Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Last week I heard this story about Charlie Villanueva catching grief over sending a Twitter message to fans during halftime of a basketball game. One report mentioned Villanueva not seeing the difference in tweeting at halftime vs. giving a locker room interview at halftime.
It seems really simple to me. Media organizations spend big money with the NBA and it's franchises to have access to players at such times. If info will be given out freely, why would those organizations bow at the feet of NBA execs for that access? My guess is that the problem was not in his lack of focus (though that was the reasoning given in public), but rather the leapfrog effect it took over his superiors to provide the info during high demand times. Villanueva took bargaining power from his execs by providing his comments free of charge.
Maybe he should be traded to the Mavericks where owner Mark Cuban sees the advantages of using social media to improve his marketing position.
I'm a user and fan of Twitter but would suggest anyone who uses it to not let it take away from their time they are being payed to work or from the leverage their employer has on their market. If those two things are followed... tweet away.
Monday, March 30, 2009
I filled in as a substitute teacher last Friday at a high school near my home. The coach who I was filling in for, left nothing but a sheet of riddles for the students to ponder to kill the time (yes, the teacher was a coach... stereotype accomplished). Having dealt with teens before, I knew that I had to make the riddles worth their time. Teens are no different from any other person you'll come in contact with. If they feel like you are being disrespectful of them, they're more likely to treat you with disrespect. And wasting anyone's time (even a teenager's) with "busy work" that wouldn't have any impact on them or the reason why they are there, is disrespectful.
The class was supposed to be a teen leadership class, so, I decided to explain why the riddles were important in leadership. We did the riddles together as a class. Then discussed how many of the riddles had different possible answers. The great thing was that some of the students had answers but couldn't explain why or how their answers were correct. One student even looked up the answers on his iPhone but still couldn't explain why the answer he had written down was correct. Therefore other students were doubtful and reluctant to follow his lead in writing down his answers. It was clear to see, however, that some other students had a reason for answering a certain way, were passionate about it, and could communicate that reasoning and therefore were able to lead the rest of the group to their way of thinking and even to changing their answer.
The key to this: Understanding and being able to clearly communicate why you believe a certain way or believe in taking certain action is more important in building a following than whether or not you know the expected "correct" answer. Many times people are willing to take a chance and follow you if they know why. Life is not an elementary school flash card. People don't care who's first in shouting a flippant solution. Knowing why your solution is best, and being able to communicate that with passion to you followers is key.
Are there things you're sure of but you're not sure why you're sure?
Friday, March 27, 2009
I often hear people talk about wondering what to do with their lives. I've even wondered myself. Now, I'm not talking about whether to spend my Saturday watching college basketball or roaming "children's expo" to show my kids all sorts of cool toys they'll never own. I'm talking about people wondering every day what they can do to make a difference. How can I leave a legacy. Everyone wants to have that feeling that once they take the long nap, their work will live on, either through their children or through the people who's lives have been touched by their work.
The answer to this question is quite simple. Everyone should align their life toward their holy discontent. What is holy discontent? Oh, well that's pretty simple actually. Pastor Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv is who I first heard speak of this. I've since heard people describe it in many ways and noticed that Bill Hybels has even written a book about it (e-version). I'll describe it like this. - Holy discontent is different in every person. It's a certain situation, injustice, illness, etc. that, when you witness it, makes you so angry or upset you could cry. Then when you happen to be witness to something being done about it, you are so touched and happy you get chills and cry. There, that's a simple meaning of holy discontent.
All of us have some form of holy discontent. Put there intentionally by God, to pull at us and urge us toward a life of using the unique passions and talents that He has instilled in each of us individually. It is up to us to align our lives to leave a mark on the world in our area of holy discontent in the name of Christ. For some, it may mean changing careers to become a full time mommy, or work for a non-profit organization. For others, your full time job may seem to have nothing to with your holy discontent, but is a means of funding or allowing time to do the things needed to leave your mark.
See, that was easy. Now you know what to do with your life. Well, once you figure out what your holy discontent is.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Neighborhood pools will be opening soon here in Oklahoma. Parents will take their kids to the pool and discuss with themselves whether or not to take a swim. For those deciding to get wet, there are two ways they can go about their first swim of the season.
