Archive for the ‘Marketing’ category

Disconnect the dots

June 24, 2013

constellationIt was one of those coloring book games we played in the car on long road trips to grandma’s house. “Use your crayon to connect the dots and complete the constellations” the instructions said. But just when I was about to begin, I saw something different in that complex swarm of dots and tiny numbers.

Instead of starting at 1 and following the intended sequence, I went my own way. I still connected all the dots, but I drew a super cool Chinese dragon face with horns and a forked tongue. And then I added shading and detail beyond the simple line drawing I was supposed to complete. And I liked it.

How many times are you presented with a pattern or template in your job that seems stale, predictable or boring? And how often do you take the initiative to improve on it?

Following a predictable process is necessary for stability and consistency in business, but connecting disparate dots from unrelated content is the soul of innovation. And sometimes the only way to make room for that new thinking is to have the guts to disconnect someone else’s dot pattern first.

Sharpen your Crayola and go for it.

The purpose of Facebook

December 8, 2012

facebooklogoI just read a friend’s opinion on the purpose of Facebook, and it got me thinking. Facebook’s stated mission is “To make the world more open and connected.” Is that what it’s doing for you – connecting you and opening you up? As an amateur social scientist, I find Facebook fascinating. And it has fulfilled many personal purposes for me so far.

Here are just a few:

  • Holding myself accountable on big goals
  • Fundraising for charity through marathons and book sales
  • Sharing stuff that makes me laugh so others will laugh too
  • Learning how to heal an injury
  • Getting advice from experts in running, cycling and swimming
  • Helping friends get new jobs
  • Seeing what my high school crush looks like now
  • Promoting this blog where it can be shared easily
  • Relieving stress in the middle of a work day
  • Riffing on punch lines with professional comedians
  • Finding someone to ride bikes with
  • Buying and selling bicycle parts
  • Collaborating with fellow writers and motivational speakers
  • Reconnecting with family I haven’t seen since my youth, and discovering some I’ve never met
  • Enjoying beautiful art and photography
  • Kickstarting non-profit organizations
  • Finding courage to get through rough times

I won’t bother to list any downsides or dark sides here, mainly because I’m a bright side kind of guy and don’t want to dwell on negatives. I will conclude that Facebook has connected and opened up my world quite a bit. You could argue that I sometimes spend  too much time with it, but notice how many items above have ties to my physical world and face-to-face relationships… two worlds inextricably entwined.

What purpose has Facebook served for you?

Connect with me as a Facebook friend and see what Goadland is all about!

Easing the credit crisis

February 28, 2012

You probably thought from the title that you’d get in-depth advice on fixing the financial services industry. Ha! Sorry, I was not an Economics major. I was a Communications major. And we all know what you do when a Comm major comes to your door… you pay them and take your pizza. But I digress.

As a continuing student of communication, I sense a new kind of credit crisis looming today… people starving for idea credit.  We see politicians scramble to take credit for any shred of positive news, and we see them as slimy when they claim sole ownership.

Is there a credit crisis in your company culture? In tough times people are naturally nervous about keeping their jobs. It’s important to make sure your good work is recognized by the boss, but if you go too far it can be considered as over-trumpeting of your own accomplishments. I know I have been guilty of this from time to time.

I believe the collaborative culture in my company gets results because of constant “crowd-sourcing” from our awesome talent pool, and more importantly, because of shared ownership. This breaks down when one individual is glorified too much, especially when other team members have a big hand in the success. So how do you get “visibility,” without coming across as overly ambitious?

I know one sure-fire trick that will safely bring you more credit… give credit away. That sounds counter-intuitive, but you should make it a regular practice to publicly compliment those who help you achieve your goals, and cc their boss in an email.  Take them to lunch or send them a small gift or card. And then forget about it. I guarantee you will see good things come back your way when you deserve credit in the future.

More than compensation, more than benefits, more than the satisfaction of a job well done, people remember when they are appreciated… and usually return the favor.

