When everyone is right, how do we move forward?

Im right and so am I

I learned a long time ago that everyone is right. I’m one of those people with strong principles, and I’ve always seen it as my job to teach, show, or even cudgel others into the ‘correct’ (which means ‘my’) way of thinking. When this involves like minded people, and a few beers, everyone has a great time with the debate.

However, when this involves others who are also trying to convince me of their point of view, trouble abounds!

So, with the influence of some of the great teachers I have had the fortune to benefit from, I came to the conclusion that everyone is right. From their point of view that is.

I developed the knack of sitting on other peoples hilltops and looking at their view of the world. Now, this doesn’t mean I agree with them, but it does at least mean I understand their perspective. And generally, from their perspective, they are right.

And so am I.

In fact, I got so good at this, I started to really admire, but then worry about people who have definite views, views that they are 100% sure of, no matter what argument or evidence to the contrary is advanced. You know the types, the ones who tell everyone else how to live, and who are minutely concerned with everyone else and what everyone else is up to, rather than getting on with things and just minding their own business.

And I’m reminded of that at the moment, with this latest in a long line of elections upon us, we are surrounded once again with opinions and arguments.

The trouble is, they all sound so plausible don’t they? I couldn’t make up my mind about Brexit because everyone seemed to talk a lot of sense. Apart from of course, the hysterical among us like the tabloids and that bloke in the pub.

While I eventually came down on one side, it was a long intellectual journey to get there. Because I could hop from one hill top to another, I was constantly changing my mind, agreeing with different parts of the argument at different times.

And its the same now. I agree with points all the parties make. Im more strongly inclined towards one for sure, but then I’ll think of something one of the competition says and think ‘Well, that makes sense’ and I’m back to debating all over again.

But I have noticed one thing. One technique that everyone seems to use, and I genuinely believe it does more to hold us back, politically for sure, but also from a business perspective, than anything else.

And that thing is this. People are more interested in going backwards to establish blame, than they are going forward with a new plan.

So, one party says something about how an idea is no longer a good idea  – and everyone agrees, until someone points out, that a few years ago when that party was in power, they introduced that idea in the first place!

And the ‘lets move forward’ to fix that, is lost in a cacophony of ‘its your fault anyway’ coming from all sides.

Or look at business, and take business transformation in particular. Someone says ‘it would be a good idea to do X’ And everyone agrees!

But then you need to work out who is going to deliver X.

And everyone is just pointing at each other and saying, ‘Well, they usually do that stuff’. Or someone else points somewhere else and says ‘That won’t work, because of A and B and C!’

Then someone else comes along and says ‘If we’d done this other thing in the first place we wouldn’t be in this mess! And so on and so on.

Before you know it, the argument has just revolved around so many times, no one knows what you are talking about anymore!

And other arguments have sprung up. As a manager, you find you have to fix that thing from three steps back in the process, before you can move to the place you suggested being at the beginning of the disussion.

And thats a whole other thing. That part of the process has been broken for years, and no one has done anything about it because the accepted wisdom is that it can’t be done.

Before you know it, you are mired in the past. Bogged down by ghosts of what happened before, regurgitated opinions, no facts mind you, opinions, and endless to-ing and fro-ing.

All the same points are made over and over again. And because none of it has ever made any sense, all anyone can resort is trying to pin the blame for the most fundamental issue (assuming we can at least agree on that!) on some poor, by now, completely dispirited individual.

There is another way.

Forget it.

Forget the past. What went wrong, who did what, why they did it and what that meant at the time. Whats the point in raking over those old, cold coals now? I don’t care who said what and when, and I don’t care about why this happened 5 years ago and what the consequences of that were.

All I want to know is how do we more forward?

How do we get where we want to be?

Guess what? If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. So in moving forward, expect to have to do things differently, OK?

Expect the unexpected, expect to have to learn new things. Expect to have your beliefs challenged and your ideas examined.

But in a positive ‘Can this be done?’ sort of way, not a ‘We tried this before and it didn’t work sort of way’.

And maybe if the politicians spent more time convincing us the plan is going to work, and less time blaming each other for things that happened in the past, we would finally start to get somewhere!

