February 09, 2012
On Tuesday, I spoke to a group of creatives in Nashville (Twitter Stream). One point that stuck with them was this simple thought, a quote from fellow creative David Lynch: "It takes four hours to get one hour of creative work done."
After my talk, a great deal of the Q/A explored that mind blowing observation. Why does it take so long, distraction? Nope. Editing? Nope, that's not part of creation.
I recollected my application of this idea when writing Today We Are Rich. After studying Lynch, I discovered one of his secret weapons: Rehearsing the act of creating.
So, before I would start a writing session, I would go outside and putt the ball around the side yard - and rehearse writing. I would speak it out loud (I'd outlined it prior), record it on my phone, then listen to my rehearsal on playback. Then I delete it. At some point, I'd visualized or audiblized it enough, then I'd drop my putter, run down to the studio and furiously type for an hour. And 3000 words were born. (I wrote Feed Your Mind Good Stuff in less than two hours, read it and see how it isn't over-edited or stilted.)
Here's the takeaway. You can't schedule time to be creative. That's like scheduling time with your partner for sex. It's an in-the-moment experience. If you sit down to 'wham it out', you'll end up polishing a turd. You'll spew, edit, delete, fix, re-edit and sqeeze the life out of your 'baby.'
Most of us reserve rehearsal for life's big performances, but think about it: Creating is the ultimate performance and shouldn't be taken for granted. Creativity is a burst of structured insanity, followed by a factory-line set of steps to deliver it to its intended target. If you rehearse, even in your mind, what you are about to create, you'll likely induce that moment of birth. See the photo shoot before doing it. Visualize the Power Point or Photoshop session before sitting down to do it. Do the work!
December 07, 2011
Today's article (Facebook: Zynga's #1 Frenemie) prompted this blog post.
While Zynga stands as a multi-billion dollar example of the dangers of platform squatting, many of you might be doing in a smaller but still deadly way. Examples: you don't have a website anymore, you build a big Facebook Page following instead. You don't build a web property to sell your products (see this a lot now in books), you rely on Facebook instead - thinking, "everyone is here, why not build it into their stream? You base your real estate, insurance or home repair sales on your Page, leaving your older properties abandoned to wither.
Startups from Color to Spotify bet-the-farm on a long and cozy relationship with Facebook - who could turn all of them off with the flip of a switch. Retailers, small business owners and even public figures are all provisioning the Facebook closed platform (emphasis on closed) to reduce costs and presumably fish where the fish are hooked.
But here's the rub: Facebook will eventually have to eat their babies to grow into their valuation. Still private, Zuckerberg gets to report vanity numbers only, playing with Eric Ries calls "success theatre" with it's investors and employees. Time spent, number of active users, etc., all dominate the Facebook story. That will change quickly when they go public and New York analysts descend on them to question their revenue-valuation multiple. If the social-bubble breaks (and it's being poked right now in the cases of LinkedIn and Groupon), who knows what Facebook's leadership team will resort to?
Look at Google, seven years post-IPO. Steve Jobs can testify: You can't trust a company that's on fire to triple their top line quickly. Thus andriod. Now, Google+ is tied to employee compensation and the sacred search algorithm, protected for users, is now biased to reward websites that include +, Places or Circles. Anyone in the valley will warn to avoid getting close to them early, because big and hungry companies "may accidently kill you."
Back to Facebook. If you are using a Page to market your products or services, it's pretty clunky to say the least. You can't conduct giveaways or polls, lest they shut down your account (which is based on your personal account, which also goes away). The apps they require you to use require too many steps and in our privacy-centric world, result in less conversion. So now, you lose all the web-innovations that power super sites like Zappos, Amazon, etc.
At Yahoo, I've seen this first hand. When I joined, we had dozens of dotcom partners in areas where eventually we decided to 'get into their space' to justify our lofty valuation. We were, by 2004, competitors with everyone who made money. Facebook will be the same.
