate and close a deal.  If you know the process, you can better hold a sales person accountable to how they manage their sales funnel.  It will also provide you data on how many leads you need to support the number of deals you expect to close each year.  Data is your friend in sales.
  • Marketing and Sales Support:  Sales people will typically work independently; however, you can shorten the sales cycle by providing sales tools and marketing support to help educate the customer, drive the process forward and substantiate the value propositions of your products.  Prepare a training plan to educate the new hire on what they will sell.  A minimum requirement for any sales person is a CRM tool.  Your prospects and clients are a company asset.  Track and manage the data and make sure it is stored in a company repository.
  • Measurable Success:  Before you make the hire, know exactly how you will measure their success.  A sales person, no matter the level of experience, will have a ramp up before they start closing deals.  Your sales cycle can range from weeks to years.  The more complex the sale, the higher price of your products and the more consultative the sales process, the more likely it will take six months or more before you see traction with even the most experienced sales person.  Your only exception will be to hire a person that already has relationships with your targeted customers.  The ramp-up will decrease with selling experience; however, you will pay a lot more for this type of sales person in base and expected overall compensation.  Do the math.  Can you invest more early on to increase odds of higher returns with a shorter sales cycle?

An investment in sales is one of the most important decision an owner makes in the life cycle of a business.  Making a bad sales hire can crush your business.  Prepare and plan for success.  Set reasonable expectations and measure performance.  Sales is a numbers game.  Know the numbers, inside and out.  Know what you spend.  Know what you want in return. Know how the sales person will achieve the sales goals.  Prepare your plan so you know what success looks like and then execute your plan.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Virtues of a Trusted Advisor

The role of a trusted advisor is honorable.  A business leader believes you can help them achieve their goals, overcome their challenges and drive new opportunities.  Your advice is so valuable to the business, they choose to invest valuable resources, including time and money, for your guidance, products and services. They trust you can make a difference.

In the position of power, an advisor must demonstrate characteristics of greatness.  An advisor must garner the trust needed to challenge, collaborate and guide leaders in personal and professional ways.  The considerable distinction of being a trusted advisor must be representative of virtues that such power bestows.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founders of the United States, listed his 13 virtues in a notebook. He referenced the virtues to measure how he lived each day. The virtues included temperance, silence, order, justice and humility.  He developed the list of virtues when he was 20 years old and used it in some form, according to his autobiography, for the rest of his long life.

Though there are hundreds of virtuous characteristics, there are a few common virtues practiced by many high quality trusted advisors.  What would you include on your list of virtues to guide you in the expected role of a trusted advisor?  Here are ten virtues that top my list:

Ten Trusted Advisor Virtues

  1. Diligent – Be a good steward. Spend other’s resources with care and great due diligence to maximize a positive impact. Value other’s money as if it is your own.
  2. Integrity – Be honest and ethical in your role as a confidant.
  3. Silence – Listen to learn.  Advising others requires you to listen and learn before you conclude and guide.
  4. Courage – Challenge ideas, policies, programs and standards with candor, evidence and experience.  You need not be right, you need to state your beliefs with conviction.  It is your role.
  5. Credible – Prove you are worthy of trust.  Believe in your ideas and recommendations. Convey your belief with proof.
  6. Share – Take part in the business.  Be a partner. Contribute by sharing ideas and making valuable connections.
  7. Reliable – Be present in real time.  Demonstrate your loyalty by being available to help when help is needed.  Be on time. Deliver on time.
  8. Logical – Solve problems with logic.  Business decisions can be emotional.  Provide the logical pros and cons to help others make sound decisions.
  9. Wisdom – Use your knowledge and judgement to be resourceful.  Experience has value.  Speak and advise on what you know and when you don’t know, find other resources that do know.
  10. Respect – Respect those you advise and respect your position of power.  The quality of your work will be demonstrated by your ability to deliver, real and actionable advice. Earn respect by doing.

Virtues are often referred to as ethics.  Virtues are your moral compass, how you conduct yourself. As a trusted advisor, you have the responsibility to demonstrate the value of your advice. Trust is earned. It is not to be taken for granted. Your word, your actions, your work, your products, your services, all must represent the values you profess.

If you are so bold to declare your personal and professional virtues, take the time to measure the impact of your chosen words.  Do your virtues help you to better help those paying for your guidance?  Deliver what you say you will deliver. Be virtuous and then you will be trusted. A Trusted Advisor.

So our virtues lie in the interpretation of the time.” – Shakespeare

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

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Be in Your Business Now

As a business leader, you have three options of where to put your focus. The Past. The Future. The Now. Being present in your business now, gives you better leverage to improve from your past with the valuable foresight to manage risks and opportunities in your future.

21st century businesses require real time accessibility and responsiveness to meet the changing tides of immediate customer demands.  Innovation is quickly driving businesses forward and leaving many behind. Being disciplined on the point of convergence of past and future, enables you to put 100% of your business efforts into the business now.

It is important to know who you are, where you are coming from and where you are going. The past provides insights that can help your business pivot and shorten learning curves.  As a leader, you depend on the knowledge gained through good and bad experiences to improve performance and business outcomes.  There is only one path to progress.  You have to move from the past to the future through your business now.

Living in your business past, with regret or admiration, does not give you the necessary focus to be centered in the now. “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” ~Alexander Graham Bell

Leaders that spend time relishing in their great accomplishments may be ignoring the unknown threats or countless competitors looking for better, faster ways to knock you off your pedestal.  Put the plaque on the wall, file the kudos and at-a-boys and know that your business needs you to be working on what’s next – now.

Likewise, if you are spending your business now redefining vision statements, missions and the company’s next BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), you may be missing the bumps and obstacles that threaten you from achieving important milestones in your daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly journey.  Your revenues depend on you to zero in on the now.

One way to keep you in the now is to have a mission statement that puts you squarely in the present moment.  Starbucks puts its’ employee, partner and customer focus in their business now with their simple mission statement.  It says, ”Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

There is no arguing that you need business goals, strategies and plans.  The only way to work in the business now is to know where you are headed.  Every business needs short and long term goals.  There is a big difference in working in the future or working on the future — now.  You can be working on inventions that will change the world.  If you focus on how the world will be versus your invention, you will lose your edge in getting the invention to market.  A daydreamer trap for the creative mind.

Have you ever met an entrepreneur that has hundreds of ideas.  When you talk to them, they focus on all the ways they can improve on an idea, open new markets and make millions and billions — in the future.  They have 20 solutions for every problem.  Yet, there is always one thing that is missing in their enthusiasm for what’s ahead, their business now.

How is your business today?  What is holding you back this week?  What challenges are stopping you from being that billionaire NOW?  When you are steadfast on living in future, you are probably not paying attention to the work required to get you there.  If your employees always see you so far ahead of them, they often lack accountability to what they need to do to make the business a success today.

There is a fragile difference between a vision and an illusion.  Apple is a perfect example of a company dedicated to the business now.  We often look at each new product as ahead of it’s time.  Some will remark, how visionary!  Apple looks at their new products as another completed project. The next Apple inventions we will be enamored with are already in production.  Apple is constantly improving products ahead of their time by working in the business now.  They do so with an eye to the future, short term and long term goals; however, they produce and service in the now.  Innovation is part of their work culture.  We, their consumer, are focused on their future. That does not deter them from meeting our demands now, it only keeps us loyal.

Use your past to better predict your future.  It is good business intelligence.  Being present for your customers, employees, partners today is what has the greatest impact on revenues now.  Investing in your future, is working on your business now!  Don’t ignore what’s right in front of you.  What you uncover by working on the business now could define you and your company evermore.  

“Forever is composed of nows.” ~Emily Dickinson

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Entrepreneurial Lessons from Your First Job

We have all had one. A first job. Someone looked you in the eye and said, “You are hired!” The decision confirms they trusted you to represent their business. They were willing to invest in you, train you, teach you how to earn a paycheck.

Your confidence swells with the first yes. Your stride is more brisk, your smile broadens. You did it! You are accepted, wanted and needed. Someone recognizes you for being a contributor. Then, the apprehension begins. What if they don’t like me? What happens if I make a mistake? Can I do this job? The overwhelming reality of being responsible of earning a wage is measured by the sudden onset of nervous excitement.

Many of the emotions and fears of starting your first job are similar to starting your first business. Entrepreneurs have to balance the adrenaline associated with being in complete control with the reality that businesses fail. Lingering in the bravado are facts from the Small Business Administration (SBA) that nearly a third of businesses fail within the first two years. Reverting to your confidence that says “just do it” because you are different and better, you focus on the statistical favor that you do have a 66% chance you will make it.

The first time you do anything is valuable experience. Recalling what you learned at your first job is an excellent way to apply past experience to a new first – starting your own business. Here are some tips to take from your first job that are nuggets of wisdom to apply to your startup venture:

1.  Embrace the Fear of Failing – You have an option to be paralyzed in fear or embrace the opportunity that if you try, you may succeed.  We all know examples of the person who tried over and over again, failing countless times before they finally made it!  They never quit. Using the knowledge of each failure, big or small, prepare yourself for the possibility of next time.

2.  Take Pride in Your Work – Others are counting on you to help them.  Any business is defined by satisfying a need.  If they need you, take satisfaction in your ability to help.  In the early stage of a new business, people will flock to those that are confident in what they deliver.  Uncertainty creates worrisome customers, or even worse, potential customers who never buy.

3.  Always Be Learning – You are glowing green at your first job.  You are a blank slate.  Your training is the groundwork for how you will perform. Soaking up expertise from those that proceeded you is smart business.  What you don’t know today, can propel your business to the next level. Find expertise.  Be a knowledge consumer.

4.  Businesses Reward Hard Work – As you master the skills necessary to do your first job and do it well, you soon learn that businesses reward performance.  Promotions and raises are given to those that work hard and do more than their peers.  Your customers will reward you for your hard work.  Their loyalty is associated to your ability to outperform your competition.

5.  Listening Skills are Important – Listening to your customers in your first job and in your first business is elementary.  Your customer is paramount to delivering products and services that meet the customer’s needs.  Failing to listen increases your odds of an unhappy customer.  Unhappy customers tell others of their experience.  Listening improves potential for high customer satisfaction.

6.  Time Management is Critical – There are no rewards for showing up late or missing work.  One of the most important skills acquired in the first job is how to manage your time.  You soon learn there are no acceptable excuses.  Juggling priorities becomes primary to your success.  Owning a business depends on the genius of multitasking.  You will work harder and that means you have to work smarter to get the job done.

7.  Handling Money Builds Trust – When you take money for any product or service, you are now accepting the currency of trust.  You are expected to provide equal or greater value in the exchange of cash for goods.  Exceeding expectations builds credibility.  Manage others money with the same respect you demand from those that manage yours.

The knowledge acquired from a first job is fundamental to a startup. How you apply that knowledge and skill will often result in similar or better experience as an entrepreneur. The mistakes are lessons of how to do something different. The successes are foundations to build upon.

Challenge yourself to reflect on your first job. What was the best lesson learned on your first job? Can you instill this in your values, culture and standards as a business owner today?

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely. ~Auguste Rodin

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Return on Marketing Requires an Investment

One of the most important decisions a business owner or CEO will make is establishing a budget for marketing. Like talent, product and infrastructure, marketing must be viewed as a necessity in business.  Marketing expenditures are essential investments for growth.

An average SMB (small-to-medium size business) will typically set a marketing budget at 4% to 6% of sales revenues.  There are several factors that can impact this budget.  As an example, a well-funded startup may invest 20% of revenues for aggressive consumer acquisition programs and advertising.  Notice, the “well-funded” qualifier.  Likewise, there is always difficulty in setting a budget for a pre-revenue company. Entrepreneurs will often spend most of their investments in product and then struggle to bring in sales. Startup costs must include marketing.  For every dollar invested in product, people and infrastructure, an equal dollar should be set aside for investment in sales and marketing.

Here are three simplified phases for marketing investment planning:

1.  Brand Awareness:  Your marketing investment should start with focus in reach and awareness including brand identity, a website, company advertising and direct and social marketing.

2.  Engagement: The second phase invests in additional marketing programs that support your sales efforts including lead generation, publicity, web marketing (SEO and SEM), market validation, events, advertising, presentations and customer case studies.

3.  Nurture:  Finally, maximize your marketing investments with customer communications, CRM services, loyalty initiatives and nurturing programs to maintain the valuable potential and existing customer relationships.  Once you have them engaged, use your marketing spend wisely to develop and grow your relationship.

After your marketing budget is defined, you will want to establish how you will measure the success of your investment.  ROMI is the acronym for Return on Marketing Investment.  The calculation is total revenue divided by marketing spend.  ROMI = Revenue ($) / Marketing Spend ($).

Some marketing activities such as branding, advertising, PR and social media are harder to track impact and influence. As a rule of thumb, the simple ROMI equation gives you a thumbnail sketch of your return on your marketing investment.  ROMI is a good KPI (key performance indicator) for leaders to use in the business dashboard.

If you are a startup or pre-revenue, the marketing spend will be set as your budget for purposes of forecasting. Some may argue that there should be other factors added or subtracted, such as attributable revenues; however, most businesses have a difficult time tracking every dollar spent on activities such as advertising. Start with the broadest “buckets” and as you increase your marketing reporting and tracking sophistication, you can scrutinize spending with finer analysis.

Marketing is an investment.  Success in ROMI requires budgeting, reporting and analysis in order to fully actualize the benefits.

In lean times, business owners have a tendency to cut marketing spend. Lost time and lack of investment, even during challenging periods, impacts long-term growth. The result may not be felt right away. It is an illusion. Prolonged periods of reduced marketing spend can dramatically reduce sales opportunities. The fewer dollars you put into a marketing budget the greater the exponential impact on future revenues.

Similar to an investment savings account, the more you put into your “growth” marketing account, the higher potential return on your investment. The more dollars spent on high risk marketing activities, the greater risk to returns. Any sound investment advisor, marketing or financial, will counsel a business owner and CEO to invest based on the organization’s risk tolerance.  Marketing investments should be treated like any financial investment.  Know your risk tolerance, invest accordingly.  If the business has low tolerance for risk, eliminate marketing spend in expensive tactics that are difficult to measure. Always diversify your investment to mitigate risk.

