All posts tagged marketing

“I shot an elephant in my pajamas.”
Sure, it may seem as natural as breathing to you and me, but English is a mighty perplexing language to the non-native speaker. Some words are spelled the same but pronounced differently, some sound the same but have different meanings – even capitalization and the placement of commas can change everything. So with apologies to Groucho Marx, consider that first, simple sentence.

What’s it really mean? Was the elephant wearing your pajamas? Were you wearing pajamas? Or was the elephant in your jammies in the figurative sense (like by slipping his/her trunk up your pants leg?)
See? And while this example is sorta silly, similar slipups abound in corporate life. The other day I got an email that began with this sterling prose:

“Hi, as we discussed you are both going to work together.”

Wait, what?

My more attractive readers may recall that last November, I posted a blog called “How to Get My Attention” where I gleefully unloaded on a spammy email I received, but heaped praise on (and acted upon) a good one. This piece today is certainly related in that it involves bad communication, but the email example from last year was poorly researched and not applicable to me. This time I just don’t know what the #&% they’re talking about.

So what’s a BBQ loving, cigar stubbing, sales grubbing Texas country music fan to do?

I’m going to fight fire with fire (more on that later.) But first, I want to be sure I’ve at least tried to convince you that this is a real problem today, and not just me on a jet-lagged rant. Consider the following:

  • A Watson Wyatt study found that companies with effective communication are much more likely to have turnover lower than the industry average. With the recruitment and replacement process costing as much as several times a given person’s salary, we are talking about real money here.
  • Private company studies consistently reveal that poor (i.e. inadequate, contradictory, insensitive or otherwise incomplete) communication hurts employee morale, which is directly correlated to increased absenteeism (again – ka-ching ka-ching). But similar studies show that when employees believe they are in the loop, absenteeism is below average.
  • And perhaps most alarming, consider this – if you are not communicating effectively with your employees, what do you think is happening when they speak to customers? Are they magically translating your garbled messages into soothing marketing magic? No, chances are they are frustrating your customers because they are frustrated themselves. And in my experience, frustrated customers won’t do business.

Here’s an example of poor communication from the customer perspective. You’ve done your research and you find the truck you want at a local dealer. You walk in, greet the salesperson, point to the vehicle, and say you’re willing to pay X dollars for it. The salesperson says it’s worth at least X, but you meet in the middle and shake hands. Elapsed time – two minutes.

Then Elvis canters in astride a hot pink unicorn with “Ride of the Valkyries” as a stirring soundtrack. Exactly – you are dreaming. The only thing you can do at a car dealer in two minutes is find a parking spot. It will take your sales drone at least four trips to the cage to determine if they can sell you anything. And this is poor communication. Why not have the minimum acceptable cash price on all vehicles available to the sales staff all the time? Then deals can get done without the endless frog marches around the showroom. Poor communication sucks for customers and employees. Think it’s a coincidence that Carmax stock has outperformed its industry for 15 years while being a perennial member of the Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” list?

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I think not. I believe that well-informed employees are healthier, happier, and more productive. This flows right to the bottom line, and (dare I say it?) will make me look good.

Poor communication can have even greater consequences for brands. If you’re a marketing person, you know that brands aren’t just something you do during the day. You live and breathe your brand. You have to, because it’s a living thing that can wither and die if you don’t feed it, flatter it, and talk it up to others consistently.

  • You spend many tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on brand-building activities, and then (for example) your social media staff launches a Twitter campaign the day after your fleet is grounded due to labor issues. Poor internal communication – this happened to Qantas Airlines in 2011.
  • How about this one – you’re one of the largest tobacco companies in the world (possibly the galaxy) and you release a study concluding that premature deaths from smoking are a good thing due to reduced healthcare and pension costs. Unless your PR staff are all named Mr. Scrooge, how do you explain that gem from Phillip Morris in 1999? Epic failure in communication.
  • Some folks just can’t help themselves. In 2007 the Spanish retailer Zara pitched a handbag featuring colorful flowers, bicycles, and…swastikas? The bags were pulled, and presumably the entire design and communications teams were told why this was unacceptable (and then fired.) But seven years later Zara went off the rails again, marketing a sweater the resembled a concentration camp uniform, complete with a huge yellow Star of David. Can’t fix stupid, right?

Obviously, poor communication is both personal and corporate. So what do I intend to do about this crisis? I plan to beat offenders with their own sticks.

For example, my response to the “Hi, as we discussed…” email mentioned earlier was “yes.” If someone is either incapable of or won’t take the time to ask a coherent question, then my response will be equally nebulous and nonsensical. Time is money, people. I can be much more productive by ignoring those who can’t tell me what they want or need and shifting my attention to people who fully engage their brains. At the same time, I will be sure that I am crystal clear in my statements, instructions, and messages.

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I want to be successful, I want my people to be successful, and I want Wright’s Media to be successful and an industry leader. To be successful in 2016 and beyond, you must have a clear vision of what you want to be. Then you have to live it (personally or corporately) while cranking up the marketing machine and spreading your gospel of greatness. Sub-par communication during any part of this effort will slow it down, derail it, or worse. Do it well, and you will save money, save time, boost sales, increase customer and employee engagement, create brand advocates – all things that will improve the performance of your company.

