11 posts categorized "June 2013"

June 26, 2013

Four Things To Ask Your Professional Speaker To Deliver

If you are a meeting planner, event manager or charged with organizing your company's annual conference, you likely hire speakers to give keynotes.  Their fees can range from a few thousand to six figures, mostly depending on their celebrity or business profile. 

Since the last recession, speakers have had to fight for every piece of their business.  Events have tinkered with using free (friends of event) speakers or reducing the speaking slots to a single keynote. Today, it is clearly a buyer's market.  So what are you getting for your $$$$?  Ideally, your outside speaker reinforces your event's objective and moves the audience to action.  And often, that's hard for a speaker to accomplish with a canned speech or even worse, a tailored speech that's off-the-cuff. 

If I were you, here's what I would expect from a speaker I've hired for my event: 

1. Interview Call -- The speaker will do some research on the event, industry and organization and then host a conference call with meeting stakeholders.  This call is about defining the event's objectives, the audience profile (from demographics to psychographics), the desired outcome and at a high level, and what the speaker's talking points will be.  As Nick Morgan writes, "the only reason to give a speech is to change the world," and you can't do that as a speaker unless you know all of the above. 

2. The Keynote Outline -- The speaker will submit a one or two page outline of the talk, including case studies naming companies or organizations involved.  This is important because some case studies may involve competitors to the event host or sponsors.  Whenever possible, the outline should include at least one or two industry relevant examples or takeaway points. (That's real customization, BTW.)  You should socialize this outline to all the meeting stakeholders and not be timid about going back to the speaker for clarifications or modifications. 

3.  Meet and Greet -- In most situations, there is a reception or dinner each night of an event.  This is a great opportunity for your speaker to meet his or her audience and deepend insights for the talk the next day.  If your speaker wins over a small portion of the crowd the night before,  odds are the next day will equal a total success. 

4. A Post-Event Deliverable -- Often times, the deliverable may be an audio or video recording of his/her talk to be distributed to non-attendees. (Get permission first.) In my case, I've offered a custom book list for more reading on the topics I've covered.  And the book lists never include my works!  For my latest topic (The Social Opportunity), my audience receive a free copy of an eBook I've written on the subject which contains at least two industry relevant case studies.  In fact, I've gone a step further: I research the audience members if it is a customer conference, and when I can find a case study in the crowd, I interview them and include them in the book.  

I know this sounds like a lot to ask of a speaker, but if you get it, you'll have an effective talk that generates long term value for your audience (and makes you look like a rock star!).  While some of my speaker friends think this is over-reaching, I've found that it's a win/win approach.  The gigs I've worked the hardest on are usually the ones that produce the best results.  

NOTE: Requirements 2 and 3 don't usually apply when you've hired a motivational speaker to share his or her inspirational story.  I would still expect any speaker I hired to be able to tie their story or experience to my event objectives, though. 

June 24, 2013

Why Everyone Should Invite Google+ To the Party

For the last few years, business owners and fellow bloggers have asked me whether Google+ is "a good investment of my time."  Up until last year, unless you were in the technology, social or dating services business, I'd say, "not very good."  

Why?  Although they have 100 million plus users, the demographic is: Most likely occupation--Engineer, Mostly male and over 40% are single.  It's been a very focused community, and I had a hard time recommending it to restaurant owners, manufacturers of consumer products, etc.  But last year, a colleague made me hip to this: Integrating Google+ into your website or blog makes Google happy. When you make Google happy,  more people searching for your product or service are likely to find you. 

Google's search algorithm is highly dynamic, and it's not strictly a measure of popularity anymore. According to SEO consulting firm Hallan Internet, integrating Google+ improves your ranking, especially when it comes to local search (accountant, orlando).  You could start out by simply adding a Google+ Share button right next to you facebook and Twitter ones.  Later, you could develop your profile, establish your author identity and publish content on Google+.  Of coure, the last integration requires your time on an ongoing basis, and this is where your results may vary depending on what type of business you are in. 

