Content Marketing

Protecting Your Space Vs. Expanding Your Connections - GROW GREAT Podcast Episode 4011

4011 Protecting Your Space Vs. Expanding Your Connections

Protecting Your Space Vs. Expanding Your Connections - GROW GREAT Podcast Episode 4011

CEOs and other executives spend a lot of time in their office. Or conference rooms. Top leaders largely live in spaces they own, if not literally, then figuratively.

These are spaces we protect. The term “gatekeeper” speaks to how protective we are of our professional space. We guard it. Protect it. If we could, we’d build a moat and install a draw bridge. 1530793_c1dce8a6

Some of us have protected our spaces even better than that. We’re locked down and loaded, allowing in only insiders or people we’ve invited.

But this isn’t so much about physical space as it’s about emotional and psychological space. Head space. There’s a paradox happening. The more we protect our physical space, the more we close in our head space. It’s why new ideas can be so tough to come by. Or why we often feel stuck. Our field of vision is stuck. Our attention is stuck. We’re staring at the same walls, the same decor, the same people. We’ve protected our space and it’s the same day after day.

Groundhog day is every day for many CEOs. Except unlike Bill Murray’s character, we don’t get repeated opportunities to get it right. We just get up day after day battling the same issues, confronting the same problems, unable to see our best opportunities because we’re stuck with this same field of vision (and the same soundstage, hearing the same stuff).

Contrast that with getting out of your office to meet somebody new. Many of us can’t remember the last time we did it. We’ve got our friends, our direct reports, our team members and people associated with us professionally. It’s like we’ve hit our limit of people we’re willing to let in our lives. Maybe we’re introverted and it’s awkward to meet somebody new. Maybe we’re extroverted and we’re meeting lots of new people, but they’re just casual meet ‘n greet encounters without much depth. Or we’re more likely the ambiverts (those folks who are in the middle between introverted and extroverted) who just do what we’ve been doing. Unless something jolts us out of our routine, we stick with it. Doing what we always did.

Enter social media and the magic that happens. Five to ten years ago I rarely encountered a top leader who understood the value of social media. Most would say, “I don’t get Facebook. Why would anybody want to post crap on Facebook?” Of course, these same people didn’t use SMS texting either. Today, they regularly use both and don’t think twice about it. In fact, I regularly encounter CEOs and other top leaders who confess they use their cell phone more for texting than talking. That’s how our culture’s adoption of technology changes our behavior. It happens whether we understand it or not – at first.

Sitting at his desk a CEO may go over to the company’s Facebook page to see if any customers have posted something. Over the course of 15 minutes his behavior is drastically changed. He’s open. He’s available. Maybe he directly responds to people on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin. He’s open and expansive. All while he’s locked down inside his office.

He logs off and more magic happens. That openness and expansive feeling is gone now. He’s back inside the castle surrounded by the moat. Back to the mindset of life inside the castle. Except this isn’t Camelot and he’s not King Arthur.

Why You Should Get Out Of Your Own Headspace To Create Vacancy

No, I’m not urging you to become an air-head, but I am saying you need some space inside your head (and your life).

One, because your perspective will never change until you do.

The walls inside your fortress are the same, day after day. Same desk. Same furniture. Same decor. All the same.

Have you ever examined your habits? I mean really closely examined them? Well, do that. Jot down what you do the moment you get up in the morning. Do it just until noon. Write down a word or four to describe what you’re doing. Don’t fret about what you’re thinking. Let’s keep it really simple. For now. And don’t pick a day where you’ve got a trip or some other non-typical work schedule. Pick a day like most days.

If you get up at 6am, then you’ll have listed all the things you’ve done – from the smallest to the largest – until noon. Six hours of actions. Six hours of behaviors. For just a single day.

Now look at the list. Carefully think about it. Do you suppose that one day’s list is typical? You know the true answer. Is that day an outlier or does it accurately depict what happens most every day?

Your perspective is driven by what you do. What you do is driven by many auto-pilot decisions. Those auto-pilot decisions are good (mostly) because they prevent you from having to consciously think about all the little decisions you face every single minute and hour. You don’t think about waking up and relieving your bladder. Or brushing your teeth. Or what you’ll wear (even if you make a choice you don’t likely overthink it unless it’s a special day). Or the route you take to work. It’s like you’re sleep walking through life, but you’re awake. Habits drive your behavior and it’s based on your perspective. And it fuels your perspective to continue.

That’s why we mostly think what we think and feel what we feel. Seldom does it change! Many of us aren’t interested in making a change. We’re comfortable with our perspective and our daily habits. Mostly, they’re fine and serve us well. But sometimes benefits turn into problems. A stuck perspective can hurt us by preventing us from considering things we’ve never before considered.

Two, because once you consider a different perspective, you consider new alternatives.

It’s happened to you before. Maybe traffic prevented you from taking your usual route to work. You’ve taken this other route before, but it’s been a long time. As you drive along, it’s a new route and you start looking more closely at the surroundings. You notice a restaurant you’ve never noticed before and wonder if it has always been there, or is it new? You notice it because it’s a restaurant that serves your favorite food. Your attention is heightened because you’re on a different path to work this morning. Curiosity and unfamiliarity are forcing you to pay closer attention. All because your usual route was clogged this morning.

The same thing happens to us personally and professionally. We see different things when we get outside of our head – and our routines. We consider different solutions and see new opportunities. It’s happened to us before, but we mostly resist it. We intentionally surround ourselves with our people – birds of a feather and all that. We talk to the same people, listen to the same stuff, read the same books, pay attention to the same industry experts. Group think overpowers most of us because we do what we do and rarely do anything different.

