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!

Minimalist Marketing: Make It Simple To Buy From You

cash registerWe’ve all experienced it.

You went to a website, but didn’t take action. You read a sales brochure, but tossed it aside when you finished reading. Or you said “Let me get back to you!” after a sales person pitched you.

Why didn’t you take any action? Why didn’t you buy?

Well, there could be dozens of reasons. But one common reason might be the message – and message delivery – was too complicated. And you didn’t know how to proceed.

This happens all the time…

1. The potential buyer can’t find the “Buy Now” button on the website. There was too much crap on the website.
2. There isn’t an easily identifiable “call to action” on the brochure. All the “Pulitzer” prize-winning copy and photos, and design elements look great. But it is all clutter.
3. The seller didn’t make the simple ask. Oh sure, the seller said a lot of cool stuff, used a lot of big words, but never actually asked for the sale…

My co-host Stone Payton and I had Theo Jamison on our High Velocity Radio Show recently. She was speaking about some simple, yet profound and meaningful, actions a business could take that would have a dramatic and positive impact on their customer experience. I mean, seriously, these were simple and inexpensive ideas…

Stone said something like “and I bet the business said it was too simple to work, right? Only complicated solutions could possibly work.”

He’s right. Why do we make things so complicated in business? Process can be simple. Design can be simple. Systems can be simple. Sales can be simple.

We have a tendency to think that fancy design, bells + whistles, and flowing flowery language are impressive and make potential customers say “ohhhhhhh.”

But most of the time it clutters and confuses.

You have something to sell. It is something that people need. It can make their life better, their business better. So why do we insist on making it harder – and more complicated – for people to buy?

Minimalists strip away the clutter to focus on what matters, on what is most important. So, strip away all the clutter so that your customer can buy from you. Without having to crawl through a complicated maze of words, pics, buttons, ads, graphics and platitudes to do what they really want to do – become your customer.

What do you think?

[my original Minimalist Marketing post]
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[pic from borderfilms on flickr]

Minimalist Marketing: A Good Lead For Me Is The Planet Earth…

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Have you ever attended a networking session, and encountered this scenario? Say a mechanic gets up to speak, and he says “A good lead for me today is anyone you know who owns a car or truck.”

What the?

Hearing this is like nails on a chalkboard for me. I have a feeling this guy is thinking this is good for him, in that he is casting a wide net to catch ALL fish.

But sadly, this is a sign of a completely LAZY marketer. Someone taking the easy way out. And my guess is his business is struggling. I mean, seriously. What does he think I am going to do, give him my entire rolodex?

In fact, this mechanic is doing the exact opposite of what he should do to grow his business, and find MORE customers. He needs to do what will feel quite counter-intuitive to him – laser focus on one specific niche.

What happens when you cast too wide a net? You find very few clients.  And what happens then? You take on TOO MANY of the wrong clients. And then you are overwhelmed with too much “bad” work, and probably for too small a fee.

Either way, applying some minimalist principles to your targeting process will pay big dividends to your marketing program.

Focus on ONE type of prospect. Just one. In the case of the mechanic? Don’t narrow your focus to Fords. Narrow your focus to Ford pick-ups.

[This doesn't mean the mechanic can't help fix a Chevy should it pull into the garage - it just means his marketing focus should be on Ford pick-ups...ONLY.]

But this only works under two conditions:

One, that you become the best in the market at fixing Ford pick-ups. You should become known as the go-to guy in the event anyone’s Ford pick-up needs servicing. I mean it…the best in your market.

And two, you are going to have to adjust your marketing program to target owners of Ford pick-ups. This is easier than casting a large net, I promise. But it does require some creative thinking, some strategy, and a sustained effort over time to reach out and build real relationships with owners of Ford pick-ups.

The other minimalist impact on your marketing as a result of narrowing your focus? You then also simplify your marketing message. What you say to Ford pick-up owners is different than if you had to speak to ALL car and truck owners. [And if you don't understand this concept...call me. We need to talk.] But if you are targeting too many people, you probably have too many marketing messages. As a result, your message is muddled, and your marketing suffers…

Narrowing your focus to a specific niche simplifies your marketing, and makes it less complicated. Selling is hard enough. Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be.

What do you think?

[See the original post that inspired the Minimalist Marketing series]
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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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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~]

Just Take The First Step. However It May Be.

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last few days.

I have a new client who is very methodically constructing a business plan to grow a new consulting practice. I am engaged with the project to think creatively on the marketing side, but I have been very impressed with is thoughtfulness in building his new company. Slowly, and carefully.

I have also been talking with a colleague over the last several weeks, and the two of us are strategizing over a potential new business idea. We aren’t in any hurry. But it has been fun to take our time with it and really think through every tiny element of what it might take to pull this little business together.

