Friday, January 31, 2014

What Winter Is Doing

It seems the Farmers Almanac was right!

In the last month or so, talking about the weather has become more than small talk.  With the un-yielding winter we have been facing (all over the country it seems), it is affecting life.  Schools have been closed.  Businesses have been forced into shorter hours.

Twice yesterday I found myself discussing how the weather had been affecting business.  I reasoned that (from a sales perspective) it had been harder to get to see people.  In addition, I also suggested that when I did get to see them, clients were not always in a great mood!  My position was of course that business had been adversely affected by the weather.

But this article says productivity might be up.  I am not sure if I buy this.

And if "productivity" is up, does that mean it translates into sales?  I don't think so.

What is your experience so far this winter?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Last 5 Minutes

A couple of nights ago my daughter and I spent the evening discussing a paper she was working on.  She needed to write an essay on her "Laws of Life."  So we spent the later part of the evening discussing things that would make her world (and frankly the world in general) a better place.

First, thanks to the teacher for assigning this!  It was a productive discussion that every parent would love to have with a teenager.  But the fact is, most of the time she doesn't want to have it.  That night, not only was she open to listening to ideas from me...she wanted them!  She was asking me to repeat "remember that time you told me about...tell me that again."  Then she took her thoughts and my "lessons" and had to put them in a paper in her own words.  Such a fantastic exercise. 

Second, I noticed as I was heading to bed that I was in a great mood.  Partially, I'm sure, because I just spent some quality time with my daughter.  But also because I had just spent time actively talking and thinking about the way the world works.

The last law we discussed was: 

"If you really want to feel good, make someone else feel good."  We discussed the spiritual, emotional and even biological reasons this is true.  And she got it. 

I don't know how she will do on the paper.  But in some ways I don't care.  I already learned MY lesson. 

I have read many times that spending the last 5 minutes of the day thinking about what you want is powerful.  And it is. 

But I spent the last 30 minutes of my day discussing what I wanted for my daughter.  And that, my friends, was even better yet.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Give Your Way To Success

Breaking news:  An historical change is upon us.

No it is not the Rise of the Planet of the Apes (wow that movie was bad).  It is a cultural shift in the way business is done.  It is happening now.  And if you are a fan of doing things "the right way" then you should be excited for the future!

The change has been coming for some time.  For years, companies have worked to automate all of their "service" services.  They have consistently tried to cut costs with outsourcing phone centers, one size fits all websites or even getting rid of human contact all together.  We have all experienced it at one time or another.  We have spent endless time on hold coming to the realization that customer service really had nothing to do with the customer at all.


From a marketing standpoint, the change has been coming as well.  We have lived in an age of "push" marketing forever...since the beginning of time.  But the internet--and social networks--are changing that.  Right now.  Now, more than ever, the customer has a voice.  The customer has clout and power.

And the customer wants better.  We want better.

So the shift is beginning.  Companies are beginning to understand that they need to humanize.  They need to engage.  They need to provide value.  They need to GIVE before they ask.

What this means is that this large world is becoming small again.  Each customer needs to be treated as if we are business owners in a small town!  We might see them again in the grocery store.  If we treat them badly, they can tell their friends.  So as businesses we need to re-visit service and marketing.

We need to GIVE first.  We need to work at providing value to our customers so they trust us.  We need to think "small" things first. We need to "Give Our Way To Success."

Great news...if you want to do things the right way to begin with!  Who's in?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Minding the Routine

One of the reasons I was excited to get the kids back to school after the holiday break, was to get back into routines.  Breaks are always welcome, but when you have established a routine that allows you to be productive (consistently) the break in routine can be down right disruptive. 

Of course the challenge right now is the weather in Ohio has made it downright difficult to have any routine.

So for me, since there is no school for the kids, I might sleep just a little later.  By getting the "extra sleep" I have less time to wake up before I work out.  Then I simply don't work out.  The lack of a workout gives me less time to prepare for the day, gives me less energy, and increases stress.  I have not had the same creativity.

So this morning the alarm went off at "school" time for me.  The family is still all nestled in their bed.  But I am up and at em.  I am getting back into the routine.

I am sure the day will be more productive because of it!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Where Leaders Come From

I tell clients all the time that they want to keep their video short in order to get potential customers to watch.  I used to say 3 to 7 minutes but even that is too long in the ADD world in which we live.  So 45 minutes is way too long right?  No.

This video (I think) is worth the watch if you want to gain some perspective on leadership.  In this talk, Simon Sinek (author of Start with Why) gives some perspective about where leaders come from.

So my advice is spend the time on this one.  You most likely will learn something! 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Why The Idea Has No Value

Ideas have no value.  Ok maybe not "NO value."  But very little value then.

Every day, in every place in the world, someone is saying (or just thinking of) they have a great idea.  Sometimes they tell their friends over drinks that they have this brilliant scheme that would make the world a better place...or make them money.  I even find that I have an UN-ending supply of people that have ideas they think I should do!

