Understanding Millennials

All men are created equal is bullsh$#.

The ONLY thing every living person has that’s the same is time. Everyone, no matter where they live, what they look like, what they wear, what they drive, or how much money they have (or don’t have) is allocated 86,400 seconds each day to do with what THEY CHOOSE.

I believe every human being wants to be connected to others with whom they are compatible. That connection is the energy, the CHEMISTRY, that makes each of us who we are.

Artificial Intelligence has been created BY HUMANS, not to REPLACE themselves, but rather to ACCELERATE connection and make more efficient use of their time. In other words, humans are creating ways to not squander one valuable second of the 86,400 they are allocated each day.

Why do we choose to work? It’s not for the same reasons as in the past, at least not for everyone.

Globalization: Disruptor or Threat?

The difference between a disruptor and a threat is the threat already HAS both an infrastructure AND a network.  A disruptor typically has neither, at least at startup.  It’s like comparing ants to elephants:  Put a few ants in a sandbox and nobody really notices.  But put an elephant in a sandbox and there’s no longer a sandbox.  

A disruptor who wants to play in your sandbox is little more than an ant, at least at face value.  But if you ignore them, they will build networks and create infrastructure inside your sandbox that you’re not aware of.  That’s because ants: 1.  Never stop working, and 2. Are intricate system and network designers.  (Ever have an ant farm as a kid?)

Who’s Coming to Play?

If an internationally-networked business shows up to play in your sandbox, they’re not coming to simply “disrupt” recess, especially when they’ve brought their own toys.  The first thing to figure out is why when there’s plenty of sand in other countries.  The second thing to figure out is how, and I’m not talking about THEIR plans.  I’m talking about how YOUR plans and processes make THEM the shiny new toys everyone wants to play with.


As it turns out, sand is sand pretty much anywhere you go (although I’m quite partial to Michigan sand). And there’s PLENTY of it to go around, which makes trying to differentiate sand an exercise in futility. Using acquisitions and mergers to build bigger sandboxes seems equally as futile, and much more expensive. Spending more just to get more area isn’t the same as building “up” to get greater exposure and easier accessibility.

Now that this new reality is getting settled in, expect the sands to be constantly shifting.

Reading in Bulk

There’s a reason I read 3-4 books at once.  Every author in my library has provided some incredible ideas; however, I’ve found that reading one book at a time ends up being little more than individual pieces of a 10,000 piece puzzle without the box.  It can even be hard to find the edge pieces.  Reading multiple books simultaneously creates a mental collaboration of ideas when arranged to fit a bigger vision.     

It’s a Gift

One of my gifts is the ability to make complicated things easy, or at least that’s what the Strengths Finder says.  While some struggle to grasp the big picture because they’re stuck in the details,  I tend to ignore details that don’t align with the ultimate goal of a more fulfilling life less disrupted by interruptions.  No matter what your career, your place in the organizational hierarchy, or where you are geographically, I’d like to share what I’ve done every day for ten years.  It’s not simple, nor does it get instant results, so if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m not your guy.  What it will do, however, is create a foundation for success in a world of ever-evolving chaos.

Advertising Worldview

 I tend to use the word “worldview” a lot. What, exactly, am I referring to when I say “worldview”?  It’s easiest to explain with an analogy. When I’m at a party and a group of people starts talking about something I’m not interested in, is too controversial, or is polarizing, like politics, religion, and sometimes even sports, I’m likely to walk away or leave.  It’s not because I don’t have an opinion.  It’s because sharing my worldview about those things may cause or escalate conflict, which I prefer to avoid, especially in family and social situations.  In broad terms, my worldview is optimistic rather than pessimistic, positive rather than negative, and complimentary rather than critical. So if I find myself in a situation that appears to be headed toward conflict (something I perceive as negative), I remove myself from it.

Compatible, NOT Complementary

 Before going any further, I sense you may be thinking:  “This guy walks away from conversations where people oppose his ideas.”  That’s an inaccurate statement.  I openly welcome other people’s points of view—it’s how I learn.  I don’t care about being right or wrong as long as there’s healthy sharing and exchange of ideas within a group.  I reach the point of no return when others in the group become emotionally overwhelmed and close their minds to anything that opposes THEIR worldview.  There’s a huge difference between participating in discussion to learn versus participating to assert your opinion (which is what a worldview really is.)

