This week I am featuring the first Vlog created by 15 year old Samantha Sternberg, better known as Sammy by her friends and family. She is the daughter of good friend and colleague, Marc Sternberg, co-founder of Brand Innovators. Lets show Sammy some support, watch, and share her effort. I loved it. Her Instagram handle is also @sammysternberg.
Hold it. Your social public relations strategy is taking a turn, it’s called vertical video. Here’s why: vertical videos have 90% higher completion rate than horizontal.
The advancements of technology enable smartphones and tablets to replace computers, as they cover similar functions. As a result, people’s online lives have migrated to mobile devices in this digital era.
Mobile trends and takeovers
Along with this trend, mobile devices are also constantly evolving to fit the needs of its users. Just a decade ago, you’d be hard pressed to find any display of phones and specifications suitable to watch a video. Nowadays, larger displays and higher quality screens embedded on smartphones make watching videos an enjoyable and preferable experience.
Research by Recson shows that 75% of mobile traffic will come from videos in five years. That’s an increase of over 50% from the traffic today. Videos make everything real and personal.
Videos help to humanize your brand, educate the buyer, simplify the complex, evoke emotion and tell a story noted Lisa Buyer in her most recent Search Engine Journal article.
Social media platforms embraced this trend by adopting vertical videos. It all started with Snapchat, that paved the way with Snap Ads to vertical videos in 2016. Next, Instagram’s IGTV and Youtube’s video ads later confirmed that vertical video is here to stay.
Snapchat reported that it has 5x greater consumer engagement in terms of its’ swipe-ups compared to the click-through rates on most mobile ads after launching Snap Ads. A research conducted by Wibbitz also showed that there was a 130% rise in views and 4 times more engagement on Facebook after launching vertical videos.
Why vertical video?
Turning your phone horizontally to watch an episode of the Walking Dead is natural. However, when you come across a random one-minute trailer on Facebook, you probably prefer to stay vertical as it would be too bothersome to realign your device.
MediaBrix’s research confirmed that vertical videos have 90% higher completion rate than horizontal. Their data also showed that less than 30% of users tilt their phones horizontally to watch an ad and those who actually do only watch 14% of the ad.
It looks like vertical videos trends will persist. With that, Social PR pros and digital marketers are on guard to include vertical videos on top of their list. The folks at Breadnbeyond have compiled everything you need to know about how to incorporate vertical videos for your marketing strategy, so make sure to take a look at the infographic below.
Direct to Consumer is the Future of Brands
After experiencing disruption from agile, direct to consumer brands, many traditional brands are starting to move towards similar models. A simple reason why... traditional retail is effectively a tax. This is not to say that retail doesn't add value, but for many products, there is a ton of available margin with which to build D2C businesses. Factor in other retail related costs like returns, shrinkage, damages, co-op marketing etc., and the proposition becomes even stronger. Margins aside, the most compelling reason for brands is establishing a direct relationship with the shopper. In a world awash with third party data, first person relationships are proving to be an invaluable competitive advantage over inferred shopper behaviors.
Retailers have husbanded shopper data for years, now brands can simply build their own datasets and use it as an advantage over retailer and competitor alike.
Not surprisingly, brand icon Nike is at the forefront of this trend, reorganizing its entire organization around building closer relationships with its consumers. This includes streamlining SKUs, reporting structures, and product development cycle times. The question becomes, will Nike eventually bypass retailers altogether? There are already some harbingers of this future as some investors have called into question the relationship between Nike and some of its retail partners. The reality is that the traditional retail distribution model is now very much in flux.
One of my favorite brands, Nespresso, was way ahead of this trend, building a full vertical and even including a closed loop recycling element into its product. Nespresso is triple threat for direct to consumer combining excellent product quality (no need to cut corners to make some retailer happy), very smart use of consumption data, and growing automation. Nespresso was one of our family's first D2C experiences, but it opened the door to many other brands. We now get shaving, paper products, cleaning supplies, and other categories either direct from the manufacturers, or Amazon Subscribe, and Save. Margins that would have gone to stocking shelves, multiple logistics, promotions etc., are used instead to fund simplicity of shopping and removing friction from the process.
Obviously retail adds value. Curation and stocking products, customer service, returns, support, and advice are all part of a great retail experience. Sometime its just nice to have someone to ask a question. Unlike the early dotcom era, most of those functions take place easily from the palm of a shopper's hand. In fact, It's often easier than a store. Retail margin can cover a ton of digital. The Yin and Yang of brand and retailer relationships is going to be tested like never before as the 'sea of sameness,' that is the majority of retailing, becomes irrelevant to shoppers that have unlimited options not bounded by geography.
Shopper Marketing expert Mike Anthony astutely points out, shoppers will simply see fewer brands as retailers seek to rationalize their offerings with more focused product edits. This will cut both ways in stores. Often, brands have provided a cushion for retailer profitability through trade funding and co-op dollars (you don't think retailers pay for their own marketing do you?). This will further crimp Retail Relevancy in terms of the amount of attention they are able to garner through push media... Thank Goodness. Meanwhile, brands will redeploy those funds to build better relationships with shoppers, and in the offing, get better "first party" data about what really drives behavior, loyalty and engagement.
It's easy to envision a day where all of my shoe interactions don't involve a store. I already buy all of my dress shoes from Cobbler Union, a direct to consumer shoe manufacturer with no physical presence except its HQ in Atlanta. I get inspiration for sneakers from sneakerheads like myself, and publishers like Complex and High Snobiety. I have a regular connection with Nike with its Run+ app. With rare exception, retailers are not part of my shopping journey. After all, what serious sneakerhead wants production shoes? I recently bought a pair of gold Nikes because, why wouldn't you? I googled 'Gold Nike' and I honestly can't tell you where they came from. It just didn't matter.
How will this shift in shopper behavior play out? No one really knows. What is certain, shopper's will have many more choices and that's ultimately good for them!
But keep in mind an overriding principle will be... SIMPLICITY is the new EDLP! Make it easy for them... and they will buy it from you again and again and again. Frictionless fulfillment is the retail of the future.
Keep it simple, and your customers won't be the only ones who benefit. #RetailRelevancy
Originally posted at John Andrew’s LinkedIn
Last week I joked with a friend that the story of my life is summed up by saying I come up with great ideas and clients kill them. While certainly an exaggeration – if I never had one come to life I wouldn’t have lasted long in the marketing business – it can certainly feel like client rejection is more a familiar friend than acceptance.
Mind you, I’m not a “creative” by advertising agency standards. But in my role as the bridge between creative content and digital/social technology, I’m often asked or have simply assumed to create concepts for digital and social media marketing campaigns. So, while I do not have daily assessment of my creative work, my part includes the additional challenge of explaining how ideas work. Sometimes I have to reassure the client I’m not recommending something that would send their customers a virus or alert homeland security to investigate their digital tactics.
(You’d be surprised how not joking I am.)
The good in my lack of traditional creative training is my approach can really only come from the perspective of the customer. I know no other way. The bad is that I don’t have guardrails. So, my ideas are sometimes not perfectly aligned with the brand, too far beyond the brand’s sense of decorum or far too risky for most marketing managers to be comfortable with.
And that means I get a lot of client rejection.
(What can I say? A hat company said they wanted to be in the New York Times. I told them we would hang an oversized hat of theirs on the Statue of Liberty without permission. They’d be in the New York Times, guaranteed. Granted, we’d all be arrested, but that’s a minor detail.)
