9 posts categorized "September 2011"

September 28, 2011

How To Turn Your Data Junk Into Gold Bars

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Today I gave a talk for IDEA, for an audience of electrical industry executives. 

Their challenge is likely similar to yours: What do you do with all the data you are capturing, storing and analyzing?  If you don't do something with data, it's just an expense line item, after all.  In his book, Information Masters, John McKean talks about the importance of people skills and human technology in making the leap from Data Rich to Customer Smarts. 

It starts with sharing the data, especially with your value chain and in many cases, your competitors (think of them as Competimates in this regard).  Why? Because the data isn't by itself really useful, but in the hands of the distribution channel, it may bounce back as knowledge.  Becoming a smarter company via data isn't just listening and learning, because you are still in a bubble when you do this - there's no perspective! 

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The first step, then, is to boldly share the data outside your enterprise.  By letting go of the data, you are making the first step in letting go of the Scarcity Mindset and the SQ.  Don't sweat this, because you data in many cases is worthless UNTIL it makes the leap to knowledge (what Eric Ries in Lean Startup calls 'verified learning').  

While knowledge is better than raw data, it's the insight you glean from it that connects with your Customer-Value model that truly moves the needle on your business.  That's the stuff to hold on to, not your crummy data.  

Whether you are looking at web/blog/social analytics or supply/customer data, you need to make the move today - and test my theory out.  To borrow a phrase from the Quality Movement, 'waste is any commitment of resources that fails to create Customer value.'  So what's your data?  A storage plan or your barter for biz wizdom? 


September 26, 2011

Power Point is not a speech writing tool!

Last week, while flying to Orlando, I observed someone writing his speech, using Power Point. 

He explained as we boarded that he had a 'presentation' to make (bad sign), then after we took off, pulled out his laptop and opened several previous presentations and started to cobble together (copy-paste) his presentation.  He's typical, unfortunately, and that's why so many conference presentations suck.  

Watching him, I saw a pattern.  He'd grab three or four slides, move them over and gradually build up a presentation by modules.  But here's the problem: People don't learn at a modular level.  They learn at a linear level, where you lead them to a place of action.  Read Nick Morgan to learn why this is essential to moving an audience to action. 

Here's the way I've been doing it for a few years: 

1.  Do your research about the audience, where they need to be moved to, and how that intersects with your expertise or experiences.  

2. Outline the presentation on paper or in Word.  Figure out your introduction, your call to adventure (eg., we've got to change!) and your calls to action or takeaway points.  Make sure that you are building a premise, making a promise then giving solid prescriptions they can swallow right away. 

3. After your outline is done, then, and only then, you open up Power Point and use slides to illustrate various points (not create your speaker notes!).  Make every slide beg for it's life, and you'll avoid death-by-Power-Point.  You'll find that the end result is a speech that just may change the world. 

September 23, 2011

How To Close The Deal

Tomorrow, I'm speaking to a few hundred business owners & sales people about "The Now Effect." 

In their business, the sales cycle is long and most prospects never make the leap from 'interested' to 'closed.'  They are hearing device/solutions industry, and many of their prospects either feel like they can get along without them OR have a stigma about wearing them.  

My advice to them is based on quite a bit of research, including visiting with several of these hearing device professionals in their working environment.  I've looked at social media conversations about hearing devices and hard data that tracks marketing and promotions against actual sales. 

My recommendations to them will likely be of use to you in your business too, so I'll share them in bullet point fashion.  To close the deal you need to: 

1. Establish High Perceived Value.  Beyond the features & benefits of your product, you need to bring out the pain in the prospect's present condition.  You need to demonstrate, with stories as your ultimate tool, how the pain will only get worse without a solution.  

2. Create a sense of urgency and a call to action.  Leverage the 25/200 rules of sales by eliminating the 'need to think about this' objection.  Limited discounts/bonuses work, the data screams volumes.  You can play around with pricing, but that's a shortcut which can impact your profits and commoditize whatever you are selling.  A better way to create urgency is to get other people that influence the prospect to feel the pain too - and join you in a campaign to put it out TODAY.  (Note: No price break will overcome a lack of value or stigmas about buying your product.) 