As a reminder, getting ranked on the first page of search results matters.  According to research by ad network Chikita, over 90% of web traffic from search comes from the first page of results!  If you own a local business with a physical retail presence (from tire shop to shoe store), check out this article that explains all the ways you can leverage Google+ to directly market to prospective customers.  

For more information: Chris Brogan's Google+ For Business page

June 21, 2013

When You Should Say I'm Sorry Instead of Thanks


When you hurt someone's feelings at work, it's too easy to try and smooth it over with an attoboy or platitude.  But is that really a relationship booster or just a band aid? 

Most of my keynote talks are about how to create and maintain strong business relationships.  Most discussions focus on customer or teammate relationships, but often, I'm reminded that we all need to spend time thinking about our partner (vendor/supplier) relationships as well.  When they go wrong, we lose a lot of traction and face steep replacement costs. 

Last week, I was caught in the cross fire of a customer-vendor disagreement.  I introduced them, which keeps me in the loop of their day-to-day progress.  The customer was unpleasantly surprised about a cost overrun, so he expressed it (laced with some profanity).  The vendor CEO was appalled at having his employees being treated that way, and responded by calling me to vent and discuss terminating the relationship.  

The customer had already realized that the relationship was on the rocks and called the vendor CEO owner to make amends.  Here's the problem: He didn't offer up the right olive branch.  He called to express his gratitude for all the great work and extra efforts the vendor's team had contributed to his project.  While appreciation can go a long ways in a relationship, it is not an antidote to a venomous outburst. 

"He's just worried that he'll have to replace us and start over again," the vendor CEO told me.  "He's not sorry for the verbal abuse, and that means it will happen again," he concluded. He's right too.  I promised to call the customer and see what I could do. 

The customer's point of view, unfortunately, was more ego-based than relationship based.  "I didn't do anything wrong," he spouted.  "They changed the rules in the middle of the game, surprised me, and I expressed that I was a little pissed off." After thinking for a second, he added, "I might have used a little french to express myself."  

I gave him this advice: If you want to work with them, you must sincerely tell them how sorry you are for the way you made them feel and how your reaction created more negative emotions than necessary.  Whether they were wrong by action, your reaction made them feel bad, nervous and hurt.  You should NEVER make a partner feel bad in the normal course of doing business, and when you do, you should show empathy and be contrite about it.  If you value the relationship, then you'll value their feelings.  Then I showed him this post from my facebook page that resonated with my tribe...just to illustrate my point in social terms.

While he was trying to make a deposit in the "emotional bank account" with his vendor, it turned out to be in the wrong form of currency.  I'm hoping he can suck it up, say he's sorry, and move forward with the project.  Time will tell.

June 19, 2013

The Art of Guiding Expectations

Surprise is a good thing when followed by the phrase, "Happy birthday!" Otherwise, it's a negative emotion, and when it happens in a customer-provider relationship, it's a source of dissatisfaction.  Regardless of what you sell or who you serve, your customer's expectations need to be met for you to succeed (in their eyes).  

In fact, I think it's an ethical issue: Properly guiding customer expectations is an act of business love. When you've gone out of your way to eliminate surprises and give your customer proper guidance for them to distribute, you are being a compassionate person.  

Too often, we over sell our service and under play things that can go wrong.  Likely, we lack confidence that the customer will take the good/bad/interesting into account and still do business with us. Often times, people try and "manage" our expectations with a creative lie.  Example: You make a walk- in reservation at a restaurant, they tell you it's going to take an hour and in fact, they expect it to be more like 30 minutes.  This way, you will be pleasantly surprised.  Right?

While this might work for dinner, think about how sandbagging can throw off your customer's internal reporting and management efforts.  If you purposely under promise delivery to give your service some slack, your customer makes plans accordingly -- and when you deliver quicker than expected, it's not a good thing after all.  Also, it's again an ethical issue, where we lie to customers because we can't trust them with all the information.

