August 31, 2011

Both Sides of Customer Service

Completing the Circle

It may be safe to say that I am among the vast majority of people who don’t like to go to the doctor or dentist. We scaredy cats would rather do just about anything to avoid it. Perhaps it's fear of pain or worry they will find something wrong.

After a couple of years, I went to the dentist this week. All the fretting and avoidance was for not. From the moment I walked through threshold of the office, I was greeted with a friendly face, sat in a nice waiting room, spent an hour with my hygienist who rocked and the dentist herself was kind and friendly. Despite wanting to have been just about anywhere else, the experience was enjoyable.

Managing Expectations

Our hope is to get good service when we buy something from a store or online portal. Sadly, the bar is low. So if it’s reasonably enjoyable or maybe even somewhat hassle free, we’re good. That is simply not acceptable. Yet we are customers and providers giving and taking, selling and buying all day long. Customer service is not a one-way experience. If you're not prepared to give great customer service, don't be surprised if your revenue line decreases.

Now you could argue that the guy behind the sandwich counter at lunch doesn’t need to be friendly when you have 20 minutes to keep the wolf from the door, but these things build up. We can’t turn on our good customer service for the things we deem important and do the minimum for the rest.

Beyond Skills

The dentist’s office doesn’t just clean and fix my teeth. The friendly competent nice people provide a safe place where a fully grown man can be a big baby for no concrete reason. And in this particular case, they seem to enjoy what they do. And that's the second part of providing great customer service.

The cliché that we're all in sales is not the whole story. Don’t sell me; show me why I should engage with you. And I won’t sell you; I will show you how I can enhance what you need. And floss daily!

What are your thoughts?

Kneale Mann

August 28, 2011

Sifting The Interface

We spend a great deal of online, digital and mobile time talking about online, digital and mobile. There are tools to outline how to use tools, blogs on how to blog, opinion on how to have an opinion, yet at the root is our inherent need to interact and share.

David Merrill and his team have taken it right back to our desire to create and customize our world to our needs.

David explains in his TEDTalk from 2009.


Kneale Mann

visual credit: TED

August 25, 2011

The Four P's of Business

Anyone in marketing can recite the four P's which are product, price, placement and promotion. But if marketing is all you do, how do the four P's apply to your business?

Practice

Have you ever been to a sporting event or seen a live play or concert? Have you watched a great movie? Do you have any experience meeting someone else who is successful in business?  Do you find motivation from people who show talent and prowess in a particular discipline? In each case, someone spent years honing their skills to make it appear effortless. Yet we are quick to criticize from the comfort of our 20oz beer mug in the 300 level. Now think about your skill set and what you can bring to any situation. Did you learn and execute all you know immediately?

Patience

When I was a kid I couldn't get through an NHL game without calling my buddies to see if any were interested in a little pick up game on the street. We couldn't wait to be the next big star. It wasn't important whether that dream would be realized, the key was to try and emulate our favorite players who had worked their entire lives to get to the highest level in the sport. If you enjoy writing, reading a good book may give you more determination to work on your own novel. You may know someone who went back to school and emerged with a whole new career path. Seeing others succeed may give you reason to study their process to improve your business.

Persistence

It requires working nights and weekends, writing ideas on scraps of paper you later find in the laundry, networking well, reading incessantly while life blends with work. No successful person in history has gotten it right the first time. And we may point to the occasional situation that appears to be an instant win. But once you dig deeper you realize it took a lot of persistence to happen. This is one we all need to remember yet it can be tough on those days, you know, those days. After all, business isn't simply created, that's up to us.

Play

There are many ways to be successful. What's important is to be organized and have a strategic plan. It is equally essential not to settle for good enough - that's what the other guys do. And it's okay to get a little messy once in a while, take some chances, swing at the fence and remember the importance of passion.

How are you working on the four P's of your business?

Kneale Mann

image credit: magnetic

August 21, 2011

Win Like Senna

"Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose."