“Job Descriptions”

The books above weren’t chosen randomly.  I’m grateful to have met half of the authors in person, and am honored to be connected with online.  Each book was acquired with a purpose (job description) and each has contributed in some way to a very specific business strategy.  With the amount of content out there to be consumed, it’s important to be very strategic about who to “work with” (give attention to.)  The same process can happen for anyone, although time demands for the influencers who have been leading from the start has increased dramatically.      

There’s much more to the process than is contained in this post.  If you’d care to discuss in more detail, please feel free to contact me.  Just Google “Gary, Iowa City” and shoot me a message.  

Thanks for your time and attention.  

You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

Nor can you judge a person by a job title.  Job titles were created as extensions of job descriptions.  A one or two-word summary of the list of mostly general responsibilities someone could be held accountable to by the person paying them to do work in the Industrial Age.

News Flash:  It’s no longer the Industrial Age.  

Perhaps job titles are still necessary, but it’s time to knock off the stereotyping of the people the job titles are assigned to.  Most didn’t create them—-they came from a common aligned database accumulated over the last two centuries.  Unfortunately, they not only restrict the range of creativity and contribution of the person who wears the label, they restrict the perception of the creative value an individual could bring to the table in a different environment.

 A Question of Motive

Why would a sales representative  in one industry want to engage with people in another industry?  If the people, groups, or organizations suffer from tunnel vision, they automatically assume the rep wants to permeate their walls to sell more products.  Why else would they possibly choose to do this instead of smiling and dialing the names on their purchased lead lists?   Could it be REMOTELY possible that they understand the LONG GAME and truly want to help other people?

It’s worth considering.

I’m SO Stressed!

 The question is, which kind of stress are you experiencing (cuz there are two).  Society has always focused on the negative one:  “Distress”.   Distress is caused by perceived lack of control and pressure to perform. Accountability is CONSEQUENCE when this kind of stress is IMPOSED UPON someone, usually by someone is a position of “authority”, and typically when things aren’t going the way THEY need them to be.  
The other kind of stress, eustress, is, ironically the inverse. Eustress is created by possessing knowledge, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence.   As it relates to accountability, this kind of stress is OWNERSHIP by the person possessing it, and thus cannot be IMPOSED UPON anyone.

Trust and Respect

 As the two kinds of stress relate to trust and respect, distress breaks them down and eustress builds them up.  Distress in an organizational hierarchy influences decisions in a  way best summarized by two motivational themes at sales meetings:  “Whatever it takes” and “make hay while the sun is shining”.  There are certainly more, like “Git ‘er DONE!”, but you get the picture.  Simply put, distress encourages finding shortcuts to create results demanded by superiors (because they’re being demanded by those superiors’ superiors, and so on—-until you get to the top of the hierarchy.)
Eustress is the exact opposite.  This kind of stress is driven by self-actualization and emotional intelligence, first of the individual possessing it, and, AS IMPORTANTLY, of the person or people in the hierarchy the individual reports to.  
***Note:  Ego, arrogance, and conceit are not factors of eustress as these are not positive leadership traits.  

Automomy With Purpose

Eustress in an organizational hierarchy most often results in the creation and implementation of agile strategies that, in turn, accelerate growth in a POSITIVE manner.  “EU-stressed out people” aren’t stressed out at all, unless they’re not allowed to make a difference.  Such permissions must still be granted from the top of the leadership hierarchy, but those permissions are rooted in support, encouragement and respect versus consequence.  In Industrial Age lingo, this was called “autonomy with purpose”.  

A Distressed Culture

It’s essentially a death wish.  Here’s why:  If the only thing people high up the ladder care about are results that reflect positively on them, they will ALWAYS lead from a position of distress.  It’s a learned habit perpetuated in Industrial Age best practices manuals.  People working on assembly lines in factories were held to quality and production metrics that end customers really knew nothing about.  Customers weren’t truly allowed to have opinions about the systems that created the products and services they purchased.  That’s not true anymore.  Today’s consumers are informed.  They know what materials go into every product they use and what the costs are.  They are also, perhaps even more importantly, in tune to the impact each has on the environment and/or world economy.

