Inc Small Business
A new report highlights the best and worst cities to begin a startup in.
If you're searching for the cheapest place to plant your startup, think beyond America's coastlines. In a ranking of the estimated costs of starting up in 11 booming cities, the three least expensive locations were outside of the U.S.
Berlin is the lowest-cost city to startup in, followed by Singapore and Beijing, according to a report from The Information. On the opposite end of that list was San Francisco, being the most expensive, followed by slightly less expensive startup cities Palo Alto, California and Washington, D.C.
The Information used salary data from jobs site Glassdoor to estimate about how much money it would take to hire a basic startup team of two software engineers and a designer in each city. It also considered average commercial real estate prices.
Of course, there are tradeoffs involved with setting up shop in any city. Bay Area-based startups, for example, generally enjoy greater access to venture capital than companies in other parts of the country.Cheapest Places to Startup
It might surprise you to learn that the average annual salary for a software engineer in Berlin is just $61,934. That results in a low startup cost estimate of just $212,645. The Information arrived at its numbers by totaling the average annual salaries for two software engineers, a designer and the cost of an annual lease on a 1,000 square-foot office. In Singapore that adds up to $232,900, while in Beijing it's $258,004.Most Expensive Startup Cities
By comparison, the cost of establishing your startup in the nation's capital -- $318,000 -- is third only to costs in Palo Alto and San Francisco. In those locations you will have to pay about $379,121 and $388,513 respectively. Though real estate is much cheaper in Palo Alto than in San Francisco, engineers working in the Valley expect to make about $12,600 more per year than their counterparts in the city.And, Somewhere in the Middle
Of course the list didn't forget New York City. It came in just below Washington, D.C. in terms of expensiveness. London, Seattle, Los Angeles and Chicago also all fell somewhere in between the extremities.
Business ethicist James O'Toole recently made the case for caring more about your employees' off-the-job behavior.
Is a company responsible for the off-hours behavior of its employees?
This is the question that James O'Toole, a senior fellow in business ethics at Santa Clara University, posed in an editorial that appeared on strategy+business this week. His thought-provoking post comes at time when many long-time San Francisco residents are clashing with a new breed of affluent, high-skilled tech workers who have moved in next door. While hot-button issues like affordable housing and luxury commuter buses should be of concern to Big Tech, O'Toole says so should their employees' overall behavior towards locals.
And this isn't just San Francisco's problem, he argues. What happens out West eventually travels to other parts of the country.
He believes that businesses do in fact need think about their roll in shaping employees' off-the-job behavior. "Admittedly, this is a grey area with little precedent," he wrote. I touched base with O'Toole to delve further into his thoughts. Below is an edited version of our conversation.
Is the tech industry as a whole starting to develop a bit of a black eye because of what's going on in San Francisco?
At a time when people are losing their jobs, or their incomes are stagnant, there are certain problems that arise when you see other people around you doing very, very well. And that's all part of a much bigger picture of what's happening in this country in terms of polarization, so I don't think there's any one factor here.
But social scientists will tell you that complex social problems never have a single cause. I think that there is a technological, a social, an economic and a psychological aspect to the way people are now rethinking the impacts of the tech world.
You suggested that in addition to on-the-job ethics and character training sessions, tech companies might want to have similar sessions that address off-the-job behavior. Can you talk about how these might play out?
I pointed out that it's a tricky area because you have to protect the rights and the privacy of your employees.
But I do think that in the case here in Northern California, there is a growing consensus among local leaders, political leaders people like our former mayor, Willie Brown, who is saying to the tech industry: You're going to have to address your image here. It's really going to hurt you if you don't start paying attention to these questions.
I think that it would be useful for a lot of these big companies to have some kinds of sessions where they would at least talk to their employees about the impression that they are making on the local community.
Maybe having some community leaders come into some of these companies and talk about those problems. Start a dialog in which companies and the locals can try to find some solutions to these problems before they get any bigger than they are.
What would be the best-case scenario that comes from a sincere effort to address the issue?
Usually what happens in California happens elsewhere -- very soon if not a couple of years later. If they can address those social economic issues, it's going to lead to a much healthier society and one in which the climate for business is going to be better in the long-term.
What seems like idle chitchat can elevate your productivity--and your career.
We all talk all day long. I know I do.
What if said I could teach you to turn all that chatter into a productivity tool? Would you try it?
The trick is to think of your office conversations not as idle filler you use to pass the time between meetings, but as tactics to advance your goals. Conversation is a nice social experience - but what I’m talking about is Conversation Leadership - taking all that talking and making it productive for you and for your company.
And the big news is, anyone can do it and profit from it, from CEO to summer intern.
Here’s how to use conversation to drive business success:1. Converse - Even if You Think You Can’t
Far too many people talk themselves out of this profitable tactic before they’ve even tried it. Oh, I’m not a good conversationalist. I’m shy. I’m an introvert. I’m too busy. These are all excuses, and they keep you away from what could be a potentially powerful boost to your career. I used to consider myself shy. I got over that by getting a job as a bartender. Conversation was a job requirement. So if you think you’re not a natural conversationalist and that’s what keeping you quiet, put yourself in a position where talking to people will be expected. A bar is not your only option. Look for situations that will help you flex those conversation muscles.2. Converse Across Hierarchies
Stop talking to your co-workers. At least stop talking to them exclusively. It’s great to talk to your colleagues and peers, but to attain Conversation Leadership status, you need to converse up and down the food chain. Talk to the lowly newcomer. Talk to senior managers. Remember that conversations can be in person, via email, or office-approved social media. You don’t need to buttonhole the boss in the hallway if that seems awkward, but you could send an email after a company speech with your thoughts. I hear from 1-800-Flowers.com employees all the time. I often use these emails as a start to a conversation between us. Virtual tools make an excellent Conversation Leadership platform.3. Converse for Intimacy, not for Efficiency
Converse like you mean it. If you’re in a hurry, you’ll be hard pressed to engage in Conversation Leadership. Speedy delivery is great for giving orders, delivering information, even quick check-ins. But Conversation Leadership is a way to really connect with people - hear what they are saying and think about it. Answer thoughtfully and be prepared to hear even more. This is something we don’t often do in our work interactions. We’re in such a hurry to give orders, to pitch our ideas, to move the ball forward that we are not really trying to create a moment of connection and understanding. Those who realize when it’s time to slow down and talk in a more intimate and unhurried way are engaged in Conversation Leadership. Those who say, “Just talk to me while I’m walking, checking my iPhone and thinking about my next meeting” are missing the point.
Conversation Leadership - try it. It’s a productivity tool that works.
A recent survey offers food for thought for the next time you're filling a job: a surprising number of people are woefully ignorant of common technology terms.
Technology is the basis of a huge part of the economy, intrinsic to running a modern business, mandatory to communicate with the rest of the world, and necessary to performing a job. Ever wonder how much your job applicants really understand about technology?
Better brace yourself, because the answer is depressing. Coupons website Vouchercloud surveyed 2,392 Americans age 18 and up to see how much they knew of some basic tech terminology. Remember, these are the people who might show up on your doorstep one day to apply for a job:
- Eleven percent thought that HTML was a sexually transmitted disease, not code used to write websites
- More than three-quarters (77 percent) didn't know what SEO (search engine optimization) means
- Blu-Ray was a marine animal to 18 percent of those surveyed
- More than a quarter of them (27 percent) identified a gigabyte as a South American insect
- Fifteen percent thought software was comfortable clothing
- A motherboard was the deck of a cruise ship to 42 percent of people
- Twelve percent identified USB as a European Country. Like the EU, you know?
