business, customers, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Social Media

Your Business Needs The Digital Touch

Are you thinking this is a SciFi post about virtual realities? No Sir, this is about your business success.

The “digital touch” I am referring to is CONTENT. And “content” is not some technical, marketing lingo. It is your new reality as a business. It is something that has to be accepted, learned, and given priority to help your business grow. Here is a definition that I like:

Content: Something that is to be expressed through some medium, such as speech, writing, or any of the various arts.

In other words, “content” is merely INFORMATION. And Information is what people need to buy products and services. And where do they get their information?

Oh yeah, through digital media! Ahh, now you know where the digital touch comes from.

Start with this question: Why is posting information about your products and services – via digital channels- so important to the growth of your business?

It is important because “information” (content) is essential to a buyers journey. It influences their decisions on what and where to buy. Just look at this awesome graphic below:

So, as a business owner do you want to influence the outcome of the purchasing decisions made by your customers? Sure you do!

Well, regular content is your best way to do that.

A study by Google shows that 10 pieces of content (information) are consumed before a purchasing decision is made.

Every post, every article, every blog has the power to direct attention to your business. It is the digital touch–tap-tap-tap and your future buyers are looking you up while waiting to get their teeth cleaned. Cool article on Twitter? Tap-tap and it’s bookmarked in the Pocket App for later. I do not think anyone can dispute the reality of our Digital World but is your business “digitally touching” potential buyers as he or she are browsing the world wide web?

HERE ARE THE PROBLEMS OF AVOIDING “CONTENT”:

  1. Customers do not have to go directly to you anymore to find the information they are looking for. That is why your phone doesn’t ring! If a customer saw something at a friends house, they turn to the Internet to find the answers to their questions. They go to your website first to see what you have, who you are, and if you have written any articles that address their questions. They look up at the top and click your social media links going to their site of preference–some Facebook, some Instagram, some Twitter. They ask themselves: What do they post? Are there pictures? Events? Anything useful? And then, they go back to Google and find more.
  2. Technology is embedded in all Generations. Sorry, it’s not just the young’uns anymore who live and die by their iPhones. Grandma has figured out that she does not have to get in her car to drive across town in the rain or snow to shop for something to give her daughters on Valentines Day. So if you are on her “Favorite Facebook Pages” and you have not started posting your Valentines quotes and ideas then some smart, savvy business is going to entice her to click on their paid AD along the right side…and off she goes gathering her ten pieces of content for when she is ready to buy, from them.
  3. The most painful of all is that you NEED NEW CUSTOMERS. The collectors, the rewards members, the people who have bought every model and color…they eventually move on and you need someone “new” who has never heard of you or your awesome “thing-a-ma-jig.” These folks have to find you, then read your ten pieces to learn more about how a “thing-a-ma-jig” works, and then they have to trust that you are real and not some Russian hacker trying to get their credit card number. The digital generation is everyone now. Just like when automobiles eventually replaced all the horse-drawn carriages–we all use digital media for information.

It’s Time To Start Saying “Content.”

These are not confusing times ruled by millennials with selfie sticks. It is 2017, and we are all part of the social media marketing universe—all of us. So go ahead, say it:

That is the first step in reaching across the digital aisle to potential customers. And although you will need a strategy for posting and content the hardest part is accepting reality. Your charming personality, your creative store windows, the coupon in Valpak, well, they just are not enough to keep your business a float. You must first accept “content” as your key to success in the digital world we live in.

#Content #BuyersJourney #BusinessSuccess #Customers #SocialMedia

Maria Bereket is a Digital Media Marketing Consultant and Coach, LinkedIn Strategist, and Social Media Trainer. Her work focuses on bridging the gap of the digital divide by teaching people how to use social media to grow their business through social media thought leadership. She is an innovator and creative task master, so don’t contact her if you are not looking for growth and change. Teaching people to embrace technology and learn how to communicate in a digital world is her super-power. Connect @mbear88 or email her at Maria@DesignBearMarketing.com

business, innovation, Leadership

The Innovation Myth

shutterstock_134408855

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have… It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”

-Steve Jobs

The Innovation Myth

I have just finished yet another article on innovation in the workplace. I find it interesting that companies, so very focused on “innovation” of new ideas and problem-solving, have not taken a moment to sit back and see that their new “initiative” to be creative and think-out-of-the-box is so intricately tied to one of the biggest problems they are trying to solve: retention and recruiting.

I can put the article trends side-by-side and an interesting pattern emerges. Leaders in companies want to grow their businesses in new ways, but they are burdened with a workforce that is divided.  Older workers who are burnt out and younger ones that don’t want to stay.  Making our workplace more innovative is indeed the process for change, but the problem may lie not in the workers, but in the leaders trying to “solve” the problem.

