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Ira Koretsky
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Duane Bailey
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I remember when voice mail was introduced in the mid-80's. I was working for AT&T and, during a visit to the Bell Labs facility in Holmdel, NJ, I recall being awestruck by the presence of the AT&T Model 2500 answering machines on each desk. These machines were, at the time, top of the line models and allowed users to record their own personalized greetings.

At the time, my sales office had a receptionist who would take messages from incoming callers while we were out. The messages were very brief – something akin to "while you were out, Theresa P. called."

Years later, while managing a customer care center for AT&T, I got my own voice mailbox. I could record my own greeting, assuring callers they had reached the right number. Callers could now leave me longer and more detailed messages. Early on, many would zero-out, preferring to speak to my administrative assistant instead.

During much of my professional selling career, voice mail became the preferred medium for communication between my customers and me. Voice mail was ubiquitous and people became more comfortable with it. My personalized greetings were updated each day and I promised to return calls within two hours. Messages were rich in verbal content and were often longer than I would have liked. I used to keep a spiral note pad, where I would methodically write down each voice message I received (along with the time and date).

At some point during the last 5 years or so, voice mail has become irrelevant – at least for me. I no longer record daily greetings, I'm lucky if I get more than two messages per day and I haven't kept a spiral notepad in years. The preferred communication medium is now email, and the standards that once applied to voice mail now govern my email interactions (e.g., personalized email signatures, out-of-office greetings and my own personal commitment to returning emails within two hours). And when I want to communicate with someone, I'll send an email or a text.

Voice mail once played a pivotal role in shaping how others perceived our personal and corporate brands. Not anymore, I'm afraid. After all, when was the last time you left a voice message for someone?

I've always believed sales is not a spectator sport. It truly is a team sport and it requires the active participation and support of everyone across the organization, including: marketing, sales support, information technology, legal, operations, services, finance, accounts receivable and customer care.

One of the characteristics of an established sales culture in any organization is the alignment of these functional areas around "One Team, One Goal." Typically, this goal involves top line growth – in revenues, profits, earnings per share, etc. Sales provides the leadership that fuels the achievement of the organization's growth objectives. The other functional areas work in harmony with, and in support of, the sales team.

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Organizations who lack a sales culture are typically ones that struggle to achieve their growth targets. The functional areas I've mentioned above function as silos. Functional goals are disparate and rarely aligned. Sales (and all too often customers) are wrongly viewed as impediments to the achievement of departmental goals and there is little or no teamwork, both within and across functional areas.

Being a salesperson is one of the most challenging jobs in any organization. Salespeople are not only accountable for achieving their own growth targets; they are responsible for driving organizational results and improved shareholder returns. And, as I've shown in the whiteboard diagram above, they are accountable for directing the resources required to achieve those results.

How strong is the sales culture in your organization?

 

For more on the impact of organizational culture, please see:
The Building Blocks of a Successful Sales Growth Strategy
How Business Process Improvement Impacts Customer Experience
• The Purpose of Marketing Is to Drive Sales

Does your brand have a social media policy? If so, does it include guidance for how employees should respond to unplanned tweets?

A social media policy provides employees with a set of guidelines for communicating online about your brand. While many social media policies include pre-approved responses to anticipated tweets and require employees to submit their posts for review prior to posting, there are times when a little spontaneity is appropriate.

Unplanned tweets – positive or negative – present brands with an unexpected opportunity to interact and engage with customers in a personal way. Conversations between two people are difficult to predict and even harder to script in advance. Designating someone in advance who communicates well and trusting him or her to use good judgment when responding to unplanned tweets are ways to encourage genuine conversations and deeper relationships with your customers.alt

 

In my experience, one brand that does an exceptional job of responding to unplanned tweets is Lifetime Fitness. I visit my Lifetime club on a regular basis and frequently tweet about my experiences while I am there. Almost always, as in the example above, I'll hear back from the brand (@lifetimefitness) within minutes of posting my tweet. In some instances, they'll even share my post with others by retweeting it.

While social media can be an opportunity for your employees to help build your brand, there is also an inherent risk that an inappropriate post or comment could inadvertently damage your brand's reputation. An effective social media policy can help achieve an acceptable balance between the opportunity social media presents and the risk that accompanies it, with the right mix of guidance, planning and trust.

altTwitter recently announced the addition of a feature that allows users to send group direct messages (DMs) to up to 20 people. Direct messages are private messages sent from one Twitter user to other Twitter users who follow you. Direct messages can now be used for one-on-one private conversations or between groups of users.

While you can only invite users who follow you to a group, the followers you add to your group DM don't need to be following each other to be in on the conversation. Within a group DM, users can share text, tweets, pics and emojis. The current release does not include video sharing capability.