Three, because once we break outside of our head, we break outside of our space and we expand. It’s called growth.

The most honest CEOs admit they enjoy being comfortable. Who doesn’t? We all want to be comfortable. Only the craziest among us would seek out discomfort. Yet, sometimes momentarily discomfort can pay off bigtime. It happens when we’re sick and go to the doctor. The tests and the treatment may be uncomfortable, but before long they begin to pay off. We feel much better. When you’re sick and feeling badly, you don’t much care if there’s some additional discomfort. Which is why we sometimes work hard to avoid discomfort when we’re not sick. Ask any CEO about an annual physical exam. We hate them. We’re not sick. Why do we need to do this?

Don’t wait until it’s trading one pain for another. Don’t wait until your uncomfortable already. There’s value in embracing a degree (and I emphasize DEGREE) a discomfort so we can expand and grow. It requires intentional decisions to grow. That takes courage, humility and determination. It also takes an openness to admit we can grow into a better version of ourselves. Everybody has room to grow. Doesn’t it make sense that top performers – folks like you (CEOs and other top leaders) – may even have a higher capacity for growth?

CEOs and Top Leaders Are Employee #1 (which means they have the most to gain and the most to give)

It’s not about you being a better human being than everybody else at the office. It’s about a simple business idea: an asset or resource. This one happens to of the human variety. YOU.

Expanding your connections expands your life. It expands your thinking. It provides you valuable changes in perspective. It expands your ability to see opportunities and challenges. Protecting your space has value, but it hinders all that expansion. If you go all in on protection you’ll miss out on all the expansion that’s possible – and profitable.

I regularly ask CEOs about the investment their company makes in growing people. Many give great answers. They’re investing – some heavily – in developing people. I can then ask about their own personal development (professional and personal) and I get a blank stare. It’s quite common to hear a CEO confess they don’t invest much, if anything at all, in themselves. They’ll quickly followup by saying something like, “It’s more important that my people get what they need.”

That’s when I hold up my hands like a side line coach calling a time out. “Wait a minute, wait a minute. What? It’s MORE IMPORTANT that your people get what they need than that you get what you need?”

That usually prompts some rambling and back tracking as they hunt for words to make it not sound as bad it sounds. But it is that bad. And that’s the problem. It’s very bad.

As the top leader YOU are the most important human asset in the company. Again, it doesn’t make you better than anybody else. It’s just true. You’re the most important player on the roster. Like a star quarterback, you have the biggest impact on the performance of the entire team.

Just consider the people you impact. Suppose you have 8 direct reports. Suppose those 8 direct reports each have 3 direct reports. That’s 24 executives or leaders who are directly impacted by YOU. Let’s say there are another 65 employees. We’re now up to 89 people whose professional lives are impacted by YOU. Now let’s add all our suppliers, vendors, partners and others who help us do what we do, but they’re not directly employed by our company. Let’s say you’ve got 35 suppliers, four financial partners and 11 service professionals or other partners. That’s 50 outside partnerships that are impacted by YOU. Those aren’t people – they’re organizations or companies. They represent far more people than just 50. And we’re not yet counting customers! How many of those do you have? And we’re not counting the family members of your employees? How many of those are there? See what I mean?

YOU have a direct impact on hundreds or thousands of people. The ripple effect of your growth – or lack of it – is enormous. I’m not trying to make you think more highly of yourself than you should. This isn’t an ego thing. It’s a business, mathematical thing. It’s quantifiable and real. If you don’t grow, all those people’s lives are negatively impacted. If you grow, they’re all positively impacted. Some more. Some less. But all of them are influenced by your behavior, your decisions and even your mood.

As a business person, if I could offer you a 24x ROI you’d chase me down and make me give you that opportunity because you’ve got no opportunity like that. Those 24 executives in your organization (your 8 direct reports and their 3 direct reports each) represent the 24x. You represent the investment. There’s one of you and 24 of them. Invest one dollar in yourself – one dollar set aside to make you better. One dollar to help you expand your connections and improve your perspective…and 24 people feel the impact.

If the #1 employee in the company isn’t worth an investment, then who is? And there’s another reason why you – the CEO – have the biggest ROI on personal development. CEOs and other top leaders are top performers. Have you ever taken an employee who is doing poorly and put them on a performance improvement plan (PIP)? Sure. We’ve all done it. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Because the person is in control of their own behavior. Some choose to listen and comply. Others choose not to. Assume a person complies. Their performance is so weak it’s put their job at risk. What kind of of an improvement – expressed as a percentage – do you need to see before they’re off the hot seat? Twenty five percent? Thirty five percent? Fifty percent? It’s likely a big improvement, else you wouldn’t have put them on a PIP.

You’re the CEO. You’re a top performer, a high achiever. A dollar invested in the person on a PIP may be wasted, or it may pay off slightly. It’ll be small, even if it helps the person turn their performance around. Is a 1% improvement in your performance equal to a double digit improvement in some other people on your team? YES, it is.

Take any thoroughbred race horse capable of running competitively at the track. Compare that horse with any run of the mill horse (the kind we see in pastures around here). If a trainer can get a 1% improvement in that race horse, do you suppose that’s infinitely more valuable than a trainer getting a 25% improvement in that pasture horse? There’s no comparison.

Invest in your own expansion. Grow. Get out of your protection mode. It’s not taking a chance, it’s taking an opportunity. It’s making sure you continue to grow and develop because all the people in your life need it. They deserve it.