The Myth

We have a new generation of workers who want something different from their lives and careers.  Just like every new generation.  But this new group is forcing change. They don’t buy into the “Climb The Ladder” model that anyone over 35 was spoon fed from their parents, teachers, and TV shows.  Climbing the ladder means that you are always looking above for guidance, and looking behindyou to see who is catching up. It worked for many years keeping us all in line, nicely ordered and managed by a whole team of “middle-management” professionals who got paid nice sums of money to manage the managers.

Then 2008 cut that entire “middle-manager” layer out of the workforce.  If you were lucky enough to keep your job you lived in fear of being discovered that you were not really “managing” anything, or anyone for that matter. Work became a battle to keep what “you had” so our 40-hour weeks turned into 50+ without any overtime, and then vacation days started rolling over or were lost entirely, and the executives, who were struggling to figure out why productivity and sales were stagnant, began discussing methods of innovating business and workflow.

Innovation is New Thinking

It all made sense, but innovation is not a solution when  being led by people who are still climbing the ladder.   Looking up is not an advantage when all the people below are moving on (and out) fast and furiously. There are companies who do not understand why someone would leave two weeks into a job. And there are stacks of articles complaining about millennials workers who were coming into the workplace asking for “perks” and “favors” before the ink was even dry on their application.  And loyalty?  Well, most companies just “assume” it is a problem with their generation.

Millennial Worker Demands:

  1. They want a culture of collaboration and inclusion.
  2. They want continual training and development programs.
  3. They want their lives and their careers to have an impact and purpose.
  4. They expect to be given what is necessary to do their job.
  5. And they want feedback from their bosses and their peers.

So is that such a horrible list?

Hell no! Isn’t that what we all want?

And take a closer look at that list. Are these not the outlined results of all those mind mappings exercises that are included in the leadership workshops?

How can we operate in the workplace when the management is busy climbing their career ladder while the workers are circling their desks trying to share ideas?

  • Your entire team wants to be given the opportunity to share creative, “innovative” ideas with you and without fear of being shunned. When people are heard they feel valued and then they work harder to contribute even more creative ideas.
  • Your entire team wants to feel they like they know what they are doing and that the “what” is being done correctly.  How do you expect them to do their jobs to the company standards when you are not offering any training? (and I am not talking about the department budget for “extra” outside training) Every company needs to train their employees about the mission, the purpose, and the process of the job.  “Sink or swim” is not a training method!
  • Your team (and the world) want to feel their work has a purpose other than your next promotion or bonus check.  Put your company or department behind a local cause and let the people on your team work to support it and you will see a change in the way your department runs….yes, even if that means you have to pay them to do a few hours of volunteer work outside of the office.
  • And who doesn’t expect to be given all the tools necessary to do their job? Think about it–how do expect your team to operate when they don’t have everything they need?  Budgets are not an excuse.  If you do not have the tools to provide your team to do their jobs effectively then maybe there are people on that ladder whose salaries and bonuses should be reviewed and reinvested into the budget.
  • Feedback, really?  Doesn’t your entire team deserve feedback and acknowledgment for their efforts by you whenever possible?  And not in an annual review from a survey written in 1988, but through regular meetings with goal setting—do you honestly think that your team doesn’t notice that you never notice?

I repeat the quote from above

Innovation is easy. It’s removing the outdated ideas that are the problem!

It is hard to change.

Hard to see the forest from the trees.  But something really dynamic is happening in the workplace today.  Driven by this “problem generation” we now have possibilities to make real, innovative solutions.  It just takes an ability to see things from a different perspective.  Get down off that ladder and actually have a conversation with your team.  Think about how you felt at the same stage.  You wanted to be included. You wanted to be heard.  You wanted to make contributions bigger than yourself.  You would have loved a high-five once in awhile, right?

Every parent comes to the realization that they were once young and idealistic. And it is usually on that day that things begin to change. When we put on the shoes of those around us, our journey becomes more important; because for the first time, it is shared.

**

Maria Bereket is a  Marketing & Social Media Consultant. Her work is focused on bridging the gap in the digital divide, and her passion is working with small business and entrepreneurs because she feels that their work is going to change the world making it a better place to live. Follow @mbear88  or email
mbear88@gmail.com

customers, innovation, Leadership, Social Media

The IPad Exception: 15+ Experience Need Not Apply

generation conflict at work comic

What Happened to the Value of Experience?

Awesomeness. Excitement. The magic of selfies. Does that make you think of the youngest guy on your team?

Relevance. Research. The magic of taking notes in a spiral-bound notebookDoes that make you think of the oldest guy on your team?

It isn’t Them vs. US.  It’s all about speed and value and it’s going to make a difference at some point. This point in time actually.

