A Dog and a Doorbell

What do a fire alarm, tornado siren, telephone and doorbell have in common?  They’re all designed to make people take unanticipated and immediate action. When school children hear a fire alarm, they are to begin executing emergency evacuation procedures.  When a tornado siren sounds, families are to seek shelter in the lowest level of their homes.

While fires and weather-related events are literally matters of life or death, what’s the rationale for lumping telephones and doorbells into the same category?  Twenty years ago, there wasn’t one. Like everything else, however, times have changed. Allow me to explain using one of Pavlov’s theories, a time management course, and a couple of real-life examples.

Sit, Ubu, Sit…Good Dog. “Woof”

Pavlov has been credited with the discovery of classical conditioning:  The relationship or association between the occurrence of one action in anticipation of another unrelated action.  If you’ve studied psychology at any level, you probably remember Pavlov’s experiment where he rang a bell and immediately fed a dog.  After repeating the same action multiple times (ringing the bell) and consistently rewarding it with food, the dog eventually began anticipating being fed, as noted by salivation each time the bell was rung.  Although stimulus and response are relevant, this post is about the EMOTIONAL STATE EXHIBITED when responding to a stimulus, which leads to the next point…

Who the Phone Serves

One segment of a time management course taken several years ago made a rather startling assertion:  The telephone was primarily designed for the benefit of the person DIALING IT, not for the person ANSWERING IT.  Since its invention, the phone has been used to ask a neighbor for a favor or a place of business a question about a product or service.  It made perfect sense to call instead of driving a car or sending snail-mail, then waiting for a reply two weeks later. The exception to the “benefit to the user” assertion was when a call from another person was ANTICIPATED AND EXPECTED—usually someone important in their lives.  

When I was a kid, I remember sitting by the phone in our upstairs hallway WAITING for the phone to ring. My school friends would tell me that they were going to call, but not always when. Needless to say, I was looking forward to it. In that sense, the phone brought me, the person receiving the call, pleasure.  To complete this puzzle, let’s combine the two examples of Pavlovian dogs and phone calls into one final example: The doorbell.

This Had Better Be Important  

Our family dog loves HIS people (our family).  He knows when we’re all home and somehow anticipates when someone who’s not home WILL BE. And unless we’re playing, he rarely makes a sound, even when a family member comes home late at night.  

HOWEVER….

All bets are off when the doorbell rings.  Like most dogs, this one also  LOSES HIS MIND.  He goes into a fit of barking that neighbors can hear even with their WINDOWS CLOSED.  Preventing this from happening has been relatively simple: We tell him in advance when we’re expecting visitors.  It sounds weird, but he can sense what we’re telling him and he often greets our guests with a few small barks and whimpers.  Strange how talking to a dog can reduce a human’s blood pressure.

Putting the Puzzle Together

Still questioning the inclusion of telephones and doorbells in the category of “things designed to make people take unanticipated action”?   Take a few deep breaths and visualize the following scenarios:

You’re sitting at your desk working on a project with a strict deadline.  The phone is on “do-not-disturb” and your assistant has been instructed to hold all calls.  Suddenly your phone rings—someone has broken through the “gate” and IT’S NO ONE YOU KNOW!!!

What was your immediate response?  (Was it at all associated with an employment ad?)

You and your family are seated at the dinner table after a long, hectic day. You’re ready for a nice glass of wine and a wonderful home-cooked meal. The family dog is under the table, poised to pounce on whatever falls his way.  You take a sip of wine and just as you’re raising the fork loaded with succulent flavors, the doorbell rings. In a nanosecond, your dog goes from peaceful to BALLISTIC.  He sprints toward the door to either greet a visitor or annihilate an intruder.   (Determining which really isn’t clear although you’re secretly hoping for the latter.)

What’s going through your mind in that instant?  

Psychology Behind the Statistics

Social media “gurus” have been throwing out statistics for years saying that cold-calling is “dead”.  This post wasn’t written to disprove or argue their points. To the contrary, it was written to reinforce them.  It lends insight as to “why” their observations are not only accurate, but also how consumer psychology may indicate their facts are understated.  (Unless, of course, those consumers continue to embrace or instill compliance to the activities in the scenarios.)  For everyone else, phones and doorbells have been negatively conditioned since the dawn of the Internet Age. In my case, the primary reasons those things should ring today is similar to a fire alarm or tornado siren: A life or death situation.    

Otherwise, allow me to introduce you to my dog.

Scaling IoT, AI, and CX

marketing-internet-of-things-ai-scale

There’s a huge degree of inconsistency in the marketing world. Traditional leadership is beginning to see trouble on the horizon.  Instead of opening the windows, they are battening down the hatches.  Check out most corporate leadership profiles on LinkedIn and you will see either nothing at all or 500+ connections, very few of which are OUTSIDE their own organization.  This is a statement, is it not? Unfortunately, the message is: “We don’t know what to do or how to do it.”