  “Eu”-Stressed-Out?  The Tipping Point


When the most optimistic people in an organization start being relieved of their duties, the proverbial snowball at the top of the mountain has been formed.  It’s just waiting for one last nudge to send it down the slope.  The rate at which the snowball will accelerate is dependent upon the degree of loyalty eustressed-out employees have to their organization—-not to their leadership.  It’s quite  likely that those employees lost trust in their direct leadership months or even years ago.  So why have they made a conscious, self-aware choice to stay?  Two reasons:  

  1. Faith in the mission and purpose of the organization, regardless of leadership.  These people are ADVOCATES for the organization.    
  2. Belief in their own vision, as demonstrated by the inability of the organization’s DISTRESS culture to overtake their own EUSTRESS state. 

Strategy of the Edge

For some employees and reps, the tipping point has already been reached and they’ve moved on.  For others, the snowball has been nudged, but hasn’t gained enough speed yet.  In this case, the people in the middle will build momentum for the snowball. They’ve been doing a balancing act between the organization’s distress and their own eustress for years.  Unfortunately, either the failure of the organization to appreciate them or introductions to other organizations that will, they are either released or persuaded to leave when the pressure becomes unbearable (or potentially unhealthy.) The last group to go is unique because they may also be the only group to be INVITED TO STAY.  They’re the ones who live on the edge.  They not only enjoy the view, but also maintain a sharp focus on the horizon.  To them, the snowball of distress represents a conscious decision, this time by the company—-to strategically leverage attrition.  In Ryan Holiday’s terms from “Obstacle Is The Way”, they’ve chosen to use the organization against itself.

 What better way to jettison a distressed work force from an agile ship, openly disrupting itself, in order to thrust itself into the future?  

The Experiment…WORKS?!?!

Hearing about an experiment designed to generate new ideas sends chills through the ranks of middle management.  They rarely know why they’re anxious because they’re not really paying attention.  They’re too focused on getting immediate results, which, in turn, saves their own ass…for now.

Ready, Set, Disrupt!

Many traditional organizations began investing in self-disruption a few years ago.  Recruitment of credible, driven outsiders with fresh ideas and proven track records ignited the process. Next, an independent hierarchy was created, usually with an abbreviated food chain.  Reporting structures are often less than 4 layers thick, half to one-third that of a normal bureaucracy, to allow for greater agility.

 The brilliant minds on these agile teams are charged with generating game-changing ideas.  The goal is to enable the organization to maintain its market position or extend its market dominance—-At least that’s the inscription on the facade.  As time passes and the discard pile of quality ideas “shot down” by the bureaucracy grows, a more obscure mission is being revealed:  Have the teams been assembled to DISPROVE disruption by generating outcomes that VALIDATE the legacy structure?  In other words, to show that the disruptive processes don’t really work?  If so, it’s not a well thought-out idea.

Ignoring the First Concern

Customers’ impact has been left out of the equation because it’s never mattered before.  (ANY organization can SAY the customer is their first concern, but they also have to FOLLOW THROUGH).  Most of the ideas those “mad scientists” initiated a decade ago were likely before their time.  Custom-branded website domains, interactive CD’s, personalized video website overlays, and even highly-touted, complex, and expensive platforms all represent outside-of-the-box ideas that never gained momentum, but for less-than-obvious, not dictated, reasons. Simply put: CUSTOMERS  WEREN’T READY.  To assume that they never will be is a serious misinterpretation.

Changing Tide

For a majority of industries today, their products and services have become little more than commodities.  That means successful innovation demands a laser-sharp focus on the customer experience.  Building solutions where the primary currency exchanged is emotional rather than physical in ways that make people excited to do business with your brand.

About three years ago, I learned that a team of people with an idea to build a new business model was issued a title with a name that couldn’t be searched in the public domain.  I know because I tried, which meant it was the subsidiary of a larger entity.  After the initial facility was created, more capacity was added to accelerate the self-disruption.  Even though the expansion required a significant investment in resources, the cost, again, was a small fraction of the alternative.

 “Houston, we have a problem”

“Problem” doesn’t do it justice.  It’s more of a quagmire—-a gargantuan cluster-f*#%.   Why is it a problem when anyone can have ideas and dreams?  Most organizations today encourage people to be innovative. While top-level leadership encourages the creativity of “Renegade Intrapreneurs” (at least when in the spotlight), middle managers see them as threats, often extinguishing the passion behind their ideas.  What those managers fail to comprehend is that creative thinkers aren’t their biggest challenge:  Tunnel vision is.  In other words, they don’t know what they don’t know and don’t believe what they refuse to see.

