The Opposite Attraction: NLP

cropped-stop-cross.jpgI’ve said a repeatedly that:  “I don’t care if I’m the FIRST person someone thinks of.  In fact, I’d much rather be the second than the first.” The reason is simple: The representative’s name people bring up first when talking about my industry at dinner parties is often the one they’re pissed at. Interestingly enough, this JUST HAPPENED, right at my own breakfast bar.

My wife had friends over the other evening for wine and appetizers.  Out of the blue, one of them started talking about how much junk mail they get from other local brand representatives, and how they get nothing in the mail from my office.  Almost instantly, the other two chimed in and it became a virtual slam-fest.  These women were going off on the old-school marketing  tactics, saying how they would “NEVER” do business with these people.  Meanwhile, I stood there in my kitchen, eating some soup and a sandwich.  Finally, an opportunity came to throw some gasoline on an already blazing flame:  “Do you know that when those prospects call one of those offices, they are told THEY HAVE TO COME IN DURING BUSINESS HOURS to be taken care of???”  I thought the roof was going to blow off the house!  But it was true. This is how some representatives STILL thrust their “this how we’ve always done it” mentality on people.  What this impromptu conversation made me wonder was:  “How can I tap into this incredible negative energy and use it to build something amazing?”  That’s when I thought back to Anthony Robbins’ “Unlimited Power” CD I keep in my car for road trips.  It’s in that content  where I first learned the term “Neurolinguistic Programming.”  NLP is the perfect way to advertise and market the opposite attraction.

When people go on a diet, do they stop eating entirely?  No.  When they start a workout program, do they go to the gym for three hours 7 days a week after being sedentary for 5 years?  Of course not.  Dieting and exercise are are two cases where doing the exact opposite of what you HAD been doing simply doesn’t work.   Marketing, namely how consumers REACT to certain strategies, is an example of how customers CAN be rewarded for engaging in the exact opposite behavior when confronted with certain stimuli.  In this case, those stimuli are traditional interruption strategies.  Expose and build upon the frustration people like my wife’s friends were demonstrating about the other local brand representatives, then give them an easy-to-adopt opposite alternative that allows them to regain control over their time and attention.

Few things in the world are absolute, which is why gray areas exist.  One exception to this is time.  There are ABSOLUTELY 24 hours in a day…no more, no less.  What people choose to do with every second of every hour depends on their personal values.  I argue that most people value spending time with others and/or doing things that matter most.  They would also prefer in those moments that everything else:  distractions, annoyances, inconveniences, surprises, etc, would just go away.  Do-Not-Solicit/Do-Not-Call, DVR’s, Opt-outs, and anti-SPAM regulations are just a few indications that customers want uninterrupted control of their time. What many have yet to understand, however, is that there are increasing numbers of professional service providers out there TODAY who will allow them to reject the traditional strategies and actually encounter remarkably superior levels of service by doing the exact opposite of what they are accustomed.

When customers begin diverting their attention and revenue the opposite direction, it will accelerate change across entire industries.

Selling On Price

Price value

Brands that sell on price are making a statement that numbers matter more than relationships.  For decades, numbers have driven sales goals and performance incentives for most companies. “Make this or that number and you will be looked upon favorably when bonus time rolls around.” Yet how many times are representatives told that “it takes years to build a relationship and only seconds to lose one”? Is this not a counter-intuitive thought process? If it takes seconds to lose a valued customer that continues to pay for products and services year after year, why would anyone not focus more attention on those great people than on others who will never care about your brand or, worse yet, will never care about YOU?

Retention is the right strategy. Unfortunately, legacy systems don’t support it to the extent that they should. What would happen if representatives were rewarded for the number of times a customer bought from them, the number of their friends they had been introduced to who also chose to work with them, and the depth of relationships they had formed with these customers? What if THOSE were the primary metrics on which representative performance was measured with production being secondary?

