There’s an I In Team

 13th February 2018 by gihan

Do you treat everybody in your team as if they were “gifted and talented”? We used to say “There’s no I in team”, and force people to focus on the organisation’s goals, even at the expense of their own. But if you want to be really fit for the future, recognise and develop the unique skills and talents of everybody in your team.

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Solving Customer Problems? That’s Not Enough Anymore!

 7th February 2018 by gihan

As a futurist, I’m often asked by business leaders how to stay ahead of their competition in a fast-changing world. Many of these leaders think it’s about embracing some new technology, understanding some future trend before anybody else in their industry, or creating an innovative product.

Those might all be useful, but it starts with something else: understanding your customer and serving their needs.

You might think that’s nothing new! After all, business has always been about serving customer needs, right? Yes, that’s true. But customer needs have changed.

In the past, business success was much easier: Understand your customer’s problems, and fix them – better than anybody else can.

But that simplistic approach doesn’t work anymore. First, you have far more competitors than ever before, so it’s more and more difficult to be better than anybody else.

More importantly, customers have changed, and they expect different things from you and your business. Solving problems is just one of the things that attracts customers.

Broadly, there are six things you do for customers – which means six levels of dealing with their needs.

1. Saving Them From Crisis

In any industry, most businesses help customers who have problems, but only a few help customers who have a crisis. It’s not always easy to do this, but if you choose to be one of those few, it can give you a strong market share.

For example, I know a mortgage broker who has built a very profitable part of her business helping people who can’t get a home loan through the normal channels. The major banks and most mortgage brokers won’t touch these clients, because they are “difficult”, so they are not very profitable. But this particular broker has targeted these clients, and knows how to help them while still staying profitable in her business.

The trouble with helping customers in crisis is that – if you do your job well – you don’t necessarily get a lot of repeat business. So it’s difficult to build a business only on these customers.

2. Solving Their Problems

This is the classic kind of customer for most businesses: somebody who has a problem for which you can offer a solution. In most industries, this is the largest chunk of customers, and the easiest to target with your marketing. But it’s also where you will find the most competitors, so it’s the most difficult for you to differentiate yourself.

If your business strategy involves helping customers solve problems, good! That’s a good start. But it’s only a start, because everybody else is doing the same thing. So the only way to keep competing in this area is to be better than everybody else – and that’s getting harder and harder. A better option is to diversify into the next four areas.

3. Achieving Their Goals

The first two levels – crises and problems – are about fixing pain points for customers. The next level is about helping them achieve their goals. You’re still helping them with a gap in their life, but this time it’s aspirational and positive. For example, you don’t buy a $4,000 Burberry trench coat because it keeps you warm; you buy it because you believe it shows prestige, status and class.

Many people are more motivated by pain than pleasure, so many businesses in an industry focus on solving problems. It’s not as easy to reach the aspirational customers, and they might be the smaller segment of the market. But they can be more rewarding to deal with and more loyal to your business.

For example, the healthcare industry has traditionally been about solving problems: healing “sick” people. That’s a multi-billion dollar industry that won’t go away any time soon, but it’s being seriously challenged by savvy startups who focus on “wellness” rather than sickness – with things like fitness trackers, nutrition apps, and online communities for people who are taking responsibility for their own health.

4. Giving Them Opportunities

Steve Jobs, former Apple CEO and a great marketer, once said, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them”. This isn’t a blanket rule, but it’s perfect for thinking beyond most of your competitors. The perfect example, of course, was the iPhone, which fast became a “must have” item for many rich Westerners – most of whom had never even thought about carrying a computer around in their pocket until they saw the opportunity.

You don’t have to be a Steve Jobs to fit into this category. But you do have to think differently about your products and services. Look beyond what your customers need and want, and consider what else you could offer them. What would be so compelling that they would jump at – even if they had never even thought about it before?

5. Supporting Their Values

It’s no longer enough to just provide great products, services, and experiences. For many customers – especially younger generations like Gen Y (Millennials) and Gen Z – it’s equally important that the businesses they support also supports their own values. They care about your political views, workplace culture, views on climate change, and personal brands of the owners. These customers have more choices than ever before, and want to know about your values before they choose to do business with you.

For example, TOMS shoes is famous for their “One for One” philosophy: For every product they sell, they help one person in need. This is not just a marketing gimmick; it’s a core part of their business. As another example, when Uber suffered from negative media coverage about parts of its leadership and workplace culture, it lost thousands of customers instantly.

