June 12, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Read: Cover to Cover (Many Times)
Categories: Business, Marketing, Selling, Best Seller
We all say “yes” to people we know all the time. “Hey, could you do me a favor…” . Just today, I had a call from a friend of mine in Australia. He wanted to send some beer (ha! Ozzies – typical) to some guys in Vancouver, Canada who had done him a favor and he was having trouble finding a source that could do it (try googling “beer/Canada”). He started out by outlining his dilemma - the great favor his mates in Canada had done for him and that he wanted to thank them with a cold one. I’m guessing this is a guy thing. Me, I’m more the chocolate giver – my gift stays on the hips as a reminder. Nevertheless, I could help him because I have low friends in high places there, so before you could say Labatts, I offered to get the beer to the hard working Canadian lads. But now, I would have to call in a favor.
So what makes us say “yes”? Why did I offer to go out of my way to help, when I easily could have kept my mouth shout and just sympathized? I do that all the time. Not the shout my mouth part – the sympathize but do nothing part. For most of us, being persuaded by people we know is an everyday occurrence. Kids do it to us, friends do it to us, spouses do it to us, heck – have you looked at how your dog manipulates you and he can’t even use words.
We all “get” doing and receiving favors on a personal level, but the more interesting thing is, as we run our businesses, we are the ones trying to manipulate or persuade strangers/clients/customers/readers to say yes to us all the time. Yes, means ca-ching. Yes, means beans on the table. Whether you have a small business selling goods or a blogger selling personal views or a web company selling subscriptions, we all need to find the techniques to make total strangers say “yes”. So, what are the factors that make one person say yes to another person? And are there techniques that we can use to bring about compliance?
It turns out, Dr. Cialdini, a distinguished researcher and professor outlines six universal principles and how to use them to become a skilled persuader. Yippee. Yes. Count me in. He admits to his own sucker status for being a patsy for peddlers, fund-raisers, pitches and magazine subscriptions, and implies that it may be the reason for his interest in the study of compliance. He wants to know why a request stated in a certain way will be rejected, while a request that asks for the same favor in a slightly different fashion is successful.
His book is organized around six principles: consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity. He uses examples from his observations and studies that are interesting and relatable. For example, if you were a billiards-table dealer, which would you advertise – the $329 model or the $3000 model? Chances are, like me, you would have said promote the lower-priced item and hope to trade the customer up when he comes to buy. Well, chances are we’d have a lot of inventory. Cialdini explains the aspects of the larger-then-smaller sequence occurs in the practice of “talking the top of the line”. If you show someone the top of the of line and they buy, very nice. If they don’t buy, the salesman effectively counter offers with a a more reasonably priced model. We see this technique on the web all the time. Think about how many times you’ve gone to a website and the price list is in three columns: One cheap, the second highlighted is mid-priced and the third is the Pro, Executive or Corporate fee. The original price is in the middle – that’s the one they wanted to sell you in the first place. But without the other choices, we might not have recognized the value. We know we don’t need “Pro” (typically a lot of fluff) and we always see our businesses as more than “Basic” – after all we are on the road to success. So what do we see? Just like in the Three Bears story, the perfect fit in the middle – not too big, not too small – just perfect.
As for my beer run, my friend just sent me a text that said, “Sure. No problem. Does it have to be cold?”
This book sits very near my desk and is dog-eared and smeared with yellow highlighter on almost every page. Every time I need to write a tag line or copy, I flip through to find the section I need to be persuasive. I like brain science and I like psychology. We have so many experts these days that are saying things that frankly, I think they just make up. Dr. Cialdini is on my people bucket list of folks I’d like to meet.
January 19, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Read: Cover to Cover
Categories: Gaming, Marketing, Small Business, Communication
What motivates people to do the things they do? Lord knows, I can’t explain why kids put gum in their hair, or why people would want to consume the most amount of hot dogs in a minute, so I was intrigued when the authors try to provide some answers through their expertise in video game design. If you heard about Alec Baldwin and the drama he caused on a flight because he wouldn’t turn off the word scrabble game he was playing, you’ll get an idea of how right they might be.
Look, I’d heard about Angry Birds for months (in case you haven’t guessed, I’m in the demographic ‘late adopter’), and I thought if millions of people are enchanted by this thing – let’s give it a go. I don’t mind telling you, I kept looking for the game to progress, but nope, just pull back the slingshot and release. People. Are you kidding me? At least Alec was making words. So what is it about gaming that has me so excited? It’s not the games (obviously), but the process of developing games and the impact it can have on business. Your business.