A lot of client rejection means I have to find a way to handle it emotionally. If I don’t, I’ll spend all day, every day depressed. Yeah, I let on like I don’t care what people think, but the honest truth is I do – especially the clients and colleagues I work with. We all want to be valued and respected for our work and I’m no exception.
So how do I handle the “Uh … no!” reaction from my clients?
Remember it’s not personal
When a client says they don’t like your idea, that’s exactly what they’re saying. They are not saying they don’t like you. In fact, more often than not, clients love the fact you’re bringing them bad ideas because that mean you’re continuing to think about their business. They know a good one is going to surface. Or a bad one can be polished to be good. When a good one surfaces, they’ll see it, grab it and you’ll run with it, together.
To take this point to the extreme, I had a client years ago who swore by one of the popular personality tests. Everyone at the agency took it so he would know what kind of personality he was dealing with in meetings. And he wanted us to know his because it was unique – he would say anything to anyone without consideration for anyone’s feelings. If you knew that going in, you could stomach his rough days easier.
Once in a meeting, he looked at a colleague of mine and said, “That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” The co-worker, feelings hurt and shoulders slumped, said, “Wow. You don’t have to insult me.” The client said, almost (but note quite) apologetically, “Oh, don’t get me wrong. I like you a lot. It’s not personal. That’s literally the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”
We all had a laugh, but he was serious. He happened to be a big analytical guy and could make a scientific argument why the idea was that dumb. And he didn’t care about hurting people’s feelings. But knowing it wasn’t personal made it easier to swallow.
All client feedback should be taken that way. You’re a professional. They are dealing with you on a professional level. Technically, no one should care who you are, what your sensitivities are, or what level of praise you need to be happy. You submit your work. They like it or they don’t. If they don’t, you do it over or someone else’s idea gets picked. You move on and work on that. Period. That’s how ideas get vetted and chosen. It has nothing to do with you or your precious feelings.
A “No” might be a “Yes” lacking support
Two of the creatives I work with at Cornett shared stories with me that reminded me a “No” is often an unsupported “Yes.” Whit Hiler, the lunatic behind much of the zaniness at Kentucky for Kentucky (not a Cornett-related client or product), reminded me of his years selling cars, saying rejection is nothing.
“You learn selling cars that it’s all about features and benefits,” he said. “So you sell your ideas better if you focus on telling the client why it’s a good idea for them.”
So if you get client rejection, it may just be that you didn’t illustrate the features and benefits well enough. Remember: You don’t just pitch the idea, you also have to justify it.
Chris Barnes, who drives much of the creative behind our work for clients in the Thoroughbred and Tourism verticals, (and resident beer judge) echoed the sentiment. He told me of a story once where he was rejected by a former boss for a rebranding project, but still believed in the rebrand so much he held onto the work, re-formulated a pitch months later and eventually won him over.
So remember that rejection once may not mean rejection forever.
A “No” is an invitation to understand a “Yes”
When a client rejects and idea, I almost always ask why, but in a way to let them know I’m interested in the technical reasons. Was if off-brand? Is it too risky? Is the audience focus not right? Do you just not think it will work? They are welcome to have the opinion they just don’t like it, but if you press them for a reason, you’ll often get some insight into what they’re thinking as a requirement for the project. That can help you find a “Yes” rather than sulking over a “No.”
One client I have now is great about saying, “We wouldn’t do that because …” He doesn’t say things like, “I don’t like that because …” or “That’s a bad idea because …” He says “We wouldn’t do that because …” That means he is always aligning the reason for the “No” to the brand voice, personality, audience, purpose and goal.
Don’t be afraid to push for a why, but make sure to ask from the perspective of wanting to learn and find a better idea, not to argue or defend the idea you’ve already presented.
Hiler is notorious around the office for doggedly pursuing ideas he thinks will work, even after they’ve been rejected. If his second or third attempt doesn’t work, he’ll even rethink the idea for a different client if he likes it enough. So that can take the sting off — selling it through to someone else.
It might sound odd coming from me, but I’m in year five now of a meditation practice that has helped me handle polarizing emotions. By taking 10, 15 or 20 minutes and just breathing … clearing my mind with the intent of not thinking about anything … my blood pressure returns to normal, my heart rate slows to a comfortable pace and I can remind myself that thoughts are just thoughts.
I don’t have to feel rejected. I don’t have to feel hurt. I don’t have to feel sad. I can recognize the thought that it’s sad the client didn’t like the idea, but then I can dismiss it.
Meditation has taught me that (for the most part) we can choose how we feel*, what we recognize as important and what we dismiss as not. And as Whit so eloquently put it, “Rejection is nothing.” So we can treat it as such.
Clearing your mind for a few minutes puts you back in a good place to start over and come up with the next big idea that the client might think is the right one.
(By the way, I recommend checking out HeadSpace if you’d like to learn more about meditation. It’s not religious in nature and a safe, simple app to learn and explore without any pressure or much risk.)
(* – In no way am I inferring people with chemical imbalances or diagnosable mental conditions can control their feelings. I’m referring here to most people. Not all people.)
How do you deal with client rejection?
Those are my ideas. What are yours? How do you deal with a client who goes thumbs-down on your big idea? Do you take it personally? Why? How do you let it go?
The comments, as always, are yours.
On Saturday, USA Gymnastics announced the role of interim President and CEO will be filled by Mary Bono. In selecting Bono, USA Gymnastics joins an unfortunate list of companies failing to conduct a basic analysis of digital media, before making critical leadership decisions. At issue is at least one post where Ms. Bono attacked Nike, a sponsor of many United States gymnasts.
In a September 7th tweet, Bono boasted about her opposition to the Nike brand. This was an apparent defiance for their support of Colin Kaepernick and other athletes of color. Nike endorses and supports athletes who speak out on harmful issues. USA Gymnastics failed horribly in this regard with Nassar. Now, the organization chose a leader who attacked a company for doing what USA Gymnastics is trying to fix. Simone Biles, the famous and beloved gymnast, responded with sarcasm at the blatant vetting failure by USA Gymnastics:
As the national governing body of gymnastics in the United States, USA Gymnastics claims it’s priority is serving the athletes in a manner, “committed to creating a culture that empowers and supports its athletes and focuses on its highest priority, the safety and well-being of the athletes.” Obviously, they failed in this regard with respect to Larry Nassar. In selecting an interim CEO who attacks a brand that supports athletes for speaking out against racism, discrimination and police brutality, the organization committed another leadership failure.
In my book, “Paradigm Flip: Leading People, Teams, and Organizations Beyond the Social Media Revolution” I explain it is vital to assess the social media history of leaders. It is particularly important when considering the integrity of leadership candidates:
“Every candidate has a digital shadow that could reflect a positive or negative history…. …A lack of alignment to the integrity and values of your organization can hurt your movement a great deal, regardless of whether the individual is paid or not. These recruiting practices must include thorough online research, not just of the usual profiles, but of all major social media channels.”
Spencer Stuart, the executive search firm retained by USA Gymnastics for the permanent replacement, may have played a role in this selection process. If they did, this decision also reflects poorly on their abilities and the expectations their clients may have of them.
After Simone Biles shared her dismay at this decision, Mary Bono deleted the original tweet and offered a lackluster apology. In her apology, Ms. Bono, with a great deal of political experience, chose her words carefully:
“I regret the post and respect everyone’s views & fundamental right to express them. This doesn’t reflect how I will approach my position @USAGym I will do everything I can to help build, w/ the community, an open, safe & positive environment.”