In order to qualify for a return, it requires an investment.  Failing to set aside funds to market is failing to invest in business sustainability.  Expectations of sales without an adequate marketing budget is a business built on luck. Though we would all like to be lucky, if you plan to sell something, invest in marketing to create the sale.

I have a problem with too much money. I can’t reinvest it fast enough, and because I reinvest it, more money comes in. Yes, the rich do get richer.” -Robert Kiyosaki

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Vision Statements are Worthless without Disciplined Focus

Entrepreneurs can spend countless hours crafting their vision and mission statements.  It is often assigned to every leader as a required task in strategic planning.  Business investors and advisors will ask you, what is your vision?  Imagine answering, “I don’t know!”

Do you have a vision? A mission? Business values?  Often guilt rises in those that have not defined their vision when questioned by those that “know”.  Thus the ritual begins.  The business owner starts to define the grand vision: What do I want to be?  What is our ideal universe?  What is our big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) as a company? What motivates us?

Tah-Dah!  The task is complete. Yes, you have a company vision.  Check the box.  Your purpose for existence as a business, which is now articulated in a small paragraph, makes it’s debut on websites, in business plans and sales presentations and supported in company marketing communications.  What is the value of this exercise?  Can you translate it to revenue? There are businesses that have you memorize the vision. Vision testing. They are driven by the belief that if everyone is united by a common vision, they will achieve more.

Granted, there is no argument that you need a strategy to win.  If your vision consists of words to satisfy the strategic planning process, your vision is worthless. A vision must be supported by disciplined focus to accomplish your business goals. It is what differentiates the good from great.  Why?  It is the ability to look beyond the visionary clouds and execute on your strategy.  Disciplined focus delivers results.

Vision is unlimited.  Vision gives you big picture, inspiration and motivation.  Focus influences your capability to execute on what is most important.  Real power to deliver on a vision comes when you narrow your focus, allowing you to concentrate and build confidence. Disciplined focus enables you to positively face challenges and create sustainability in your business.  It is the foundation for growth. “My success, part of it certainly, is that I have focused in on a few things.” — Bill Gates

Have you ever watched a 3 year-old in a grocery store walking along side their adult companion.  They seem to lack much interest in the whole shopping experience.  Suddenly, they set their sights on what is intentionally positioned at their eye-level to grab their attention. They make their escape with remarkable strength.  Bolting in a straight beeline, with determination, to the prize!  They have disciplined focus on the outcome.  They grab and go!  Vision. Focus. Results.

If you have a vision or are thinking you need to craft a vision statement, take a few minutes to define the expected outcomes from your declaration.  How does the vision help you focus on what is most important for your business?  How do you use your vision as motivation?  How will the vision help employees be better in their roles?  How will the vision drive the business forward?  Once you know the desired results, you can apply the disciplined focus to execute your strategy and accomplish your business goals.

“A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.” — Brian Tracy

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Ready to Engage Your New Customer?

The buzz in marketing circles today is engagement. How do you effectively hook potential customers into a committed relationship? The investment a business makes in the engagement process should be directly tied to revenues. If you expertly and skillfully engage, sales will increase.

Competent engagement helps a business target, influence, nurture and convert prospects to customers.  The more expeditious a business is in engaging with prospects, the bigger impact to the bottom-line.  How are you engaging your potential new customers?

The easiest way to initiate engagement is to view customer and wedding engagements as the same.  The difference between the two are in the details of tactics.  How you move from targeting into proposal are nearly identical in overall strategy.

Engagement begins by determining how to get someone to respond to your offer.  First, identify the target based on the qualifications of a “good match”.  Who is a suitable candidate for engagement?  What are the qualities you are seeking, both in demographics and social behaviors? Then you need to determine what makes you attractive to others.  Packaging and presentation of your “stand out” qualities are critical in the initial step of the engagement process.  Know where to direct your message and selling to the most qualified targets.

Second, you start the courting process, where all long-term valuable relationships begin. This step is more difficult to measure and needs careful preparation. You can spend a tremendous amount of resources influencing others and never get to the proposal. Laws of attraction and suitability apply.  Who you target, what you say and why they are a good candidate must already be known to successfully influence the “right” prospect.

Using engagement tactics like research, focus groups, asking for referrals can speed progress directly influencing better qualified prospects when cultivating relationships. Put out a few “asks”.  Look for agreement.  Identify the buying signals.  Know what makes this prospect want to engage further in the relationship.  Define what is in it for them. It might take some sampling and analysis to reach a successful outcome.

Third, define acceptable terms of the relationship.  Nurture your relationship to fully understand the “how and why” you need to partner.  Build upon the strengths of your bond through mutual consent. Constant communication, validation and envisioning the success of your relationship solidifies the “why”.  This is the beginning of a potentially long-term committed relationship, one that must be mutually beneficial.   Are you both in agreement? Create timelines and set expectations to help control spending, time and resources while nurturing your relationship.

Fourth, make the BIG proposal.  It is time to go all in and ask for the close.  Whether it be a hand in marriage or to partner in business, the only way to get to a “yes” is to make the proposal.  If you have taken time to go through an engagement process, building consensus along the way, you will have eliminated most of the risk in making the proposal.  Converting a prospect to a buyer requires you to “pop” the question.  It is time to seal the deal.

The opportunity to engage is there, are you ready to start the process?  Only if you are able to commit to an engagement, will you be ready to “tie the knot” with a new customer.

[W]hen you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.  ~Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Entrepreneurial Spirit or Stress

High energy and optimism drive entrepreneurs to overcome the daily challenges of starting and running a business.  It is drawn from the spirit of achievement.  A belief in winning.  The achiever reflects on the vision supplanted in the back of their mind that reminds them they can do it.  Entrepreneurial spirit motivates. Unfortunately, entrepreneurial stress can be harmful.

Often times I see business owners who fight gallantly and passionately to get their businesses off the ground. Overcoming every obstacle with stamina and vigor.  Then the really hard work begins, as if the launch wasn’t difficult enough.  Selling. Operating. Scaling. Funding. HR, PR and avoiding the ER.

Days begin at 5AM and end around midnight. Sleep is sacrificed in place of getting more done.  Family and friends watch on the sidelines as the entrepreneur climbs to the top.  They are the cheerleaders, sounding boards and allies.  They see the competitiveness to win, so they encourage you more.  You’ve got spirit! You can do it, yes you can!

Our colleagues and advisors rarely say stop or slow down.  Why?  They don’t want to crush the dream.  They want to keep the spirit alive.  Businesses are built with emotions of positive thinking, ambition and heart thumping enthusiasm. They are also built with blood, sweat and tears.  We chant faster, better, more.  We ignore slower, take a breath, and reminders to enjoy the journey.  We convince ourselves we work better under pressure and stress.

As we are conditioned more than ever to reach for the stars, who is telling you to chill out?  It seems counter intuitive to being an entrepreneur.  Is it?  Can you get more accomplished when you are relaxed and well rested?  There are countless studies that prove stress is bad for your health.  It increases heart disease, inflammation, chances of having a stroke, weight gain, and even increases odds of catching a cold.  Relaxation studies show we can counterbalance many of the health risks.  Yet, out of fear of failing, the entrepreneur presses on and tries to do more.

I am reminded of a wise mentor who once said, do you want your epitaph to read “I Worked the Hardest”. Know anyone that has health issues from living stress-free or being well rested and relaxed?  Know anyone with health issues from living in the hyper stress mode, working 18 hour days, not sleeping, and sacrificing all “me” time?

Take this advice from a self-subscribed workaholic, it may be time to relax!  Here are a few ideas on how to get back to the spirit and reduce the entrepreneurial stress.

1.  Remind yourself of the WHY.  Why are you building a business?  Why are you working so hard? Why are you driving yourself and probably your family crazy?  Write down your why and review it daily. If it is for your retirement, for your security, for your family or for your employees, they will all tell you they would rather have a bit more of the relaxed you than a bit more stress.

2.  Turn off the electronics.  We are more wired and connected today.  Checking emails first thing in the morning can create stress before you even get started.  Smartphones, laptops, computers, TVs, off!  Set a schedule for when you will be connected and give yourself the freedom to be off the grid.

3.  Say hello!  Reach out to past colleagues and mentors.  Get together in real time, face to face.  Perhaps they are in the same predicament of being overloaded and overworked and are looking for someone to help give them a reprieve.

4.  Read any good books lately?  No one can argue that reading is good for the mind and soul.  Take 20 minutes a day to refresh your mind.  Give yourself time to escape, explore and grow.

5.  Prioritize.  Do you have a list of priorities?  Take your list and categorize the A list, all which have to be done by a committed deadline.  Next is your B list, those items that are important but are less urgent.  Finally, your C list that captures those tasks that would be nice when completed; however, do not endanger your well-being or put the business at risk.

6.  Escape.  If your business can not survive without you for a weekend, a week or even two, you do not have a sustainable business.  How would an investor perceive your business if it can not operate without you.  In other words, the business is you. Do not believe you are helping your customers, your investors or employees by being the one that makes it all run.  It is bad for business and bad for you.  No one can sustain the pressure of being the sole enterprise.  Delegate and escape.  Force the business to run without you.

If you get to the end of the road and the sign blazes with bright lights that you made it, congratulations.  You did it.  Now, look back and ask was it worth it? Did you enjoy the journey?  If you are still on that journey, stop and breathe.  Relish in the spirit of being an entrepreneur.  Enjoy the growth in your business and your personal experience. Don’t miss out on life to get to the end.

There is no recovery from lost time or relationships.  Make sure it is really the entrepreneurial spirit that is motivating you, not the stress controlling you. Live Long. Be Happy. And Prosper.

Be Happy and Achieve More in Your Business

In a recent presentation by best selling author and NCAA Division I tennis champion, Roger Crawford, he asked the audience of business owners and executives, “Are you listening to your own head trash?” He explained that anxiety is focused on negative outcomes and it eliminates the possibilities.  Do you start your day thinking of the angst or promise of your business?

Several years ago, I was managing a small inside sales team for an entrepreneur with big dreams.  We were in the midst of creating the world’s largest, biggest, best company, EVER. We had a vision, a defined mission and we believed all was possible.

I hired a small group of spirited, eager professionals that were responsible for driving the majority of the company revenue.  Failure was not optional.  Every work day, they had to pick up the phone and convince businesses they needed our offering.  In fact, the expectation was they had to sell 5-10 businesses a day.  Many days were filled with rejection and disappointment. Despite the constant “no”, they persisted.  Dial more, ask again, always be closing, fax another brochure were our mantras.  The result, we took a small company and nearly doubled in size every year for five years.

Looking back, there is no doubt that persistence paid off.  We all knew that if we made enough calls, heard enough no’s, we would get to the yes.  Four people dialing for dollars soon turned to a couple dozen sales people and eventually two floors of people making outbound calls.  We had the formula.  We had a predictable model that scaled. Open a territory, launch a new product, buy more leads, add more sales people, increase price, and the business doubles again.  It was simple math. No anxiety, just possibilities. Followed by success.

There was only one real threat to our growing business — mindset.  We needed to hire believers.  As a business, we had the tools, the resources and the product. We needed people that believed in “yes”, despite all the “no” they might hear.  Our culture would not tolerate negativity. Our success was built on a foundation of positive attitudes. We could train and manage aptitude. Attitude was the difference between making our number or not.  Negativity was eradicated quickly to draw in more positive thinkers.  Only winners need apply.

Do you believe in your possibilities? Do you inspire winning? Perhaps the real inhibitor from achieving success in your business is mindset.  Happiness is proven to contribute to the top and bottom line.  Regardless the perceived “insurmountable” roadblocks of any small business, belief and persistence are your best allies as an organization.  Positiveness rolls down hill.  It is your primary responsibility as a leader to project happiness and the “can do” attitude.  Prospects respond to cheerful problem solvers.  Vendors like doing business with people that make them feel good.  Employees are more productive in happy workplaces.  Investors want to believe, in you!

In a 2012 released study, “Happiness as a motivator: positive affect predicts primary control striving for career and educational goals,” researchers Claudia M HaaseMichael J PoulinJutta Heckhausen noted in the report abstract, “…when individuals experience positive affect, they become more motivated to invest time and effort, and overcome obstacles when pursuing their goals, in part because they believe they have more control over attaining their goals.

How do you set up your day to experience a positive affect?  Do you have a happiness ritual that puts you in the frame of mind to win?  How do you encourage happiness and inspire your employees?  In the startup phase of the company mentioned above, I would begin by blasting a song on the boombox in our little office.  My favorite play, “Here’s a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note, don’t worry, be happy  In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double, don’t worry, be happy.” -Bobby McFerrin

When I cranked up the volume each morning, I might see a little sneer. We started at 7AM. In the end, it was this song and our collective attitude that launched many successful careers.  We mastered our own happiness.  We mastered our destiny. We mastered hearing no and converted it to a yes. Yes to success.

As a business owner, you will face rejection by investors, vendors, partners, and customers.  Prepare yourself and set your vision on the possibilities.  Remove the head trash. If you read, listen or surround yourself with negative information, it probably will not encourage you to go out and do more. Negativity creates anxiety. Turn it off. Walk away. Choose to believe your hype, not others.

How can you inspire others to take your business to the next level?  Focus on what you and your team can achieve.  Set goals. Share the vision. Dream big. No matter how many no’s you get, believe in yes!  And of course, Don’t Worry. Be Happy!

Inspired by the motivational Roger Crawford, the Delivering Happiness movement and all those believers at Mastering Computers.

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Leaders are Superior Deciders

Business leaders and entrepreneurs are faced with endless decisions. The effect of every decision can impact the forward motion of the organization, address critical business needs or simply keep operations steadfast.  Decisions are part of the bosses daily to do list.  How decisions are made reflects your effectiveness and judgement.

As a leader, you have the role as crowning decider. Confidence in your ability to make decisions impacts how others recognize you inside and outside your organization. Employees, partners, customers, vendors, investors and your market industry all evaluate your strength as a leader based on your decision making skills.

