How to Make Your Ideas Contagious
Jonah Berger shares the science behind word of mouth in Contagious and even teaches a class at The Wharton School by the same name.
Interestingly, most people think that most word of mouth happens online. But research finds that only 7 percent of word of mouth happens online. "Offline discussions are more prevalent, and potentially even more impactful, than online ones.
Berger presents many examples of contagious ideas that seem clever in hindsight. And we can learn from these. From these examples and his own research, he has assembled six principles or STEPPS for making products, ideas, and behaviors more likely to become popular:
Social Currency: We share things that make us look good. Find the inner remarkablility that makes people feel like insiders. Give people ways to achieve and provide visible symbols of status that they can show to others.
Triggers: How do we remind people to talk about our products and ideas? People talk about what comes to mind. Top of mind leads to tip of tongue. There is immediate and ongoing word of mouth. Movies benefit from immediate word of mouth, but many ideas and initiatives benefit from ongoing word of mouth. What keeps people talking? Triggers. Think context. Think about whether the message will be triggered by the everyday environments of the target audience. "A strong trigger can be much more effective than a catchy slogan."
Emotion: When we care, we share. Naturally contagious content usually evokes some sort of emotion. Not all emotions are equal. Awe is good. Sad is not. High-arousal emotions—awe, funny, anger, anxiety—are shared more than low-arousal emotions like contentment and sadness.
Public: Built to show, built to grow. Making things more observable makes them easier to imitate; products and ideas that advertise themselves.
Practical Value: Products and ideas we can use. Highlight the value and package our knowledge and expertise so that people can easily pass it on.
Stories: People don't just share information, they tell stories. Information travels under the guise of what seems like idle chatter. Embed your products and ideas in stories that people want to tell.
The more of these principles you use the better, but not all are required to make your idea contagious.
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Nice Companies Finish FirstNice Companies Finish First by Peter Shankman: "Being a selfish bastard who doesn't believe the rules apply to you simply won't get you very far."
Shankman cites a study where 700 people from a variety of industries reported on the treatment they received from their managers:
31% reported that their supervisor gave them the "silent treatment" during the year.
37% said that their supervisor failed to give credit when due.
39% noted that their supervisor didn't keep promises.
27% reported that their supervisor spoke negatively about them behind their back.
And it goes on. Not surprisingly, this kind of abusive behavior results in a work force that "experienced more exhaustion, job tension, nervousness, depressed mood and mistrust."
Shankman says your manager might be a jerk if they: are a know-it-all dictator, are uninterested in feedback, take sides unfairly and openly, are wasteful of resources, are a Desert Island boss (non-existent), a builder of empires, are a talker and not a doer, think adversaries work better than teams, or are in a constant cycle of crisis.
The Nine "Nice" Characteristics
Shankman then identifies nine "nice" characteristics that will eradicate "jerk" behavior beginning with "enlightened self-interest" since it underpins all of the others. A leader with enlightened self-interest will think in terms of the transactional benefits of everything they do. To be sure there are times when a leader must make unpopular decisions, but, says Shankman, "you can make beneficial decisions and lead your company to greatness without resorting to third-grade schoolyard tactics."
An enlightened leader is accountable, invests in others, consults with those affected by decisions, seeks counsel, expects the truth, reacts mindfully and positively to any situation.
The other traits he describes are:
Accessibility (Inaccessible, aloof CEOs can run successful businesses for a while, but in the long run, they make bad leaders.),
Strategic Listening (leadership is "a lot less about convincing people and more about benefiting from complex information and getting the best out of the people you work with. Listening for comprehension helps get you that information, of course, but it's more than that; it's also the greatest sign of respect you can give someone."),
Good Stewardship (Good stewardship is about responsible management and ethical standards that are in sync with the concerns of all of the constituents who are important to your business, including shareholders, stakeholders, investors, neighbors, and communities.),
Loyalty (360 Loyalty–loyal to what works for the whole company and for all good employees.),
Glass-Half Full POV (Seeing the difference between "Everything's OK!" and "Everything will be OK if we do the following things."),
Customer Service-Centric ("Makes it easy for people to become and stay customers in every way possible." Serving first selling second.),
Merit-Based Competitor (Compete by differentiation. It's OK to be nice to your competition. Kill them with kindness.), and
Gives a Damn ("Turning down the easy buck to instead do the right thing is one of the hardest choices we have to make.").