- What's an MP3? To 23 percent of people, it's one of those cute Star Wars robots.
- Finally, two percent said that tablet computers were specialized devices that tell you when to take your medicine.
Not only can't Johnny code, but he probably confuses the CD tray on a desktop computer with a cup holder. (Don't laugh: some years ago a number of tech support people told me that they ran into this scenario on a regular basis.)
Here's one small takeaway from this study: If you make a product that uses technology, for heaven's sake, stop talking in acronyms and jargon. If not, you're going to find that someone bought your widget thinking it was a warm and fuzzy cap.
And if you interview someone, be sure to ask if he or she answered a survey for Vouchercloud and, if the person did, immediately put that resume into the circular file. Chances are, it belongs there.
The startup portion of the massive conference in Austin will serve up a host of fascinating talks with entrepreneurs and big thinkers. Here are the ones you don't want to miss.
For many in the tech world, the calendar in early March is dominated by one thing: South by Southwest Interactive.
The 21st annual tech festival officially starts on Friday, bringing an expected crowd of 30,000 people, including some of Big Tech's biggest names, eager entrepreneurs, savvy investors, and tech groupies, to Austin, Texas. Over the last decade, the festival has become the launchpad for startups (including Twitter) and is generally considered a celebratory morass of tech geekdom.
This year, the five-day event has over 800 sessions, and common themes throughout include 3D printing, wearable tech, and privacy issues.
But if you're looking for a quick hit list of the big highlights, here's what you need to know:
Sophia Amorouso's secret to fast growth. In a conversation with Inc.'s own Christine Lagorio-Chafkin, the NastyGal founder will reveal Saturday how she turned her eBay store into a full-fledged, $100 million retail powerhouse. But it's not just a talk about scaling: the cheeky entrepreneur is known for her badass attitude which has also built her a brand to be reckoned with.
Alexis Ohanian's rebel call. In an event dubbed "Be Awesome Without Their Permission," reddit cofounder and Internet activist Alexis Ohanian will talk Sunday about the distinct advantages startups have when it comes to bucking the rules--and making big impact.
Whistleblowers Edward Snowden's and Julian Assange's satellite speeches. In an 11th hour surprise, SXSW announced this week that fugitive Edward Snowden will be speaking via satellite feed on Monday. Snowden will be interviewed by the ACLU's Ben Wizner. According to CNN, Snowden "wants to talk to a tech-focused audience about the importance of building the next generation of online tools that protect user privacy." And on Saturday, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will have a "virtual conversation" with the Barbarian Group's Benjamin Palmer, in which they will discuss the "Internet Nation" and the role of classified documents in the public arena.
Ben Horowitz's take on the dark side. The cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz sits down on Sunday with the hip-hop star Nas to discuss the emotional struggles startups face as they enter into a rapid-growth phase, and how he himself has personally faced some of these struggles.
Chelsea Clinton's health keynote. The Clinton Foundation Vice Chair (and daughter of arguably two of the most influencial politicians of our time) will take the stage Tuesday to talk specifically about global health issues and the programs aiming to stop them.
Okay, all the keynotes. Of course, you'll not want to miss any of the keynote talks this year. The list includes Mythbuster's host and science geek Adam Savage and astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, to name a few. Here's the full line up.
Biz Stone's one-on-one. The cofounder of Twitter and current cofounder of the high-profile image discovery platform Jelly will speak on Tuesday. Though there's not much detail about what the conversation, which is hosted by author Steven Johnson, will cover, so far we know it will at least cover the broad areas of "connected society, the science and nature of collaborative networks, creativity, and how great ideas are born into existence."
If you'd like to comb through all 800 sessions yourself to find more, you can check out the SXSW website.
The five-step process to keep boredom from dragging down performance.
When you’re at the top of your game, you know it instinctively. What is more challenging is identifying, and then understanding, the cause for mediocre performance -- and using those lessons to help you win again.
We live in a black-and-white, goal-oriented world when it comes to performance: You are either winning or losing. What we often don’t know is why. In a recent post I shared 15 questions to ask yourself to help understand the why behind past performance, which is critical to understanding what creates those winning moments. With this post, I want to dive more deeply into losing -- and what you can learn from it.
But what if not reaching peak performance -- "losing" -- is less the result of being a failure and more often a result of boredom? We easily forget that when we aren’t interested in something, we don’t put everything we have into it. And that often leads to a less-than-stellar result.
While this may seem obvious, the reality is that boredom can creep in at unexpected moments--and can feel like failure. Imagine this: You are tasked with a prestigious, high-revenue project. If you succeed, your company succeeds. However, the project doesn’t leverage your core strength. You procrastinate, you aren’t excited about the work, and then you feel like a failure because you can’t seem to muster up any energy to put into it. In short, you’re bored.
I am not saying that you have to be engaged with every single thing you do -- that’s not realistic. But if you are bored with the bulk of your work, you will fail. The key is to know what engages you and make that the bulk of your responsibilities. If you are engaged 80 percent of the time, the 20 percent of work that is not engaging is easy to manage.
How can you reach that 80/20 balance? The questions below can serve as a guideline to help you navigate if your next disappointing performance is due to boredom or real failure:
1. What happened to cause the lack of great performance? (Be specific: who was involved, what tasks were you in charge of, what was the timeframe?)
2. Was the skill required something that you are naturally good at?
3. If yes, then what were the conditions that may have prevented you from feeling energized? How can you begin to alter those conditions next time? (In this case it was most likely a failure and consider what you can do to improve for next time.)
4. If no, was your lack of performance a result of not feeling engaged and feeling apathetic in general?
5. If this work is unavoidable, is there a way to do less of it, or can you hand this part of your work over to someone better suited?
How does this play out in the real world? Jim is the founder and CEO of a 15-person company. He has his ideal job. Jim, however, wants to perform at his best more frequently. He notices that there are moments in his work week that are not as productive and energizing as others, and that these moments come during certain meetings. Using the questions above, he discovers that he is bored during these meetings: The content doesn’t leverage his core strengths and he can’t impact it. He decided to hand over the management of those meetings to one of his direct reports. Jim is now more aware of the cause of boredom -- and can avoid it. He also has more time to spend on other projects where he can use his talent more effectively, thus creating better performance.
If something’s not going right at work, stop and ask yourself why. Figure out if you are bored. Boredom is easily fixed; failure is a different story.
It's vital to take advantage of LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with prospective customers and stay on the radar of previous ones.
Whether you're a sales manager or sales rep, chances are you've heard of social selling. At first glance the trendy phrase is intuitive--selling via social media channels. But while the definition might be straightforward, understanding how to effectively use social media to generate leads and make sales is a much more crafted, considered process.
As a business's operations and overall presence become more digital in nature, so do sales activities. More of the sales process happens online versus in person than ever before. This transition isn't exactly replacing the art of making things happen, though. Selling is still about relationships and knowing how to influence and persuade people to action. Social media is just a new frontier where salespeople can foster and activate those relationships.