Instead of managing your customer's expectations, guide them openly and honestly. Here are a few ways to do it, and still land the deals you are chasing:

1.  Sell In Scenarios -  Instead of under or over selling, offer up three potential scenarios, and the variables that determine whether they will come to pass.  Predicted Outcome is your honest assessment of the product's performance or delivery of the benefits.  You should spend considerable time recalculating your company or product's performance to be on top of this scenario.  Worst Case Outcome is the disaster scenario, where the benefits may not materialize or worse, there will be negative side effects.  In many cases, this scenario occurs due to something the customer does or the complexity/high risk nature of the service you provide.  Finally, there is the Best Case Outcome.  Stay realistic as you paint this picture, clearly stating what you and the customer need to accomplish to make it a reality.  If your customer's expectations start to drift to the Best Case Outcome, make sure you are the reality king or queen here, guiding them back to Predicted Outcome.  They will thank you later.

2.  Ask the Right Questions - In many cases, your customer is surprised because you didn't ask him or her what they needed to know up front, and ongoing.  I've worked in the technology and marketing field for over fifteen years, and this answer can vary from customer to customer.  Some are obsessed about delivery dates and others worry about cost overruns.  Once you define their priorities, you can create a regular reporting system, where they are constantly updated about project progress. 

3. Reset Expectations - If you realize that there is going to be a delay in delivering your service, or a lack of performance in the campaign, time is not on your side.  The longer you wait to reveal this to the client, the more they will be upset when they finally find out.  When I was producing the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show webcast (held in '99), we had set an expectation that the internet event would be a technical success, and also help the company build an email list for digital marketing. Our co-founder Mark Cuban reviewed my project and told me that "the event will crash the 'Net in less than 10 minutes!"  He agreed, though, that the email list campaign would likely be successful, given the attention the event would generate. 

He then dispatched me to Columbus to reset the customer's expectations.  Our marketing group even did a mock up of a Wall Street Journal article reporting the event's meltdown.  This way, we graphically demonstrated the Worst Case Outcome as a likely reality to the client.  "It's a healthy problem!" they replied, and the event was still held.  And it crashed in less than 10 minutes.  

When I returned to Victoria's Secret HQ the following week, I was not scolded, but hugged instead. Why? Executives, partners and even board members got the word up that the event was likely too big for the young internet, which was a testimony to the power of the brand.  We over delivered on the email list, and the customer agreed to try the fashion show webcast the following year -- at the Cannes film festival.  

Do you have a story about the importance of guiding customer expectations? Share it in the comments and who knows, you might make the pages of my next book. 

June 17, 2013

Delight Your Customers By Texting Them (really)

Up until recently, I would have told you that texting did not create much of an opportunity for businesses as it might be considered obtrusive.  Of course, for critical communications like flight delay info, I've given out my text for a notification to airlines.  A few friends of mine, have their bank balance texted to them to avoid over drawing their account.  Other than that, it seemed like most consumers only want to receive person-to-person texts (and not to often!).  

As a result, most companies don't integrate text notification into their customer relationships.  They gather physical mail addresses, email addresses and phone number (without validating that they are mobile or home phone numbers for text notification purposes).  If they gathered a text number, along with "would you prefer text notifications?," they could leverage it to save or make more money.  

I recently shred this advice to the owner of a chain of dry cleaners, and to him, it was an unproven concept.  He needed a case study where it could actually save or make him money, otherwise "why recreate the it's-ready wheel?" 

Mobile1 Lube Express offers an example of how retail businesses can leverage text notifications, an offshoot of the same technology that drives social media, to drive customer engagement and loyalty. Their results likely scale to the general population, beyond their category. 

In 2012, the Willow Grove Pennsylvania location created a program where customers were offered an oil-change reminder via direct mail, email or text message.  Surprisingly, 32% of all participants requested text notifications.  When they received a text notification, 35% of them came into the shop for service within 45 days.  In sharp contrast only 21% of those who were sent a reminder in the mail came in for service during the same period.  Text driven customers spent almost 15% more than the average, proving that not only is digital communication a great way to connect, it often reaches the most lucrative customer segments.