I understand the business logic of being in the app business, making your ultimate bet on Apple. As a mature company, they aren't likely to flip a swtich and get into the app development game, killing all the Fred-In-the-Sheds to make a few more bucks. But, Facebook is likely doing skunkworkss right now to build their own social games, daily deals redux, publicity services, banking and loan services, mobile devices and for all we now VOIP telco services. If you currently make money via them, exclusively, you want want to diversify your business web outreach. What if they turn on a pay-for service for Page owners who want to have ANY links to purchase or generate leads?
Consider what happens when you rely on Google, yet somehow are in their business development plans. When they tweak their search formulas, big changes happen to your business. What if they tweak search to devalue links to Facebook pages, like they've toyed with in the case of Wikipedia and Flickr? Ask LA startup Mahalo, where they had to layoff employees after a regular Google update. First they were a human-search company, then after the Google thrashing of their business, they settled into a video-help resrouce. They didn't have an option. Keep your options open begins to make sense again - instead of cozying up exclusively with a cub company that's got paws bigger than Alaska.
December 01, 2011
This is a takeaway I got from reading Nail It Then Scale It. In the book, written for startup founders, Nathan Furr reveals a startling statistic: 90% of startups that fail, fail because they built something no one wants bad enough to buy.
Apply this to any solution business, whether you are a sales pro a consultant or the CEO. Do you solve a problem worthy of investing precious dollars into? Furr puts it this way: Make sure you are treating a shark bite of a business problem. In this view, as a solutions provider, you think of yourself as the doctor - treating a patient. For many of the solutions I've recently seen from iPhone apps to B2B offerings - the problem is only a paper cut. The prospect admits there is some waste or lost opportunity, but in the end, they are still doing fine. While your solution is relevant, it lacks true urgency.
I've discovered this running Deeper Media's training product launches. One of them, The Dirty Dozen Rules Of Email Etiquette, has had breakthrough sales success - reaching over 40,000 customer/users in five years. Another one, Greening Up Your Business, has had tepid results, even though I supported it with a book (Saving The World At Work). Why? Shark bite versus paper cut.
My email training clients had a REAL problem on their hands when they found me (I've never had to cold call this). Email use was out of control, relationships were breaking down and business was grinding to a halt. For my Green Business prospects, my training solution was a 'nice to have', but they didn't think the business would be negatively impacted without it.
In Nail It Then Scale It, Furr offers a great acid test for a Shark Bite Solution: Cold call a group of people, explaining what problem your service solves in a succinct manner. If less than 50% call you back, it's not a big problem. In his experience, the real Shark Bite Solutions had a stunning level of cold call backs - because the problem was big enough for prospects to pick up the phone and invest time with a stranger.
In this economy, it's important for us to sell solutions not products or services. To do that, we have to be brutally honest with ourself to make sure our solution is significant or we are identifying and quantifying a real problem worth solving right now (and not when things get better and luxuries are affordable.)
November 04, 2011
Over the last few months, I've researched the changes to Facebook, with an emphasis on their EdgeRank algorithm, which is always evolving. Facebook uses this to ensure that we see relevant updates in our Top Feed. Unfortunately, for many Pages, the changes have likely reduced your impressions and your growth in followers (Likers).
I've conducted several experiments over the last month with my Page as well as my corporate client's pages. The result is a dramatic increase in impressions, even more than before all the Facebook changes were implemented. First of all, the EdgeRank formula is important to understand. Your posts will be distributed to your followers based on three things: Affinity, Weight and Time Decay. The most recent EdgeRank changes have emphasized Time Decay (how recently have you posted? Are people still interacting with it?) and Affinity tweaks (major bonus for deriving visits to your Page or marketing your posts as "Top Story"). With that in mind, here are six ways to boost your EdgeRank score and drive more impressions:
1 - Post Directly To Facebook. EdgeRank frowns on third party postings such as HootSuite, Tweetdeck etc.