Regretting the post and regretting her opposition of a brand that defends and sponsors many of the athletes she is tasked with protecting, are entirely different regrets. Ms. Bono took the time to color out the Nike symbol on her shoes and either contort her body to take the photo herself, or coordinate with another person. She then retweeted those who shared her post and left the post online for over a month. This was a well thought out, carefully prepared attack on Nike.
Those who disagree may say we split hairs here in our assessment of her apology, but would be naive. As a politician for 15 years, and someone who is expected to lead at the highest levels of gymnastics and Olympic operations, Ms. Bono knows exactly what she is saying.
That is the point. In this day and age, executives must know how to communicate online. Board directors, executive search agencies, and those responsible for selecting leaders, must research candidates and assess their fit, based in part on their digital profiles.
A Decision to Make
USA Gymnastics was either aware of Ms. Bono’s attack on Nike or not. Therefore, the organization must make a decision. They either apologize for their oversight, or explain their awareness and defend their position of hiring someone who attacks one of the greatest sponsors and defenders of the athletes they claim to protect.
Whatever the decision, USA Gymnastics and Spencer Stuart have to communicate it quickly. In the digital media age, they are already extremely slow in responding to this failure. The longer they wait, the more clear it is they were unaware and unprepared to address this issue.
Lesson for Others
It’s troubling to see such large and famous organizations making such blatant failures. This is especially true when consulted and guided by experts in the executive recruiting field.
Please, don’t make the same mistake. If you recruit leaders, make social media a major part of your assessment. If you see anything troubling in the digital shadow of a candidate, have a good reason for proceeding. USA Gymnastics did not, and they are likely scurrying for a quick defense, yet again.
This is breaking news and the post will be updated as we learn more…
UPDATE 2018.10.16: According to USA Today, the USA Gymnastics Board said missing Ms. Bono’s Nike tweet in their candidate selection process was an, “oversight”. That seems to be an understatement in my opinion.
About the Author: Ben Lichtenwalner
My passion is raising servant leadership awareness and adoption, as well as building better servant-led organizations. I do this primarily through blogging, speaking, consulting, and books. I'm the author of Paradigm Flip: Leading People, Teams, and Organizations Beyond the Social Media Revolution. I'm also often asked to speak on my unique perspective of social media as a tool for greater leadership. To know more about why I love servant leadership, check out, "Why I Started ModernServantLeader.com".
One of the main causes of stress is due to work-related matters and one of the main causes of stress in the workplace is due to the tasks that are to be done at that moment. In a society and culture that glorifies and prides itself on constantly being busy and having a heavy work overload, it is definitely no surprise for these unfortunate events that occur on a daily basis. While I believe in the importance of hard work to be done effectively and righteously, I also believe in the importance of rest for clarity. Our society constantly pushes a narrative to be a ruthless, unapologetic go-getter, do more and more (far beyond what some are capable) so we appear to always be mentally and professionally exemplary. This is far from what can actually serve as a beneficial factor in one’s professional life. I never want to pride myself on being too busy for what is important whether those include potential endeavors, people I love and care about, and especially God since He is never too busy for me or any of us. Being busy has become a factor in narcissism because we have been led to believe that being busy increases our social status due to the narrative that more is necesarily better. The concept of being too busy for pretty much anything outside of what we are busy doing is a dangerous concept our culture glorifies in saturating. The reality is that what one may be busy with may not be that important. If anything, we should be striving towards being busy and productive doing what is creative, enhancing, worthy, and impactful to hone what busyness truly ought to look like. I will never agree with society’s definition of being effective in one’s position. To get ahead for my own gain without any regard, respect, or concern for my fellow man is one of the biggest lies we have been taught. If we focused more on being productive rather than being busy, we would honestly get more done instead of disheveling unimportant tasks under the guise of “work” and “being busy”. By making time for being productive, we make time for matters that sustain their usefulness. If I end up hurting/compromising myself or worse for the sake of trying to look like a hustling and solemn go-getter while ignoring what’s important or forgetting to be an encouragement to those around me, then I’ve failed no matter how much I may acquire. May we as a society stop prioritizing a false concept of “being busy” especially where it doesn’t apply and start prioritizing what and who truly matters. (At the same time, there is nothing necessarily wrong with being busy every now and then especially if what you’re busy with is worth it. Talking about being busy increases the ego, but actually being busy increases opportunities)
To read more about my thoughts on this subject, they are shared in Chapter 4 in my latest book Create, Execute, Repeat: Leveraging Creativity in Business and Life.
I recently returned from a trip to Michigan where I attended services for the Jewish New Year. It was there and then that I learned that my Rabbi of some 47 years had imparted his DNA to literally thousands of people. Now, before you compare Rabbi Harold Loss to one of those psycho-narcissistic fertility doctors, let me clarify.
As Rabbi Loss explained it, our entire population has been uber-focused on the recent ability to trace our ancestry through our physical DNA . That information can go a long way in explaining a lot about who we are and what traits we are likely to pass on through our progenies. It also can leave a lot unexplained. That is because so much of what defines us and the characteristics that we will pass on is not any part of our "physical" DNA but rather our spiritual "DNA".
Our physical DNA may determine our build and even our life span but it is our spiritual DNA that fills the core of the structure that the physical DNA has helped mold. Is the core one of warmth, empathy and caring or indifference and apathy? Does the core effuse an enthusiasm for life or does it look only inward and find emptiness? All of the attributes that really define our being are those that are made up, not of our physical, but of our spiritual DNA.
What Rabbi Loss pointed out is that, while our physical DNA can be passed on to relatively few recipients, the passing of our spiritual DNA has a virtually unlimited bandwidth. And here's the big distinction, while our physical DNA is absolute, our spiritual DNA is discretionary. Each and every one of us has the unique ability to pass on our spiritual DNA with every single human interaction. A smile, an act of kindness, a willingness to listen. In each act, the passing of your spiritual DNA. What an amazing opportunity we each have with each and every contact. We truly can impact the world.
I look around at our remarkable Workout 32789 team and realize there is some awesome spiritual DNA contained within. I hope we are doing a good job of passing that on. I also know that we are blessed with some spectacular clients and I know that I am a better person from my own interactions with many of those individuals. Let's all continue to remember the message of Rabbi Loss and work to pass on the best in each of us with every opportunity.
You will recognize these three words, Just Do It, as Nike’s slogan, but they’re also the words I live by. For as long as I can remember, I have danced to the beat of my own drum. My beat was not always easy to follow and certainly not often appreciated by anyone else but me. I had my own set of rules that I lived by and, not surprisingly, this often caused friction. At a young age, I insisted on picking my own clothes and doing my own hair (and sadly I have pictures to prove it). I took ballet and figure skating classes when what I truly wanted to learn was karate and hockey. I wanted to do what I liked regardless of rules or consequences. Life was always clearly labeled for me: Just Do It. That meant making things better, faster, smarter. I questioned processes, rules, and norms. Yes, I was a challenge for my parents; they were no strangers to my teachers and principals. It wasn’t always easy to be my parent or sibling BUT life was always interesting. My ‘Just Do It’ attitude led me to new and exciting places including the rugby pitch, tennis court, windsurf board, water skis, and more. ‘Just Do It’ powered my first paying jobs — teaching tennis, teaching waterskiing, and teaching windsurfing. Catch a theme here? My ‘Just Do It’ attitude became my signature and I was compelled to pass it on. Teaching was my new passion. ‘Just Do It’ led me to teach others to ‘Just Do It.’ My hope was that I could pass along my passion for a sport or a skill to another. In turn, they would do the same, and so on, and so on, and so on. Proudly, I have taught many to play and love sports. One of my finest achievements to date was teaching my own children to windsurf, play tennis and throw an amazing spiral. Hopefully, they will do the same in the future and pass along that attitude to others.