Randy

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Don't Be Offensive: IBM's White Shirt Strategy

4004 Don’t Be Offensive: IBM’s White Shirt Strategy

Don't Be Offensive: IBM's White Shirt Strategy

Our next door neighbor was an IBM’er. She traveled a lot. She was single so she said she didn’t mind it much. We had 2 rug rats running loose on the neighborhood. She drove a BMW. We did NOT. It was the early 1980’s and life inside IBM was assumed to be about as good as it gets in corporate America. Of course, I was never attracted to corporate America. Or travel. So I had very little envy for her lifestyle. It wasn’t lost on me that she was living a lifestyle as a single person that I was living with a family of four though. I remember thinking, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

These were the days where IBM set the standard for sales and service. They were the safe bet for any corporate expenditure. Nobody was ever going to be fired, or even endure criticism by selecting IBM as the vendor. IBM representatives were buttoned down (literally) professionals known for dropping from the sky if there was ever a problem.

My neighbor didn’t have it quite as regimented as her male counterparts, but she likely endured much higher scrutiny as a woman. The men of IBM didn’t wear facial hair and wore only white shirts. As she explained it to me, IBM wanted to make sure they did not offend a prospect or a customer. Research had shown them that some people don’t like facial hair…so no facial hair. Research had also shown that people assume a degree of professionalism with a white shirt that may not be assumed if a person wore a blue or yellow shirt. So white shirts it is!

IBM has even chronicled their attire through the years at their website. Just go here and you’ll see years and years of IBM attire.

I have never been an IBM insider so I have no knowledge if this was an official stance or a skunkwork of management. Either way, I’ve had multiple IBM’ers through the years tell me the same thing. Admittedly, my information is all circa 1980’s.

The other day somebody engaged me in a conversation about selling and appealing to as many people as possible. Of course, we quickly began to talk of all the profanity we hear and see today. Something neither of us experienced coming up through the ranks. F bombs abound in social media posts, speeches and blog posts. Yes, there’s a ton of informal marketing going on today that was mostly limited to one-on-one conversations in the old days. You can judge for yourself such matters, but our focal point was on the age old premise IBM followed, “Don’t be offensive.”

There’s little doubt it worked. Well, coupled with great products and services and an intense focus on the customer. I won’t credit IBM’s success of the 1980’s on the white shirts and no facial hair on men (facial hair on a woman would be VERY offensive). But I do understand the thought process.

I even remember reading somewhere an IBM executive make what seemed like a sound argument. He wrote that if a male IBM sales rep were to visit a prospect who didn’t like men with beards, and he (the IBM rep) had a beard…why put yourself at a disadvantage before you ever get an opportunity to inform the prospect what you can do for him. It made sense to me. Still does, actually.

The world has changed. Today in 2016 we’re not dealing with the same culture that existed in the 1980’s. For some, being offensive is a unique positioning intentionally crafted. No, I’m not attracted to it, but many are. Just go on social media and look closely at how profanity has infiltrated the headlines of content marketing – blogs, podcasts, articles, videos and photos. F bombs. S bombs. And everything in between. Being offensive has become a niche marketing tactic to prove hipness.*

*The fact that I even use the term “hipness” proves how unhip I am.

Offensive Vs. Being Unique

I admire IBM’s strategy of being inoffensive. The atmosphere is clouded because I think some people misunderstand offensive and uniqueness. I’m personally opposed to the former, but a big fan of the latter.

Might some people be offended or put off by your uniqueness? Of course. Anything is possible.

button down shirt and tieI hate button down collared shirts worn with a tie. It’s a personal preference thing. They look rumpled and awful. I’m not offended by them, but it’s not an attractive look to me. Whenever I see a guy wearing it, it bugs me. Would I refuse to buy from such a person? I might. I might not. There would probably be other elements involved.

I mean look at that photo — and this guy has loosened his tie. It would look worse with the tie cinched up to his neck. I’m crazy enough that I’d be thinking, “What’s he thinking?” But here’s the deal. I’m not offended by it. I’m put off by the look though.

Offensive is defined as “causing someone to feel deeply hurt, upset, or angry.” No, this look doesn’t offend me. But I can’t imagine facial hair on a man causing offense, even in the 1980’s when I wore a mustache! I was young then. There were plenty of old heads who ran companies though and they had no tolerance for men with facial hair working in their companies. So it made sense to me that IBM wanted clean shaven representatives.

Now there’s a vast difference in that buttoned down collar with a tie look and dropping F bombs.

The question and lesson for us is – what can we do or avoid doing to attract our prospects?

Offensive also means “actively aggressive; attacking.” Profanity laced content is actively aggressive. Intentionally so. I’ve heard some marketers who regularly use it claim it’s who they are and how they roll. They argue that it helps them dissect the market and separate the people willing to do business with them versus those unwilling. They think it clears the way toward more effective reach – namely, giving them a leg up on reaching their “ideal” prospect.

Okay. I’m not sure about all that, but if that’s how they want to roll, no skin off my nose. I’m just unsure I buy it. There are some big name social media rockstars who regularly use profanity. Seems to me an awful lot of people are copying that, wrongly assuming that their profanity is one reason for their popularity. Instead, I’d encourage those people to consider the substance of their content, not their profanity-centric style.

I acknowledge that we’re in an age where style over substance is often a reality. We often ascribe substance where style exists. And where style is absent, we think there must not be any substance. It’s true in music, art and business. Probably in lots of other spaces, too.

Choose your strategy. I’m only encouraging us to consider our strategy carefully so we can give ourselves the best opportunity for success.

The other day I got a meeting with a top business owner. He started the business in the late 1960’s. I’m old. He’s older. I put on a black suit, a white shirt and a striped tie. Yes, I admit I dressed with him in mind. I felt it was the respectful thing to do.