You can't fake being nice. "As communication becomes more fluid, leaders will be more exposed. We won't be able to hide anything anymore."
In order give more people a chance to benefit from this book, we are going to give away 5 copies free. To get a chance at getting one, you must take the following two actions:
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Rebooting Work: How to Make Work— Work for YouRebooting Work by Silicon Valley legend Maynard Webb and Carlye Adler is a sensible look at the changing nature of the workplace and how you can use emerging technologies to take charge of your career. To become a CEO of your own destiny.
Less than half of Americans (47 percent) are satisfied with their work. Companies are changing too. They can no longer provide the safety nets that were expected in the last century. Employees must become more self-reliant. That of course means a workplace that rewards people for their performance rather than their time in. An organization that supports entitlement over results, writes Webb, “can limit growth and opportunity.”
Giving someone a leg-up is one thing, entitlement has a permanence to it that both hinders employees and harms companies and neither performs up to their maximum potential.
Webb believes that technology presents us with an opportunity. It has the power to enable people to do something about their dissatisfaction with work and move on to careers that can provide both fulfillment and financial security. “Understanding and embracing today’s technological trends is the fastest way to travel to the career of your dreams.”
Webb presents us with four ways of looking at work. We may move from frame to frame but we tend to operate in one. They are Company Man or Woman, CEO of Your Own Destiny, Disenchanted Employee, and Aspiring Entrepreneur. Where we should all be headed, states Webb, is to the mindset of the CEO of Your Own Destiny. We are living in the age of the entrepreneur.
Prior to the Civil War, most Americans worked in agriculture or as small merchants or tradesmen. Success was the result of self-direction, self-motivation, and self determination. In a way, everyone was self-made.Today personal and professional development is on the employee. It “requires you to be relevant every day and to be voted on to the team you want to play with.” But with this freedom come accountability. In an entrepreneurial age it is more important than ever that you think like a leader—no matter where or at what level you work.
As research indicates, many people find themselves in the Disenchanted Employee frame: you are waiting to be discovered or recognized, you don’t understand why others don’t see how good you really are, your career isn’t going as expected, and you believe your circumstances are someone else’s fault.
This kind of thinking is not just unproductive, it feeds on itself and keeps you just where you don’t want to be. One of the most important things you can do is to get a mentor; someone to help you see the reality of your situation and offer constructive advice to get you moving again. Webb also offers these ideas:
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Grow: Taking Your Purpose to the Next Level
Starbucks must make great coffee, but it must do more if it is to attract people and innovate in ways that make life better for the people they serve both inside and outside the organization. “It’s necessary,” writes Stengel in Grow, “to want to be the best-performing enterprise around, with the highest standards, the best people, and the most satisfied customers. However, this simply doesn’t aim high enough and look far enough ahead. To hit higher targets and stay out in front of the competition requires an ideal.”To that end, Starbucks also exists to create connections for self-discovery and inspiration. It’s what fuels passion and creates meaningful work.
“A brand ideal of improving people’s lives is the only sustainable way to recruit, unite, and inspire all the people a business touches, from employees to customers.” Stengel believes that a higher-order brand ideal must improve people’s lives in one of five fields of fundamental human values:
Eliciting Joy: Activating experiences of happiness, wonder, and limitless possibility; create moments of happiness that engage our thoughts and emotions as well as our physical senses. (Coca-Cola, Zappos, Lindt)
Enabling Connection: Enhancing the ability of people to connect with one another and the world in meaningful ways. Key concepts in this field are connect, listen, reach, and community. (Airtel, Fed Ex, Blackberry, Natura)
Inspiring Exploration: Helping people explore new horizons and new experiences. Helps customers learn, gives them powerful tools, and invites them to reinvent themselves and their world. (Apple, Discovery Communications, Pampers, Red Bull)
Evoking Pride: Giving people increased confidence, strength, security, and vitality; supporting self expression and inspiring passion. (Calvin Klein, Heineken, L’Occitane)
Impacting Society: Affecting society broadly, including by challenging the status quo and redefining categories. (Accenture, IBM, Method, Seventh Generation)
Stengel’s bases his conclusions on a ten-year growth study involving 50,000 brands. The study tracked the connection between financial performance and customer engagement, loyalty and advocacy. The result was “The Stengel 50.” In the 2000’s, an investment in these companies would have been 400 percent more profitable than an investment in the S&P 500. “If you’re willing to embrace the same concept and align your business with a fundamental human ideal, you can achieve extraordinary growth in your own business and your own career. My research shows that your growth rate can triple.”