Several recent Twitter chats and LinkedIn conversations have turned focus on the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Customer Experience, and Value Propositions.  At the same time, posts about new, up-and-coming social media platforms are diminishing in frequency.  The other day I took a step back (while taking a few steps forward on the treadmill.) “What is the impetus for this transition?”  Why have the conversations about social platforms evolved to IoT and AI?

People are settling into micro-communities (tribes) of other individuals who share complementary worldviews.  In other words, they are at parties with the people they get along with. As a result, the content shock Mark W. Schaefer refers to in his book “The Content Code” is a condition that is intensifying daily, causing random marketing messages designed to get the attention of potential buyers to fade, even get tuned out, because members of those communities are fitting themselves with earbuds.  They are only listening for the messages THEY wish to hear. It’s happening, folks, but where is all of this headed?

A few months back, I consulted a local programming team about designing a Tinder-like professional services matching app.  (No, no , NO…not THAT KIND of professional services!)  The idea was to provide a way for consumers to identify and connect with providers who were more compatible to their worldviews than those who have historically been randomly assigned by lead distribution systems utilized by most organizations.  I’m glad I didn’t waste the four grand…. I think search is going to do this automatically in the near future.  If you’ve got a second, I’ll be happy to explain how what we already have available is possibly going to evolve in a manner that will fulfill this vision, and change marketing forever in the process.

Three months ago, I listened to a “Nobody Likes It Cold” podcast which featured Drew D’Agostino, creator of CrystalKnows.com.  You can catch it here.  Two days later, I subscribed to the platform.  If you are unfamiliar with what Crystal does, you really need to log on and see for yourself.  Allow me to use it as an analogy for how the next few months may very well be a defining period in marketing history.

Crystal has integrated DISC to assess compatibility between individuals, then provides e-mail/communication templates through LI, FB, Twitter, GMail, and Outlook to boost the effectiveness of the exchanges.  It also provides the degree of compatibility between two people.  For example, it told me last week that a person I was considering interacting with shared only a 16% compatibility rating with me, going on to state that we would “have difficulty getting along.”  I didn’t pursue communications with that person.

Now let’s take this Crystal example one step further:  Have you ever used LinkedIn search?  If so, you know that when you search an organization, you also get a list of people, sometimes 1st, 2nd and 3rd-degree connections, inside that organization, right?  (When you look at the screen, the main search page features the company, but there is also a box to the right side of the screen that lists the number of connections you have on the inside.)   Until Crystal arrived on the scene, there was no way of determining the compatibility between the people in those results and the individual searching for information.  But wait:  It gets better…

Monitoring IBM and others in recent Tweet chats indicates an uptick in the development and integration of AI and IoT on the immediate horizon.  I asked a few good influencer friends this week if it was possible for search to utilize AI to assess the overwhelming amount of consumer data in a way that segments individuals into infinite categories (rather than just the 6 or 8 most organizations seem to believe exist). If so, was it then possible to add in an element of IoT, such as wearables, to acquire physiological responses to situations before, during and after the buying process. Finally, if this could actually happen, would the search THEN be able to match that consumer to not only a brand but a rep based on compatibility of worldviews, emotional and physiological support factors in a way that maximizes the customer experience through this matching process?  Let’s just say I wasn’t told “no”.


Let’s recap, shall we?

First start with LinkedIn search.

Next add Crystal.

Finally, integrate AI and IoT.

Voila!  Customers are matched by search to relevant brands and reps based on ORGANIC content (as Google has been leaning toward for a few years).

Here’s the kicker:  Reps and brands who have been inactive or who are doing it wrong are deemed irrelevant…   Or worse…

Invisible.

What Kind of Leader Are You?

Storm lightning“I’m Your Huckleberry”

One of the greatest lines in history came from Val Kilmer, who played Doc Holliday in the movie “Tombstone”.    It’s the climax when Holliday confronts Johnny Ringo, one of the leaders of the Texas Outlaws.  Ringo was expecting Wyatt Earp, whom he knew he could defeat in a gunfight.  Instead, Holliday came from behind a tree and uttered that memorable line.  The instant Ringo saw Holliday, he knew his days were over.  Ringo was armed with appropriate information, but a change in his plan adversely affected his outcome.  

Custer’s Last Stand

Sticking with the western theme, an example of a leader who didn’t know what he didn’t know was George Armstrong Custer.  In June 1876, Custer led his troops to battle at Little Big Horn.  He assumed, incorrectly, that his military intelligence and superior technology would quickly overpower the enemy, which would result in an immediate victory.  What he didn’t know was that he was outnumbered…  EXTREMELY outnumbered.  By the time he found out, it was too late.  His cavalry suffered one of the biggest defeats in US Military history.

Point Taken

Now let’s talk about a third kind of leader:  One who plays the game with his eyes up, like a great point guard on the basketball court.  He or she sees the game as it unfolds and knows where their teammates should be positioned every second.  They usually aren’t the scoring leaders, but rarely does the team win without them.    

