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]

j j j

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!

j j j

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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Live Intrepid | Change Your Interior Dialog

Here at Intrepid, we are about living an intrepid life. The video below features Roz Savage, who was just like us, living a normal life. But as she describes in this video, she changed her “interior dialog” – and opted to live a life of adventure, and to fight for causes important to her.

So, here are your intrepid takeaways:

1. Change your “interior dialog” – and anything will be possible.
2. You will persevere through any challenge.
3. Free will is the greatest gift – USE IT! Choose to do big things!
4. Decide today to change your life story. It can begin…right now.
5. What do you want your obituary to say? And set out to live that life.

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How To Leverage Big Things To Power Your Personal Brand

To those of you who have known me for most of my 40 years, the two words you would NEVER have used to describe me were “distance runner.”

Me included, especially the morning of Thanksgiving 2009, when I sat on my fat ass watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

That’s when I starting seeing tweets coming in from all my local twitter friends who were celebrating their finish in that morning’s Atlanta Thanksgiving Day marathon and half-marathons. I suddenly felt lazy, too comfortable, boring, and well, unchallenged. And I didn’t like it one bit.

On the spot, I decided that I too would compete in next year’s Thanksgiving Day half-marathon.

Long story short, I ultimately decided to run in a half-marathon much sooner, and just this past weekend, I completed my first at the Nashville Country Music Half-marathon. You can read about my journey HERE.

Trust me when I tell you that my performance will not go down in the annals of Olympic lore. Guinness won’t be calling anytime soon. But despite that, it was a most important personal accomplishment. And made me feel like I can accomplish most anything. Most satisfying were the endless notes of encouragement, support, well wishes, and compliments and expressions of “wow” and respect.

Which brings me to the point of this article. I can’t imagine that competing in this half-marathon didn’t have a powerful impact on my personal brand. I continue to be surprised at the people who come up to me at events and ask how the “marathon training” is going. What has this really gotten me?

a. Exposure to a whole new network of people.
b. New found respect in a market place niche.
c. A new way for people to talk about me and what I am up to.
d. A means to live up to my “intrepid” brand – demonstrating the accomplishment of a difficult physical task and pushing the envelope.
e. More opportunities to help and serve people.
f. A new way to start conversations with my community (you can never have enough).

Now, I am not writing this in the context of “Wow, look at me!” I am coming from this perspective: if an aging, knee and back-creeking, out-of-shape, overweight guy like me can accomplish this…ANYONE CAN.

That is my real message here…that YOU can set audacious goals…and use the story of your journey to power your personal brand.

Here are the lessons I learned from this experience, and the things I want you to think about and apply:

1. My big goal was to run a half-marathon. That said, I think most people were less interested in the actual task, and more respected that I set an intrepid goal, and accomplished it. You don’t have to run a half-marathon, but set a bold goal, and make it happen (and understand it is achieved in small, daily, easily-accomplished steps). The doing, is what earns respect.

2. While you don’t have to run a half-marathon, your goal needs to push the envelope. If your goal is easily attainable, it won’t mean much…to you, or your audience. Set a goal that is out of your comfort zone, and something you have NOT achieved before.

3. Without bragging, you have to tell your story. In my case, I wrote a specific blog about it. But people have to know about it, and why? Not because you are showing off, but because people are interested in what you do, and want to learn from your experience. To repeat – don’t gloat – teach. Share.

4. If you are sharing your story on the social web, be sure you are encouraging and participating in the conversation about your journey. People want to follow your story. And if you are engaging, they will want to personally question, challenge, and learn.

5. You will have bad days. Don’t be afraid to confront them publicly. That makes it real. That makes it human. And that makes it powerful, and something people will talk about – and remember.

6. Remember this key concept – you just can’t create a brand out of thin air. You have to earn it. You have to live it. You have to breathe it. In my case, I love having people know me as a distance runner. But I had to earn that. Decide what you want people to talk about and know about you. Then achieve it.

KEY TO SUCCESS –> Remember this quote:
If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven’t done anything today. | Lou Holtz

Lesson here? Don’t rest on your laurels. If you achieve your goal, don’t assume you can coast on the personal branding boost for long. You have done something remarkable, and people are talking.