Being resolute and determined assures others you are unmistakably in the right position to guide the company. Responsibility and accountability rest on your shoulders, always.  Whether you delegate the actual decision making process to someone in your business or not, you own the outcome.

How leaders make decisions sets the pace of how the business operates and often to what degree it succeeds.

  • Fast Decision Makers:  High growth, innovative businesses require a leader adept to making rapid decisions, trusting intuition and using a high threshold for exposure to risk.  Failure is an option for this type of decision maker, as the decider is likely a pro at pivoting.
  • Moderate Decision Makers: Leaders that use managed growth strategies require a steady hand. They are assessors and consumers of strategic evaluations and advice to help mitigate risk.  Roadmaps, KPIs and measured milestones often guide this type of leader in their timing of decisions.
  • Slow Decision Makers:  Risk adverse companies who have a very low tolerance for failure, perhaps because of the financial structure, need a decider who will go beyond assessment.  They use defined research, analytic and data resources, detailed reports and experts to evaluate their decisions.  These type of deciders are patient and often are primarily focused on long-term goals and objectives.

Of all types of deciders, the biggest failure of any business leader is NOT making a decision.  CEOs and business owners are often surrounded by advisors and have multiple inputs into their decision making processes.  It can complicate the final call.  Talk is not cheap. Too many inputs can slow down decisions and increase risk.

Businesses fail in absence of making decisions.  New technologies can sweep them out of the market.  Hindered by bad personnel, companies can be drained of momentum and energy.  Capital issues can delay key projects and impact future revenue.  Making a decision, can negate these types of risks.

Empowering others to make decisions is important in any business.  Provide others the capability of being creative and strategic in their role by decision making authority.  You want thinkers and doers in your business.  If they are only allowed to do, based on your decisions, you can stifle cooperation and confidence.

You may need to set limitations on decision making capabilities by your empowered team based on the business risk tolerance.  Budgeting is one way to put in business controls, along with road maps.  Define what has the most critical impact on the business and put in place the sign-off authority for those decisions.  For example, if a product development change can delay meeting a critical release date of a product or service, put in place authorizations to manage expectations with all stakeholders.

Whether a decision relates to products, markets, finances, technologies or personnel, a business can easily become paralyzed without a strong leader that makes decisions.  The final decision is the responsibility of the leader. Inputs need to be managed.  Assign a deadline and know when a final decision must be made, without exception.

As the decider, you have the ultimate power.  How you use your power is a reflection of your leadership.  Whether you choose to make rapid decisions or methodical, deliberate decisions, the action matters most.  Don’t let decisions, small or large, slow you or your business down.  Procrastination is deadly.  Lead by deciding.  Decide how you will lead. Decide now.

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

A Little Civility Thank You

As we live, eat, work, grow and socialize together 24 hours a day, it does make sense we continue to reinforce the basic rules for how to treat one another respectfully.  Under no pretense is this meant to be preaching, it is simply a reminder of our times.  Thank you matters.  You are welcome is appreciated.  Please is polite. I understand does not mean you agree, it means you listened.

Civil nations have rules and expectations on how to interact through defined customs.  How we greet each other, open conversations and end our discourse are all ways to show our civility.  Agree to disagree, we can also always choose to end our interaction with respect.

Governing rules of how we are expected to interact with one another help us all live with some order.  We have attempted to assign rules of social behavior based on principles of etiquette. Read a good Emily Post article lately?

We have golden rules that are taught in almost every religion.  Treat others as you want to be treated yourself.  We have rules surrounding global conflicts, we have rules of order for meetings and legal proceedings, we have rules we follow in business and school.  We also have assumed rules for how we can politely and respectfully engage each other.  We have even gone so far as to teach these principles in schools, churches and other institutions.  Applying them is when it really counts!

Thank you. Please. You’re Welcome. Going beyond the rehearsed pleasantries, we also have defined ways of showing appreciation and gratitude. I understand. I appreciate your help. I am grateful. Very civil ways to engage with each other.

Recently, I was at a service counter and the person asked me, “How are you today?”  I replied, “Great! How are you?” There was no response.  Then he stopped and starred at me for a good 20 seconds.  He said, “No one ever asks me how I am doing, so I am a little shocked.”  He was a young teenager, probably working his first or second job.  He had been properly trained to say the words.  No one finished his lessons in civility, that polite expression that says I really cared about how you are doing today.  Why? Every person he had asked never cared to respectfully ask him how he was doing.

As we look to speed up how we interact in real-time, access information in nanoseconds and connect with each other around the world, maybe we need to have some basic reviews of 21st century civility.  Thank you. You’re Welcome. Please. Good-Bye. Hello.  It is universal.  How are you? Can I help you? I appreciate your understanding. They all seem to have use around the world. Maybe if we continue to focus on what we all know is respectful we can accomplish more — together.

As our society enters into greater opportunities to engage with each other, look for more examples of respectful human interaction. Share these examples. Teach others. Respond to the question, how are you doing today.  Rudeness is ugly. We accomplish nothing when we are less than civil.  We don’t teach anyone.  We seem to not care.  Being right, only matters to you.  Being responsive, appreciative and polite matters to everyone.  If we start with respect, maybe we can have a good social relationship with everyone.  It’s worth a try.

Thanks for listening.  I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

Jamie Glass, Outsourced CMO and President of Artful Thinkers, a strategic sales and marketing consulting company and Sales & Marketing Services Managing Director at CKS Advisors

Manage Your Influencers for Optimal Results

Business TargetKey influencers play a critical role in every business. Decision makers are guarded and guided by inside and outside advisors and gatekeepers. How you manage your trusted advisors can help or harm your business.

Influencers know they have the power to change or compel action. It is the business leaders responsibility to validate and control the effect of influencers. Those who sit closest to authority and are granted permission to persuade, have a direct impact on your success. Do you know who is currently sitting at your table of influence?

In order to responsibly manage your influencers, take time to identify those that are in your inner circle and those effecting your judgement. Inside your business look at department heads, executives and even top revenue generators whose opinions impact your future. Who are your squeaky wheels? Are they helping you make better decisions for your business or slowing down how you operate?  Influencers can be carriers of good and bad advice, they may be motivated by selfishness. It is up to you to vet, challenge and manage your influencers for optimal results.

One way of evaluating an influencer is to ask them what they believe are your highest priorities. Are they up-to-date on your current business plans and growth strategies?  Do they know the profile of your most profitable customers?  If not, it is the perfect opportunity to align your thinking. Define and clarify what is most important to you and your business.  Let them know how they can help you.

To get the best results from your influencers, provide regular updates on business goals, initiatives, challenges and opportunities.  Acting as gatekeepers, key influencers can open doors to new ideas, solution providers and even make introductions to customers. They also have the ability to close doors.  As the final decision maker, you are ultimately responsible for those that make it through the “gate”.  Challenge those that have the authority inside your business to say no.  Know who they turned away and why.

Update your outside advisors quarterly about key initiatives and strategic objectives. These influencers, such as accountants, legal counsel, wealth managers, business consultants and top vendors are connected and often sources for essential referrals. They act as a conduit for information and potential services that can help you achieve your goals.  If your influencers know your interests, they can better serve you.

Know that influencers get things done. They effect change. They make things happen. You need to know who they are and leverage them for maximum impact to your business. Lead influencers to your expected outcomes. Manage them for the best results.

Jamie Glass, Outsourced CMO and President of Artful Thinkers, a strategic sales and marketing consulting company and Sales & Marketing Services Managing Director at CKS Advisors

Capitalize on the Dog Days of Summer

There is a constant drum beat in business circles that summers are difficult for getting anything done. There are a variety of excuses that justify this belief, including, “everyone is on vacation“, “people don’t work when kids are out of school“, “buyers are not engaged“, and of course “decision makers are unreachable“.

The hard reality is these excuses are self-fulling prophecies.  We are more wired, more connected, more engaged today.  Business is not done during the hottest months of the year because we assume we will get a no before we ask for the yes.

The facts prove people are working all summer.  Monthly average work week data shows that we work the same amount in the summer as we do all year round.  Decision makers average 49 hours per week.  We are more productive than ever.  So, why are you not capitalizing on the hottest months of the year?

The Dog Days of Summer are the best time of the year to build up prospects, qualify leads, refresh your marketing strategies and compete for mind share.  While everyone else falls into the excuse trap, you have an opportunity to make noise and get noticed.

Laying back until September to heat it up your marketing and selling efforts only pushes you into the most distracting time of the year.  Right after Labor Day, decision makers are budgeting for 2013 and events are abundant.  Daily sales calls peak and we are all flooded with competitors emails and advertisements trying to capture top of mind awareness.  Simply, your odds are much better to get noticed during the summer months.

Here are some suggestions on how to capitalize on the final dog days of summer:

1.  Reach out to current customers.  Estimates are that it is 7x less expensive to get business from a current customer than a new customer.  Update your current customers on your latest business activities and see if they are ready to buy more.

2.  Prospect for opportunities.  Run reports from your contact database to see who has not been reached in the past six months.  Put them on your priority contact list and create a campaign to heat up some buying interest.  Activity creates action.

3.  Build sales plans for key accounts.  Spend time to craft detailed sales plans for your top prospects.  Identify decision makers, buying cycles, budgets and key influencers at your top target companies.  Read up on their latest news and research their business to identify critical needs.  Use your sales plan to carefully craft the value proposition for doing business with you and then set the appointment to make the pitch.

4.  Promote, promote, promote.  As others hold back until after Labor Day, you have the opportunity to use public relations and social media campaigns to gain attention.  Take advantage of the slower news cycles and go for the headline.  Do whatever you can to get the attention of those seeking your products and services.

5.  Summer close out sales. There is a very strategic reason why Christmas in July sales dominate the dog days of summers.  Retail outlets and online storefronts are looking to clear out inventories.  The other reason is June, July and August sales are the time people will typically start shopping for school and holidays.  Consumers expect a deal.

6.  Refresh your sales and marketing strategies.  Review your strategic plans. What has worked, what is not working and what market opportunities exist for the business in the next 18 months. Tactics follow strategy.  If you are only doing the work and not evaluating the impact on your strategy, you could be heading in the wrong direction.

7.  Pivot now.  Review your key performance indicators and adjust if you are are going to miss your mark.  Making a change now can benefit you in the last quarter of the year.  Don’t wait, start executing your changes and new strategies to achieve your business goals this year.

It is time to heat it up!  You have fewer people competing for attention and business right now.  Take advantage of it.  People receive fewer emails, fewer calls, so use this as an opportunity to make a direct connection today and set the wheels in motion to capitalize this year.

Jamie Glass, Outsourced CMO and President of Artful Thinkers, a strategic sales and marketing consulting company and Sales & Marketing Services Managing Director at CKS Advisors

Questions Sales Candidates Ask that Should Stop the Interview

There are certain questions that should raise a red flag when you are interviewing sales candidates.  You are hiring a person who will be responsible for driving your business forward.

The sales person you offer the job is representing your brand, your company values and creates your business first impression.  This person is accountable for increasing revenues.  Know for certain, they will have a bottom-line impact on your business.  Positive or negative, the interview process is critical in making the best determination of the outcome.

There are questions and statements sales candidates make that are telltale of their priorities.  When you hear them, stop the interview, thank them for their time and move onto finding a better qualified candidate.  Your time is valuable and you need to find the best person for the job.

One red flag or alarming question is enough, no matter how many other green flag answers you were given during the interview process.  Avoid the energy of imaging “what if” or talking yourself into dismissing what you know was a clear indicator this candidate is not worthy of the job.  Don’t compromise!  Your business can’t afford a bad hire.

The biggest red flag is not having any questions prepared.  Ask everyone you interview, “What questions do you have for me?”  If the sales candidate responds that they do not have any questions, stop!  Any novice interviewee will have at least one or two questions prepared for any job interview.  This response tells you they have no interest in the job you are offering.  It also indicates they didn’t do any homework before the interview. Next.

Here are more red flag questions:

1.  “What opportunities are there for promotion?” We all love ambitious people.  The problem is that you are not hiring for a future promotion.  You need a person to do the job you have open right now.  This question may be a red flag that your candidate is more focused on telling others what to do, not doing the job themselves.  They may feel over-qualified.  They absolutely are telling you they are not interested in the current job opening.

2.  “How do I get leads?”  This is an indicator that the person may not like cold calling.  It is hard work.  There are some sales people that only perform well with nurtured, warm leads.  Your sales hire should be equally good at cold calling, as growing business with existing customers or well qualified leads.  No one really wants to take a job “dialing for dollars”; however, you have to hire someone that will do whatever it takes to find customers, including making a lot of cold calls.

3.  “What is my salary?” People who ask this question want security.  Sales is risky business, for the business owner and the new hire.  A green flag question from a qualified, competent sales candidate would be, “What is my quota and commission rate?”.  They might even ask you if there are caps on earnings and incentives for exceeding quota — even better.  When a person indicates they are hungry to earn more than what you project at 100% of their sales goals, that is a very good sign this person is used to winning.  A person that is asking about salary wants to know if they can live on the base pay.  Not good.

4.  “What are the hours and the vacation policy?” Sales is a do whatever it takes job.  If a person is worried about the hours they are working each day and when they get their first paid day off, they aren’t thinking about how much money they will make selling for you.  A green flag would be a question about how soon they can get into the office each morning.

5.  “Where will I be sitting?” Sales people should be able to perform anywhere they are located.  Whether they are in an office, cubicle, table or at home, good sales people will sit where they have access to a phone and computer.  This is a person that is not attentive to the most important qualifications needed for this position and they are wasting your time.

6.  “What qualifications are you looking for?” This is a red flag that the person did not prepare for the interview.  Researching the job and the company should provide indicators of what is important in this job. This is a sign the candidate may be looking for any job, no matter what you have to offer.  You need a qualified candidate that fills the job you have open now.  This question is also an indication that the sales candidate is not ready to make an assumptive close.  The assumption should be that they are qualified for the job and they do not need to be interviewing you for background information.

