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.  


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

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…



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.

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.


Brain Freeze

Brain freezeHave you ever drank a milkshake through a straw too fast?  You know the feeling, right?  Now look at the marketplace and the internet.  There are literally hundreds of variations of multiple products available for researching, comparing, pricing and purchasing.  Most of those steps along the buyer journey no longer involve interacting with a sales representative, face-to-face or otherwise.  The question then becomes: “How can representatives POSSIBLY make an impact?”  The same way you can prevent brain freeze when drinking the milkshake: SLOW THE FLOW.


Customers are as overwhelmed at their options as anyone else. There is simply too much to consume randomly, and the volume is only going to continue expanding exponentially within the next decade.  So what needs to happen?  How are people going to  “slow the flow”? It’s going to start by being far more selective with their attention. There are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute.  Never will there be any more or any less.  At some point, people will get overwhelmed with consumption and will withdraw toward more preservation of their quality time with those who matter most. The timeline for this shift is variable:  Some are just more tolerant of interruptions than others who have already begun the process (like myself).


If we were to look back about 15 years, how many people still had land lines?  How many households had DVR’s?  How many magazines were listed in the local elementary school’s fundraising packet?  How many social media platforms were there?  You’re getting the picture, right?  Fast forward to today and ask the same questions again.  Besides the obvious, what’s another big difference between then and now?  Back then, much of the sorting between Stephen Covey’s time management categories of important, urgent, not important, not urgent was done by HAND…we could physically touch, sort, and retain or discard whatever items we wanted.  Today, the majority of physical items we receive come to us in the form of direct mail. Many people now consume newspapers, magazines, and business correspondence online. Do we expect the level of such consumption to increase or diminish in the years ahead? Exactly.


This is a problem because, unlike physical newspapers and magazines, the information being consumed can only be seen, not touched.  Therefore, the amount of time spent sorting is dramatically diminished.  Similar to the mouse-click theory of first impressions, representatives who DO NOT have a current “in” with a community are going to be faced with an overwhelming challenge in the near future.  People they are trying to reach have already begun taking steps to prevent brain freeze by forming and engaging with their own communities of shared world views.  If these representatives try to gain permission to solicit products and services to these communities through traditional interruptive means, the members of the target community will simply cut off their straw.  



Gotta Get Back In Time

Back to the Future 2
Who can resist a Huey Lewis and The News lyric on Back To The Future Day?

Does anyone remember the ’70’s?  You know, BEFORE the Internet?  That’s the era when handshakes solidified business deals, anything you wanted to learn about could be researched in either the Merriam-Webster Dictionary or World Book Encyclopedia (with annual supplement, of course!), and the soda jerk at the corner drug store would mix a Green River and serve it in a large styrofoam cup with ice for a quarter. Oh, to be a kid again!

Back then, there were THREE channels on television. People only received what was enabled by the station’s antenna reach. Back then, most people’s cultural awareness was determined by a phone book and a road atlas.  If you couldn’t find what you needed in the phone book, you sure weren’t driving around in a strange place 100 miles away to look for it.  You just did without.  Back then, your closest neighbors were also your closest friends as well as the main influencers in your life (besides family).  People didn’t care about what everyone else thought when “everyone else” was outside their circle of influence.

If you take a couple of steps back and look into the future, you’ll see a trend approaching. Leading indicators are already appearing, the most significant being increasing noise in the marketplace.  People are overwhelmed by it and are retreating into little circles of influence. Individuals inside these circles share compatible worldviews, so what others on the outside think is essentially irrelevant.  As the groups form, their scope of inputs narrows.  Instead of randomly scanning 2000 channels for insights supporting their worldview, they are identifying identify 3, 6, or 10 and then actively engaging with them. Their attention becomes so focused, in fact, that ALL outside messages vying for the attention of the group become background noise…like a hissing sound.