Twitter users like you and me now have the ability to hold ongoing private conversations with a select group of people. I've had situations where a group of my followers retweeted one of my tweets and a subsequent conversation about its content ensued among us. Brands and other savvy Twitter users might now use the group DM feature to target specific groups of followers or advocates with content tailored to their interests.

For more insights on Twitter conversations, please see:
You Are What You Tweet
#ICYMI: Now There's an App for Understanding Hashtags on Twitter
My #FirstTweet

While a focus on improving the way your external customers experience your brand is admirable and necessary, equal importance needs to be assigned to your internal customer experience, too.

Your brand, after all, is an ecosystem – a community of people from interdependent functional areas who interact as a larger system. When one function fails to deliver on its core mission, the other functions are unable to fulfill their responsibilities and the strength of the entire ecosystem is weakened. Frustration, blame and disappointing results are sure to follow.

Marketing, sales, sales support, operations, customer service, information technology, finance, accounting and human resources are all examples of interdependent functional areas. Each function provides a service to the other functional areas – your internal customers, if you will.

How your internal customers perceive the experience you provide is influenced by a number of factors, including the cost of the service, the quality of the deliverable, the timeliness in which it was delivered, the attitude of the people who performed the service, how well the service met their needs, etc. If your internal customers feel the work you are providing lacks value, quality, effort and timeliness, it's only a matter of time until these perceptions are felt outside the organization.

People who play team sports learn early on that attitudes are contagious. Is yours (and your team's) worth catching?

 

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Having traveled around the world both on vacation and speaking, I have come across a variety of interesting food names:

- Chicken with wilted spinach
- Stinky tofu
- Vegetarian meatballs

You may have heard, even tried some of these. By themselves, do the titles immediately make you think “yummy?” or do you mentally cringe? Personally, I cringed at "wilted spinach." Why would I order something out of date or not fresh? Because this was served at a very nice restaurant, I laughed out loud. It sparked quite an interesting conversation with my dining partners.

Quite unintended, I ended up liking the phrase wilted spinach quite a lot as a metaphor for bad messaging. As a result, I titled our approach to testing messages, “The Wilted Spinach Test.” At its core, the test looks to evaluate whether your words/messages resonate with your target audiences. At a detailed level, do your words/messages mean what you want them to mean? Words matter. A lot. To some, one word could be positive and to others, the very same word could be negative.

Do your written, spoken, and social media communications cause audiences to ask good questions, contact you, or skip right past you?

LinkedIn has released its annual list of the top ten "most overused, underwhelming buzzwords and phrases in LinkedIn profiles of 2014." Open your profile now and check to see if any of these words and phrases are appearing in yours:

   1. Motivated
   2. Passionate
   3. Creative
   4. Driven
   5. Extensive Experience
   6. Responsible
   7. Strategic
   8. Track Record
   9. Organizational
 10. Expert

Are you a highly motivated professional? Passionate about your work? Proud of your track record? Well, then, so is everyone else with a LinkedIn profile.

Your LinkedIn profile is your personal brand. The most successful brands stand out. It's time to stop describing your brand with these overused and meaningless buzzwords and phrases. After all, who among us is not motivated? Is each one of us not passionate about something? And what does it mean when someone says he or she has a proven "track record" of success, anyway?

Instead, replace these buzzwords and phrases with concrete examples of the business results you've achieved. Show potential employers how your contributions have impacted top- and bottom-line performance. Make yourself stand out. Brand yourself as the answer to the challenges your next employer is facing.

For more insights on LinkedIn and your personal brand, please see:
Is Your Personal Brand In Need of a Makeover?
Personal Branding: Stay Relevant with a Current LinkedIn Profile
Make Your Personal Brand Stand Out in LinkedIn

Monday, January 26, 2015

Words to Avoid - “Anxious”

altFor business communications, you should avoid using the word “anxious.” Anxious is a word all too often misused. You’ll hear people saying, “I’m anxious to meet Julie.” Or “I’m really anxious about xyz.”

By definition, anxious means: “characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency” (Merriam-Webster Online).

For business communications, always use “eager.” By definition, eager means: “marked by enthusiastic or impatient desire or interest” (Merriam-Webster Online).

If there is a cause to use “anxious” to convey worry, we suggest using “concern” or “concerned.”

Since all of your business communications to your target audiences are related to your relationship and what you offer to them, choose your words carefully.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Selling Beyond Price

It's easy to sell on price, particularly when yours is the lowest. What happens, though, when your price isn't the lowest?

One of my go-to sales training exercises is to ask a group of experienced salespeople to imagine a world where there is no difference between their price and those of their competitors. If price is no longer a differentiator, how would they position their products and services? What would possibly compel someone to buy from them?