Now, what about you – what are you passionate about? Why not pass on that passion? Go ahead, Just Do It!
Originally posted at Kessler Life
A few weeks ago, I received a call from the Chief of Staff (CoS) of an officer at my company, inviting me to come speak to her mentoring circle about networking. It was the second invitation like it on the topic. From my previous articles, you may have learned that I really shun the idea of what people see as classic networking. I believe that I have something in my DNA that is just simply diametrically opposed to the idea. I just wasn't built for it. I'm certain it works for someone because people continue to push the idea. A self-proclaimed introverted extrovert, I really don't like the idea of entering a room full of people that I do not know and striking up conversations that I feel can only be superficial at best. My approach to the concept is a little different, after more than 20 years in my career. I outlined five tips for that mentoring circle that have worked for me over the years. They seemed to be well received by the group. Hopefully, you'll find them useful as well.
Think of this as the prequel to my 5 Keys to Power Rapport Building. Together these two articles create a formula for low-key, "un-networking."
Slay every day. No need for embellishments here: this tip really is focused on performance. While it is important to look your best because first impressions can make or break you, you must complete each and every task or assignment with excellence. In other words, kill it every time, whether the initiative be big or small. Every. Single. Time. This is how good reputations are built and positive buzz about you is created inside and outside of your company. In other words, let's give them something to talk about. The chance for a mutual spark between you and the new connection you want to make will increase the better your buzz.
Be attractive. Again, this isn't about the outward appearance as much as it is about ensuring that your good reputation proceeds you and your personal brand is well executed, so that people want to meet you and know more. This discussion centered around the difference between brand and reputation. Your brand is what you put out into the universe proactively. These are the things that you want people to know about you. Your reputation is what people say about you when you aren't in the room. Both can attract people to you or do the exact opposite. Take an assessment of what makes your brand a good one. Consider what is said in rooms where you are not. Do the two things add up? Is there some tweaking to your brand that may impact your reputation? Slaying everyday will help.
Leverage social media. If you want to blow off that 8-minute networking event, how about spending more time on platforms like LinkedIn which actually provide you with a way to engage and connect with people without being too bold too soon? The algorithm makes this really, really simple. Every engagement affords you extended reach. So try liking content that someone in your network shared. Your entire network will see it, but be deliberate about it. Is the content aligned with your brand? Then, yes...give it a thumbs up. If you want to get a little more out there, try commenting. You don't have to post updates or even provide long-form posts to shape your positioning. Engagement can take you places and create connections that you may not have even considered. The ultimate compliment that you can pay someone on LinkedIn? Share their content on your page. Tag them while you are at it. Then watch your reach expand to not only your network, but theirs too. Their positive response won't hurt either. By they way, if you haven't given a thought to your digital footprint, you should. Ask yourself, "what do people see when they Google me?" Then be proactive about shaping those search results based on your one-sentence value proposition. (We'll explore that in more detail in an upcoming article.)
Build a community. This is where I beckoned the great advice of Ted Rubin: a network expands you reach, a community gives you power. So let's look at why a community can offer you so much prowess. Communities gather around shared values, and very loosely (as is extremely obvious in social media) shared content. And those connections are made stronger by the conversations those people have about topics with which they all align. This implies that your community has more than just a passing knowledge of you. Your network may be familiar with you, but your community will vouch for you. So how about starting with the people you already know? The people who already know your work? The people who you know will actually answer when you call. Start here...see where it gets you.
Establish a great rapport. So this leads me to the original article. A rapport is the very beginning of a relationship, and sometimes, a chance meeting or even a planned one can only afford you a few moments to achieve an interaction that can lead to a more fruitful exchange. I shared the example of how I even wound up speaking to the officer's mentoring circle, and it truly demonstrated how the first 4 tips led to the fifth and ultimately found me sitting before the group to which I was speaking. The CoS asked HR D&I who they recommended should come share with the mentoring circle. HR D&I is one of my clients within my company. I try to slay all day for them. Apparently, it impacted their recommendation. The CoS went to the officer and provided their suggestion and said that she didn't know me. The officer said, "You have never heard L. Michelle speak? I have." I had been in the room with the officer twice--each time, I was presenting my work. The CoS looked me up on LinkedIn, and the post she saw first was the endorsement from my university (it's a little large), and with that, she picked up the phone.
The result of that conversation could have gone another way had the officer said, "You know, I've been in meetings with her, and I really don't think she is a fit." Boom...no invitation.
How have you managed to network without actually networking? This is my formula. What's worked for you? Use the hashtag #unnetworking, and tag me if you can.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @lmichellepr. Let's connect over some great content! I'd love to add you to my community.
Honored to support this effort. Thanks to Chris Lewis, @DadofDivas, for sharing with me. Everyone deserves a quality education and to be treated with respect and dignity. #RonR... #NoLetUp!
As a result of our vote to accept and support students regardless of their gender identity, we have been targeted for recall and now face a special election on Tuesday, November 6. We are all parents and our children have enjoyed the benefits of Williamston Community Schools. While we have served on the Williamston Board of Education our schools have continued a tradition of excellence. We each have been professional educators and are effective, experienced school board trustees with a proven commitment to public schools. We are proud of Williamston Community Schools and the work of our students and staff. We also love the Williamston Community and are asking for the opportunity to continue working for our students, staff and community as school board trustees. Please support us if:
You are proud of Williamston Community Schools and want to support the great things that are happening here;
You want to support all of our kids, including students who are members of the LGBTQ+ community;
You are tired of elections and public policy being determined by fear-mongering and misinformation;
You want to embrace a spirit of hope and optimism in developing board policy;
You want your school board to stand up for all students, even when it is difficult or unpopular.
Your contribution will help us to get accurate information to the Williamston Community and enable us to continue working on behalf of all students. You may contribute via credit card by using this site. Your contribution will be evenly split between all four candidates. Thank you!
Should you prefer to contribute by check, our committee names and addresses are below.
If you want to stay current regarding our campaign, connect with us through our website: www.keepwilliamstonboard.com
Show your support for this campaign by endorsing it and sharing why!
It happens every day, yet small business owners continue to be caught by surprise. You’ve cornered the local market, you’ve built up your niche, people know you, and they come back. Then one morning you’re driving to work, and you pass a construction site— a big construction site. Before you know it, you find yourself in a difficult position: a giant has moved into your backyard.
Competing with big box stores—whether they’re down the street or only exist as a website and a massive network of warehouses—is tough when you’re a small business. Economies of scale dictate that you’re not going to be able to beat them on price or convenience.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. If you take a closer look at what you have to offer and start to see your weaknesses as strengths, you can turn them into the advantages you need to compete with the brand giants and win.
Focus on Value, Not Savings
So, you can’t beat the big brands on price— weakness number one. Unless you’re an extremely specialized line of business, you’re going to have a hard time competing with companies that do business at a volume that’s orders of magnitude bigger than what you do. They can buy in bulk and get deals that you simply don’t have access to.
Instead of worrying about being the cheapest place around, you need to start thinking about value. You don’t just sell something; you also offer a unique, personal experience. What are you doing to make sure that when someone comes through your door, they’ll want to come back again and again?