Making a hiring decision about a sales candidate is difficult.  You need to trust this person will take on the responsibility you give them to grow your business.  They must be accountable for delivering results.  They must be eager to learn and willing to do whatever it takes to win.  Most importantly, they need to be able to ask for the close and that means they need to ask you for the job!

Jamie Glass, Outsourced CMO and President of Artful Thinkers, a strategic sales and marketing consulting company and Sales & Marketing Services Managing Director at CKS Advisors

Competing is Winning the Gold

Pictures: Stuart Ruckman - The Australian

There will be a total of 302 gold medals awarded at The Games of the XXX Olympiad.  There are more than 10,500 athletes competing from 200 nations and territories.  Every four years we create an engaged global audience that together watches, cheers and celebrates the world’s best compete for gold.  Humans love competition.

The definition of compete is to strive consciously or unconsciously for an objective as in position, profit, or a prize (Merriam-Webster).  When we join forces to compete, we become one.  Competitors seeking a prize.  Competing to win.  That makes us all winners.

We look beyond borders and differences and we unify to revel in athleticism.  We encourage those competing to push harder, overcome challenges and fight to cross the finish line first.  We celebrate individuals, teams, countries and the world.

Some say showing up is success.  It takes more than showing up. It takes competition to engage us.  Why?  Competition motivates, inspires and rewards.  It drives us.  It excites us.  It makes our heart beat accelerate.  It is an experience.  Flags wave faster, people stand taller, crowds cheer louder and we watch more intensely when the competition heats up. Good competitions get everyone involved in celebrating success.  Showing up is just doing a job.  Competing is striving to win!  We want to be with the winners.

Have you created a competitive culture in your business?  Does everyone on your team compete to win?  Whether we are awarded gold medals, business awards, new contracts, customers or simply a thank you, the best motivator to drive us is competition.  To win in business, you need to compete.  When you compete internally and externally, you will be rewarded. You will win.

There are many ways to compete in business.  You can easily set up internal competitions to meet deadlines, achieve sales numbers, launch products faster, reach new levels of customer satisfaction, increase profits, grow your customer base, or decrease errors.  There are great financial gains awaiting through external competitions.  Winning new business contracts, opening new markets, reaching higher industry standards, increasing shareholder value, gaining on the competition for market share, all will reward your business and will help drive your team to strive for more.

The worst statement made to an investor is “We have no competition.”  Beyond the absurdity and audacity, is the fear that if you have no competition, you won’t be motivated to win.  Investors love to put money in businesses that are competing in a race to the finish line.  In the eyes of an investor, the finish line may be an exit with a 5 or 6 multiple return on investment.  What is your finish line?  You always have competition, inside and outside of your business.  You always compete.  We invest in those competing to win.

If 200 nations understand the value of competing to win the gold, what is stopping you from doing this in your business?  Competing is winning.  Cultures that compete, win.  Create a culture that embraces winning.  Teams win when they know the goals and they have leaders that encourage them to complete.  They will compete when they are rewarded for winning.

The Olympic spirit is not a myth.  It is a reality. It inspires us.  It is a feeling that touches us deep in our gut and makes us feel emotional about trying hard to achieve something far beyond the reach of most of us.  This same spirit has the power to unite millions from around the world to participate by simply watching others go for gold.  When they win, we win.  Every gold, silver and bronze medal for Team USA, feels like all Americans win!  Every country feels the same about their exceptional team of athletes.  That would make us all winners.  Worldwide winners!

Most people want to be a part of a culture that celebrates winning and achievement.  When is the last time your brought your team together to motivate them to compete. Provided an opportunity to win. When did you last recognize others and reward individuals, teams and the entire business for winning?

Now is the perfect time for you to inject more competition into your business, into your culture.  You can blame it on the Olympic spirit!

We won!

By Jamie Glass, CMO and President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director, Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

 

Ready to Hand Over the Keys to Your Business?

Who is Ready to Drive Your Business Forward?

Business owners can easily be consumed by the short term activities of day-to-day operations.  Sole focus on immediate outcomes exposes any business to long-term financial risks.

Every business leader needs to mitigate risks associated to being the one in charge.  The value of a business is built upon the sustainability of the operating plan, with or without it’s leader.  As an owner or CEO, have you asked yourself the “what if” question?  Are you fully prepared to hand over the keys to your business today?

You may have imagined that some day you will be transitioning your leadership to a partner, an investor, the next in line or even family member.  You may see your fabulous retirement life through the eyes of selling your business in multiples above your investment. In order to realize your dream, you need to spend time and commit resources to adequately prepare for a favorable transition. When? Now.

Succession planning is critical to an effective transition.  Achieving optimal outcomes in transitioning a sustainable business requires years of preparation.  How confident are you in handing over control of your business to your successors today?  A successful transition plan gives the new leaders a complete operating manual.  They need to be adequately prepared to operate the business day one.  They need to be able to take your business forward to protect your investment and to benefit your employees, stakeholders, customers and partners.

Some owners avoid planning for the end of the business because of the time it takes away from working “in” the business right now.   The lack of preparedness puts your business value at risk. It is never too early to prepare for an exit.  Whether you are a small owner-operated business, mid-market company or family-owned enterprise, you need a definitive succession plan.  It should be part of your standard business.

Here are some tips on how to start your succession planning:

1.  Document company processes and procedures.  Everyone is not replaceable. Unfortunately, when a person leaves the business they take institutional knowledge.  Key personnel that do not document their knowledge or share it with their direct reports, cost your business long-term and expose you to great risk.  This includes the owners and founders.  You can mitigate that risk by making sure every employee documents their processes and procedures.  Start with key roles.  This is not a job description, it is a “how to” operating manual for every role in your company.

2.  Review your wealth preservation strategies with your advisors.  Meet regularly with your personal and professional financial team members to analyze your current situation and review your short and long term goals.  Be “in the know” at all times of where your business stands financially.  Use strategy and growth advisors to help you pivot the business, so that you can exceed your goals.  Update your business evaluations annually.

3.  Build a culture of knowledge sharing.  Create internal social exchanges and information sharing networks.  Use your company meetings to have one department or key player provide a highlight of their role and what it means to the business.  Reward employees for creatives ways they educate others.  Commit one hour a week per employee for education and cross-training.

4.  Host quarterly strategy updates with key personnel. Spend time with your “next generation” of leaders to share business plans, KPIs, lessons learned and company strategies.  They are the future leaders of your business and they may be executing your business plan.  Keep no secrets.  Share your wealth of knowledge.  Sharing keeps people engaged and actively participating in achieving business goals.

5.  Reward excellence in execution.  Find opportunities to reward performance for those that take initiative and demonstrate they are prepared to lead.  A business full of up and coming leaders, results in sustainability.

Exit planning helps you increase the value of your business today and in the future.  Investors and bankers should ask to see your succession plan.  As you plan your beginning, you need to plan for the end.  Make your investment of time and energy pay off more than you imagined.  Plan today to realize a profitable, rewarding and fulfilling end.

Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

 

A Bad Sales Hire Can Crush a Small Business

The decision to bring a sales person into your business is the most important decision you make as a business owner. Financially, it can be very rewarding or it can be devastating to your bottom-line.  The reality is that your hiring decision can propel you to mega-success, crush your business or land you somewhere in the middle.

There is no absolute science in making good hiring decisions.  Know your associated real and opportunity costs of making a bad hire.  Calculate the risks of the person not working out before you sign the offer letter.  Will your business survive making a bad hire?  How soon will you need to pivot if performance is substandard?

Based on the financial risk assessment, you can qualify whether you should invest in a professional resource or hiring profile tool to reduce the risk.  In other words, decide if you will pay now or potentially pay later.

What else can you do to protect your long-term financial security as a business owner and make an informed decision about hiring a sales person?

Ask candidates questions related to sales activities.  Don’t focus on their industry knowledge.  Industry knowledge is trainable.  You don’t need a nurturer or relationships person.  You need a sales person that will ask for money!  It is the secret skill that will bring revenue in the door.  There are two types of sales people:  hunters and closers.  In the beginning, you will need someone who is good at both.  They will cold call, with or without leads, and they will ask for the close.  These are “rare birds”.  Ask questions about the candidates history with sales cycles, average size of deal, average daily cold calls, number of customers sold each year, and presentation-to-close ratios.  These are all indicators of past performance and predictors of future success.  When a resume lists awards for exceeding quota, that does not tell you what they sold in the past is going to translate.  You want to know what they did to exceed quota.  What activities made them successful?

Invest in training and sales support materials.  Basic training materials should be product feature and benefit lists, industry keyword definitions, product overviews, competitive analysis, market positioning statements and scripts of common objections and how to overcome them. Utilize your team of in-house experts to train your sales people.  Set up daily Q&A sessions with product engineers, marketers, customer service personnel and anyone else that touches the customer.  Share all the secrets, good and bad.  The more knowledge and access to experts the sales person has the better prepared they will be to overcome objections.  The first two weeks of any new sales hire should include at least two hours a day training and practice calls.

Set sales quotes and activities quotas. An experienced sales person may only close 1-2 deals per year, with an average deal size of $2 million.  You need to clearly outline your expectations and what you will inspect regarding number of calls, meetings, presentations, proposals and closes.  Assigning the closing numbers without understanding how many calls that might take will cost you severely.  You must know, for example, 500 calls or 20 face-to-face meetings may result in five closed deals at an average sale of $10,000.  If this doesn’t meet your expectations, adjust accordingly.  Then measure the number of calls to see if you are on pace each week.  Early indicators will provide you the opportunity to pivot quickly.

Know your exit strategy.  What is the maximum time you can invest in a bad hire?  The answer can not be zero, because every hire has inherent risk.  If it is 90 days, then have a very specific plan with measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can inspect every week.  You only have 13 weeks to determine if you will terminate employment or keep on staff.  Sales people are used to 90-day probationary periods.  You should have inspection points with planned exit strategies at 6 weeks, 90 days and 180 days.  Cut sooner and learn from your mistakes.  A year-long bad hire could close down your business if you are not well capitalized and depend on this new hire’s revenue to sustain your business.

Identify the characteristics that could be a threat or high risk to your business.  Character matters as much as sales skills.  You need to adequately assess the “fit” of this person in your business.  You are handing over the keys to your future.  Can you trust this person? Is this a person you would take with you to all your important meetings?  Does this person dream big?  Are they kind, friendly and positive?  Will your customers like this person?  If you can afford a hiring assessment by a professional, with tools that can define their character and skills, it will be worth the investment and potentially save you from making a big mistake.

Do your homework.  Never, ever skip reference checking.  Dig deep!  Ask community and business people that might know the person, look at their LinkedIn connections and recommendations.  Reference and background checks are as important as due diligence when buying a business.  You will be writing substantial checks to this person on a promise.  They will be creating your business first impression.  Reduce the risk by learning from other’s experience.  Again, it may be in your best interest to hire someone to do your reference checking to get a complete picture.

Finally, use your gut.  Do they represent you?  Your professional and personal instincts will serve you well.  A bad hire can scar you and make you timid in making a future decision.  Know that it can take four or five hires to find a rock star.  An early success in hiring a sales person is rare, so have a backup plan.

Sales people can make or break a business.  Know your upside and downside when hiring a sales person to promote your business.

Jamie Glass, CMO and President of Artful Thinkers.  Creative. Strategic. Results.

Who Makes the First Impression for Your Business?

Who Greets Your Potential Customers?

First impressions for your business are made by people that open doors, make cold calls, attend networking meetings and answer your phone.  They are delivered by your marketing communications like social media and websites.  How confident are you that your potential clients are greeted warmly and with a direct invitation to do business?

Years ago businesses paid someone to sit at a front lobby desk and answer every inbound call and greet every walk-in appointment.  The receptionist qualifications were measured by friendliness, service-orientation and attentive disposition.  The standard phone greeting of this time was “Thank you for calling, how can I help you?”

When is the last time were greeted this way?  Today we are often met with automated attendants and empty lobbies.  Some businesses have completely eliminated any dedicated space to a welcome station and filled it with another cubical. My impression is that first impressions are not a priority for this business.  The decision that customer experience may be too costly to employ a dedicated person, may be costing you business.

It is not difficult to think back to a bad first impression.  I recall three in the past weeks.  One top restaurant asked me to wait outside in 110 degrees because they did not open for four minutes, yet the door was unlocked.  Another restaurant hostess asked me to stand until my party arrived even though every table was empty.  A technology company, which had a sitting place upon entry, left me for 20 minutes while employees stared at me.  Not one person asked why I was there or if I needed help.  I remember all of these first impressions, vividly.

Noted in a recent New York Times article Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall, “Bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.” Sited from Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University in a journal article he co-authored in 2001, “Bad Is Stronger Than Good.”

How your employees are greeting the public, networking, making introductions, and opening doors for others is a direct reflection of hiring skills, company culture and leadership.  Business owners, CEOs and managers own the customer experience.  Every employee is responsible for making a positive first impression.  How are you reinforcing how positive first impressions are made in your business?

Customer experience is a financial decision in business, unless revenues are low on the priority list.  Reputation management is critical and costly.  A bad review is hard to overcome.  You can’t erase the Internet or someone’s memory.  People use others professional and personal experiences as a reason to buy or not buy. Bad experiences are viral, whether online, through social media, on sites that track reputations or by word-of-mouth.  Once word is out, it is permanent.  You own it!

Welcome!

Every experience starts with the greeting.  Take time to review how your potential and existing customers are greeted today.  This applies whether you are selling B2B or B2C, for every industry, in a building or online.  Use “secret shoppers” and have them rate how inviting, caring, and enthusiastic they were welcomed to do business with you.

Customer service is a pillar to good business.  Customer experience starts when the phone is picked up, the door is unlocked or a web site is visited.  We may not all have the luxury of hanging up a flashing “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign to greet everyone.  We do have the luxury to manage and train our messengers to provide an outstanding first impression.

Invest in your greeting.  Define, train, test and continually reinforce how you want to insure a positive first impression.  It your opportunity to create a long-term valuable relationship with your customer.

Jamie Glass, CMO and President of Artful Thinkers, a sales and marketing consulting company.