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This forces them to take a deeper, more introspective look at their selling approach. The best salespeople sometimes default to selling at a lower price, even when their products and services are arguably better. In doing so, they discount the value of the service they provide, the knowledge and expertise they offer, their relationship with the customer and the impact their products and solutions can have on their customer's business.

If a salesperson's first instinct is to offer a discounted price, it's a sign he or she doesn't attach much value to the things that matter most to customers. And if a salesperson doesn't believe these benefits are worth paying more for, why would your customer? 

For more on selling beyond price, please see:
How One Brand Is Growing Sales While Raising Prices in a Weak Economy
Achieving Market Share Growth in a Weak Market
What Makes Your Company Different?

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Imagine you arrive at a lunchtime networking event. It takes place in a hotel conference room, comfortably sitting 150 people.

As you enter through the main doors, you briefly stop to survey the room. “Where do I sit?” you ask yourself.

If you are like many people, you follow human nature and seek out comfort and safety. This means you seek out people you know—friends, colleagues, perhaps someone you met before. No longer...

To be successful at business networking, you should be stretching your comfort and safety zones.

At your next event, only sit with strangers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Are Best Practices Holding You Back?

I like to try new ideas. I like taking risks. And I embrace change. It's how people and organizations grow.

Old ideas (i.e., "what's worked before," "what others have done," "the way we've always done it," etc.) are all too often packaged as "best practices" by leaders who are risk averse and resistant to change. When someone tells me the reason for not trying something new or taking a risk is "best practices," my first instinct is to call them out on it. I'll ask them to show me their best practices or I'll go online and search for my own "best practices" on how to drive change and transformation.

We live in a dynamic world. Change is all around us. We can either embrace that change or we can fight it with legacy thinking and traditions.

The New Year is a great time to look ahead and think about the things you're going to do differently in the year ahead, especially if you're a sales professional. Change is a constant in sales – the result of evolving market conditions, increasing competition and sales quotas with year-over-year growth targets.

You can embrace this change with these ten sales resolutions:
   1. Spend four more hours in front of your customers each week
   2. Learn one new fact about your industry each week
   3. Establish yourself as an industry expert on one social media channel
   4. Give your prospects one big reason to engage with you, outside of price
   5. Give your customers one big reason to expand their relationship with you and your brand, outside of price
   6. Make every customer interaction about them, instead of you
   7. Include five reasons to buy in every proposal, with a focus on value
   8. Sell high and wide within your customer organizations, with a goal of meeting one new decision-maker or influencer on every call
   9. Obtain one new customer testimonial each month
 10. Empower your customers through conversations that include words like: "and" (instead of "but"), "do" (instead of "try") and "yes" (instead of "no")

You can do this. Make 2015 the year of the customer, and your best year ever, with these resolutions.

  

For more insights on selling, please see:
Achieving Market Share Growth in a Weak Market 
If You're Selling, Are You Showing or Telling? 
The Power of the Human Touch in Sales 
If You're in Sales, Tell Me Something I Don't Know 
Are Your Customers Looking for a Better Deal?

 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It Is In Giving That We Receive

The rewards of volunteering are varied and many...and sometimes, not readily apparent.

Over a decade ago, I volunteered for a few years as a religious education instructor. My job was to teach middle school students the basics of their faith. I used to tell anyone who would listen at the time this was one of the toughest audiences I had ever faced. Students at this age are very transparent and I knew many of them would have preferred to be somewhere else during class time.

I spent untold hours trying to make the lectures fun, engaging and interactive. We played games, watched movies, did community service work outside the classroom and more. I gave each student a hard copy of the evening's class notes (which were filled with facts, stories and quotes from the Bible) – realizing then that they wouldn't read them until months or years later, perhaps when they were taking a religion course in college.

While it was clear I was able to reach some students during those formative years, there were others who just seemed disengaged and detached. It wasn't until the other night, during a service at my place of worship, that a former student and his family were sitting in the row in front of me. I remembered him as one who seemed particularly disengaged at the time.

I recognized him during the service and, at one point, he looked at me and smiled. After the service had ended, his mom turned around and told me her son had recognized me as one of his religious education teachers and had told her I was one of the best he ever had. It was a great gift to know my efforts were appreciated and remembered after so many years.

I tell this story because it's an inspiration to all of us on the importance of giving our best in all that we do in the New Year, for it is in giving that we truly receive.

The holidays are upon us.

It's time for all of us to take a well-deserved break: spend some time with family and friends, enjoy the festivities, and reflect on your experiences of the past year.

If you're like me, you started 2014 with a list of goals in mind. The current year is coming to a close and the New Year is approaching. It's time to look back. Celebrate your successes. Learn from your mistakes. Recognize and thank the people who helped you along the way. Set new goals for 2015.