Some test the water with their toe, then slowly walk down the steps of the pool for that first late spring swim. Unfortunately, when someone takes that approach, they're sure to get to that "certain point" that is very sensitive to the temperature change. Then a decision has to be made - do I keep going? or do I turn back and dry in the warm sun? This is a critical point and this opportunity to cancel the swim rarely make for a good, enjoyable swim.
The other group will walk to the edge of the pool. Stand at about the halfway point between the shallow and deep ends... and jump! Up they will bob for their first gasp of air and shout "dang that was cold". But they will often think... I'm already wet, might as well swim. Minutes later they will have acclimated to their new environment, and enjoy their first swim of the season and post memories of playing in the pool to their kid's mind.
So, what's that have to do our everyday life? I'll use this explanation to explain.
I recently hired a new sales rep. I will be riding with him today as we meet some new businesses. I will tell him that story and ask him to make a choice. He can dip his toe into this new adventure. If he does, he's sure to get to that uncomfortable spot, where his time and efforts are colder than the warmth of his commissions. He'll at that point have to decide whether or not to keep going in hopes of a secure future with high commissions in or to run to the refuge of a comfortable salary job. Or, he can jump in with reckless abandon. No turning back. Come up for air in a couple of weeks and say "dang that was cold" but, I'm already in and might as well swim. Next thing you know, the discomfort will be over and he'll have nice commissions to aide him in making memories with his family.
This is true not just in beginning a new job, but in any change you're considering.
What will you do? - test the water? or JUMP?
Monday, March 23, 2009
This past weekend, I took a visit to the Tulsa, OK area to visit one of my brothers. It was a great trip, and we were able to play some card games and visit while my daughters spent some time with cousins they rarely see even though we live less than two hours apart. After piling on sofas for our Saturday night slumber, we did what most Christian families do on Sunday mornings - argue with our kids about doing what needs to get done so we can get to church on time. Oh, don't look so shocked. It happens at your house too. Anyway, one of the nice things about being a partner/member of LifeChurch.tv, is the ability to attend our "home" church in many cities around the country (or world using their Internet campus). We decided yesterday to visit the mid-town Tulsa Campus located on 41st street. Since we've only once visited a LC campus other than the Oklahoma City Campus that we call home.
Being a marketing minded guy, my mind always takes mental notes of my experience when walking into any business or organization that invites people in. That is, after all, a key determining factor that determines whether or not people will enjoy their visit and do business/visit your organization again. Following is a run down on my experience yesterday at the LifeChurch.tv, Tulsa OK Campus.
- The drive up: My wife and I are not familiar with the Tulsa area but found the campus easy to locate and, even better, the building appeared to be one of the best kept in the area. The signage and even colors of the building were uniform with what we recognized in a different city. These things made us feel good about pulling in.
- Parking: The parking lot was sort of cramped but I realized later that there was more parking available at the rear of the building. Not a turn off or a turn on for me. Getting out was simple and that was more important to me.
- Kids area: I really liked the layout of the kids area. I'm sure that if we'd gotten assistance to check our kids in, we'd have been directed as to where to take them, however, we used our existing LifeKIDS check in number and assumed we'd easily find where to go. Toon Town (the 6yr old thru 4th grade experience) was easy to find since it was near the check in area, but we initially weren't sure where to take our 4 yr old. We saw there were some rooms upstairs so assumed we'd head that way. Once rounding the corner to the second lift on the flight of stairs we saw a sign telling us to take a left to find our destination. I didn't notice a sign at the bottom of the stairs telling us to go there to begin with. If it was there, it wasn't as obvious as the sign at the top of the stairs. Problem was that we couldn't see the one at the top of the stairs until we already committed to that direction anyway.
- Main Lobby: We headed to the main lobby which had a great buzz to it. Unlike the Oklahoma City lobby where people seem to rush in and rush out, many not arriving until the worship music had begun or seeming annoyed by bumping into someone else on their way out as fast as possible, this place was full of people grouping in circles and sharing their week's experience. It made one feel like you could make a friend and be in a "circle of friends" by next week. It had a great feel and you could even get a smile rather than a glare if you made eye contact with someone you didn't know.