By now sales reps should know the first step to social selling is to create quality profile pages, especially on LinkedIn and Twitter. Make connections to establish a strong network. Partake in the digital conversation. But these are only introductory steps at best. Below are a few tips to help you go well beyond that level.1. Make initial connections on LinkedIn
What's the key to sales and networking, regardless of whether or not you're online? Making strong connections. Beef up your LinkedIn connections as much as you can on your own, but don't be afraid to ask a colleague (or old coworker, boss, friend, even uncle!) to make an introduction on your behalf to a prospect you're trying to connect with online. As long as the introduction is genuine and personable--not overtly promotional--it actually works.
It's also important to note that LinkedIn is not only great for making those connections, but setting up first touch points. For example, if you're having a difficult time reaching a prospect over the phone, simply view their LinkedIn profile. Our sales reps have great success with this tactic, as the LinkedIn page visit alert gets the sales rep's name on the prospect's radar and increases the likelihood of a returned call. Of course, a short message and/or connection request can also work well in cases where you're looking for something stronger than a page view.2. Find shared interests and backgrounds
Before you begin pitching people over LinkedIn, or even communicating via Twitter, take the time to do your homework. Did you go to the same college, grow up in the same area, or know some people in common? Look for similarities that could open a relevant conversation that's unrelated to your business. Find meaningful information on your prospect that might establish a personal connection. Then begin your outreach online by citing that shared interest or background.
If you don't have a shared connection, you can also just leverage any information that the prospect is likely to be passionate about. For example, it's almost time for March Madness, and most people who went to large universities have great pride in their alma mater. Find out if any of your prospects attended one of the schools in this year's NCAA Tournament, and open your introductory pitch with a line about the upcoming games.3. Audit your LinkedIn appearance
Most people on LinkedIn display profile pages indicating they're looking for employment. Create a profile instead that cements your expertise. Let contacts identify your online presence as belonging to a thought leader, not a job seeker.4. Become part of ongoing Twitter conversations
On Twitter, make sure you're able to keep up with discussions and respond to industry-related posts in real time. Don't publish tweets solely featuring your own thoughts, either. Have conversations, and retweet regularly. For every tweet you publish, there should be at least three tweets that come from other sources, such as those mentioning or linking to trending articles, good quotes, or interesting statistics. Communicate with prospects and clients, comment on hot topics, or even share some of your sales team's fun personality with more casual posts.5. Don't limit social selling to prospecting
At its core, social selling certainly helps sales reps identify and pitch new leads, but social media channels can impact sales throughout the entire process. For example, say a contact has started to fade or become increasingly less responsive. Retweet them, or comment on one of their LinkedIn posts to get back on their radar. Social media channels offer another touch point between sales reps and those key decision-makers.6. Automate social media monitoring in sales, too
It's a misconception to think that monitoring social media chatter is a function only for marketing departments. Sales reps should always monitor social media streams around their contacts to track conversations and engage accordingly. This can be helpful for staying in touch with prospects and staying in the loop on what's happening in client organizations.
Social selling isn't a replacement to the traditional sales process; it's a complement. By leveraging social media channels optimally, sales reps can foster more relationships and close a lot more deals.
Just as important as the idea itself is the entrepreneur behind it--and the skill, passion, and effort she provides.
When it comes to an idea gaining traction, what's more important: The idea itself, or the entrepreneur behind it pursuing it with skill, passion, and effort?
Since its inception in 2009, The Awesome Foundation, a nonprofit that offers $1000 grants to one idea at a time, has successfully bet on the latter. With an implicit mission of "funding the unfundable," says cofounder Keith Hopper, the Foundation provides grants with no strings attached and no ownership stake. So far, the Foundation has funded 829 projects. (In other words, it has granted $829,000.)
The grants have led to several astonishing inventions--some of which have scalable, revenue-generating potential. For example, one idea led to a universal medical diagnostic test that screens for several diseases simultaneously. Another helped a musician create an "invisible violin," which is potentially "an infinitely better version of WiiMusic." Another led to a wide-scale design update of "handicapped" signs (a person-outline sitting in a wheelchair).
What can businesses learn from the Foundation's experiences of ideas becoming realities? Two things, according to Hopper:
Hand over the money, and get out of the creator's way. The Foundation is entirely hands off, once it hands over the money. This enables grant recipients to spearhead their own ideas with no restrictions or requirements. So while the idea itself is, of course, of some importance, what's more important to the Foundation is empowering the entrepreneur's unconditional pursuit of it.
It's this hands-off factor, Hopper believes, that businesses can learn from, if they're looking to bolster not only the in-house generation of ideas, but the execution of those ideas.
"The traditional workplace instinct is to step in and say, 'Well, let me guide you, and demonstrate why this idea might not work.' It's coming from a helpful place. But we do the opposite," he says.
"It's not that we don't care," he adds. "It's that the best way for [an idea] to work is for it to fly under its own momentum."
When considering which ideas to support, think beyond the strictly fiscal implications. This is not to suggest that you divorce your innovation process from the importance of generating a return-on-investment. It's only to remind you that sometimes, the most groundbreaking ideas don't immediately present a fiscal payoff.
In addition, many strong ideas contain what expert John Butman calls a "fascination" element--something that "enables you to make a connection with other people," he writes in Breaking Out. To write Breaking Out, Butman studied how dog psychologist Cesar Millan, lifestyle guru Mireille Guiliano (French Women Don't Get Fat), and TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie built empires from their ideas. In each case, their ideas had a "fascination" element--that is, a human connection.
For Mycoskie, the human connection came from the shoeless children he saw on a visit to Argentina in 2006. Solving this problem was the impetus for TOMS' now-famous one-for-one model, in which the company, for every pair it sells, gives a pair away to a child who can't afford them. Mycoskie believes this human connection was essential to TOMS' popularity. "People don't get initially excited--especially in the media--about the concepts," he tells Butman. "They get excited about the people."
For this reason, too, the Foundation's hands-off policies have come in handy. The lack of an ownership stake--and perhaps even the lack of an emotional stake, since the $1000 investment is so small--frees the Foundation to fund ideas that have a "fascination" element, irrespective of whether the idea will ever create value, in a business sense. This is what Hopper means when he says that the Foundation's implicit mission is "funding the unfundable."
The result, of course, is that some ideas--allowed to breathe as mere ideas--end up creating value.
But in the early stages, the Foundation can think clearly about an idea's "fascination" potential. "It's a huge part of the success of the Foundation's overall concept," says Hopper. The fascination comes when "there’s an underdog, maybe even heroic Robin Hood component," behind the idea. "Other people love that," he says, "and it makes them want to be involved."
Brand names carry deeper meaning in China than elsewhere, so you need to make sure that yours tells the right story.
Your brand name should tell the right story. It's important in any market, but perhaps none more so than China, where brand names tend to have more connotations than they do in the U.S.
That's according to Advertising Age, which published an excellent story on the subject Wednesday. A good Chinese name has to stick and sound original. What's more, it should work in Mandarin, Cantonese, and Shanghainese, none of which sound alike.