3. Make it stupid-easy to complete the deal and install the solution.  From purchase to product delivery, take steps out of the process and constantly review how you are doing.  Ask your customers about their User Experience as they bought and received your product, then iterate.  Pore over any data (eg., online) that helps you identify the drop off rate of prospects that raised their hand, yet didn't finsih the sale. 


September 21, 2011

Do this first thing tomorrow INSTEAD of checking your email

What's the most important meal of the day for your body? Breakfast, of course.  

Why? It establishes your metabolism and gives your brain fuel to operate well.  Just the same, if not moreso, breakfast is the most important meal for your mind too.  One braniac refers to the most important hour of your day: Hour One.  What you put into your mind during Hour One is critical.

So what do you feed it? When you check your email, you graze on the random. Yet, many of my friends start out EVERY day by doing just that.  Think about the message that your Inbox (with 100 or more emails waiting to be answered) sends to your subconcious: "We are behind, overwhelmed, hurry!" 

Sure, it seems prudent to check email out of the gate when you wake up, but honestly, I think you are just being childish - and I don't mean that in a bad way, either.  Children cannot delay gratification. They get up super early on Christmas just to open their presents. Give them a pile of candy and they'll eat it all or get sick trying.  We are the same with email - can't wait to see if something interesting came in! 

By the way, same goes for our social media rounds where we check on our Facebook, Twitter, etc. Again, when you do this, you cede control over Hour One to the outside world. Your breakfast is tantamount to drinking coffee out of a firehose and eating bagels as they fly out of a wood chipper. 

DO THIS INSTEAD: For the first 30-45 minutes of your days, read a book that helps you get better or more prepared for your career or purpose.  You read from books at a fraction of the speed you graze online - so think of it as a slow-and-easy way to start the day.  This will give your subconscious a different start-message: "We are growing, learning and getting better." 

This side benefit is that if you do this five days a week, you'll easily finish a book every month or better.  Fifteen well chosen reads in a year can change your life via confidence, insight and innovative thinking.  For some, you may need to get up a little earlier (skip TV the night before) to accomplish this feat. 

It's going to be hard, I will not kid you. Delaying the Inbox check requires strength, like quitting any bad habit such as smoking.  But you can do it, I have.  And starting out the day with a highly nutricious mental breakfast is the #1 lifestyle hack I use to stay confident and positive.  

For fuel, check out my book recommendations


September 20, 2011

Good weeks lead to good years

Here's a time management & goal setting system I learned 20 years ago: Good Weeks. 

Too often, we measure our progress yearly (annual resolutions and goals) or quarterly (the 90 day treadmill).  The result is often cram-fests at the end of the year or quarter to meet a goal that's "all made up" in the first place.  Those time lines are usually too long to correct, once the finish line is in sight. 

When I was working for Bob May (Pat Summerall Productions) in Dallas, he taught me a simple weekly success system that I use to this day.  His motto was: "Good weeks add up to good months - and good months add up to a great year." 

Each week is a small enough slice to conquer.  Monday and Tuesday have metrics that 'load up the funnel' to produce a successful week.  Wednesday is your review window, where you figure out if you are ahead or behind.  Thursday is the day of finishing things, leaving Friday for clean up or catch up. 

Your weekend means more in this system, because the whole process starts over again the following Monday.  Unlike other methods (annual, quarterly), the finish line is really Friday - so you are less likely to treadmill through your weekends and burn out.  Sure, it's like a never-ending-race, this weekly system, but then again, so is any other system. 

Over the years, I've learned that this weekly focus makes us prone to finishing projects and closing deals with a sense of urgency (by Friday!).  It starts on Monday, and predictably comes to a crescendo by week's end.  A good month is usually comprised of three good weeks (on goal).  A good quarter is a few great months and a good year can be comprised of a few good quarters.  It's all about the highly successful weeks and the shortened time lines for success that we march to. 

Note: The best way to live by this system is to spend some quiet time on Sunday evening or early Monday AM, plotting out what the successful week looks like and how it intersects with established business goals from financial to operational.  As you 'rehearse the coming week,' you'll find it much less overwhelming than trying to visualize success during a more protracted period.  

So get crackin', it's only Tuesday, this week's going to be great!


September 15, 2011

How to get fired as a CEO

Over the last few weeks, everyone's been asking me about Carol Bartz and what happened at Yahoo! 