Right now, most businesses don’t talk about their values, and don’t think customers care. And many of them are probably right – for now. But this is changing, and if you truly want to be fit for the future, be ahead of this change.

6. Sharing Their Mission

There’s one level that’s even stronger than shared values, and that’s a shared mission. Customers who share your values will support you, but customers who feel strongly about your mission or cause want to be a part of it. They don’t just give you money – they give you time, energy, personal exertion, and the value of their networks. They are not just “customers”, but act more like partners. Or advisers. Or volunteers. Or champions. Or employees.

For example, the residents of Monmouth, a small town in Wales, contribute enthusiastically to documenting the story of the town by maintaining the town’s Wikipedia-like site, “Monmouthpedia”. This is really the job of the local council, but the residents – their “customers” – feel so strongly about it that they do it themselves.

Who are the people you can bring along with you on your mission? You might start by looking at your most loyal customers and your strongest advocates, but look beyond them as well.

So what can YOU do?

At which of these six levels do you deal with customer needs? You won’t necessarily do all six, but it’s risky if you only do one!

Whatever you’re doing now, examine all six of them, and consider whether you can add them to your business mix.

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That is None of Your Customers’ Business (But THIS Is!)

 6th February 2018 by gihan

Henry Ford was said to have quipped (although this is an urban legend), “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.” More recently, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs echoed that sentiment when he said, “It isn’t the consumer’s job to know what they want”.

That principle might have served you well in the past, when a business would see customers as just walking dollar signs – in other words, just buyers for their products and services. They were passive recipients of what you offered them (hence the term “consumers”), and got whatever you offered them.

That has changed now, and that kind of thinking won’t work in today’s business world. Any business that still treats their customers that way won’t last very long. Customers have more power and influence than ever before, and you can no longer treat them as outsiders.

In fact, your best customers want to be involved in the success of your business. Invite them into your business, ask for their ideas, and many of them will participate enthusiastically with no reward except the opportunity to contribute.

Pick Your Battles

You can involve your customers throughout the business, but be more careful when it comes to innovation.

Think of your business as operating at three levels:

  • Why: Your purpose, mission, vision, values and goals
  • What: The products and services you offer
  • How: The processes you use to deliver those products and services

You usually won’t ask your customers for innovative ideas in developing your “Why”. That’s your job, as an organisation or team. You can – and should – ask employees, suppliers and internal stakeholders, but not customers.

You also won’t usually ask your customers for innovation in the “How” of your business, because that involves your technical expertise and internal know-how. Most customers just aren’t qualified to innovate in this area.

The place where customers can add most value is in the “What” – that is, ideas about your products and services. They can tell you what products they like, what features they like most, what bugs them most, what problems you can solve for them, and so on.

The article “Turn Customer Input Into Innovation”, in the Harvard Business Review, reinforces this idea:

“Companies go about listening to customers all wrong – so wrong, in fact, that they undermine innovation and, ultimately, the bottom line … Customers should not be trusted to come up with solutions; they aren’t expert or informed enough for that part of the innovation process …. Rather, customers should be asked only for outcomes – that is, what they want a new product or service to do for them… What form the solutions take should be up to you.”

So, ask your customers for ideas about the “What”, and tackle the “Why” and “How” internally.

Like everything, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, some of your best and most loyal customers might be so close to the business that it is appropriate to involve them in shaping your “Why”. And some customers do have enough technical expertise to make meaningful contributions to your internal “How”. But as a rule, you will get most value by asking for their “What” input.

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Virtual Collaboration with Webinars

 30th January 2018 by gihan

The Institute for the Future identified virtual collaboration as one of the ten key skills for being fit for the future. In the future, virtual reality will make virtual collaboration seamless, but we’re not there yet. Currently, the best practice tools for virtual collaboration are webinars and online meetings. Are you and your team confident and competent at using these tools?

The Busy Adviser’s Secret to Lifelong Clients

 29th January 2018 by gihan

In a business environment where clients have more choices and information than ever before, keeping in touch with clients – and providing value – is not just about FoFA, the FSI, or compliance – it’s just good business.

Do your clients only hear from you when you send them a statement or invoice? If so, you can do more – much more – to show them that you’re a valued partner in planning their financial future. Focus on touchpoints that give them real value in a non-intrusive way.