If you're hoping to expand your reach into the vast Chinese market, here are a few tips for picking a name.Be Positive
When LinkedIn, which recently pushed into China, chose the name "ling ying," many pointed out that it sounded a lot like the term for the ghost of a dead infant. To avoid such a backlash, opt for something uplifting--or better yet, meaningful. Pepsi-Cola is bai shi ke le in Mandarin, which roughly translates to "anything can be happy."Skip the Gibberish
Nonsense names that sound like the original have gone out of vogue, Ad Age notes. Exhibit A: mai dang lao, which was used for McDonald's. Sometimes it's better to keep the original if it's short, or find a creative workaround.Get Clever
A little clever wordplay can go a long way. One good example is Booking.com's name in China, which plays on the word for guest, bin ke.Do Your Homework
Perhaps the most important aspect of localizing your name is finding a language specialist to help. Lest you sound ignorant or offensive, it can pay to hire a professional to help you come up with names for your brands and products.
First you must grab your listeners' attention--then you need to hold it. Check out these simple ways to do both.
In my mind, there are two kinds of attention: neck down, and neck up. Neck-up attention is when the listener has to make an effort to pay attention. Neck-down attention is when the listener is riveted to the speaker: she can't help but pay attention.
Please note that, in our language of English, attention is paid because attention is a valuable currency. When listeners pay attention, they are rewarding you with arguably the most valuable currency in the world.
Here are 10 techniques that are guaranteed to earn you more attention without losing any of your professional credibility.1. Start with the unexpected.
Start with a bang, not a whimper. Smokers like matches that light with the first strike, and listeners like presentations that ignite interest with the first sentence. For instance:
"We stand today at a place of battle, one that 40 years ago saw and felt the worst of war."--President Ronald Reagan
"I stand before you today, the representative of a family in grief, in a country in mourning, before a world in shock."--The Earl Spencer, brother of Lady Diana.
"I wish you could have been there…"--Patricia Fripp, CSP, Former President of the National Speakers Association.
Each of these opening lines makes us lean in, lend an ear, and wonder where the speaker will take us. They jump right into the subject and create suspense, intrigue, curiosity. They capture neck-down attention.2. Make it about them.
Now that you've gotten listeners' attention with your magnetic opening, make the story about them. Increase your You-to-Me-Ratio. Talk about their goals, their aspirations, their anxieties. Cicero, a Roman statesman and orator, and one of the greatest speakers in the history of the world, said, "Tickling and soothing anxieties is the test of a speaker's impact and technique." He meant that you can capture attention if you remind an audience of a felt need, a pain point, or a threat to their well-being.
"Ring around the collar," was a 1968 ad in which a housewife protected her husband from loss of social status and career disaster by using Whisk on his shirts. And many consultants I know use something called FUD to sell their projects: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. A smattering of FUD gets our attention. When I feel it, I feel it in my chest.3. Keep it concrete at the start.
Show a prop. Use language that appeals to the senses. Don't tax the audience right away with abstract reasoning or academic concepts. Better to hide your smarts than to wear them on your sleeve. Storytelling is a powerful way to get into a topic because we are hard-wired to absorb information through storytelling. Tell a good story and you'll get neck-down attention.
I once heard Robert Kennedy, Jr. speak about conservation on a boat on the Hudson River. He began by pointing south. "If you look in that direction," he said, "You will see the channel that for millions of years has been the largest spawning ground for sturgeon in the world."
Of course, when I looked where he was pointing, I saw nothing but gray polluted water, not a sturgeon in sight, but I had the image of millions of large fish teeming so densely on the surface of the river that I could have walked across their backs to New Jersey.
Only then did he dive into the data about the poor, languishing Hudson.4. Keep it moving.
Not just in terms of pace, but in terms of development. Make sure that every new bit of information you provide builds on what came before. We lose interest in movies when nothing is happening, or novels that stop while the author describes a bucolic setting for two pages. Our brains are saying, "I want action! Drama. Suspense." The same holds true for your listeners. They are time-pressed, content-driven, and results oriented.
Think of the difference between a river and a canal. A canal is plodding while a river is dynamic and constantly changing. To please your listeners' insatiable desire for variety, make your presentations like rivers, not canals. Make sure there's always something happening, most especially when delivering webinars, where your audience is likely to be highly distracted.5. Get to the point.
One of the great pleasures the audience has is quickly grasping what you're getting at. They resent you when you rob them of this pleasure.
I once saw an ad for a Seth Godin speech on why marketing technical products was too important to leave to marketing. When I saw the video, the first words out of his mouth were, "Marketing technical products is too important to leave to marketing." It was a no-nonsense speech that moved like a bullet train, straight down the track of that single point. Give them only one point, make it early and often, and they'll carry you out on their shoulders.6. Arouse emotion.
Humor is inherently persuasive. It gives the speaker an unfair advantage because it literally changes the chemistry in the room, and in the brain of everyone present. But don't try to tell jokes if you're not a comedian. Simply allow your natural sense of humor to be present in the moment, and when something comes to mind, allow your humor to reveal itself.
Confessing something personal about yourself can also make the audience feel connected with you. I had a client recently--a senior person in her company--who confessed to her colleagues at a major company meeting that she had been a bar tender, a taxi driver, and short-order cook in order to pay her college tuition. The audience was amazed and thrilled as she drove home her point that we can all do more than we realize if we have the will to do whatever it takes. One definition of courage, she said, is acting out of character.7. Keep it interactive.
Social scientists have demonstrated that an interactive audience is more easily persuaded than a passive one. In many circumstances, the give and take between speaker and audience breaks through the reticence and reserve of listeners, encouraging them to engage with the speaker and play a part in the proceedings.
We see this in certain churches using the call and response tradition of worship. We see it in schools and universities, where an effective teacher, by asking questions, can get monosyllabic students to open up and participate.
And of course the world also witnessed the power of audience interaction in the massive rallies of Nazi Germany when Hitler would cry, "Sieg," and the soldiers replied, "Heil," raising their arms in the Nazi salute. I include this negative example because it is a powerful reminder that what makes a speaker a dangerous demagogue is not his technique, but his moral purpose.8. Write clear headlines.
Write headlines for your slides that express a point of view. The audience will get the big idea and look at the body of the slide for evidence that supports your point.
For instance, "We Can Dominate the Market" is a better headline than, "Market Share." It's better because it implies action, it's brimming with intellectual and emotional content, and it captures the physicality of neck-down attention much more than the inert phrase "Market Share."9. Keep it short.
Stop talking before they stop listening. The mind cannot absorb what the behind cannot endure.10. Let there be you.
The presence of a human being alone on a stage of any kind, whether it's the floor of a small meeting room or the elevated platform of a vast ballroom, is profound. It immediately creates neck-down attention. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "What you are speaks so loudly that [nobody] can hear what you're saying."
Listeners interpret everything a speaker does: they read your face, your inner rhythm, your posture, voice, and stance. In fact, the human mind ascribes moral intention to physical cues having the slightest hint of emotional expression.
The problem is the mind does this in a matter of seconds, and you have to speak longer than that. Plus you may be nervous, not at your scintillating best, so your technical skill at capturing and holding attention could be the difference between success and failure.
Every business presentation will have plenty of moments when the audience will have to work hard and pay attention to grasp the material. I am suggesting that your results, and your reputation, will improve when your audience finds you and your content fascinating.
I urge you to go for the neck-down stuff.
Does work/life balance even matter anymore? I think not.
I distinctly remember having a conversation with someone about how much time I dedicate to my work. "Get a life and stop working so much," this person implored me.