Now I can just see the eyes rolling back when anyone under 35  reads the headline. Even before all this wonderful technology invaded the workplace, younger workers were rolling their eyes back at the word “experience”.  It’s what youth does. They are workers who give wings to ideas and passion and force the work environment to move forward at a greater speed. That is progress.

What is missing today is a coordinated plan to value those with  15+ years of experience.

They are not “outdated” in the value they can offer, even if they don’t have a profile photo and aren’t  on Snapchat. In fact, if anyone under 35 would take a moment of interest in what that 15+ person thinks then perhaps you could offer to mentor them in the value of texting while they could mentor you with a few tricks on how to get ahead.

You see it isn’t that both generations don’t have much to teach other, it is that the workplace is so focused on optimization: salaries and office politics.   I see that co-working  environments have removed the cubicles but they also revealed the ugly truth about mentoring: mostly that there is none anymore.

Oh, it’s in the job descriptions. “Can mentor younger team member”, but when it asks for 3-5 years experience for a “senior” job position how is that an age when one can be a senior member who mentors?

Our lifeline of technology has overshadowed the importance of knowledge and experience.  We value new and shiny as a workforce and have completely turned the reins of “business” over to the gadget gurus.  Oh, we need gadget gurus, but we need a voice of one or two understands the value of time. There must be a balance, a bridge between the two!

Today, we are celebrating the 5-year anniversary of the IPad as if it were the answer to global warming. Everyone is happy and shocked at the five years because, well, what technology last five years?

We give the IPad and exception. People, on the other hand, well that is not the same value we have on people.

The younger Steve Jobs offered us so much as a society and a workforce, but aging the Steve Jobs, the one we lost, is missed for his confidence and long-term vision. His cockiness was tempered by his complete confidence in the value of his people to bring beauty and utility into our lives. For him, his age and experience brought us the ability to be new but also incorporate core principles and experience.

Look across your cubicle at the oldest and the youngest member of your team and stop seeing dollar signs and health-benefit calculations.  Isn’t it time we fostered a workplace where both sides began to listen to each other?

Embracing technology is merely about being heard and valued for the older workforce. It is shoved in their face by the newest employees who immediately discard their value because they don’t text or have an Instagram account.

Is that what will change your business–everyone having an Instagram account?

Or would it be that side-by- side, the ones with a longer-term vision and the ones with a short-range technology passion start to listen to each other and share their own unique knowledge?

Perhaps if the 15+ employee wasn’t in fear of being fired in our “at-will” workforce and replaced by a lower salary in the 5+ category, there would be more sharing of core strengths. Just as the 3-5 employee wouldn’t feel the need to roll their eyes to management in an effort to be valued for something they know so much about.  Both sides equal value to a company. And it would be a whole lot easier if management began to value the combination of youth and experience and not just the visual appearances of technological trends.

What we hate about Gen Y is their brashness and disconnection. And what we hate about the aging Gen Xers is their stubbornness and disconnection.

The insight here is that they are both disconnected from each other. 

That is a management problem.
That is a mission statement problem.
That is a company culture that forgot why it does what it does problem.

Valuing employees shouldn’t be generational.

It should be focused on the value of their creative union.  Some bring “awesomeness and energy” and some bring ” realism and practicality”.

That is what wisdom is.  And that is what we all miss about Steve jobs…. his phenomenal, 15++ wisdom.

When was the last time you were asked to mentor someone?  Is there a mentoring program at your workplace?  Can you share how it works?

Maria Bereket is a Social Media Stress Reliever! She is a Social Media Trainer & Small Business Strategist who helps busy professionals and educators feel stress-free when setting up their social media profiles and marketing programs. And if you are curious, she is an Aging Gen-Xer with the heart and soul of Gen Y! Design Bear Marketing is her Social Media & Design Company. @mbear88 http://www.DesignBearMarketing.com

Source of photos: Dave Simons, The Economist; and Time Magazine.

Originally Posted on LinkedIn: http://www.LinkedIn.com/in/mariabereket

business, customers, Marketing, Personal Brand, Social Media

The world you desire can be won

to-do-list

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all.  Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle.  The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.
AYN RAND

As with so many things that change when the clock strikes midnight announcing the new year, our lives are given a moment to review the past and embrace the future.  For every business, there are tax consequences, employees who are reviewed and let go or promoted, new laws take effect…it is all new!

“Check your road and the nature of your battle,” wise words to guide our lives and business.  Look at the direction we are heading and then make modifications, but use the New Year Resolution as an opportunity to really focus on the end goal over the next months. Get the To Do List done.

For those of you who had your fill of articles and new stories on social media, perhaps this is the year to really embrace the movement and create the spark that is missing from your business and career.  Baby steps are all that are required, but steps none the less.