Making Your Business a Great Experience
The first thing to look at when you’re thinking about value is the physical layout of your business. The classic rule is “location, location, location,” but the real question is this: what are you doing to make people want to come back? You want people to value the time they spend with you, and not just because you’re on the way from the grocery store to the gas station.
Big box stores are homogenous, especially in their design. You can walk into a McDonald’s, Best Buy, or Walmart, and they’ll look pretty much the same whether you’re in Montana or New York City. This is designed to make people feel comfortable, but it also puts you in a daze.
So, how do you make your experience really great? It depends on what your business does. Offering a lot of hands-on time with products, comfy furniture that invites people to stay awhile, in-store WiFi, a TV with relevant programming, a crazy layout that turns shopping into an adventure…you’re limited only by your own imagination.
A Personal Touch
Weakness number two: you only sell a small number of things, and they sell everything. Instead, think about it this way: you’re an expert, and they’re just a generalist. Would you rather buy something from someone who knows a lot about it or someone who’s just there to collect a paycheck?
Your best asset when trying to compete with a big brand is you. Your passion, your expertise, your experience, and your knowledge. You need to be aware that customers will value their interactions with you and, well, interact.
Make a point of striking up conversations with customers, and walk them through what you have to offer. It’s the relationships you establish that will create your biggest fans, the kind that will send their friends your way and talk you up online.
Competing with a Smaller Selection
Weakness number three: your selection is so much smaller than the big brands. Why would someone come to you when they can go down the street and choose from ten different options at a variety of price points? If they trust you, they’ll come because you’re the expert and the two options that you stock is better than sorting through a pile of seemingly identical choices with very little guidance.
In other words, the value you offer is your curation. Your selection might be smaller, but you stand behind everything that you sell, and you can explain why you sell it. Big brands have to cater to everyone, but you can take a risk and offer something more specialized or unusual.
What You Can Do Right Now
It’s understandable to be nervous when a brand giant moves into your backyard, but if you take the time to re-envision your weaknesses as strengths, you’ll find that you have more advantages than you think.
You’ll never undercut a big brand’s prices, so focus on offering value.
Make your in-store experience unique.
Focus on personal service and realize that the experience you provide has value.
Carefully curate your inventory.
We are sales professionals, and therefore we very much love three letters: Y-E-S. Is there a sweeter sound than that of a hard-earned “yes” at end of a sales presentation? I think not.
The converse, of course, is also true. The word “no” is like a dagger in the heart. The word falls upon us as if weighing two tons, and we are Wile E. Coyote under its crushing weight.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. All we need to do is study the typical 5-year-old.
Little kids are selectively deaf. Their tiny brains are simply not capable of hearing the word “no.”
Kid: “Daddy, can I have candy”?
Kid: “I’ll be good.”
Kid (with an impish grin): “Mommy would say ‘yes’.”
As sales professionals we can actually learn quite a bit from that 5-year-old. The response from the father/prospect was “no,” but what did the child hear? Seriously, how did the kid interpret that simple word?
The child hears “no.” The child interprets it as “not yet.”
That’s huge. What if sales professionals could train their brains to do the same thing. What if they could develop that mantra: No = Not Yet.
It makes sense, when you think about it. Suppose the customer says “no” when you ask for the sale. We can still make a critically obvious observation: that customer is still there.
The customer did not simply say no, turn around and stomp off, never to be seen again. The prospect is still standing in front of you.
The “no” was really a “not yet.” And the “not yet” could be interpreted further as “help me.”
That’s really what a “no” is – a plea for help.
What kind of impact could you have if you changed your thinking and simply applied a “not yet” attitude in your own presentation?
Be a kid. Get stubborn. Become deaf to the word “no” and interpret it as, “not yet.” And then you can change your customer’s world.
Have you ever wondered how to focus on the younger demographic in your marketing efforts? While Baby Boomers have the most disposable income right now, the younger demographic, mainly Millenials, are outpacing Baby Boomers when it comes to numbers. It only makes sense from a sales perspective to focus your marketing dollars on reaching those customers.
Focus on the Younger Demographic
Reaching Millenials won’t be managed the same way as reaching Baby Boomers. Each demographic values different things. They consume information in different ways. They frequent different types of media sources. Did you know that 82% of Baby Boomers use social media? Or that Facebook is their most preferred social media network?
While Millenials still frequent Facebook, over 30% say that either Instagram or Snapchat are their favorite social media channel. And, YouTube is a close second with being preferred over Twitter or Pinterest. When you focus on the younger demographic, you will need to make sure that your message is being sent to the social media channels and websites that they frequent.
It’s also important to remember that Millennials will connect with different messages. They have memories from their childhood revolving around different marketing characters. There are different televisions shows and popular moments in history that are different than the Baby Boomer generation.
You can often reach Millenials by including popular music, celebrities, cars and entertainment that appeals to their generation. Consider the music that plays in the background of your ad. Or, think about the location that your commercial is being shot from. A celebrity endorsement from a popular icon that appeals to Millennials can really skyrocket the success of your campaign.
While it’s important to focus on the younger demographic in marketing campaigns, it’s also important that you not eliminate other groups. Baby Boomers still have the most disposable income of any other generation. Ignoring that demographic just doesn’t make sense.
The opportunity for a quick road trip to Flint Hill, Virginia presented itself and I jumped all over it. The last time I was down that way was a few years ago visiting Culpeper Virginia, which is a bustling, majestic town in it’s own right. Flint Hill is a little more secluded. To get there I had to make that trek across the infamous Pennsylvania Turnpike… I don’t think I’ve ever traveled on it when it wasn’t raining at some point.
I was meeting up with some great pints, forks “friends” John Andrews, Ted Rubin, and Jeffery Mitchell over at Griffin Tavern, where we enjoyed some incredible english pub-style meals featuring Shepherds Pie, Bangers & Mash, Fish n’ Chips, steaks and more. They even accommodated a vegan dish for Ted. We ate outside and even weathered a little storm that passed through. We all just rolled with it.
The brew selection was on point as well featuring a lot of local craft beers on tap. Lately I’ve been into more IPA’s and tried a Hopwork Orange by Blue Mountain Brewery, which was an outstanding local brew. We had a great conversation going about the future of retail, especially in regard’s to Jeffery’s Culpeper Cheese Co’s. new direction. Will it go back to a true brick and mortar, or will it be a hybrid style shop with a heavy ecommerce focus? Like John says… Do both;)
- Jeffery was the “big cheese” in Pittsburgh last week at the American Cheese Festival. He oversaw like 10,000 pounds of cheese sold at that event… Call Guinness Jeffery!! – Full Story Here
- The bartender was from Akron, Ohio and born in the same hospital as me;)
- John and Ted were traveling to Washington D.C. the next day to visit Ted’s daughter Niki, who had a summer internship at the SEC, and promoting the Photofy App along the way via their own usage and meeting with several brands in the DC area
- Pints, Forks & Friends expands website with “On The Road” Field Note section.
- We stayed at The Blue Door Kitchen & Inn – walking distance from Griffin Tavern
Isn’t it interesting how life experiences, even at a very young age, can affect how you approach problems later in life?
I’ve had a number of people ask me how Carl and I can stay so positive in our current situation.
“I’m not sure how you’re doing it - I’d be a mess,” they say.
“You seem like you’re doing so well with this - how?” they ask.
