Don’t Take Sales + Marketing For Granted: A Tiger’s Tale

Three things I never thought I’d witness, while Tiger Woods was still in his thirties:

1. Tiger dropping out of the Top Ten in the world rankings;

2. Him being replaced as the next big thing;

3. And someone proclaiming, “Tiger Who?”

U.S. Open Champion Rory McIlroy

Well, it has all happened. Now, you might say the distractions from Tiger’s personal life, and a series of injuries are to blame, sure. And 22 year-old golf phenom Rory McIlroy winning the U.S. Open this past weekend has pushed a few to say Tiger’s day has passed.

But the fact remains, not long ago we were saying Tiger would be the all-time greatest player. Ever. We aren’t saying that anymore. In fact, I would have bet my left arm Tiger would blow away Jack Nicklaus’ Major victories record. We aren’t saying that anymore either.

What does this mean to you?

The world can change. In an instant. You might be on top of your game on one day, and forgotten the next. If it can happen to Tiger…it can happen to any one of us. And therein lies the thought for today.

Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t take your innovative product for granted. Someone will make something better tomorrow. Someone out there is innovating…

Don’t take your customer for granted. They may shop elsewhere tomorrow.

Don’t take your existing strategy (even if it works) for granted. Because the environment might change tomorrow, and the strategy will no longer work.

Don’t take your sales process (even if it works) for granted. Because your prospects will have different priorities tomorrow.

Tiger Woods may very well come back, and come back to dominate. That’s what true champions do. And I wouldn’t put it past him. Or he may fade away forever, and we’ll talk fondly about the days when that young man, for a while anyway, dominated.

Life happens. And that can upset the balance. Prepare for any possible outcome, because it will likely happen. And never stop innovating, never stop improving, because that’s how you survive.

Because just when you think Tiger will never be supplanted, life and Rory McIlroy happen…

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[photo from nbc sports]

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Mike Brown On Intrepid Radio: The Brainzooming Episode!

Mike Brown

Episode 22 of Intrepid Radio may go down as my favorite so far. Brainzooming’s Mike Brown and I, in fact, may have launched a discussion topic that will likely require multiple appearances to continue the debate…

Gotta love it when we use Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as a basis for a conversation about innovation verses creativity.

Mike, the founder of Brainzooming, and I centered our conversation around creativity. We discussed why so many struggle with creativity, how to work around creative blocks, how to build a company culture that fosters creativity, and thus innovation.

We also talked a bit about the importance of strategic thinking, which in my opinion, is a creative process. But we had a scintillating conversation about the differences between creativity and innovation…

More to come on this idea. Stay tuned to Intrepid Radio. Mike will be back soon to continue our discussion(s)…

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10 Ways To Get Into More Trouble

Are your eyes open?

I ran into an old friend at a coffee shop yesterday.

We exchanged pleasantries, filled each other in on what we were up to, talked about work, etc. The usual stuff. Then I said, “You know, just causing trouble where I can.”

Just a typical goof line I often mention in such a circumstance.

But then she replied, “Me too. I think that’s what we are supposed to do…”

[Insert forehead smack]

She’s right. That is what we are supposed to do. With projects. With careers. With plans. With travel. With life…

[Disclaimer: I don't mean law-breaking here. Just for the record...]

In this context, I mean we should always:

1. Question things. Just because that’s how it has always been done? Just because that’s how you were taught? There is a different perspective. On most everything. Probably worth exploring that different view. That’s how we learn. That’s how we see things differently.

2. Challenge things. Challenge assumptions. Challenge beliefs. Challenge rules (not laws, policy). You may end up where you started. Or you may end up innovating.

3. Fix things. You should no longer accept the status quo. If you know how to fix something, or even suspect you know how to fix something, you should tackle it. Some might begin to define NOT doing so as criminal.

4. Try new things. You might just find something better. It wasn’t until I was 40 that I realized I actually liked guacamole. What a shameful place to be, this being afraid to try, test, experiment, expose.

5. Repurpose old things. There’s gold in some of those old gems. Sometimes, newer just isn’t better. Some old school stuff is just better built. Reliable.

6. Connect things. We are, in fact, a social people. Life happens when people are connected. But somehow we all started living in cliques. Break free from that. Connect with new people. Force that connection. That old comfort zone leads nowhere.