As a side note, whether or not the study suffers from the Halo Effect is beside the point. Stengel’s point is good psychology. Success is more complex than any one factor. More good decisions than bad (intelligent people make dumb mistakes too), timing and luck all play a part too. And then great companies get off track, not because they were doing the wrong thing, but because they stop doing them or failed to adapt appropriately. The ideas presented in Grow are what worked for Stengel for the time he was at Procter & Gamble and properly applied may work for you too. Generally, if it is based on sound principles, it’s always worth consideration. And Sengel’s ideas are.
One implication of the study is interesting. Stengel reports that the “study challenged P&G’s paradigm of moving people around frequently. The companies that were growing the fastest had a different paradigm. In recruiting and hiring they looked for people whose values fit with their brands, and tended to keep people working in the same areas for much longer.”
He categorizes the people that run The Stengel 50 as business artists. “The fastest-growing businesses in the world have a leader whose relationship to the business is not primarily that of an operator, no matter how savvy, but an artist whose primary medium is an ideal.”
The business case for ideals is about playing a role in the lives of both customers and employees at a much more important level than the competition does. It’s about connecting with people holistically: rationally and emotionally, left brain and right brain.Stengel recommends that you continually ask four questions: How well do we understand the people who are most important to our future? What do we and our brand stand for? What do we want to stand for? How are we bringing the answers to these questions to life?
The power is in the answers and executing against them. What is your primary purpose? What do the people you serve care about beyond what they buy from you? Could you benefit from discovering your higher ideal?
Of Related Interest:
Lead With Purpose
Leadership: Artistry Unleashed
5 Leadership Lessons: Artistry Unleashed
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Bill Roedy: From West Point to MTV
Bill Roedy, former Chairman and CEO of MTV Networks International, began working for HBO in 1979 when it was broadcasting only nine hours a day. There he learned that distribution was everything. It was to be his mantra at MTV—aggressive, creative, relentless distribution.
Roedy shares his experiences and lessons in What Makes Business Rock. From virtually nothing, he built MTV International into the largest media network in the world. For anyone involved doing business internationally, it is essential reading.
As manager of HBO’s national accounts, he learned that “In life as well as in business, the ability to sell is the foundation upon which success is built.” Some people don’t understand that he says, but even in Vietnam, although he had the formal authority to force troops obey my orders, I found that if people didn’t believe in the mission, I never got a total effort from them.” Leaders are always selling.
Although reluctant to leave HBO and move to London, in 1989 he became managing director of MTV Europe. What he inherited wasn’t working. He had to quickly create a better product, get more distribution and generate revenue. Getting the right people in place was crucial to creating an entrepreneurial organization. “Never take ‘No’ for an answer.” “Take chances.” “Break all the rules.”
Their objective was to be the most visually engaging channel in the history of European television. To make sure viewers always knew they were watching MTV, they put their logo in the corner of the screen and left it there. No one had done that before. (Now everyone does.)
Here is a lesson every leader could bear to keep in mind: as a leader, your opinion matters—maybe more than you know. But it can actually be having a negative impact. The MTV playlist is extremely important to its viewers and giving them what they want to hear is essential to MTV’s survival. Roedy says that in the beginning he attended those meetings if only to be the voice of reason and a subtle reminder that they were running a business. “But after attending half a dozen of these meetings I realized I was making a huge mistake. I was much older than our demographic and my musical tastes were very different. I was skewing the choices older.” So he stopped attending those meetings. “As much as I enjoyed being part of that process, I had to remind myself that I was a manager, and I had to delegate decision-making authority to those people I trusted.” How many leaders, for all kinds of well-intentioned reasons feel they have to leave their fingerprint on everything, while they are in-fact stifling their people and skewing the results?
