5 posts categorized "June 2012"

June 26, 2012

Don't Stink At Email

If you lose readership of your email, your influence wanes at work.  If you misuse it enough, you'll turn partners into detractors.  If you mismanage it as a resource, you'll force everyone to do more work and they'll despise you for it.  To quote TechStars grad and Vanilla founder Mark Sullivan, "Don't suck at email."

I'm surprised, though, that few companes teach email effectiveness.  That's why so many people I've worked with suck at email.  It's not something we should leave to users to figure out (using our company name in their email address!?).  It can be your Colt 45 tool to get things done, or your Achille's Heel.  Your choice. 

Here are five ways not to stink at email: 

1. Kill your inbox every Friday.  Letting your Inbox get full of once-read but not-answered emails stresses you out.  It also sends a signal to your bizmates that you don't have your act together OR you are way over committed.  Don't think that an auto-responder like "I'm so busy, sorry if I don't reply" will cut the mustard.  It comes across as showboating, unless you are a mega-star that's getting pummled by fan mail. 

2. Review before you click Send.  In most email situations, we write, send, then review.  That's the ready-fire-aim approach to communications.  Take a few seconds to read what you just wrote, and do so from the reader POV.  Remember, this is work and you are trying to get stuff done.  If you are mad, then really reread what you are writing.  Consider picking up the phone instead, so you can convey your intentions instead of raw emotions. 

3. Craft effective subject lines.  What if the New York Times sucked at writing headlines for their stories? What if their headlines read, "RE: The Economy"?  Today, to be effective at email, we need to use subject lines like publishers use headlines.  Most of your email recipients are on-the-go, so your subject line is your advertisement for their attention.  If you are requesting some specific action, say it in the subject line.  If you are updating on the topic, summarize the development in a half a tweet's worth of words. 

4. Don't reply to all unless you have to.  More email from you equals more reason to ignore you in our high noise to signal life.  In the study I did on email usage for EmailAtoZ, only 12% of reply to all occurances were necessary.  The others were pure RE:RE:RE: conversations that invovled everyone in the original note.  More here

5. Write email during professional hours.  Sipping and sending can be as dangerous as drinking and dialing/driving.  When you write all your emails on a plane, at 10pm with five glasses of red wine in you, you suck at email.  When you setup your laptop on a coffee table on a Sunday, and plow through 100 emails while watching the game, your notes don't make much sense and you likely display a tone of resentment.  Make your meetings shorter, and preserve work week time to kill your Inbox.  If Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson can do it, you can to.  And he's awesome on email. 

June 19, 2012

How To Be Great At Giving

Last night I gave a talk to a group of donors about generosity.  The point of the talk was that giving is an area of excellence in our life, just like any other activity.  

Some people are great givers, and others are sporadic to innapropriate.  It's critical that we approach giving with a Good-2-Great mindset because, after all, there's only so much time or money in our budget ... and the world needs us to punch above our weight.  

Here are 7 ways to be great at giving: 

1. Turn Have-To's Into Get-To's: Don't give out of sympathy or duty.  Your recipients don't want your charity, they need your support.  When you find yourself at Aristotle's intersection of purpose (your ability and the greater need), rejoice that you've been given an opportunity.  This will produce an attitude of gratitude on your part, and bring you the Helper's High that generosity can produce. 

2. Give As A Relection Of Your Values:  Don't give randomly. Focus on the values you hold the highest and concentrate your efforts there.  If you value health, give to a hospital foundation.  If you value community, consider donating time to local cause.  By aligning giving with your values, you'll possess the tenacity to finish what you start. 

3.  Give All The Time: Generosity, like gratitude, is a spiritual muscle that needs to be worked out constantly.  Don't let your generosity be a one-and-done phenomenon.  The more you practice generosity, the better you'll get at making a difference with your assets.  

4. Obsess About Return On Giving (ROG): Think of ROG as the ROI of charity.  If you are donating money, question the flow-through rate of every dollar you give.  Anything less than 80% is likely funding the organization, instead of moving the needle. If you are volunteering, review the results of the projects, to make sure they are worthy of your time.  

5.  Diversify Your Giving Portfolio: If you are in the habit of donating money, diversify your generosity by donating time.  Mentor someone in transition that you can help.  Invest an hour a week into networking others into opportunity.  By combining tangible and intangible giving, you'll be able to keep doing it even when business/social cycles change your personal situation. Sometimes you'll have more money and time or vice versa.  In either case, you'll remain generous . 