The world doesn't have a shortage of good ideas.  The world has a shortage of people that are willing to take action!

As Seth Godin points out all the time, since the economy has changed, we need people that are brave enough to "choose themselves." 

The bad news, for those waiting for someone to choose them, is life has gotten a lot harder.  The economy has changed and there are fewer jobs like that.  The good news is--in today's economy--it is much simpler to choose yourself! 

It's much easier, more cost efficient and accessible to take the "idea" and make it happen.

So if you have an idea that you have always wanted to try...try it.  If you have a business that you have always wanted to start...start it.  If you are waiting for someone to give you a job...create it yourself. 

The REALLY good news is, there has never been a better time.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Know Who You Are

One thing I love to do is meet with and discuss new businesses.  I love the enthusiasm and potential that I see in the eyes of those about to embark on the journey.  I like to help them brainstorm and consider different ideas and opportunities.  But there are challenges too.

I had the chance to meet with a new business recently and the big challenge was choosing a direction.  You see, at the beginning of the entrepreneurship journey, you see ALL of the opportunities.  That's great.  But it can really take away focus from the thing you can do to make money today. 

Before you can decide a marketing strategy (or anything really) you need to know exactly what you are selling.  As the old saying goes, "If you think everyone is  your customer, then no one is your customer."

And this goes for not so new businesses too!  Sometimes we try to do everything and do nothing really well.  So find the thing you are really great at...and do that better than anyone! 

By knowing who you are, it will be much easier to tell customers!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hope Is Powerful

Part of the reason I think that New Year's Resolutions are so prevalent is that people "hope" they can do better in the coming year.  They "hope" they will eat better, stop smoking, make more money, lose weight, etc.

I actually think it's great.  I love that at least once a year, we take the opportunity to look at our life and envision a better us...hope for a better life.

That's a good thing.

Unfortunately, hope is powerful but not powerful enough.  This is not a downer.  Hope is enough to get you to dream.  Hope is enough to get you started.  That's great.

Now, as individuals, we must create an actual plan to get where we want to go.  Then we must get up every day and grind in order to get there.

The power, I think, is in the ability to "hope" more often.  When you don't feel like doing what is necessary to reach your goals, remind yourself of that hope.  The vision might be enough to get you to go back to work!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Track Your Progress For Better Progress

I have recently started a fitness program called P90X3 and am working through it each day.  It's a tough (extreme) DVD program that pushes you create impressive fitness results in 90 days.  The workouts are challenging and I spend a great deal of the time not being able to keep up with the super fit folks on the DVD.  But fitness guru Tony Horton continually reminds me to "Do Your Best and Forget the Rest" and keep going.

What struck me today (just beginning week 2) was how many times Tony reminded us to "write it down" after each workout.  He wants you to write down what weight you used, how many reps you did, whether you struggled or not, etc.  He said it over and over and called out his models when they did not!

Why?  Because if you track your progress, you progress more!  This makes sense in fitness for sure.  But I think it makes a great deal of sense in business as well.

That's why last week I re-introduced our team to our Weekly Activity Sheet.  This simple sheet helps our sales team to track all "pro-active" sales activities during each week.  And I think it does a couple things to drive progress:

1)  You tend to do more:  When you see that your activity sheet does not have much on do more!
2)  Helps Follow up:  Let's face it, once you cross something off your "to do" list it sometimes leaves your mind for good.  So having a record reminds you when you need to check back!

So this week start to track your progress on a daily or weekly basis.  I think it will help you move toward your goals.  And of course if you don't get exactly what you want today, just "do your best and forget the rest!"

Friday, January 10, 2014

Doing Something Good

It's dark and cold outside.  The days are shorter.  It's REALLY cold outside! 

At some point in life, we all get in a funk.  Whether it's relationships, finances, or even the weather, there are lots of very good reasons why our motivation just gets stalled.  I understand.  So here are some quick tips on getting out of the funk.

1)  Exercise.  I am not suggesting you need to run a marathon.  But any kind of physical activity (for even 20 minutes) can loosen up the body and the mind.  It will not only release the physical "goodies" in the body that will make you feel good.  It will get your mind right too!  If you like to walk on the treadmill, do that.  If you are into yoga, get on the mat.  If you like to run, hit the road.  But whatever your preferred activity, do that for 20 minutes to begin your day.  It will help.

2)  Pick a Project.  If you have a project that you are excited about, it helps to take your mind off of the things that are bugging you.  In addition, making small incremental steps will help to boost you up and give you purpose. 

3)  Push Out Good.  This may sound counter-intuitive, but by seeking out good things to ingest and pushing out good to the world, you will make yourself feel better.  A study shows that the person who gives the act of kindness gets the same boost to seratonin that the person who receives it.  So push out good to the world.  You can't do it without getting some back!