 

I believe it was French author André Gide who wrote:
“There are many things that seem impossible only so long as one does not attempt them.”
Hmmm.
Coming from a Nobel Prize winner, I have to say that his statement leaves me somewhat underwhelmed. Sure, if I never tried to tie my shoes or blow my own nose I might think these were impossible tasks, but I’ve been on this rock for a few decades now and have a good feel for what I can do. Or do I?

Am I falling into a trap here?

By admitting I have carnal knowledge of my own Force, am I limiting my potential accomplishments?
(I’m taking a moment to smirk, as I was just about to ridicule those who don’t aim high, making the irony a 12 on the Alanis Morissette scale.)

So let’s think about this – is there really any difference between blowing my nose and hitting my sales goal? I’ve done both, so I know each is possible. Maybe a more relevant question would be about something I’ve never tried, like can I bench press 500 pounds? Just to be sure, I will try it right now (ouch – no way.) So it is clearly not possible for me to bench press 500 pounds. Today.

What about next week, or next year? Yes, no, or maybe so?

In life, almost everything can be reduced to a math problem. Work done equals force times distance. Obviously, to lift 500 pounds as I’ve described, I’ll need to move the weight a couple of feet. But I’ll also need to apply considerable force, and I’ve already discovered that I’m not yet strong enough to generate that force. Like Captain Kirk said more than once on Star Trek, more power will be needed.

And what is the definition of power? Power = work done/time taken

After consulting my trusted personal trainer, I learned that in order to build enough muscle to create enough force to lift 500 pounds, I’ll have to spend three hours every day for two years lifting increasingly heavier weights. Only then will I be able to reach my goal. It will be very difficult, require unyielding discipline and personal sacrifice, but it’s not impossible. What about lifting 750 pounds? How about 1,000? It’s still a math problem, just with different inputs.

So what is possible? If you can turn it into an equation, everything is possible.

Let’s revisit the sales goal example. For 2016, my target is 50% higher than the previous year. How can I possibly increase my sales that much? Again, it’s a math problem.
If “work done” is my total sales, then distance is the number of business days in one year, and force is the sales per day needed to reach my new goal. Obviously, the number of business days can’t be changed, but sales per day is variable. How do I increase sales per day to reach my new goal?
You guessed it – more power.

In reviewing the math, the secret here is to squeeze more sales out of each business day, thus increasing power and the ability to generate the necessary force to hit my goal. There are about 240 business days every year, and I’ve got to make every minute count.

This is how I do it.

Decide What I Want – This is an essential component to anyone’s success. In this case, the goal is to hit my new sales target. Not try my best, not get close, not work hard and we’ll see – hit it.

Make a List – Every night after work, prepare a list for the next morning. Include everything you need to do, even if you don’t think you’ll get to all of it. There is nothing like the satisfaction of completing a task and crossing it off a list with a flourish.

It takes lots of small victories to win the war.

Don’t Waste Time – When I sit at my desk (home or office), I am ready to engage and work. I have my coffee, my phone is charged, laptop is running, non-essential material is put away, etc. If those little duties are not done they are not distractions – they are excuses.

Organize your desk, clear your mind, and focus.

Create Time – If the number of business days can’t be increased, the only mathematical way to pump up your sales is to be more productive. One way is to create new work time. If you need to walk to your car, take your phone along and make a call. Driving somewhere at lunch? Use the time in transit to firm up a couple of appointments. If you find yourself waiting in a lobby for a meeting, fire off a few emails. Standing in the kitchen waiting for ice? Ask your colleague that question you keep forgetting about – you’ll probably avoid the time-suck of a meeting later.
When you increase sales using the same amount of business days, you increase power, and so forth and so on.

Create Your Own LuckI blogged about this a while back. According to research, people who are lucky share four traits:

An awareness of their environment

The ability to listen and trust their intuition

A generally positive life outlook

Resilience and the ability to learn from hard knocks

As I pointed out last April, luck can be learned. And in sales, an edge is sometimes all you need.

Be the Man (or the Woman) – I will apologize in advance for this paragraph, but it will be full of catchy phrases and buzzwords. Great salespeople are always on stage. Even if you’re not talking to anyone, someone might be deciding whether to come talk to you.

If you’re great, you’re confident.

If you don’t project confidence in yourself and in your products, what message are you sending into the universe? And for this last nugget, I turn to Mike Damone, last seen back in 1982 at Ridgemont High School. He said, and I quote, “Act like wherever you are, that’s the place to be.” People will drive out of their way to do business with knowledgeable, confident extroverts – they are everyone’s ice breakers, lemonade makers, and favorite neighbors.

It’s near the end of Q1 and I’ve successfully generated enough power to crank up my average sales per day to hit my target. I’m feeling pretty good, and with two weeks left in the quarter, I ain’t done yet.

So in addition to bitching and smoking, it turns out the French are also very profound.