Arizona Capital and Business Growth Resources

Along with Artful Thinkers, there are many great organizations in Arizona that support innovators, startups, entrepreneurs within the established business community from early stage to exit.

This is an easy-to-use reference of various groups, associations and service providers in Arizona that help businesses with financing, strategy, venture development, M&A, growth and mentoring services and business networking.

Accelerators and Growth Advisors

Investment Bankers (FINRA Registered)

Angel Investor Groups

Venture Capital Sources and Funds

Collaborative and Shared Work Space

Associations and Support

Pitch Contests & Competitions for Capital

Chambers of Commerce

Additional Resources:
This list was first published in 2012.  If you know of an organization that fits into the categories above, you can add the reference in a comment or email jamieglass8@gmail.com.

This list is maintained by Jamie Glass, CMO + President of Artful Thinkers.

Market to Your Strengths

Market to Your Strengths

Recently at an entrepreneur camp for high school students, I worked with several teams in preparing a 3 minute pitch to sell their inventions and innovations to a panel of professionals.  My focus was to help these young entrepreneurs identify their business and product strengths so they could convincingly sell us on their idea in a very short amount of time — much like the real world.

I shared my experience in managing sales teams and evaluating investor presentations about what works and what does not work in pitching.  I let them know that even the most seasoned professionals can mistakenly focus on the “hot” features without direct alignment to what makes you stand out against your competition.

My lesson, you must compete for mind share before you get market share. Whether selling your idea, your services, your business or just you, always use your valuable marketing resources to promote what makes you better than the rest — your strengths!

Have you identified your market strengths?  Recently? And once you found your strengths, have you effectively managed and built them up in your marketing?

The easiest tool to define your strengths is the simple risk assessment that every marketing plan must include — SWOT Analysis.  No matter the size of your business, you must know your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  

Complete a SWOT Analysis to Find Your Strengths

If you have already completed a SWOT analysis on your company, product or service, dust it off and review it today.  Is it still accurate?  Hopefully you have evolved!  Your strengths are not set in stone.  They are dynamic based on competition, economics, innovation, market growth or decline and shifting attitudes toward your business and products from consumers and employees.

If you have not completed a SWOT Analysis, take out a piece of paper now. Draw four boxes and label them: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  In each box, list out what you currently say, believe or understand as your strengths and your weaknesses, the opportunities you see where you can grow and threats in your business to achieving your goals.

This initial SWOT Analysis is meant to be quick; however, a thorough strategic marketing plan will take more time and resources for a complete evaluation.  You will ultimately want an assessment that has multiple inputs including employees, executives, vendors, partners and current, potential and lost customers.

A SWOT analysis is useful to make sure you are current with messaging on how you are perceived and understood in the market place.  It is a business planning tool that should be evaluated quarterly to make sure market opportunities are seized and threats are assessed and mitigated.

The next step is to audit your current marketing programs and communications to see how effective you are in defining your strengths.  Are you placing all your strengths on the first page, first paragraph, above the fold and in your elevator pitch?  Review your marketing tactics to see how well you represent your strengths. Start your assessment with:

1.  Branding – Do you clearly communicate and represent your strengths in the essence of your brand and your identity?

2.  Communications – Do you detail your strengths in all your marketing communications, including sales presentations, collateral and on your web site?

3.  Sales – Can your sales representatives and customer-facing employees recite your top five strengths?  Where are they detailed in your standard sales presentation?

4.  Public and Analyst Relations – Does your boiler “About Us” include your marketing strengths?  Are you able to weave your strengths into every new release?

5.  Social Media – How often do you remind your fans and followers about your strengths?  Are they listed in your social profiles?  How many weekly posts include mention of your strengths?

In order to create demand and achieve anticipated growth, you need to market to your strengths. Make sure you are consistent, clear and current in your messaging and get the word out why you are better than all the rest.

What is Your Marketing Meme?

Will Your Meme Go Viral?

A meme (pronounced meem) is a packet of social information.  Marketing memes are word associations, beyond a tag line or slogan, that take complex concepts or ideas and make them simple and easy to communicate.

A meme is defined in Wikipedia as “a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.”

Effective memes are potent messaging serums, dripped out over time that enter into our brains and stick. Think of your marketing meme as your viral message.  Who you represent, what you do and what you offer, tightly packaged into one memorable soundbite.

Memes are easy to replicate.  Good memes always communicate value and benefit.  It is the message you want propagated all over the world about you and your business.

I first learned about crafting memes from a Fortune 500 marketing expert who spent his time coaching several solopreneurs on how to market their own businesses.  To some, it may seem odd that an experienced marketing executive would spend weeks learning how to market themselves.  Admittedly, I was resistant at first. After all, I have been responsible for marketing multiple million dollar business for years.

Attitude and all, I threw myself into doing something I was avoiding — marketing me! It is hard to market yourself, let alone dedicate the time required to build your own marketing communications plan.  Truthfully, I needed the discipline and focus to develop my own meme. In the end, besides a business card, it was the best marketing investment I made in starting my own business.

An effective marketing meme is a single powerful statement that communicates the benefits of your products and services.  Here are some simple steps to help you craft an effective marketing meme:

1.  In one sentence, write down what you do for your customers.

2.  Next sentence describe the value you provide to your customers.

3.  Outline the problems you solve in the last sentence.

4.  Now start cutting! Combine the three sentences into one very simple, benefit-oriented sentence.  Answer who, what and why it matters in a single sentence.

5.  Test your meme with the following questions:  Can you repeat that sentence over and over again?  It is easy to remember?  Will your meme invite people to want to know more?

Memes are clear value propositions that roll off the tip of your tongue at every introduction.  An effective meme is not a slogan or headline. It is not an elevator pitch.  You rarely get 30 to 60 seconds to cite a rehearsed sales pitch.  It needs to be tight, concise and memorable.

Use your Meme Everywhere

Memes create lasting impressions. They are the words people will carry with them and tell others about you and your business.  Marketers often suggest that it takes seven times before a message really sticks.  It’s called the Rule of Seven. Will your meme be repeated by every person you tell seven times or more?  If so, then you have truly created an effective, viral marketing meme!

Invest time in creating your meme and start sharing it with world.  Repeat it often, in presentations, in meetings, on the web. Make sure your meme is a simple message that leaves us wanting more.

Special Note:  This post is dedicated to my friend and marketing mentor John Coyne.  He patiently worked with me to create my Artful Thinkers meme. His influence and teachings are still making an impact. He will always have a lasting impression. RIP my friend.

New York City Loves a Parade and Me Too

NYC ticker tape parade honoring John Glenn on March 1, 1962. Credit: Associated Press.

Three visits in a row to New York City and I found myself smack dab in the middle of a parade.  Two of the parades included an appearance by Victor Cruz, lucky me.  None of my trips to The Big Apple were planned around the parades, it just so happened they found me walking to business meetings and roaming around the City that Never Sleeps during a family get-away.

Beyond Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the well known St. Patrick’s Parade, it is obvious to me that New York City loves a lot of parading! And why not? Costumes, sparkle, horns blaring, screaming, loud music, kids everywhere, dancing and marching bands consuming the streets.  It makes you walk a little faster and your heart beat a little stronger. It makes you smile.

Parades bring thousands, or millions if you are in New York City, outdoors to cheer on traditions, heroes, schools, sports teams, celebrities and even politicians.  Parades make you feel good.

I had no affiliation with any of the parades that took place during my recent visits to New York City.  One was for veterans, another for the NFL Super Bowl XLII champs and the latest was the NYC National Puerto Rican Day Parade.  Regardless the event, I was welcome.  Walking along the route, applauding and waving back to those that marched along, it was me and the parade.  It was revelry, cheering the winners and heroes while kids waved their flags with pride. You can’t help but smile.

Parades are uniting.  Parades are parties where everyone is invited.  You are among celebrants of every demographic.  We need more parades. It is one of the few times that blocking off streets and creating congestion seems like a great idea for the community and city dwellers.

Imagine if we had more parades.  More reasons to gather in the streets and celebrate.  Gathering for more than our heritages, causes and associations.  What if we simply gathered in our streets not in protest but to feel good, cheer each other on and unite as one.  I am sure we could find many reasons to have a parade.

Daniel Webster in Central Park

It seemed only appropriate as my family walked through New York Central Park and the parade noise filtered in through the trees, we happened along a statue of Daniel Webster.  The inscription said, “Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable.”   Yes, liberty to walk free with each other, united together. No discrimination.  Only love and respect.

We need to gather more in celebration and in appreciation.  We need more reasons for kids to cheer, laugh, scream and wave.  New York City loves parades and so should we all.  We need more parades!  I can only hope my next visit to New York City includes another parade.

I love a parade,the tramping of feet,
I love every beat I hear of a drum.
I love a parade, when I hear a band
I just want to stand and cheer as they come.
That rat-a tat-tat, the blare of a horn.
That rat-a tat-tat, a bright uniform;
The sight of a drill will give me a thrill,
I thrill at the skill of everything military.
I love a parade, a handful of vets,
A line of cadets or any brigade,
For I love a parade.  — Arden

5 Essential Topics for a Winning Sales Proposal

Selection of Offerings

A sales proposal is your persuasive argument as to why the client must choose you now to solve their problem.  Proposals need to be positively articulated with a sense of urgency and demonstrate how the client wins.

Sales people and consultants often neglect the most important part of a sales proposal, the statement of why the client needs to buy now.  I have watched presentation after presentation where sales people talk about themselves, their company and their amazing, fantastic, one-of-a-kind solution.  It’s the feature marathon and often leaves you falling asleep or gasping for any air left in the room.

Successful sales proposals must always begin with a conversation about the client.  Those inclined to start talking about themselves before the customer are likely to fail. Why? Customers want to talk about their issues, not you!

Whether you plan to present your proposal in writing, in person or through an online presentation, every sales proposal must include the following five essential topics in this order:

1. Statement of Understanding
2. Needs Analysis
3. Recommendation
4. Pricing and Terms
5. Next Steps

The Statement of Understanding is your opportunity to showcase the research you have done prior to presenting to the client.  Always start your proposal with what you learned about the client.  Gather facts about the client from their web site, annual report or press release boiler statements, along with facts gathered in talking to the prospect.  Make it brief and affirm that you have done your homework.

Be sure to include one or two sentences about the area of business you are targeting for your proposal.  If this is a finance proposal, talk about the financial situation.  If it is a technology proposal, talk about the functions in the company that will be impacted by your solution. The Statement of Understanding is a confirmation.  It should be no more than one or two paragraphs (one slide) about your knowledge of the client.

Needs Analysis details all the work you have done to qualify the prospect.  Here is where you make your case as to why the company needs your services or products.  Whether you are a single person selling advisory services or a Fortune 500 company sales executive, you must define why the client needs YOU based on their needs.

Warning!  Do not use the needs analysis section to sell.  It is a series of facts of why they need your help.  Think of it as your presentation of due diligence. In conclusion of your detailed needs analysis, summarize the needs in bullet form to easily reference again when the buyer reviews your proposal.

The Recommendation portion of the proposal is where you will highlight the features AND benefits of your offering.  Now you can start selling. The same order that you outlined the needs of the client, is the order to present your recommendation.

Often sales people believe this is the most important part of the proposal; whereas, the buyer will still be stuck on their problems outlined in needs analysis.  This is why recommendation follows understanding and needs analysis, clearly stating the problem you are solving!  It is imperative to be clear and to the point in your recommendation.  Use key features and benefits in one or two sentences – outline format is best.  Don’t create a sales whitepaper on your product.

Provide supplemental collateral to the buyer separate from the proposal if more product information is necessary in making the final decision.  Hopefully, you covered product reviews and demonstrations earlier in the sales cycle before delivering a proposal.

Remember, PROPOSALS DO NOT SELL.  Proposals are affirmation to conversations you had prior in qualifying the client and getting agreement that you can solve their problem.  If you are using your proposal to unveil your services or product features and benefits, you have not qualified your buyer.  You will likely fail.

Now on to Pricing and Terms.  This should be one page (one slide).  Outline your pricing based on your recommendation.  If there are specific terms to the agreement, add them to this area of the presentation.  Terms and conditions should include time of agreement, dates for implementation, and milestones or KPIs to assess progress.  Avoid the dreaded commission breath when talking money by making it all about you.  Be steady, assertive and remember it is about the customer winning!

The assumptive closer will always conclude a proposal with the list of Next Steps.  Number the steps and make them fewer than five so you do not overwhelm the buyer with the fact their decision will require more work.  Be succinct and use action words.  The list should show the commitment by you, the seller, and the expectations of the buyer.

The Customer Bites on Your Proposal

Selling is creating a story that you can tell convincingly face-to-face, in writing or over the phone that addresses a customer need followed by an effective recommendation. Your sales proposal needs to be enticing and compelling to get the buyer to bite.  Organized proposals that put the customer first, will get more attention than those that solely focus on what you are selling.  When you focus on the buyer, you are a problem solver.  People like people who help them!

Life Lessons Learned at the Zoo

Life at the Zoo

A rare reprieve of relentless Arizona summer temperatures provided a great day to visit The Phoenix Zoo.  Walking through all the exhibits inspired me to think about life lessons you can learn at the zoo.

First, I learned my brilliant idea of mixing with animals is not unique. Every year 175 million people visit 224 accredited zoos and aquariums in the United States, according to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).

Second, getting close to elephants, sharks and wolves has an important financial impact.  The AZA reported in 2011 that zoos and aquariums contributed $16 billion to the US economy and employed more than 142,000 people.