One of my hobbies is a passion for Formula One racing. It started when my best friend introduced me to the sport twenty years ago and I was hooked. I’m not one of those F1 snobs but there is something elite about this class of motor racing. The cars are trickier to drive, the season is gruelling, the traveling is unrelenting and the varied road courses have eaten up some of the most gifted drivers to ever get in a car.

Every premiere level of sport has its best of lists. Who is THE best? What names fall into the top ten? Gretzky, Federer, Woods, you have your list. And in Formula One, my top vote would go to Ayrton Senna. Seven time world champion Michael Schumacher puts Senna at the top and so do many other drivers.

"You touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind, your power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience, you can fly very high."

Senna was an animal on a road course. He made no excuses. He would drive you into the wedge and make you move out of the way. In 162 F1 starts over ten years, he made the podium (top three) 80 times, won 41 races and secured the world championship three times. Aryton Senna died in 1994 while leading the San Marino Grand Prix. As one commentator said, he simply ran out of road.

In his home country of Brazil, millions attended his funeral and there were three official days of mourning. Senna gave millions to charity through his foundation which lives today and loved his country very much. But battle him on track and you may just want to move aside or he did it for you. He was born to race. He was born to win. This month, there is a film simply entitled Senna about his life coming out in North America that is the highest grossing documentary in the UK history.

"You must take the compromise to win, or else nothing. That means: you race or you do not."

So how does the story of Aryton Senna help our career? How does it help our business? He did everything to win, period. One season, the championship was his, if rival (and fellow F1 legend) Alain Prost didn’t finish. So Senna blew Prost into the first corner and ended both their day. The crown was his. And this happens in the enterprise. Some will do anything to win even if it means destroying their competition.

To win in racing, you cross the finish line first. In business, you are in a much longer battle. But all so often we hear ourselves talk about increasing revenue, improving market share, crushing the other guy and how does that help? Senna was concerned about winning for him and his team and often would put others in harm’s way.

"Racing, competing, it's in my blood. It's part of me, it's part of my life; I have been doing it all my life and it stands out above everything else."

Off the track, he was a kind and gentle philanthropist. Fellow drivers revered him. Fans adored him. So it looks on the surface that he had the right strategy. Prost once remarked that Ayrton didn't think this would kill him, in fact, it didn’t even occur to him. And of course the unthinkable happened.

Do you know how to define your win?

Kneale Mann

image credit: victorvarela

August 19, 2011

Taking It Offline

It's Really Not About The Tools

The absurdity is not lost that this question is posed online but have you ever spent an entire day without electronic communication tools? No cell, no email, no web for twenty-four hours. There are probably slower days like on the weekends when you’re not connected constantly, but this is a complete unplug. I call it a digital day off. And it may happen if you’re on vacation – especially camping – and what happened? Nothing. The sun still came up, the coffee still got brewed, you may have actually had a few more minutes for the important things, like people and yourself.

There are just over two billion of us online which represents about 30% of the world’s population and is 480% higher than the days of Y2K. There are 922 million people online in Asia which equals close to 24% of the continent’s population while North America sits at 272 million internet users or 78% of the entire populace.

The Better Toaster

We argue with great fervour over the health of Google+ versus Twitter or which smartphone operating system is superior. The content generated on how to better generate content is unrelenting. Yet all the while, people are going to work and school and raising their families and eating at restaurants.

It’s cool that we could – if we wanted to – check in through a geosocial network every time we cross the threshold of a retail location. In fact, if we’re lucky, we may become they mayor of the grocery store. And the black and while square on the side of the soup can gives us more information than we need.

These Times Are Always A-Changin'

Technology will advance, gadgets will be introduced, new interfaces will be launched yet once in a while, perhaps for just a moment, we should remember the key element in this thing called life – and that is us.

We can now find people who share our views and ideas all over the world. Those we can meet with the ease of interfaces and technology boggles the mind. But as we attempt to gain attention and any other metric, we shouldn't forget one element.