2 - Post Frequently To Ensure Freshness. This is tricky, because if you post too often, you'll either get Unliked or hidden from your follower's feed. The traditional thinking is once every two days or so, but with the new tweaks, that could really cost you. Here's a good article on the science behind how often you should post. As a rule of thumb, when you see the Likes or engagement trail off on a post (usually 10-12 hours), that's when you need a fresh one.
3 - Post Heavy Content. EdgeRank's Weight component of the algorithm will reward the weight of your posts, usually in this order: Uploaded video (not links to YouTube video), Pictures, Links, and Text. Sure, a text update with a ton of interaction will get impressions, but a picture or video update with engagement will get exponentially more. Here's a tip that makes this whole post worth reading: When you post a quote by a famous person ALWAYS upload a picture of that person! I've found that a quote with a picture gets 2 to 3 times more impressions!!!
4 - Post During Prime Time. Remember, when the engagement trails off, EdgeRank considers that decay and you lose impressions. Most Facebook traffic occurs during working hours, so that's the best time to launch your updates. Here's a good article on when to post.
5 - Convert Statements Into Questions. Instead of saying, my fave new CD of the year is X, put it this way. "What's the best CD of 2011? I think it's The King Is Dead by Decemberists." This way, you'll likely get more comments (which boosts your weight & affinity score) and maybe Likes (for Decemberists fans).
6 - Engage With All Engagement. EdgeRank will count your interaction just like any other interaction (so long as it's in line). Meaning: When someone shares, thank them on their wall or in comments. Answer comments, and encourage even more. The number of comments to an update keeps it fresh (think affinity plus time decay).
Post your tips and techniques in comments, I'll likely thank you on my Facebook Page!
June 02, 2011
I'm often hired to speak to companies about improving their people skills.
By this, I mean they want to practice what they are preaching: At Our Company, Our People Come First. This is a very popular CEO-mantra, because it's good business, and leaders are realizing it. When your company priorities people at the design level (not just announcements), recruiting gets easier, turnover drops off, service gets better and great ideas come to work (instead of competing startups). When people's mood is better, they are more productive and innovative (Mood State Matters). It's goodness, all ways around, but very hard to do.
Putting people first at a company, what I call being People-Centric, cuts against the grain of the short term profit, investor/owner mentality. They argue for balance, using the stakeholder argument: Customers, Owners, People all come first. Problem is, that customers/owners both have vested interests, which means companies often over serve them at the expense of its own people.
But if you make People First a design issue, you can program your culture to make it work. The key is to always measure your People Skills by understanding the employee experience. What emotional and financial benefits are you offering? What emotional or financial pain points are you creating or allowing? If you do this (like you should be doing for Customers), you'll see an immediate lift in people's attitude about the company. Here are five design hacks for a People-Centric company:
1 - Don't Hire High Jerks! As simple as this sounds, it's not lived up to when the Jerk has a stellar resume and exudes technical prowess. We hire him, think we can tame him, and be seduced by his performance. We'll praise him, forgive his lack of people-skills, and it will demoralize everyone he works with. They leave, the jerk stays, and before you know it your business implodes from poor customer experience. Read Bob Sutton's The No Asshole Rule for more on this. PS - Never promote a mean or overly-introverted person to manage other humans. They'll beat them up, passively injure or ignore them to death. Read Multipliers by Liz Wakeman for more.
2 - Reward People-Centric Managers. Why is annual bonus completely tied to financial performance? At some companies I consult to, a piece of the bonus is tied to "The Employee Experience" as measured by various Cultural Health surveys. At one company, a sophisticated process measures employee levels of happiness, holding managers accountable for lifting it. As an engineering based startup organization, leaders realize that the job is 75% of the employee's life, so if she's unhappy - it's on the manager! I know that's extreme, but you'll create the behavior you reward so take this into account.