There are really two concepts that get me excited in this book. The first is: Game Mechanics: Cascading Information Theory. It’s really quite simple – hilariously simple. The ‘why didn’t I know that’ kinda stuff’. It’s a game mechanic that basically means you give the character (in our case it means the customer) the minimum amount of information they need to advance. It means that when you have a product or service you are trying to sell someone, give them only enough information so they can to progress to the next level of understanding. The second concept is reward. Your customer does something that you her to do, and she gets a “reward” of something – it can be a download, a free sample – an actual product – point is, give them a quest and then a reward.
The theory is to simplify, simplify, simplify. Create a linear path for your customers to learn about you and your product. Example. On your website, what if you had no copy, no navigation on top, nothing but a greeter in video form? After they watch the video an icon like a thermometer pops up with five degrees. By coming to the site and watching the video, they get two sections filled in red. The reward is something from your offering like extra product/time/ebook. Spot feed them one piece of information at a time so they are receiving the information you want them to receive, in the order you want them to receive it.
The authors take you on a journey of discovery, and the reward for reading it is pretty good.
The quick read novella is written in a short story format with twenty-somethings in the title roles, so if you have underwear older than that, you’ll just have to accept the “dudeness” of the dialogue. But this might be the concept that changes your business in 2013.
Too often we load everything, say a dozen things about our product or service – trying to push as much information as possible in the smallest or shortest amount of time and space. After all, “experts” tell us, we have only seconds to keep their interest. Look, if millions of people are buying a cow with virtual dollars, spending untold hours playing these games, you know these geeks are onto something that us business sophisticates don’t have a clue about.
This is the book that I have bought and passed on to my network.
January 8, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Read: Cover to cover
Categories: Big idea, Marketing, Sales
You know the saying about pornography – can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I know it when I see it. A good customer experience is something like that. Hard to define but I know it when I experience it. The Experience Economy is not talking about customer service, (Lord knows no matter how many authors try to impart the need for better customer service no one seems to be listening – anyone who is using a phone loop – I’m talking to you) rather, by understanding that customers respond to an experience that goes beyond the product or service offering, or the advertising or sales pitch, your business can reap the benefits of return customers, positive word of mouth, and generate buzz. The authors start out by explaining the basic core of the “ing”. They talk about commodities. You know, the word that none of us want to be selling. They give us the example of a true commodity, the coffee bean. Harvested or traded, coffee beans sell for about 75 cents per pound (1 or 2 cents a cup). The manufacturer turns the commodity into a good, and the price jumps to between 5 and 10 cents a cup. Brew that cup and now you have a service which in an ordinary diner charges a buck. So depending on what the business does with the bean, it can have three economic offerings: a commodity, good or service. But wait. You know it’s coming didn’t you? Starbucks. Ordering, creating, consumption of the cup embodies a heightened ambiance or sense of theatre – and customers gladly pay $2 to $5 a cup. The authors call this ascending to the fourth level of value or economic offering. From the low value – a commodity, then a good, then service to the all time big reap – an experience. And when you can deliver a distinctive experience you increase its value (and therefore its price) by two orders of magnitude over the original commodity. I’m making it sound a bit “eggheady” and the book is not at all an academic expose, so I apologize, but I was kinda excited in the very easy way they used the bean. Now, back to the “ing” of it. Enhance any offering by experientializing the goods. For an example, automakers now focus on the driving experience, but they suggest manufacturers focus on the non-driving experience that occurs in cars. The “ing” occurred when car manufacturers put the DVD players in the back seat for kids (my example). We all know kids usually are bored and distracted passengers (if you don’t have kids of your own, watch any Vacation movie). Is it part of the driving experience? No, it’s part of all the passenger’s experience riding in the car. Now, kids are engaged in what video they want before the journey, they talk about the movie or game after the journey, the parents are involved, so by doing one little thing – the whole family now has a “travel” experience. They give enough examples explaining their theory to make this an enjoyable read, and I believe every small business, entrepreneur, or independent can use the “ing” to transition from selling their product or service into selling the experience. A revolutionary concept that set your business apart.