Come to think of it, that hissing reminds me of the sound the fountain made when the soda jerk pulled the handle to mix my Green River.  Those were the days.

Silent But Deadly

Vapor trailVapor trail:  The result of consistently choosing to ignore the wishes of today’s customers, instead forcing them to continue interacting with you within the traditional sales model.

Scenario 1:

You’re a quota-based sales rep who needs numbers.  A couple we’ll call John and Mary are two of your best customers who agree to meet after three weeks of late call nights. Your diligent follow-up efforts have paid off! Contacting them twice a day refusing at take “No” for an answer finally broke them.

John and Mary are the parents of two children, so their schedule is insane no matter what day it is.   You prepare for the meeting with great anticipation as this is your big chance to meet your sales quota for the year.  You go through every feature and benefit perfectly, just like you were taught, and John and Mary are nodding through the entire presentation.  Finally, the moment of truth comes:  The close.  “So, does this sound like a solution that would serve your family well?”

“Well, yes, we think this sounds like something we need.”


Then John says:  “Do you mind if I ask you something?  You were very persistent in getting us in today, and we do know it’s for the best.  However, I’m curious as to whether we’re getting the whole picture.  We understand and agree that you are compensated by commission, but is there anything more to it than that?”

How you respond will set the tone for the relationship for the rest of your time together, will it not?  Do you tell them the truth and inform them of the incentive plan, or do you answer, “No, John, there’s nothing else”…and then let them find out from your team members that you’re on rewards vacation?

Either way, you may very well get a vapor trail out the front door.   Today’s customers are extremely knowledgeable.  Very few things (besides trade secret information) are NOT found somewhere on the internet, especially when matters of trust are at risk.  This particular scenario puts you between a rock a hard place:  Tell the truth, and you’re potentially seen as putting their own needs before theirs.  Lie, and, well, why should anyone trust you in the future?  In either case, John and Mary are at risk for not only never coming back, they may quite possibly never speak to you again. Not exactly the kind of word-of-mouth that is necessary to BUILD a business.

Scenario 2:

John and Mary have passively asked about your brand’s helpful time-saving technology as it has been introduced, and you have educated them by sending links to information you believe they would find interesting.   Their friends have also been talking about the solutions your brand provides and how much their own families have benefited from them.

One day, Mary sends you an e-mail asking for your input and professional insights.  The request and related documentation is also forwarded to your CRM platform.  This enables you to see exactly what they are thinking and review their concerns in advance.  After a thoughtful analysis of their ideas, you send them your feedback and extend an invitation to meet on their schedule.  They are impressed with your promptness and professionalism, and ask to get together on Saturday morning in two weeks to finalize their purchase.  Mary’s parents are coming to see the kids, so it’s not a problem to get away for a while.

The couple arrives early for the appointment.  They’ve already decided this is the perfect solution.  As you are preparing to get their signatures, John asks, “Do you mind if I ask you something?  There’s a lot of information on the internet about incentives in many different businesses.  Does any of that information apply to this one?”

You look away from your computer screen and focus your attention directly on John.

“Yes, John, I’m glad you asked.  My company offers incentives based on how many people I serve.  This year, I’ve been fortunate enough to help a lot of people just like you. So many, in fact, that your request for my help will qualify my wife and I for a vacation next spring.  It’s not something I usually tell people, but I don’t hide it when asked, either.  Now that you know, do I still have your permission to continue?”

“Of course!  If you’ve helped THAT many people, you deserve to be rewarded.  Working with you has been the greatest experience we could have asked for.  We never felt like we were being ‘sold’ anything.  You supported and educated us through the process and never seemed ‘pushy’.”

“Thank you, John.  I truly appreciate the opportunity to serve you.”

In this scenario, “silent” represents the approach you took to serve your customers.  “Deadly” is what this process is to your competitors.  I also call it “flying under the radar.” You’re in and out before anyone realizes what happened…and THEIR customers have left with YOU.