 

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Winning on Purpose

Little Johny knew he'd risked all and become 'king of the beach'
Little Johny knew he’d risked all and become ‘king of the beach’

Do you know what you need to do in order to win?

On purpose?

I don’t mean what feeling you need to have, or what attitude you’d like to adopt, what the latest book has told you to do, or what the latest technological marvel is that you need in order to ‘make it’.

Maybe there is some other chicanery that might convince you that you are doing something useful for yourself or your business, when actually, things couldn’t be further from the case.

 

In my experience, the number one reason a businesses fails is lack of focus.

Thats right, not lack of hard work, or lack of funding (though this is a major issue in itself) or lack of sales or lack of many other things that might in themselves be problems. Lack of focus.

Or more precisely, being so busy you don’t do the things you need to do in order to succeed.

Sometimes you know what those things are, but don’t want to do them. Because they are hard to do, complicated or take a long time. Sometimes something much more interesting comes up that you’d rather spend your valuable time on.

You spend time on ‘make work’. Chatting to ‘contacts’, networking because it feels like selling (it’s not) driving around the place to meetings you must be at, even though nothing ever comes of them.

All this while you put off doing the things you know you need to be doing. Like cold calling, or writing that proposal, or following up on that bad debt. You know, all those messy, awkward, difficult things.

Or maybe like a lot of people you are too busy!

Too busy to do the things you need to do in order to make a difference to your business. Whether its yours or the one you are working for.

Too busy to take a moment to plan the next week, month or quarter. Too busy to look up to see what problems you are about to hit square on. Too busy to deliver on the things you’ve already promised you’d deliver.

Or maybe you are too busy to be able to spot the next opportunity when it presents itself.

Worse, sometimes you don’t know what it is you need to do in order to win. Thats when you have a real problem.

In that case, you just work harder and harder and spend more and more time stressing about winning, when you in fact have no clue what success looks like, or indeed how to get it.

You need to have a laser like focus on what it takes to succeed. What you need to do to win. How much you need to sell, or who you need to see, or what problems you need to deal with.

And then deal with them.

Don’t put it off. There isn’t any other work that’s more important than the work you do to ensure you win.

Do things on purpose.

Rather than letting things happen to you, make things happen for you!

Don’t allow the distractions to drag you away from doing the things you know you need to do in order to make things go well for you. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

Do the things you want to avoid early in the day, get them done, feel that achievement, and go on to enjoy the rest of your day, making sure you are doing other things that lead to success. Make sure you are not allowing lack of focus to edge in, and steal away valuable time and resource.

And if you really don’t know what it takes to win, you’d better learn, fast.

 

Why Your Change Programme Is Failing

I’m making a bit of a habit of working in transformational roles at present. Working with traditional media businesses in my case, and helping to steer them towards a digital mindset.

It’s almost always about culture and neglecting that aspect of whatever change programme you are going to implement is going to lead to tears! People aren’t inclined to change and the worst thing that can happen to you after designing a load of new processes is for everyone to simply go back to the way they’ve always done it.

You and your business need to make clear why the change is needed

Why the change is needed, what change is required, and even more importantly, you need to create an environment in which that change is encouraged to take place.

Or even, an environment in which the change can’t do anything except take place…

There are physical elements, like systems and resource, even the way teams are seated together where maybe previously they’ve been apart. And there are the non physical things like KPI’s and targets. All these things are required.

But you also need a constant ‘selling’ of the message. A clarity of purpose and shared motivation to change. People in the organisation need to want to change, or it won’t happen. But they also need to know what change is required, and be allowed to fail on the way to making that change.

In many ‘traditional’ businesses some people may have worked a certain way for decades. They are likely to have performed at the absolute top of their game and be regarded extremely highly within the organisation.

You don’t want to that! 

And along you come with a cheerful ‘You don’t want to do it like that!’ sort of message. Is there any wonder why there is little traction for the new processes you’re trying to put in place?

As Simon Sinek says in the great video at the top of the page – People buy WHY you do something far more than they buy WHAT you do.