The truth is that measuring retention isn’t sexy. It doesn’t put big, flashy numbers on the board. It doesn’t predict market performance, and therefore how well or poorly a newly-introduced product or service is received by the general public. The game of retention is like golf: The LOWER score wins.  

Until the paradigm shifts, the traditional marketing cycle will continue trying to run up the score.

Life’s A Journey, Not A Destination

Road Less Traveled

Life’s a journey, not a destination, yet so often it’s the end result that gets all of the attention.  What about those who are between the beginning and the end?  When they’re not creating the desired results, why is it assumed that they’re on cruise control when what some are actually doing is building a new superhighway because they find the road that’s always been traveled is becoming too rough or too busy?  

It’s been recommended that one occasionally take a different route to work instead of driving the same one every day, just to break up the monotony of the daily grind.  It’s said to help gain new insights on the world that surrounds us.  Yet many companies do exactly the opposite when it comes to their processes and procedures.  And people resist change in the same manner.  “But this way:  is faster…is shorter…has fewer stop lights…has less traffic” they argue, so they refuse to even try.

What’s greater:  The risk of following the same path every day or the risk of venturing out?  Twenty years ago, the risk of staying the course was minimal.  The waves of technological change weren’t yet beginning to gain traction. Prospects and customers could only speak of your obsolescence with 10 or so others who resided within their geographic confines.  Today, prospects and customers have powerful tools at their disposal that, although dismissed as “visionary” or “pie-in-the-sky” ideas when authors like Bill Gates (The Road Ahead) and Seth Godin(Permission Marketing) first wrote about the today’s changes back in 1996.

 
The choice is whether to take the road less traveled or get left behind.

Segmentation: Personalities Behind The Posts

SegmentationWith all the talk about segmenting customers, wouldn’t it be equally as intriguing to dive into the brand and representative personalities that create, curate, share, and publish content?  News feeds and timelines are becoming more cluttered by the second, which is forcing consumer attention spans to get shorter each day.  As a result, consumers are becoming more aware of the motivations of the people they follow, although they likely have yet to get as analytical as some people. (Yes, I’m referring to myself.)  

Three years ago, I marked 2016 as the year that would re-define the term “Attention Deficit”, only this time it’s not a disorder, but a paradigm shift.  Why 2016?  Because it’s a presidential election year in which a good percentage of the American population is now relying on mobile technology as their primary source of communication:  Voice, text, and data, all in one.  The desktop computers on their kitchen counters are collecting dust, their land lines have been disconnected, and their DVR’s are all set to record their favorite shows (without commercials).  All of the focus now is on their handheld screens, and the visual noise is getting overwhelming.  2016 is the year that will make a lot of people rethink their priorities about who they follow and engage with, and whose content is worthy of their attention.  In previous years, much of the information consumed was chosen without regard for motive of the content creator/curator. From this point forward, my belief is that “attention deficient” consumers are going to begin categorizing their contacts into the following four specific segments:

  • The Subliminal Self-Promoter.  This person uses what Eddie Murphy called in his standup routine: “The Jedi mind trick.”  It happens when someone posts about their joy and happiness for someone else’s success…that they reveal in the next sentence was made possible by their business efforts.  It’s nothing more than a sales pitch covered up with frosting and sprinkles.   
  • The Bold Brander. These “human doings” wear their brands on their sleeves, or pockets, or across their backs—Literally.  Their entire wardrobe was purchased from their company store.  The e-mail containing the phrase:  “People care more about who you are than want you do” apparently bypassed their inbox and went right to “junk”.    
  • The Compliant Content Curator.  This person schedules and publishes alright:  But only the stuff that appears in their corporate suggested content queue.  What they fail to realize is that the only reach they are extending is that of the brand through their networks.  They are NOT differentiating themselves.  Instead, they are annoying the community members who used to “like” them.
  • The Under The Radar Renegade.  This person knows the rules of engagement.  They constantly manage their personal brand and attract others based on their world views.  Many times, customers ask to work with them because they DON’T do what the other three groups are doing…The only factor that affects timing is the level of noise tolerance of their potential customers.  Lower tolerance = faster growth.