Roedy’s success at MTV can be attributed to the fact that he was always reinventing. “The longer you stay with the same strategy, the more vulnerable you become to your competitors.”
His most important contribution was the idea, “Think global, act local.” MTV was already local to Europe, but it had to be broken down to the national level, country by country. “Learn the local culture and reflect it in every decision we make,” was their business strategy. He created a structure similar to what he learned in the military: small operating units in the field fighting the competition. “My belief was that the local people would best reflect the needs, tastes, and desires of the local audience, and because their jobs would depend on the bottom line, they were much less likely to make risky or destructive financial decisions. In Vietnam, I had seen over and over the benefits of dealing directly with the loyal population on their own terms, rather than trying to impose our beliefs on them.” Because of the complexities of operating an international business, you need be there on the ground to really feel it.
On MTV Arabia for example, they broadcast the call to prayer on the channel five times every day. For Ramadan they produced an animated film explaining the meaning of that important religious holiday to young people in a creative way and refrained for a month from showing any music videos.
Throughout the book there are stories of music celebrities—singing karaoke with Bono and Bob Geldof dressed as a nurse in Tokyo at 4a.m.—and others like Sumner Redstone, Robert Maxwell, Jeff Bewkes, Nelson Mandela, Jiang Zemin, Fidel Castro, Tony Blair, and the Dalai Lama. They add color to the book and make it all the more interesting. But read it for the insights into global business.
More lessons from Bill Roedy can be found on the LeadershipNow Facebook page.
What Makes Business Rock
What Makes Business RockWhat Makes Business Rock by Bill Roedy, I have developed an appreciation for what it took to build MTV Networks International into what it is today. Former Chairman and CEO, Bill Roedy, has had a remarkable career.
Due to financial constraints, he followed his Dad into West Point. Not his first choice. He became a member of the “Century Club” collecting more than a hundred hours of punishment duty. But he did learn the “difference between fighting the system and finessing it.” He also learned many of the skills that would enable him to succeed in business, including “discipline, time management, the value of teamwork, and the importance of physical endurance.”
He learned how to prioritize. Survival depended on it. “Too often,” writes Roedy, “I have seen people focusing on the wrong things—things that are not going to directly or immediately affect their business….Leaders need to learn to cut through the chaff to determine priorities and to identify the real target.”
After West Point he served in Vietnam in various command positions. “I learned the importance of making quick and firm decisions, communicating those decisions clearly to my troops, and then doing anything and everything necessary to implement them. I learned the importance of building morale, camaraderie, and a team spirit. I learned how to deal with the chain of command and how to get around it when necessary.”
From Vietnam he went to Northern Italy where he spent four years in command of three NATO nuclear missile bases. A good place to learn how to deal with pressure and stress. “There are few situations more stressful than commanding a nuclear missile site and trying to determine in 30 seconds whether the aircraft approaching the base was a friend or foe. There was no margin for error. We had to be perfect every day.”
Wanting to go into business, he resigned the military after 11 years and went to Harvard to get an MBA. As a child, Bill was so enthralled by the power of television that he would memorize the TV Guide and recite the schedule back to his mother. He knew he wanted to work in television so instead of the typical corporate route followed by his classmates, he took a job at a small start-up cable network called HBO.
Roedy’s background doesn’t make him the likely candidate to build MTV International, but it certainly prepared him for it. More on that tomorrow.
Opportunity ScreamsOpportunity Screams, Tom Asacker argues that information is no longer power. Power today comes from passion and purpose and the ability to create meaning from information. Through the metaphor of three locked doors—Engagement, Interest and Belief—he develops a framework for unlocking these states of mind in others to attract their attention, sustain their interest, and inspire them to act.