Obviously, I am excited by this book. The first half at least. The second half deals with adding “theatre” to your workplace (literally), and I couldn’t get my head around it. You’ll have to decide. What the authors present through concepts and examples is an opportunity to add the “ing” to any business, any size – even if you are a freelancer writer or web designer or coffee shop.
December 12, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Read: Cover to Cover
Category: Big Idea, Entrepreneur, Small Business
Michael Gerber should not be a new name to you (if it is, tisk-tisk). He is the author of thirteen books, including what the PR guys call a mega-bestseller (sort of like a power seller on ebay). If you haven’t read the E-Myth Revisited, I recommend you read that one before this one (maybe that’s how he got the mega). As in his other books, he is like your wise grandpa (assuming your grandpa is Sam Walton on your father’s side or Warren Buffet on your mother’s), part philosopher, part inspirationalist, part evangelist and poet, but always passionate about steering you in the right direction. And he has nailed one thing that, to me, has always been the stop sign, the red light and for some, the cyanide in growing our self-employed life. He strips away all the extraneous help – better marketing, how to use SEO, be an expert, grow your business in three easy steps – he throws all that out the window and starts with a premise that no one wants to hear. “That small and independent business are populated by owners working for a living…that all they ever wanted to do was create a job; to create control over their personal income; to create a place to work; a place to do what they know how to do. In short, they want to be self-employed.” What is wrong with that, Gerber says, is that it is no business at all. He wants you to understand that you have the potential, the brains, the chutzpah, to look at your business as a business, not just a place to answer the phone when it rings, complete a job and wait for the next customer. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. But if you follow certain rules, you can change not only your own future, but you can change the world. Yup, you can change the world if you change your paradigm to how you see what makes a business vs. what your business makes. Great stuff. But like all great grandpas, he hits you with his cane and then gives you a lollipop and says, “I know you can do better.”
While I was reading the book, I had an inspiration from his words that will change my own business. This is no easy feat – I am a “creative,” and ideas happen faster than planes landing at JFK. But this was a BIG idea that will impact my present business and it came from Gerber’s chapter on the First Principle, “A Small Business, Built Rightly, Can Grow 10,000 times Its Current Size.” So this is not just another book to read, say “Wow, that was great” and then go on doing the things you’ve always done. You are reading this blog because you want to know if this is a book that can change/add/empower you in growing your business. If you are interested in having job that you created for yourself, and just want to know how to get more business, this book is not for you. However, if you want, nay need and desire to create a business that you can grow, sell, innovate and possibly change the world – this is a must read.
The Wealthy Freelancer, 12 Secrets to a Great Income And an Enviable Lifestyle by Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage and Ed Gandia
November 25, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Read: Cover to cover
Category: Small business, entrepreneurial
I hate titles like “10 Easy Ways to Become a Millionaire” or “The Four Hour Workweek”, but let’s face it, it’s just me. Publishers, authors, readers – everyone else loves tapping into making minute rice even faster in the microwave pouch. I need to be rich, damn it, and I need it now! So, I was reluctant to read The Wealthy Freelancer – to me a 12 secret oxymoron. Title notwithstanding, the word “Freelancer” in the title moved me to read it, because the freelancer industry has an opportunity to boom in the coming years and the people I write book reviews for, well a lot of them are freelancers. So here’s the more than pleasant surprise. This book is (should I say it?) is the quintessential guide for all freelancers to read – but it will be the biggest disappointment for those who really thought they would get microwaved minute rice. They talk about what “wealth” really means, dumping “ugly” clients (another great book on the subject of the client “dump” is Booking Yourself Solid by Michael Port), bringing focus to your business, creating a buzz piece, cultivating and nurturing your business, even how to make sales calls – all standard stuff starting from the beginning. A lot of freelancers come to doing their own thing after they start hating their job, they don’t have job or they have a passion they want to pursue. They may be good at what they do, but many lack the ‘well rounded’ skill set (sales, marketing, networking, book-keeping, pricing their goods/services) of running a complete business. There are some really great ideas in this book – and I’m happy to say, my initial reaction was quickly proved wrong.
If you are a freelancer or in a partnership this book is a must read if you don’t have enough clients, if your stomach drops when you see the phone number from an “ugly” client incoming, if you are on a roller coaster of cold and hot income spells, or think that sales, marketing and building a client base means you have a website, there is no time to waste.
