Make a Party of It

Photo by miamism

People talk about Twitter being a cocktail party. Little groups gather to talk about various topics of interest, much like the physical groups at a real party. One group talks about sports, one about children’s activities, one about work, one about cars, one about movies, one about politics, and so on. As one new to the party walks around, they listen to see where they may fit in (or at least that’s what I do). When something strikes their fancy, they join the conversation. If they feel they have nothing to add or aren’t interested in a specific topic, they move on to the next group.

To Segment or Not to Segment..THAT is the Question

The argument going on in the marketing world right now is that customers must be segmented. I agree. What I don’t agree with us HOW and based on WHAT criteria. People wouldn’t likely stay at a cocktail party if the only thing they had in common with others was that they did a lot of research before they bought something (self-sufficient). I do a lot of research before I buy stuff, but there are also a lot of people in that customer segment I can’t stand to be around because we don’t share complementary worldviews on a plethora of other things. This is why marketers and sales must be aligned in worldview.  It’s a mindshift in how and why content gets created and distributed.

You know what’s really crazy? I’m not the only one who is shifting to this way of thinking. There are numerous posts remarkably consistent with the cocktail party/personal branding theory. Here are a couple of posts from LinkedIn:

This one by Townsend Wardlaw talks about how people are the average of the five people they spend the most time with.

Here’s another one by Julia Manoukian that highlights how branding all the way down to the personality of the representatives enables deeper relationships with customers. Humanity is something buildings or websites can’t add to the customer experience.

It’s time to KISS all the fluff goodbye, folks: Keep It Simple, Stupid…

My head’s so full of acronyms, abbreviations, “buzzwords”, and newly made-up terminology that I want to puke. What about you? Why is it necessary to add “content” in front of “marketing”? What IS the difference between Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and Social Selling? Do we really NEED to refer to selling as “social”, as there’s a social element involved in pretty much every customer experience?  Isn’t it time to cut through the frosting and get right to the cake?  The ONLY thing customers care about is getting what they want, when they want it, as efficiently as possible.

20-20 Foresight

How about we fast-forward to 2020 for a moment… What will our world look like as a consumer? Whose cocktail parties will WE be attending? Chances are good that we’ll be hanging out with people like us. Anyone who doesn’t like us will be at a different party. Those of us at the same party will be talking about things we ALL want to talk about. And anyone who thinks someone would benefit from coming to the next party will send the invitations themselves.

If this is true, how can we acquire the attention at such parties with MARKETING?

Artificial Intelligence and Its Impact on Jobs

jobs-marketing-future-change

Before we start yelling “the sky is falling!”, let’s ask ourselves what functions artificial intelligence will realistically be performing: Repetitive, mathematical, formatted jobs.  Jobs that make an 8-hour workday feel like a decade.  Instead of worrying about that robot taking your job, how about focusing on what technology CAN’T DO (yet)? Things like showing emotion or displaying empathy and sympathy are great places to start.  In fact, I’d make this your PERMANENT job description, no matter where you end up: 

TO PROVIDE EXCEPTIONAL HUMAN VALUE TO EVERY PAST, CURRENT, OR FUTURE CUSTOMER THAT COMES IN CONTACT WITH ANY BRAND I REPRESENT.  

If you don’t like your brand or the role you play within that brand’s organizational structure, AI is irrelevant.  It’s probably time to find a new place to land.  

Selective Integration

Nobody ever said change was easy, and it’s certainly not slowing down. What many fail to see is the forest through the trees.  In the paranoia surrounding AI, IoT, VR, AR, and robots,  one very important fact remains: People NEED each other.  People CRAVE human contact.  There are some interactions when machines could effectively replace humans, but a solid argument can be made that most people would still prefer a living, breathing soul to interact with, especially in times of stress or crisis.

Something AI and IoT bring to the table that actually empowers human interaction is intuitive segmentation.  This process, executed in milliseconds, will give people more time to build deeper human-to-human relationships. While individual reps may be serving fewer people, their compatibility with them will be much higher. It’s the perfect breeding ground for both employee AND customer advocacy. Think about classroom size in schools: Smaller classes usually mean more personal attention for each student. In a marketing scenario, smaller brand tribes will equate to greater retention and ultimately increased revenue. As trust expands, more permission is granted. A tangent to this trust is stress level related to work: When smaller, more tight-knit communities form, stress levels diminish because more open communication is taking place.

Where integration needs to be selective is dependent upon CUSTOMER, not ORGANIZATIONAL, perception. Integrating technology where the CUSTOMER’S PERCEPTION of value is the least volatile frees humans to engage in situations where emotional connection is non-negotiable.

Jobs in the NEW WORLD of Work

 

A few months ago, I wrote this blog post about organic SEO growth that mirrors the advocacy model. It introduces the idea of individuals having very specific communities across networks rather than trying to be “all things to all people”.  No one advocates for anything or anyone they dislike or distrust. They only advocate for people, groups, organizations, or brands they are passionate about. The key to organic growth and reach is the intensity exhibited by both the community organizer (seller) and each community member (potential buyers and/or customers). Committed advocates then channel their passion into building deeper relationships that encourage individual community growth through INTRODUCTIONS from other passionate members, netting a far greater level of loyalty than the referral process.  As community membership grows, the advocates’ value to the organization increases.      

Introductions are Referrals That Don’t Need To Be Requested

The key to the advocacy concept working is pride in the association with brand communities and other members. Pride drives engagement activity and results in a higher propensity for personal introductions than the traditional referral process.  How do most referral processes begin again?

“Hey, Fred, may I ask you a question?  Did you find value in our conversation today?  If so, I strive to bring value to others in the same way, so would you be willing to give me the names of 3 people you feel could benefit as well?”       

That script is in every referral textbook.  The problem with it is determining if pride in the relationship is actually DEEP enough for the customer to put their friends’ names on the sheet of paper. That’s a risk in this day and age that most people are simply not willing to take.  The alternative solution is to be EASILY ACCESSIBLE.  When people recognize the value in what you do, they tell others about you ON THEIR OWN.  This admittedly changes the focus of your marketing strategy, but it results in deeper levels of trust when the long-term focus is on retention.

Ease of Accessibility

The idea of being easily accessible was more labor intensive just 6 months ago.  It required diligent effort around SEO, organic and paid reach, consistent keyword activities, editorial calendars, etc.  It ultimately paid off for those who stuck to it, as I can attest.  Here’s a personal example you may have seen before:  When you enter “Gary, Iowa” into your Google search bar and enter, the first result anywhere in the world will be mine. No gimmicks, no paid or manipulated SEO, no ads, no nothing. A decade of persistence made that possible.

Although execution of those things is still very important, there’s something you must know:  If you haven’t been doing ANYTHING even remotely systematic on the Internet, YOU DO NOT EXIST.  Search will soon incorporate AI in ways unimaginable to most people.  Check out these links:

This post from Sam Hurley actually has a little surprise inside…He was kind enough to link to one of my pieces last month.  

In this one, Diana Adams of Adams Consulting in Atlanta offers similar insights.  

Getting Found

In the future, AI devices like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa will fulfill requests such as this:

Customer:  “Alexa, find me a professional services provider that aligns with my personal values and beliefs.”

Alexa’s AI scans the Internet for all inputs and insights created, shared, or commented on by anyone in the desired market area with a comparable professional services tag. Two years ago this assessment took 3 hours.  Alexa’s highly-intuitive search algorithm will take less than a minute.  And the technology will be here within 6 months.  

Alexa:  “I have three professional services providers for you.  They are _____, ______ and ________.”

Customer:  “Thank you, Alexa.  Please connect me to ____________.”

Alexa dials the phone via VoIP and connects the customer to the provider.

Question 1:  How does Alexa find a provider that hasn’t set up even ONE social profile?

Answer:  IT CAN’T.

Question 2:  How long will it take Alexa to find someone like me?

Answer:  Because of the activities and content created over the last decade, it’s done before you finished reading this.

No Time Like the Present

There is no better time to be in marketing, sales, advertising…business, PERIOD, than right now.  When speaking with students in the local high school and college classrooms, I can’t help but be incredibly enthusiastic about their opportunities.  The best piece of advice, therefore, is:

“Go forth and MAKE IT HAPPEN!”

“I love you, Daddy!”

dadBeing a father is great…being a “DADDY” is awesome. Admittedly there are things I’ve done that many men would think are just plain boring: Like sitting for 4 hours at a dance recital for 5-year-old girls, coaching a girls’ recreational softball team, or watching a little-league game that seems like it will never end.  It’s time I’ll never get back, but wouldn’t have missed any of them for the world.  I feel so fortunate to have been there for so many of their life experiences that I can’t tell the stories without tears of pride streaming down my face. When people ask me why I do what I do, it’s never for the money, incentives, or recognition.  I chose this career because it gave me the freedom to participate with my children as they have grown up.  

There are 365 days in a year, 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute.  As each day passes, every second with my family becomes more significant…literally priceless.  Thirteen years ago, my oldest daughter was in first grade.  Now she’s a sophomore in college.  My son, then just two years old, would put his head on my shoulder while we laid on the couch watching “Bob The Builder.”  He’s now a sophomore in high school and driving.  And our youngest daughter that had just been born is now a teenager.  They’re all busy doing their own things and gaining more and more independence each day.

Every great parent understands their primary role in their kids’ lives is to raise them to be incredible adults while providing love and security along the way.  Unfortunately, understanding the role doesn’t make witnessing their transition to adulthood easier. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have missed out on any of the memories we’ve created along the way.   

Music or Noise? “Let’s Get Rich…

house mountain…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?