I know others might criticize me for that. They’d say, “Dress the way you want. Be who you want to be. Be who you really are.”

If it were up to me I’d wear my black jeans, my New Balance sneakers and a fleece pullover. But I wanted to have a good interaction with this business owner. I’m trying to engage him in meaningful conversation. I’m not trying to put him off and give him any reason to think, “I don’t want to spend any time with this guy.”

I’m not in the fashion trade. If I were, then perhaps I could understand the argument to dress like I want. I’m in the coaching and consulting business. I need my prospects to talk to me. I’m not going in guns blazing telling them all about me. I’m asking about THEM. I want them to tell me more about themselves and their businesses. How I dress and how I speak could quickly ruin that.

As the owner came to the lobby to greet me, I stood, shook his hand firmly while looking him in the eye and quickly thanked him for making the time to see me. As we were seated in a small conference room he introduced me to his assistant. I introduced myself to her, shook her hand and expressed pleasure in meeting her. It’s manners. Professional etiquette. Appropriate dress and behavior. At least that’s how I view it.

As we began to talk I’m rather certain he got some sense of me and my uniqueness. I hope so. I didn’t talk about myself. I asked him about his career and his business. That’s what I was mostly interested in. I wasn’t interested in finding somebody I had never met before and being able to hold forth telling them all about me. This guy was super smart, very bright and engaging. The meeting went well and I was thrilled to have met him. Will we do business? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. But I know I had a good meeting because I was prepared and because I made him the focal point of my preparation and my actions. He was the centerpiece of the meeting, not me.

Who is this about?

I’m mostly put off by some of the marketing and positioning I see because I think the focal point is wrong headed. Marketers think it’s about THEM. Not the client or customer. Or prospect.

Nearly every week I tell people that the main benefit of my podcast is likely found in people’s opportunity to click play, listen to a few minutes and figure out whether I’m their cup of tea or not. It gives prospects the opportunity to find out pretty quickly if I’m a personality they can relate to or not. Yes, I’m myself. I’m honest here. The way you hear me talk is how I talk. It would be completely dishonest to speak as I do here, then when you meet me in person I’m some foul-talking, in your face kind of a person. You’d think, “Man, he’s not at all how I thought he’d be.”

For me, it’s disrespectful of the prospect and customer. I find nothing wrong with dressing and preparing for a meeting with the prospect in mind, not myself. There are going to be plenty of people who will never do business with me, for whatever reason. I need to give myself the best chance possible to do business with some. For those few, I want them to see and hear and understand how important they are to my career and my business.

So let’s end with some questions that may help all of us better figure this out.

  1. How does your attire, speech and behavior help you differentiate yourself? Or does it?
  2. How do these things attract prospects? (Is it about attracting the right people or about repelling the wrong people?)
  3. How do these things give success a better chance?
  4. Are you really being true to who you are, or are you being sucked into copying something you think is popular?
  5. Is respect and politeness part of your competitive advantage?

There are tons of other questions worth asking. I’d encourage you to keep asking and answering them. Figure out what you’re doing, what you want to do and examine closely what’s working versus what’s not working.

The goal is improvement. We just want to grow as great as we possibly can.

All the best,
Randy

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bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

Introducing Higher Human Performance Monthly Short Courses

243 I May Not Be The Best Fork In The Drawer, But I’m Your Favorite Fork

I’ve been helping small business owners with content marketing for over 5 years now. I’ve written “thousands, consequently millions” (thanks Deion Sanders) of words on behalf of clients. Video, podcasting, using Google Hangouts On Air, blogging, email marketing, social media marketing – it’s all that and more. I’ve yet to meet a small business owner that doesn’t want “everything” and “right now.” The conversations are pretty funny actually.

I need everything.”

Yes, they say that. Repeatedly. Regularly.

It’s like a buddy of mine who once asked me to send him everything I had on leadership. He texted me, “Send me everything you’ve got on leadership.” I replied, “Just everything. Could you be more vague?” Then he called me laughing and repeated his request, jokingly. But that’s how it is for almost all of us. When we want something, not quite knowing what we want, we make these declarations that we want everything!

These Short Courses Won’t Be Everything, But They’ll Be Something (Else)

The world is full of paradoxes. We have short attention spans the experts tell us. To be fair, non-experts tell us that, too. Yet some bloggers will tell you their most popular posts are ones where they dive deeply into a subject using thousands (consequently millions) of words and illustrations. Three minute inane videos on YouTube give way to 20 minute killer TED talks. Five minute podcasts may not fair nearly as well as the hour-long episode. Who’da thunk it?

There’s a place for long-form content. And there’s a place for the quick tip.

I enjoy all of it if it resonates with me enough to be interesting.

People want easy, not short. Some things are easy. Others things…not so much.

I think most of us operating in an advice-giving capacity hate it when people aren’t willing to put in the effort or work. They want to ride on our back of knowledge and experience…asking us to hand them everything in a neat little package that’s easily consumed. And executed.

They’re the same people who rushed to buy Cliff Notes the night before the reading assignment is due. Refusing to read the book, spending more time looking for short-cuts instead of doing the work. It’s not about fast-tracking. It’s about being lazy. At least for quite a few.

Others? They honestly don’t know where to being or what to ask. So they ask for everything. They don’t really mean that. It simply means they’re clueless. Some even say so. I’ve got a lot of tolerance for them than I do the person unwilling to do the work.

Are you an advice giver? Do you show people how to do something?

Then you’ve likely done what I’ve done and told people that they have two terrific online friends, Google and YouTube. Yes, even that takes some work. And time.