Most of all, take some time to enjoy the spirit of the season.

One of my favorite holiday television specials is "A Charlie Brown Christmas." It's entertaining, brief and full of timeless lessons.

As fans of the drama know, the story centers around a boy named Charlie Brown and his frustration with the growing commercialism of the Christmas holiday season. All he really wants is to find the true meaning of Christmas.

While the story contains an obvious spiritual message, I think there is one for brands here, too. Even before the show's debut in 1965, references to the growing commercialism of the holiday season are evident in American movies and other media. 1947's "Miracle on 34th Street" is one film that comes to mind.

If, as Linus tells us, the Christmas holiday season is less about commercialism and more about spreading "peace and goodwill," the takeaway for brands is the importance of putting their core values and customer needs above short-term sales and profits. Who among us has at one time or another felt our expectations were not met, after being "sold" the equivalent of a "Charlie Brown Christmas tree?" 

Talk to your customers, understand their needs and always remember your core values. Putting customers first and creating something special are great ways to show your customers a little love this holiday season.

For more marketing insights from holiday favorites, please see:
Social Media Marketing Lessons from "A Christmas Carol"
Reputation Management: Six Things Brands Can Learn from George Bailey 
What Ebeneezer Scrooge Would Like Us to Know About Organizational Culture 

While content may be king in the digital age, it needs to be delivered to the right audience at the right time and at the right place to make it meaningful and relevant.

This shouldn't come as a big surprise to marketers. After all, the central premise behind every successful sales presentation is knowing your audience – what their pain points are, what they're doing about them and how failing to resolve those pain points will impact your prospects both personally and professionally. It's also helpful to know where your audience is going for answers to those pain points – your competitors, trade associations, industry consultants, scholarly journals, white papers, social media, etc.

I was reminded of this recently during a visit to one of the big-box home improvement stores. I was looking for a rust-inhibiting spray paint for use on a bathtub when an associate started telling me about the store's promotion on kitchen cabinet re-facings. His knowledge level of cabinet re-facings was impressive. What he failed to realize was, at that moment, I could care less about re-facing my kitchen cabinets.

Great content, for sure. The same cannot be said for the context in which it was delivered. My pain point was a rusting tub, I wanted to repair the tub with a rust-inhibiting paint and the impact of my failing to find an answer to my pain point might be a potential water leak (which, incidentally, could cause extensive damage to the kitchen below the bathroom where the rusting tub is located). I also had previous experience with a rust-inhibiting spray paint and just needed to know where I could find another can in a different color.

Think about your digital content. I'm guessing it's awesome stuff. Now think about the context in which you are delivering it. Are you targeting the right audience? Are you delivering it at the right time and place? Are you present in the places where your target audience is going for answers to their questions? Or, are you trying to sell kitchen cabinet re-facings to a guy who simply wants to repair a rusty bath tub?

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Good Spelling Leads to Good Selling

When I was an undergraduate marketing student at Fairfield University, my English professor would remind us of this simple admonition: "Can't spell, can't sell."

I didn't appreciate the power of his words until a few years later when I became a salesperson. As a young account executive for a Fortune 500 technology firm, I was selling more than just the latest information technology. I was selling ideas, solutions and my company's (and my) reputation.

Few things did more to challenge my credibility with customers than incorrectly spelled names and words in my proposals and presentations. These seemingly simple errors were perceived as evidence of indifference, insufficient preparation or a lack of attention to detail. It was also a stretch to claim expertise about some thing if I couldn't even spell its name correctly. In an instant, spelling errors could potentially unravel deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that were months in the making. 

So, as it turned out, my professor was right. Good spelling leads to good selling.

 

For more on how to increase your sales, please see:
Increase Sales with Better Storytelling
If You're Selling, Are You Showing or Telling?
If You're in Sales, Tell Me Something I Don't Know

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

You Are What You Tweet

Do you remember when you first signed up for Twitter? It might have been for personal use. Or perhaps it was on behalf of a corporate or professional brand. You started with a blank slate, building from the ground up. You could be anything you wanted to be.

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You crafted a brief bio. You added a profile and background photo. You chose your words and images carefully because you wanted the world to know you in a certain way.

Then you started tweeting about topics that interested you, your friendships with other people, activities you enjoy and happy moments in your life. You built a small following of like-minded followers. People formed impressions of you and your brand.

Then one day, you lost your composure. A frustrating experience with another person or a brand prompted a torrent of angry tweets. Your tweeps spread the word through RTs and marked them as "favorites". Eventually, you got the attention you wanted and your issue was resolved. Your followers, and others outside your follower base, began to see you in a different way.