But there's a fundamental problem with that advice: My work is my life. I enjoy my projects, and technology enables me to easily integrate my work and personal life. The notion of leaving work at work is a remnant of the industrial revolution. Most of us are paid to think, and you just can't shut it off when you walk out the office door each evening. That's why some of my greatest business breakthroughs happen when I am not "at work."
I was reminded of this conversation when I came across an article in Wake Up, branding and marketing agency Omelet's online publication. The article is by Anna Nesser, who is an account supervisor at the agency, and her article focuses on the idea that work-life balance is a myth.
Anna shared the following story:
"A couple of weeks ago I was at my mother's home in Florida, sipping coffee at the kitchen table while waiting for a Thanksgiving pie to finish baking. Oh, and I also happened to be on a conference call with my creative team in L.A. and clients in New York.
Working in account management means I'm nearly always on, and yes, that includes the occasional working vacation. My folks might argue that I'm doing it wrong; that I should be creating more of a balance between my work-life and my life-life. But I see it differently. In a world where the lines between work and play are blurry at best, developing a sense of balance between the two is no longer the goal--integration is.
We're constantly connected, not just by our devices, but also by our incessantly churning, always-buzzing minds. They don't exactly have an off switch. And that's a good thing--ideation requires lateral thinking, and unlike task-oriented work, ideas can, and should, be born anywhere, anytime."
I was intrigued to see what her bosses thought of her article, so I reached out to Don Kurz, Omelet's Chairman and CEO, to get his thoughts.
Don agrees with Anna that there's never really been a distinction between his work and personal life. For him, he says, "It's not a conscious decision; it's visceral and just part of my DNA at this point."
He shared a story of a dinner he had with friends while in Aspen skiing with his wife. "One of our dinner companions was a close friend who recently left Warner Bros. This friend had just gone out on his own and is now looking for additional opportunities. Turns out that what he's doing may fit right in to Omelet's intellectual property goals and so we started pursuing his potential fit at Omelet. It would have been inconceivable to say, 'I'm sorry, we're having dinner now so let's speak when I get home and organize a time for you to visit.' It was an organic, successful business conversation and it just happened to be in the middle of vacation."
I couldn't agree more. I love the fact that the today's technology allows me to continue to move my work along, and make it better, even when I am not at the office. So please don't tel me to get a life.
Great service is both helpful and human. Here are six ways to make sure your service is both--every time.
If your job is at all connected to the world of customer service, you've probably heard of Captain Mike and the Good Ship Netflix. The star of a highly original chat support exchange posted on reddit last fall, Captain Mike is a Netflix customer service rep whose creative sense of humor made him not only a hilarious viral hit, but also a serious, widely-cited example of what great customer service looks like.
Here's what I like about Captain Mike's story: it shows an engaged customer service employee who clearly feels both freedom and responsibility. He makes the conversation funny but is still obviously focused on solving the problem. And, on the flip side, we also see the customer's immediate, positive response. When Captain Mike asked if there are any other issues he could address, the customer replied, "I almost wish there were." The customer got right into the spirit of the conversation and clearly had a ball--how often can any of us say that about our own interactions with customer service? It's a refreshing example of a customer service encounter that's both helpful and human: something that, all too often, can seem like the elusive great white whale to customer service managers.
So what does it take to make exchanges like this one the rule, not the exception?Become an 'admiral.'
Sparking the motivation of would-be Captain Mikes--and then sustaining it--comes down to your leadership. Have you taken a turn at the helm of customer service? I've written about this before--I think it's absolutely essential for leaders to get in the trenches and actually listen to customers. It's good for you to hear what customers have to say--and it's an extremely helpful exercise in appreciation for your member services team and the important job they do.Motivation starts with appreciation.
It's important simply to recognize the foundational role that the customer service department plays within your business. As a major potential revenue center and a site of key learning for your company's other teams, customer service deserves to be publicly celebrated, all the more so because it faces unique, frontline challenges which other teams do not. Say thank you. Ask a team member to share a success story--or helpful lesson learned--at a company meeting.Don't forget to communicate.
Busy organizations can sometimes forget how important internal communication is--especially to groups like member services. Early on at Reputation.com, we were scaling very fast and we did not communicate as programmatically as we should have with our customer service team. That was a mistake--they really are the front lines and need to know the latest products, services, and new features as well as pricing and policy changes. Never forget that customer service is one of the teams that needs to be most informed at the company.Treat representatives like customers.
Customer service can be a draining job--from dealing with the ire of dissatisfied customers to the receptiveness of internal teams to feedback. Try thinking of your customer service representatives as if they were your customers--and treating them similarly. This means making the transition from telling to asking. Ask what they care about and what their goals are. Ask what tools and support they need to do their jobs. Ask what's working and what could be done differently. And ask in such a way that respects their time, like short surveys or in-person conversations designed to yield just a few key insights. Then, make those changes happen to the extent feasible.Try tangible techniques.
Rewarding good work is a typical strategy for a reason: it works. Some ways, such as profit or equity sharing, have the added benefit of giving employees a real stake in the company's performance. You can try the customer service version of a SPIFF, in other words, a spot bonus or incentives for keeping customers happy or producing a good outcome. Reassigning teams to a new product, changing shift hours for employees who are interested, or physically switching up workstations in the office can also offer a revitalizing boost of energy to a team stuck in a rut.Some good things come to an end.
Never forget that customer service, like other jobs, can have a natural lifespan. Sometimes it works for employees to take on new challenges in other areas of the company (at Reputation.com, for instance, we've had member services people transition naturally to sales). But sometimes, people are simply ready to move on. This can be natural and good, not necessarily a symptom of something broken in your organization. Help and encourage them in their transition: supportive exchanges of skilled customer service reps between companies leave everyone feeling positive and productive.
What are some interesting customer service techniques that work for you?
A video featuring what appears to be a working hoverboard has been debunked, but the hype it generated shows how powerful viral ads can be.
Sorry everyone, but it appears that the wait for hoverboards will continue for the foreseeable future.
Sadly, a video released this week featuring a levitating skateboard called the HUVr turned out to be an elaborate hoax. Supposedly designed by a group of MIT students, the HUVr looks similar to the hoverboards depicted in the 1989 movie Back to the Future II.
The video, ostensibly released by a startup called HUVr Tech, quickly went viral, garnering nearly 4 million YouTube views in just two days.
HUVr Tech added to the hype on its Facebook page, proclaiming "Yes! This is real!," raising the long-held hopes of science fiction enthusiasts, 1980s kids, and tech nerds alike.
The company's website explains how the technological breakthrough came to be: "What began as a summer project in 2010 at the MIT Physics Graduate Program has evolved into one of the most exciting independent products to be developed out of MIT since the high-powered lithium-ion batteries developed by Yet-Ming Chiang in 2001," the site says. "Our team consists of materials science, electricity, and magnetism experts who've solved an important part of one of science's mysteries: the key to antigravity."
Celebrities including Christopher Lloyd (who played Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown in the Back to the Future films), skateboarder Tony Hawk, and even musician Moby appear in the video to endorse the HUVr.
But, crushing everyone's dreams, the video has been debunked by Mashable, which claims comedy site Funny or Die is behind the HUVr. The Verge has a screenshot that shows part of the wire harness used to hoist the celebrity endorsers into the air. And if you're still clinging onto hope that you can hover around like Michael J. Fox's character Marty McFly after seeing that evidence, here's the disappointing proof that one of HUVr Tech's "founders" is actually actor Nelson Cheng.