2015 Social Media Goals Part 1: Steps 1 to 4

1.Define the End Goal: If increased sales are the end game in 2015, then look first at increasing your current client engagement with your employees and company.  How can you communicate better?  How can your employees engage your customers more with your expertise and services?  Perhaps it is time to get that Blog started, create an Instagram account, or just revamp that newsletter that no one reads because it is outdated.  Focus the process on the goal.  Get open and honest feedback from employees and then let them help you in the process.

2. Assemble Your Team: Your social media force for action. I get it, cost cutting makes hiring new people, especially “social media” people impossible, but if the goals are solid and the process strong, then it may really be the time to get those sparks fanned into a real fire.

  • Social Media Strategist: Someone who can turn those goals into a long-term, day-to-day social media system.  This may be the only position that you must consider hiring from outside because they can get the structure in place for current employees to take over.
  • Content Manager: Yes, it is a job!  Writing relevant content directed toward your goals and the needs of the customer are essential in today’s 15-second-attention-span-world.  This includes all content–website, printed materials, tweets, posts, and eNews.
  • Community Coordinator:  Here is “command central.”  This is where the wall turns into a wonderful circle of post-it-notes with themes and messages that are spread across the social media platforms you have created.  It is where you respond to Yelp reviews and thank people for Tweets and shares on Facebook.  It is the ears and eyes of the customer; where all the conversations and information take place.
  • Analyst:  And don’t get all freaked out over this.  Someone can do this job.  It is just a collection of data on how your strategy is working, or not working.  It is someone who understands keywords and your brand goals.  This is the longest term position because social media takes time to grow and prosper.  This is where the baby steps will happen.
  • Social Media Manager:  This is the person who can get you all together every single month to plan and grow this very important marketing initiative. They are on top of every single thing going on with every platform and they are right there stoking the flames toward your year end goals.

Roles may cross-over and be one or two people combined, but they need to be in place and accountable for the year end goals to work.Define them, it is part of the process for success.

3. Strategy. Strategy. Strategy:  Get the team together and write it all out.  Answer the questions, and listen to the really tough answers.  What is your brand?  What is your brand voice?  Who really are your customers?  What information do they need?  How best can you offer that information?  These are just the tip of the iceberg questions when it comes to creating your social media strategy.  Follow the lead of the Strategist on the team and make sure they understand the big picture.

4.  Be Consistent: If this single factor is not in place, for the entire year, your efforts may get one or two good moments, but you will never turn those baby steps into a real, living breathing social media marketing program.  Everyone in the company needs to know what you are doing and be a part of the process.  Social Media Marketing is not just for MBA’s, it is the culture and core of your business today.  It is your brand.  It is what makes the consistency absolutely doable.

Steps 1 to 4 are just the beginning of the process begin to create success in the new age of business.  Next week we will talk about Employee Engagement.

..it can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it is your.

Feel free to send me an email with your questions and progress.
Part II Next week.

#socialmedia #branding #2015 #contentmarketing #goals

business, customers, Marketing, Social Media

Finding Your Written Voice

chart 8

The most common concern that people have when faced with the task of writing a company blog, tweet or post is: “what should I say?”

I offer a simple solution:
Forget about what to say and focus more on how you say it!

Your business and professional life are full of stories to write about in social media posts. You can Google topics in your industry and probably write out several months worth of relevant, informative posts that your customers would love to have as reference points. But what makes those pieces of information relevant and authentic is the sound of the voice you speak when writing.

“Sound?” you say. “Written words don’t have sound!”

Of course, written words don’t have sounds, but they do have a voice.

Technology may have made it easier to write out words and then spread them quickly across the internet to thousands of people, but technology left out the human connection that it takes to resonate with buyers and customers.

So think about that quote for a moment:

“Speak to the dog, in the language of the dog, about what’s in the heart of the dog.”

Your written voice must contain within it the values and passion that you have for the messages you want people to hear. Your written voice must carry in it the purpose and reasons why you are who you are. What you do is of no importance to the customer because in our social media world they have already found you among the millions of voices that beckon their attention.

Who you are, matters. Why you do what you do, matters.

That is what is in the heart of the dog: values, passion, emotion, purpose, vision, relationships, and conversations. All intangible things that do not involve profit and loss, line item budgets, and overseas manufacturing.

Start by figuring out why you started your business.
Then figure out what truly drives your career.
And finally, figure out the core passion that makes you different from all the other voices and you will have found your true voice. The voice of the dog.

And then?

“Speak to the dog…about what is in the heart of the dog”.

Not what is in the heart of your business, or your last board meeting, or even in the results of the survey monkey. What is in the heart of your customers is usually a value system that makes them “get what you do” because they know and understand why you do it.

They just get you. And that, my internet friends, is the voice of the dog!