- Into The Experience Room: Upon walking into the main experience room, you got the feeling that something big was about to happen. The lights were down. Spot lights were slowly scanning the room through a hazy fog. It was great. Here I was, a long time LifeChurch member who knew the basis if the week's pre-recorded message (more on that later) and I still could feel my pulse increasing and myself getting anxious as the 10 minute countdown began and the crowd began to flow in to get their seat. This was real nice because I was anticipating a worship experience where people were already in the room rather than being distracted by seat shuffling as people finally came in all though the worship experience. I'm the kind of guy who is prone to close my eyes and focus on God during this time, but often get distracted by the late arrivers (I know that's a pretty selfish comment, but hey, that time is to focus on God, right?). I just appreciated the anticipation that drew the crowd in early. I was much less distracted even though the place was much more crowded.
- Worship: This is something I was really looking forward to. I am a huge fan of Derrick Henslee (the worship pastor there). Behind my friend Stephen Cole, he may be my favorite guy to lead me in worship. These two seem to not try so hard to "lead worship" as much as they are the "lead worshipers". That passion really softens me up. I was terribly disappointed in this part of my visit. Derrick "seemed" to do great, however, I could barely make out a word that he sang. I'm a huge fan of pumping up the volume of the music. I'm a horrible singer so I only want God himself to hear me singing along. I don't even care to hear myself. But, the level of volume I experienced yesterday made me miserable. All of the instruments seemed to blend together as one big noise. It was so loud that I thought my ears might bleed. Unfortunately, after looking forward to worshiping with Mr. Henslee, I was praying for this segment of the experience to end as soon as possible.
- Pastor's Welcome: After the musical torture experience, we were welcomed from the stage by Dave Branham. This was good. He made me feel welcome and didn't come across as if he was racing through some over-rehearsed stage time influencing opportunity. There were even times that he seemed to search for his next words. It was nice, normal, human, welcoming.
- Message: This was the second week of a three week teaching by guest Dave Ramsey. I won't say much about it other than that it was AWESOME. If you didn't experience this message, I'd suggest you click HERE and watch the last two weeks on line. Then make plans to watch next weekend's message in person or on line if there's not a LifeChurch campus near you.
- The Final Moments: The close and exit of the experience all went smooth. Back in the lobby, people were mingling and enjoying each other's company rather than rushing home.
Overall, if this campus was closer to home, I'd definitely visit again. However, I would hope that my ears were not assaulted again.
Let me know your thoughts and tell me about some places you've visited. How was your experience and how will it effect future visits.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Many sales gurus will speak of two major truths that will entice people to buy - fear of loss and hope of gain. These talking heads will encourage sales people to speak highly of the gains and benefits of their product or service to promote the hopeful gain of doing business with them. Or, they will reverse that effect by telling horror stories or making up worse case scenarios to create a fear of loss by not buying what they have to offer.
Sales Reps - please hear this... That doesn't work! We've all had too many of you vomiting that crap at us for too many years! Nobody believes your rehearsed success stories and nobody is buying your outrageous fear tactics. I don't care if your lawn spray kills the most poisonous spiders in South America. I live in Oklahoma, I don't believe that story you told me about the shipment of bananas being spilled on a neighborhood street Germany releasing spiders from their crates and killing all the people and pets within a 10mile radius. I don't believe it happened and doubt it will happen in my neighborhood. You tell me that story and I'm likely to not even buy your basic lawn treatment.
That is just one silly made-up example but organizations and entire industries use tactics like this to increase the movement of their products.
However, I've met one individual who is doing it right. Her name is Sherri Booth and she sells EcoQuest air purifiers (you can visit her website here). She simply tells you about the machine, how it works, and what it's supposed to do. Next, she allows you to place a machine in your home for 10 days. If you feel it works. Your allergies are relieved, you can't smell your pets when you walk in the door and such like that, then you can buy the machine after the 10 day trial. If you don't think it does, she picks up her machine and no money changes hands. That's right. She doesn't ask you to pay and say you can return it in 10 days. Instead, she lets you try it first. If you experience the gain from the use of her product you know it (not from some story she made up) and if you feel you'll loose the benefits you've gained, you've created your own fear of loss (because you must return the machine at the end of 10 days).
I'd like to see more companies taking this approach. Let me decide what my gain is from your product and let me decide what my loss would be if I decide not to keep your product or service. How's this working for Sherri? Her customers purchase about 70% of the machines that she places. Much better than most closing rates for sales.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I took my daughters, who are now ages 9 and 4, to my mother's house yesterday. They will spend two nights there durring spring break. This is the first time my 4yr old, Ruthie, has stayed overnight like this. We pulled up the drive and my girls ran right up and through the door of Nana's house.
My wife and I went in to visit for a while before leaving. The whole time there my mind kept wandering to think about our youngest daughter spending her first nights away from home. I was stalling. Finally, Ruthie came back into the living room (she had found the Disney Channel on a TV in Nana's room), she grabbed me by the arm and pulled to try and yank me out of my seat. "I'm ready for you to go" she said. My heart sank. Yet, at the same time, I was so proud of her bravery. I honored her request and figured that was the best time to get out without a scene.
During the drive home I was thinking about what Ruthie had said to me. "I'm ready for you to go." But, I wasn't ready. I think deep down I wanted my little girl to cry and ask to come home with me when it was time for me to leave. Ruthie was ready to step up to another level of maturity and, as her daddy, I wasn't ready for that. I should be happy. After all, isn't my job as a parent supposed to be preparing them for that next step in maturity. I guess I should have immediately began to search for that next level to teach her, prepare her for, or challenge her with. So why is it that my eyes fill with tears as I write this?
I think we all do this in some ways. For some of us, it's not wanting our kids to take that next step in maturity or independence. For some people it's for different reasons. Maybe it's a feeling of codependency and needing to be needed. For others, it's a realization that growth and that next level of maturity means you need to let go of some control. And we like to be in control.
This can be evident in many areas of our lives. From the business owner that seems to "hamstring" his business by slowing growth because he knows deep down inside that he'll need to let go of some of the control over details he has with a small operation. Or the growing Christ follower who needs to take that next step in her relationship with Christ, but knows that it means turning over her worries and letting them go to HIM. She wants to worry, even though that won't fix her problems.
Our greatest role as leaders is to help those around us grow. That means that many times, great leaders don't gain more control over the situation around them, instead, they prepare those around them to take control. It's hard at times to let someone else have control over something we're responsible for, but, if we've don a good job as a leader and handed that control over to the right person, it will ultimately help your business, organization, or family, step up to the next level of maturity.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
HR departments are notorious for trying their hardest to hire the cheapest person for the position available. I recently saw a Craigslist.org post that was put up by a large publishing company (mainly newspaper) in the OKC area. It simply said they were looking for Social Media Specialist and was accompanied by a long list of requirements that an applicant must posses. Hmm... maybe a good freelance opportunity, I thought.
I sent a simple email stating that I would be interested in discussing the position along with links to my FaceBook page, LinkedIn profile, and my blog. The next day I received an email from the company's marketing department expressing their interest in me and requesting my salary requirements. Whoa there! Talk about putting the cart before the horse. We hadn't even talked about the details like the expectations and needs of the company and they wanted me to commit to a price I would be willing to fill those needs for?
Eventually, I got them to divulge the salary range for the position but still have no idea what their expectations are. As I would understand by the position title (Social Media Specialist) the chosen candidate might do some of the following things in that role.
- Update and maintain social media sites that represent the said company.
- Maintain, write (maybe co-write, or schedule writers) of a company blog.
- Constantly search for other blogs and posts for information that might be of interest or use of the said company.
Funny thing is, if this does happen to be what the company I communicated with had in mind, I don't think it would require full time commitment and could be done for about half of what they are offering. However, they are asking for a 40 hour commitment. Most people who are skilled in and experienced in social media and social networking, will require about 15% - 20% more than what they are offering to commit full time. This is because most people in this line of work do some freelance and personal marketing to provide income and that would be hindered by one 40 hour commitment.