Let’s get one thing straight - cancer is a tough diagnosis to hear. It’s a long, grueling process toward healing. It’s not easy, and my feelings toward it aren’t the same from day to day.
But people’s comments have made me wonder where my perspective came from.
HOW AM I HANDLING THIS BETTER THAN PEOPLE EXPECT?
First and foremost, there’s been a lot of prayer and a lot of faith. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I couldn’t do this without the community supporting me. There’s power in numbers and relationships and, quite simply, God.
But, when I reflect on experiences that have shaped my perspective over the years, I come back to 1994. I was in fourth grade. We had just moved into the house my parents still live in today, and, a few months later, my Nana moved in with us.
Now, as kids, it was pretty awesome to have your Nana living with you. She gave us lots of surprises, let us put on an endless number of amateur "musicals" for her, and wanted us to sing with her at any given point in the day. (For those of you that don’t know, I grew up singing and playing the flute.)
But, she wasn’t living with us to do all these things.
She moved in because her Parkinson’s Disease caused her body to slow down. It wasn’t safe for her to live alone anymore, and she needed full-time care.
My mom took on the role of her primary caregiver. She did this without hesitation, without question.
And it wasn’t until recently that I realized how important this event was in shaping my outlook on tough events.
See, my mom didn’t wallow in her mom’s decline, at least not in front of me.
My mom took on every situation that Parkinson's threw at us with tenacity and courage, but also with grace and love. Parkinson's may have been taking over Nana's body, but Mom wasn't going to let things happen without a fight.
I never saw my mom get scared - even through the multiple trips with Nana to the hospital for various infections and other complications.
Instead, I saw my mom advocate. She ensured that her mom was receiving the best that healthcare had to offer. She questioned doctors when something didn't seem right, and she did as much research as possible on the endless number of medications Nana consumed everyday.
She did all of this without complaining.
She did all of this reminding Sarah and me (on numerous occasions):
“This is how we’re supposed to take care of the people that we love.
Keep in mind that since my mom was Nana's full-time caregiver, that meant we were tied pretty close to our house.
We didn't go on vacations.
My mom couldn't leave the house unless someone was there to watch Nana, so we accepted help from an incredible group of family and friends.
We made the best of everything. We knew that Nana wouldn’t get better, but we weren’t going to let a prognosis rob us of an opportunity to spend quality time together.
We had family dinners, and Nana sat at the head of the table.
Dad was still in broadcasting during this time, which meant that he went to bed by 7 p.m. so he could by at work around 2 a.m.
If there was ever an exemplary model of how to treat your in-laws, it had to come from my dad. My dad treated Nana with the same respect he gives my mom. He would sit with Nana so Mom could get out of the house.
He would even do the messy parts of the job. And there were plenty of times that he and Nana just had to laugh because a situation like helping her to the bathroom was awkward, but he was the only one there to help. And so he did.
As a rising middle schooler, I was given responsibilities of helping with Nana - leading her daily physical therapy exercises, supporting her as she would get up and down from chairs, grabbing pickles for her out of the fridge when she wanted a snack.
We didn’t harp on the tough spots.
I distinctly recall in January 1996, when my mom was told that Nana only had a couple of weeks to live, that we all prepared for the end. Nana was confined to a bed at that point, but it didn’t stop us from sharing stories, singing, and snuggling.
Nana passed away two days after her birthday in April 1996 - three months later than doctors had predicted.
Can you imagine if we had let that two week prognosis weigh us down? If we had just succumbed to the terrible news? We would have missed out on so much.
AND THAT’S THE THING ABOUT A CANCER DIAGNOSIS - IF YOU WALLOW IN IT, YOU’LL MISS OUT ON SO MUCH.
I’ve made so many new friends through this process. Women I would have never met otherwise. I've met them while sitting in the infusion chair, I've met them through other survivors, and I've met them through Facebook groups that exist just for people with my diagnosis.
I've become closer to a small group of my girlfriends, because they allow me to share what's going on each week and they check in to make sure I have what I need.
I’ve generated a better appreciation for our healthcare system and the men and women that work tirelessly to help people like me every single day. The nurses and doctors I've worked with at UNC Rex Healthcare are by far some of the most caring people - and they take care of numerous patients just like me day in and day out.
I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I thought I was. That my family is strong. That my relationships are strong. That I have a community behind me and, together, we can achieve anything.
But, most importantly, what I learned as a kid in the 90's is that the key to tackling tough situations requires tenacity and positivity.
Amid all the hype and hysteria about fake news, there is little discussion about its close cousin, fake marketing. Both practices run on the same rails, utilizing digital platforms and algorithms to game reality. Marketing has fake reviews and fictitious inflated follower counts, news has fraudulent stories promoted by bots that eventually find real humans that actively consume and share. This process reinforces algorithmic interaction and human believability. If a real person shares a story about child sex rings being run out of a pizza parlor (Pizzagate), it begins to gain author authority no matter what the source.
The marketing parallel is the raft of fake reviews and gaming of the review process what has become a critical part of the digital path to purchase. Reviews are suffering from a trust crisis as they are being gamed in similar patterns. Fake reviews both positive and negative are created and managed by some of the very systems that are supposed to be making reviews easier and more transparent. Attempting to build commercial viability, media, marketing and content have become a hot mess that people now have to wade through to get actual information, news and entertainment.
“Trusted institutions of the past have become the click-bait of the present.”
There is zero chance that these tools won’t be misused by marketers, political groups and everyday people alike. Just as people are duped by Nigerian Princes seeking to deposit money in their bank account, they are fooled by reviews from platforms that hide bad reviews for restaurants while promoting good reviews for those that pay for their services. They respond to the direct mail piece for a free cruise and are also panicked by automated phone calls from the IRS threatening arrest.
Do people blame the telephone and mailbox for scams? No, but Facebook sure gets a bad wrap. The platforms have some responsibility for managing the integrity of their content but so do those using them. Social Media by its nature reflects the motivations of those that use it, both good and bad. Expecting social media channels to be any different from any other media form is unrealistic. Traditional channels shaking a finger at social channels should seek to clean their own houses first, as the same manipulative forces are hard at work there as well.
Like humans, algorithms can be gamed. Unlike current algorithms, humans can actually use their brains to dig deeper and make judgements that might conflict with their prewired assumptions. My antenna is always up when I see all unicorn farts and rainbows for reviews. No one is perfect and a lack of critical reviews is an easy marker for gaming just as an overweight for negative feedback. Algorithms are decent at spotting this too but still can be manipulated. Search Optimization has suffered the same fate. Bad actors manipulate search to gain ‘top results’ for their clients which quickly discover that once the gaming stops, so do their results.
Thwart the algos!! READ AND TALK TO PEOPLE!
“A person only learns in two ways: one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” — Will Rogers
The best way to form a great opinion is to consume a variety of content. Only using a single source is guaranteed to limit the potential for group thought and confirmation bias. One of the challenges of digital media is that it's too easy to find information that simply reinforces what you already believe. While it might make you feel better, it is pretty easy to game.
Talk to People With Different Opinions
We tend to surround ourselves with people like us. Some research show that you are the sum total of your five closest friends. They are all great folks but try talking to some others, especially those with opposing viewpoints to get a broader perspective and some new data points to consider. Algorithms seeks to predict your behavior and will create a cocoon of sameness in your media is not fed with new nodes occasionally.
In the words (and writings) of my business partner Ted Rubin, “Learn to Discern.” Not only for your own mind, but for the many digital minds seeking to persuade you.