7. Reinvent things. Twitter was meant as texting on steroids. We as a community decided to change the world with it. And business. And connectivity. And service to others. Always be looking at new ways to apply what you have….what you know.

8. Break things. Because in replacing it, you might find a better alternative. Or in repairing it, you’ll learn a better way. Or in tossing it away, finding more beauty in simplicity.

9. Trust things. The Sun will come up tomorrow. Weeds will grow in the front lawn. Humans will be humans. There are plenty of things to count and rely on. This should give you comfort to try other stuff. Life will, somehow, provide a foundation. You can recover. You can heal.

10. Or don’t trust things. Humans will be humans. Organizations will do what’s profitable, not necessarily what’s right. Suspicions keep you on your toes. Keep you from being complacent. And in that edginess, you might find a new path. Being wary can also mean keeping your eyes open and LOOKING. So, look closer.

Some may call this looking to cause trouble. I also call it living life.

Have you been bad?

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[photo from flickr]

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Innovation Leader Braden Kelley on Intrepid Radio!

Braden Kelley

What I love about this podcast is that even a guy like me can have a scintillating chat with an innovation leader like Braden Kelley. Braden is the author of the Wiley-book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire: A Roadmap To A Sustainable Culture of Ingenuity And Purpose (which you can purchase below).

In this podcast, listen as we define what innovation actually is. How an organization (both business and non-profit) can affect innovative change and identify the problems that require innovation. Braden then goes to explain how to build an internal culture that fosters creativity and innovation. You don’t want to miss this conversation!

Buy the book here (affiliate link):

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Does Your Customer Really Care?

Life is busy. Is Your Customer Paying Attention?

So you have a new idea. A new product. A new offering. Some new innovation that you are convinced will change the way your market, your customers, and your prospects will think of you and your organization. Maybe it is the spark that brings new energy and vigor to get you up in the morning.

And that’s important.

But does your customer really care?

Is this something that excites you? Or is this something that really will affect positive change on the life of your customer?

Honestly, the latest idea, the latest shiny object, the latest application may have you all hot and bothered…

But does your customer really care?

Remember this: your customer isn’t sitting around the phone or the laptop waiting to hear about your latest wild idea. Instead, they have a nervous stomach worried about paying the mortgage, meeting payroll, getting Sally to school on time, or perhaps dreaming about doing something more meaningful with their life…

Does your customer really care about your latest idea?

Maybe…maybe not. But instead of just unleashing a flurry of ideas and content on the “next best thing” to change your customer’s lives, involve them in the creation. Seek feedback. Co-create with them. In fact, a smart business person will gauge interest in the new idea before it hatches, to see if the marketplace is even interested.

And even then I can’t promise they will suddenly embrace your new idea. But you have a fighting chance now.

All I am asking is to just be cognizant of the fact that people have busy, distracted lives. So don’t get discouraged when you unveil the big idea and it falls on deaf ears. The world is a big place, with lots going on. And you are competing for mind share against the stack of bills on your customer’s table…

Be aware. And takes steps accordingly!

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[photo by mugley]

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5 Complacency Killers

You don’t need another damn blog post about…

…focusing on the little things.

…being remarkable.

…making your customers say “wow!”

Oh sure, I got inspired to write this post because of a “little thing that was a big deal” kinda thing at my local Starbucks. And true enough, it was the kind of little thing that shouldn’t be a big thing, but because OUTSTANDING customer service is so rare, it became a big thing…and a blog post.

Thinking on this topic, I realized just how complacent most employees in joints like a coffee shop can get. Just people, doing their job, watching the clock. They aren’t responsible for the marketing, you see, so they don’t really care.

That’s not to say they aren’t nice people, who I am sure, more often than not, put in a good, hard day’s work. But they are complacent. They are prematurely satisfied. Just because.

And this is what leads to mediocrity. This is what separates most small businesses from the truly great, remarkable, “talked about by everyone” kind of enterprises…

So, I put together a short list of 5 things every business should do, every day, to fight off and kill complacency dead, dead, dead:

1. Ask at least one customer, each day, what you can do to make the customer experience better.

2. Thank a customer in a public way, each day. Do this on Twitter, your Facebook fan page, your blog…just do it somewhere public.

3. Over the course of any given day, you perform a multitude of administrative tasks. As you are doing them, examine them closely, and determine if there are ways to do them better, do them more efficiently, and do them faster, to save time…time that now can be focused on improving the customer experience.