Asacker does not offer a formula to follow. More importantly, he explains the mindset necessary to apply these ideas to your product, service or idea. It really gets back to relationships. He shares a lesson from his father: “It’s all connected. Transparent, honest, caring relationships bring meaning, happiness and growth to your business and to your life.” We are, all of us, at this time, facing a rare opportunity, but to take advantage of it, says Asacker, we must get a thoughtful plan together. “It’s how you frame the situation that will dictate your outcome.” There are no shortcuts. You’ve got to put the time in.
It’s not just for marketers, but a must-read for anyone working to influence others. The book also offers links to video extras located on his web site.
A brilliant and meaningful idea, even if placed directly in people’s paths, is simply not enough to unlock the Doors to opportunity today. Please don’t delude yourself into thinking that it is. The results will break your heart and your spirit. Passion without understanding eventually burns out.
You can get Opportunity Screams at Amazon or from the Publisher. A great read before you start the new year.
Shifting From a Supply-Driven Economy to a Demand-Driven EconomyHow Companies Win that we “have now entered an era of oversupply.” ... Consequently, “organic growth and profitability become increasingly difficult to achieve.” At the same time, “it is imperative that you construct a framework in your company that encompasses and aligns everyone toward meeting not just the current but the latent and emerging demand of your highest-profit customers and consumers.”
How Companies Win is a book about learning to understand demand. If you are relying on your customers to tell you what they want it’s too late. You’re playing at best a defensive game because they’ve already told your competitors as well. Getting ahead of the demand “whole it is still forming” is the key. Successful companies are looking at what the demand will be like tomorrow, next year, and five years from now. They get their cues, the authors report, in these ways:
It’s a Jungle in ThereRainforest Café, knows it's a treat. Created by Steven Schussler, the Rainforest Café holds the record as one of the top-grossing restaurant chains in the world and was the first restaurant concept to be featured at every Disney theme park worldwide. Schussler shares in It’s a Jungle in There, what it takes to make it happen and the lessons he learned that can be applied to your dream.
Schussler embodies the five Ps of successful entrepreneurship—Personality, Product, Persistence, People, and Philanthropy—that he teaches in the book. He writes, “As a leadership quality, one’s own passion is what galvanizes others into action.” Passion and persistence has played a big part in everything Schussler has done. It’s “not going through the motions but going through with the emotions.”
Schussler says that he’s always wanted to create a rainforest themed restaurant but the problem was getting investors interested in the idea. To get their attention he turned his home into a tropical rainforest. “Over a period of a few years, my standard split-level home was transformed into a jungle dwelling complete with rock outcroppings, waterfalls, rivers, layers of fog, mist that rose from the ground, a thatched hut covered with vines on the roof, tiki torches, a twelve-foot neon ‘paradise’ sign, and a full-size replica of an elephant near the front door.”
“In the bedroom, my bed was constructed to look like it was suspended in a tree….Birds and animals moved freely through the area during showings of the house….Every room, every closet, every hallway of my house was a ‘scene’: an attempt to present my idea of what a rainforest restaurant would look like in actual operation….No venture capitalists were going to invest their money in my far-out concept without actually seeing it, so I transformed my house into my vision of what a rainforest restaurant would look like in order to make them believe in my dream.”
Naturally, this would catch the attention of your neighbors (and law enforcement) too. There were problems of all sorts as you can imagine. And Schussler writes, “Being passionate doesn’t totally shield you from moments of doubt.” But his passion finally won out.
How far are you willing to go to see your dream realized?
In short, high-content chapters, he explains his guiding philosophy and backs them with concrete experiences. He has two quotes framed on the wall over his desk: “When you’re out of quality, you’re out of business” and “The noblest search is the search for excellence.”
He talks about looking for “enhancement gaps.” Those gaps between “what you are seeing and what you could create to make what you are seeing better by providing some product or service.”
He asks, “Are you willing to help other people succeed even when it’s not a requirement of your job to be of assistance?”
Self-control: “What you don’t want to do is say things and/or act in a manner that will create negative impressions and the unwanted consequences that are certain to follow.” You must know your audience.
Burning Bridges/Writing People Off: Don’t do it. “What I learned that day reconfirmed my belief that ego can be a killer, especially an unchecked ego. Most entrepreneurs need to have a healthy ego, but you also have to be realistic. That’s a very delicate balance—the kind of balance you need to cross a bridge you tumbled off the first time around.”
