Where has your planning taken you so far?

planningAs the first quarter of 2015 whizzes past us, it’s time to take stock of your planning abilities. 25% of the year is now done. How are you doing on your goals for 2015?

I suspect the answer to that question fall into one of two camps.

Camp One (also known as the Camp of the Seat of My Pants): Goals? We’re doing pretty well. I think.

Translation: We didn’t set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound) goals so we know we want to make more money than we did last year, but other than that – we’re not sure what success in 2013 looks like.

Camp Two (also known as the Camp of the Strategic Planners): We’re at 32% of goal one, 17% of goal two and we’re doing a customer survey in June to see how we’re doing on goal three.

Translation: We took the time to set SMART goals and then built a plan for accomplishing those goals. We’re tracking our progress and adjusting the plan as we go.

Now you might argue that there’s a third camp. The Camp of Lucky Breaks. No argument there. Every once in awhile a business hits one out of the park through no particular fault or planned effort of their own. They’re just in the right place at the right time. Everyone deserves a break like that every now and then. But that’s the problem – it’s unpredictable and at best, sporadic.

Since we can’t count on falling into the third camp, the truth is – as business owners and leaders, we make a conscious decision to plan or not. Make whatever excuses you want – it’s either a priority or not.   And you get to reap the benefits or not. It’s really that simple.

Whenever I think about the true value of planning, I remember my experience with our office move a few years ago.  It was a sight to see. The team at MMG is filled with native planners. They like to be organized and anticipate as many details as possible. It’s how they work with our clients and it’s just how they’re wired.

We had several meetings in the months leading up to the move, trying to anticipate anything and everything we’d need. There were plenty of checklists and task assignments.

I watched in amazement at how smoothly the move went. Each area of the office was assigned a different color of duct tape and everything that belonged in that area was marked with the appropriate colored tape (including me by the end of the day!)

This allowed the moving crew to load the truck by area, knowing they’d unload in the same way. When we got to the new office, there were color-coded charts on the walls, and large colored signs by each area in the office. The unloading was incredibly fast and efficient.  Even on move day, – we were back on track and taking care of clients. Within two work days, we were completely settled into the new space and everyone was working at full speed.

That’s the thing – while planning does require an investment, it almost always pays dividends. Here’s the short list of planning perks.

You get where you want to be – by starting with the end in mind, you can plan the path to get there.

Resource conservation – you’ll burn fewer resources (time, money, good will) to accomplish your goals, which means you’re that much further ahead.

You can track your course – when you are actively monitoring a goal’s progress, you can make course corrections faster and minimize your losses.

You’ve lost the first quarter. Will you lose the second too or is it time to get planning?

Love advice is not good marketing advice

Love advice is not good marketing adviceAs we celebrated Valentine’s Day this month – there were many a cliché uttered in the name of love. I want you to remember that in most cases, they don’t work as well as marketing maxims. Love advice is not good marketing advice.

In fact, in general I might suggest that you shun cupid’s advice when it comes to marketing your organization. Let me give you a few examples.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder: While this may be true in human interactions, buyers have a very short attention span. When your marketing is sporadic or worse – nonexistent, you can’t expect a prospect to think about you when they’re finally ready to buy.

Trying to reach our consumers, no matter what we sell, is a little like trying to time the market. The truth is – we don’t know when they’re going to be ready to pull the trigger. We do know that when they’re ready – typically they will identify three potential solutions and explore them. That’s why marketing’s job is to keep your product or service top of mind all the time so that when the prospect is actually ready – you’re in the short set of possibilities. Absence doesn’t make it more likely that you’ll get a shot at the sale.

Love is blind: While in human interactions it’s true that appearances don’t trump love…in marketing, love is definitely not blind. How you present yourself has incredible impact on your ability to capture and keep the attention of a customer. When it comes to marketing, this isn’t so much about attractiveness as it is about consistency and being true to your brand.

Adhering to graphic standards that represent and promote your brand is vital to growing demand and brand loyalty. Consistent use of logo and brand colors begins to create a subconscious connection with your prospects and repeat customers. Pretty soon – if you’ve honored your brand’s visual guidelines you can trigger a reaction every time you use the brand’s color palette or logo. Think how we immediately associate a red soda can with Coke or a brown truck with UPS. You can create the same effect.

Opposites attract: We all know couples that seem like they couldn’t possibly have anything in common who are deliriously happy with one another. Shows what we know. But that phrase doesn’t work so well when it comes to customers. The truth is – every business has what we call “sweet spot” customers. Those people who are the perfect fit to what we have to offer. One of the reasons they’re our best fit is because they see the world in the same way we do. They agree with how we approach our industry and the specifics of not only what we do but how we do it.