#smallbiz, #content, #contentmarketing, #socialmedia, #designbear, #customers, #values, #valuedrivenbusiness

business, customers, Marketing

Your Business is Still About Customers

Poor Service

Consider this:

80% of executives believe their company is delivering a superior customer experience, yet in 2013, only 8% of companies surveyed received a top grade from their customers.”

Interesting. Only 8% got top marks for customer service…why do think that is? With all the tools and data we have at our fingertips today, 80% of executives believe they are giving good service, but somewhere things got lost in translation.

Isn’t social media suppose to give us all the things we need to make our customers happy? All those cool sites to post stuff on so we stay in contact with customers on a daily basis. And what about the other hundreds of “free” ways to get the word out about your latest products and services–customers love all that stuff, right? The kitten posts? All those people who “liked” your kitten photos? Is this really what your customers want?

Social Media is not a replacement for good old customer service and it certainly isn’t going to help the guy who wrote in ketchup. It isn’t a strategy, in fact, when it comes to customer service things haven’t changed at all. Facebook is a tool for business. It can’t help the guy waiting to order his lunch, but it will impact that restaurant when that ketchup photo goes viral. Business is still about the people we serve. That is what counts. The customers we serve. All the tweeting and posting in the world mean nothing without customer service.

So here goes, a simple checklist to get back on track:

1. Website: By the time people come through your door they have made 80% of their decision to buy from you. They don’t want your brochure; they want to see how your product looks or works. They already know what it costs, and they know your price is something they can afford. Customers are doing their homework on the internet. By the time they get to you, they are ready. At that point its how they are treated. (And if they are not coming through your door, it’s time to review the information are you offering them.)

2. Be Where They Are: If you are in business, then you probably already know who your best customers are, you just need more of them. That “new-fangled-social-media-thingy” exists. That is where your customers are, so figure out which sites they love, and then get out there and have a conversation. Don’t know where to start? Find your competitors sites and see what they are doing. It’s ok to look, in fact, its expected. Learn from them.

3. Optimizing Content: One of the worst things business owners do is that they go out and set up all the social sites they can think of and then start posting “look at me” signs. It takes a lot of hours to post and generate content on the internet, so why not step back and figure out which posts work for you, and which ones do not. We call that optimizing and that could be something as simple as using keywords in your descriptions. Don’t just post to post, post to become relevant, searchable and customer focused. If you don’t have time to read how to “optimize”, then hire someone to teach you how to do it. It doesn’t have to be hard, or difficult, but it is necessary.

4. Personalize: This is a part of marketing that has changed. One ad in the local paper does not bring in lots of new customers. Just like one post or one online ad will not make you a millionaire. Find your core customer and offer them what they want. Be laser focused on their needs, who they are, what they like, what they don’t like…and then give it to them. It’s not “all mom’s”, it is “moms with pre-school children who have food allergies”, or maybe its “middle-aged men and women who have lost a significant person in their lives and they want to feel connected again”. That could be a great pizza ad—on one site and a totally different pizza ad on another site. Same pizza place, different, personalized message.

5. Step Back. It is necessary and more than OK to take a step back once in a while. How can you possibly know if your message is correct and getting to the right people if you don’t stop and take a good long look? Being organized, getting organized takes time and a plan; so stop rushing around trying to meet the needs of everyone, everywhere, and figure out where you are. Once you know that, you can move on to where you want to be.

6. Strategize: So where exactly do you want your business to go? Yeah, we all want customers who buy stuff, but where exactly do you want to be? How much stuff do you want to sell? Are you changing lives or just getting rid of inventory? It is not possible to effectively use social media sites if you do not understand where you want to go. People don’t care what you do, they care why you do it. That is part of making a strategy that works in social media.

7. Lead Don’t Manage: And now let’s deal with your low-cost “intern.” How on earth can a 20-something intern possibly know what and where to post your most important thoughts if you haven’t given them your mission statement and a training manual? And more important than that, why would you want a 20-something intern to post things on the internet without a very clear set of rules? There is nothing wrong with having your intern manage your social media, but they need you to lead them. In fact, your whole company needs to operate with a clear mission that has specific goals attached them. That empowers them to do the job you need, and it forces you to become the leader you always dreamt you would be.

So take a moment. A breath. Now figure it out–before your competitors do!

Quoted Data by Forrester Analysis 1/14
Image: IstockPhoto.com

business, Marketing, Personal Brand, Social Media

4 Tips on How To Tell Your Story

From Story to Success

We always get a warm, fuzzy feeling when hearing a friend tell the story of how they met their “one true love.” It’s a magical moment when our own heart feels happiness that someone has bucked the system and found that one person who lights up their life. Its a universal feeling too, hearing a story of how someone, or something began. It has all the elements of a good movie—chance meetings, a note on a napkin, a crisis, mistaken identities, an insurmountable obstacle, and then fate intervenes, and out of the crisis is born a story of success. Sometimes its love, sometimes its survival, and sometimes, it is how your business began.