Further observations and life lessons from my day at the zoo:

  • Diversity Exists at the Zoo – Hundreds of species existing together – lions and tigers, oh my!  From reptiles to some of the largest mammals that roam our planet, the zoo is truly diverse.  We are able to see a harmonious place where differences are appreciated and celebrated.  We seek out and marvel at all the distinct unlikeness between varieties of snakes, birds, monkeys and bears.  It is also worth noting that there is great diversity in the people that visit the zoo, all together and at the same time. Travelers from all over the world, all cultures and ethnicity enjoy visiting the zoo — a true melting pot.
  • Community Matters at the Zoo – Most zoos survive with a community of volunteers and public and private donations.  Zoos need communities to promote and participate in supporting the upkeep and daily maintenance.  It is expensive to entertain and educate us.  Zoos need all of us as much as we need them.  Make it a priority to visit your local zoo at least one time a year, better yet become a zoo member!
  • Visiting the Zoo is Healthy – It is outdoors and requires you to get moving!  Most zoos require you to walk great distances to see all the exhibits. Zoos definitely beat out a walk inside the mall and will probably save you money.  As fact, in 2009 a Animal Science Journal study reported zoo visitors had a drop in blood pressure when they left the zoo and felt they had an improved quality of life.
  • The Zoo is Ageless – As marketers and business leaders continually look for ways to segment their target audience, the zoo appeals to all ages!  From babies to seniors, the zoo brings smiles to the young and young at heart.  Families, teens, dating couples, grand parents and small children wander the paths together.  Screaming and crying is expected and crowds draw more people to get a glimpse.  There are no limits at the zoo.
  • Curiosity can Conquer Fear – Imagine starring a tiger in the eye or feeding a sting ray.  Only at the zoo can we conquer our fears so easily.  We can watch the spiders and snakes up close and glare at the wolves as they roam a few feet in front of us.  The zoo allows us to use our curiosity as a way to overcome the fear of the unknown.  Children (and adults) can ride a camel and shake hands with a tree monkey.  Interaction creates an opportunity to learn.  The more we know, the less we fear.
Zebras at the Zoo

As you think about a way to support your local community, go for a long walk and tap into your adventurous side to explore the unknown, I suggest there is no better place to do it all than the zoo!

“We all have a fear of the unknown what one does with that fear will make all the difference in the world.” – Lillian Russell

Flying as a Solopreneur

The Flying Solopreneur – Life as the Independent Consultant

Your mind is a beautiful thing, so don’t waste it.  Put it to use as a business.  All of your collective experience gained through enterprise successes and failures can be commercialized into a service business, if you are willing to fly solo.

“Solopreneurs” is the trending word for self-employed entrepreneurs, also known as independent consultants.  On the networking circuit, they are called “single shingles”.  Solopreneur means the business is you! Your commodity is available time.

Business professionals worthy of being hired to fill a gap in an organization based on skill, knowledge and experience, should be open to the opportunity that multiple businesses may benefit and pay for that expertise.

The first step to determining if you are a good candidate to be a solopreneur is to convert your resume into a list of “product” features.  Once you have a good product description, then you need to determine if there is a market for what you are selling. In other words, will businesses pay for your time and the benefits you can provide?

As a solopreneur, you can save time and money by first drumming up attention from those that have witnessed your expertise in action.  Reach out to test your market viability through your network. Using the standard sales technique of asking for a referral, let people know you are open for business and ask your network to share your availability with others.  You may further extend your marketing message by offering referral fees to groups, partners and business associates that help you retain clients.

As a solopreneur, make sure your professionalism is demonstrated in your communications and social profiles.  Have a business card and professional web site that details your “product” and services. Create a professional business email account and secure your social site URLs, if you are going to brand your business beyond your name.

Working independently requires discipline and good time management.  You have to work on your business every day. Solopreneurs typically spend 20-30% of their time working on their business, leaving only 70% of the day working for paying clients.  Expect to dedicate at least three hours a day to marketing, meetings, invoicing and selling your services.

If you choose to be a solopreneur, build an advisory group of successful solopreneurs with expertise different than yours.  Meet once a month to share industry information and advice on how to best manage your business.  As a benefit, they may extend your reach by talking about you to their clients and network.  They should be your best unpaid marketers!

Solopreneurs succeed when they can fill a day of hard work, sharing knowledge and expertise and producing results for those that pay for that mindshare.  I am proud and excited to be flying solo as Artful Thinkers, it is truly an adventure.

Be not simply good – be good for something.” Henry David Thoreau

What Does the Brand of YOU Represent?

Winning in the Branding of YOU

Branding is an art and science for marketers.  They blend the key attributes of a product, service or company and position them to appeal to a consumer.

Using scientific research, data and analytics, the brand marketer artfully crafts visual and written communications targeting emotions and logic of the intended audience.  The ultimate goal is to drive to an action, such as buy or like me.

How does this relate to the branding of YOU?  We are all a brand.

Seth Godin defines a brand as “…the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” 

It is how we present ourselves, talk about ourselves and how we are remembered by others.  Branding applies to all aspects of life, professional and personal.  It is the first and last impression of YOU.

If every encounter in life was a personal moment for YOU to brand yourself, what are the words and actions that repeatedly represent YOU?  More importantly, would you want everyone to repeat them over and over again?  Will you be remembered as “Have it your way” (Burger King) or “I’m lovin’ it” (McDonalds) or “Avoid the Noid” (Domino’s Pizza)?

Professional branding is critical for your career.  The words that others use to describe you, are your brand.  You own it.  It may be a definition that comes from a collection of interactions or a single opportunity you had to gain respect and credibility in a brief encounter.

There are several ways for you to represent the brand of YOU.

1.  Introduction.  This is your 90 seconds at a shot of fame.  Whatever comes out of your mouth or you share in an email, is your opportunity to make your brand pitch.  It is the firm handshake opportunity.  Face-to-face, you have an opportunity to say with confidence who you are, what you do and what you represent.  It is the YOU moment.  In email, it is your invitation to draw someone in to know and learn more.  It should be short, to the point and always conclude with a call to action.  Think of it as your 140 character tweet about YOU.

2.  Social Media.  What you post on the Internet is your brand.  And, it does live forever.  It is how you are represented on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, blogs, and so on.  In other words, the brand of YOU is everywhere you put a comment, post or uploaded something to the world wide web!  Before you hit send or enter, think how it represents YOU.

3.  Your CV.  A curriculum vitae (CV) provides a summary of YOU by experience and skills.  It is your brand summary.  Your CV should clearly articulate your strengths.  It is the summary on your LinkedIn profile.

4.  The YOU Meme.  The one way to control your brand is to have a practiced “meme”.

A meme is an idea that behaves like a virus–that moves through a population, taking hold in each person it infects.” – Malcolm Gladwell.

Your branding meme is what others take with them and tell others, over and over again.  It is your “viral” message.  A meme should delivered in 60-90 seconds and cover all the unique characteristics that you want others to remember about YOU.

The creation, care and management of the brand of YOU is very important. It has tremendous monetary value.  You are your best brand PR agent, you are the one to spread the word about YOU. The impression you make in the marketplace will confirm YOU are a good “buy” or confirm why people have no interest in buying what you are selling!  How others talk about YOU will affirm what YOU represent.

Take time to think about the qualities of YOU and what YOU represent, then how YOU can position this to others to create actions or get results.  Rehearse your meme.

Like You
Like the Brand of YOU

You can always improve on your brand; however, reputation management is a costly proposition if you have a damaged brand.  Even a lot of money can’t always repair a brand.  We all like brands that represent qualities that are good and positive. Be authentic, truthful and confident.  Make sure that your brand represents the real YOU.

Best Networkers Go Where Others Won’t Go

Yesterday I met with a successful executive coach who is starting to explore opportunities of expanding her business. She was sent to me by a trusted colleague and notable networking expert.  The typical goal of these meetings are to learn about our respective businesses and then make introductions or provide advice on how to reach new clients.  It’s the life of an independent business owner and consultant.

One of the questions I always ask people looking to develop more business is “who owns your customer?”. Often there is pause. Yes, I want to know who owns the relationship with your customer, not who is your customer. The reason I ask this question is to identify the strongest influencers of those potential new customers.  In my experience, it is the shortest path to multiple buyers.

An influencer provides reach and accelerates your ability to grow market share.  Research suggests that we “buy” when we are influenced by someone we trust.  In fact, ninety percent of consumers surveyed in a 2009 Nielsen Survey said they trust recommendations from people they know.

This is not only applicable in retail situations or online recommendations, but also in business services as well. The business community often gives their business to those that come through their trusted network of peers or with whom they have a past relationship. Why? It eliminates the vetting and testing. In the old fashioned sales vernacular, it saves time and money.

Here are a few recommended steps to reaching your influencer:

1.  Identify your influencer, ask yourself who “owns” your customer.

2.  Research your influencer.  Where do they meet?  Who is in their network?  Who are their customers?  What events do they attend?  What association and industry groups do they belong to?

3.  Start following. Not literally stalking of course, but follow companies and connections in LinkedIn, through social media channels like Twitter, Facebook Fan Pages and Google+.  What are they talking about?

4.  Go to events where they gather and start building your circle of influence.

The biggest mistake I see others make in networking to find business is they go to where their friends and competitors go. For example, I am probably less likely to get business at another marketing event, as opposed to hanging out at a physicians conference or speaking at a non-profit event about advisory boards. My competitors do not go to these events, or at least very few do. I get more time to interact.  I can learn more about their needs in a particular industry or market vertical.  More importantly, I can start to build a network of influencers face-to-face.

How do I get those in the room that have nothing in common with me enter into a trusted relationship? I start by listening.  I then offer to make introductions to my trusted network, when there is a good match. I share my knowledge to see where we have similar business interests, like expanding markets, growing revenues.  Sometimes I offer to participate in events as a speaker on mutually defined topics of interest. Finally, I look for ways I can help them achieve their business goals and give them a “sample” of what I have to offer at no charge.

The saying, nothing ventured nothing gained seems to work well in the world of networking for business.  Sole proprietors and consultants have little time to work on their business, as they are the business.  You need to be your own best PR agent and maximize your limited selling time effectively. If you are competing for air time in a room of people that look and talk just like you, that is an educational or skill expanding event. Learn about your craft and further your expertise.  Don’t expect to get customers at these events.

When you want to network for business, go where you expect to see the least amount of your competition. The fewer people that are “talking just like you” that are in the room, the better chance you have to find business. You also create more awareness about your services because you are not a peer. You have more “meme” time. That will drive curiosity, and that opens a door to “sell yourself”.

Venture Out and Be DifferentNetworking is a skill.  Before you say no or turn away from the idea of going to a meeting or speaking at an event of complete strangers, realize that this is where business starts.  Venture out.  Be different. Go where others won’t go.

The Transition Queen

Next Exit to the Future

Transitioning has become a way of life for many career professionals. This is especially true if you target leadership roles and consulting opportunities in the land of start-ups and working with entrepreneurs.

Some of the negatives of transitioning are summed up in lack of financial security, less control of outcomes and a life full of constant change for you and your loved ones.

The positives of transitions are the experience gained, the continuous learning from success and failures and of course the valuable connections and colleagues who become life-long partners in your professional journey.

For me, transitioning is what I expect and what I know.  It is my way of life.

Coming out of college, it was always suggested that you find a “good” job and stick with it. You ride the elevator up to the top, upgrading your positions and taking on more responsibilities along the way. There are many people that like that steady climb or even like to take a job and find sanctuary in the stability of staying put.

I soon learned that riding on the same elevator for very long did not provide me a lot of challenge and was difficult for a pure opportunist.  My ascent to leadership was early in my career.  I was fortunate.  It was my belief the more responsibility you gained riding up the chain of command, the more commitment you had to affect change, push for progress and even disrupt the “norms” of cultural beliefs and thinking.

I also learned that if you push too hard for improvements or change, you might soon find a transition in your near future.  It is disruptive and challenging to businesses, big and small.

Why have I anointed myself the Transition Queen? It is my career path and my journey.  It is also my value proposition.  I have seen, experienced and learned more through multiple transitions of which most people never see in a lifetime.  Transitions from mergers, transitions from completing multiple C-level consulting projects as a business owner and transitions in roles that hit the proverbial end of the road for me — I have experienced them all.

The first decade of my transitions were emotional and met with uncertainty. Today, I wear my transitions as badges of honor. I get to do more, learn more, meet more people, find new ways to make a difference. I realize now that transitions are opportunities to grow and face new challenges.

My honorary Transition Queen title is worthy of the rich experience and expertise gained along the way. Working in multiple industries, driving change in big and small organizations and finding solutions to meet consumer and business needs are immeasurable when collectively stored in one person.

Stacking Up Experience and Expertise

My problem solving skills are keener, my view of what can be done is brighter. I am confident I can help.  I am certain more can be done.  I have worn multiple leadership hats and I know there is always a similar process and methodology that can be applied to increase market share, grow revenues, commercialize products and create solid infrastructure.  

I relish the transition.  I seek it and sometimes even push for it to happen, or as I say to achieve my “self-fulfilling prophecy” to move on.  My ability to help others move faster and achieve more is my driver.  A motivator.  It is my life blood.  Change yes, change now, absolutely.  In the end, I have come to accept I am The Transition Queen.  

Now, on to the next big thing!

Grandma and Her Collections

Cable Car Turntable, San Francisco, California

Grandma Elbertine, who we called “Bertie”, was a fine collector of ordinary things. From clothes to matchbooks, she had boxes and closets full of eras gone by. Each collection gave a different “window to the world” and also showed off a bit of her creativity and sense of nostalgia.

Her bedroom bureaus were full of jewelry sets and her closets stuffed with matching shoes, purses and hats. Everything she wore was completely coordinated, another personal charm.  Growing up I spent many hours looking at her precious fashion collections, some of which dated back to the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. She loved to unpack small treasures put away for special occasions.  I would try things on under her careful watch.  I even dared to ask to borrow a fur collar or pillbox hat for a special night out with the strict requirement to return it the next week.  I quickly learned her accessories were a big standout at the discotheque in the late 70’s.

She was her own fashionista and she is still my vintage idol. Beyond her fashions, she had huge collections of middle-America stuff like colored glassware, silver spoons, wall plates, dolls, lace and even buttons. She kept magazines for decades, old toys and drawers of Avon lipstick and perfume samples.  She was a collection pro!

I loved Grandma’s sense of rich style, all which she acquired on department store wages and a little allowance from Grandpa.  From the time when I was a teenager, I have nestled inside me the love for things that remind me of her, from cat eye glasses to broaches.  My soul is stuck in generations past, most of which I only lived through Grandma Bertie and her collectibles.