This is why when a brand ‘speaks’ to you because of its commitment to a design ethic, or an almost religious pursuit of customer value, you find yourself drawn in and share the motivation to do what it is you think they are trying to do. Buying products or services from them is the least of your concerns! You LOVE this company…

On the other side of the scale, there is the company you buy from simply because you need the stuff they sell. Your feelings about this company range from the mildly curious to the outright disinterested.

And it’s the same with change.

Your change programme will have far more power if the people in the business you are trying to change buy into the ‘why’ of what you are doing. Think about it, even the questions you hear around implementation of new processes give clues to this.

“Why should I do it this way?”

No matter what the actual objection, or resistance to change might look like, the question being posed is generally, why?

So all change programmes need to start with this. The reason you are telling people they need to do whatever it is you are telling them they need to do!

The positive impact on them, their team, their product or service, and ultimately, the company itself. It’s likely that at first any ‘new ways’ of doing things are going to feel very clunky and unnatural. So constant support of the ‘new ways’ has to be provided.

Constant reassurance that this is the thing to do, constant demands for the best effort, constant training in the new ways of working. Constant reiteration of the mission.

The ‘WHY’ you are doing what you are doing.

The fear of failure. 

And lastly, you have to make sure people are on task, and on message and on with the programme yes, but you must also make sure people are able to fail. There’s nothing more likely to prevent someone jumping into a new way or working like the fear they are going to look foolish, or make a mistake.

You might even want to go so far as to encourage mistakes as of and in themselves. Because that way you know you are making progress! They are doing something new, something they haven’t done before, and they are making a pig’s ear of it!

Exactly the way humans go about learning new stuff.

 

 

 

What Politicians Should Learn From Business

693A5439 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Simon Jones, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Please don’t worry, unlike a million others today I’m not going to use this blog to talk politics! This is a marketing and business blog, and I’m only interested in talking about what I’ve seen during the recent election in the UK that might be described as the ‘communications’ or ‘marketing’ of the various parties.

Its seems to me that the main parties involved and in particular the main opposition party suffered from a lack of differentiation. They simply did not stand out enough on their own to warrant significant support. Rather, and this is similar to a number of categories in business, they decided to fight the ‘battle’ on the same platform as the incumbents. Lets say that platform was basically the economy, for the sake of simplicity here.

The message seemed to me to be “We will do largely what they are doing and also look after the economy, and make cuts like everyone thinks should be made, but our cuts will some how be better!”

This is the equivalent to supermarkets all trading on being the cheapest / best value / best choice! The trouble is, everyone says that and its impossible to then differentiate between companies, or in this case, political parties!

So the message ‘buy from us, we are offer the best value’, is completely diluted by the fact everyone says the same thing.

This is why businesses like Apple and Ferrari do well to hold on the higher prices. Its makes the claims that their produce is somehow better than the other companies produce more easily believable. The reality is, there may be little difference between their products and a competitors product, other than the perception of difference brought about by price.

The easiest way to position something is through price. Why is the Apple Watch so expensive? So that it immediately carries the mantle of high quality. Thats why you can’t buy a cheap Italian super car, or a bargain luxury holiday. The fact they cost more money than the competitors products is the indicator to the quality differentiator.

So when businesses try to compete with each other on price, say by flooding a market with similar products with similar prices, they get into a very difficult place.

“We are the same price as them, but also better!”

Or in the case of politics…

“We have the same policies, the same position on things, but ours are better!”

We intuitively know that this cannot be the case. We simply do not believe things that cost the same are substantively better than an equivalent. Whether thats in terms of prices, or taxes or cuts.

And thats where brands come in.

The reason you might prefer Brand A rather than Brand B is simply down to how you feel about Brand A. The emotional relationship you have with it. People try to tell me why they prefer one super market over another for instance, but what they are really saying is, for whatever reason, they prefer the experience at Brand A, they like Brand A more. Thats what Branding is all about.

So you are either cheaper, so you can win the price war. Better, and generally more expensive to underscore the level of quality you can produce, or people like you more.

If all things are equal, its takes something seismic to shift people out of the status quo. ‘Better the devil you know’ than someone who has failed to convince you that they can offer a believable and realistic alternative position.