A handful of creative business visions are being executed relentlessly and producing results.  A few early adopters, for reasons inconceivable to middle managers, have actually begun EMBRACING some of the experiments.  In fact, a small nucleus of customers is building word-of-mouth momentum from the inside-OUT, with “community chemistry” one “molecule” at a time in an ongoing retention/education/transaction cycle.  Unlike traditional models, this one grows EXPONENTIALLY once the second iteration of trust-centered connections is established.

It’s the inverse of traditional thinking, which is why it’s not only ignored, but also the biggest threat to their future.  The self-disruptor is proving that the obstacle truly IS the way.

 History Repeating Itself?

An article was written by Greg Satell in 2010 about the demise of Blockbuster at the hands of Netflix.  Contained in that article was this link to another, equally intriguing, one:  

https://www.digitaltonto.com/2010/the-story-of-networks/ 

The reason the current scenario is different for the self-disruptive organization than scenarios a decade ago is that customers’ “silent networks” were not nearly as developed (or curated).  Back then, people didn’t connect based on worldview compatibility and actually engage in conversations, they connected to improve their vanity metrics. That meant ideas were crippled from spreading and becoming visions worthy of detailed business plans.

Today is different.  People have pared down their online contacts. They’re having more frequent and meaningful exchanges with others in their networks.  With each exchange, trust grows.  As trust grows, new connections are introduced and the communities, in turn, grow.  But the quagmire for legacy leadership isn’t even that the power of the “silent networks” is magnified EXPONENTIALLY, it’s that it happens outside their field of tunnel vision.

 
If a monster is chasing you through a dark forest, it’s difficult (and painful) to maneuver through trees you can’t see. 

Learning To Swim

When learning to swim, do you begin when it’s sunny or when the flood waters are approaching your second-story windows?  Why, then, have you waited for the proverbial storm clouds to fill the skies? Probably because, like many others, you never thought it would be THAT bad.

The Industrial Age is Gone

There are times when being an optimist is perfectly reasonable, but this isn’t one of them.  Now it’s all about realism. It’s time to open the blinds and take a long, hard look outside.  The Industrial Age is gone. So are land lines, televisions with 13-channel dials, and 8-track tapes.  We are now in the Internet Age, where consumers are armed with more information about brands AND individual  representatives than can be printed on a direct-mail piece. Where does all of this information come from? Transparent sharing by real human beings in and between an infinite number of online communities.  If you think your “dirty little secrets” can stay secure forever, prepare for a big surprise. You may be able to secure most inside information that is protected legally, but common-knowledge across-the-board “perks”  in any industry will likely not fall in that category.

It’s NOT About You

What happens when full disclosure really means full disclosure?  How do you explain to customers that the true reason for your 40 calls to their cell per week is less about them and more about you.  The legacy generation of customers that has provided your income stream for the last three decades already knows, but they no longer care. They are nearing the end of their buying cycle for your products and services.  Unless they are independently wealthy, the likelihood of them needing more from you than they already have is slim to none. What you’re failing to realize is that every generation of consumer that follows is going to have access to exponentially more information shared transparently across infinitely more platforms than their Industrial Age elders. No longer are they going to lie down in a sales appointment.  In fact, there won’t be a “sales appointment”. It will be a “validation meeting”. They will meet to validate that you are a real human being, confirm that you are as represented by your online avatar, and that your brand’s solution has identical features and pricing when you submit the application as when they quoted it on their mobile device.

How are you preparing for that reality?

Hell’s Kitchen

Fifteen years in the food and beverage industry provides a multitude of life lessons:  How to think on your feet, how to make a killer Bloody Mary, how to properly use a mop, how to carry trays of dishes with both hands, and a walk-in cooler is the best place to go scream when a difficult customer or manager has pushed you over the edge.  Being an executive-level manager of a few places established some guideposts I’ve used in my own business for the last 16 years. If you’ve never worked in the industry before, you’ll be tempted to dismiss a couple of these insights. If you sense that starting to happen, I’d encourage you to stop reading and think about the point from an opposite perspective—-with empathy.  