The company will replace their print mail notifications with digital ones to both increase marketing effectiveness as well as reducing costs.  This is the true promise of connecting with customers where they are, as opposed to continuing to use legacy ways of communicating.  In any event, Mobile1 Lube Express learned that keeping in touch with customers pays off...it's just a matter of how much.

Read more about this case study here.  And don't forget to get permission first before you text! Slide1

June 14, 2013

How Do You Define Innovation? (You could win!)

This week, I've been tweeting and writing about innovation.  We all know it's the prescription for sustainable success in a constantly changing world.  But what exactly is innovation?  I've played around with several definitions over my consulting and speaking career - and each one is helpful to those trying to harness it's power.

So, I've created a Facebook Page contest, inviting all my friends and followers to submit their definition of innovation.  Next week, I'll pick the most helpful submission and mail the winner a nifty Intel titanium removable drive (8 gigs). It's my way of saying "Thanks" for contributing to the conversation.  

Take a minute to check out the video I made that explains the rules, the prize and my motivation for launching it. Make sure your submissions are in the comments to the video on the Facebook Page and not here.

June 13, 2013

A Five Point Plan For Changing the World With An Idea

Lightbulb flowers
Do you think you can be the next great innovator?  Are you gunning to be an inventor like James Dyson or Thomas Edison? Do you want to disrupt entire industries like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos or You Tube's Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim?  

It's entirely possible for you to become a great innovator that changes the world with your creativity, passion and grit determination.  But behind these innovations is a simple process that must be followed, otherwise you can end up frustrated and broke.  

1.  Identify a Big Opportunity - Many innovators created a solution to a problem they've encountered that is common place.  Dyson couldn't find a vacuum cleaner that sustained decent suction over time. He did his research, realizing he was not alone.  Jeff Bezos discovered that book stores couldn't stock enough books to offer consumers (and himself) the selection they needed.  In every case, there's a problem and a big opportunity for whoever solves it.  This is key to raising any type of funding too. It's critical that you also have connections, experience or proprietary data to assist you in solving it, otherwise you are at a competitive disadvantage over time.

2. Brainstorm a Solution - Leveraging your experience, data or network, identify novel solutions that completely solve the problem at hand.  At this point, be clear on your assumptions (problem, market, requirements, solutions, market reactions to it, etc.).  The best solution will likely be simple, yet hard to execute.  

3. Prototype the Best Idea - Tom Peters once told me that prototypes are important, because if you have one, someone can point at it and say, "that's not the right solution!" Without it, all you are doing is talking in generalities.  Your prototype might be a working product, a minimally viable service or even a visualization (diagram) of the solution.   Southwest Airline's Herb Kelleher often talks about the importance of his napkin diagram of regional flight routes as the key to recruiting talent and money to his business concept. 

4. Test Your Assumptions and Be Willing To Pivot - Many of your initial assumptions about the solution (design, rules, go-to-market strategy) will be off, because you don't know what you don't know as an innovator.  You are looking for a product market fit, not the best looking or sounding solution.  Put the product on sale, give demos to prospects and collect feedback.  In Nail It Then Scale It, author Nathan Furr suggests that if your idea is has product-market fit, then 50% of your cold calls will be returned.  If your early feedback suggests you are on the wrong track, be willing to dump the solution and return to step two.  Eric Paley puts it best: "Don't love your business idea. Love the problem you want to solve." 

5. Execute On a Validated Idea - By execute I mean finish what you start, obsess over the details and never stop testing your assumptions.  Great innovators are first and foremost, exceptional finishers. A few years ago, I made a Skillsoft video explaining my perspective about the innovator's chief requirement: Execute!

June 10, 2013

Is Your Website Unprepared Half the Time?