Many companies go broke trying to be everything to everyone. Instead of embracing their sweet spot customers, they chase after every dollar, no matter how bad the fit may be. The result of that is almost always a very rocky relationship that ends in an ugly crash. And then, that former customer runs around town (or your industry) telling people about their bad experience. You’re far better to

All you need is love: In today’s economic times – I don’t care how much fun you are to work with, if you can’t generate results you won’t get to stick around for too long. One of the marketing mistakes that many organizations make is that they don’t put the spotlight on the results and give them their due.

There you have it. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s Valentine’s Day fueled parade but when it comes to love clichés and marketing – it is definitely not better to have loved and lost. Remember — love advice is not good marketing advice!

Instead, market smart and keep those customers for life!

5 tips for creating a company culture that connects with your sweet spot clients

creating a company cultureAn area of marketing that is often overlooked is how important it is to be mindful when creating a company culture. You don’t build a culture to make a sale. But the culture you build, if you’re very clear about your organization’s values and beliefs, can translate your company’s personality and attract right fit prospects. It can also reinforce your current customers’ buying decision.

Company culture doesn’t just happen. If you want it to really flourish, you need to make it a priority for your business. You need to build/strengthen the foundation of your culture and then nurture its growth from there.

The challenging aspect of corporate culture, of course, is that culture is shaped by the workforce. Which means it’s an ever-evolving entity. As employees come and go, the culture can be altered in ways that don’t benefit the employees or the organization.

Your culture is too valuable not to protect. Here are a few ways you can ensure that your culture has a consistent foundation that doesn’t ebb and flow over time. If the core is rock solid, then it’s okay if the details shift a little.  Ready to start creating a company culture? Keep these tips in mind.

Create a manifesto: Don’t hide your culture. Celebrate it. Capturing the essence of your culture in a statement of beliefs or manifesto will allow you to articulate the key values and behaviors that you want to protect.

Put it in your employee handbook, create a beautiful framed version and hang it proudly in your corporate office and read it out loud to kick off each year’s first staff meeting. You could even ask new hires to sign a commitment to honoring the manifesto on their first day of work.

Weave the culture’s core values into your job descriptions and review process: Employees know that if something is important enough to be a part of their annual review, then it must be pretty important to the company. You can reinforce your culture by rewarding your employees for keeping it alive.

It’s also a built in culture training program for new employees. If they know they’ll be held accountable to their job description when review time comes along, they’re much more likely to adopt those wanted behaviors.

Make your staff part of the solution: If you teach your employees how your company culture contributes to the success of the organization and then invite them to help you protect it, they’ll gladly accept the challenge.

Why not a team that is charged with bringing the culture to life through employee events, customer interactions and rewards programs? They’ll probably surprise you with their innovative ideas and enthusiasm.

Hire for culture, train for skills: Identify the attitudes and behaviors that best support your company’s culture and hire for those traits. You can teach skills but you can’t teach attitude. It’s much easier for a new hire to fit into an environment that aligns with his or her own personal beliefs. Trying to force a square peg into a round hole puts a great deal of stress on both the organization and the new employee.

Share the vision: The purpose of a company culture is to support the organization as it marches towards its future. One way to help the employees understand the importance of protecting and building the culture is by sharing the desired end result.

Once they share the vision, they’ll be inspired to guard everything that will help you all achieve that vision. If anything, they will strengthen your culture to help you get there even faster.

Your culture matters every day. Purposefully creating a company culture will help you recruit and retain your best talent. It supports how you deliver excellence to your customers and it is a compass that guides you towards even greater successes. Be sure you protect it like the valuable asset that it is.

5 tips for getting over stage fright

tips for getting over stage frightHave stage fright?  You’re not alone.

They say that our greatest fear, once you’ve eliminated death as a choice, is public speaking.

And yet many of us are called to take that plunge on a regular basis. Whether you are speaking to group of two in a sales presentation or you’re standing at a podium, with hundreds of eyes on you – the intent is the same.

We want to impart knowledge, persuade, entertain and be remembered. And above all else, we want to get through the presentation without looking like a fool or being paralyzed by our stage fright.

I’m one of those rare individuals who isn’t freaked out at the idea of speaking to a group. I like it. But I think I enjoy it because I have a very set routine of prepping for each speech. By the time I step up to the podium or approach the next sales call, I’m confident that I won’t embarrass myself or be nervous to step up on that stage.

Here are my secrets to prepping and delivering a presentation that gets them to ask you back.

Know your audience: One of the easiest ways to get off track with a presentation is to either talk over the audience’s head or at a level that is insulting because your audience is way ahead of you. Not only do you need to understand where they’re coming from, in terms of knowledge, but also in terms of personality. Are they an audience who asks a lot of questions? Are they open to small group activities or sharing information about their work?

Grab them right up front: You need to quickly take charge of your audience. In a large group setting, you might tell them a powerful story. In a sales presentation, you might lead with a stat or fact that is guaranteed to grab their attention. Too many speakers limp into their presentation – either by telling a lame joke or by getting too technical too fast. You want an emotional reaction of some kind to kick you off.