4. Walk around your place of business. Is it presentable and clean? It is one thing to be unorganized to the point of charming. It is quite another to be dirty. New places are clean and shiny. Remarkable places STAY clean and shiny. Complacent places get dirty and run down…

5. Empower employees to do surprising things for customers. This, of course, makes the customer’s day. This also, of course, makes the employee’s day…

5.5. Don’t know any innovative ways to empower your employees? Let them come up with ideas. And reward them for being creative. And if they do something on the spot to wow a customer and haven’t necessarily cleared it with you beforehand? Don’t punish them. You will kill their spirit.

Just a few ideas. To be executed daily. What do you think? What did I miss?

[image by @gapingvoid]

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Fix bayonets…And charge!

Chamberlain

I was chatting with a colleague the other day, and we were talking about wrapping up a key phase of a joint project. As we discussed the launch of the next phase, in my exuberance, I said what I always say when I am motivating myself:

“Fix bayonets. And charge!”

The phrase comes from one of my favorite films, Gettysburg. After mentioning it to my colleague, I had a hankering to see it again.

The scene is from Day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg. The extreme left flank of the Union Army is exposed. The Confederates are trying to outflank and come in from behind to destroy the entire Union Army. It is left to a small regiment, the 20th Maine commanded my Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, to hold the line and keep the left flank from collapsing. (This is a true story, btw…)

Anyways, they have repelled multiple Confederate surges, but are now out of ammunition, exhausted, and suffering from casualties for over half their number. Left with no other options, and no ammunition, Chamberlain orders his regiment to fix their bayonets, and charge down the hill of Little Round Top in one last desperate attempt to hold the flank. Here is the scene:

I don’t mind admitting the scene makes me emotional, and it inspires me every time I see it. When I need a charge or a little boost to lift my spirits, I think of this story about the 20th Maine. It works every time.

So, inspiration in hand, I present you with “Marketing + Life Lessons From Col. Chamberlain:”

1. When you face desperate odds, a little innovation can help you make a last stand. And live to fight another day.
2. Courage – with conviction – will always serve you well.
3. The element of surprise will catch your competition unprepared almost every time. They won’t be prepared for your bold action.
4. When leading a bold action, you must lead the way. As General Longstreet says in the same film, “You can’t lead from behind.”
5. Be sure your team understands what they are supposed to do. Clarity of purpose improves odds of success.
6. Do your duty. When you are charged with a task, fulfill it to best of your ability. Leave no doubt as to your commitment.
7. Keep the task simple. When you think of it, Col. Chamberlain’s order was simple. What made it amazing with the courage it took, but in reality, the task was a simple one. Napoleon said that most generals fail because their plans are too complex.
8. Even in victory, you should be honorable.

Col. Chamberlain went to great heroism during the rest of the Civil War, winning the Medal of Honor, and he went on to serve four terms as Governor of Maine.

Think about how you can pull inspiration from this story, and apply these lessons to both your life and business. And what other lessons can be taken from this scene?

So fix bayonets…and charge!

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Look Both Ways

I was out running this morning, and was approaching a driveway. From the other direction, I saw a fellow pedestrian approaching the same driveway. A car was pulling out, and nearly hit the lady as she was walking – the driver COMPLETELY oblivious to the fact she almost ran this person over.

In fact, I doubt the driver even realized this pedestrian was there. I wondered to myself if the driver probably rarely sees walkers and/or runners cross her driveway. Thus, doesn’t even think to look for them.

To be honest, our society doesn’t really cater to walkers and runners, at least in my northwest suburban Atlanta neighborhood. The roads are a lonely place for people like us. In fact, I am surprised there are still buttons we can push to get the crosswalk signal to let us through. The world is for vehicles now. We are in too much of a hurry.

We are just not conditioned to look for, to notice, and to hear, the things that aren’t out in the open and obvious…

And this concept got me thinking. What else are we missing? What else is there that we don’t even think to look for? How much life is happening, right before our eyes, and we are too focused on what we see right before us, that we miss out on the little things…important, little things that are on the periphery?

We teach our kids to “look both ways” when they are growing up. But I think it is a concept that us adults should remember too. And I am not just talking about crossing the street. I am talking about with how we live our life, how we market our business, and how we interact with other people.