Chances are the above company will end up with a semi-experienced, semi-committed employee who is content in accepting 40 hours of pay for a job that should take 20-30 hours to complete. This person will likely spend the other 10-20 hours of their week (for which they are getting paid) chatting by the water cooler, checking personal email or tasks, being monitored, causing stress for their supervisor, and so on.
If the decision makers in the hiring process are flexible, will discuss their needs openly and candidly, and not try to land the cheapest 40 hour employee... they could get the same job done, in half the time, by a more experienced individual, who'll show more care, attention to detail, creativity, and passion for the task... at half the price.
The cheapest person for the job will often end up being your most expensive option and will rarely be the best person for the job.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I arrived at a great Asian restaurant last night in anticipation of an event hosted by the local chamber of commerce. As I stood in the lobby with 8 or 9 other confused chamber members, it was evident that we were in the wrong place. Quickly, everyone fired up their iPhones and PDAs to recheck the chamber website. Yep. According to the events calendar on the site, we were in the right place. I then sent a couple of text messages and had the correct location at hand. However, by this time, we were 30 minutes into a 2 hour event and the correct location was about 20 min away, so we all decided that dinner and social networking for 10 would do just fine for tonight.
Whether a business, church, charity organization, or any other organization, having the correct information available is important. It's time to find yourself awakened to the fact that in 2009 most people will look for your information on the web. Some may only look on the web. It's too easy to get the word out about your event or changes in an event, for anyone in your possible circle of influence to go un-notified.
One thing that happened in this example that I see in many business websites is that the information on the site was incorrect. Once again, editing the location of an event or changing a few words is too simple to let it go undone. If the information on your site is incorrect, it is likely not neutral but rather hurting your cause. In the case of last night, 10 people would have sought the location of that event if they hadn't been under the impression that they already knew where it was. Heck I trusted the people that put it on. Or at least I trusted their site.
Look at the information you're putting out in your emails, calendars, and on your site. Is it up to date? Do yourself and your cause a favor and fix it now.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I was driving through a strip mall parking lot the other day and saw an old friend walking out of a store. I quickly pulled up to him and rolled down the window. After a few quick "hellos and how ya doings" he said... "I guess I'd better go. My wife's in the truck and we're on the way to the hospital." What's going on, I asked. To which he replied, "she's in labor and we're on the way to have the baby".
WOW! Stopping in at the store was a real gutsy decision. My wife would've killed me. I'm sure when his bruises heal and everything plays out they'll have a good story to tell.
Monday, March 9, 2009
I took my daughter Halee to Target on Friday, hoping to relieve her of that burning sensation that her birthday money has been causing on her hip for the last few weeks. I kid like that but she was really diligent in deciding what to spend it on. She decided it would be fun for she and her sister to play with walkie-talkies, so, that's where we headed. She told me on the way in, she wanted a movie if she had enough money too.
Once inside she found the "perfect" communication devices for only $14.98. Then off to the movie section to find Beverly Hills Chiwawah. We found it with a glistening sign that said "$5.00 gift card with purchase of Beverly Hills Chiwahwah" Great! the movie was $18.99, but with the $5.00 gift card, she might have enough with the $30 she already had plus the gift card. So... off to the register we go. That was too easy. At the register, she paid for the movie first so she might use the gift card for the walkie-talkies. No gift card. What?
The young man at the register explained that you must need a second purchase of some sort to validate the purchase. "This happens all the time" he said. He called the manager over who explained that you must buy that movie AND Air Bud Special Edition to receive the gift card. A second look at the display revealed a second sign in a different location on the display with fine print outlining the details. "What an idiot" I thought of myself. Exactly the tone the manager took as he explained how an informed shopper would read all the signage on the display. Then it hit me. The guy at the register said it happens all the time. Including earlier that day with a Kellogg's promotion with a similar offer. $5.00 gift card with purchase of 2 of a certain type of cereal (must buy a total of 5 Kellogg's products to validate the offer).
Why not be more clear on the offer? Why make your customers feel stupid at the register with people waiting in line behind them? Why try to embarrass your customers into a purchase?
We didn't by the second movie. Mom and Dad covered the balance of Halee's purchase. Target duped us. But, they also won't see me in their store again. If I'd been the only one making this mistake, I'd feel differently but I believe this was a dishonest marketing tactic. Remember, the register guy said "it happens All The Time".
Duped me once. My daughter and I were embarrassed and treated like idiots by management in your store. Won't give you the chance to dupe me again.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Referral groups are a great way to grow your business. Google the term "business referral groups" + your city and you'll get a great list of places to start checking out. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when choosing which group to devote the majority of your time with.
1. Make sure the group focuses on referrals and not leads. The difference is this.
- LEAD: Hey, I just met with a guy who could really use some help getting traffic to his web site. I know he mentioned needing help with that. You should call him. Here's his contact info.
- REFERRAL: Hey, I just met with a guy who could really use some help getting traffic to his web site. He even mentioned needing help with it. I told him JC Riley is the guy who can get that done. I sent him to AFHmarketing.com and gave him your number. I also told him I'd let you know and have you give him a call.
2. This is not one of those times when you simply buzz around handing out your business card. Though it's nice to get the chance to do business with the people in your group. However, your purpose should be to do business with the circle of influence that the people in the group know. The ultimate target shouldn't be the group themselves.
3. Build relationships. Nobody should or will use their personal equity that they work hard to build to put their name on the line for people they don't know. Just being in a group with someone doesn't entitle you to their circle of influence. Get to know the others in the group. Maybe do some sample work for them so they can see your quality and grow to trust you with their word.
4. Be a giver. Not just a receiver. You'll need to begin looking for opportunities to give good quality referrals long before you expect to receive them. Let the others in the group feel obligated to send business your way to catch up with the money you're making for them. Don't get behind and let them wonder if you'll ever send them a referral even though they've sent you several.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Networking events. Make it to all of them you can. Chamber events. Wine tastings. After hours mixers. All of them.
I'll be at one tonight. Practical Marketing Solutions is a "grass roots" marketing company located in Edmond Ok. They specialize in all types of guerrilla marketing techniques. From canvasing, to trade shows, ribbon cuttings, press releases, they handle all of those things. They even hold periodic networking events for all of their clients to meet at the location of a different chosen client each time. This brings people in their doors as well as providing a chance for people to learn each others business.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Many sales managers will tell their sales reps that they can make a great living and hit bonus numbers by swinging 25 doors per day? That is sooooooo... 2008.
Ten years ago, companies began to flood their markets with feet on the street. Outside sales reps with assigned geographic territories was the preferred method of acquiring and maintaining a customer base. Problem is, EV-ER-Y BOD-Y did it. Soon companies had large sales forces raking in six figure salaries while maintaining current customer bases.
Then 3-5 years ago, those same companies decided to get their money's worth out of their sales reps. So, they upped the pressure and shrunk their sales force. Along with it came a new focus on new customer acquisition. This forced the outside sales rep to play "bump and run" coverage with their clients and ignore those proven retention based practices they were so good at just a few years earlier.
With this new shift in management, sales tactics, and salesmanship styles... customers began to feel slighted. They haven't been able to get their calls answered. After repetitively being treated like a cash cow rather than being made to feel valued for their commitment and loyalty, customers have begun to strike back. Each day, the trust level between potential customers and sales reps is being depleted. That 25 doors per day mark is now 35 doors that a sales rep needs to swing before finding an interested prospect. Sales reps that were once welcomed with open arms carrying in baskets of bagels, are now ushered out with the same disregard and disgust of a mother receiving a call from their favorite telemarketer as she tiredly sits down with her family for a home cooked meal. Ad in the current economic pressures and past experiences of those potential customers, the field of play will continue to get tougher.
I'll share some ideas on how outside sales reps should dial into this new perception in 2009 as we go through the week. Or, maybe I should say, in the spring of 2009. Because we all know, it could change by fall.