Do you agree?

Let’s see what sticks

December 8, 2011

When my mom taught me how to cook spaghetti, she showed me one sure way to know when it was done.  You throw a noodle against the wall.  If it sticks, it’s ready. If it falls off, the pot needs to boil more.  This metaphor has worked its way into business brainstorm meetings for good reason.  When you’re searching for a creative new idea, you usually have to throw a bunch of ideas against the wall and see what’s still stuck after the bad ones fall away.

Larry, a Toastmaster friend of mine, asked me how I nourish my creativity.  For me it’s a lot like cooking spaghetti and seeing what sticks.  Creativity is not so much something you learn… it’s a process of letting go.  You force yourself to let go of all the rules, regulations, procedures, processes and guidelines you’ve been indoctrinated with, and then repeatedly ask yourself “Why?”, “Why not?” and What if?”

New ideas will start coming like noodles and you let them fly.  You don’t want to test just one or two, you want to splatter your entire kitchen wall with spaghetti curled into all sorts of cursive shapes spelling out new possibilities.  Don’t judge each noodle or look at it too long before you throw it. Get it up there on the wall first.  Only then can you really start relating the unrelated and testing each new idea for firmness.

Here are 3 practical suggestions for making sure your spaghetti throwing is not prematurely constricted:

  • Change your environment. Get out of the office and pick a different place to think, discuss or write.  I get some of my best ideas while running, driving or chilling with my iPad in the park.
  • Change who you talk to.  Consult people who are WAY out of your current company, industry or comfort zone… and mix together thinkers, talkers and doers.  This can be done in a conference room, coffee shop or social media discussion thread.
  • Change the question.  “Why”, “why not” and “what if” are powerful additives to get more ideas on the wall.  Buy your devil’s advocate friend a beer and let them tear your plan apart. This has been humbling and immensely helpful for me.

Creativity is not reserved solely for professional artists and performers.  If you have ever solved a problem with a fresh perspective, you have demonstrated creativity. Yes… you. The trick is in letting go and letting the spaghetti fly!  Think about that for a moment  – how can you connect dots without allowing yourself to see all the dots first?

Interview story time

August 17, 2011

I’ve interviewed hundreds of job candidates over the course of my career.  I don’t claim to be an interviewing expert, but I do have an educated opinion on what makes the difference between first and second place for candidates. To all my friends who are job hunting right now… please consider my unsolicited advice.

When you are interviewing for a new job, you are marketing and selling a product. The product is you. You have features and benefits that might be right for the boss across the table. Features are your skills.  Benefits are what you can do with them. 

Most resumes start as a list of bullet point facts – job titles, dates and responsibilities. What impresses me most is when a resume comes together as a compelling story, told with passion and integrity by the job candidate.

Each previous job on your resume is a chapter in the story and contains scenes with a setting, characters, action, conflict and resolution. You are the star, and how you reacted to circumstances in each scene provides clues about how you will react in the future. During an interview, your job achievements will be more compelling if you can articulately describe each situation, what action you took and the measurable result.

Transitions are also very important.  Why did you leave this scene and move on to the next?  Why are there blank pages in between these two chapters?  The interviewer is just trying to fill story gaps by asking you these questions.  You never know exactly what you will be asked, but you can still be prepared.

Every single time I interviewed for a job, I was asked to walk the interviewer through my resume and provide some color on what happened and the choices I made.  Your Situation/Action/Result scenarios can be written out in advance, rehearsed and refined. If you role play out loud with a friend or mentor beforehand, you are paving the way for a more confident performance in the actual interview.

Your career is a story. Tell it with enthusiasm and you’ll be a best-seller!

Do you have a tip for successful interviewing?  Please share it in the comments below!