None of this should come as any surprise, right?  What segment do you think you belong in?  Put yourself in the shoes of a customer and ask:  “What segment would I most like to work with?”

2016 appears to be a big year for decision-making.

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?

Like It or Not, YOU’RE A BRAND!

No more hidingIt’s time to stop hiding behind the “employee” mask.  That title is dying right along with the Industrial Age it was coined in.  While we’re at it, let’s toss the “boss” title out the window, too.  Change is upon us, and all of our futures depend on one very important observation:

If you work with the public in any capacity and earn an income from those interactions, you are performing the FUNCTION of every business in the world:  The acquisition and maintenance of customers.  And you are likely doing this with some goal in mind:  To provide for yourself and your family by making money, which is coincidentally the GOAL of every business in the world.     

Why the assertion that everyone is a brand?  Because the Internet has made it that way.  Everything we post online is a representation of who we are and what we stand for.  Our values, beliefs, loyalties and oppositions are reflected in our words, expressions, clothing, vehicles, homes, possessions…  you name it. Don’t believe it?  Have you ever seen a Ford pickup with a window sticker of Calvin (of the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes) pissing on a red bowtie (aka Chevrolet) emblem?  That’s an example of brand loyalty, albeit an extreme one.  Do you know people who ONLY wear clothes of certain brands?  How about people who refuse to eat at certain restaurants or drink certain brands of beer?  Each of these is an example of brand loyalty.  “But how does this apply to the ‘employee’ label”,  you ask? To answer that question, we must first clarify your own priorities:

  • How did you choose your career?  Are you driven first by (a) intrinsic factors like personal passion and fulfillment, or (b) extrinsic factors like money and power?
  • How did you choose your employer? Are your employer’s values and beliefs: (a) well aligned and complementary to your own, or (b) inconsistent or conflicting with your own?
  • How committed/loyal are you to not only your employer, but all of the brands that you “endorse” by being directly or inadvertently connected to them?  Are you (a) proud to be associated with them, or are you (b) paid to be happy (i.e. with salary or discounted goods and services)?

***If you answered (a) in each instance, you’re probably an employee/brand advocate, whether anyone inside your organization realizes it or not.  If (b) was the choice each time, your work environment probably restricts or discourages advocacy because neither party in the equation knows what the other might say.  Very unfortunate, indeed.       

 

In the Industrial Age, passion and alignment with an organization’s values wasn’t part of a job description, especially for someone applying for work on a factory assembly line.  However, as the Industrial Age began fading,  assembly lines became more automated and less human. At the same time,  educational institutions began shifting their programs away from “blue collar” careers and toward “white collar” ones.  The paradigm that still exists, unfortunately, is best explained by visualizing the factory environment.  

Walk up to nearly any factory and what do you see?  Big doors, solid walls, and a few windows. The windows aren’t there to look out of, though.  Rather, they are windows usually located a few feet below the roof line.  They’re not intended to allow passers-by to look in and see the workers…they are intended to allow natural lighting into the building.  The walls (and placement of the windows) allow the majority of employees to remain anonymous to the outside world.

Look around today:   You won’t find many offices and businesses without windows.  Organizations know that great work environments attract great people.  Even cubicles, the trademark of ‘90’s office spaces, are being replaced by mobile technology leveraged by teams in remote locations with wi-fi that turn Starbuck’s seating areas into satellite business locations.     

As mentioned earlier, the LABOR shift from human to automated, specifically in the industrial sector, began years ago.  What has been clinging on to the Industrial Age is the Employee/Boss “MIND”-shift. It’s time to let go.

NOW.   