Perhaps we need to take it offline once in a while?

Kneale Mann

image credit: sightseeingreview

August 17, 2011

Our Distracted World

Removing Clutter and Adding Clarity

I’m often asked if I am necessary to a client’s business. Water and food are necessary, the rest are choices. I can bring 25+ years of marketing and media experience to a client’s business but only if they want my help and realize it won't happen instantly.

If you take the social channels at face value, many claim they can solve all your problems with the purchase of their book or click of a mouse. Solutions can be buried somewhere between good intentions and snake oil.

Sign Up and Never Read

I was sifting through my in-box recently and realized that I was creating clutter by joining upwards of 100 different services, clubs, email blasts and news sites. Over time, I have subscribed to these services only to glance when the daily email comes in and never read it. Volume has replaced need. So I will unsubscribe to all of them in email form and go back to digesting the content through my reader. Quantity replaced quality and it all became white noise.

The average Facebook user has 130 friends and has joined 80 pages or groups. How much daily interaction happens after the "like" button is pressed? Something caused you to do it in the first place so there may be good stuff, or not, and if not, dump it. The onus is not on you to stay but for them to give you reason to want to stay. Could we see a social media diet plan in place over the next few years? Less will become more while we focus on actual connections rather than collecting numbers.

Ready Shoot Aim

So often we feel we’re going to miss something so we create clutter instead of progress. Companies adopt a new imitative for fear the competition will get a leg up. Someone on Twitter self proclaims some tactic and it makes us wonder if we should adopt it. Every one of our profiles on the social web has a counter on it and the numbers begin to distract us as if they are actually important.

In business, there will always be someone doing better than you and always someone doing worse than you. The critical issue to keep in mind is what is important to you.

Perhaps some thought to what is truly necessary may help.

Kneale Mann

image credit: brickhouse
originally posted: march 2011

August 16, 2011

Guest Post: Brass Tack Thinking

What I Wish More People Knew About Me

Anyone I meet who claims to be new to the social web is quickly reminded they have been a part of it their entire lives. There has been much talk about the tools we use in accelerating serendipitous relationships but the key factor in all of it is us. Twitter on it's own doesn't do anything. Facebook won’t grow your business by itself. LinkedIn is not a magic pill.

What is crucial as we all try and navigate this busy place called life, is people. Social media are simply human networks and time spent getting to know the humans from across the world can be quite rewarding.

One person I have had the privilege of getting to know over the past few years is Amber Naslund. She is a writer, co-author of The Now Revolution with Jay Baer, a tireless teacher, a curious soul, a speaker and the VP of Social Strategy at Radian6.

Recently, Amber wrote a post entitled What I Wish More People Knew About Me and offered her community the same opportunity to publish their personal thoughts on her website. So I grabbed the nerve and sent her my notes. Thanks Amber! :-)

The post is here

Kneale Mann

image credit: sodahead

August 14, 2011

Sixth Sense: Tools Meet Life

The brilliant Pranav Mistry will blow you away with the stuff he is working on and most importantly, sharing with the world. He has committed to taking it one step further and will open-source his SixthSense software so we can all contribute and improve upon it. Pranav explains some of the things occupying his time at TEDIndia. [video]



Kneale Mann

visual credit: TED

August 12, 2011

Managing Your Business Pain

Cause: Unknown

Doctors are trained to do their best to cure what ails you. They spend years in school and in practice to hone their skills to help their patients. If you have pain, they try and manage it. If your bone is broken, they mend it. If you have something more serious, they work with specialists and experts to find solutions to get you better.

In business, we spend our waking hours trying to improve our services or products, increase profits, develop skills and create collaborative work environments. The days are filled with strategy meetings and workflow, email and client deliverables. Despite our avoidance, there is pain that we try and ignore.