Or maybe you decided to include something edgy in your tweets, like an NSFW image or some RTs laced with profanity. Once again, your tweeps spread the word through RTs and marked them as "favorites". You even picked up a few more tweeps along the way. Your followers, and others outside your follower base, began to see you in a different way.

Before long, prospective followers, customers or employers began looking you up online. They wanted to know more about you and the kind of person you were. What they found on Twitter told them everything they needed to know about you and your brand.

You are what you tweet.

 

For more on branding with Twitter, please see:
Why Social Media Marketing Is Right for Your Brand
Make It Personal: How to Communicate with Greater Impact
Reputations of Non-Social Brands Are Fair Game On Social Media, Too

One of the easiest ways to monitor your online reputation is to Google your name and see what comes up. This is particularly important for job seekers, consultants and others who are marketing their personal brands online.

You can refine your search by adding your skills, experiences or specialties after your name. By doing this, you're essentially using a long tail keyword and it's a more specific way for recruiters and other searchers to find more specific and relevant content about you. Long tail keywords can help boost your visibility in search results, add credibility to your brand and increase conversion rates (e.g., LinkedIn connections, requests for interviews, invitations to meet, etc.).

I'll use myself as an example. A recent search for my name on Google returned a total of 3,290,000 listings. Among the ten highest ranked listings (i.e., the ones that appeared on page one), three included links to me. There was one to my blog profile at The Chief Storyteller (#2), one to my Twitter account (#6) and another  to my LinkedIn profile (#8). By scanning the brief descriptions that appear with these listings, you might get the sense I'm a regular contributor to The Chief Storyteller blog and my work experience includes marketing, sales and social media.

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Now take a look at what happened when the search was narrowed by adding the keywords, "marketing and sales," to my name. This search returned 82,100 results. Marketing and sales-related content from my social media profiles, blog posts and SlideShare account appeared in nine of the top ten listings. The content associated with these listings was deeper and more relevant to anyone who might be considering me for a specific marketing and sales opportunity or engagement. While the number of overall results returned was far lower than those from the general search, their quality was much higher.

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Take a moment to Google your own name and see what comes up. Once you've done that, try narrowing the search by adding keywords that describe skills or experiences you have. Are the results consistent with the way you would want others to perceive you and your brand?

Strong relationships are built on trust and two-way communication. This is true of relationships online as well as off. We tell stories about our experiences and share relevant information with the people we are closest to. They, in turn, respond by engaging us in further conversation. Over time, a bond of trust develops and a relationship is formed and nurtured.

Brands who want stronger relationships with their prospects and customers are increasingly turning to content marketing strategies that move beyond the traditional view of self-promotion.

Why?

By publishing useful and entertaining content, brands are building trust. They're doing it by telling stories of their successes with other customers and sharing useful information that might help their prospects and customers achieve their personal and professional goals.

They're also engaging in two-way conversations with their prospects and customers. People are seeking information from the brands. The brands are responding to and engaging them in real-time, much like you and I would if we were having a face-to-face conversation.

What does this mean for brands and their marketing teams?

The brands whose content marketing strategies will yield the strongest relationships are the ones whose marketing teams embrace customer interaction and engagement. My own experience tells me it is virtually impossible to understand and translate customer insights into strategies that build and nurture relationships without first investing in those relationships. It's the age of the customer and marketers can no longer afford to dictate strategies from behind focus group two-way mirrors or from the insular environment of "behind closed-door" offices.

When I showed up to my daughter's after school classroom, I was greeted by her class' election day voting.

For Governor, Jake won by a landslide. Superman barely earned Sheriff. Senators Pook and Eeyore won handily.

For the House, Elsa crushed and Anna sqeaked by Ariel.

I thought it quite clever how the teachers used the children's favorite characters to teach and demonstrate our voting.

What can you do to make learning/training more interesting?

 

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When was the last time you updated your resume? Revised your LinkedIn profile? Networked with people you've never met before? Took a class to learn a new skill? Searched for your name online?

If you can't remember, maybe your personal brand is in need of a makeover. The unexpected loss of a job, a decision to pursue a career change or an application for a promotion are all situations where a relevant and engaging personal brand can accelerate the achievement of your career goals.

Your personal brand is the story that you tell with your resume, LinkedIn profile, business networking activities and interactions, investments in continuing education and your online presence.

Tips for updating your personal brand include:
• Maintain a current resume; include recent jobs and the quantifiable results you achieved for each
• Update your LinkedIn profile regularly; add a compelling headline and a current profile photo
• Leverage business networking opportunities; meet new business contacts and refine your elevator speech
• Learn new skills; attend classes at local universities, participate in webinars hosted by alumni career services staff, industry experts and vendors
• Be deliberate in your social media postings; include content that reinforces the message you want to convey

Your personal brand is one of your strongest career assets. You get out of it what you put into it.