KNOCK IT OFF!!!

boatFigure it out soon, or you’ll be standing on the dock when the boat leaves the harbor.  Seriously, if I read one more article about how a small business should market its products on the internet through social media, I’m going to puke.  Forbes, Business Week, and a ton of other publications are continually posting on this subject.  Come on, people, you’re missing the point! You don’t market your products through social media, you BRAND YOURSELF through consistent and transparent representation across whatever channels you choose;  Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn being the Big 3.   The only way you’re going to earn money in the very near future is by being genuine and accessible at all times.  If customers are coming to you for help, they already trust the brand you represent. Nothing happens unless they trust YOU.

Not a bad idea for brand managers to ponder, either.

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.

Exponential Magnification: The Power of Six

magnifying-glass-450690_1280In 1992, a scientist named Robin Dunbar assigned “150” as the number of close individual relationships human beings are capable of maintaining at one time.  The human brain, Dr. Dunbar asserted, reaches a tipping point and becomes overloaded if forced to retain information about more than 150 people.  Anyone who looks at their own life would likely see this theory as being quite reasonable.  But how does Dunbar’s Number apply to connectivity within social networks?  What if you could exponentially magnify that number by engaging with and connecting complementary community members in a very precise manner rather than at random?

 

Since Mitch Joel wrote a book called “Six Pixels of Separation”, I’ll choose the number “6” for the purpose of this discussion.  If you were to choose SIX topics you are most passionate about and SIX topics that would make you exit a room as quickly as you entered it, what topics would be on each list?  Do you have your lists made?  Good.  Now reflect on the 150 people closest to you.  You all share a few common insights and passions, right? Otherwise, you’d run the other way when you saw them approaching you.  The important thing to note here is that NOT ALL of your 150 closest relationships are compatible with ONE ANOTHER.  Because of this fact, I ask you to now categorize each person into whichever of the six “passion” categories you defined a moment ago.  If they fit into more than one, great!  It means you have more to talk about when you get together!  

 

This is where it gets interesting.  Where Dunbar’s Number caps the relationship figure is where the real magic happens.  How is this possible?  An old-school concept called DELEGATION. Except in this case, you’re delegating purposeful connectivity rather than authority.  And your network becomes exponentially magnified as a result.  Remember the six “passions”. and the six “deal breakers”? Let’s start first with the deal breakers.  Would you ever choose to engage with people with whom you share zero commonality?  Of course not.  The great thing about big data is that these people can now be identified before you send them ANY marketing correspondence.  By the way, this is the ONLY way they’d ever hear of you in the first place.  They, like you, certainly aren’t going to connect with anyone they have ZERO in common with, right?   This concept pinpoints exactly why traditional advertising is on its last leg.  

 

Finding people who share one or more of your passions is the key to success.  Why?  The relationships are more genuine, authentic and engaged when joined together by passion. Customers who share one or more common worldviews are also less likely to leave your care, and therefore, you make a better living as long as you never give them a reason to not trust you. “What does ‘Dunbar’s Number’ have to do with any of this”, you ask?  In order to understand, you need to take a step back and visualize a rather unique example.  I’d like you go back to science class and picture an ATOM, namely the individual molecules within that atom.  

 

Let’s start with the nucleus:  YOU.  Rotating around you in the next layer are 150 of your closest friends.  Connecting you to those friends are one or more BONDS (as discussed above).  The number of bonds between you is the number of passions you share. Dunbar’s Number stops there, but with the Molecular Networking model, we’re just getting started.   What happens next exponentially magnifies your network by delegating the power to expand it to your friends.  Although the two of you may share a few common friends, you are only one particle in their networks, right?  The thing you can be relatively assured of is that, because the two of you share compatible worldviews, it’s likely that others in their network you have yet to meet are likely to be compatible with you as well.  We see this playing out online every day.  My assertion is that, much of the time, such connections are less purposeful and more random.  By making these secondary connections more purposeful and focused, however, we gain two distinct advantages:  First, we maintain some element of control over our connectivity.  Second, we are able to inject passion into the second layer of communities THROUGH our first layer bonds.  