This is part 1 of a 3-part interview series with Liz McMillan, CEO of Dictionary.com. We sat down together at the Collision Conference in New Orleans to discuss the importance of language, meaning, and truth that words give to our human culture.
We’re living in strange times. Social media has given society new mediums in which to “weaponize” words, and we’re seeing this filter into every facet of contemporary life, especially politics – look no further than POTUS. Diplomacy by Twitter is commonplace, and delivering concise, impactful information in bite-size chunks has become a modern art form. But being concise doesn’t guarantee context. By reducing background information and shrinking word counts, are we doing a disservice to meaning in the quest for more re-tweets and favorites?
Especially when it’s meaning that matters.
Dictionary.com has been quietly, authoritatively fact-checking and calling out the current administration’s Twitter feed. Grammar and meaning are sticking points when trying to incite reaction, and “fact-checking” is increasingly sought after as a source of certainty and orientation to those who value truth.
We have reached the point where words, and their meaning, are our only truths. Click to Tweet
With this in mind, I spoke with Dictionary.com CEO Liz MacMillan about language, words, and meaning in the new age of information warfare. What are the challenges for modern dictionaries when we are constantly creating new communication technologies, iterative language, and symbolic meaning in an increasingly global society?
Courtney: The curiosity behind “meaning” is so important. Do you feel that we’ve sort of lost that curiosity for meaning in America?
Liz: Oh, I think it’s coming back.
Courtney: And why do you think that?
Liz: I think that we are saturated with content. There are so many things that are going on in the world that we’re trying to decipher, and that we’re trying to understand. We can become very disenfranchised when there’s all these things happening around us, and become very isolated, because all of our communication is now coming through text, and we don’t have the human interaction that we all crave.
And because of the democratization of publishing, there is that underlying, “Well, what does that mean?” When I send you a text message, I’m publishing something. You might be the only audience member, but I’ve just put something in writing that’s permanent, that you’re going to consume.
It’s that permanence that causes us, as publishers, be very self-aware of, “Am I getting this right? Do I have the right nuance? How am I going to be perceived on the other end of this message?”
Courtney: There’s something about writing it down and declaring it publicly that makes it real. It’s a thing.
Liz: But the fact that we can legitimize something comes with great responsibility. We could extend that sense of responsibility to, “Okay, we have this vantage point. We see things that are happening in the world. We understand that words are being used in a way — by influencers, by people in power, by leaders – that impacts us, and we have a role to play in helping the world understand that.
The epitome of that for us is the “Word of the Year”.
Courtney: What was it last year?
I lost sleep thinking about choosing “complicit” as the “Word of the Year” last year. And it was such an obvious choice.
Courtney: How is the “Word of the Year” chosen?
Liz: We start with data. We say, “Okay, what words have trended, or spiked, or been in conversations this year?” We look at our look-ups of words that exist, we look at our misspells. We start there.
What we capture is the zeitgeist of what’s happening in the world.
The end of the year brings reflection, and our words are a perfect way to do that as we’re getting ready for the new year. It’s almost like a catharsis: “Oh, this year was complicit.” I had actually predicted in about June of last year that our word of the year be “unprecedented,” because it was an unprecedented year.
Courtney: Yes, it was.
Liz: Certainly politically and environmentally.
And “unprecedented” was actually one of the front-runners. But, you know, we looked at all of these things, and this theme about complicit emerged. The reason I lost sleep over it was because it’s a little bit clinical…but at the end of the day, I got it. I didn’t want to politicize it, but what I wanted to say was, whether you’re active or inactive, you are complicit in the world you live in. So, I hope that came through.
Courtney: I am dying to ask, what do you think the word will be for this year?
Liz: I can’t predict what the word will be this year, but I’ve been thinking about what I hope it is. I think I would like for it to be “resist.” This is me as an individual person, not representing the dictionary. But, you see the word around us.
Courtney: Yeah. There’s a call to do that…it’s in reaction to what is happening. Or, I should say not in reaction to, in response to. I love the difference between reaction and response, because of the thoughtfulness of it. “I’m choosing to do this” is a response that requires thought.
I think that for Dictionary.com to understand and have that level of consciousness about the role and the gravity of being the provider of definitions and words is brilliant.
Not just the people who are working and leading the company, but also the people who are using it. Like…
Liz: The customers.
Courtney: I’m hoping that they’re curious, that they’re looking words up, and that they want to find out the meaning.
Truth is our Most Valuable Principle
The stakes are high and preserving the truth has never been more important. Encouraging curiosity is key. How can we hold those in power accountable if truth is relegated to an inconvenient afterthought?
If we hold our resolve, dig deep, and try to understand the true meaning behind words, we can mitigate the impact of weaponized language and use it as a point of orientation around heated situations.
Liz McMillan is the CEO of Dictionary.com. Its mission is to remove the anxiety we all feel with the English language, enabling and inspiring connection, communication, learning, creativity, and expression for more than 70M people each month.
Feature photo courtesy of Columbia Journalism Review.
As data goes, nothing beats the first party kind. Good, old-fashioned direct relationship data. Sure, second and third party data SOUND attractive especially combined with all manner of smart technology to optimize and perfect the marketing dream of delivering the right message to the right shopper at just the right time. (Here’s a helpful guide from retargeter.com (lol) if you’re not super sure about the difference) It’s the holy grail of communications that has been drilled into every marketer’s head since their first comms 100 class. Plus, first party data is hard. It requires diligent work, analysis and empathy for the folks that make up brand loyalists. Properly cared for, these folks will do amazing marketing for a brand. Think Harley, Apple, Disney, REI and any brand that people avidly share about. Secondary data sounds like an amazing path to growth. Identify those most likely to be brand supporters and add them into that first party group.
Great Brands Have A First Person Relationship, Not Outsourced Data.
While this sounds great in theory, secondary data has devolved into a simplistic selling tool for many brands. Look no further than your inbox or the endless litany of retargeting ads that stalk you around the internet often for things you already bought or had simply searched or even just touched in some tertiary digital way. ‘Smart’ media, ‘Deep-learning algorithms and the over-hyped AI bandwagon have become painful for shoppers. These systems all have basically the same data... loads of second and third party information that when compiled, becomes much the same. The approach sounds so promising, however, because almost all brands are using that same pools in one way or another, the volume of craptastic messaging being shoveled daily is burying and annoying shoppers in a desperate attempt to get them to buy something. This is all made worse because of lack of creating a single customer vision across multiple vendor-supplied systems. The good news is (lol), the systems are so smart that at a minimum, 1/3 of all digital advertising is fraudulent, never seen by an actual human. Unfortunately for brands, robots don’t eat too many cheeseburgers.
Look at brands that are thriving today and you’ll see a pattern. Great modern brands have direct relationships. Think Dollar Shave Club and Harrys that combined have captured almost 20% of the razor market. Nespresso which has created a complete coffee customer loop from farm to recycling. Amazon which has become the default for shopping by mapping its customer’s behaviors and removing shopping friction... "Simplicity is the new EDLP." All have a single common denominator, a clear view of who is buying their products along with the 'when and why’ of purchasing. Using these rich and original data pools, first person brands are building moats to protect and extend their brands while their competitors resort to deeper discounting, deals and promotions... the hallmarks of old-marketing. If you sell me a good product, create a great experience, and consistently deliver, there is no need to give me a discount to get me to buy.