Anyone would benefit by reading and integrating the lessons offered here.
IdeaSellingIdeaSelling, says Harrison, is for “anybody who knows the pain and suffering of presenting an idea and having it slammed to the ground, picked over, or altered beyond recognition.”
Simply saying, “They just don’t get it” is playing the victim. It doesn’t help you get your idea sold. One of the first reminders he gives us is one that is easily forgotten in the moment: It’s not about you. He writes:
Decision makers aren’t interested in your pain.A few others:
Top Five Rules for Digital Marketing Success in an Anytime, Everywhere World
Rule #2: Don't Repurpose, Reimagine. Creating multiplatform strategies that connect with audiences where they live doesn't just mean posting television spots on YouTube in the hopes they go viral. In a medium where the possibilities are endless, television is the jumping off point to much more interactive and engaging experiences. You've got to invent new ways to help your customers make your brand their own. Case in point: HBO's Voyeur Project.
Rule #3: Don't Just Join the Conversation -- Spark It. Out of the over 600,000 branded pages that Facebook Page Tracker monitors, a mere 57,000 have more than 1,000 "fans." Apparently, most people don't want to be friends with a brand. If you want to be part of the conversation on social networking sites, be the party that initiates it -- through compelling experiences that keep customers talking. Case in point: Johnson & Johnson's BabyCenter.
Rule #4: There's No Business Without Show Business. Your brand is a story; tell it. Don't just sell product; sell the problem it solves, the feeling it gives, the status it conveys, or the value it embodies. But beware of pushing to transform your brand's website into an "entertainment portal" simply for entertainment's sake. In the on-demand era, the best branded entertainment experiences are P-O-S-itive -- that is: personalizable, ownable, and sharable. Case in point: Degree antiperspirant's webisode series "The Rookie."
Rule #5: Want Control? Give It Away. "User-generated content" (UGC) might not be cutting edge (it's been featured on ABC-TV's America's Funniest Home Videos for nearly twenty years), but it's a big-time buzz builder. Young consumers, especially adolescent males, seem more than happy to create their own video ads to upload on YouTube and email to friends. How do you give away control while simultaneously getting what you want? Ensure rewards for making UGC promote your brand, rather than mock or bash it. Case in point: Doritos' $1 million contest for creating a Super Bowl commercial, which, according to the company, generated $36 million in free publicity for the brand before and after the big game.
Adapted from The On-Demand Brand: 10 Rules for Digital Marketing Success in an Anytime, Everywhere World by Rick Mathieson.
How Fascinating is Your Message?Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Everyone lives by selling something.” Leaders are always selling something—an idea, change, themselves or even their example. It’s influence.
While we know a clear consistent message is necessary it is often hampered or even marginalized by competing messages and issues. Sally Hogshead is an expert at delivering messages and changing people’s minds. In her book Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, she writes, “A competitive environment demands a more captivating message.” A more captivating message is a more fascinating one. Fascination is the connection we make with others that causes them to change their mind and behave differently. “People won’t change a preference, start a thought process, form a bond, or make a behavioral shift unless they’re provoked to change their opinions or actions.” Fascination provides the provocation.
A fascinating message steps outside the norms in one or more of the following ways: provokes strong and immediate emotional reactions (love it or hate it), creates advocates, becomes “cultural shorthand” for a specific set of actions or values (people identify with it), incites conversation, forces competitors to realign around it, and/or triggers social revolutions (forces us to think differently).
The key to mastering fascination is learning to effectively activate the seven triggers:
In an interesting example concerning teenage drinking and driving she notes that a graphic photo of a car wreck doesn’t seem to effectively dissuade teenage drivers. For teens, fear isn’t necessarily a reason to avoid something. How do you provide a fascinating message for this group?
Luke Sullivan, a legendary advertising writer, solved the problem. Luke knew that teems don’t fear death in the same way as adults. He also figured out what does create alarm among these drivers: Losing their license. Armed with that fact, he threatened teens with the ultimate dire consequence.How could you change your message to make it more fascinating and thus more effective for your audience?