The question still remains: Why would someone go to the trouble to produce a video, set up a website, and even manage Facebook and Instagram pages? Well, getting millions of views suggests that if executed well, such as stunt is worth the effort from an advertising standpoint. Some theories are that it's a promotion for Tony Hawk's new mobile game, or Nike pushing its version of Marty McFly's self-lacing sneakers. But CNET may have the most sound theory: It may be all a teaser for Back to the Future IV.
"Let's recall that the Back to the Future series's director Robert Zemeckis perpetuated a [hoverboard] hoax after the release of the second film, claiming in a behind-the-scenes feature that hoverboards were real and not available to the public because of safety concerns," CNET's Nick Statt writes. "He kept that up, making sure it was featured in the 'extras' section of the trilogy DVD box set."
It's a sad day for hoverboard enthusiasts. But the stunt could soon turn into a dream come true for Back to the Future fans.
Check out the video below and see for yourself.
You think you're souping up your presentation with these neat tricks. Your audience thinks you're torturing them.
You’ve no doubt heard the phrase "Death by PowerPoint." It’s a cutely exaggerated way of talking about boring presentations, right?
Not according to veteran presentation attendee Robin Hardwick. In a hilarious, strongly worded post on Medium recently, Hardwick vented her frustration at being forced to sit through countless preposterous presentations, making clear that "Death by PowerPoint" can be actual agony, not just a funny phrase. In the course of the epic rant, she offers speakers plenty of expletive-laden advice on how to avoid torturing their audiences.
So what bad presentation habits does Hardwick hope to see consigned to the dustbin of history, along with other misery-inducing implements of medieval torture? Here are three.Forced Friendliness
OK, we get it; you figure your audience might get bored of your voice after a while. Why not do a meet and greet exercise with fellow attendees to break things up? Because it’s a horrible idea, that’s why.
"I am here for a presentation. That means that YOU are there to provide me with some knowledge or inspiration," she argues. "Therefore, please don’t make me turn to my neighbor and answer whatever dumb question you put up on the screen, just to buy you time/make you feel like you've created a community in the room or give yourself a pat on the back for making your presentation ‘interactive.’"Failing to Control Question Time
Sometimes the most torturous person in the room isn’t the speaker, it’s a fellow audience member. Questioners often speak too softly or ask things that are of interest to no one but themselves. If you’re presenting, don’t let them get away with it.
First off, if someone asks something, repeat it. And more importantly, don’t answer every silly question you’re asked. "Inevitably, an inept audience member who will ask '[I have a very specific situation that applies to no one else here, and I've made the decision to ask this question to you in front of all these people because I’m an ignorant selfish f**k who doesn't realize or care that I am wasting everyone’s time, so please answer this question that will help no one but me]?'" Hardwick writes, eliciting nods of recognition from nearly everyone.
What’s the right response to this sort of bumbling rudeness? "Shut that down. Similarly, shut down any distracting or ignorant questions. You are not obligated to answer everything. Ask the person to talk to you after," Hardwick pleads.Case Studies
Does this scenario sound familiar? "You start counting off so we can form groups, so not only do I have to move and huddle uncomfortably around a group of people with whom I will never work with again, but we have to read about a fake scenario that you came up with the night before, and then answer some demeaning and obvious questions about it on a f****g huge Post-it pad, and I have to pretend that I am a team player by proclaiming, ‘I’ll be the writer!’ and snatching up the sharpies you've provided with gusto."
If you hate these sorts of case studies, Hardwick is your champion. She criticizes them as a pointless gimmick that amounts to nothing in the end. "There’s absolutely no follow-up and no policies or actual useable ideas created from this," she says. Her solution: ban them!
Do you agree with Hardwick’s presentation pet peeves? Would you add any others to the list?
After working for some of the hottest companies in the Valley, David Byttow decided to make a go as an entrepreneur. Now, his app Secret, is a runaway hit with the tech world.
David Byttow hasn't been sleeping well. He works until 4 a.m. most days, and he booked a 48-hour trip across the country just to get some rest. Currently, he's hibernating in a New York City hotel. In a few days he'll fly back to San Francisco only to turn around and fly to Texas for a tech conference, South by Southwest.
Byttow, 32, recently launched Secret with former co-worker and Googler Chrys Bader. Their team of three has been working tirelessly on the app, which lets people post text messages to both strangers and friends anonymously.
We met Byttow for breakfast in New York City, and asked him about Secret's founding, what it's like to be a mega-hyped startup, and what will be left of Secret once all the buzz dies down.
Byttow's career began 13 years ago when he was 19. The Chicago native attended Purdue, then dropped out of college to join a gaming company.
"They asked how much I wanted to be paid to develop games and I said, '$40,000!'" Byttow recalls.
He packed all his belongings in his car and drove to California.
Byttow later joined Google and spent five years working on hyped - but ultimately flawed - products: Google Wave and Google+. There, he hired Bader as a product manager. Byttow left for a short, one-month stint at Evan Williams' blogging site Medium. He felt Square was a better fit, and left for a management role that reported directly to Square's founder, Jack Dorsey.
After a few years at Square, Byttow decided he wanted to travel. He quit and visited places like Paris, Tokyo and Bora Bora. Then he got a call from Bader that ended his world tour. Bader wanted to start a text messaging company, and he wanted Byttow to be his co-founder. Byttow returned to California and the pair got to work.
The first product they launched wasn't an app that needed to be downloaded. Instead, it was a one-to-one text messaging tool that let users send anonymous secrets to each other. The text messages disappeared after they were read, like Snapchat or another anonymous app, Confide.
Byttow says the disappearing text message idea was rejected by investors. He also wasn't crazy about the product he and Bader had built. He felt a one-to-one anonymous message service would do more harm than good and that users would abuse each other with it.
Secret was their next idea, but the pair struggled to find the right name for their startup. Byttow and Bader thought about calling the mobile app "Glimmer" or "Blink." They also toyed with the idea of calling it "Whispr" or "Whisperly," which is nearly identical to Secret's closest competitor, Sequoia Capital-backed "Whisper."
Byttow felt strongly that the app should be called Secret, but Bader took some persuading. Byttow incorporated the name for $75 in Delaware, bid on and bought the domain name Secret.ly for $3,500, then presented the materials to Bader. Bader had no choice but to agree.
Last month, Secret did its first press push. Byttow said he never expected Secret's launch to receive so much hype. Secret was first written about on tech site Re/code. From there, major news outlets like NPR and Daily Mail picked it up. Secret became Silicon Valley's latest craze overnight. One investor, Y Combinator's Sam Altman, likened the anonymous app to the high school burn book in the movie "Mean Girls."
When a startup receives a lot of press, it sees a sharp spike in downloads and usage. When the press goes away, the company's inflated growth metrics do, too. Although Secret has received fewer mentions in recent weeks, Byttow says the app is still opened about seven times per day.
Another thing that will help Secret's growth continue: Byttow has finally mastered Apple's App Store. For the first few weeks, Secret wasn't showing up in mobile search results. It fell behind its competitor Whisper and even irrelevant apps like Uber when people typed in the word "Secret."
Apple's faulty search feature drove Byttow mad; he says he would check his app's rank every Thursday morning and chuck his phone in fury when it didn't show up. "[Chucking my phone] got expensive," he jokes.