I use to live in Washington D.C. back when we rented video’s. Blockbuster was everywhere, but I went around the corner to a small, dimly lit shop that had only a quarter of the selection of movies. There was the same man there seven days a week. Always smiled and nodded when people came in and never left from behind the counter. Every time I went, he was there. And every time I went, he remembered me. Early in my visits he asked me about a necklace I wore. It reminded him of his hometown, a small village outside of Cairo where he was from. He told me how he always dreamed to come to America and have a video store. “A strange dream,” I thought, but for him, his eyes lit up as he told me how much he loved the old black and white Hollywood films. He would watch them with his grandfather and he would dream of having all those movies surrounding him for people to enjoy….and he wanted those people to be in America.

His prices were more than Blockbuster, and certainly he did not have the large selection that people would tell me about, but I was connected to him. I wanted him to succeed because I too had watched old movies with a grandparent growing up, and I would dream my dreams nestled close to her watching Bogie and Bacall. I was invested in his rags-to-riches dream because he touched my heart and in the three years I lived there I never once went to Blockbuster. I had a connection to his little shop.

How many times have you shopped somewhere just because of the story? Like Vineyard Vines, where two brothers started by selling ties out of the back of station wagon? And have you ever eaten a Baci candy? Wrapped inside is a saying of love in English and Italian–because they want everyone to be loved–I just just love that. Every day we are surrounded by the giants of retail and industry and we make choices by what our hearts tell us to do. We choose a small Montessori school because the director tells a story about her children going to a similar place when they were stationed in Italy, and “oh how their eyes still light up when they remember setting out the table linens for afternoon snack!.” Or how about the mechanic up the street who charges more than anybody else. He pops out from under the car and tells you how he and his son race cars on the weekend. He has pictures of the early days when he opened the shop so that he could be near his son and they could share their love of racing. We are connected to them.

Mechanic We love stories. We get wrapped up in TV drama shows because the characters become like our family. We feel for them, we identify with their pain and joy. Hollywood was built on that connection to our hearts.And our hearts is where we ultimately decide to put our money, so why not sit down and figure out your story, and put it into your overall strategy for business success?

Don’t think you can do it?You are too small? Too big of a business? Well Chobani Yogurt started with a story, and it was that simple, heartfelt story that made them into the yogurt powerhouse they are today, so sit down and write it all out.

 

Here are several tips to get you started:

Tip #1: Start with the beginning: how did your business get started? What obstacles were in the way? What passions were ignited? What was the inspiration for getting it off the ground? Where did the seed begin? Was there an “aha” moment that turned everything around? Write it out. Find the old photos and the articles, your first order or paycheck. Just sit down and write out the story and a brand campaign will follow that reaches out to people, from their heart.

Tip #2: Who were the people that helped to get this thing going? I am talking about the Obi Wan Kenobi folks in your life. Mentors who challenged you to get started, pushed you perhaps. Or what about the naysayers? Some big ugly monster types who kept telling you that the sky was falling and you would fail? We need to have heroes and tyrants in order to make a story believable, and personal. We all have our critics as well as our supporters. Who were yours?

Tip #3: Why do you do what you do? What was the deep dark mission and purpose that really got this whole thing ignited? Find that and write it out, and you will have the strongest, most enduring (and endearing) strategy to success. These are small parts of the story that light up your eyes, even put a tear in them. And it cannot be dollar signs, or a laundry list of how you do what you do. It has to be the why…why you do what you do?

Tip #4: And if you really don’t have a heartfelt start-up story, then find one in your employees, or suppliers. Find rich rewarding stories in the people you serve, your customers. Who are they? How did they change, evolve, grow, and change because of you? Find their pictures and tell their stories.

It’s all there, your marketing strategy for the next five years. Its your elevator pitch, and your mission statement all in one. It is the heart and soul of your business, and we are all waiting to hear what you have to say….

So what is one business that you went to because they had a good story? Did you share their story with others?

Photo Credits: IStockphoto.com and Mechanic by Philip Bitnar via Wikimedia Commons

Published on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/mariabereket/

business, innovation

The Myth of The Team

Anyone who has ever worked with a team, or managed one, knows that teams are an amazing way to success.  You probably have the poster hanging on your employee break room wall:

T  – TOGETHER
E  – EVERYONE
A  – ACHIEVES
M – MORE

It is true, there is no “I” in Team, but in reality, without the “I” you have problems.

“I” stands for an Individual.  One person leading, creating, inspiring, and living the mission of the business. If you take a look at your “team” right now, you can probably pick out the individuals on that team who are fulfilling that promise (about 20%.)  They are the ones that not only get it done, but they are excited to do more!  The other 80%?  Those are your slackers, complainers, whiners, and mediocre paper pushers who are monopolizing most of your day with petty issues.