Here are four things you could do regularly:

  1. DAILY: Do something nice.
  2. WEEKLY: Send a thank-you postcard.
  3. MONTHLY: Write a high-quality article.
  4. QUARTERLY: Run a client webinar.

Read the full article here

This is an extract from an article I published in Financial Planning, the magazine of the FPA for financial advisers in Australia.

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Making You Fit for the Future

 25th January 2018 by gihan

Virtual reality, social media, and global markets have changed the face of real estate, and real estate agents have to change to keep up. Be willing to look at what’s working for you and what’s not, and ruthlessly abandon what’s not working in place of something better.

Read the full article here

This is an extract from an article I published in Real Estate Hot Topics, the magazine from Real Estate Academy.

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Numbers … Graphs … Statistics … Make All Your Presentations Better

 23rd January 2018 by gihan

I speak at a lot of conferences, so I see a lot of presentations from other speakers. Those who aren’t professional speakers often make the mistake of cluttering up their presentations with too much data – such as statistics, graphs, and other numbers. Of course, numbers are important, and they can be essential tools to support your message. But you don’t need to present them in a boring way (as most presenters do). The problem is not the facts themselves; it’s in how you present them.

Many presenters who use data in a presentation make one of two mistakes: it’s either too little or too much.

  • Too little: They present raw data without making it meaningful to the audience.
  • Too much: They present it in a complex way that hides the real message.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to fix either problem.

Not enough data? Make it meaningful.

If you’re worried about overwhelming your audience with data, it’s tempting to leave it out altogether. But that’s not the best option. Instead, consider how to relate your data – especially numbers and statistics – to something the audience understands.

For example, Jamie Oliver starts his 18-minute TED Talk with a fact about healthy eating:

“Sadly, in the next 18 minutes when I do our chat, four Americans that are alive will be dead through the food that they eat.”

The late Hans Rosling, who was Swedish professor of global health, became world-famous for presenting data in an interesting way. For example, in one of his presentations, instead of saying, “The survey participants performed worse than chance”, he says:

“So I went to the zoo and I asked the chimps. You were beaten by the chimps.”

You can do the same with any important fact, number or statistic in your presentation. Look for ways to relate that fact to something the audience understands – like this:

  • “LinkedIn has 450 million active users. If it was a country, it would be the 4th biggest in the world, behind only China and India.”
  • “We’re currently getting a 69% accuracy rate. That’s good, but it’s only a B, and we should be aiming for an A+.”
  • “This idea will save you 5 minutes at the start of each day and 5 minutes at the end. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it adds up to one extra week a year.”

Too much data? Reduce it.

The second mistake is providing too much information – in other words, cluttering up the data so the important point doesn’t shine through. To avoid this mistake, look at your main piece of data and eliminate anything around it that could dilute it.

Here are some tips:

  • Use round numbers: Instead of saying “21.5% of our customers”, say “20% of our customers” or “One in five customers”.
  • Remove unnecessary data: If you show any other data, be sure it supports your main point. For example, if you’re showing performance over time, it makes sense to show some numbers for comparison purposes, but remove the others.
  • Remove everything else: It’s easy to create attractive graphs in PowerPoint, but remove everything that doesn’t contribute to your point. For example, a bar graph with different colours for each bar looks pretty but doesn’t mean anything to the audience. It’s better to have all the bars the same colour, or just one bar (the important one) a different colour.
  • One idea per slide: It’s difficult enough for your audience to grasp one point; don’t force them to think even harder. For example, if you have a table of numbers with two important points on it, show it on two slides, each with an extract from the table.

Are you playing the numbers game right?

It doesn’t take much to be “good with numbers” when you present, and your audience will thank you for it!

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Dead End Job

 18th January 2018 by gihan

The youngest Millennials (Gen Ys) and their younger siblings, Gen Z, are expected to have up to 17 jobs each across their careers. That means they need high levels of adaptability and a willingness to be self motivated.

Most workplaces still carry over baggage from 200 years ago, when offices were invented. But people are becoming much more entrepreneurial. You no longer
need to be in an office and can work remotely while still being part of a creative and productive team.

Distributed work will become the norm, not the exception, with more offsite workers such as freelancers. The best people for the job will do the work but this doesn’t always happen in the traditional workplace.

The whole concept of diversity expands – even diversity in work patterns. Some people are early‑birds, others are night-owls. There are different countries and time zones, and even differences in people’s motivation.

Read the full article here

This is an extract from an interview published in Edith, the magazine from Edith Cowan Unversity.

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