This is why ‘extremist’ political parties like the socialist party in Greece, or even the more right wing parties of northern Europe are claiming ground. The identifiably stand for something. And in some cases that ‘something’ is just ‘something different’.

The point is though, that it is significantly different. Different enough to stand out and allow people to rally round it.

The brilliant Seth Godin tells us that we all want to be part of a Tribe. But he brilliantly observes that we also want to be led in that Tribe by someone. Someone that can make us feel good, or safe, or valued or whatever. See a brilliant talk in the video below.

Fighting for business, or votes on the same ground, the same platform as you’re adversary is a recipe for disaster.

Unless people have an emotional connection to you via your brand, or your reputation if you like, then the battle becomes almost unwinable. You are doomed to a trading environment where you’ll at best fluctuate from up to down and back again, subject to the fickle whims of the market.

Having brilliant brands comes from being these things and communicating them well, consistently and generally over long periods of time. If you havent built a brand, or you need time to change peoples perception of you, the choice is simple:

Either be cheaper or be different.

Otherwise you’ll just merge in the background and die from being too similar to everything else.

Want To Be Successful? Just wait…

bonito iceberg al fondo from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 Osccarr, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I saw a one of those ‘inspirational’ pictures / quotes things the other day on Facebook. I must admit a fondness for this sort of thing, don’t judge me, you must do too, given how overwhelmingly popular these things seem to be!

This one was a particularly good one actually, it was a picture of an iceberg, with a ‘recipe for success’ shown alongside.

So above the water, the visible bit if you like, was the word ‘Success’. And below the water, the so called 90% of an icebergs mass, were what the author would like us to consider the unseen efforts that go into achieving success. They listed the following:

Risks

Focus

Goals

Persistence

Failure

Massive Action

Sacrifice

Habits

Hard Work

I haven’t posted the picture as even though it was doing the rounds on social media, I couldn’t find an original source for it and therefore can’t provide a reliable credit. But you (ahem) get the picture? It may seem like success is easy, but there is a whole load of stuff going on under the waterline to ensure you get where you need to be.

So far, so good. I’d even agree with that list, though maybe its not exhaustive, and I’m sure there’s stuff you’d like to add.

I love the fact that failure is there as a consideration. No one I know has ever succeed at anything without failing along the way to getting there. Thats why risk is there too. You have to risk something in order to get somewhere, even is its just about risking the ‘status quo’.

But the word I was expecting to be there isn’t. Its sort of covered in the subtext I guess but I wanted to make a specific point of it.

EXPERIENCE

Or even, dare I say it, age. Specifically, getting older.

Sure, there are many stories in the media about this spectacularly successful but teenage ‘tech’ entrepreneur, or that stupendously successful but only just post pubescent media darling, but think about this… Statistically speaking, dividing the incidence of those types of people into the population of the world comes up with a number so close to zero its not worth differentiating?

What do I mean by success?

I’m trying to keep as broad a definition as I can. I mean success in whatever endeavour you have set out to succeed in. Could be in business, or sport, or family, or health or playing video games or anything else.

What I’m saying is, in my estimation, it takes time to ‘achieve’.

To be clear, I mean this as a positive, I’m not trying to put down the efforts of young people everywhere! I’m trying to encourage…

I remember my twenties very well… I’m not that ‘experienced’! And what I remember was the ‘struggle’. Everything seemed tough. I wasn’t earning enough, I wasn’t promoted enough, I didn’t have the car I wanted or the house I wanted. I was with a wonderful person (and still am) and that helped, but things felt like they were taking forever.

Then in my thirties, looking back anyway, things started to move. I got the good jobs, started earning good money, got a lovely house, and even had a wonderful family with aforementioned wonderful person (yes, the same one)

But at the time, it still wasn’t enough. I felt limited, held back, I felt like things were conspiring to stop me from getting where I wanted to be. I felt exactly the same as I did in my thirties, like I was wading through treacle. Despite having all the things I thought I needed to feel ‘successful’, I still didn’t actually feel it.