Symptoms: Minimal

The pain in your business may not be something bombastic or even all that obvious. It could be something minor, manageable and barely detectable. If a customer experiences bad service, they often don't tell you, they simply stop buying from you. So any pain may not be outlined. Profits may begin to slip and you may think the remedy is pushing your stakeholders harder or doing more sales calls. The core of the problem might be product development or competitive interference. But your focus is elsewhere.

Every company experiences pain. Growing pains, revenue pains, biz dev pains, financial pains and none avoid it. In fact, most live with it daily despite the energy spent to ignore it. In life, pain can debilitate you. In business, it can motivate you. But the real trick is to identify the source of the pain. If you tell your doctor you are getting bad headaches, she doesn’t fix your knee. But in business, if revenue is soft we think that means we should be doing more sales calls.

Top Priority: Revenue

I’m often faced with that moment in a discovery meeting with a prospective client when I ask about pain. The answers are varied and often unspecific. “We need to make more money” is frequently the response which may be true but the doctor doesn’t guess at how you can have more mobility in your ankle, he has a strategy specific to the issue. In business, revenue generation can often be as much internal as external.

The chasm between product or service and your customer can be monumental. There are a lot of intricate moving parts – like the human body – and any one can mess up the process. If you’ve ever tried to quit coffee or go long stretches without food, you know your mind begins to wander and your concentration levels diminish. Your creative and cognitive skills are compromised. And your output suffers.

Solution: Band-Aid

Now visualize that across the enterprise. Imagine you’re the doctor and you have 300 people in your waiting room with mysterious ailments. And instead of trying to diagnose each person’s issue because you don’t have time to babysit, you simply put out a blanket remedy and hope that cures the pain. You tell your sales people to make more calls and your marketing team to get more exposure.

Some may think that the clear way to realizing higher profit margins is obviously pushing people to simply work harder. After all, it couldn't be your product or service. The customer experience you provide can't be the problem. And it certainly couldn't be anything you're doing wrong, right?

How do you cure your company's pain?

Kneale Mann

image credit: falaksher

August 10, 2011

The Gut Complex

Letting Others Make Your Decisions

This space began in April 2008 on a dare. I caved to peer pressure and began publishing my thoughts. Having been in media and marketing my entire career, I had ample experience creating content for others. In fact, it’s weird every time words like “I” and “me” appear on the screen because if this was not about you, then these posts could be kept on the hard drive and we could all get on with our day.

But the people I read on a regular basis (some are listed on the side bar of this site) keep pushing and contributing to the conversation. This blog does not have advertising or guest writers. It’s never been a fancy schmancy place to hang out. It’s just a guy with lots of ideas sharing them with anyone who happens to drop by during their busy life. But without action, the conversation and ideas lose their meaning. I speak from experience on that one!

Digging Deeper

There is a shift going on with many of the writers I read and it’s in the form of more thought provoking content. Sure we all get into the Google Plus versus Facebook diatribes but the longer form articles are about people which is my kinda content.

The world – and the social media landscape – is filled with clichés so I won’t add to them save one that keeps coming back to bite me in the backside – go with your gut.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a great book entitled Blink and it begins with a story about an art gallery that is presented with what appears to be authentic pieces. The curator suspects the pieces are fakes but then a layer of hope takes over and changes his mind. But to be safe, he hires appraisal experts to ensure he’s right. They confirm authenticity and the gallery purchases the pieces which were fakes.

Eyes Deceive

The curator – like all of us – didn't listen to his gut. He wanted the pieces to be real despite his spidey senses. And his overwhelming desire for them to be real transported to the appraisers. It sounds impossible and happens all day long. Have you ever felt that? Of course you have and it’s almost as if we have to deliberate for a while because the right answer couldn't possibly come to us that effortlessly.

We have the chance everyday to make a quick decision or belabour for a potentially better outcome. That is why we spend endless hours in meetings pondering the pros and cons of every decision. It’s the reason economic realities cloud our judgement. It’s at the base of prospective clients demanding results before the work begins. And it’s the sole reason we get stuck.