When you are laid off

August 4, 2011

I have been laid off twice in my life. Both times were painful, yet both led to major leaps forward in my career.  I got some great advice during those troubling times, and I want to pass it forward to anyone who is in the same boat right now. Feel free to add more advice in the comments below and forward this post to a friend if you find it useful.  Here we go:

Move on.  Your new job is to find a new job and it starts now.  Every minute you spend wondering “why me?” is a wasted minute.  More often than not a layoff decision is based on priorities and fit, not talent or intelligence.  So start looking for a new fit with your head held high.

Refresh your resume with successes.  Listing responsibilities is not as powerful as describing recent measurable achievements.  Follow the Situation / Action / Result format and find a way to quantify what you’ve done.  These will also be the stories you tell in your interview, so practice them in advance.  Getting your resume into LinkedIn with the right keywords is NOT optional.

Your resume will not pick up the phone and get you an interview.  People in your network will.  Help your friends help you by doing the research up front on posted openings in their company, then also ask for referrals to their colleagues who may have unlisted openings. And sometimes your friend may have just the right opening for you on their team.

Get out there. Go to association meetings, join a Toastmasters club or take a class.  Meet people, ask what they do and really listen.  Prepare a short speech on what you’re all about and bring a business card.  Staying holed up in your house sending resumes all day is not enough (trust me on this one.)

Start consulting.  Immediately call your friends and ask if they know of any short-term projects that need doing.  Keep the commitment level low to get in the door, then show ‘em what you can do.  Contracting gives the company the ability to “audition” you, and gives you the ability to audition them.  The cash and self-esteem feel good too.

Confidence sells. You don’t have to know everything about a new job to be qualified for it.  Your abilities to learn, adapt, solve problems and communicate may be more important than “extensive experience.” And by far the most important quality you will be evaluated on is your attitude. So be positive and confident.

The fear, uncertainty and doubt from my layoffs are still vivid memories in my mind.  And so are the moments of triumph when I got a fresh start with a new opportunity. I share this out of love for my friends who are about to see a new door open for them.  You know who you are.  Go find that door and walk through it.

Nacho the shoe shiner

February 16, 2011

It was just 30 minutes before my flight in the Southwest Airlines terminal at LAX. I was juggling my laptop, roller bag and a cup of yogurt and granola when I plopped down in a seat near my gate. I looked up to see a bank of three pedestal chairs, and a sign with big red letters that read “Complimentary Shoe Shines.” I usually shine my own at home, but after a quick look at my beat-up dress shoes I decided “Why not?”

I took a seat in line at chair #3 and watched the solo shoe shine wizard in action – first he did the shoes for the guy in chair #1 followed by chair #2. The shoe shiner was a middle-aged man with dark curly hair and a bushy moustache, not unlike Donkey Kong’s Mario. He wore a blue bowling style shirt with a bright yellow collar, and his name sewn on the pocket in large yellow script – NACHO.

Nacho (probably short for Ignacio) tackled each pair of shoes with quiet enthusiasm. He expertly applied overall polish, careful touch-ups and finished off with a dramatic snap of the buffing cloth. I watched the other two guys give him hefty tips for the “free” service.

When Nacho got to my burgundy dress shoes, he paused for a moment and looked a little troubled. My brown laces were a little frayed, with white cotton filler poking through in spots. He dragged his finger across one of the laces and then looked up at me. He lifted his hands in a gesture that clearly meant “Dude, I can’t believe you’re walking around in shabby shoes like this!”

But he didn’t say a word out loud. He just pulled my old laces out and grabbed a new pair from the wooden drawer. After he finished making the leather look like new, he replaced my laces without even asking me if I wanted the new ones. Nacho was clearly a man who took pride in his work and didn’t want any “customer” to walk away without looking their best.

I thanked Nacho with a “Wow, they look like new!”, and tipped him way more than I would pay for a flat fee shoe shine. I’m certain that he makes a lot more in tips than if he charged a fee. More importantly, he reminded me that great rewards come to those who put their heart into their work, and your best marketing is a happy customer.

Hopefully you are able to treat your customers with the same attention to detail. And if your heart is not really in your work, maybe you should ask yourself where your heart really belongs?