It’s only now in my forties, that I realise what I’ve achieved. Yes, I have a wonderful family, a beautiful house, my dream job. But it’s more than that. I feel like I’m at the peak of my powers. I feel like there isn’t a (business) situation that I can’t beat. I feel like there isn’t a client I can’t deal with, or a person in my business I can’t help.

I don’t want to sound big headed, but I feel like I know so much now. I’m not going to list my abilities, thats too much even for me! But this is one of the reasons I set up this blog. I can help people in business and marketing because I feel like I’ve got some serious game going on!

And do you know why? 

It’s not what you might think.

It’s not talent, or ability, or luck, or being in the right place at the right time. Its not qualifications, though Ive got some of them. It’s not who I know, though I know some awesome people.

It’s simply being ‘time served’.

I’ve been there, and done it, and as they say, bought the T-Shirt! I’ve made the mistakes.vI’ve made them over and over on occasion too. I’ve learned as I’ve gone along by doing. I’ve paid my dues.

I don’t think much these days, about standing up in front of a room full of people and talking to them. Why? Because I’ve done it hundreds of times. I don’t mind meeting the CEO and discussing the annual budget, or having those ‘difficult’ meetings with a CFO. Why? because I’ve done it before, over and over.

Are you experienced?

Its like driving. Have you ever thought that you can’t deal with busy city traffic? You’d be amazed at the change in you once you’ve driven in it for a few months. If you think back to the first time you drove on the motor way, you might remember the fear of doing 70mph?

That seemed a huge speed right? When was the last time you stuck exclusively to the speed limit? It really feels like a limit now doesn’t it?

You cope with these things by doing them. Then doing them over, and doing them again and again.

I always think that one of the differences between me and someone who maybe hasn’t achieved what they set out to do is that when I’ve made a mistake, I’ve done my damnedest to learn from it.

You know that the old saying right? The definition of insanity is ”Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’? That’s what I’m talking about here.

And it all comes from doing. From living. From trying.

It doesn’t feel like it when you’re a kid, but just hang on in there. You’ll get there. When nothing seems to happen fast enough, when no one seems to be able to see the true potential you have just waiting to burst out of you, just wait…

You’ll get there, just keep doing it, keep learning, keep pushing.

Just wait…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Fail at Advertising

I’ve had some nice feedback from the last post on this theme, How to fail in three easy steps. Its a nice format, a short and hopefully punchy few paragraphs of advice, and its inspired me to write maybe a couple of others on this theme.

It amazes me how many businesses get even pretty simple ideas so wrong. Size isn’t everything in this area, as Ive seen everyone from Global brands to local shops make the same basic errors.

There is of course a lot to think about when it comes to advertising, from the channels you need to use to the creative treatment. And maybe we’ll get onto some of that in the future, but for now, here are three things you absolutely need to get right, or risk failure…

1. Fail to target

Your advertising should speak to one person. OK, one market if you must go for scale, but under no account should you aim to talk to more than one segment per campaign. I have lost count of the times Ive heard the client (or agency) answer ‘Everyone’ or even worse, ‘Adults 15 plus’ in radio language, in answer to the question, ‘who are you talking to?’

Recipe for disaster. How hard is it to talk to two of three people at a party? Or how confused do you get when your boss is asking you for something, and wants it right now, while you’re talking to a client on the phone?

Your advertising is the same confusing mess of noise if it tries to capture too many targets at once. If you are aiming at men, aim at men. Don’t aim at men, and women who buy for men. Geddit? Good..

2. Fail to ask for action 

‘I didn’t get a response’ says the client.

‘What did you ask people to do?’ says I.

‘What do you mean?’ responds the client…

Always ask the receiver of the advertising message to ‘do’ something. Call, or visit your website or buy now, and pay later – whatever, make sure there is a call to action.

The only time you can get away with less explicit requests is when you are brand advertising, or awareness advertising. The idea here is to make sure people are aware of your offering, or understand your specific position in the market. But even then you can think in terms of asking people to be aware of you, or asking them to think of you in a certain way.