And then I look back to when I formed Intrepid, just about three years ago. And wow – what a difference. I slammed this thing together and dove head first into the water and never looked back. These days, citing the first two examples above, I would never go about forming, or helping form, a new business without careful thought, methodical planning, and taking things step-by-careful-step.

But that doesn’t mean I regret how I launched Intrepid.

The goals of my business then are so very different from where they are today. But that’s ok. That happens. In fact, if you are NOT going to spend time carefully planning your new business, I’d rather you jump right in and learn from mistakes – then never start to begin with. I hate seeing would-be entrepreneurs who never take the first step out of fear of the unknown.

So what are you going to do? How are you going to launch? Think it through and prepare carefully if you can. But if not, dive in anyway. Learn. Experiment. The water is fine…

Mediocrity Sucks

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Here is something I am taking action on as I launch some new projects in 2010. Not by any real design, but turns out I am starting the year with three new clients – just this week alone. And I am chatting soon with a former client, and we are about to engage on a brand new project.

So, while it is a fluke that all this new activity is happening in January 2010, I am using the new year to take a new approach with these new client projects.

What am I doing differently? I am making a bigger push than ever before on my vendor engagement. In fact, I have released a few past vendors, and have engaged some fresh faces.

This is really exciting to me, as this will give me some new souls to bounce ideas off, and a fresh perspective on some things. This has done a lot to recharge my batteries.

And in the end, I think it will serve my clients very well. I am NOT suggesting that my work prior to this point was mediocre, but I am looking at these refreshing new partners as if I was striving to up my game. And make it better. As if I was telling “mediocrity” to kiss my fanny.

And you can’t imagine how this is firing up my creativity!

So, the simple point of this post is to remind you to think about doing something like this in your business. Take things you have been doing, whether they are standard protocol, routine, comfortable – and shake things up a bit. Be like John Keating in Dead Poets Society, and stand on a desk and look at your world a little differently.

Pick something that needs a little shaking up, such as how you interact on social media, how you present your company while networking, how you shape your customer experience, or how you deal with your vendors – and make it a point to seriously question how you can do those things better.

Don’t settle for anything mediocre – make your business lives extraordinary!

Be Intrepid.

A Tale of Two Nurses: What Is Your Customer Service Choice?

from east_lothain_museums on flickr

from east_lothain_museums on flickr

A member of my family is preparing to have surgery next week. Thus, we are spending a lot of time in the hospital. So, as we prepare our businesses for 2010, I thought I’d share two stories of nurse interaction. They are different. Choose which approach you think is best for your customers…

NURSE A

As part of the preparation for the surgery, my family member is required to go to the hospital each day for a series of shots. As it happens, they are being done in a local cancer center, in the facility where cancer patients are receiving chemotherapy. (Note: my family member is NOT battling cancer!)

We observed one elderly couple. The husband struggled to lift his spouse properly on the couch, never getting her comfortably on the chair. They required help. The nurse, unbelievably, wasn’t willing – or for some unexplained reason – unable to assist. And when asked for help, made the comment “I will see what I can do.”

NURSE B

We observed another nurse, working with another patient, dealing with a difficult situation that I won’t share here, as it wasn’t pleasant. The patient, clearly upset and very much struggling, was so grateful to this other nurse for her assistance, made it a real point to graciously thank this nurse for the help.

What did nurse B say? “No worries, dear. I’ve always believed nursing is a ministry. And this is how I serve people.”

WHAT WILL YOU BE?

So, as you move into 2010 and prepare to execute your customer experience strategy, what type of nurse are you going to be?

Be Intrepid.

My Intrepid Goals for 2010. What Are Yours?

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

This is the time of year when you should be laying out your goals for 2010. It should be a very serious part of your year-end routine. And it should be something with which you invest a lot of thought, energy, and time.

What I find is that most small business folks and entrepreneurs don’t do this. And this is a mistake. The main reason to decide upon some goals? Well, gives you something to shoot for and plan around. Without a destination, you cannot plot the course to get there.

And like me, I think it is a good idea to jot them down on your blog. Make it public. You know, we’ve all been told a thousand times to not only set goals, but to WRITE THEM DOWN. This makes them real. Better yet, publish them to your blog so that others know your plans. They will help hold you accountable. And maybe even offer to help you achieve them.

And once you do this, THEN you can generate the step-by-step plan to achieve them.

So, here are my initial FIVE main business and personal goals for 2010. I will add more as the year progresses. Let me know what you think!