After she passed, I was given a few of her collectibles by my mom.  I cherish them all.  One of the many Grandma Bertie collections was postcards that spanned travels and vacations across many decades.  They provide another view of the world she experienced. I thought I would share a small sample of them.  It was hard to choose from the hundred postcards I have in a sitting in glass bowl.  Here are a few I thought I would share today.

Postmarked from McClellan AFB, CA October 7 1968 from Lilly & Aunt Lola
Titled: A Little Apache Papoose and His Grandma
Signed from Mother on February 2, 1959
The Beautiful Moana Hotel on the Beach at Waikiki - 50's
Seal Rocks, San Francisco, California, the Cliff House
Chittenden Bridge and Mt. Washburn, Yellowstone National Park - Copyright 1935 by Haynes
Liberace Performing at the Nugget in Reno 1967
Postcard Sent October 4 1967 with 4 cent stamp.

Suspicious? My Experience of Being Profiled in Florida

As the fight for justice continues in the Trayvon Martin killing, I am reminded of my personal experience of being profiled.  I share this story knowing that this happened to me only one time in my life, while others experience this every day. My experience didn’t result in a tragedy, but it did enlighten me to what it is like to be targeted as suspicious.

I was in Miami on vacation with friends. We were riding in a rental car, a new Cadillac Seville.  We flew in that day from Arizona. It was about 1AM and we were returning from a night out, where we had a great dinner in South Beach and then stopped at a hoppin’ Miami night club. We were sober but tired from dancing.  Not one of us drink, so it was just a matter of getting back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep before an early morning golf game.

Riding back to our 4-Star hotel, I said to my friend Lloyd, who was driving, “Check out that cop car parked on the other side of the road. He is missing a headlight. Who will pull him over?” Next thing I knew, we were being pulled over.  Stunned, I thought now that’s strange.

Then, I experienced the unthinkable as a 39-year-old white woman – blatant racial profiling.  I was a victim of suspicion by association.  I was riding passenger in a new car with two black men.  My two friends were profiled.  I became witness to freedom, justice and liberty for some, but definitely not all.  Not for my friends that night.

It was a police truck that had a service dog in the back with one working headlight, no less. We immediately stopped. Lloyd unrolled his window. “Yes, officer? What did we do?” Immediately, the officer took a hostile tone. “I don’t have to tell you. Give me your driver licenses?”  Lloyd asked, “Everyone?” The cop said, “Yes!”  Again, Lloyd asks, “Why did you turn around and pull us over?”  The cop said, “I didn’t flip around.  I was following you and I don’t need to tell you anything.”

I thought to myself, why would he lie?  The police officer ignored any other questions and kept looking at our license then walked to the back of our rental car.

There were three people in our car. I was in the front passenger seat. Lloyd was driving and our friend was in the back. I thought it was really strange that we had to all give our licenses. I watched him in my visor mirror as he stood behind our car.  He had our licenses in hand and was smelling each of them.

He returned to the front driver’s window, standing far away.  I asked, “Why are you smelling our licenses?” I knew he was trying to see if it smelled like drugs.  He said his nose itched!  It was then I knew this was more than a traffic stop.

Another officer then arrived at the scene. He was hispanic. He told my friend Lloyd, “Man, you are talking too loud. You are making him nervous.  I’m used to black people talking loud, but you are scaring the other officer.” What did I just hear? Now my heart is racing.

The officer then said, “Please get out of the car.” We all proceeded to get out of the car and then I saw the police dog being unloaded from the back of the truck. I am still somewhat shocked and even more angered now, so I followed the cop and the dog as he opened our trunk of the rental car and walked around the car. I am not sure why he let me follow him.  I really thought he might throw something in the car.  It did kind of seem like a bad cop movie.  I was really frightened.  My two friends stood quietly on the curb.

Two more police officer cars arrived on the scene. I started asking for an explanation. “What is going on?” The officer in charge took us aside and said to us, “You see, there was a gray Cadillac in the county next to ours that was involved in a drive-by shooting. It was a black guy with dreads driving.”

My angered response, “Who has dreads in this car? I am white. Our Cadillac is golden brown. And these two black men are completely bald! So, again why were we pulled over? Why was our car just searched?”

The officer said, “Oh, he didn’t understand the police radio call.  He must of been confused.” Are you kidding me? And then it was over.  We were told we could leave.

I never felt more fearful of my freedom.  My liberty.  I kept thinking my company and my family might not know that I was thrown in jail.  I could just disappear.  Is this how it happens?  I have traveled to many other countries and I felt like I was not in my own — the United States of America.  My heart was racing.

Sadly, I know this takes place all the time.  My friends told me so for years. I hear about it from co-workers, family and close friends that are African American.  They tell me it’s called “DWB – Driving While Black”.  Really!  It has a name!  My black friends would tell stories at work and dinner parties about being pulled over for no reason. They get stopped in the street for walking. They get asked where they are going when walking across a parking lot. Never ticketed, just stopped. They are followed in stores.  People lock doors around them, grab their purses on elevators.  I’ve seen it more than once.  They are suspicious.  One good friend was pulled over because his white godson was in the car with him.  The cop said he was just checking on the boy.  You see, my friend is black.  Sometimes we laugh, but it’s not funny. Not at all.

I left Miami shocked and scared.  And, really mad. This is what my friends experience all the time. No equal rights. Profiling. Assumed guilty of doing something. Suspicious! Until then, I had never thought about those that didn’t get to drive or walk away or boys like Trayvon.  Now I see and hear these real life stories and I’m heartbroken. Ten years later.  More now than ever.

Trayvon Martin Family Photo 2012

In the call for justice for Trayvon, I am saddened about parents who have to give civil rights reminders and lessons on how to behave in public to avoid suspicion.  Pull up your pants!  Take down your hoodie! Or what, you might be shot?

I was a senior executive at a global company. My friends were both in law enforcement. I told Lloyd to show the officer his badge when this was happening to us. He said, “No. I shouldn’t have to show him my badge. This shouldn’t happen in America.”  But it did.

They never knew they were in law enforcement until I turned to them all as we got in the car and said, “By the way, you just pulled over two law enforcement people from Arizona.” They just starred. No apology.  I knew in my heart, we were lucky.  We drove away.

I am sorry for all those that don’t get to drive or walk away. Those that are profiled every day. I am sorry for the suspicion, unnecessary and unfair. I know it happens to our young black men every day, our sons, and it only happened to me once. Maybe if more people experience what I experienced, they would understand the shame, danger and disgrace of stereotyping in this country. The unjust and unfair suspicion.  The anger.

Fight For JusticeThe killing of Trayvon because he was “up to no good” is a calling to all of us.  Let’s live up to what our country was founded on, “liberty and justice for all”.  Stop the suspicion. It’s not right. Stop it. Now. It’s time. And, let’s make sure we see justice.  A trial. That’s a start.

Talk is Not Cheap for Entrepreneurs

Planning, Strategizing, Ready to Change the World!

Countless CEO’s and leaders surround themselves with trusted advisers for counsel on a variety of business topics. Plunkett Research estimates $366 billion will have been spent in 2011 on global consulting, including HR, IT, strategy, operations management and business advisory services.

These billions are spent to generate new ideas, validate existing plans and provide strategic vision on solving problems and growing markets.  Most consultants dream of the engagement that is purely focused on strategy, 100% of the time creatively brainstorming on ways to be more, do more and get more.

Whiteboards filled with plans of grandeur, detailed reports, heart-thumping counseling sessions with these hired experts are alluring, especially to an entrepreneur hungry to take their business to the next level.  More revenue!  Less costs!  Decreases in human capital! Increases in productivity!

We have all seen the movie, hand-in-hand the strategist and business leader announce they have a better way. Bring in the team!  With the plan baked, the leader announces to his company, “I have a new idea and you will be responsible for the outcomes.”  The room is silent.

Why? A plan with little or no buy-in from the team sets off alarms.  The people who do the work know that every time they have to implement something new there are great costs.  Time. People. More time.  Did anyone ask for input from the doers?  Who is going to execute this new plan?  Who is going to be accountable?  It is probably not the consultant.

The first step to being a great strategic consultant is to build consensus within an organization.  Identify the problem, interview, validate, analyze and then present recommendations.  Buy-in is critical to achieve the best results. The most important person in every business is the person that actually does the work.  It is easier to get those that don’t do the work to agree with your plan.  What about the people who have to actually implement the program or new revolutionary way of doing business?  Consideration and respect for the doer’s role is essential.

When entrepreneurs take on counsel for one or more advisers, the amount of work that can be created for an organization and the doers can be overwhelming.  In fact, it can result in chaos, lost productivity, decreases in morale and lack of confidence in leadership.  You see, talk is not cheap.  Whiteboard ideas that go from chatter to “let’s do this” have a big cost to an organization.

Every time a consultant sells you on an idea, take the estimated “savings” and reduce by 75% and the estimated “costs” and double it.  It is not the intent of a strategic adviser to mislead his or her client, it is simply a factor of unknowns and assumptions made in the planning.

Leaders need to be able to evaluate every idea, every strategy and every problem solving plan that comes from outside consultants with great care and consideration to those that do the work.  Create consensus.  Ask the team to identify the risks and potential rewards.  Understand buy-in takes time and capital.

Business strategy consultants may be a very wise investment to spark innovation, challenge a new idea or share experiences to avoid pitfalls.  Define accountability in execution.  Too much time on strategy can actually be detrimental to any business. It is tactics that move the needle. Tactics are completed by doers. The “labor pool” gets the job done.

So, the next time a consultant sells you a “great idea”, remember talk is NOT cheap.  Be cautious, measure your tactics and define your outcomes.  Get buy in from your team before you “buy the plan” and know your costs, which are always far more than the just the consultant’s fee.

A 21st Century War on Women – Really?

Women Work Women Vote
What next, our right to vote? War on Women is Absurd!

Why? Colleagues, friends and family of both genders and all political persuasions continue to shake our heads in disbelief. The dialogue today is stunning.  Shocking. Are we really going to have a “new” discussion about women’s role in society, reproductive rights and ability to think for ourselves?

It is 2012 and the national conversation has centered on several issues that disrespect, disregard and dismiss women.  It started long before a group of men wanted to discuss the government’s role in paying for birth control.  We have been waging this war for over a century.  Recently, it started surfacing again when several state legislators across the country proposed new rules and regulations that would prevent women from getting access to healthcare. Some have succeeded already (Texas, Virginia) and others are still sadly working to limit access and care. (Arizona).

We’ve seen the debate cycle through various forms, all with a strong movement to limit women’s access to affordable, necessary and reliable healthcare. The subtext of it all that seems to be the most shocking is the derogatory tone of the dialogue.  As a women, it says to me “shut up and sit down”.  Really?  Um, no!

I have the ability and can afford to stand up.  What happens with the poor?  Those that don’t have access to women’s healthcare and family planning?  The new discussions go far beyond just limiting birth control and forcing women to have unnecessary ultrasounds to prevent abortions.  No to mammograms, no to ovarian cancer tests.  Access to preventative care that can SAVE lives.  Where is the logic?  If we limit reproductive healthcare, aren’t we going to force more demand for abortions?  Unwanted pregnancies seem to be the impetus for abortion, so wouldn’t access to affordable family planning help prevent abortions?  Virtually all women (more than 99%) aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method. Vital and Health Statistics, 2010, Series 23, No. 29.

Aside from the discussion of a women’s right to choose, the bigger and broader debate today is how we got back to this discussion 40 years later?  90 years later for equal rights?  What has changed in the country that puts women’s rights at risk – again?

Some may argue that women took for granted that we achieved equality without the need to make it a protected right.  We assumed we are in control of our own health and well-being.  Women’s health should not be up for discussion.  It’s not political.  Saving lives is not political.  If women did “assume” we were in control, was this an assumption of grand illusion?  It appears so.

Women have fought for rights that men have been granted solely by their gender.  Look at the suffrage movement and fight for the right to vote nearly a century ago.  It appears that our rights should not be taken for granted and the fight is not over.  We must press on.  Future generations of women depend on us.  Women need affordable healthcare.  Women need to be in control of their own bodies.  Women need equal pay for equal work.  Women need the same rights as men. It’s not political.

So, in case it needs to be said, we pay taxes.  And, we vote!  The “War on Women” will continue, there is no doubt.  I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from Dirty Dancing, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”  "Nobody puts Baby in a corner"We won’t put aspirin between our knees.  We won’t accept zealot misogynists and bigots telling us to shut up and be happy with our diamonds and dinners.  We won’t go back to being submissive house help.  Our nation can’t afford it economically and women want more and have proven our place in society!

We are women in the board room, women in political office, women CEO’s, working moms, we are women in every profession.  We are scientists, technologists, chefs and journalists.  We are single moms, we are married women, independent women and women with a voice.  We are rich.  We are poor.  We are fighters.  We protect and we give birth.  Every one came from a mother!  We all exist because of a woman.  So, why the war?

Most importantly, we are the women that vote.  We won’t fight this war for long.  You see, we just assumed it was over.  Women are equal.  Maybe it is time to pass the Equal Rights Amendment that was first proposed in 1923.  Maybe then, the war would be over!  Maybe.

Young Entrepreneurs are Making Our Future

Recently, I was invited to speak to a group of high school students and their teachers at the ASU Polytechnic campus.  What I gained from the experience is far greater than what I was able to share through my decades of entrepreneurial successes and failures.

I was inspired.  I was motivated.  I was reassured.  Partly, it was the kids who like science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  Partly, it was spending time at a progressive technology campus that fosters growth and innovation. Partly, it was through the introduction of Arizona State University innovators who shared their pitches about their latest ventures.

Were we this exciting, inventive and determined when we were in school?  Did we have this much wide-eye optimism that we could and would change the world?  They believe they can solve all problems.  They are not discouraged, they are encouraged.  I know our future is very bright, if we do not kill their momentum with “no” and “you can’t”.