In theory when you put the two groups together you will have one cohesive team that will not only produce a higher level of results, but will incentivize the 80% to more productivity. In theory.

Cy Wakman, author of Reality-Based Leadership, points out that there is another, more real possibility when working with a team, that what you actually have is:

 “the worst of both worlds: maybe no one is ostentatiously taking credit, but behind the scenes, everyone is still allowed to think that he worked harder than others and can shirk responsibility for mediocre results.”

We have all either been on that team, or managed them. Outside of the “team” environment, everyone is talking about who is really doing the work and who isn’t.  Conflicts are internalized, complaints interrupt your day, and when the project they are working on fails you might have pushed a few of your superstars to start looking for another job. And what is left is the 80% who feel justified to complain at the water cooler about how much your business sucks.

And what happens when the team does succeed?  When you take the “I” out and don’t give attention to the people who really did the bulk of the work they might stay, for a while but eventually you will lose them to a company that will recognize their achievements.  Is that the goal of achieving more?

Teamwork does work.  But a key component is missing. Cy Wakeman points out:

The team either hit the mark or it didn’t, and it’s important for each individual to account for his actions, assumptions, behaviors and choices that contributed to the shortcomings of the team.”

This concept works in basketball, team after team, championship after championship. If corporate managers and small business owners operated their teams more like a basketball team the results would be astounding!

Think of your favorite basketball team.  One cohesive group of athletes supporting each other, but within that team is a set of clearly defined individual roles, led by a coach.  Each player has a designated position and expectations about what they are to do when on the court.  The goal is winning, for the team, but for the individual players they have a clearly defined set of objectives they must each achieve in order for the whole team to succeed.

Sure there are superstars on the team, why not?
Who wouldn’t want to play with the top people in their field?

Focus on the “I”.  It is not hard to organize a team around individual efforts and accolades. Management needs to give a clearly defined outcome and then, assess honestly the individuals involved so they can assign tasks according to their strengths. Once done there is a solid possibility that this team will not only succeed, but there will be a whole lot less water-cooler chit-chat.

One Final Step. Like your basketball team, there has to be accountability.  They get called back in the locker room, with replays that point out both the good and the bad.  In this setting, it is expected and required to win the championship.  So why can’t your team run that way?

Be clear in your goals, roles and expectations.  Assign tasks clearly.  And then, pull everyone together when the project is done to review the outcome.  Good or bad you can make the results of that final meeting a launching pad for the next big project.

What do you think of putting the “I” back in team?

 

A note about Reality-Based Leadership: Read it. Read it again.
Give it to all of your managers.
Reality-Based Leadership by Cy Wakeman.

business, customers, Marketing, Social Media

What is the Living, Breathing Part of Your Business?

I just came back from a local business owner networking group.  Our monthly meetings are informative and inspiring, but no matter the predetermined topic, eventually we wrap things up with everyone complaining about social media.

Today I heard all the reasons why small businesses do not need a blog.  No time. No money. No staffing. No results. My observation:  FEAR.  Fear of writing.  Fear of content.  Fear that customers will read it.  Fear that customers won’t read it. Fear of making mistakes. And most importantly, fear brought on by a lack of understanding at the simplicity of creating a blog.

It’s important to understand this: Social media is not about one time hits and viral posts that make it on the Ellen Show. It’s about building loyal followers, over time.  Followers that really enjoy what you have to say.  They get you! They want to experience your process, your thoughts, and your vision of the future.  They identify with your company values.  You are part of their Newsday.

How simple is this: One day you have the Engineering department post some cool blueprints and then the staff in HR write a post about how they collected food for the local food bank (with pictures and passion of course.) Finally, your design team posts a few sketches (because who doesn’t love seeing the sketches of products next to the actual, final version?)  The reader gets to be a part of your process like a secret agent.  It is not about selling or presenting your mission statement.  Your blog is a living, breathing part of your company. …the right brain part!

“Blogging is to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.”    Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic

Just focus on the extreme sports part of that quote, and don’t freak out about the writing part.  Believe me; every company has lots of things to say.  And I am confident that you have more than enough people who work for your company who can (and would love too) contribute to your company blog.  You just need to ask. Ask who is interested.  Ask for topics.  Ask people to contribute photos of anything related to the company.  Ask people for articles that relate to their jobs.  “Many hands make light work,” so show the people behind the process and you will find loyal followers who will buy your products and services.

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Need more convincing?