How many people are asking for help, and because we aren’t looking, or listening, we miss great opportunities – to sell them business, to help them through a bad day, and to help them fight an important cause that would benefit the world?

We need to look both ways too. We need to open our eyes. Grow bigger ears. And most importantly, and probably most out of our comfort zone, look down the dark alleys we don’t normally want to look.

But that’s where the little gems are that can make a difference to you, your business, and to the people in your sphere of influence. [btw, "looking both ways" can increase your sphere of influence]

Here are some things to think about, and to look for, from the people you care about in your networked community. Just think about this when you are interacting with them down the road:

1. Every person has someone in their family who needs medical help. Offer them help and support.
2. Every person has a non-profit, a charity, or some cause they care about, and would love your help with.
3. Every business has a major problem they need help with, but is probably too proud to tell anyone about it. Ask.
4. Every local high school team needs a fan club, a means to support some innovative and creative young people capable of making a difference in the world. Mentor them.
5. Every little community has talent – innovators, artists, musicians, big thinkers – that have NOT been discovered. Discover them. You have to open your eyes to find them.
6. There are networking groups in EVERY community that need vibrant leadership, fresh blood, fresh ideas, to revitalize the group. Get in there and make a difference.
7. Get involved in local politics. Trust me, MOST citizens are NOT involved. It only takes a little organization and you can create a movement that will impact local politics. You can make a difference.
8. Your local community weekly newspaper needs fresh contributors. Get involved. You can add a whole new image to the paper.
9. You probably have a passion most don’t know about. Talk about it. Write about it. Blog about it. There are others who share your passion. Build a local movement.
10. Mentor children. They need it. Trust me.

These are just a few examples of the opportunities that exists. I am sure you can come up with dozens more. What am I missing?

We are all busy, leading crazy lives, and get focused on surviving day to day. Take a second, look around you, and you will soon be amazed and all the cool things around that you didn’t notice before.

Take notice. Make a difference. Find inner peace. Live an intrepid life. And you can start doing that by looking both ways…

[photo from andryone on flickr]

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99 Ways To Be An Intrepid Marketer

Intrepid-Logo-1So, what exactly is an intrepid marketer? And why have I built a business – and started this blog – around the idea of making people intrepid marketers?

The definition of intrepid from the Wiktionary is fearless, bold, and brave. It’s etymology is the Latin intrepidus, meaning “not nervous.” Here is a more detailed explanation for why I named the company HERE.

Fear is something that always holds us back. Fear of being rejected, so you never submit that project on time. Fear of never achieving a goal, so you never set out to do it. Fear of taking that leap to do something you love and are passionate about, so you stay in a job you hate. Fear of being truly innovative and taking your small business in an exciting new direction, so you just do the same old tired things…

I want to make intrepid marketers out of all of us. So, here is a partial list of attributes that make people intrepid marketers:

