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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Your marketing includes way too much you

Handsome man humor funny gesture in a mirrorOne of the most common mistakes marketers make is that they think their customers and prospects care about them, what they sell and how it works. The human truth is consumers really do think, feel and ask “what’s in it for me?”

They have something they want to accomplish – from getting a cereal that their kids will eat to finding the right de-greaser for their airplane engines. They know the result they’re after and their buying decision is going to be based on satisfying that need.

When it comes to buying decisions, those decisions are always:

  • Based on emotion (positive or negative ones)
  • Based on meeting our needs and wants (even implicit)

And the truth of it is, consumers usually don’t care about understanding the nitty gritty of how those needs and wants are met.

I’m not suggesting someone would turn a blind eye to dangers, laws or morals. But think of your own buying behaviors. Typically, we don’t care how something works, we just care that it does. Or we care about some very specific aspect of how it works that is tied to us getting the result that we want.

It might be speed, expense, reliability, safety etc. that is tied back to that emotional tug. It’s all about the end result, though. Contrast that “cut to the chase” hunger for a solution with the marketing or sales’ teams attempts to sell.

We often build elaborate cases for how and why our product/service is the absolutely right solution. We list benefits (with bullet points and visuals) that dig into the nuances of every aspect of how we get something accomplished. See the disconnect?

Worried that your marketing might be putting the spotlight on the wrong part of the equation? Here are some common trouble spots.

Headlines: Most headlines are feature headlines. They are about us, not the consumer. “From 0-60 in 5 seconds” is talking about an attribute of our product. “You’ll never be late for another soccer game” is about the buyer’s desires.

Try this instead: Make sure your headline is making a promise or pointing out the consequence of them not using your product. Use the buyer’s emotions to connect them to how your wares can solve their problem.

Tradeshow booths: Because space is at a premium in trades show signage, booth graphics and materials – we tend to use bullet points galore. We want to pack in the facts. Which means we’re telling our story, not the one the buyer wants to hear.

Try this instead: Think about what your prospects ask most. Use your booth to answer those frequently asked questions about end results, rather than talk features.

Sales presentations: If you pull out some old sales presentations, take this simple test. Grade each PowerPoint slide – about us or about them. In most cases, your slides are going to be 75% about you and about 25% about what the customer wants.

Try this instead: Use this recipe for putting together your next presentation. The first 2/3 of the slides should be about the client, client’s business, their challenge and what you can do it fix it. Then, take that final 1/3 of your slides and divide them into 2. The first half – you can give them some information about your company, working with you, etc. The final ½ should be re-focused on the prospect and solving their problem.

If you start looking at all of your marketing materials with this new perspective, you’ll quickly be able to spot which ones need to have their focus re-adjusted to be more about the customer and less about you.

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Are you ready for the attention?

TRAKDOT-DEVICE2-640x480Let me paint you a picture.

You have a new product that you’re bringing to market in the next 60 days. You have the opportunity to showcase this new product at the world’s largest and best attended trade show for your industry.

You showcase the product and within hours — you have over 45,000 stories on Google about your new product.  And those stories are on sites like cnet.com, LA Times.com, Cult of Mac.com, forbes.com, and gizmodo.com.  Each story sings your product’s praises — talking about how useful it will be, how affordable it is and how cool anyone who owns it will feel.

Each and every story includes a picture of your product and a link to the product’s URL.

This is a dream come true, isn’t it?  It’s the holy grail of product launches. I don’t know about you — but I am getting a little weepy at the thought.

But wait. You see, there’s a little problem.  When you go to any of the 45,000 stories online and you click on www.trakdot.com — you get a 404 page.  That’s right — they debut their product at the Consumer Electronics Show and their website isn’t live.

WHAT??  Someone needs to be fired.  Today.

Trakdot hit a home run only to find out they were playing at the wrong ballpark on the wrong day.  I get it — they’re not ready to ship.  But I can’t even imagine the traffic those 45K stories drove to that URL.  (The story on CNN.com alone was re tweeted 827 times as of Tuesday afternoon) Grab people’s email addresses and send them a $5 off coupon.  Or offer to let them buy a day early if they share their contact information.  But don’t invite them over and then lock the door so they can’t come in!

This example — extreme and painful as it may be — reminds me how often companies go to trade shows without doing their homework.  And it’s not just trade shows.  It’s sending out press releases, doing a mailing to prospects — it’s marketing in general.

Here are some things you can/should do so that you never get caught being this clueless:

Check every detail:  Dial every phone number, enter every URL, drive or mapquest every address.  If you are going to include contact info — be sure it’s accurate, the people on the other end of the number or address are ready/prepped and it’s exactly where someone reacting to the marketing piece would want to be sent.

Anticipate reactions: Ask yourself — when someone sees this (hears about this, reads this, etc.) what might they do?

  • They might share it with others (so we might get even more traffic)
  • They might try to contact us (see check details above)
  • They might want to buy it (make it easy to find/do)
  • They might want to read reviews (share links) or review it (again — share links)
  • They might write a blog post (have Google Alerts set up and know the plan in terms of responding)
  • They might want more information (make sure the website is live, you have fact sheets to download etc.)
  • They might want to inquire about a large/group order (have a directory if they need to reach different people for different types of interactions)

You get the idea… be ready.

Have back up plans in case things go big or go wrong: Sometimes you just can’t anticipate how a market will respond. So have a contingency plan just in case. And you need to have a contingency plan for the incredibly good or the incredibly bad.  What if the product reviews are horrible?  What if United Airlines decides to buy enough to give everyone in their Mileage Plus program one? You need to be ready for either end of the “oh my God” spectrum.

Don’t let any show/publication/holiday or other outside influence get you to pull the trigger if you are not ready:  We all know how big a deal CES is.  But no event is worth looking unprepared or stupid. If you aren’t ready — you aren’t ready.

All of these suggestions are true, whether you’re a 25 year old product or brand new. Marketing isn’t just about the sex appeal, flashy stuff.  At it’s core, it’s a discipline. It’s about getting the details right. And it’s about thinking something through before you jump.

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression and once the media has “discovered” you, they aren’t going to discover you again.  Be ready or stay home until you are.

 

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