 

The difference between this Molecular Networking concept and traditional marketing is that there is no randomness, and therefore, a reduced level of discord within networks.  Once the passions and deal breakers have been determined, the focus of the networking process is EXCLUSIVELY ON THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.  The primary function of the nucleus is to strengthen the bonds between molecules.  When done correctly, the bonds (chemistry) between molecules (people/communities) are become stronger than any opposing force(competitor), thus dramatically reducing the pull (noise).  The potential size of a network using this theory is limited only by one’s ability to engage and energize their communities. Even if you only achieved a 20% bond with the group one layer beyond the initial friend layer, the potential is staggering:  

 

150 x 150 = 22,500 x .2 = 4500 people.

 
Not bad, right?  Hang on, friends.  This is only one facet of a multi-layers concept..  How many influencers on Twitter have used the phrase “Employee Advocacy” in the last 3 months? Exactly.  Your team members are also nuclei, aren’t they?  You have 3 of them?  Triple the product in the above equation. Three HUNDRED people report to you?  Bad news:  You need to buy a new calculator.  What about the impact on recruiting when networks and worldviews are factored into the selection process throughout all levels of an organization?  Wouldn’t people enjoy going to work more if everyone throughout an entire organization shared at least a few compatible worldviews? How much would such diversity benefit a company’s retention efforts?  

Personally, I believe it would be a game-changer.

Relationships And Ear Buds

earphones-477446_1920Have you ever been sitting in your house when the power inexplicably went off?  Do you remember the wave of unsettling panic that swept over you because everything you use to keep you safe, informed, and connected to the outside world was suddenly immobilized?  That’s the way you’re going to feel when consumers turn off your volume and not just unplug your amplifier, but smash it.

Today’s world of attention is characterized by i-Pads tuned to YouTube or Vine videos by kids wearing Beats.  Nothing else besides what’s coming through those two devices matters.  (As a parent with firsthand experience, trust me on this one!) What if you could create customers that behaved like my kids? What if customers were so in tune with YOU that they would voluntarily wear earbuds and bookmark your channel on THEIR IPad?  Isn’t that the goal of content marketing?  What would that do for retention?

I think we all know the answers to those questions. What many are still struggling with is formulating and executing a plan to make it happen.  There’s no better time than the present, right? How about we start by dismissing some competitive paradigms?

  1. “Everyone” is NOT your target market.  “Whoever chooses to engage with you” is.
  2. Your current customers (and mine) have the right to choose to leave you (and me) if you/we aren’t serving them how they want to be served.
  3. It is NOT necessary to openly solicit anyone else’s customers.  Solicitation by competitors won’t be the impetus for movement from one provider to another…Movement will be based on know, like and trust relationships built within connected communities.

Now that we can dismiss those actions, we can focus on activities that will generate positive outcomes for both representatives and brands/companies.

  1. Get on your personal brand IMMEDIATELY, and be transparent about it.  Contrary to popular belief, you are not a different person at work than you are at home.  Stop thinking you are.
  2. Everything you do on line is a representation of you.  All attitudes, opinions, and even connections define your world view.  The more insights and information you share, the more beautifully your life puzzle will come together.
  3. Accept the fact that people can view your integrity trail any time they want.  In fact, encourage that they do so. This will help speed up the due diligence process and in some cases accelerate the sales cycle.
  4. Learn to connect and serve rather than advertise and sell. The “close” is now executed through validation of virtual identity (online) compared to physical identity (in-person). When those two personas match, trust is more likely to be established.
  5. Educate and engage within multiple communities by enlisting the help of your team and your personal army of advocates.  Highlight the uniqueness of every member of each individual community and lead by example in the growth of all involved.

Identify your customers’ favorite channels and help them tune out the static.