Ask 19-year-old serial entrepreneur Daniel Brusilovsky, founder of Teens in Tech Labs.  He is working on his fourth start-up, or maybe he sold his fourth and is on his fifth and sixth.  His success to-date is dizzying. He is our future.  Standing on stage at the event, he was a true representation of what is possible in this world.  He has more connections to VCs and angels than most veteran start-up and CEOs could ever dream.  Why?  He’s cool.  He’s smart.  He’s ambitious.  He’s our future. Investment-wise, he has all upside!

I am absolutely certain that we are in great hands, if we really do want to be better and do more.  Along with Daniel, my enthusiasm grew after meeting other entrepreneurs like Marcos, who is enthusiastically working on customer retention, the Maker Pitch winners that are bringing to market a medical device to build arm strength for wheel-chair bound people, and the two students that are working on providing clean water around the world.  I say YES!  I say go!  How can I help?

And, then I met three men.  ASU students who shared their pitch with me and the co-founder of GarageBand.  They couldn’t look us in the eye, they were outside their comfort zone.  But they had unbridled motivation telling us about their business.  They are going to change and save lives.  They will provide people living with autism needed mentors via an online community.  They want to bring genius back into society, show autistic people how they can work together and give them access to tools they need to integrate successfully.  They know it’s needed.  They know people without autism do not understand and can not provide the help.  They each are autistic.  Yet, no matter how difficult and challenging it was to share their passionate business idea and plans, they did it.  They are determined.  They will do it.  I will find a way to help!

Let us “experienced” get out of their way, provide them support and harness their creativity.  Let us invest in their ideas and encourage them to do more.  They are our innovators.  They are our future.  If we do, we can all say our future is very bright!

My presentation to Making Your Future: http://www.slideshare.net/jglass8/future-is-solving-problems-2012

Be Resolute and Ban Resolutions

Resolute in 2012

Do you remember your declared resolutions of 2011?  Did you succeed in keeping your resolution for the entire year?  If so, congratulations!  The fact remains, if you did keep your resolution for 365 days, you are one of a very small percentage of those that actually set a goal and achieved it.

I typically do not set out the year with a new resolution.  I can only recall setting a goal to read a book a week a few years ago, and yes, I did accomplish my goal.

According to a research study sponsored by the Ford Foundation, 67% of the population has a general idea of what they want; however, they do not have any plans for how to get it.  The same study suggests that only 3% of people say they achieve their goals.

Why compete with a 97% likelihood of failure?  It is not very encouraging, to say the least.  If we do succeed, we can at a minimum say we accomplished something most people will not.  I believe declaring annual resolutions is setting a plan for failure on the first day of a new year.  Our odds of staying “resolved” for the entire year aren’t in our favor.  In fact, they are quite dismal.  Time for a change!

Let’s ban the annual ritual of “resolving” goals.  Instead, we simply need to be more resolute!  Random House Dictionary defines resolute as firmly resolved or determined; set in purpose or opinion and characterized by firmness and determination, as the temper,spirit, actions.

In 2012, let’s all be more resolute!  Imagine what we can accomplish. The fact remains we have far greater odds of succeeding in our goals if we put action and determination into our daily purpose.  Temptation to stray from our goals happen when we lose our resoluteness.   We need a “Make it Happen” attitude.  If we lived our lives with such steadfastness, we don’t need resolutions.

We may still fail and fail often; however, by being resolute every day, we have far greater chance at succeeding at something.  Being resolute allows us to look back every day to see what we accomplished.  I suggest that if we are resolute about everything we do, all day and every day, our confidence will soar, and we will do more.

Time to ban resolutions! I did not set a 2012 resolution this New Year.  Instead, I will be resolute. I am certainly determined to do more and be more this next year, and I am resolute to make it so!

Happy New Year

Who Professes Our Need for Fairness?

There seems to be a lot of discussion today about fairness.  What does it mean to you? In the dialog, the central theme seems to focus on the perception of what fair means to the individual.  Often through an increased volume, they would like you to agree with their individual point of view of what fairness should mean.

My question is, what is fair for everyone?  Could we agree on something so subjective? Can fairness be universal?  In reaching for words of wisdom on the topic of fairness and how others might think about its application, I found the following:

It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself. -Eleanor Roosevelt

These men ask for just the same thing, fairness, and fairness only.  This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have. – Abraham Lincoln

Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly. – Leviticus 19:15

Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

In our hearts and in our laws, we must treat all our people with fairness and dignity, regardless of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation… – Bill Clinton

Today’s Constitution is a realistic document of freedom only because of several corrective amendments. Those amendments speak to a sense of decency and fairness that I and other Blacks cherish. – Thurgood Marshall

Win or lose, do it fairly. – Knute Rockne

There are others that would be included on this list of quotes and words that should inspire us.  What is obvious is fairness is not individual.  Fairness comes from the origins of evenhandedness.  And that requires more than one.  The exact definition for fairness:  the state, condition, or quality of being fair, or free from bias or injustice; evenhandedness.

So, as we try to square the conversation on fairness for one and all, maybe we can first focus on what’s fair for you and fair for me.  Starting at two, might help us get to a dozen, a hundred, a thousand, a million and beyond to agree.

“Let the watchwords of all our people be the old familiar watchwords of honesty, decency, fair-dealing, and commonsense.”… “We must treat each man on his worth and merits as a man. We must see that each is given a square deal, because he is entitled to no more and should receive no less.””The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.”  ― Teddy Roosevelt

Walk a Minute in Their Shoes

Dr. Brenda Combs' Finding My Shoes

An Arizona CEO called me two years ago and asked if I would be interested in helping with a charity event.  I get a lot of these calls. Unfortunately, there tends to be more demand that availability.

Trusting my relationship with the CEO, I said I had some time and would be available to help.  Little did I know that the charity event was more than charity.  It was life changing.  It was eye-opening.  It was sad and joyous.  It was a source of motivation and a pinnacle of inspiration.

I met with Dr. Brenda Combs, who at the time was still working on her doctorate.  She told me her story.  A small blog can never do the story justice, so instead I will give the elevator pitch.  Brenda lived on Phoenix streets in the hottest of times and coldest of nights for 10 years.  She was a drug addict.  She was raped, stabbed.  She was fierce.  She survived by living under a bridge.  Her breaking point was the day someone stole her black and white Converse shoes.  It was over 100 degrees and too hot to go find food, drugs or water while walking around barefoot.  She decided to get help.

This was over a decade ago.  Since then, she got clean, raised a remarkable son, married the love of her life and got her doctorate.  Yes, her doctorate!  As amazing as this all seems of hard times turned to productive, thriving and inspiring change, there’s more.  Today, Brenda takes her extra hours and extra money and gives it to people that are living on the streets.  She knows some of them by name. They use to be her neighbors.  Some are first time street residents, and she knows they need love.  It’s unconditional.  Some are at the lowest of lows and on drugs and mentally ill.  Others simply ran into bad luck, bad times, bad health and have no money, place to live or way to support themselves or their families.  They are single people and families. Babies. Teens. Seniors. They are veterans.  They are homeless. They are the working poor trying to survive.

You can find thousands of homeless in Arizona living close to “The Human Campus”.  Yes, there is a place in Arizona that our brothers and sisters go to get one meal, see doctors and dentists, look for jobs and try to get warm clothes.  It’s well hidden, but it is there supported by amazing volunteers and people that care.

I started working with Brenda to support her vision.  She wants to make sure every homeless person has a pair of shoes.  A nice pair of shoes.  In two years, she has given out thousands of shoes to men, women, families and children.  She has worked with community members, friends and other charities to give blankets, personal care items, clothes and more.  The one thing she insists they always get are shoes!  PLEASE WATCH the video of the latest “Finding My Shoes” event held with the support of many friends of Brenda on December 1, 2011.

What Brenda has taught me is that no matter what we have, we can do more.  Many of us have enough.  We can give to those that have nothing.  I have handed shoes to people that need a hand up.  They don’t need a hand out.  They are working to get to a better place.  They need us to know they are out there and that as humans, we all have a reason and obligation to help.

Dr. Brenda Combs is a giver like no other person I know.  She’s not a philanthropist.  She does more than give money.  She talks to the homeless.  She motivates others to give her new shoes and care items.  She works harder than most.  She is driven more than any other person I have met, professionally and personally.  She is remarkable.  And, she wants no credit.  She just wants us all to do a little more, give a little more, make the effort to make sure those without have a little something.  Like a new pair of shoes.

Until you walk a minute in their shoes, it is hard to advocate for change.  Go down to the shelter in your area, walk among your fellow Americans and see, smell and listen to their life experiences.  They need our help this holiday.  Maybe a gift of $5 or a minute of your time is a good place to start.  A meal, an extra blanket in your closet or a $15 pair of walking shoes.  It matters.  Take it to them.  That matters even more.

I love you Dr. Combs!  Thank you. http://www.facebook.com/FindingMyShoesFoundation

The Gift of Content

King of Content

For the past two decades, I have been marketing and selling in industries that continually define their value proposition based on their most precious asset. We all proclaim, “Content is King!” In fact, you might even be able to claim some superiority if you have more content in one form or another. Supremacy is measured by words, pages, titles, key words, programs – all centered by amassed volume!

The fact remains, size does matter when you are establishing a monarchy. Content leads an empire over technology and services, as neither could exist without some type of content. Content rules over technology because it is simply the enabler. Content reigns over services because it simply applies rules for access and engagement.

Content matters. There are still classes of content. There is no argument that you can try to “win” over the masses in simple content population contest. Most words, stories, white papers, research, collateral. In the end, mass does not increase worth. Content is really only valuable when it is relevant and engaging. Originality creates the highest value. Purity of content gives power. Losing all the spin and focusing on relevance will give content strength. Content with personality that uses real stories, experience and expertise is what is most valuable. In the end, content with integrity matters more.

Where your content kingdom resides is also imperative to the value. Original content with personality is irrelevant if it is invisible. It needs a home with a lot of good company. The company must have the same interests as the content provider. The home should be warm, inviting and engaging. Finding it in the back alleys of the Internet, also known as page 13 in search, simply means you might have good content but picked a bad location. The neighborhood of your content will have an impact on the value. Your content rules when you consider location, location, location and optimize.

To be the “King of Content” requires careful planning. Amassing a library of superior content that is relative gives power; however, having a targeted audience to engage and influence will keep you on top. Great content is a gift to your audience. It will keep on giving and giving if you leverage quality and quantity matched equally location. Work with a publisher that reaches your audience, an audience who will appreciate your influence and expertise. Then, you can rise to the top and really declare that your content is king!

First Published on EmpowHER Media
http://www.empowhermedia.com/content/the-gift-of-content/

Jamie Glass
Senior Vice President of Sales, EmpowHER Media
Twitter: @EmpowHERJamie

History in our Midst

I Have a Dream
History in the Making

In less than 48 hours, I had the unique opportunity to meet with two men that have made history. Historic by standards that won’t measure with well known names in history books; however, historic in business, politics and leadership.

Both men are in their eighth decade of life. Their experience is beyond the riches most can’t even fathom. One was a Holocaust survivor who built enterprises and rebuilt a nation. One has provided homes to thousands and funded community projects including a library and hospital wing.

Their advice and wisdom gives me hope. Neither sees our divides and obstacles today as monumental. All will be solved in time. They observe, they listen, they know.

My time with both was short. I knew in listening to them each offer me and my business colleagues advice, we were all wiser and more experienced. I know that even in the few hours I was in the midst of these historic men, there where pearls that could not compare to any time I spent reading or learning through my own success and failure.  How do you compare your own experience to people that have changed lives for hundreds, thousands and even millions?

Time with people that have made history is the most valuable time we have in any given day.  There is history all around us.  Some are quietly observing and waiting for you to ask “Tell me your story”.  The honor of meeting history twice in the same week is monumental.  I am changed and I know more.

What did I learn? We can do more than what we are asked to do today, we should do more for ourselves, our families and all mankind and take nothing for granted because you can make a difference.  Maybe even make history!

Random Thoughts

Thankful

Starting with Thanks!

What better day to start a blog than Thanksgiving. A day reserved on our calendar for thanking those that have loved us, supported us and given us purpose. I am thankful to everyone in my life. You make me better, wiser and grateful.

My blog serves no direct purpose to persuade or position. It is a destination for random thoughts, beyond the 140 characters. It will include business ideas and discussions, along with questions and thoughts about the world.

Enjoy your holiday and hope to give you more randomness in the days to follow.

Creative. Strategic. Results.

CRE·A·TIVE
Pronunciation [kree-ey-tiv]

  1. having the quality or power of creating.
  2. resulting from originality of thought, expression; imaginative
  3. originative; productive
Artful Thinkers Creative: Marketing Communications, Web, Collateral, Presentations, Branding, Social Media, Promotion, Customer Programs, PR and Product Launch

STRA·TE·GIC
Pronunciation [struh-tee-jik]

  1. pertaining to, characterized by, or of the nature of strategy
  2. important in or essential to strategy.
  3. forming an integral part of a stratagem
Artful Thinkers Strategic: Advisory Board Management, Executive Advisor, Coaching, Business Plans, Start-Ups, Capital Presentations and Pitches, Budgeting, Growth Projections, Business Development, Research, Leadership Training, Go-To-Market Programs

RE·SULTS
Pronunciation [ri-zuhlt]

  1. to spring, arise, or proceed as a consequence of actions, circumstances, premises, etc.; be the outcome.
  2. something that happens as a consequence; outcome.
  3. Often, results. a desirable or beneficial consequence, outcome, or effect.
Artful Thinkers Results: Align Senior Advisors, Create Boards for Impact, Achieve Business Goals and Objectives, Drive Transformation, Implement Strategies, Increase ROI, Produce Effective Communications, Increase Market Share, Improve Customer Satisfaction, Launch New Products Faster, Customer Outreach, Generate Publicity

Million Dollar Ideas

“I help companies identify opportunities. I call it generating “million dollar ideas” that can truly help companies move to the next level. Looking from the outside in, it is easier for me to identify the “what if” scenarios that help business leaders create exponential growth strategies leading to explosive growth. I often see potential and opportunity – it’s my niche, my unique talent. Others recognize as my real value proposition.”