I read an article in Forbes recently, "Leaders Must Teach Employees 5 Unwritten Rules," by Glenn Llopis, a former C-suite corporate executive, entrepreneur and author. The article included five unwritten rules wise and selfless leaders should be teaching to their employees to ensure their organizations get the most from their talent pool.

Aside from the impact on an employee's career and personal well-being, how a leader behaves and the example he or she sets can have a profound impact on the success of the entire organization. I know from my own personal experience one bad leader can completely change the culture of an organization. As the Forbes article notes, selfish leaders who are territorial or who feel threatened by their employees prevent them from building influential relationships, thinking independently and unleashing their full potential.

I suppose the argument can be made that leaders who fail to teach and live by the unwritten rules of wise and selfless leadership are in many ways like the wicked stepmother in the Cinderella fairy tale. By visibly promoting those who pose no perceived threat to them and suppressing the "Cinderellas" on their teams, they are robbing the organization of the benefits it might otherwise have accrued from some of their best and brightest employees.

Most of us know how the fairy tale ends. Cinderella unexpectedly achieves the recognition and success she deserves after a difficult period of mistreatment, obscurity and neglect. Can we be certain there are no "Cinderellas" in our organizations? Do we know if our leaders are teaching and living by the unwritten rules that will allow all of our employees to build influential relationships, think independently and unleash their full potential?

Please see the following for more on leadership and organizational behavior:
How You Treat Your Employees Matters
Employee Retention: People Leave Managers, Not Companies
Accelerate Growth and Innovation – Encourage a Culture of Risk-Taking

Growing up in the 1970's, I had a front row seat to a community-driven communication effort that was launched by people who either wanted to help other drivers outsmart traffic or find service stations with shorter lines and lower gas prices. The citizen-based effort was launched in response to the nationwide fuel shortages and the Federally mandated 55 mph speed limit, both of which resulted from the 1973 OPEC oil embargo. Anyone with a CB radio and a command of "CB slang" could participate.

I can still remember hearing words like these on my dad's CB radio as we traveled the highways:

"Breaker 1-9, this is Big Daddy and we got a bear taking pictures northbound on I-81, over at mile marker 200."

"10-4, Big Daddy. This is Mad Dog and I've got you in my back pocket. You've got a clean shot through Woodstock."

Almost four decades later, people are still sharing information about traffic, speed traps and the best places to buy cheap gas. Things are moving faster now and we live in a digital world. Congress repealed the mandatory 55 mph speed limit in 1995. More and more Americans are now carrying smartphones enabled with mobility apps like the ones that allow drivers to share directional guidance and travel information, ostensibly for the purpose of saving everyone time and gas money. 

So when a friend told me about Waze, one of the world's largest community-based traffic and navigation apps, I was eager to give it a try. Take a look at the image below. It tells the same story as the words I remember hearing from my dad's CB radio, in a more visual way.   

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Like the CB radios of the 1970's, Waze relies on drivers (or their passengers, I hope) to share real-time information on traffic jams, police activity, accidents, road hazards and the lowest gas prices with others in the Waze community, who are known as "Wazers." The medium for sharing no longer consists of spoken words in "CB slang." Instead, traffic information is now shared visually on a smartphone, with a variety of icons for noting different alert types and Wazer moods. To minimize the potential for distracted driving, audio alerts can be delivered via the smartphone or car radio, if Blue Tooth is enabled.

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Four decades from now, we can be certain drivers and their passengers will be sharing directional guidance and travel information with others in their traveling communities. What is less certain is how they'll be sharing that information. After all, the way we communicate is evolving and it's an exciting ride.

In the meantime, please drive safely, keep your eyes on the road and leave the Waze updates to your co-pilot or passenger(s).

I'm excited to be part of the third Cleantech Open Southeast Regional Summit in the Washington, DC area. If you are at all involved in green, energy, cleantech, etc. I strongly encourage you to attend. CTO is a global organization with partnerships in every sector working with cleantech.  alt

Here's the write-up of my portion, taking place right before the reception and gala dinner, Wednesday 23 October, 4 to 5pm. I'll be the emcee and facilitator of the ~15 companies presenting their elevator pitches. I'll keep it interesting, lively, and provide some constructive suggestions to everyone.

Cleantech Open Semifinalist/Alumni Showcase and Technology Demo – Join Ira Koretsky, the Chief Storyteller®, and Cleantech Open semifinalists and alumni companies as they showcase their technologies. Audience members will cast ballots for the company that will win the “People’s Choice Award” to be announced at the Awards dinner and celebration.