Here is the list on the importance of blogging:

  1. Blogging gives you a fast, cheap and fun way to spread information—and that includes marketing, public relations and branding efforts. Some statistics claim that businesses that regularly blog generate 54% more website visits than those that do not blog.
  2. Blogging is an effective way to court new customers and if you include some form of call-to-action (contests, discounts, freebies) which will take your visitors to a special landing page, you will find more appointments/orders for your sales department.
  3. Blogs which regularly publish fresh, fun, interesting and informative content (that is optimized for search engines of course) will grow organically, generating traffic beyond belief.
  4. Think of your blog as the perfect platform to launch new products and respond to any questions that potential or existing customers may have. This is especially true after your annual trade show.  Link your Pinterest page and share photos. Invite people to join in on the conversation.
  5. You do realize that you own your Blog, right?  You are not sending out press releases and packets to get “in the news.”  You own this, you are the news, and the beauty is that any department can step up to the plate and hit the ball!
  6. Blogging can support all your social media marketing efforts. It helps to make that overwhelming job seamless and coordinated.  Why wouldn’t it?  Your blog content gives you something to talk about on your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Create content (from a variety of departments) so that you have a mix of topics that will appeal to your whole audience.
  7. And do not forget, blogging gives your business a voice on the internet. Blogs give businesses an opportunity to explain their vision and passion, as well as their management philosophy.  It doesn’t have to be dry and hum drum, and it shouldn’t be!  Put in the proper tags and your company will show up more often where it counts, on the search engines.

One of the business owners at my networking meeting said that he read  “only 35% of businesses today are blogging.”  His perspective was that it wasn’t a proven tool.  My perspective is that you can establish yourself as a pioneer with a strong following before every business has a blog.  Of course you need to have a social media policy in place and someone who will coordinate content on your Social Media Calendar (both absolutely essential to success) but you can (and should) start that blog as soon as possible.  Just get it on the agenda and make it happen.  You will see results.

How has your company benefited from a regular blog? What challenges did you face in getting it started?

 

business, customers, Marketing, Social Media

Good Communications 101

Be a good communicator.

communication-project-manager

Everyone knows that in this Social media-marketing world, crowded with people of all ages, talking, tweeting, posting, reviewing, hash tagging….geez, how does one define a good communicator?

Like chit chat at a party, the noise being created today by “communications” is best described as chaos, but if you stop a moment and look around, you will see that nothing has changed from the days of three-martini lunches in smoke filled bars.  People want to make connections with each other. So put down your IPhone for a moment and figure out how to connect to people.

Writing, and I am not talking about novel/screenplay quality stuff.  I am talking about finding your voice in the written word.  Why do people freak out when it comes to writing out the simplest things?  The world of social media has given those fearful of writing a voice.  A one word-hashtag loving-emoticon-120 character-loving voice.  Better to make a connection and communicate something, then nothing at all.  Now that doesn’t mean you should write awful text.  Yes, you must write well.  Think about what your one word message is and then write about it.  Take time to look at it, decide if it says what you want.  Put it aside (if time permits) and then re-read and hit send.

Images.  I personally believe that humans think with their eyes. Use them. It is a known fact that posts with images get about two to three times more interaction than ones that are text only. Now a cute kitty will not make your quarter numbers more interesting, so think a moment before you attach irrelevant images to your posts, but add them.  Get a file going of images that resonate with you and when you are “writing” go there and see if anything makes sense to use with the posts. And remember that sometimes text is just as powerful as an image, step back and look at your communications.  What did you respond too?

Video. There are 60-year old women in the Midwest using YouTube to create thousands of followers over quilting…why then can’t you figure out how to use video to reach more people? Sit down and figure out what your 3 to 5 minute message should be.  Have props.  Take a speech class, or go to Toastmasters if you are uncomfortable with speaking, but find your voice and make a video.

Social Media has lots of mediums, pick one or two. Ok, Twitter and Facebook are the most talked about social media platforms, but there are other things that might suit you better. Google+, it is growing and easy to use. Yelp, a must in today’s service world.  Pinterest is your back up personality when it comes to business. SlideShare is my go to place when I want to see what the world is presenting. And do not forget to keep up your LinkedIn site.  It is your public resume.  Update it, post articles, and join groups.  Turn off the TV at night and begin to “socialize” a bit.

Respond.  And do it immediately or you will drown for sure. I have posted moderate to bad reviews on Yelp and when the owner responds quickly (or in many cases at all) it makes me feel like I matter to them and will give it another try.  And it’s not the freebies that work here, it is the response time.  If you got a letter in the mail you would respond, right?  Show you care.

Keep Your Focus.  Don’t let someone’s critique of your service make you freak out. Our parents were right when they told us, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.”  That is your mantra here.  Respond, but with a level headed approach.  Anger only hurts you.  Answer and respond to what they are really asking you.  Look within their posts and figure out what their agenda is and why they asked or posted such comments, then respond respectfully.

Good Luck!

Design Bear
http://www.designbsquared.com