Right now, Secret is trying to turn its buzz into a long-lasting product. The biggest challenge Secret faces is to avoid meeting the same fate as anonymous services that have come before it.
When users are allowed to be anonymous, their posts often become nasty. Byttow's team recently met with Juicy Campus founder Matt Ivester who coached them on ways to avoid his pitfalls. JuicyCampus was an anonymous social network for college students that received a number of lawsuits for libel. PostSecret, another anonymous network, was shut down for similar reasons.
Byttow insists most of Secret's current posts are productive. He says he's surprised how quickly his team found product-market fit. And although it's likened to a gossip rag, Byttow doesn't believe his app is a place for sharing deep, dark thoughts without repercussions.
Instead, it's a place for sharing information strategically among friends, without the shackles of being completely identified.
"Secret isn't for sharing secrets," Byttow says. "It's for sharing secretly."
This article was originally published on Business Insider.
For Those Who Get Discouraged When They Hear The Word 'No'... Here's A Rejection Letter U2 Got In 1979
At one point or another, every successful person has had to face rejection. Here's proof that hearing the word "no" is not the end.
It sucks to hear the word "no."
Even when you've gotten rejected thousands of times (as any successful person has), it's still discouraging.
When you hear the word "no" - when a proposal of yours gets rejected - it's easy to think that there might be something wrong with the proposal. Or worse, you.
So it's helpful to remember that everyone has heard the word "no."
Lots of investors passed on Facebook, Google, Twitter, et al, for example.
Lots of publishers sniffed at "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" (the U.K. title of the original book before one brave U.S. publisher finally bought it).
And at least one record company, it seems, rejected the early recordings of an unknown teenage Dublin band called "U2."
U2, needless to say, is one of the most successful bands in history. And the record label that said "no?" They're almost certainly toast.
So have a look at this U2 rejection letter that @uberfacts just tweeted around every time you get rejected. Use the feedback to improve your proposal or presentation, perhaps. But don't spend a single second doubting yourself just because you heard the word "no."
A rejection letter Bono received from a record label in 1979. pic.twitter.com/iUL7Nah9t9-; UberFacts (@UberFacts) March 4, 2014
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Having a hard time letting go? Trying to do everything yourself is not a viable option, so it's time to face your delegating fears.
Do you have trouble delegating? Regular readers of this column know that I do. It turns out, that's a good sign. "Really talented people who have lots of ideas and are likely to become leaders tend to have trouble with delegation," says leadership expert Laura Gail Lunsford, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, University of Arizona. "It's because they have really high standards and want to make sure everything is done right," she says.
But that doesn't mean it's OK for you to just go ahead and do everything yourself. Instead, Lunsford says, you need to recognize the thought patterns that are holding you back from handing off tasks to other people, and fight those habits whenever you encounter them.
Here are some not-so-valid objections that tend to hold you back from sharing the load with the people who work for you:Delegating takes too much time.
It's absurd, if you think about it, that when you're overloaded with work, getting someone else to help could be a bad thing. Yet I've fallen into this trap and I bet you have too. It's easy to feel like an idiot if you spend two hours teaching someone how to do a task that would only take 30 minutes if you did it yourself. So you have to take a long view, Lunsford says. "It is true that it takes time to teach a skill--the first time," she says. But the second, third, and fourth time the same job comes up, you'll start seeing time savings when someone else--who now knows how--can take it on with minimal effort on your part.
Lunsford advises getting an idea of the true time savings by figuring out how many times the same task will come up in the future. "Ask yourself how much time it will save in the coming month or year," she suggests.It won't be done the way I would do it.
This objection can lead to trouble because it often turns out to be true. "Someone who's trying to learn to delegate may have something in mind but may not communicate it well to the person taking on the task," Lunsford says. When the task then isn't done right, the person who did is likely to get blamed. "It's not a good experience for anyone involved."
Instead, she suggests focusing on outcomes and making sure the subordinate taking on the task understands its purpose in the scheme of things, and the desired end result. And then face the fact that it may not matter exactly how the job is done as long as that end result is achieved.I'm the only one who knows how.
Sometimes leaders trust their team members, but not their expertise, Lunsford says. If that's the case, you can overcome the problem by having the person take small steps, completing portions of the task and checking in frequently. That way, if something goes wrong it will happen on a smaller scale.
She also recommends ending the conversation by asking subordinates when they'll deliver which portions of the job. (Fight the urge to tell them, she stresses--make them tell you.) If they can't give you a clear answer, that may be a sign that the job is indeed too much for them and you may have to provide extra support.If someone else learns this, I won't be needed anymore.
The fear of delegating oneself right out of a job is a real one for both employees and entrepreneurs, Lunsford says. And it may make you feel both important and needed to be the only one who can do a given task. But--is having you do that task really the best thing for your company as a whole? "Leaders should spend their time on the organization's vision, and on cultivating relationships," Lunsford says. If you're spending time on jobs someone else could do, those more important roles are likely getting neglected.I don't want to give this task up because it's fun.
All leaders have lower-level tasks they enjoy doing once in a while. But if you're doing too much of the easy stuff is it really because you enjoy it or is it because it's just that--easy? "Failure to delegate is another form of procrastination," Lunsford says. "You may want to do what's familiar and comfortable and put off tasks that are difficult and complex. The harder tasks may feel less rewarding."
Giving in to this temptation is a bad idea if you want you and your organization to grow and mature. "You need to be doing the work that's more ambiguous and more frightening," she says.I've always done it this way.
If you've been a leader for a while, chances are you've got ingrained habits that may seem tough to change. But it may not be as difficult as you think. "Delegation is a skill, and people can learn it," Lunsford says. "Most habits get developed in six weeks. If leaders really do want change their delegation skills, it's a habit that could set for themselves within six weeks."
And then they'll have time to become more thoughtful and more strategic, she says. "Delegating well frees the leader, and thus creates a much healthier organization."
Like this post? Sign up here for Minda's weekly email and you'll never miss her columns. Next time: Stop giving so much and other ways to be happier.
Here's how three companies advertised the good and the bad to win the love of their customers.
Every company has its quirks. For one young startup, embracing them turned out to be one of the best marketing moves it's made thus far.
Back to the Roots is an Oakland, California-based company that creates sustainability-focused grow-at-home products. For example, children can use one of Back to the Roots' kits to grow their own urban garden of Pearl Oyster mushrooms. There's just one problem with the final products: some end up growing pretty funky-looking.Get Real
"One of the things that [my cofounder] Alex and I were always kind of unsure how to talk about was our mushroom kits don't always grow in this beautiful cluster rose-like thing," Back to the Roots cofounder Nikhil Arora said, laughing, during a talk recently posted to 99U.
Though the issue was inconsequential when it came to the way the mushrooms tasted, it was undeniable that some of the company's customers, or would-be customers, were a little taken aback by the look of the bizarre fungi.
So the the company decided to address the issue head on. With the launch of a social media campaign called "Name That Mushroom," Arora and his cofounder flaunted their imperfect-looking product. They posted pictures online of the craziest mushrooms kids had grown, and they invited others to caption the photos.
It was a hit. So much so that some of Back to the Roots' customers wanted the mushrooms because of the way they were shaped, Arora said. One woman called to order a kit for her son and requested the "hunchback" mushroom by name.Clever vs. Clear
Arora's biggest takeaway from the campaign was that customers don't want clever marketing. They want transparency.