No Guarantees

Life, business and every decision you make is a risk. But there is credence in seeing smart successful people make quick choices, realize mistakes and correct them long before most of us get past the “what if” stage. If we wait for the perfect time to do anything, it will never arrive. The guarantee we seek is a fabrication we have created for the sole purpose of not making the call.

Change holds a certain allure until you realize what it entails. There are many moving parts but often we think we can stand still while the rest move in our favor and that's simply not reality. We have to affect the change, we can't expect others do to it then blame them when they put the pieces in the wrong order.

What is your gut telling you?

Kneale Mann

August 7, 2011

Limited Time Offer

Often you will meet people in large cities who grew up in a rural setting. Once in awhile, after years of bustle in an urban area, someone will opt for a quieter lifestyle with a bit more elbow room. Green grass would replace concrete and climbing the corporate ladder may be your way to the hay loft.

We spend about 30% of our lives sleeping, another 30% working, about 10-20% consuming entertainment, add another 5% for eating and 5% getting ready – which includes dressing and showering and ironing and primping and pressing and let’s lob in another 5% for traffic. Feel free to adjust that number according to your situation.

Finite Time Available

So we are booked 85-90% of the time. We have 10-15% left over to follow our dreams, have uninterrupted thought, read a novel, relax, contemplate navels. That 30% chunk taken by that work thing seems pretty important, doesn’t it?

The notion of think time is completely foreign to most companies. This is where you are in your office or sitting quietly in a space and you are not in a meeting or online or answering emails or doing busy work. You are thinking, creating, solving. How better could you do your gig with time blocked off every day just to think?

Image. Create. Share. Digest. Implement. 

The idea that teams could put titles away and collaborate freely is something still rather rare. Real collaboration, not we value your opinion so we can then show you why we didn’t pick it. No passive aggressive fearful ego laden managerial yelling style – collaboration. Respectful teamwork.

Now imagine you are the manager, the owner, perhaps you are already. What does it look like? You are overseeing 30% of people’s entire lives. Sure they will move on, have several careers, but you are the curator of one third of their existence while they are working with you.

Or perhaps it's just about the bottom line. ;-)

Kneale Mann

image credit: FAQs
original post: Jun 2010

August 5, 2011

Communication Breakdown

com•mu•ni•cate: To convey information about. To reveal clearly. To express oneself in such a way that one is readily and clearly understood.

In order to survive, companies need to look long and hard at job descriptions. Communications can no longer fall on the shoulders of a few people in some department.

If you live on your smartphone, perhaps your customers do too. If close to half of the almost two billion worldwide online users have a social networking profile on a website, perhaps the desire to connect along various channels is catching on. If you are in communications or marketing or public relations or social media or media relations, you know it can be an uphill battle to get buy-in from management.

Ignoring it Doesn't Make it Go Away

Often some view that part of their job is to protect the status quo and rest on past procedures. This does not stem from a lack of vision but we often stay with the monster we know rather than taking on the monster we don’t know. You may feel that they are blocking you from trying to integrate all these communication channels and you are not entirely correct.

Both Sides Now

It’s not enough to comprehend that the two-way conversation is occurring, it is imperative to embrace your ability to contribute to it – whatever that means to you. We are in the world’s largest cocktail party and it’s still the part of the evening filled with small talk. We are skimming the surface, finding our way, deciding what we want out of it but there is not just one way to participate. Some individuals and companies are doing great things and improving business but there are many who are still trying to figure it out. You may be one of them.

I don’t try and convince people that they can improve their business through online connections, I know they can but only if they will commit the work. You can say that eating better and exercising is good for you but empty words won’t get you the six-pack. This is not a lottery ticket. This is about changing some of your daily routine and having time to find out who’s out there.

They Said You Said

Despite our collective impatience, our job is to be patient with those who aren't convinced and are not ready for the river of information. It is up to us to educate the fearful and remind them that a Facebook group will not save a bad business idea and optimizing the website for a search engine can only happen if they know what people are searching for in the first place.