JaysonPhotography / Shutterstock.com

Things I’ve missed while off of Facebook for nearly two weeks

Being off of Facebook is traumatic. Endless calls, texts and emails flood your phone asking when you will be back. I’ve missed my Facebook life as much as you’ve missed me – and decided to outline the things I’ve missed the most, while also serving you personal updates in true Facebook fashion.

Quizzes

Let me take a moment to express my appreciation for knowing which Harry Potter character you are or what your name says about you – its life changing. I can’t believe I’ve missed the weekly round of quizzes this last week and spent my whole weekend searching Buzzfeed to find the latest quiz.

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I originally thought I would end up with Mulan because I’m such a badass. However, Buzzfeed knew me better than that when they actually told me I was Cinderella. It makes sense, how many times am I obsessed with my socks and shoes?

Buzzfeed: 1 Brian: 0

Beautiful Me

So why are all of my friends posting 5 pictures that make them feel beautiful? We all know that you take 10 selfies before finding that right angle for your duck face.

When I was challenged to select only 5 images that made me feel beautiful – I’ll admit, I had to stop and watch a few Dove commercials to find inspiration. (Is this the part when I tag 5 of my friends to SPAM my newsfeed with their selfies?)

Beautiful Me

300 Candy Crush Invitations

I offer my deepest apologies to all of my Facebook friends who sent me over 300 Candy Crush invitations in the last week. Typically I would go through and read each and every one of them and I’m literally ‘crushed’ that I wasn’t able to do that in a timely manner.

I hope that this response can serve as a blanket for those invitations I missed:

Stop sending me that crap – get off the couch and go run, or something.

Facebook Ads

Dearest Facebook – while you might think that you know me better than I know myself – one thing I haven’t missed during my time off of your social network was the ads.

I get it, Mr. Zuckerberg, you’ve got to worry about your bottom line, but can you at least offer me items that I would halfway be interested in? Perhaps cigars or bowties, for example?

But a Nuvaring? Really? Perhaps the ad platform needs a little attention.

Throw Back Thursday

I’m not going to lie – I enjoy TBT. When else can we all look back and think ‘Why did our parents make us wear that?” or “I can’t believe she went to prom with me even though I was wearing a zoot suit.”

I’ve missed this weekly holiday on Facebook and am definitely looking forward to more bell bottoms, platform shoes and retro patterns that we all chose to wear on a daily basis.

Brag-Book

Last but certainly not least – I missed all of the ‘brag-book’ posts. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you are a ‘brag-book’ user.

There’s nothing more annoying than seeing update after update of my friends attempting to 1-up the others. How about we all live our own lives and be real on Facebook. Agree?

The fun has lasted but after getting so many texts, emails and even phone calls about my Facebook silence – I’ve decided, for all of your sake, that I will activate my account again. So…who’s up for finding out which state I should live in?

 

Featured image courtesy of JaysonPhotography / Shutterstock.com

January was a great month for Wright’s Media.  Our sales team crushed it all month, and we ended up at 140% over our goal.  But if you think that’s good enough, you don’t know my sales team, and you REALLY don’t know me.

While the results of our hard work took some of the sting away from last year’s totals, we’re nowhere near where we want to be.  Yes, we patted ourselves on the back for a job well done; but we didn’t buy ourselves flowers and a box of chocolates.  Why?

Because, as I said, we’re not where we want to be.  If you can show me an athlete that is happy enough with individual accolades without being on the team that wins it all, I’ll show you a liar.  Athletes live for the ticker-tape parade, the throngs of fans lining the streets of their team’s town cheering and waving.  They live for the front page story detailing their march to being champions.  My sales team and I are no different.  We live for the ringing of the bell, the high fives, the recognition from our peers.  But settling for just meeting our goal?  No way.

Being just good enough doesn’t cut it; my sales team and I are like the Pro Bowl player that seeks the Lombardi trophy for the proverbial icing on their career’s cake.  For right or wrong, without a championship on an athlete’s resume, there’s always an understood asterisk.  No championship means there will always be that lingering “What if?” for any sports star that doesn’t have to set aside some time in their calendar for a meeting with the President.  Don’t believe me?  Look up John Elway, Jerome Bettis and Steve Young, three players who were tops in their respective positions on the football field but, until their teams won the Super Bowl, were always regarded as just shy of greatness.

Athletes, like my sales team and me, love being on top when the final second ticks off the clock.  We are addicted (in a good way) to the natural high that comes from knowing that your best got you past what you thought you were capable of.  We love the preparation, the competition, and the all-out effort that is needed to attain a goal.  But once we attain that goal, we get a gander of what lies beyond it and we want some of that, too. We see records, we set them, and then we steamroll over them.

The only thing my sales team and I want to hear right now is the sound of victory. More bell rings.  More high fives.  More broken records on our sales turntable.  Yes, we had a great January.  But that month is over, and we want to make February a DAMN great month.  Ask Steve Young about what winning Super Bowl XXIX meant for him personally and his place among the all-time greats.  He understands.

I’m sure you’ve seen the NFL films video of Steve Young on the sidelines during the closing moments of Super Bowl XXIX, having a teammate remove the “monkey” from his back.  That might be a cool video to show, as I think it perfectly illustrates what winning the big game (blowing sales records away) means to anyone who has done well but wants to be great.