Control What You Can Control

It doesn’t matter how great a restaurant manager is, I’ve never met one that could predict exactly how many people would choose to dine in their establishment during a given shift.  No one can possibly know what time each guest will come in, what they will eat, or how long they will stay so the table could be “turned” and reset for the next guests.  Predicting cover counts with 100% accuracy is impossible for many reasons (and these are NOT excuses):

  • One never knows everything happening in the area—-if there’s a concert at 7, the restaurant could experience an earlier than normal “rush”, then be slow for the rest of the night.  
  • There could be a weather situation:  A snowstorm once struck during a shift and none of my employees could get out (which also meant no customers could get IN.)
  • People have both time and money budgets.  Going out to dinner takes time and costs money. Our three children are now adults. No more KIDS MENU for us!  Taking our family of five to Five Guys costs $60 and 35 minutes. If we go to our neighborhood place with microbrews, burgers, cloth napkins and food servers, we’ll spend $100 and at least ninety minutes.   

If none of this makes sense, I challenge you to try this next time you go to Starbuck’s for a latte’:  Have a seat and take out your smartphone. Ask Google to tell you when the next customer is going to walk in.  Then ask Google what they are going to order. Document how many times Google accurately predicted either. (If you REALLY want to raise the bar, approach the customer who orders something other than what Google predicted and try to change their mind.  You may want to note which arm their smart watch is on as that’s most likely the direction the punch will be coming from.)

Customer Experience Isn’t the Best Marketing Strategy…It’s the ONLY Marketing Strategy

Most people refer to this as “word of mouth”.  What many people don’t understand is the breadth of the concept of customer experience.  Unless you’ve had mentors who were diligent about perfecting EVERY minute detail from the time a potential customer saw the sign on an interstate off-ramp indicating “Food this exit”, to the way a menu felt to the customer’s touch, to the elimination of water spots on the bathroom counter, to someone ALWAYS being at the host stand to say “Thank you” to guests heading home, it’s unlikely that you can relate.   

Perhaps you’re thinking:  “If a restaurant has a great chef that produces great food, that’s all that’s necessary”.  If so, here’s a little “rebuttal” joke: You know that fastest way to end up with a million dollars in the restaurant business?  Start with TWO million.  While it may be a myth that 80-90% of new restaurants fail within the first three years, I can tell you from experience that building a successful one requires great vision, hard work, and a total team effort. Such a formula is pretty clear-cut, right?  It is until someone begins using two very different terms interchangeably: GOAL and FUNCTION.

The GOAL of every business is to make money.  

The FUNCTION of every business is the acquisition, maintenance, and retention of customers.    

These words do NOT mean the same thing.  Get them mixed up and before long there will be no more customers.     

I once worked with a chef who had a “supersized” ego, but not in a value-added way. He didn’t make “gravy”, he created sauce.  For 6-course, $150 per plate dinners, he refused to allow salt and pepper to be placed on the tables because his food was always perfectly seasoned.  If a customer ordered a medium rare steak and sent it back saying it was undercooked, he took it off one plate and put it on another, added fresh sides and sent it back out.  Perhaps this chef should have read Ryan Holiday’s book: “Ego is the Enemy”.

Retention Drives Acquisition, NOT the Other Way Around

If you even SLIGHTLY agree that it’s nearly impossible to predict the exact number of people who will enter a restaurant on any given day or time, then how is using predictive analytics to “drive” acquisition a smart use of mental energy and attention?  Why are analytics not used instead to sharpen the very customer experience that creates advocacy and retention in ways that have the potential to exponentially increase acquisition? The answer is simple, but no one wants to admit it: SOMEBODY wants control activity that they believe drives revenue.  News flash: Those activities aren’t generating positive customer experiences.  They are, in fact, breaking down trust one customer at a time.

Retention is the most consistent, time-tested business-creating activity that is totally dependent upon HUMAN to HUMAN (H2H) connection.   (“H2H” was coined by Bryan Kramer, author of Shareology). Where purchase transactions typically involve a systematic exchange of products or services for an agreed-upon price, retention involves the empathetic exchange of emotions that create remarkable and mutually-beneficial value.

Blending of Old and New

There’s a misconception that traditional (human) values cannot be incorporated into New Age processes that are more aligned with today’s demanding customer experience metrics.  The reality is that this is not only inaccurate, it’s a paradigm wrought with frustration and, quite possibly, failure for many who refuse to adapt. Ten years ago, it was as difficult to visualize the future as it is to predict the number of guests a restaurant would serve on a given night.  

Today the future is becoming as clear as an HD image taken by an iPhone.

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

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!”