I’d love to tell you that I alone can be your end-all, be-all. I’d even be satisfied to tell you that there is somebody out there who could be your end-all, be-all. But I can’t. Because it depends on what you’re wanting to do. It depends on where you are. It depends on your present constraints and challenges. It also depends on your current level of knowledge and expertise.

Maybe one of the toughest challenges any of us have is finding somebody in the area of expertise we need most…somebody who is really good. But the world is full of self-proclaimed gurus and it can be tough to find the right one for us. This is especially true in crowded spaces filled with many so-called experts. Search engine optimization (SEO) is such a space. I confess I’ve invested too much money in a variety of SEO experts and mostly found little or no reward in it. For starters, I’m about as interested in Major League Baseball as I am SEO. That’s my problem, not the fault the experts. The other issue for me is it seems a bit like gaming the system and years ago I figured Google’s entire future hinged on making sure people couldn’t game the system. That sort of takes the motivation out of it, don’t you think? Now, I’m smart enough to know that SEO is worthwhile. I’m also smart enough to know there are a few people in the space who I actually do pay attention to. But mostly, I’m smart enough to know that I really don’t much care (which many will tell me is stupid).

But there are other spaces where there seems to be a clearer leader in the field. My friend who asked me for “everything you’ve got on leadership” is a big fan of John Maxwell. He’s in good company, including me. John Maxwell is a clear leader in the field of leadership (ironic, huh?). There are tons of others, but for many, John Maxwell is THE man.

The other day I was consulting with a solopreneur who was in the professional services space. Increasingly that’s a space I find myself serving more and more. These are people who have tremendous skills and “know-how.” They often struggle with incorporating the building blocks necessary to create consistently good workflows and processes that result in predictable success. Additionally, too many of them aren’t fond of marketing…understandable because they’ve got so much time and money invested in learning their craft. They mostly want to do what they do rather than sell what they do.

As I’m visiting with this solopreneur I find myself for the umpteenth time encouraging him to loosen up a bit and let himself relax, especially in his online persona. We talk about why that’s difficult for him and like so many other service professionals he says, “People want professional and qualified.” He rambles on about credentials and association memberships and other things that I’m sure have value. But he’s missing the point.

Personality. Attractiveness.

I take our conversation beyond the mere qualifications of people because in his space people make some strong (and mostly correct) assumptions about being qualified. So I ask, “So you’re telling me that people do business with you solely and only based on the fact that you’re the most qualified ____________ they can find?”

“No, but it’s important,” he says.

“Okay, how important?” I ask. If that’s not the sole or only reason why people select you, then what else factors into their decision?”

“I don’t know. Recommendations I guess.” He’s clearly shadow boxing with no idea who the opponent may be.

“And what’s the basis of the recommendation?” I ask.

“I did a good job for whoever recommended me,” he responds…thinking he’s finally got an answer correct. It’s not a test. But it sorta is.

“Do any of us recommend people who do poor work?”

“Of course not.”

“So good work, or competent work is a bare minimum for what we require as customers and clients, right?”

“Right.”

“Do you have some place change the oil in your car?” I ask.

“Of course,” he says.

“Have you ever recommended them to your friends?” I wonder.

“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

“Well, they’re right by my office and I just don’t think about it.”

“Bingo. You don’t think about it. You don’t think about them. You take their competence for granted. You assume they know what they’re doing because they’re in that business. What would they have to do for you to recommend them?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.”

“What if you got to know the manager or the owner? What if the manager or the owner knew you by name? What if every now and again they asked you if you had time for a  free wash and vacuuming…on the house? Would any of those things make them stand out?”

“Of course. Any of those would make them stand out.”

“And if they did all 3 would that just blow you away?”

“Yes,” he said. “Honestly, I’d be blown away if they were just a bit more polite.”

“And yet you go still take your car there because they’re competent and close by your office. But you don’t think to recommend them.”

Knowing the manager or the owner hasn’t got anything to do with changing oil. Neither does washing or vacuuming a car. But if we stake on a few subtle, but personal things…suddenly they’re worth talking about.

I May Not Be The Best Fork In The Drawer, But I’m Your Favorite Fork

Some years ago when our son was still single and living at home, he was preparing to move out of town for an excursion we had hoped he wouldn’t take. It’s a long story with details that aren’t important except for the fact that my wife packed up some silverware to give him to take with him. It was an everyday set of eating ware that contained my favorite variety of forks. Yes, I’m a fork snob. The tines on these forks was just right for my liking. I had no idea she had given them to him. Until one day after he was gone I went looking for a fork.

I found one. Just one. “What happened to all the forks?” I asked. “I gave Ryan that set of silverware,” she said.

“So I’m left with this one fork that somehow got left behind?”

“I guess he forgot one.”

Well, I can’t tell you how pleased I was to have at least ONE. I still have it. It’s in the drawer with the other forks, but my wife knows me well enough to know that if that fork is clean…I want that one.

It’s a fork. How important is a fork’s style, you’re wondering? VERY IMPORTANT, to me.

We’re attracted to what we’re attracted to. I don’t know why necessarily. My first girlfriend in 1st grade was blonde. And in spite of their reputation to be ditzy, I’ve been a lifelong fan of smart blondes. My first girlfriend was the smartest girl in the class who happened to be blonde. Ditto for my wife (okay, she’s reddish blonde…but I kinda like redheads, too). 😉

The point is, I don’t know why my first girlfriend was blonde. I do know why she was smart. I’m no fool. But some guys like girls who aren’t so smart.

From music, to films, to TV shows, to food, to colors — we like what we like.

I hate sushi. I’m not a fan of fried chicken. Or beets. We hate what we hate.