3. Fail to provide a compelling reason to respond

I’m not sure which of these three points are the biggest sin. But for sure, I see this one A LOT! And as the great copywriter Mike Bersin once told me (Once!? Who am I kidding!) lots of small reasons don’t make one big one.

Why should people respond to your campaign if you don’t give them a good reason to? Why should they rush to your websites, or over to your shop, or pick up the phone to talk to you unless there is an absolutely compelling reason for them to do it?

And if you don’t think you have one you’re not alone. Many of the people I’ve worked with have struggled to come up with one big reason, luckily there is a lesson to be learned from big brands.

Big brands know they need to ‘own’ certain attributes in their customers minds eye. What brands fit these attributes?

Cool…

Sexy…

Reliable…

Timeless…

Fun…

Healthy…

And so on.

If you’re not cheaper, or faster or more reliable, or more trustworthy or whatever, or its difficult to demonstrate that you are any of those things, then its time to think of ways to inhabit one of those attributes and communicate that attribute to your customers.

But make it one really important attribute to one customer, and tell them why its important!

What do you guys think? Anything I’ve missed? Or anything you would have put in place of numbers 1,2 or 3? As ever, please leave a comment below.

 

 

How To Fail In Three Easy Steps

Over the years I’ve watched and learned from some of the best marketers, sales people, business men and women out there. I’ve read the books and watched the videos, and I’ve even been on the courses. Most of what I’ve learned has been in the form of being out there in the ‘field’ working with everyone from my own sales people to global brands and their marketing teams to regional and local SME’s.

There are three things in common with all those that fail. Clearly, there are often other factors involved, but you can bet your bottom dollar one, two and often all three of the following will have played a part.

1. Failure to Plan 

‘If you are not planing to win, you are planning to fail.’ I believe in this truism whole heartedly. You have to know what you are doing and why you are doing it. Don’t do things because they ‘feel’ like the right thing to do, or they are the easiest thing for you to do. Don’t do things because you enjoy doing them.

Do the things you know will make a difference to your business. You know these things make a difference because you’ll have seen success from doing these things previously, or you’ll have learned that hard way.

Stop trying to reinvent solutions that aren’t required. If you know what to do, and you know it works – do it, and do more of it.

If you don’t know what you need to do to succeed, you’d better learn. FAST.

2. Failure to stick to the Plan

I know, there are a million things to do right? A million distractions. Customer complaints, or colleagues needing your opinion / advice on something. The smart phone that constantly buzzes to tell you there is another email for your attention, or Facebook update you just have to look at, and look at right now!

Traffic problems, supply problems, IT Problems, communications problems, letter that haven’t arrived, emails that haven’t been read, phone calls that haven’t been returned.

All that research that needs to do done. On Facebook.

You know all those hard core success stories you know? That guy that really gets things done, and that girl who nails it every time? Do you know what they do differently to you?

They execute.

As Dave Gifford would say: They know what its takes to succeed, and they have the discipline to stay on plan.

3. Failure to work hard

Sorry.

There isn’t a short cut or a magic bullet, or a secret recipe or any other kind of get rich quick, win big formula that you aren’t aware of. For sure some people get lucky and score big. (And some seem get lucky just telling others how to score big.)

But 99.9% of the people out there winning at what they are doing, are working ALL THE TIME. They work day and night. They rise early (and sleep well) they drink in moderation, and look after themselves. They read everything, they study their (and other people’s) businesses. They apply themselves every minute of every day to doing what needs to be done.

(Though that’s not say that don’t play hard too…)

Do you know how Warren Buffet got to being so spectacularly successful? By working his ass off. Using other peoples money, as well as his own money for modest returns on stocks and shares, and then doing it again. And again.

Borrowing a hundred grand, putting in his own hundred grand and taking a 3% or 4% or maybe a 7% or 8% return, over and over.

Rinse, and repeat.

Do you want to work harder or smarter?

Simple answer: Do both.

So there you have it, short and sweet. Have a plan, stick to the plan, and work hard. Its not rocket science is it? If only I could work out why so many people find it so difficult to do! I could come up with an intervention for them, a training course, or a book!

This time next year Rodney we’ll be millionaires!