Throughout the book she blends art and science to demonstrate what fascinates people and why. You might be surprised to find out which fascinations are driving your own behavior. Her writing style and examples are very entertaining. (If you get on her web site download a couple of her Hog-isms.)
“Whether we realize it or not—whether you intend to or not—you’re already using the seven triggers,” she writes. “The question is, are you using the right triggers, in the right way, to get your desired result? By mastering the triggers, your ideas become more memorable, your conversations more persuasive, and your relationships more lasting.”
How do you try to change people’s minds? Could you make your message more fascinating?
Lead, Sell, or Get Out of the WayLead, Sell, or Get Out of the Way by Ron Karr provides more evidence that leadership isn’t just about a few titled people at the top. It is a choice to think differently. Leadership is a choice to think differently about anything you do. Selling is no exception and is closely linked to the functions of a leader. Leadership is not always about people we “lead” in the conventional sense, but is frequently about people we must influence. Karr writes, “Whether you sell a product, a service, or an idea, you must be able to influence other people as leaders do.”
It begins with being able to and understanding the need to engage others in continuous strategic conversations as part of the normal way of doing things—a process Karr has termed Integrated Dialogue. Integrated dialogue is a conversation of shared purpose that draws people out “to create a powerful relationship, one that identifies whole new zones of mutual opportunity, addresses far-ranging issues, and positions you as an invaluable resource: a leader.”
As with all leaders, sales people too will succeed when they fully appreciate the many relationships inherent in their success. Sales leaders lead a whole cast of people in their own organizations from the customer service, tech people to accounting and senior management. In addition they lead not only their customer or end user but also many points of contact in their customer’s organization that are likely to have some input on the buying decision like operations, accounting, purchasing and senior management. Gone are the days where everything filters through the salesperson. “Your success as a salesperson depends on your ability to build and sustain coalitions both inside and outside your organization. You must create and lead the coalition, no matter what you are selling.” This will resonate with any leader:
Your job is to manage multiple constituencies and alliances, and to use those alliances to identify new and better ways of generating the desired results. Your job is to do what most salespeople don’t do: lead the conversation with your prospects and customers about the results they need, the problems they have, and the obstacles they face.
To make this happen you must possess and develop the belief that you have everything you need and can build on that, the belief that you can improve any area of your life, everything is possible, preparation maximizes your potential, and your customers—the people you need to influence—come first.
After laying the groundwork, Karr defines and explains the seven traits that great sales leaders share:
Collapse of Distinction: How Do You Get People Thinking About You?Scott McKain speak on a couple of occasions and he is all about customer experience in both content and delivery. His new book Collapse of Distinction, is no different. The collapse of distinction is a cultural phenomenon of not just blandness, but sameness. McKain writes that it has become a “corporate and professional nightmare.”
The current economic environment makes this book all the more important. The problem isn’t just the economy though; it’s that the economy exposes a problem that is more easily ignored in a good economy. To ignore the collapse of distinction now, can be fatal.
Today customers want value more than ever. How will you create that value? Low price isn’t the answer, but without doing the homework, that’s really all you’re left with. McKain writes, “If you cannot find it within yourself to become emotional, committed, engaged, and yes, fervent about differentiation, then you had better be prepared to take your place among that vast throng of the mediocre who are judged by their customers solely on the basis of price. It is the singularly worst place to be in all of business. If you aren't willing to create distinction for yourself in your profession—and for your organization in the marketplace—then prepare to take your seat in the back, with the substantial swarm of the similar, where tedium reigns supreme.”
Three factors conspire to destroy differentiation:
How do you grab attention? How do you get people thinking about you? How do you get the opportunity to use the combination of your expertise and talent?
You can differentiate yourself on product, price, and/or service. For most of us, the only real way we are going to differentiate ourselves is through service. McKain lays out the Four Cornerstones of Distinction and devotes a chapter to each explaining how you apply them in your situation: Clarity, Creativity, Communication and Customer-Focus. Each chapter ends with an executive summary and solid action-points to get the ball rolling.