Find something I love and I’ll find somebody who hates it. Find something I hate and I’ll find somebody who loves it. My view isn’t likely to change their opinion any more than they’re likely to change mine. As the sign in my office says, “It Is What It Is.” My daughter bought me that sign ’cause I say it so much.

You’re either attracted to my style and substance or you’re not. More substance isn’t likely to alter your view. That doesn’t mean I’m not learning stuff and getting better at what I do all the time. I am. I take my work to help people seriously. I just don’t take myself all that seriously. If you don’t like that, there’s the door. Wait a minute. There’s the button somewhere up at the top to close this page and forget me forever. I won’t be offended. Because you may feel toward me like I feel toward beets. There’s nothing possible to make me like them. Everything about them offends me. The color. The smell. The taste. The texture. The name.

The FREE Higher Human Performance Monthly Short Course

For years listeners, readers and casual observers have noticed something about me. I wasn’t selling anything. Well, I was…but not to them. My work historically has been face-to-face. Selling has been direct and physical. Not virtual.

I know. I know. Makes no sense for a guy who’s been producing online content since about 1999, but that’s the truth. And I’m about to change all that. Very soon if I can.

But first, I’m ready to step up my game in the freemium arena. Email newsletters. Ebooks. Reports. Videos. All those ethical bribes people use to get you onto their list…I’ve never worked at any of them. I’ve always felt like asking you to listen or read the content was pretty awesome enough. It seemed rude to ask you for more, even though I’ve had optin boxes at the site for some time. Honestly, until now I never cared if you opted in or not. As a result, most people didn’t. And that makes sense. Why should you care if I don’t?

Today, I do care. I care because I’m preparing some short email courses – and I’m talking 20 minutes max (audio) and a single email. No, they’re not designed to go in depth and teach you EVERYTHING. They’re mostly designed to make you use the greatest tool you’ve got, your brain. I want to help you think. More clearly. With greater hope. And belief.

I want to be your favorite fork. I know there are plenty of forks out there fully capable of being a fork just like me. Maybe even better than me technically. But not better than me at having you feel the way you feel when I’m the one serving you. I don’t feel the same about a meal that I have to eat with my least favorite fork. I enjoy the same food much more with my favorite fork in hand. That’s how I want to be for you.

If that’s the case – if I am your favorite fork – I want you to join the email list so I can send you the monthly short courses. For now, that’s all I want in return for this dazzling content I’ve been giving you free of charge! If you sign up you’ll get some other cool stuff that I’ve been giving folks for awhile. Once the honeymoon is over and you’ve been sent the free video and audio that I’m still sorta proud of, then each month I’m going to do my best to send you something pertaining to HIGHER HUMAN PERFORMANCE that I hope will help you. I’ll be leaning on your feedback to improve these as we move forward. And I’ll expect you to tell me if what I give you sucks. My mandate is going to always be to suck less! 😀

Be well. Thank you for listening!

Randy

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224 A Conversation With V. Scott Ellis

v-scott-ellis
V. Scott Ellis

V. Scott Ellis was my first interview last September for a new project I was planning to launch, Chasing DFW Cool (DFW = Dallas/Ft. Worth for you non-Texans). Scott was my first interview for the project. After I told him that, Scott said I clearly had my finger on the pulse of what was cool in Dallas. 😀 Yes, he is cool. You can tell by just looking at his head. Cool guys have common traits!

Well, the project suffered delays because I simply had way too much going on to properly launch the site. A few weeks ago I decided to start releasing some of the interviews here because I just felt the content was too good to keep sitting on it. I’m still planning to launch Chasing DFW Cool sometime this fall. In the meantime, I’d like to welcome Scott to the land of Bula!

We tried a few times to record the conversation via Skype, but the technology just didn’t cooperate. Two Dallas guys trying to connect via Skype proved much tougher than trying to connect with friends in the UK. Go figure.

Scott invited me to just come down to the Livid Lobster studios and join him in person where we could use his audio set up. So that’s what I did. I even got to meet Cali Lewis and John P. Of course, the Livid Lobster studios have since moved, but it was nice to sit across from Scott face-to-face.

Here are some links to learn more about Scott and what’s he’s up to:

Web designers, listen to why Scott wouldn’t hire a designer.

Google + haters, listen to why Scott finds it his major social media hangout (pun intended).

Show Scott some love. You can find him lurking at Google +.

 

208 – 5 Benefits Of Content Marketing For Clients Of Service Professionals

Be-Everywhere
You Just Have To Be Where Your Prospects Are

It’s not about being everywhere. It’s about being where your prospects and clients are. It’s about attracting paying clients you can dazzle!

“I don’t have time to blog,” he tells me. “Do you have time to answer your phones?” I ask. “Of course I do,” he replied with extreme indignation.

“How would you characterize most of your phone calls?” I inquired. “What do you mean?” he asked. “Are most of the calls from people trying to sell you something? Are they from existing clients who need to talk with you? Are they from prospective clients who have questions?”

“I’d say many of them are from existing clients who have questions about their case, but quite a few are inquiries asking us about our services,” he replied.

“Are you ever asked the same question over and over again?” I wanted to know. I knew the answer, but I wanted him to hear himself say it. “Of course, all the time!”

“And naturally, you take the time to answer that question every single time, don’t you?”

“Yes, obviously.”

“Then why don’t you sit down one time and create the very best answer to that question and answer for anybody who may ask it? Get out front with answering it because you know it’s coming anyway. Don’t wait until somebody asks. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to answer it one time and make that answer available to anybody online than to answer it individually every single time?”

Pause. More pausing.