In short, she was predictably fired.  She followed the natural path to failure, which should have got her canned in the first year (it took over 2).  That's why Roy Bostock needs to step down as the Chairman Of the Board ASAP.  

When I lived in the Silicon Valley (2000-2005), I witnessed this failure phenom several times. The most notable one was Carly's slow motion #fail at HP. In both cases, it wasn't financial performance that preceeded the firing.  It was the style of leadership that hampered the innovation and execution cultures necessary to achieve financial performance.  

Fortunately, we can all learn from history.  It's no fun to be fired as a CEO, regardless of the severence to follow.  Both Carol and Carly wanted to succeed and I'm sure they experienced emotional trauma after being fired and publicly ridiculed. But, if you are a glutton for punishment, and would like to follow in their fired footsteps, here's what you should do: 

1 - Ignore The Founder's Values.  Carly did this, especially when it came to the founding members of HP.  She took down their pictures, disregarding some of their early success stories and attempted to reboot the culture her way (Carly's Way).  That is no way to make friends with the long time stakeholders or fans of the company.  Carol was much the same, as unJerry&David as it gets.  When I was at Yahoo we described our culture as: Fun, Human, Friendly, Easy To Work With and Fast. Carol was none of those. 

2 - Treat your new team like they are on probation. Many of my Yahoo friends told me that Carol's attitude coming in was, "these kids need adult supervision - to be help accountable for once."  That was NOT the reason Yahoo was in it's situation.  Sure, the delay of the Panama self-service project was a black eye, but the ship had already sailed by that point.  Yahoo's fall had to do with missed opportunities (merge with Ebay, buy Go-To before paid search took off, purchase Google when it was cheap to buy.)  It wasn't because the kids were acting fools. 

3 - Crush The Group's Collective Spirit.  Apple came back from the dead over the last 15 years because Jobs injected enthusiasm and drive into the culture, which produced stunning product breakthroughs. The employees brought all of themselves to work and when they hatched a brilliant idea - they gave it to their company out of a fierce sense of loyalty. At Yahoo, under Carol's rule, if you had a great idea, you left the company to start one that's fun to work for.  Just saying. 

4 - Manage With A "What Are You Doing?" Style.  When you first met with Carol, she'd wrinkle up her nose and with obvious consternation ask you, "So, what do YOU do!?  What have you made for us that makes money??"  That's no way to trigger emotional engagement.  If she was concerned about accountability, she should have lifted a page from Google lore and adopted OKRs (objective key results) and made them public via the employee's profile on the Intranet.  That would have positively done the trick.  That's what Eric Schmidt did in his successful tensure at Google.  The great leader, instead, mixes "How Are You Doing Here?" in the leadership lexicon, which employs the tool of empathy to create bonds instead of silo'd divisions. 

For more of this rant, in a collective academic tone, read The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make by Hans Finzel.  


September 12, 2011

Stop calling it social media if you want to get buy-in

Today I gave a talk to a group of Corporate Communication execs interested in 'social-media.'  

They are trying to harness it's listening and engagement power, and distribute it around their companies (from customer service to investor relations).  To a person, they tell me the biggest task isn't figuring out how to use social tools, surprisingly. 

Their biggest challenge is selling their senior leaders and CEOs on the concept.  To the average (older or non-tech) exec, social media is a fad that's led by propellerheads and amateur mavens.  In their view, it's a fad (like CB Radios) that they hope will soon pass.  Sure, they've heard the United Breaks Guitars story, but it likely doesn't apply to them - and when you use words like Twitter, they scrunch up their face in disbelief.  

For several of my consulting clients, though, we've found a breakthrough - the secret sauce to selling social into the enterprise.  Stop using words that sound silly (Twitter) or irrelevent to business (social).  Stop calling this social media!

Instead, call it 'Interactive Media'.  It's the online conversation, to be paired with the offline one, for better business intelligence, marketing and service.  That's a familiar and business centric way to talk about it, and likely no CEO will tell you that "interactive is a pssing fad." 

At one company, the re-branding efforts has led a huge turnaround, and now the CEO has his own Hoot Suite account, to watch the "interactive conversation" as it unfolds.  He isn't writing blank checks against the opportunity, but he no longer has the noise in his head. 

