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What Alzheimer’s Has Taught Me

By on Jul 7, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Healthy but with her memory ransacked by late stage Alzheimer’s, my mother recently celebrated her 96th birthday. I was born on her birthday, and when I showed up on our shared birthday with cake and presents, she told me that I looked vaguely familiar but she couldn’t quite place me.  She asked for my name. When I told her, she shook her head and said, “No, I don’t know anybody by that name, sorry.”  At this stage, I’m more bemused by the irony of that response coming from the person who actually named me and relieved that she is, overall, quite happy, than I am saddened by the fact that she doesn’t know me anymore. She’s taken to very different behaviors recently, which I know is caused by the disease.  However, they are rather charming behaviors.  Her strict religious upbringing meant she spent a lifetime with short, no-fuss hair, rarely wore makeup and definitely not nail polish, and she eschewed all ornamentation and most jewelry.  These days, she wears bright pink nail polish on her carefully manicured fingernails, lets me dress her very long and elaborately styled hair with crystal encrusted bobby pins and favors bright clothing decorated with jaunty pins.  Her demeanor has changed, too. After a lifetime of being pessimistic and critical, she has a refreshingly joyful and guileless attitude these days. So, when I’m with her, I wonder, for myself and, by extension, to my own company, what choices do I make out of habit?  Without memory, who would I be?  Do I behave out of a lifetime of decisions that I made once, remember clearly and never revisit?   Do I avoid the new in favor of the known? Am I consistent or merely entrenched?  If I change the identity of my company and do something different, do I look like I’m wavering, or like I’m...

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The Most Important Question to Ask a Customer

By on Jun 15, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

We’re often asked to put together marketing plans.  It’s not a difficult task.  Goals and objectives, strategies and tactics.  Calculate the desired specific, measurable results and apply a budget, link it all to a time line and ensure sales and operational support to back it.  That’s in extremely broad strokes and there is considerable detail behind each activity. But there’s always one question we always ask and most companies can’t answer it:  Why do your best customers buy from your company? If you don’t know that, the marketing plan may work. But it may not and you might not even know why. This applies to even the most technologically complex products, in our experience.  What can you learn from this exercise? Here are three examples from successful companies we’ve worked with on marketing in the past: A company thought their strength was in innovation. Customers said that they would rate that company about mid-range on innovation but incredibly high on customer service. Confident that they didn’t need outside salespeople, a company decided to bring all sales in-house. Before they did, they asked us to talk to customers and we found out that the main differentiator between them and their competition was…you guessed it…their outside salespeople. Convinced that it was their product’s price that kept customers loyal, we did some research with customers and found out that, while the low price was appreciated, it was the high quality that consistently kept customers devoted to their brand. Talk to your customers. Ask them why they like working with your company. Ask them what they would do if your company went away (always a revealing question!) Be sure to be open-ended and let them talk, don’t give them a multiple choice list.  If you can, find an outside company to do the questioning.  People will be more candid if they know their answers are anonymous and that’s not always about negative impressions, they’ll share more positive opinions, too, to an outside, objective questioner. You’ll form a more accurate picture of your company.  More importantly, you will understand your customers in much more...

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Give and Take. And Comedy.

By on Jun 1, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Comedians talk about how much they enjoy “getting laughs”.  While we all appreciate the opportunity to laugh, and we could even say that it’s a gift, this short video from comedian Michael Jr. is the first time I’d ever heard a comedian talk about comedy as truly being a gift. Early in his career, he shifted from wanting to get laughs from people to wanting to give the audience an opportunity to laugh.  “Now I’m not looking to take,” Michael says, “I’m looking for an opportunity to give.” When we think about our customers as being on a journey, which is their own journey, living their own story, then it’s easy to see that we are privileged if they invite us to join them. That is major shift from believing that we “get” their business.  We are here to give. Once invited, we have the the opportunity to give them what they want – whether it’s tranquility, confidence, security, increased savvy, knowledge or an easier way to do their job. As Michael Jr. says, “If we could just stop asking the question ‘What could I get for myself?’ and start asking the question, ‘What could I give from myself?” I think people would learn that you don’t have to be a comedian to deliver a punch...

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Why this dancing guy is my hero

By on Mar 4, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

You’ve probably seen the video of the agile – some would say, surprisingly agile – and largish Russian man, breaking out some amazing dance moves in his black Speedo. He appears to be having a great time and to be totally at ease. It seems to me that he doesn’t care what anyone may think – he’s just being himself. I love this video.  It reminded me of an essay, “Unreal World”, by writer and actor Andrew McCarthy. In it, he mused about Hollywood stars’, the nature of attraction and why people decide to have plastic surgery.  Specifically, he tried to figure out why he was saddened at the news that one of his rock star idols, a man, admitted to having Botox treatments, leading him to this observation, “Have you ever seen a fat man dance well? It’s a gorgeous thing—somehow even more dazzling than seeing a thin man dance just as well. I think the reason is it boasts a certain joyful confidence born of self-acceptance, which is undeniably attractive. And it’s just that lack of self-acceptance that I see broadcast across my rock star hero’s forehead— when what I know I’m meant to see is a smooth and chiseled polish.” Great branding is, essentially, totally at ease, in that it’s not striving to be anything other than its utter, core self.  Bravely unique.  Whether the brand message is intended to comfort, delight, provoke, intrigue or inspire confidence, if you dilute your marketing message in order to appeal to everyone, you lose a huge advantage, the advantage of being “undeniably attractive” to your target customers.  Even “dazzling”...

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Is brevity the soul of wit?

By on Jul 23, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“Brevity is the soul of wit” and clarity is the heart and soul of marketing and sales messages. But I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it’s so easy to fall into the trap of corporate-speak, which is the opposite of brevity. Or wit. Confused people don’t buy, or donate to your cause or actually hear your message at all. And corporate speak; while it’s tempting (because it makes you sound so darned smart!) can be oh so confusing. So before you use “monetize our assets”, “brand trajectory” or “synergy” again, take a look at this new video from Weird Al Jankovic. It lovingly – and in three part harmony in parts — skewers our addiction to corporate buzz words. And all to the tune of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”. Your company’s unique story is the fastest, most authentic way to a powerful branding message. Your customer’s already know your company’s story. Just ask them. Do...

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