  1. Intrepid marketers take decisive action.
  2. They are bold.
  3. They are fearless.
  4. They do not fear making important decisions.
  5. They create a serious marketing plan…
  6. …but aren’t afraid to make mid-course corrections on their plan.
  7. They read voraciously.
  8. They have a blog.
  9. Their web presence engages. It is NOT static.
  10. They embrace the social web.
  11. The celebrate transparency.
  12. They give back to their community.
  13. They serve others…
  14. …and they even serve their competition.
  15. They don’t hide behind traditional media.
  16. They teach.
  17. They tell stories.
  18. They listen.
  19. They embrace new technology…
  20. …but only new technology that advances their goals.
  21. They don’t tear down others…
  22. …but they learn lessons from the mistakes of others.
  23. They love joint venturing.
  24. They love collaborating.
  25. They love learning. And never stop learning.
  26. They engage with others…
  27. …even with people they disagree with.
  28. They focus only on the customer experience.
  29. They recognize that every employee is in the marketing department. From the CEO to the cleaning crew.
  30. They see every conceivable customer interaction as something that can and should be continuously improved.
  31. They see that automation is a bad word, most of the time.
  32. They worry about communicating well.
  33. They welcome customer feedback…
  34. …especially negative customer feedback. It helps them improve.
  35. They thoughtfully comment on the blogs of others.
  36. They share. Freely.
  37. They only upsell if they are truly benefiting the customer.
  38. They ask a lot of questions…
  39. …but only to really hear and learn from the answers.
  40. They don’t gloat or show-off.
  41. They believe in quality over quantity.
  42. They admire courage.
  43. They know that marketing is a two-way conversation, not a one-way push.
  44. They sense that interruption marketing is evil, and should be mercilessly destroyed.
  45. They don’t compete on price…
  46. …and they won’t. Ever.
  47. They have no fear walking away from prospects who aren’t the right fit.
  48. They love what they do.
  49. They are minimalist marketers.
  50. They don’t “work.”
  51. They don’t take credit. For anything.
  52. They demonstrate value. With ease.
  53. They know you earn your brand. Not hire a consultant to “create” your brand.
  54. They test and measure. Everything.
  55. They are always improving. Everything.
  56. They understand the power of video, even if the medium isn’t right for them.
  57. They understand the power of podcasts, even if the medium isn’t right for them.
  58. They love networking…
  59. …by which I mean they love learning how to help others.
  60. The relish the chance to connect people.
  61. They know what they don’t know.
  62. They are trust agents.
  63. 2210598414_19ec1f32be_oThey understand the power of images.
  64. They respect differing opinions.
  65. They push themselves, even when there are obstacles.
  66. They aren’t afraid of improvisation.
  67. They know there is no such thing as an overnight success.
  68. When they identify a problem, they fix it. They don’t wait and let it fester.
  69. They don’t spam.
  70. They hustle.
  71. They are creative.
  72. They have patience…
  73. …but they don’t sit around and wait.
  74. They respect the A-listers…
  75. …but they help and push the little guys.
  76. They are innovative…
  77. …and actually know what innovation really means.
  78. They don’t have too many products or services. They focus only on what they do very well.
  79. They are continually trying to improve themselves in every way. Personal development never ends.
  80. They are good problem solvers.
  81. They are NOT afraid to adapt to an ever-changing environment.
  82. They see themselves as artists.
  83. They don’t multi-task. They focus.
  84. They are in the moment.
  85. They are deep thinkers. And they make time to do serious thinking.
  86. They sweat the small stuff.
  87. But spend time focusing on the big stuff.
  88. They know how to apply the 80/20 principle to their situation.
  89. They honor and celebrate referral partners.
  90. They are not conformists.
  91. They aren’t afraid of sharing what they know. They aren’t held back by this notion of “people need to pay me for my knowledge…”
  92. …but they charge a premium for their services.
  93. They embrace relationships.
  94. They live by “serving first, selling second.”
  95. They don’t have time management problems, because they are always focused on the important stuff.
  96. They have balance, and enjoy things outside of business that drive them.
  97. There is nothing fake about them. They are real.
  98. They apologize when they need to. And work hard to fix the problem.
  99. And they are honest. Always.

OK. So what else am I missing? Remember, this is a partial list. And it is always changing. What do you think?

[photo by ~jjjohn~]

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Todd Schnick Sings The Hits | 2009

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Wow, the end of my first full year of blogging. Went by fast. So here is a quick accounting of my favorite posts from 2009:

Obey The Rules, Miss The Fun – I love this post, because I strongly believe in having fun with your marketing. Because if you aren’t, what’s the point?

14 Intrepid Ways To Improve The Customer Experience – I can never write enough or think enough about ways to improve your customer’s experience.

A Day In The Creative Life – This is my favorite post of 2009. My homage to Hugh MacLeod.

Just A Few Steps A Day – This is my second most popular post for the year, sort of a day in the life of how I go to market…

25 Steps To Fortify Your Customer’s Brand Relationship With You – You don’t just create your brand. You earn your brand.

Loving What You Do Is Good Marketing – This is my most popular blog post of the year. The name says it all.

A Hands On Example of Caring For Your Customer – This was the most personal post I wrote all year. It followed the death of my dog of 15 years…

He Said, She Said, Round 8 – Interruption Marketing – Couldn’t help but include an episode from our popular He Said, She Said series, featuring Chris Brogan

Does Anyone Care About Customer Service? – This is a favorite post from the latter part of the year, and had the honor of a comment from David Meerman Scott himself…

Don’t Be A Part Of This Marketing Conversation – This was the most fun post I wrote in 2009. And it asks some tough questions too…

Thanks for reading this past year, and for all your support in 2009. See you next year!

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