Assume the worst: I’ve watched many speakers melt into a puddle of goo right in front of an audience because their PowerPoint didn’t load right or their video worked but there was no sound or the internet connection was faulty so they couldn’t demo something. When it comes to speaking and technology – assume it will fail. Always have a back up (your presentation on multiple jump drives, the YouTube video on-line but also on a DVD, etc.) You need to be ready to deliver your presentation in the pitch black with no power, if need be. If you’re that prepared, you’ll worry a whole lot less.

Think sound bytes and repeats: In today’s “tweet while you are talking” world, you want to give your audience plenty of tidbits to share. Give them key facts, stats and catch phrases. Imagine someone from your audience going back to the office and re-telling a story you told during your presentation. Which one would get retold? If you answered “none of them” then you’d better come up with a story that is so funny, compelling, astounding or illuminating that people won’t be able to help but repeat it.

Be ready to improvise: You can do all the prep in the world, but sometimes that nagging stage fright had it right — something could still go wrong. At the end of the day, there are many elements of giving a presentation that are out of your control. So even though I am advocating ample prep time, you also have to realize that sometimes you just have to go with the flow. It might be a tough question during the Q&A or a technology malfunction. If you can keep your sense of humor and your balance – your audience will reward you for it.

Odds are you were invited to make the presentation. So remember that your audience is anxious for you to be successful as well. Do the prep work, have faith that you know what you’re talking about and try to enjoy the conversation.

Even if something does go wrong — remember at the end of the day — your audience doesn’t expect you to be perfect.  They just want you to be real and share something of value.

I want you to get extreme!

2014-Summit Web-Banner_full-leg

I like to pass along people, ideas and events I think you’ll find valuable.

My friend, Steve Farber, is a world-renowned leadership expert. He consults with global 100 brands. His book The Radical LEAP has been named one of the 100 best business books of all time and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while — you know that in my opinion, it’s one of the three most brilliant business books I’ve ever read.

To announce the Extreme Leadership Summit, coming April 11-13 in Chicago, Steve is offering an MP3 audio download of his popular program, Extreme Leadership: How to Put More Love, Energy, Audacity, and Proof into Your Work. The DVD of this 2-hour speech sells for $90, but Steve is offering this audio to my friends for free.

Yeah, he’s a pretty cool guy. I’m confident you’ll resonate with Steve’s call to take a LEAP in your life at work and at home – this is, to practice Extreme Leadership through Love, Energy, Audacity and Proof.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Cultivate more love in, and for, your business
  • Generate energy for a more productive career
  • Develop more courage to change your world
  • Prove your value and credibility to others – and yourself
  • Lead in an extreme manner that gets big results

Not only is Steve’s program packed with great content, his delivery is entertaining, provocative, and funny.

Click here and opt-in to receive the MP3 file. You’ll find Steve great company on your commute, your next flight, or during your treadmill tribulations.

Steve delivers high value in everything he does, so I’m confident this is a relationship you’ll appreciate and cultivate.

Consider it a holiday gift from Steve and me to you. To your success in 2014!

Are you ready to get extreme?

Base-Jumping

When I hear the word extreme my mind immediately goes to extreme sports — where people take extraordinary risks and do some crazy things. While I’m a risk taker by nature (I’m not sure you can own a business without being one) the word extreme gives me pause.

An extreme sports athlete takes incredible risks and has to be at the top of his or her game to even dare it. The exposure to potential failure, and in this example — physical injury is very real and very possible. Which is why most of us don’t do it.

But I’m sure for the brave that do — it’s an exhilaration like few can ever know. Because along with the risks comes equal rewards.

I think back to the incredible risk I took in 1995 when I started my agency. Honestly I was too young and ignorant (again perhaps a parallel to extreme athletes) to realize how risky my choice was — but I definitely knew it wasn’t the safest option. But professionally, nothing I’ve done can compare and many amazing rewards have come as a result.

I think the word extreme is probably a pretty accurate word. Not everyone is cut out to extreme surf or be airborne on a motorbike. Most are content to choose safer hobbies. And that’s okay.

So when best selling author (Radical Leap Re-Energized, Greater than Yourself, etc.) Steve Farber began talking to me about this event he wanted to bring to Des Moines called Extreme Leadership Intensive — I got curious in a hurry. His books teach extreme leadership — using concepts like love, audacity and oh shit! moments, which is why I’ve embraced them for years. Turns out my extreme sport is what I do professionally and how I do it.

Steve is bringing his day and a half workshop to Des Moines — and he’s calling for people who are ready to be extreme leaders to join him. This isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not for leaders who are content to just be okay. This is for the men and women who truly want to leave legacy — in whatever way that matters to them. It’s for people who aspire to inspire — starting with themselves.

It’s coming this month — July 18th and 19th and I can promise you this — it will be a thrill ride and you will come out a different person than you went in.  How many workshops can promise you that?

Interested? Check out Steve’s video below and read more/register about the event here.

http://vimeo.com/69053926

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