Many internet startups like to use cute, irreverent and fun names: Yahoo!, Twitter, Google, etc. They are likely offputting, though, when it's time to sell stuff to the dinosaurs.  When I was at Yahoo, in several situations, our ad agency partners stopped telling their Fortune 100 clients about the ad opportunity on Yahoo - instead, they just called it 'online marketing' - and it worked then too! 


September 07, 2011

The Significance Of Apple Going Out Of The Box With Lion

MIT prof Nicholas Negroponte once said, "Anything that can be digitized will be." 

The first industry that realized this in earnest was music.  The MP3 was a breakthrough for consumer convenience and continues to redefine the industry today.  The USPS is going broke, because 90% or more of all 'letters' are now digitized into emails. 

Apple's historic decision to sell its new operating system (Lion) via download only is a game changer for the software business.  For decades, software was sold in box form (usually 4-10 times thicker than the actual disk product - to make it look expensive).  Customers liked this, because they had a handy disk around if they needed to reinstall the program later.   The physical product was a 'safety net.' 

With the acceptance of cloud computing, the box seems silly at this point.  You can re-download anything you need from any software vendor.  The box just adds waiting time and shipping costs. By going 100% digital, Apple eliminates the retail function from the release and redefines an industry. (For those with awful download speeds, Apple offers a reuseable thumb drive with the software on it.  Note:  I wrote REUSABLE.)

This is a good thing too.  Boxed media (of any kind) is environmentally and economically wasteful - an artifact from a bygone era of perceived scarcity.  Lion runs under $30 downloaded, which is a far cry from needing-a-weight-belt boxed editions of Windows in bygone eras.

Even in my startup (not ready to divulge all the details), we are forgoing any physical product and focusing 100% of our efforts on eReaders.  It's the same idea: The physical piece of the business is its biggest drag.  

Physical products, sold through stores add layers of cost and hassle throughout a value chain.  In my industry, publishing, it's the biggest problem.  You need to have money to manufacture the book, ship them to storage, move them to distribution, hire sales people to convince brick-and-mortar stores to stock them, pay for their returns to your warehouse, then remainder (burn) the unsold units at some point.  Silly.  

I know that in Love Is The Killer App, I professed my undying love for physical books - well, I'm changing my tune.  Digital products are efficient, can be highly social and will always replace their analog/physical competitors over time.  

What can you digitize at work?  What unecessary physicalities still exist around your business?  I'll jump into your comments to stir this up.  Music-books-software-movies ... what will be next?



September 02, 2011

Maybe you shouldn't post anything today

Ask yourself: Do you give good Return On Attention?  

Today I'm scrambling around, doing multiple jobs and integrating my new docking station solution for my MacBook Air.  I suddenly realized, "OMG, I haven't blogged for a few days and the week's over!" As I've mentioned on a prior post, I have a blog, but I'm not a blogger

My blog, as well as my Facebook and Twitter accounts, are good marketing vehicles for my books, speaking and general business development.  They are also platforms for me to share my thoughts with others and hopefully add value to their life.  

But what are the rules of blogging or updating, really?  Daily, bi-weekly, weekly, whenever? The short answer: Doesn't matter if you give great Return On Attention.  If you just 'wham out' a post to make a make-believe self-deadline, you'll chase away your readers/followers quickly than going radio silence for a week or two.  

Back in 2006, Tim Ferriss called me to pick my brain about book marketing (offline).  He was with Crown, as was I at the time - so we were networked for a brain-share session.  I told him everything I knew about in-store and offline promotion of books.  Towards the end of the call, I offered him some blog advice: You should post more.  

His blog, covering lifestyle design, only had occassional postings, maybe six a month tops.  Sure, they were highly linked to and commented on, but in my rookie view of things - it just wasn't steady enough.  His silence on the other end of the phone spoke volumes.  He knew better.  

Later, he's been quoted as saying that he blogs when he 'has something really good' and the expected quality of his posts is what maintains his following and a healthy demand for his updates whenever they may be.  

This is the best strategy for all of us.  Sure, Seth Godin and Chris Brogan give us great daily stuff. They are bloggers, and can produce five or more great (short) reads a week with the occassional Opus-Post thought piece.  But not all of us can, or should even try to, sustain their super-human level of intellectual productivity.  

So, next time you think you need to whip something up to meet your imaginary deadline. Use the time to catch up on reading instead.  Next week, you might come up with something GREAT to post.