6. Talk The Walk: Share what you are doing with your friends and co-workers.  Don't worry, it's not bragging if you are helping.  It's recruiting!  When you share your walk of good with others, you influence them to do the same.  Generosity is contagious, but if you keep it a secret, how can ever catch on?  

For more, read The Power Of Giving


June 13, 2012

Business Lessons From Gotye

Gotye's smash hit, "Somebody That I Used To Know" is everywhere I go. 

Jacqueline introduced it to me months ago, when its stunning video made it's way around the web, and I knew it was going to be the song-of-the-year.  At this point, you might be getting tired of it, like you did with James Blunt's "Beatiful" or the last four hits from Coldplay. 

But, there's great marketing and product development learnings that can come from super smashes, and why they happen.  I guess that's why I love music and entertainment culture so much.  Putting my bizcap on, here's what we can learn from Gotye: 

1. Be Emotionally Relevent To Many. - The product story (lyrics) appeal to two big groups: Those who've lost love, then contact and those who have been 'screwed over.'  That's a big market.  Think the Alannis Morrisette song with even bigger reach.  Green Day has often used a 'life-situation' wheel when writing songs for an album.  

2. Whittle The Product Down To Perfection. - The key was the song structure (no real break, quiet verse, tense bridge, rewarding chorus).  The production was sparse, but novel.  The build of the song is done as much with packaging (think fading, effects) as by design. 

3. Remember to include Old/New/Borrowed/Blue. - The song makes you think Sting, vibe like Andrew Bird, remember Peter Gabriel and most of all...feel emotionally down a little.  That's the secret to building product drama. 

4. Promote The Product Sight, Sound & Motion. - Many people discovered Gotye through the video his team produced for the single. It was produced for YouTube, and has by far gotten more views (a quarter of a billion) than MTV could deliver in its heyday.  We saw him, his special guest Kimbra, and a neat visual concept that was worth sharing (and talking about).  In the Pinterest economy, you need to be Pinteresting! 

5. Apologize For Succes, Then Monetize. - When I saw Gotye at Coachella, this song was the highlight, and the crowd went berzerk.  Afterwards, he said, "well, now that we have that out-of-the-way," and went on to sell us a second single with a passionate performance.  His shoe-gazing approach to such a smash allows even the tastemakers to continue to enjoy the song, and maybe, his next product. 



June 04, 2012

One conversational tweak that'll make you a better networker

Great networkers are givers, not takers.  That's a key insight to mastering the art of connection. 

Too often, when we think we are 'networking', we are actually trolling for assistance in one of our ventures.  We are screening people to see if they have use to us, and if we might possess currency we can trade for their assets.  It's a quid-pro-quo approach, and to me, is just salesmanship. 

Networking occurs when you connect two or more people together that should meet - and then get out of the way! (BTW: If you expect something in return for your networking efforts, you are just a broker that's peddline your network). 

So, here's the best way to change from a Prospector or Broker into a real-live Networker of value: Stop asking people "What do you do?" Instead, ask them, "what are you doing these days that I might be able to help you with?" Resist all tempations to uncover potential value to you, and ignore their offers to pay it back. 

By focusing on what others are doing, dreaming about, trying to do, struggling through, etc., you shift your perspective from trading to contributing.  Dale Carnegie said it best: "You will win more friends and accomplish more in the next two months, developing a sincere interest in two people than you will ever accomplish in the next two years, desperately trying to get two people interested in you."

The best networkers I've ever met, such as Keith Ferrazzi, spend 80% of their conversations probing to find out how he can add value through an introduction.  80%.  He's relentless when he asks, "what are you enthused about these days," and as a result, has the unique opportunity to enrich hundreds or thousands of lives per year.  

For more, read Masters Of Networking by Ivan Misner. 

June 01, 2012

Calling on editors, book designers and marketing gurus

At Net Minds, we are changing the way publishing makes books. (see my previous post on the startup I've cofounded.) 

We are a networking service that partners authors with publishing talents to produce great books that are effectively promoted upon release.  After publishing four books through the antequaited traditional model, I realized that there had to be a better way...The Net Minds Way. 

Currently, we are working with over a dozen authors on books of all types.  We've built up a network of free lance editors, book designers, mareketers, and publicists to work with them.  Each partner gets a piece of the book's profits as part of their comp package.  We strongly believe that joint-ventures make better products ... and in my experience, sharing the upside makes all the difference. 

Here's the May Net Minds list of projects, looking for partners of all types.  The authors are impressive: Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, former CMO of AMD Nigel Dessau, media visionary Robert Tercek and nine others.  If you know a freelancer that might be intersted, please forward this blog post to them.  The deadline for responding is Thursday June 7.