 Here's a partial listing of the many distinguished speakers and panelists:

- Heidi VanGenderen, Director of Public Engagement, U.S. Department of Energy
- Najada Kumbuli, Investment Officer, Calvert Social Investment Foundation, Inc
- Robert Griffin, Director, Renewable Energy Office, U.S. Department of the Navy
- Sara Hanks, Founder & CEO, CrowdCheck
- Honorable William Euille, Mayor, City of Alexandria
- Scott Dockum, , Program Manager, SBIR, U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Dr. Barbara Kenny, Program Director, Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships, NSF
- Manny Oliver, Director SBIR Programs, U.S. Department of Energy
- April Richards, Director SBIR Programs, Environmental Protection Agency
- Walter McLeod, Principal, Clean Power Group-Africa
- Stephen Morel, Climate Finance Specialist, Overseas Private Investment Corporation
- Aneri Patel, Energy Access Officer, UN Foundation, and Executive Director, ENVenture
- John Spears, Sustainable Systems International & Clinton Global Initiative Advisor
- Elizabeth Dougherty, Director of Inventor Education, Outreach & Recognition, U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
- Ed Greer, Venture & Business Development, Dow
- Jim Efstathiou Jr., Editor, Energy & Commodities Bloomberg News

 

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When was the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile? Do you even have a LinkedIn profile?

A LinkedIn profile is a great way to tell others about your personal brand – who you are, the experience you have and the value you bring. A good LinkedIn profile is more than just an online resume. It's a form of marketing content designed to build an audience and generate interest in your brand. It is and should be an integral part of your overall job search strategy. A current profile reinforces the brand-building efforts you've made through prior job performance, volunteer activities, face-to-face networking, personal connections, informational interviews, social media outreach and engagement, job applications and, of course, the formal interview.

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If one or more of these characteristics apply to your LinkedIn profile, it might be time for a refresh:
  • A missing or outdated profile photo
  • A default headline that shows your current title and company
  • The presence of overused buzzwords and phrases (e.g., "extensive experience," "results-oriented," "proven track record," etc.)
  • An incomplete profile with a noticeable absence of employment history, experience or results
  • A lack of credibility (e.g., few or no endorsements and recommendations from supervisors, peers, subordinates, customers and suppliers)

Go ahead. Take a look. What is your LinkedIn profile saying about you and your brand?

 

For more insights on how you can improve your LinkedIn profile, please see:
Personal Branding: "What Do You Do?"
5 Insights for Marketing Your Brand on Social Media
LinkedIn Announces New Profile Section for Volunteer Experience
Make Your Personal Brand Stand Out in LinkedIn
Is Your LinkedIn Story a Best Seller?

Last winter, I blogged about the secret ingredients of an amazing customer experience. It was a story about my then recent experience with a small business called Campus Cookies. I concluded my blog post with the observation that every great customer experience starts with people. I also talked about teamwork and the role of the CEO or owner in creating a culture that enables his or her employees to deliver an amazing customer experience.

I'd like to pick up where I left off on my earlier blog, with an update to the story. Last week, I and many other Campus Cookies customers received an email offering a $5 gift certificate in exchange for a positive review on Facebook. With one finger poised on the delete key, I quickly scanned the email, using my thumb to scroll down the page.

I was about to press the delete button when this comment caught my eye: "The negative reviews keep me on my toes, but the positive ones, those keep me going." Then there was this statement: "The review pasted below, truly hits home for me."

In an instant, I felt compelled to scroll down and keep reading. I had to see for myself what was so special about "this review." To my surprise and delight, it was the blog post I had written last winter! I penned an email to the owner, Scott Davidson, thanking him for acknowledging my post and telling him to keep up the good work. Again to my surprise, I received an email back from Scott about an hour later, thanking me for my support and letting me know I, too, would be receiving a $5 gift certificate.

While this gesture of gratitude was very much appreciated, it certainly wasn't necessary. You see, writing about a brand whose owner and CEO gets that the key to success is less about providing a product and more about creating a personalized customer experience is an opportunity most people like me would embrace. I suppose the four dozen or so fans who responded to Scott's offer by posting positive reviews on the Campus Cookies Facebook page within hours of receiving his email are testimony to that.

While it's easy to find organizations whose leadership talks about the need for a culture of enabling employees to deliver an amazing customer experience, it's harder and far less common to see leaders like Scott who work side by side with their employees on the front lines to make that happen. Small companies whose CEOs and owners remain focused on serving customers are typically the ones who grow up to become the bigger companies listed among the best places to work

In the meantime, school is in session and cookie season is upon us. I can hardly wait to place my next order!