Playing in the Fog

Fog

The last few years have gone by so quickly that it seems like nothing has gotten accomplished.  Then, when stock of our customer inventory is taken, the concerns of inadequacy evaporate, just as fog lifts when sunshine warms the atmosphere.  How is it that such feelings even exist? Because many times we are so concerned about what others think of us that we neglect the very people who matter most:  Our customers.

In the future, you’re going to see the words “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” rather frequently.  Why?  There is a huge shift coming in consumer behavior that will forever change the sales world. In fact, it’s so extreme that the most forms of the verb: “sales”, “selling”, “sold”, may be history.  Informed consumers are about to learn everything they never wanted to know about how salespeople are paid who have been trained sell them for the last 20 years.  Not because the salaries or commission structures are published somewhere, but because a few transparent competitors are going to push the envelope.  And their response is either going to be one of pride because of the extrinsic value they have provided to the customers they have focused on or shame from the realization that their intrinsic motivations have driven the activities toward accomplishment of financial gain and company-based incentive rewards without authentic regard for the one thing customers value more than money:  Their time.

The moment of truth is fast approaching:  Will you open your records or lock them up?  If you’re providing value that meets or exceeds what you believe your customers would expect, there’s no problem, right?

Going Back in Time

ElevatorWhen 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?  Because 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 the desirable characteristics of 1972 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 to consumers?  A couple of things.  First, if you’re already being served by a business, but you don’t share complementary world views with the representative you were formerly bound or assigned to, you can research and locate a provider you ARE compatible with.  Doing so contributes to the creation of a community where you belong instead of feeling like a prospect constantly  being sold to.  Second, you can regain control of your time.  You’ll be able to confidently ignore a majority of the interruptions competing for your attention every day.  If you have the desire, you can now research and compare every brand that you believe to be a fit to provide for YOUR needs as well as identifying the company representatives you feel most compatible with.

When you follow this process, you’ll find yourself in a much happier place.  You’ll be part of a community of people who share similar world views.  Everyone is set free from the continuous interruptions by representatives who “just don’t get it”.

Sounds pretty appealing, doesn’t it?

Defining YOU

who you are photo
Photo by tonyhall

Everyone is as unique as their DNA, so how do we define who we are? Who in your life matters most?  What matters most?  What pisses you off?  What makes you totally happy?  How do you feel about money?  If you have kids, what activities do you enjoy doing with them?  What activities are they passionate about?  What are your favorite sports?  How do you feel about politics? Do you like to travel or stay home?  Do you enjoy art?  How about history?  What era?  Are you a religious person?  If so, what denomination?  What kind of music so you enjoy?  What are your favorite movies or TV shows?  What about food and beverage?  Do you like to cook and/or bake?  Do you like cars?  What organizations do you support/volunteer for?

If you could talk about anything with a group of people with a common interest, what are the top 3 topics you’d select?

Of all the items listed above, what are the absolute deal-breakers that stop a conversation before it starts? What are three more that you would be okay with, but wouldn’t participate because of a lack of knowledge?  When you cross off those 6 items, what’s left is a solid cross-section of you and your worldview.

Now go get connected and start some fun conversations.

Keep It Simple


You need food, clothing, shelter and money.  And you need to preserve all of them.  If they’re lost or damaged you don’t want to spend large sums of your own savings fixing or replacing anything.  

There are a plethora of brands out there providing very similar solutions for your needs.  How do you decide who to work with? 

You’re A Hypocrite IF:

 

You send out 1000 mailers to the general public per month but throw away your junk mail without reading it.

You call people at home to set appointments for your business but screen calls or hang up on people that call your residence.

You send electronic sales-related messages to your customers several times a week, but have an Outlook rule set up that directs all incoming SPAM to the trash folder.

You sponsor a local school or civil organization but refuse to associate with or promote them.

We’ve all been hypocrites at some point, some more than others.  The important question isn’t if we’ve been one, it’s how often we STILL consciously do it.

If It Were Easy

 

Easy St and Shamrock Rd by quinn.anya, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  quinn.anya 

Everybody would be doing it. Some days it seems like everybody IS doing it.  The number of blogs, podcasts, and online platforms increase every day, and the amount of information at your fingertips increases as well—exponentially.  How do you choose who to listen to and how do you apply what they are saying to what you do?

It’s easy for Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, Brian Clark, Erik Deckers, Karen Freberg, Ann Handley, Seth Godin, and other influencers to post their thoughts for our reading pleasure, but how can you make something happen as it applies to your own world?  After all, you face all kinds of challenges relative to your business that these people don’t, right?

The key to success is connecting with the right people, hearing the right message, filtering the right information, and creating a specific plan that leads your team to victory.  Not knowing where to start doesn’t mean you should sit on the sidelines, or worse, forfeit the game.

Building and executing a plan is critical to success and it starts with knowing your opponent.  Here’s the part that holds you back:  Your opponent—is YOU.  Until you let go of all the things the traditional world has taught you about how business works, you’ll never build a plan that will carry you forward when that world lets you down.