Back to the Roots isn't the only company to reach that conclusion.
In 2012 the clothing company Patagonia aimed to reveal the good and the bad about its supply chain. It launched an interactive map called the Footprint Chronicles, which allows users to examine information about the company's suppliers.
Patagonia said the disclosures would "help us reduce our adverse social and environmental impacts." As an added benefit, Patagonia's sales increased after the launch of the campaign, according to Forbes.
And in 2008, after two and a half years of negative sales, Domino's was in for some changes. The pizza maker adopted a new recipe for its pies, and the company got a new chief marketing officer, Russell Weiner.
Weiner had plans for all future marketing: it was going to be brutally honest. What followed was a self-deprecating ad featuring customers talking about how bad the old pizza was. Domino's also vowed not to touch up photographs of its food in ads. And last but not least, it published unvarnished customer reviews to an ad in Times Square. The outcome? Domino's, too, saw sales increase.
Want to be found by more clients and customers? Add this.
LinkedIn is the most effective social media platform for professional and business purposes. (Based on the amount of email I got from my recent post, 10 Ways to Generate More Leads and Referrals on LinkedIn, many people agree.)
One reason for its popularity is that getting found by people on LinkedIn is really easy. Getting found by and connecting with the right people is a lot harder, especially if you only apply website- and resume-building strategies to creating your personal and business LinkedIn profiles.
For example, the Google AdWords Keyword Tool is a great way to find out how many people search for various keywords. Lots of people use it or similar tools to create their LinkedIn profiles. All you have to do is perform a little keyword research and pack your profile with search-friendly terms so potential connections and clients can find you.
Fine. But tons of people use the same approach to determine how to describe themselves and their businesses. That means every recruiter, for example, shoehorns six-figure searches per month keywords like "staffing," "recruiting," "hiring," "jobs," "staffing agency," etc. into their profiles.
And by doing everything "right," they get lost in all the keyword noise.
What can you do to stand out and help the right connections find you?
Here's an example. I worked in book manufacturing and have significant (another way of saying I'm old) experience in productivity, quality, and efficiency improvement. Pretend I want to build a consulting business around those skills and I want my LinkedIn profile to help book manufacturers find me.
Using the Google keyword tool approach, I should definitely include keywords like process improvement, productivity, efficiency, and quality. I should also include keywords like Six Sigma, 5S, TQM... commonly searched for processes and programs that I can deliver.
The problem is, those keywords don't help me stand out from all the other efficiency experts. Some potential clients will find me, and that's great, but many I'm sure to miss. And, again, I won't stand out. I'll be like every other process improvement consultant.
So now I'll go deeper. Now I'll identify keywords specific to the book manufacturing industry. Here are a few categories I'll mine:
Conventional wisdom says including industry-specific and esoteric jargon on websites and promotional literature is a mistake. In this case the rule doesn't apply, especially if you hope to connect with B2B customers.
For example, in book manufacturing the word "makeready" is used to refer to a job changeover. No one in the industry searches for "changeover reduction," but "makeready reduction" is perfect. I could go farther and also include "zero makeready," since some printing and binding equipment is described that way (whether accurately or not.)
Think about specific processes in your field and include a few key examples in your profile.
Books eventually have pages, but before book blocks get trimmed those pages are called signatures or "sigs." Cases, jackets, super, headbands... all are terms specific to book manufacturing.
In the B2B world this is especially important; if I'm in the environmental cleanup business, "brownfields" means something even though the average consumer would never consider using it as a search term.
Are you familiar with manufacturers like Kolbus, Mueller-Martini, or Timsons? You probably aren't, unless you're in the book business.
Include industry-specific equipment in your profile to not only create long-tail keyword possibilities but also to reinforce your expert status.
Shameless name-dropping is one thing, highlighting experience with industry-leading companies is another. I worked for R.R. Donnelley, so including the company in my profile not only makes it more searchable, it also serves as a credibility-enhancer and a potential, "Hey, I worked for RRD too," bridge builder.
Consider including names of companies you've worked for, done business with, provided products or services to... both to highlight your experience and accomplishments and to provide additional search fodder.
Remember: the key is to build your profile in two stages. First focus on a general audience. By all means use Google keyword tool-friendly search terms so you cast a wide net.
Then go deeper. Consider your specific skills and experience. Think niche. Think targeted. Include some keywords industry insiders might use when searching LinkedIn profiles.
While some of your niche keywords may only attract a few potential customers every month, those who do find you that way are much more likely to become great connections.
More LinkedIn Tips:
The key to being successful lies in finding ways to be constantly improving. Leadership expert Lee Colan shares eight easy ways to help you build your competence.
Building your competence boosts your confidence...and confidence is a close friend to high achievers. Building your competence is like cleaning your house. If you stop cleaning, dust collects. The need to clean never ends. To achieve the success you deserve, you need to find ways to be constantly improving. The task of building competence never ends.
Competence includes anything that improves your ability to perform--your knowledge, skills, relationships, resourcefulness, processes, systems, and information. Olympic athletes are not only testaments to the human spirit, they are also living examples of competence. Only when we hear their backstories do we fully appreciate all it takes to build Olympic-level competence. We learn about gut-wrenching daily training regimens, strict nutritional standards, rigorous mental discipline, top-notch training equipment, reams of collected data, various supporting relationships, and even past adversities that motivate the Olympian. It is an intentionally developed set of systems and processes designed to produce a golden victory.
So, here are eight proven ways to help you build Olympic-level competence:
1. Seek feedback on your performance. Building competence requires courage--courage to face the facts. Be ready for what you might hear and be prepared to make changes. It might feel uncomfortable, but it will build your competence.
2. Take baby steps. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is our competence. Start with just one new skill, one tool, or one new area of knowledge. Use it until it becomes a habit. First you form your habits and then your habits form you.
3. Listen more than you talk. Remember what Mark Twain said, "If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two mouths and one ear." When you listen, you learn and also prevent "blind spots"--weaknesses that are apparent to others but not to you. The higher you rise in an organization, the more you must listen.
4. Build your BEST team--Buddies who Ensure Success and Truth. Choose your team wisely. Ensure each member offers the energy, truth, and positive perspective you need to succeed. Connect with your BEST team, individually or as a group, on a consistent basis. Learn from them and help them--it goes both ways.
5. Create it once, use it many times. If you know you will be performing a task more than once, create a checklist, form, or template to save time and improve your consistency over the long haul. No need to reinvent the wheel every time you conduct or coordinate an off-site meeting, prepare a proposal, send out a mailing, plan a new project timeline, etc.
6. Learn along the way. After you complete each task, ask yourself, "What should I Stop, Start, and Keep?" Identify those things that did not go so well (Stop), those you did not do that would have helped (Start), and those that went well (Keep). Continually improving your performance is a powerful way to build competence--it turns good into great!
7. Ask the right questions. The fastest way to change the answers you receive--from yourself and others--is to change the questions you ask. Asking the right questions will get you better answers whether you're asking them of yourself or of others. The questions you ask will either limit or expand the possible responses.
8. Be decisive! Get 80 percent of the information you need, then make the best decision you can. Don't let the fear of being less than perfect stop you. Remember, good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
So, start today and go for your gold!
Download free chapters from the author's book Stick with It: Mastering the Art of Adherence for more tips on building competence.