3 - Program Work Life Balance. If your employees are thumb warriors, carrying their smart phones to bed, out on weekends or during vacations - you are out-of-balance. SAS Institute has a culture where it's inappropriate to interrupt employees off time with email (READ: Regarding Your People). Most companies have no policy for this, and due to overly long (useless) meetings, evenings and weekends are the only time they can reply to emails. BAD DESIGN. Reduce meetings to 45 minutes, prohibit off-time communications. NOTE: You are now being family or partner centric as a company. Remember, they have a huge influence on your ability to retain your top performers when competition comes hunting.)
4 - Install Empathy Triggers. I love the network reality show Undercover Boss. It demonstrates how leaders can be transformed by working in the field and getting to know employees at the human level. The exercise converts 'direct reports' into 'people' via the experience. At Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, employees are flown the Central America to work with the farmers that grow their beans (they call this Trip To Source). At Pizza Hut, former CEO Mike Rawlins had a practice of calling 3 customers a month to understand their life story. At Barton Protective Services, CEOs and Divisional leads spend Friday afternoon "Catching People Doing Something Right," then spreading the word. This is empathy by "walking around."
5 - Craft A People-Centric Mission. This is the big one, for the CEOs and founders of the world. Whatever the company's mission is better have to do with people. If it's about products, places or faceless groups (investors, partners) - you are serving spreadsheets not human experiences. Get this wrong and you've blown it at the meta-design level. PS - It's OK to tear up your crappy-comportment driven mission statement and start fresh. Your constituency is fine with this type of change, especially if it shows a new perspective on your part that's focused on PEOPLE.
February 07, 2011
Each year, I study the Super Bowl ads to determine winners/losers.
It's a great opportunity, given that the world's leading brands and brand-gurus work on these ads all year long. By reviewing them for performance, we can glean valuable insights into how we market - or what we do when we are on a big stage in the market.
When it comes to ads, I have two basic rules: They should be a service, not an interruption. To quote Sergio Zyman (former CMO of Coke), "Ads should be a service that adds value when you purchase, own or consume the product." The second rule is that a good way to measure ad effectiveness is by unaided recall. In other words, is the ad and it's messaging likely to be remembered later?
So, absent any notes or a review of other analysis of the Super Bowl ads, here are my observations:
The CareerBuilder commercial (Parking Lot) is a home run. It is funny, includes their ad-franchise (monkeys) and puts us in a physical place (stuck in a hard place, needing a way out). That's the perfect pitch to lure more 'passive job seekers' to post a resume on their platform.
Epic fantasy driven ads from Kia and Coke fail, because they require way to much concentration on details. Even though there's great effects and eye-popping visuals, it's really hard to follow - and in the end, you just don't know what the point of the commercial is. Remember: people are watching these ads at a party - Keep It Simple!
The funniest ad isn't always effective. In my view the Bridgestone ad (Did You Reply To All?) was hilarious and highly relatable. The problem lies in the call to action at the end: Buy our tires. The humor doesn't remotely connect with the product. Sure, the Geico ads don't always do it either, but usually they find some way to bring the entertainment back to the value proposition (So easy, a cave man could do it...)
Stars aren't always a sure-fire way to increase sales. Best Buy bet the farm on Bieber and the Osbornes, but it was done in a jittery-manic sort of way that distracted from the point of the ad (we'll stay on top of technology for you.)
The Super Bowl provides certain companies a way to generate an exogenic shock, launching themselves from obscurity to trail and usage. Chatter.com, The Daily (for tablets) and Groupon all did just that - leveraging a few million into instant awareness. Time will tell if they captured enough trial to justify the expense, in the case of The Daily, I think they did.
My other observation is that it's ironic that so many ads generated humor via people getting hit in the head with objects, doors and cans - during a game where there's an intense focus on REDUCING head injuries! The disconnect will likely not be lost on viewers.
December 06, 2010
Over 10 years ago, Seth Godin sent a shot over the bow with his book Permission Marketing. He made the point that when you don't have permission to interrupt someone, you are hurting your brand and not likely converting much business either. He argued that the key is to first ask for permission to add someone to a marketing list, then make offers to them until they decide to retract it. For a period of time, big brands of all types took this seriously, some even requiring opt-in selection by potential list recipients.