Branding is not achieved through a few tweets, your clients and customers decide on that. And the Internet will not magically save your business on its own but it can improve the bottom line if you open your mind and let it in. But it does not replace business acumen.

Let’s get back to work!

Kneale Mann

image credit: carbbon
original post: Oct 2010

August 3, 2011

Is Marketing Really Necessary?

Marketing is the process by which companies create customer interest in products or services. It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication and business development. Wikipedia

We can explain away our behavior. We can justify anything.We can even view marketing as an expendable item on the ledger. If you run a business there are certainties no matter the size of your company.

Ring Ring

You have to have some sort of phone system. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It doesn't have to be wired to everyone’s smartphone, but you need phones.

Unless staff will be sitting on the ground, furniture is probably a good idea. It doesn’t have to be glass desks and Aeron chairs but you do need something to keep your stuff and your people off the floor.

Did You Get My Email?

You don’t need to get everyone a MacBook and Hermann Miller chairs but you need something that resembles computing devices to get the job done and apparently this Internet thing is quite the craze so you have costs involved in that service.

And there's also salaries, perhaps benefits, training, supplies, utilities, office space, running water, plumbing and other operational items.

Now What?

Assuming you have a great product or service and a business plan, you now have office space and people. But unless your company has self ringing phones, letting people know what you do is imperative to your success.

Marketing is more than advertising. It is how you cement relationships, build referrals and create long-term customers. It is in everything you do and is as essential as keeping the lights on.

Tighten Too Tight

Many have been through tight times and have had to look at ways to cut expenses. All too often the marketing budget is the first to see the knife. The perception is that it is money not yet spent - unlike phones, salaries, computers and furniture.

Imagine how your company would change if you didn't view marketing as a luxury, a channel or a department.  

Kneale Mann

image credit: chadestes
original post: Aug 2010

August 1, 2011

Making Your Company Human

Some call it a midlife or identify crisis but eventually we all go through it. Some go through it several times. This is not about getting to an age where you buy a sports car to rekindle your youth or run off to join the circus.

This is at your core and is suddenly right beside you with a two-by-four that smacks you right in the skull. The brave face masks our fear. We may fool others but we don't fool ourselves. The uneasiness fails to subside as we plow through on all the things we should do while we ignore what we want to do.

Your Title Does Not Define You

Humans are unique to any other species because we have the ability to reason and can analyze and solve problems. But that constantly gets us into trouble.

Justification for not moving forward on an idea or embracing others' input on a project can always seem to be explained in our clever minds. And this logic infiltrates our businesses, our work spaces and our team environments.

Pride and Measurement

We think we’re so superior because we can solve problems. But one could argue we create more than we solve. We are the only creatures who worry about what if, then and next. We are also the only beings who worry about having a purpose.

We want a legacy, we want our lives to mean something yet we seek approval from everyone but ourselves. If we can’t see it, no amount of awards or money will be enough. Without that feeling in the gut, increasing revenue can only sustain us on its own for a short time.

Think Like the Animals

Dogs do not concern themselves with that incident last July when they didn’t catch the ball on the first bounce. Cats waste no time worrying about your opinion of them. Birds fly void of any concern they’re doing it wrong.

Yet we spend considerable amounts of our precious time worrying about what happened, what’s about to happen and what might happen.

Teamwork is Not Just a Buzzword

Taking your business social absolutely nothing to do with a website This is at the core of business. We are not drones performing sufficient duties to deliver satisfactory results to the revenue line. We are people. We have hopes and fears and dreams and desires. And so do those working with us.

This is not to suggest your company should be a place where everyone holds hands and talks about feelings all day. But if we forget the human part, the business part may remain a challenge.

Making your company human may result in happier humans and a healthier revenue line. You have been warned.

Kneale Mann

image credit: flickr
original post: Jan 2011
 
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