He looked from side to side. Then he glanced up at the ceiling. Looking for a good answer I suppose.

And suddenly there it was. The real problem. His constraint and challenge.

He just didn’t know how to do it.

Taking my own advice, I spoke first. “I know you don’t know how to do this. That’s why I’m here. That’s what I’m here to help you with. Mainly, I want you to understand that I know you’re busy. I know you need one more thing on your to-do-list like you need a kick to the teeth. I’m not here to lay more work on you, but I am here to give you a workflow and process* that can help you grow your practice. I want you to be able to serve more people and then to serve all your clients better. And none of that matters if you go crazy in the process. This is about sanity as you build your practice.”

* If you want to know my take on the power of “the process” – visit my other podcast LeaningTowardWisdom.com where I talked about it here and here.

His shoulders relaxed. His eyes widened. I could tell he was beginning to believe. Just beginning, mind you, but it was a start. Realizing that he might – MIGHT – be able to incorporate some new marketing strategies into his practice.

Service professionals have a lot of things other than time. They have significant overhead. They have a business model that is tough to scale. They have high touch clients. Many of them begin their careers with student loan debt. The one thing many of them lack is TIME. Well, there’s another thing many of them lack, too – enough clients.

Convincing them to take on another task is like asking them to miraculously create a few more hours a week. Impossible. Or so they think.

Honestly, service professionals are just like you and me. They know what they know. But they don’t know what they don’t know. And it can be tough to admit not knowing something when you’re a service professional who is an expert in some field of law, or medicine, or architecture, or finances. You’re hired to be the person who knows, but here’s an area where you feel somewhat lost – except you don’t want anybody to know. The result? You just keep doing what you know to do, which tends to be what you’ve always done. Even if what you’ve always done isn’t working so well. It’s comfortable.

What Should I Do?

That’s almost always question one…after an exchange like the one I recounted. Some have told me I’m an idiot for trying to help this crowd – the service professionals – because they claim it’s not a hungry market. “They don’t know they need help,” one friend told me. “You’re always talking about not wanting to push water up a hill (my description of trying to help people who don’t want help or don’t know they need help), but isn’t that what you’re doing?”

I’ll talk more about that in an upcoming episode about business building and marketing, but for now – I’m convinced this crowd, SERVICE PROFESSIONALS, need help and I’m driven to provide it. So there!

“What should I do?” is a valid question, but it doesn’t provide a framework to give enough detail that a service pro can use. For instance, to simply answer, “You should blog” is an injustice to blogging and the service pro.

Answering WHAT is like framing up a house. It’s necessary, but it’s just the start after you’ve put down the foundation. There’s lots of work before and after the framing. So it is with any answer to the question, “What should I do?”

How Should I Do It?

Frequently this is the next question. Again, it seems logical. Once we know what, then we naturally want to know how.

I don’t avoid these questions, but I’m pretty quick to tap the brakes because first and foremost I’m a business builder. Yes, I love being creative. I enjoy all the “soft” aspects of business and I’m equally fond of those hard “let’s measure it” aspects. However, one overriding question trumps all the other issues for me because it’s the one question every successful business builder must deal with first.

Why Should I Do It? I’ll Give You 5 Reasons.

All of these are purposefully framed from the prospects point-of-view, not yours. This is about your clients, not you. It’s about service and building a more profitable and successful practice (or business).

1. Your prospects and customers get a better experience.

Every service professional (just like every business owner I’ve ever encountered) confesses to answering many of the same questions every week. Sometimes daily.

Think of the number 1 question you get asked by prospective clients. How many times in a month do you answer that question? Now, take that number and multiply it by the number of minutes it takes to answer that one question. That’s how many minutes every month you spend answering the same question. And we’re just focused on one question, your top one.

If prospects ask you the same question 10 times a week, that’s 40 times a month. Assuming it takes you 10 minutes to properly answer the question, that’s 40 (times per month) multiplied by 10 (minutes each time). That’s 400 minutes, which is over 6.5 hours a month. One question. Answered 40 times a month.

Now, figure out the second most asked question. Do the same thing. Let’s assume it’s only asked 25 times a month and it takes half the time to answer (5 minutes). There goes another 2 plus hours a month.

Two questions and we’re up to almost 10 hours a month. Here’s where I get “real world” on clients. No, you may not be able to fully escape answering questions individually for people, but do you suppose you could cut it in half? If so, you’ve gained 5 hours a month. Could you shave 25% off the time spent privately, individually answering these two most often asked questions? Then you’re still saving about 2.5 hours a month.

But we’re not saving that time in one month. We’re saving that much time month, after month, after month. And the more questions (and answers) we can scale, the more time we’re saving. That’s time you can spend any way you want. You can spend more time serving clients better. That means you may be able to elevate your fees because you can provide greater service. You can invest that saved time any way you want.

It’s nice to have choices! When you scale your time by incorporating content marketing strategies into your business building, you can decide how to spend the time you save.

But that’s a benefit for YOU and we’re focused on the benefits to your prospects and clients. We spend hours in search engines because we want answers. We go to YouTube if we want video answers. We look for blogs if we want text-based answers. Maybe we visit Stitcher or Apple iTunes if we want audio or video podcasts to give us the information. As a content creator – an educator in your space – you can give your prospects a better experience by providing content suitable to their tastes.

You can also go into more depth maybe. Or you can provide an abbreviated answer if they don’t want the details you may normally provide (because you give everybody the same in-person experience). Why not give them the experience they want? If they want details, give it to them. If they want a brief outline, give them that. Your prospects want what they want and they want it the way they want it. By using content marketing you can construct the content to ideally suit a wide variety of people, making yourself more visible to more people.