Meanwhile, many brands have upped the ante on push-based media in order to continue delivering the conversions. Predictably, response levels continue to fall as the laws-of-physics for attention don’t change. We’ve been to this movie before. Email, banners, pop-ups etc, etc, etc. all decline to infinitesimal levels of response and engagement in a mind-numbing explosion of messaging overload, most aimed at immediate conversion. Cue the one night stand comparisons. Most of this behavior is driven by the fact that for many brands, there is no other choice. The view of the customer is limited to an unhygienic email list, and maybe a text number, but primarily relies on secondary data. Despite what any provider says about their data or tech stack, it’s all the same in the end. Brands are warring over the same shoppers with little to no advantage so the default response becomes volume. Plus, all the hands in the cookie jar have a monstrous impact on the amount of brand spending that actually results in reaching any live humans. Working media, isn't working.
Shoppers are in an on-demand, and as needed mode, and marketing must begin to reflect this better. First Party Data closes the loop and serves me an ad for something I’ve already purchased. It closes the loop to not send me an email daily. It closes the loop to accurately predict shopper behavior based on actual shopper behavior, not smart intuition. First Party Data helps build relationships though decision support content and after sale, service, and support. First Party Data is surprise and delight on a birthday or anniversary. Third party data is an ad. The reliance became obvious as everyone had a collective freakout about GDPR regulations and dusted off their old email lists as access to spammy data dipped. Suddenly I received emails from brands I hadn’t heard from in years. To add insult to injury, most were seeking to, you guessed it, sell me something.
How about we date a bit first?
As humans, we’re at our best when we get close and form relationships or connections. And building genuine connections can be difficult – especially when you’re a business owner or launching your career and it’s easy for other priorities to take over.
Our world is so complex and there’ so much digital architecture being created that we end up building barriers between ourselves and achieving intimacy and connections. We’re being encouraged to believe that everyone wants to be interacted with at arm’s length, through a screen and not face to face or in real-time.
Excellent interpersonal connections can enhance the way that you do business and your career prospects. Building intimacy needs a foundation of authenticity, which means embracing our own individuality and being confident when we communicate it to others.
Connections help to Solve Problems
It seems logical, but how can we think that we’ll be able to solve problems adequately when we don’t know the unique ways that team members like to work and operate? There is so much running before walking when it comes to problem-solving, but the right conditions need to be created before we can successfully solve problems.
Taking the time to get to know team members and connect can lead to a better problem-solving process in the long-term. Misunderstandings can be rife when we don’t fully comprehend how others think, their perspectives and their motivations.
Understanding others helps to create key allies and we can do this by aligning the way we approach and interact with the person we want to connect with.
Harnessing humility and making effort to connect authentically means that ideas will start to flow freely, team members will feel valued and solutions will occur. It’s about unlocking people’s human qualities and responding in the best way.
Good Energy and Good Empathy
Good relationships are based on care and a desire to truly get to know a person. This is why empathy is a key trait to possess in a professional environment.
Emotional intelligence is only going to become an even more important quality for leaders and professionals to practice. It’s possible to foster positive energy in working environments by making a concerted effort to understand peers and connect with them in an appropriate way.
Authentic empathy doesn’t come naturally to some people, but if it’s a trait you possess then embracing it is paramount. High-quality connections are created when people feel valued and engaged and conducting yourself with empathy is a big part of this.
How can you start to practice empathy? Self-awareness and the ability to reflect are a massive part of this process and if you can learn to be constructively critical of your own actions and ideas and how they affect others around you, you’re on your way there.
Relationships Create Business
Connecting with clients and customers should be an integral part of your lead generation strategy. When you can, building intangible forms of connecting should be encouraged.
If you can create ways to demo products and services physically to customers and clients, try to pitch your business face-to-face and chat with customers at events etc then you’re using intimacy to sell.
Once you decide to use intimacy and authentic connections to bond with your clients and customers, you’re creating a myriad of new reasons that they can buy from you, instead of just looking at a product on a screen.
The human element you’re bringing into the equation means that there are more variables when customers and clients are deciding to take action – if you’re enhancing and growing positive relationships then they’ll be more inclined to work with you.
More Opportunities and Possibilities
When you start to use your personality and unique qualities to connect, you’ll create the conditions for new opportunities. Finding balance in your business relationships means that you can feel more confident when seeking out mutually-beneficial arrangements.
When you’re cultivating authentic relationships, people will be more inclined to work with you in different capacities and present you with opportunities they think you’ll be interested in.
You’ll also have more reason and self-assurance to ask for favors or business help when you have been growing relationships in a truthful way. Your connections will be stronger if you look at this the other way around too and consistently think about how you can help and improve the people around you that you’re connecting with – how can you help them achieve the next level in their own development?
It’s natural for us to seek out close and authentic relationships with others and we shouldn’t neglect this in a professional capacity, because technology is creating more distance.
By trying to connect with others again and using emotional intelligence, empathy, and humility to build relationships, you’ll find that people around you respond in a better way and you can solve problems together with mutual understanding.
Has your kid caught the Fortnite bug? Probably, since recent reports suggest that 25% of kids ages 5-15 have played at least once, and tens of millions play daily.
Here are nine things you should know as a parent if your kids have been playing Fortnite.
- It has guns (but it’s not as bad as you might think)
The game’s surface-level premise is a fight to the death between 100 players on an island using randomly-found supplies, materials, and yes, guns. It’s in the same vein as the Hunger Games series, which was popularized a few years ago, but with a new twist, which is...
- Cartoons and fun
While the Hunger Games were dark and dreary, Fortnite is fun, cartoonish, and doesn’t take itself very seriously. There’s no blood, and the in-game violence is more akin to Tom hitting Jerry over the head with a spatula than it is to The Hunger Games or the iconic shooting game Call of Duty.
- It’s free and accessible
Fortnite costs no money upfront and is available on phones, computers, PlayStation, Xbox, and more. This means it’s pretty easy for your kid to get right into it, which is one of the many contributors to its wild success.
- Be warned, it can charge money
Though it’s free to start playing, there are many things in the game which one can only unlock with real money. These include “skins,” which make your kid’s character look different, or silly dances that can be performed. Make sure your child understands that they’re spending real money, and be careful before handing over your credit card.
- Your kid is playing it for a reason: it’s fun
The biggest reason so many kids are playing Fortnite so often is that they think it’s just plain fun. There’s no pied piper pulling the strings; kids are just playing a silly, competitive game with their friends where they can make their character skydive out of a flying school bus and dab.
- It’s collaborative: they get to play with their friends
Players can either queue into matches of 100 by themselves or join with 2-3 friends in a mode known as “squads.” Squad play can promote teamwork and communication skills similar to sports or other coordinated events.
- Random people can join squads with your kids
Long gone are the days of scary internet chat rooms and it is now commonplace for strangers to be on your team in many video games. 99.9% of the time these people pose no threat, but make sure your child knows never to share any personal information.
- Your kid is probably watching it too
There’s a huge number of content creators making videos or streaming gameplay of Fortnite. Usually these creators are kid-friendly and your child may find watching them more entertaining than even playing the game itself. Ask your kid about what they’re watching and check it out for yourself to make sure you’re alright with the content - each one is different.
- Experts have weighed in
The ESRB, Entertainment Software Rating Board, has given Fortnite a “T” rating. "T" stands for "teen" and thus, Fortnite is recommended for kids ages 13 and up. Their guidance is trustworthy, but it's important to make your own judgment call based on whether you think Fortnite is suitable for your child.