2010 BUSINESS GOALS:

  1. Double subscriptions to this blog. I made some progress this year, but I really want to kick it into a higher gear. Problem is, I currently don’t have a plan to do this. But now that I have made it a goal, I will research and develop a strategy to get it done.
  2. Double the listening audience to my radio show. To be honest, we have not done a very good job tracking our current listening audience for the High Velocity Radio Show. That will change. And once I set the bar, my goal is to double the audience in 2010.
  3. Add five long-term clients to my roster. My plan for 2009 was to evolve from a business with LOTS of clients doing small projects, to a business with fewer clients doing more comprehensive projects. I am still on this journey. My goal is to add five of these, which should get me to capacity.
  4. Achieve a rolling enrollment of at least 100 members to my online school. Stone Payton and I have just launched Speed School a week or two ago. We haven’t formally made any large announcements, more or less testing and collecting feedback. And although we have more ambitious long-term goals, 100 to start would be a great first step.
  5. Successfully launch Top Chefs Atlanta. Having done some marketing work for a local restaurant – and then featuring them and a few other chefs and owners on the radio show, fueled this idea. The first draft of the new website is up. Will be launching officially and going to market in January!

 

2010 PERSONAL GOALS

  1. Run two half-marathons. I am already deep into my training. You can follow my progress RIGHT HERE!
  2. Write a book. I already have plans to write a book with my business partner Stone Payton. It will center on this idea, CircleNomics. We had ideas to get it done last year, but didn’t. That won’t happen in 2010…
  3. Get my passport and travel out of the country. I have no idea what the heck I want to do, or where I want to go. Maybe I will find some cool conference out of the country, and go to that…
  4. Launch an online fundraising effort for my non-profit. I have the pleasure of serving on the Board of the Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta. I had good intentions to launch this effort in 2009. Didn’t happen. My plan doesn’t call for raising one million dollars. Just want to launch a creative idea that starts building a community around what we do and helps raise a little cash to serve some people.
  5. Improve my skills and knowledge on WordPress. I currently blog on a total of six wordpress blogs. And I know more than the average bloke. But I still have A LOT to learn. First step? Attending this

 

For additional reference and guidance, I am a fan of Chris Guillebeau. On his blog, he does a superior job of laying out his year-end review process and goal-setting and planning process for the upcoming year. I’d recommend checking it out. Here is a good starting point.

Don't Be A Part Of This 2010 Marketing Conversation…

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Consultant: “How did you do in meeting the goals of your 2009 marketing plan? Did you stay on budget?

Typical small business person: “Wait, what? Marketing plan did you say? Budget? I was supposed to have a budget?

Consultant: “Let’s review your social media plan. Did you accomplish your goals?”

Typical small business person: “What? Social media strategy? You can do that?

Consultant: “How did the call to action on your marketing collateral work? Did prospects and customers take the steps you wanted to advance the sales process?”

Typical small business person: “I am not sure what you are talking about, but man, my brochures are sure pretty!”

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Consultant: “How did your keywords perform on your website and blog?”

Typical small business person: “I have no idea, but my cousin who designed the site says her friends think the site looks bitchin’!”

Consultant: “So, with your email marketing campaign, did your prospects contact you to learn more or advance the sales process?”

Typical small business person: “No clue, but most of the people I blindly added to my database unsubscribed and gave me lip about ‘spam’.”

Consultant: “So, did you try some new things with your marketing? Try any new tactics, new messaging, any new social media tools?”

Typical small business person: “No. I stuck to the same stuff that hasn’t really worked too well before, but you know, I didn’t have any money to try something new that might work.”

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Consultant: “What good marketing books did you read this year? Did you find any great marketing blogs to help you learn new things?”

Typical small business person: “No, but I think I learned some cool advertising stuff watching Mad Men…”

Consultant: “Did you hone your skills at building community and establishing relationships on tools like Twitter and Facebook?”

Typical small business person: “Huh? No, but I passed along my free e-book, the results of my IQ test, an invite to join my mafia family, and the link to my blog to all new followers and friends!”

Consultant: “Have you narrowed your marketing focus down to a highly specific, easily targeted niche?”

Typical small business owner: “Are you nuts? I am not missing out on hitting all those darn people…”

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Consultant: “Have you narrowed your focus to the right networking groups that are in your target market?”

Typical small business person: “Are you nuts? I am not getting many leads from the bunch of groups I am visiting, so clearly I just need to hit as many darn networking groups as I can…”

Consultant: “Tell me about your lead generation and lead incubation system? How do you feed good solid prospects into your pre-purchase experience?”

Typical small business person: “Huh?”

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

The point here? Thinking strategically and putting a plan on paper is too important NOT to do. Yet, too many small business people jump into their daily routine without so much as a plan on how to proceed. The questions [by no means a complete list of pertinent questions] above serve one purpose: if you can personally identify with even one of those mini scenarios, you need to pull back, take advantage of the quieter holiday season, and think some things through as you prepare for 2010.

Good luck!