Have a great Friday everyone...and make someone smile today. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Combing Your Marketing

Hopefully by now, most business owners have considered keeping their message (or branding) consistent across traditional marketing platforms.  I see most businesses trying to get their TV spot and Radio spot to have a consistent tone and theme.

But sometimes two platforms are ignored during this "branding" planning:  social media and promotional items.

Here is an article posted to Medium about why you need to consider combining them for Super Promo Power!

What is your plan?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Reaching Customers Right Where They Are

It’s a cold winter evening.  The work day is nearly complete.  Rebecca looks out her office window and notices that darkness has already set in.  These shorter days sometimes drag her mood down and make her temper as short as the sunshine.  

But the day is not done for Rebecca yet.  She has yet to make her decision on what interior decorator she is going to use in her new office.  Her new law practice is doing well, but Rebecca wants to make sure that the image she wants to portray is carried through the entire facility.  Oh, and she wants to like the environment too.  After all, she is going to spend most of her waking hours here for the next several years!

Rebecca takes a deep breath and sets her folder aside.  There are several decorators to consider and they all come highly recommended.  

She looks to her left and sees lovely calendar that XYZ Decorations dropped off last week.  It’s sat on her desk ever since.  Rebecca thumbs through the months and sees different designs, from different locations on each month.  

“Wow.  XYZ has some great designs,” she says to no one in particular.  “In offices and homes…they seem to nail it.  Maybe I am making this too hard.”

Rebecca reaches for her phone and calls to discuss her project with XYZ. 

And they live happily ever after!  

 The cynics in the room will be saying “Yeah, sure!  If it were only that easy!”  But here’s the thing folks…sometimes it is.  

Promotional products are a fantastic advertising medium to reach customers and prospects right where they make their purchasing decisions!  If you have a product where these decisions are made in the office, you can tailor make your campaign to reach into offices.  Are the purchasing decisions for your organization made in the home, kitchen, garage, etc.?  Figure out where you want to reach your prospects or customers and then create your items to reach them there!

Let’s use the office as the place that your customers are most likely to make their purchasing decisions.  There is some VERY valuable real estate you may want to own in that area!  In the example above, Rebecca decided based on a custom calendar that showcased XYZ’s fantastic design.  So the decorator (who was obviously targeting office design jobs) created a lovely calendar (essentially a hanging brochure for her) that captured valuable office real estate on prospects’ walls.

What about that desk?  There are some very logical places to gain valuable “desk space.”  You could create a really cool looking mouse pad.   “But everyone already has a mouse pad,” you might say.  And you might be right.  But I have found that if you give someone a better or cooler (or just newer mouse pad) they will often use yours.  

Not into calendars and mouse pads?  I might disagree, but okay!  What about pen holders, desk calendars, notecubes, scratch pads, sticky note holders, letter openers, coasters, tape dispensers, staplers, or clocks?  Not enough ideas?  Keep looking around your desk and see what invaluable item you can’t seem to live without.  My guess is, you can do that as a promotional item with great effectiveness.

You get the idea.  You need to spend time envisioning what your perfect clients office might look like…then give them a promotional item they will love to keep!

Monday, January 6, 2014

What If I Fail?

"Remember that failure is an event, not a person."  Zig Ziglar

I have read many times that if you have not failed, then you have not tried anything new.  This really comes to mind as you try to set goals and resolutions with the new year.  The message as you try difficult new things is, you will fail.  When you are challenging yourself and reaching outside of your comfort zone some failure is inevitable.  But that's ok!

As Seth Godin reminds us here, we need to change the conversation in our head.  We need to not worry about the fact that we will fail.  We need to focus on what we do WHEN we inevitably do. 

We will fail in life if we are trying anything worth doing.  But do we let it encourage or discourage us?  That is what will determine whether we ultimately succeed.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Being the Underdog

Last night the University of Central Florida (UCF) outlasted the Baylor Bears in the Fiesta Bowl 52-42.  I tell you this not because I want to highlight the lack of defense in a BCS Bowl game.  I tell you, because UCF was the largest underdog (17 point) in the history of BCS Bowl games.  By all accounts, they had no chance.

Then a funny thing happened.  For the last 3 to 4 weeks, every person who "knew" anything about College Football told them they had no chance.  They mocked them.  The experts went on national television and questioned everything from their schedule to their talent.

Do that to talented, driven teams...and watch what happens. 

It seems to happen all the time in the world of sports.  You have a team that "on paper" has no chance in their Bowl game.  Then they spend a long time hearing how they have no chance.  This cacophony of "haters" and doubters creates an "us against the world" mentality. 

The underdog creates a razor sharp focus to what needs to be done.  Then they work super hard to make it happen.

Congrats UCF!  And thanks for reminding us what we can do when we are the underdog!