Recently, it's all changed, though, as companies of all sizes boldly started to add anyone to any list without any type of permission. I realized this when I decided to clean up by bloated Inbox. I noticed that I was receiving dozens of newsletters and announcements every week that I never asked for. I patiently opened each one, clicked on the unsubscribe link and then flagged the email as Junk. What really surprised me was this: The biggest spammers were companies I did business with, but never gave permission to add me to their lists. Joe's Jeans, Amazon, Roku, Participant Films, Target, Apple (yes, Apple) and about two dozen other companies that had required an email from me as part of an e-commerce transaction. NOT ONCE did I select (add me to the list) and every time, I deselected it when it was presented to me. In several cases, cashiers at retail stores asked for my email address, but never explained why. Now I know.
What does this mean? A new generation of marketing decision makers have decided we don't have anymore privacy rights, so they are adding names to lists as fast as possible, and building a new eCatalog model to make our Inboxes as unwieldy as our mail boxes. It's not just the .com sites or the spammers anymore, it's the marketers. What they fail to realize is that when you require a consumer to unsubscribe from you or flag you as Junk Mail, you are weakening your brand to them - making it even harder for future/legit marketing to convert. That was the point that Seth stressed to marketers with his book: Earn permission, it's an asset and a brand of it's own.
In my case, I never add someone to my email newsletter. They must choose to do so via visiting my site. Often I offer book lists, downloads, etc. during my conference talks. I could easily grow my newsletter from its current size (around 8,000) to about 20,000 or 30,000 if I was willing to break the rules - but I don't because I know it would be a violation of trust. And I also know that it wouldn't be good personal branding when these unsuspecting folks start to receive my newsletter out of the blue. Sure, I may reply to an old email from a fan with a single message about a new book, but that's a far cry from sticking them on a list distribution (to receive countless emails over time).
Audit your own company's policies here, making sure you aren't one of them too. Sergio Zyman, former CMO of Coke, argued that good marketing "is a service, that adds value when you buy, consume or own a product." Interruption without permission isn't a service, it's an annoyance, and can only reflect poorly on a company's marketing acumen.
I'm no longer going to give my email address to stores I shop at. I've got a Yahoo email address for eCommerce transactions, so I can still get my confirmations of a successful transaction or shipping information without having my regular email Inbox spammed. I'm going to boycott companies that insist on adding me to their lists, or refusing to unsubscribe me when I ask. Pass it on.
October 19, 2010
This is something Libby Sartain (former Chief People Officer, Yahoo!) taught me, from her days running HR at Southwest Airlines. Hire people based on their social fit, not just their qualifications. Too often, leaders see customer service as a CRM, management or training issue. But if you have the wrong type of people on the bus, I wonder, what difference will all those investments really make?
Here's a few ways to integrate customer-centricity into your hiring practice. PS - For small companies, this is exponentially more important as one bad egg can stink up the place.
1. Don't focus on the resume during the first interview. If you can, force the hiring manager to have a paperless interview to screen for personality and fit.
2. Never hire an unhappy, insensitive or anti-social person. The labor pool has too many people for you to choose from. Even if he/she is not customer facing, culture is impacted by each personality introduced into the group.
3. Make 'customer attitude' a part of your marketing for candidates - eg: "Customer service enthusiasts preferred.'
4. Lesson from Zappos via Delivering Happiness: During the onboarding process, preach customer-service as THE core value of the company. Make the case that people deserve good service, and it's a noble profession to deliver it to them. At the end of the process, offer new-hires a chunk of change to quit the company. That way, you'll ensure that your people are willing to 'pay for the the right to deliver happiness with customer service.'
August 27, 2010
In 2001, I read at least a dozen books on book promotion.