If you are an indie – check out indieAWESOMEness, the community for the coolest people on the planet!
November 20, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Read: Cover to Cover
Category: Branding, Big Idea, Communication
I like a book that has the reader’s time in mind. This is a very short book; Mr. Neumeier calls it an “airplane read.” He has a few very simple (aren’t the simple ideas usually the best?) ideas that he puts into a chronological order using a hypothetical (wine) business to illustrate his big idea. He is talking about branding – but since he started out as a designer, he combines form and function (and a little beauty) in the process. He is on the same Tsunami as Seth Godin (Purple Cow), Luke Wilson (Disrupt) and many other surfers in the new (huge) wave of marketing and branding in the 21st century. They all say there are really only two ways this thing is going down. The first is to do what everyone else is doing, trying to build your brand by differentiating on price, speed and improvement on the same type of products and services, or putting your efforts to creating something that is really different and truly unique. He calls the process “zagging” as in “when everyone zigs, you should zag.” He gives you a short painless history lesson, and then just when you’re a little depressed because you realize you are doing these things, he opens the gate and let’s you walk on the stepping stones (from naming your company to truelines, taglines, core product, passion to engagement) to that big house on the hill or in his case study, the unique wine store he imagines, Bibli.
An excellent read for small business, entrepreneurs and independents. It’s even a better read for people just starting out with an idea. But what kind of “zagging” can you do when you’re already “zigging?” How do you “zag?” There was not a good answer to that, because in the second part of the book the “zag,” described handling entrenched business models of corporations – diversification, competitive cycles… yawn. Oh, excuse me. So, for independents who are already in the “zig” (you already have crummy name) look to this book for thinking about the quintessential “disruptive” idea for, maybe not your product (or maybe your product or service), but perhaps how you can engage your customers in a different way, create an outstanding design for your website, or by discovering the concept of pulling your customers in rather than pushing information out to them. Still a terrific read with some incredibly valuable information. Read it.
Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity – And How Great Brands Get It Back by Rohit Bhargava
November 19, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Read: Cover to Cover (skipping some of the “how to get you giant ass corp bosses to go along”)
Twitter Review: Let your freak flag fly and let your true colors shine.
Look, we’re in a funny (not haha, but strange) place when it comes to marketing our small or independent businesses. The old way of doing things, print media, electronic media, direct mail, seems to be pretty much over (hallelujah – none of us could afford it anyway). But now the kool-aid for today’s savvy marketers is to create a “story” about you and/or your small business and/or insert your personality, and grow the WOM (word of mouth). This is the basis for creating the “personal brand,” creating a compelling and memorable back-story so that your customer/client/followers/evangelists can repeat it. As my Aussie friends, say, “all good” and I say, “pour me a cup.” Authors who write business books, this author included, typically use the “big” names to illustrate their points (and possibly their gravitas), StarBucks, Dell, Oreck, ING Direct, but in this case, I have to give Rohit Bhargava a break, he says he personally interviewed every business he writes about. The only downside/upside to his writing, is that like so many good authorities, he comes from a corporate background (SVP of Digital Strategy and a founding member of the 360 Digital Influence group at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, one of the the world’s largest marketing and communications agencies). But let’s not hold that against him. You just have to read the book from your point of view – the concepts are universal to all business, including yours.
So what is so compelling, that I am encouraging the reading of this book? Because when you are a small business person, an independent, freelancer or entrepreneur, this concept is the quintessential model. You are the ones who can pivot easily into this terrific, compelling, cost effective way to build a brand. Yes, I used the “B” word. You are the gals (and guys) that actually HAVE a back-story. Most big business is already entrenched. They have a PR department to tell then what is “authentic.” They have a LOT to lose by communicating directly with their consumers (as seen in the hubbub, scramble for attention on Facebook with the “like me please like me” button). There is a trend now, for people to be charmed by your passion, to follow the little guy, to stand up and spread the word about you and your services, products and ideas. This is a book that can take you from start to finish in understanding how to put personality into your business, but here’s where his book is very different. In the second half of the book Rohit gives you everything you need to apply these ideas to your small business. Easy charts, guides and tools that give you the action plan you need to get started. If you take his advice and use the tools to implement a “personality” into your small (but beautiful little) business, fasten your seat-belts because you may be in for for a very enjoyable ride in 2012.
Short video by Rohit Bhargava: