…and build a house on a mountain makin’ everybody look like ants.”
Have you ever listened to Ingrid Michalson’s music? The tone of her voice makes me want to get into a hammock between two trees and take a nap. I had never heard of her until my daughter’s playlist mysteriously appeared in my cloud. Funny how that happens, isn’t it?
What’s even better? Discovering the depth of a song’s lyrics through clear headphones instead of in a car or home sound system. I’ll bet there are songs you love listening to that, unless you know them by heart, may illicit a totally different mental state when you actually focus on the words.
How fulfilling could life be if we focused on making music instead of giving attention to the noise created to distract us?
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be assigned a spouse without considering an emotional attachment or dating first? Seriously—what if they snore? What if they have gastrointestinal issues? Arranged marriages happen in a few cultures, but not often in America. Although spouses are very carefully (and lovingly) chosen, the fact remains that very little freedom exists between the partners to make the final decision.
Do you ever wonder what happens when you visit a branded website looking for basic information about products and services you believe may suit your needs? I don’t know everything, but I DO know that the information you provide during the website visit is often accumulated, disseminated, and distributed on lead lists to brand representatives within an organization. That’s correct: Your name is assigned to salespeople whose job it is to finalize the sale you knowingly or unknowingly initiated with your visit to that website. The only decision you made up to the point of that return contact was which site to click into. Everything that happens afterward is very similar to an arranged marriage.
What were you looking to get from the experience may have been nothing more than a transaction of some kind, especially when the product or service sought is readily available from multiple providers with price as the primary consideration. But what happens when the product or service sought requires a deeper understanding, and thus, a deeper, ongoing relationship? Wouldn’t you prefer to at least LIKE who you’re going to spend the duration of that experience with?
Brands fight really hard to get your attention. They throw their names out there on every commercial, in every newspaper, and on every website. Although traditional marketing like this has to happen to maintain the brand’s image and name recognition, a key point gets left out of the equation in the pursuit of immediate ROI: The Courtship.
My policy, out of respect for the person I was dating, was to never kiss on the first date. Let’s get to know each other first. See if we’re compatible. I’d like it to last.
Have you ever drank a milkshake through a straw too fast? You know the feeling, right? Now look at the marketplace and the internet. There are literally hundreds of variations of multiple products available for researching, comparing, pricing and purchasing. Most of those steps along the buyer journey no longer involve interacting with a sales representative, face-to-face or otherwise. The question then becomes: “How can representatives POSSIBLY make an impact?” The same way you can prevent brain freeze when drinking the milkshake: SLOW THE FLOW.
Customers are as overwhelmed at their options as anyone else. There is simply too much to consume randomly, and the volume is only going to continue expanding exponentially within the next decade. So what needs to happen? How are people going to “slow the flow”? It’s going to start by being far more selective with their attention. There are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute. Never will there be any more or any less. At some point, people will get overwhelmed with consumption and will withdraw toward more preservation of their quality time with those who matter most. The timeline for this shift is variable: Some are just more tolerant of interruptions than others who have already begun the process (like myself).
If we were to look back about 15 years, how many people still had land lines? How many households had DVR’s? How many magazines were listed in the local elementary school’s fundraising packet? How many social media platforms were there? You’re getting the picture, right? Fast forward to today and ask the same questions again. Besides the obvious, what’s another big difference between then and now? Back then, much of the sorting between Stephen Covey’s time management categories of important, urgent, not important, not urgent was done by HAND…we could physically touch, sort, and retain or discard whatever items we wanted. Today, the majority of physical items we receive come to us in the form of direct mail. Many people now consume newspapers, magazines, and business correspondence online. Do we expect the level of such consumption to increase or diminish in the years ahead? Exactly.
This is a problem because, unlike physical newspapers and magazines, the information being consumed can only be seen, not touched. Therefore, the amount of time spent sorting is dramatically diminished. Similar to the mouse-click theory of first impressions, representatives who DO NOT have a current “in” with a community are going to be faced with an overwhelming challenge in the near future. People they are trying to reach have already begun taking steps to prevent brain freeze by forming and engaging with their own communities of shared world views. If these representatives try to gain permission to solicit products and services to these communities through traditional interruptive means, the members of the target community will simply cut off their straw.
I’ll never forget where I was the first time any of our three children rode their bikes without training wheels. They all had different attitudes about it as well as different strategies for approaching their maiden voyage. Our oldest daughter wanted to ride in our neighbor’s huge backyard, so if she fell over, the grass would protect her from injury. Our son was the opposite: We put the bike away in the fall and the first day of spring the following year, he insisted the wheels come off before he even got on for the first ride. Apparently osmosis IS an actual form of learning. So I took the wheels off and he rode from the top to the bottom of the big hill on our street, no brakes necessary. Our youngest daughter was in the middle: I held her up while she rode around and around the driveway. When she got it figured out she headed for the hill, not to be shown up by her older brother.
At some point, everyone realizes the training wheels need to come off in their careers as well. You know it’s time when you begin feeling like the smartest person in the room. As a humble introvert, that’s very difficult to say because many of the people who have chosen to follow and engage with me on Twitter and LinkedIn are THE THOUGHT LEADERS of the last two decades. Then I began thinking about it: Those people who have taught me and others like me all the ins and outs of the internet, personal branding, social media, content marketing, social selling, big data, etc, EXPECT the training wheels to come off eventually. Then, when the world begins to see the fruits of THEIR labor in the execution of their ideas across multiple industries, those thought leaders reap even greater rewards. Thanks to them, I feel ready to not only keep pace with the draft line, I believe I can confidently pull it in the same way I used to on two wheels when I rode across the great state of Iowa from the Missouri River on the west to the Mississippi on the east.
RAGBRAI has been part of my life for a long time. Someday soon, perhaps even this year, I hope to be able to mount up again for our Butt Ice tour of Iowa. I learned a lot from Lieutenant Dan and the gang over the years. Stuff like: “Never pass free beer”, “First bar on the right”, and that it IS possible to dry-heave for 6 miles to the end of the daily ride after a relatively large party. Aside from the vacation party factor, there was a facet of the ride that the team took seriously: Staying together as much as possible. We were often in dual draft lines, which, when executed properly, reduced friction and wind resistance for the riders behind the leaders. The experience of learning from the great mentors in my networks mirrors some of the lessons I’ve gleaned from cycling. If anyone else feels like they, too, are ready to take off their training wheels and move to the head of the paceline, here are 4 key things to remember:
- You’re going to wipe out a few times, but it won’t be as embarrassing as you think. The first time I ever wiped out was at a STOP SIGN. It happens when you can’t unclip.
- A steady, consistent pace that can be maintained over the long haul will get you a lot further than sporadically accelerating and decelerating. Allowing all team members to stay with you and not get dropped off the back earns respect.
- It’s all about the journey, so proceed with your eyes up and ears open. You never know when something (or some ONE) is going to jump into your path and jeopardize the safety of your team. There is no cruise control.
- Communication is key: If your team doesn’t know what you’re doing or if they aren’t sharing information THEY know about the conditions around them, the situation can be hazardous.
We can only ride around the driveway so long before eventually getting on the saddle for that century loop. Stop spinning and get on the road.