Love Is The Killer App was set to be published in early 2002, and I was a student of book promotion. InThe Complete Guide To Book Publicity, author Jodee Blanco made a simple but powerful point: If an author does five things a day to promote his/her book, it will make daily progress and likely catch on (if its a book that "works").
I took the advice to heart and each day, made sure I did five things: Interview, calls to book sellers, give a talk, email marketing to my list, query to publications or newsletters, send out promotional copy to high profile person, etc. It took ten months, but in December of 2002, Love Is The Killer App made its way on the New York Times best seller list. It was also on the list in January 2003.
Today, it is easier than ever to do five promotional things a day for your book, product or service. You can blog, tweet (Five tweets = one blog to me), interview, reach out, send promotional items to high profile users, network, make a presentation or pick up the phone. Five a day adds up over time, which is the point of the program. Think of it as compound marketing -- it works the same way as compound interest as the returns increase as momentum is achieved.
Next week, try this system out (25 promotional efforts) for your product or service. By Friday, you'll start to see results, and if you stick with it over time, you'll enjoy success.
August 20, 2010
Yesterday, a Twitter system issue caused me to temporarily lose all my followers. One moment I had over 11,000, the next moment .... 0. The tweets were there, the following was gone. Poof! The day before, a friend of mine lost his Facebook account due to a (disputed) terms of service violation. He's been on for years, and had hundreds of friends there. Poof!
Fortunately for me, I got my account restored. Unfortunately for my friend, he's probably lost his forever. The whole experience begs the question: Marketers -- What would you do if you lost your following? It's very possible this can happen to you, and if it does, there's very little you can do about it. Think you can call Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook like you can call Zappos? Wrong. You'll send emails, get form replies from dispassionate 20-somethings (that could care less about NetPromoter scores) ... and you are at their mercy.
A few years ago, when working at Yahoo!, I'd get frantic emails from people that lost their Mail accounts - losing tens of thousands of archived emails, etc. along the way. They too couldn't get a caring person on the phone and in very rare situations, I could help them. What do they do now? They use an email client (like Apple Mail, Entourage or Outlook) where all the data sits on your machine - not 'out there'.
If you are putting time into social media to drive your business, and building up an audience (following) to target - you need to find ways to localize the relationships to regain control of your destiny. If you are going to trust Twitter or Facebook to manage your following, you are really vulnerable. Here are a few takeaways for you:
1. Don't use social media to build up a big audience you can monetize later - If you use social media of any type, do it to be helpful. Think of your followings as congregations you help, not targets you can pound when your product launch is at hand. If you are helpful enough, your following will click over to your blog (and subscribe to the feed) or sign up for your monthly newsletter (now their in your domain). They key to conversion though, is a steadfast commitment to being helpful, not markety.
2. Back up your social media following: For Twitter, run Tweetake once a month (this free service will download your following, tweets, etc. to a spreadsheet). For Facebook, you can use SocialSafe. If you lose either following, you can hire a virtual service to either message them to rejoin (Facebook) or follow them on Twitter (where about 70% will follow back). Neither solution is complete or easy, but it beats losing everything.
3. Dedicate time to your blog and newsletter - Give each one a unique value proposition and never let them be less of a priority than what you do on Twitter, FB or LinkedIn. Think of any platform you have no control over as a marketing front end to those you own (like blog/newsletter,mail list, etc.)
When I first joined Yahoo!, I spent time with then CEO Tim Koogle. He started out at Motorola, where there were countless stories about founder Paul Galvin. One of them is relevant here. Koogle told me about one of Galvin's early businesses that made battery eliminators (for radios, etc.). There was a transition time when AC power (wall plug in) was being installed into homes, but appliances still ran on batteries. Galvin's company made the incremental adaptor solution.
Galvin went out of business, though. The appliance makers (Maytag to RCA) offered an electrical cord as part of the device and designed batteries out. Galvin was disintermediated! Koogles point: Always own your relationship with your clients, lest you get cutoff out of the blue. Get it?