In this edition of Media Monday, I'd like to shift the conversation to two areas where most of us are either unprepared or underfeatured.  These two areas of web programming complexity are critical, as they make up over HALF of the traffic that comes to our websites.  Consider the following two stats: 

* 23.1% of all traffic to U.S. websites comes from mobile devices (Walker Sands) 

* 29 percent of all traffic to U.S. websites comes from bots (Comscore). 

Many of the business owners or managers I've talked to about this wonder what the big deal really is.  "I've looked at my website on my iPad and with a little adjustment, it looks perfect to me," is a typical reply.  But the reality is much much different.  Take retail eCommerce: According to a report late last year by Skava, only 7% of retailers have tablet friendly sites.  This means that some type of functionality is off: Flash, buy buttons, pop ups, etc.  

Why is this a big deal? If you fail for your user, the costs to get them back go up dramtically.  The May 2013 Mobile Experience Survey suggested that 44% of users will NEVER return to a website that is not mobile friendly.  Wow.  That's not a small number.  While you may be willing to play around with your website to show it off on your Android phone for a friend, your customers and prospects will not.  

Then there's the issue of being Bot-Ready.  In some cases, the bots are friendly: Search engine bots that are attempting to index you for discoverability.  However, in most cases, the bots are spam tools that are designed to use your website as a distribution platform to sell dubious products and services.  One of my good friends has a website that sells a training course and recently, he's been overrun by spam ... getting over 100 emails a day due to having insufficient filters (captcha is an example, although an overbearing one).   

Fail to be ready for the good bots and your website will be hard to find.  Forget about the bad bots and you'll gain more grief than leads from your website.  In both cases, the fix isn't really that hard, usually a matter of finding an SEO expert or using any one of a multitude of off-the-shelf filtering and security products.  For both mobile and bot prep, here are some resources for you (or your friends). 

Tips For Building A Mobile Friendly Website 

Optimize Your Website for Search Engine Bots

(For bloggers) Top 6 Wordpress Plugins To Stop Bots/SpamRegistration 

June 07, 2013

My Lytro Shots Of the Week

Here are my three favorite Lytro shots for you to enjoy this fine Friday.  These are living pictures you can interact with by clicking once to change the focal point or twice to zoom in and move around to see different perspectives.  If you've never played around with one of these pictures, take a second to give it a whirl!




June 05, 2013

The Kind Of Positive Feedback That Works

We all know that giving attaboys or attgirls to our team is a good thing, right?  Not so fast, or should I say, not so general.  Research from Bersin indicates that certain types of accolades or recognition works better than others - especially when it comes to Gen Y employees.  

What works?  Highly specific feedback that identifies exactly what your employee did, the difference it made and how you feel about it.  What fails? Vague feedback that doesn't isolate your employee's thoughtful action and its output. 

When you tell someone, "you are doing a great job" that is a case of vague feedback.  When you say, "I appreciate the detail you put into that client report, especially the metrics you included on opt out.  It's one of the the top reasons they've renewed the campaign, and I'm proud of your thoughtfulness" you are being highly specific.  

This is important to Gen Y employees that play work like a videogame, seeking to master it and not just suck-up-to-the-suits.  General feedback gives them the idea that it's not personal to them or thoughtful on your part, by the way.  A recent article in Harvard Business Review pointed out that most companies ranked giving feedback as dead last in competencies, but a top priority to Gen Y employees.  So think before you give praise, even if it means you give it less often.  

The other reason specific positive feedback works best is because it perpetuates the specific behavior that you want to see happen more often.  A generalized, "good job last quarter" doesn't signal to your employee what they should be repeating, other than "doing a good job."  

Recently, I gave feedback to my event coordinator at my speaking manager group that was highly specific.  She added power point format to an event report (telling me that the event manager wanted me to know that she was using the 16X9 format instead of the default 4X3).  That's really important to a speaker that doesn't want to have to reformat a presentation at the last minute...and I use a lot of screen captures that would look stretched otherwise.  When I told my event manager that including that type of information was helpful and saved me time and stress, she noted it and told others they should start to include such logistics reporting for all speakers and all events.  That's how specific feedback can improve the entire system!


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