This is NOW the time to leverage your new found gravitas, and make something BIGGER happen.

Now go to work.

j j j

Thank You And…This Opened My Eyes

linchpinI recently finished Seth Godin’s Linchpin. It was a great read. It changed my thinking. Made me look at things differently. All the usual stuff people say after reading Seth’s material.

But there was one section on page 171 called “Thank You and…” that I believe to be the most profound part for me. It is from the chapter where Seth talks about the power of giving gifts:

From the book:

If you appreciate a gift, consider saying, “thank you and…”
Thank you and I dog-eared forty of the pages.
Thank you and I told your boss what a wonderful thing you did.
Thank you and here’s a record my band and I recorded last week.
Thank you and you made me cry.
Thank you and I just blogged about what you did.
Thank you and here’s a twenty-dollar tip; I know it’s not much, but it’s all I can afford right now.
Thank you and how can I help you spread the word?
Thank you and can you teach me how to do that?
Thank you and you changed me, forever.

Now, what does this mean to you and me?

When I published THIS POST about the 99 ways people are intrepid marketers, I offered number 26, which simply stated “they engage with others.”

Now, by this, I meant that intrepid marketers don’t stand in front of an audience and yell, rather, they want people seated in a circle so that all can participate in the conversation. And what Seth talks about above is a very powerful way to engage with people that not only expresses gratitude for some type of gift, but also communicates the profound meaning the action meant.

By saying “thank you and…” you are saying this changed me, this action had a meaningful impact on how I do things.

But what it also means is the giver is made keenly aware of the impact of their gift, in a way that will motivate them to continue giving, to continue contributing, to continue striving to have a measurable impact on the community around them.

And that is a good thing.

It is a good thing because it benefits both of you (giver and acknowledger). Both become people of influence, both become sought after, both become leaders in their respective space.

So, thank you Seth, and know your words opened my eyes and inspired me to share this idea with others.

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j j j

Holy Crap! It Is Almost Christmas…

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

OK, so maybe it is not almost Christmas, but when in the hell did March suddenly pop up right around the corner?

It made me quickly realize I am a wee bit behind with some of my goals, projects, marathon training, etc. But the sudden and brutal realization about where we are on the calendar made me step back for a few minutes, take a snapshot of where things are, and reassess where to go next. It was a good wake-up call.

And actually, that’s a good thing.

Although apparently it was two months ago, it feels like only yesterday that I published this post, where I laid out my 2010 goals. I have made some progress on these, keyword on “some.”

But as I was doing this, I was thinking about this tendency we all have to only check progress at very well-defined points in time – the top of the hour, the close of each week, the end of each month.

Why do we do this? Why do we only make resolutions around January 1st? Sure, there is a sense of order around doing these tasks on well-defined points in time. But why do we do that to ourselves?

This recalls one of my favorite quotes, “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.”  [from the film Vanilla Sky.]

This quote speaks to me. It is profound in that it reminds me that you can make, affect, enforce, and do change – whenever you want to. You don’t have to wait for society-selected times.

As for my 2010 goals, I am not panicked. Yet. I am making progress, and new ideas and new projects have presented themselves since I wrote my goals post. I am not making excuses, I am stating fact. Life happens. Which is all the more reason to keep focused on your goals. And at any given moment, use the inspiration to make the adjustments/changes you need to get back on track.

Sure, the advice we receive to write down goals, and check on their progress at regular intervals is good advice. But you will get distracted. You will get off track. Just don’t decide to wait until March 1st to figure out how to get back on track. DECIDE and take action now.

Be Intrepid. When you want to make change happen, do it.

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j j j

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~]

j j j

You Might Be Intrepid, Vol. 5 – Identify A Problem? Fix It Now.

We all have a list of things that need to be fixed, adjusted, upgraded, tweaked, improved, or destroyed with malice. Yet many entrepreneurs don’t take quick action to deal with these little nagging problems. I talk about how intrepid marketers identify these issues, and take decisive action. Enjoy.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdsrlldQkZs]

CLICK HERE to learn how to be an Intrepid marketer…

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