He says that we have to profitably create experiences that are so compelling to our customers that loyalty is assured. Your organizations survival may depend on the concepts presented in this book. “What is compelling about you, what will create points of distinction about you, and what will establish a connection between us?”
You do not need to change everything about how you do business to create distinction. Start by walking through your list of points of contact with customers, reframing and redefining how you perceive each moment of interaction. From these new perspectives, you can then begin to create specific points of differentiation with your customers. By developing your professional laundry list from the exercise—and recognizing that if these practices are the industry standard, then they will almost always fail to create distinction for you—you are taking an important first step in disciplining yourself as a professional to develop differentiated methods and tactics. Different is not just good, different is better.As an added bonus, this title is part of the publisher’s Nelsonfree program. By purchasing this book, you can also download both the e-book and the audio versions for free. Three for the price of one.
Step One: Reality CheckReality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition, is a good place to begin.
It would be unfortunate if the book’s heft – 474 pages – made it too intimidating to pick up because it’s full of great insights, clever thought and often provocative ideas that will make you see things in a new way. I don’t recommend reading it from cover to cover. It’s not that kind of book. It’s more of a highly readable, reference tool that you’ll want to refer to again and again. Besides, unless you were born in this century, you’ll need some time to allow your brain to create some new circuitry.
There aren’t any shortcuts given here. Often life and especially entrepreneurship, is about grinding it out; sticking to what you believe in until it works. It’s not about sticking to your competition either. It’s about focusing on what you can do to add value to your customers and the world. Frank Sinatra famously said, “The best revenge is massive success.” What drives your competition crazy is your success.
The 94 chapters are based on his highly regarded blog, How To Change the World. The topics cover everything from the start-up, maintaining, growing your business to communicating your message and surviving what comes your way.
Maybe What You Need is a Little DisruptionHow Disruption Brought Order, calls it Disruption. Disruption is “breaking with the status quo, refusing given wisdom, and finding unexpected solutions. We believe that the best way to help our clients grow their businesses is most often through strategies that involve rupture.”
In describing marketing campaigns for Nissan (Shift), Adidas (Impossible is Nothing), Apple (Think Different), and others, he shows how Disruption asks the public to see the brand in a new light and thereby refresh, transform and reinvent it. But, it’s not limited to marketing and advertising. It as application to both your business and your thinking.
“If you change nothing within a company you are sure to fail. As you also will if you try to change everything. The key to success lies within your ability to determine the fine line between what must change and what you must not.
Fiona Clancy, the TWBA Disruption Director, summaries it this way:
• Being endlessly curious
• Keeping an open mind
• Looking for new beginnings with larger futures
• Anticipating the future without fully expecting it
• Accelerating change to your clients advantage
• Recognizing patterns of success and building on them
• Being creative ahead of the usual agency creative process (Creative is not a department.)
• Turning intuition into a discipline, but without devaluing intuition
• Gaining stability from going somewhere fast
• Being in control rather than controlling
• Anticipating change rather than defending against it
• Questioning the way things are: imagining the way things could be
Disruption Is Not:
• Change for change’s sake
• Upsetting the client’s organization
• A particular creative style
• Throwing away the past
• Being deliberately wacky
• Limited to advertising
Google Ranked the World’s Most Powerful Brand
The second annual BRANDZ™ Top 100 Most Powerful Brands ranking in cooperation with the Financial Times was announced today by leading global market research and consulting firm Millward Brown. Google has risen to the top of this year's ranking, taking the number one spot with a brand value of $66,434 million. Google is followed by:
In addition, delivering on the promise of environmental responsibility helped boost the value of major brands including BP ($5,931 million), Shell ($4,679) and Toyota ($ 33,427 million).
Commenting on this year's BRANDZ™ Top 100 ranking, Eileen Campbell, global CEO of Millward Brown said: "There are tons of actionable insights that can be derived from these rankings. They prove that a blend of good business leadership, responsible financial management and powerful marketing are an unbeatable combination that can be leveraged to create and grow corporate wealth." Strong brands have the power to create business value. They impact much more than revenues and profit margins. Strong brands create competitive advantages by commanding a price premium and decrease the cost of entry into new markets and categories. They reduce business risk and help attract and retain talented staff.
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