2. Your prospects can get better answers.

You are attending a professional conference. It’s a small affair of about 100 people. The presenter scheduled for the first session after lunch has fallen ill. The organizers approach you, asking you to fill in. They know it’s a last minute request, but the topic is in your wheelhouse and you’ve only got to fill a 45-minute time slot. It’s a terrific opportunity for you and it helps the organizers escape a pickle. You agree to do it.

Question: Will your presentation be better than if you had known weeks prior that you’d be scheduled to present?

Very few people can deliver a superior presentation on the fly versus a presentation that has been carefully prepared and rehearsed. Good speakers and presenters know the power of the edit. They work on their speech or presentation and hone it until they have it just right. When you’re going on the fly, there’s no opportunity to craft a better speech or presentation. You’re live and done.

But there’s another phenomenon that salespeople and service professionals (and every other business person) suffer – falling into a rut. Saying the same things in the same way. Every. Single. Time.

Go back to those top 2 questions asked by your prospects. I’m betting you have a rote answer that drips from your lips without much thought. You’ve answered it so many times your brain (and mouth) go into auto-pilot. You don’t even pay much attention to the result of your answer. Is it the most effective answer? Does it fully engage the prospect? You may not know or care at the time. You just want to answer the question. It’s not that you’re insensitive or uncaring. You just turn into Pavlov’s dog. They ask the question and you hear a bell. Then, off you go answering the question just like you have thousands of other times.

Stop. Think about what you’re saying. Think about the answer. Can your auto-pilot impromptu answer be improved? I imagine it can be GREATLY improved. You know it’s true. Now’s the time to craft a better answer. Prepare. Edit. Hone it. You can put it in a format to help your prospects learn a better answer than the one you’ve been giving live on the fly for years.

3. Your prospects get answers when they want them and more conveniently.

The other evening my son called me. He wanted to know if had any experience with Apple’s iCloud, especially as it relates to iTunes. I told him I didn’t, but I quickly got online and told him to visit the Apple website where he could access their support pages. Like most companies, Apple has a knowledge base where visitors can find answers to their questions. It was about 9pm when my son and I were talking.

What about your clients? I imagine you’re not answering your office phone to answer questions at 9pm. Am I right?

So your prospect has a question. It’s 9pm. They go to your website. Can they find the answer or do they have to wait until your office opens?

What if they can find somebody else who will answer their question right now? Do you think you risk losing them? You bet you do!

4. Your prospects can share the answers.

Gastroenterologists are doctors who deal in digestive problems and that sort of thing.. There are about 15,000 in America. How many patients do you suppose hear the exact same explanation of a procedure or a diagnosis? TONS. Now, how many of those patients do you suppose are asked by family and friends to recount what the doctor said? All of them. I guarantee 100% of them repeat what the doctor told them — to somebody!

Think about it. 15,000 doctors with dozens or hundreds of patients each, repeating the same diagnosis and explaining it (and answering more questions about it) — only to have those patients try to repeat it to others. The phrase “lost in translation” comes to mind.

What if these doctors recorded a detailed explanation of a procedure – one they could share with their patients? Online? They could go into more detail, giving patients the opportunity to not only learn more about the procedure, but to share it with their family. And you thought social media was just Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Social media is sharing. It’s interacting. It’s what you do every day with your prospects and clients. Now you can do it 24/7/365 even when you’re on vacation or closed.

5. Your prospects can decide if they like you and are willing trust you before they ever meet you.

In sales, we call it pre-qualifying. That just means we can narrow down prospects to find out who is most serious about buying from us. You’ve likely done it before when you applied for a loan. You complete a form and that information is used to pre-qualify you — that is, to find out if you’re suitable or not. Well, our prospects can use online resources, if we provide them, to decide if they like us, trust us and want to pursue doing business with us.

This gives the service professional a number of advantages, but let’s focus on the prospects first. They don’t have to call and make an appointment to get some sense of who or what you are. In the comfort of their own home or office they can check you out. Maybe they can read some articles (or blog posts). Maybe they can watch some videos, or listen to some podcast episodes. Some of them may immediately think, “I don’t like her at all.” Others may think, “She’s very, very good.”

They save tons of time and hassle. As they scour your website getting to know you, they make some decisions. They don’t have to book an appointment, get dressed, drive down to your office, then spend time waiting…until they meet with you.

This rubs both ways. You don’t have to do any of that either. How cool would it be to have a person book an appointment and they tell your receptionist, “I watched a couple of his videos last night and I really liked how he explained things. I’m interested in having him help me.” By the time this person walks in, they’re pre-sold and you’ve never met them before, but they feel as though they’ve met you.

Do you realize what this means? Think about it. Depending on the realm of your work, the sales cycle can be compressed. This may not apply so much to medical professionals, but I can tell you it can apply to legal and financial service professionals who are used to multiple meetings before finalizing a commitment. If a financial advisor has to meet with somebody three times before they land a client, they’ve just been able to shorten it by one if the prospect has booked their first meeting because they liked what they found online.

Conclusion

There are many more reasons and benefits, but these are sufficient to prove the point. You’ve got to make the time and take the effort to do this. I know you’re tempted to think that your competence and expertise should suffice to attract people. As Dr. Phil says,

How’s that workin’ out for you?”

Your practice success is gauged by how many people you can serve and help. Namely, by how many clients can you land and dazzle! World-class professional service providers – attorneys, financial advisors, accountants, health professionals, architects, etc. – have extraordinary client bases. Annually, you invest money and time in maintaining (and improving) your professional competence. I’m merely suggesting that you do the same to improve your visibility so you can serve more clients!

Randy

 

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