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« February 2012 | Main | April 2012 »

Clearing the decks

SwissMiss points to a great infographic about how professional photographers actually spend their time.

Photo.jpg

Part of the magic (and the risk) of the internet is that if you want to, you can use your access to tools, markets and media to go even further in the direction of the chart on the right. You can become your own booker, accountant, publicist and more. Hey, it's free! You get to keep all the money!

Of course, it also means you don't get to spend very much time at all doing what you set out to do in the first place, which is shoot pictures, or write music or coach or whatever it was.

The other thing you can do is find the guts and resources to move even more to the left. Hire other people (at huge expense) to do all those things you certainly could do on your own, so you can actually do the work you were born to do.

One thing to consider: finding and retaining a great salesperson is more difficult than you might think, since a great salesperson might very well contribute even more value than you do.

Confidence without guts

Too many MBAs are sent into the world with bravado and enthusiasm and confidence.

The problem is that they also lack guts.

Guts is the willingness to lose. To be proven wrong, or to fail.

No one taught them guts in school. So much money at stake, so much focus on the numbers and on moving up the ladder, it never occurs to anyone to talk about the value of failure, of smart risk, of taking a leap when there are no guarantees.

It's easy to be confident when you have everything aligned, when the moment is perfect. It's also not particularly useful.

Getting confused about causation and correlation

Have you noticed that in most cities, every time there are lots of umbrellas, it's raining?

From this analysis, the obvious way to make it rain is to be sure that everyone has an umbrella, preferably a black one, since that seems to be the kind that's most visible during big storms.

The trappings of successful marketing (or successful anything for that matter) aren't always the causes. Sometimes they are the caused. Just because Apple did something doesn't mean that it was responsible for Apple's success. It may be that they were successful despite some of the things they did, not because of them.

ʎssǝɯ os ʇou sı lɐʇıƃıp

The real world is messy. Signs hang at funny angles (or upside down). There's dirt in the corner. Cables are in disarray.

In the digital world, when something is out of place, we notice it.

It's a mistake to believe that messiness is always a bad thing. The organic feng shui of the real world gives us comfort, it makes things feel real or special or treasured.

Over time, our digital footprints add up and create a cyber world that starts to take on some of that very same messiness. Change a font or a layout or where something is, and it bothers us.

You can take advantage of that need for comfort by making your digital work a little less sterile, a bit less squared off.

When should we add marketing?

In the Mad Men era, we added marketing last. Marketing and advertising were the same thing, and the job was to promote what was made.

In the connection era, the marketing is the product, the service and most of all the conversations it causes and the connections it makes.

Marketing is the first thing we do, not the last. Build virality and connection and remarkability into your product or service from the start and then the end gets a lot easier. Build it into your app, your book, your movie, your insurance policy, and the red soles of your shoes.

What if the product is boring, someone asks...

Well, you get to decide what you make. If you're entering a competitive field and you intend to grow, the best plan is to revisit your starting assumption and make something else.

The ironic truth about sincerity

No one cares how much you care.

That salesperson who will surely die if he doesn't close this sale, that painter who is sweating blood to get her idea on the canvas, that student who just pulled an all-nighter...

In fact, we're hyper alert to the appearance of caring. We want to do business with people who appear to care, who appear to bring care and passion and dedication to their work. If the work expresses caring, if you consistently and professionally deliver on that expression, we're sold.

The truth is that it's what we perceive that matters, not what you bring to the table. If you care but your work doesn't show it, you've failed. If you care so much that you're unable to bring quality, efficiency and discernment to your work, we'll walk away from it.

And the irony? The best, most reliable way to appear to care when it matters--is to care.

Fifty is the new thirty

Baby boomers continue to redefine our culture, because there's just so many of us, we're used to being the center of attention.

Add into that the fact that we're living much longer and careers are becoming more flexible and it's pretty clear that in just about every cultural respect, fifty year olds are living, acting and looking more like thirty year olds every day.

This changes more than personal financial planning. It changes the marketing of every service and product aimed at consumers--and yet most traditional advertisers are stuck in the mindset that thirty is the end of your chance to find a new customer or build a new brand.

Specific promises, kept

We live in a vague world. And it gets vaguer all the time. There are so many waffle words, so many equivocations, so many ways to sort of say what we kind of intend to possibly do...

In this environment, the power of the specific, measurable and useful promise made and kept is difficult to overstate. And if you can do it regularly, on time and without a fuss, we will notice.

[If it's not working for you, perhaps you need to make and keep bigger promises. "Service excellence is our goal," doesn't count.]

We say we want a revolution...

Of course, what we say doesn't matter so much. What we do is what matters, and we have far more influence that we'd like to confess.

We say we want local merchants to offer great service, deep selection and community values, but we cross the street to the big box store to save $3.

We say we want companies to honor their promises and act transparently, but one new product or big discount from a business that has deceived us in the past and we come right back for more.

We say we're disgusted with Congress, but almost all of us vote to re-elect the dufus we sent there in the first place.

We say we hate spam, but we send it. And sometimes buy from it.

We say we'd like people to think first and act later, but we get cut off in traffic and all bets are off.

We say we love art, the brave work that touches us, but we listen to oldies and rarely head out to hear live music or visit a cutting edge gallery.

Hypocrisy may be an epidemic, but the problem isn't in what we say. It's what we do.

Speaking when they care (reorganizing the economics and attitude of customer service)

Advertisers struggle to be heard through the noise. Customer service reps, on the other hand, can whisper.

A few organizations have figured out how to turn customer service into a marketing opportunity and thus a profit center. They figure if they've got your attention, if they're talking to you at a moment when you care a great deal, they can turn that into an opportunity to delight. And being delighted is remarkable and worth talking about.

That means that if your organization has a stall, deny and avoid policy when it comes to customer interaction, you will almost certainly be defeated if a competitor comes up with a scalable way to delight.

Overseas call centers and online chat handled by untrained workers with no incentives seem like clever ways to cut costs during stressful times. What they actually are is scalable engines of annoyance, time-sucking processeses that raise expectations and then totally dash them. Better to not even have a phone number. (You can't call Google but you don't want to call Adobe--which one generates more animus--the inability to call, or the promise, unfilled, of respect and thoughtful help?)

Or consider: Some airlines are starting to realize that a delayed or cancelled flight is actually a chance to earn some remarkability. In the two hours that someone is stranded, they're paying very careful attention to your brand. What are you doing? Notifying them by email that the flight is late, offering them free wifi, even giving them a link to a free book or movie online--none of that costs more than caring...all of them important opportunities to be heard and remembered.

Investing in delight via customer service is cheap to experiment with and easy to prove. Just siphon off 1% of your calls to a trained person who actually cares and wants to help--and see what happens to customer satisfaction and word of mouth. Cancel a few TV ads and you can pay for it--soon it will pay for itself.

« February 2012 | Main | April 2012 »