“What kind of leader are YOU?”  versus  “What Kind of Leader ARE you?”

A small shift in emphasis from one word in a sentence to another can change the attitude of the response from an upbeat, positive, team building one to a defensive, self-centered, egotistical one.  Your non-verbal response (or reaction) to that question will speak far more loudly than your words.  

Don’t get upset for being asked, but which is appropriate for you…  The first or second?  Or the third?

Marketing to Phone Book Geography

Yellow PagesSome of us may remember when consumers used to be limited to buying from providers within their geography whether or not they knew, liked, or trusted them. If they needed a product or service and didn’t like anyone who sold it locally, too bad. Driving to the town 30 miles away wasn’t an option in 1972 for a couple of reasons: 1. There was an energy crisis. 2. People not only didn’t know how to find places outside of their own areas, they had no easy way of knowing what was even available when they got there. Phone books only used to be distributed by TOWNS within about a 10-mile radius of someone’s residence. If you wanted to run your fingers through the yellow pages of another location, you had to drive to the local library and pull them off the shelf. As if that wasn’t enough, you had to then find a map of the place you wanted to go. Even then, no one had time to waste driving up-and-down every street in an unfamiliar place looking for what they needed. We all know it’s not 1972. In many ways, it’s never coming back, yet in some ways it is.

When I was a kid, my dad used to spend every Saturday morning from 7am to Noon at the grain elevator lobby in our local town. He and a dozen other farmers got together to talk about anything anyone wanted to discuss. When I went along, one of the men always gave me a shiny quarter to buy an Orange Crush in a 10-ounce bottle from the Coca-Cola chest-cooler. Back then, I thought it was because he liked me. Now that I’ve been a father for 18 years, I’m pretty sure it was to keep me quiet so dad could socialize.

Why did I tell you this? How is 1972 applicable to today? People like my dad and his friends were all about community. Their sense of belonging made time stand still because they shared common world views. Today the Internet adapts those same desirable characteristics while diminishing or even eliminating the constraints of geography. Consumers’ options are longer defined by the yellow pages. Businesses, their products and services, and even their representatives, can be searched, researched, located, contacted, interacted with, mapped, and transacted with…no matter where they are in the world. What does that mean? If consumers are being served by a business, but don’t share complementary world views with the representative they are bound or assigned to, they can research and locate a more compatible provider. Doing so allows them to be part of a community instead of feeling like a prospect constantly being sold to. Second, they can regain control of their time. They will be able to confidently ignore a majority of the people competing for their attention every day, allowing them freedom from the continuous interruptions of representatives who “just don’t get it”.

So what are we doing now, marketing the phone book or creating communities?

I’m Listening, But I’m Ignoring You

hearing-protectionAt least if you’re telling me I have to conform to the way things have always been done, if I have to use the same performance metrics, if you tell me the only way I can grow my business is to do things people hate.


For the last decade, we’ve asked everyone how they feel about phone calls during dinner, direct mail, pop-up Internet messages, and unexpected doorbells.  100% of their reactions were negative, almost confrontational.  In fact, the majority stated that they have taken multiple steps to prevent any of those activities from happening in their lives.


If we’re truly listening to our customers, WHY are these strategies still required courses in sales training classrooms? Because brands refuse to open their minds to other options and instructors are only paid and retained if they follow orders. When this is the dominant corporate culture, how does significant change happen?

The only solution is to start from the ground up.

Overused Words in New Media

Consultant. Everybody wants to be one.  Why?  Because consultants don’t have to be accountable to your results…but they still get paid.  How about we change this title to “Professional connector”?  That’s really what I’m looking for.

Social Media.  In #SocialBrand14, Chris Brogan and Jason Falls both basically said that Social Media is a small part of the big picture of marketing today.  Yet when in discussion with most people, social media is used as an all-encompassing term.  That leads me to believe that people that love social media understand this.  The ones that are marginal at best aren’t open to seeing it as more than what they use it for—keeping up with friends.

Sales.  News flash, folks…Sales no longer is.  People buy, but they are not sold.  They don’t need you to SELL them…They CHOOSE to buy from you.  If you’re in an industry where repeat business contributes to your company’s revenues and you get this very simple point, you will reap great rewards.  It’s a huge mind shift.  Figure it out.

Content Marketing.  The biggest problem I had with #SocialBrand14 was the lack of consistent clarity around the purpose of content.  On the positive side, content was explained as something that draws people to you. On the negative side, content was explained as something remarkable that gets someone’s attention.  If we were doing this according to the rules of inbound, wouldn’t we be creating content for a community who that is giving permission to entertain them with content about shared world views?  If so, why would I need to create something that will impress new community members?  Wouldn’t my current ones spread the word?

Here’s the most important message to take from this post:  It doesn’t matter what you call it if you don’t DO IT.