On one of my military-focused LinkedIn Groups, Army Veterans, someon recently posted this question, "Can anyone recommend a good military to civilian resume writing service?"

For professionals who have spent a career in the military service, it can seem like a daunting task converting military speak to corporate speak.  It certainly does take time and patience. Here is my response I posted along with some how-to article links at the end I wrote.

 

------------------------

Four suggestions:

a) Assuming you seek out professionals, ask to see 10 or more samples of military to civilian resumes--make them prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, they can turn your experience into language/messages corporate professionals understand and in the end say, "I want to meet Troy;"

b) To avoid generic language, think Q&Q, qualify and quantify. Look at position descriptions posted on the Internet (e.g., Dice, Monster, Ladder, etc.). Examine critically the PD. What language/phrases do the PDs have? Can you identify and establish trends? Yes, consider including them. Next do searches (e.g., google, bing, yahoo) for position titles...you will be amazed what appears--full resumes from people around the world. Again, look for language/phrases you "should have" in your resume.

c) Do some some introspective thinking to develop your own ICP - Ideal Company Profile. Culture, work habits, zip code, industry, position, opportunity for advancement, etc. This will help you create a much more focused job hunting campaign--this makes it easier for everyone when you are searching for the right fit. Recruiters will ask you all of the questions anyway, friends will know what companies to make referrals into, and your time will be effectively used;

d) Visit the organizations mentioned above (phone, internet, in-person for Veterans Affairs, HireourHeros.com, Armed Forces Support Network, Disable Veteran Outreach Program (DVOP), and more). There are a lot of people with great ideas out there. Get different perspectives until you find the path that matches your style, personality, and goals.

Feel free to email me your ICP and resume. I can share some suggestions.

I have written several how-to articles, links below.

Tell Me About Yourself: How to Wow Your Interviewers
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/746

Communications Audit: 10 Critical Communication Elements for Your Career Success
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/694

Every Accomplishment Should Be Great: 5 Steps to Compelling Resume Accomplishments
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/669

LinkedIn for Job Hunters: Tips to Create a Must-Read Profile
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/646

67 Tips for Using LinkedIn to Help You Find the Job You Want
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/753

18 Tips for Job Hunters, New and Experienced
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/747

Does Your Resume’s Summary Scream? How to Write a Summary Section that Screams “Schedule an Interview with me Today!”
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/612

The “What Do You Do?” Answer: A Key Tool in Your Sales Toolbox
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/197

Tell Me About Yourself - It's the Most Important Answer in Your Interview
http://www.thechiefstoryteller.com/blog/item/736

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Personal Branding: “What Do You Do?”

One of the most important foundational elements of your personal brand is your elevator speech. Your elevator speech should tell your core business message or story in 30 seconds or less, about the duration of a typical elevator ride.

A good elevator speech starts with a compelling headline and includes one to three sentences that explain what you do and the benefits of working with you. It should succinctly summarize your business story, resume or curriculum vitae (CV). Most importantly, it should tell your story in a compelling way that leaves the listener wanting more.

When crafting your elevator speech, be sure to move beyond a simple recitation of your experience. Tell your listener how your experience translates into a tangible benefit to him or her. Include a statement explaining what sets you apart from the others in your business, field or specialty.

 

For more Chief Storyteller® insights on crafting your elevator speech, please see:
Increase Brand Equity with a Unified Story 
Business Networking In a Foreign Land 
Elevator Speech – Not Just for Breakfast 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How You Treat Your Employees Matters

I've always admired how leaders in the top hospitality brands treat their employees. Follow them around a property for a while and you'll notice a very high level of personal engagement – they greet everyone they encounter with a smile and by their first names. The employees instinctively smile back and return the greeting, using the leader's first name, as well.

What you'll also notice during these exchanges is how natural the interactions are. The employees don't suddenly stop doing what they're doing when the boss appears. What happens behind the scenes in many of these hotels is evidence of a well-oiled machine. The employees are well trained in the brand's standard operating procedures. Their leaders have full confidence in them. The employees are happy to be there and it shows in everything they do.

Why does this matter?

What goes on behind the scenes invariably plays out in front of your guests and customers. If your leaders interact with their employees in a warm and genuine way, your employees will do the same with their guests and customers. If your leaders invest in their employees and value their contributions, your employees will take pride in their role of serving their guests and customers. And if your leaders empower your employees, they will go the extra mile to provide their guests and customers with an experience that keeps them coming back.

 

For more on the importance of employee relationships to your brand, please see:
Your People (Even the Volunteers) Are Your Brand
Your Employees Play a Leading Role in Shaping Great Brands
Why Family Relationships Make for a Great Place to Work
What Story Is Your Organizational Culture Telling?
Employee Retention: People Leave Managers, Not Companies

 

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