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The Dip, by Seth Godin

 16th August 2009 by gihan

A brilliant book. Contrary to many of the other reviewers on Amazon.com, I think this little book (it’s under 80 pages) is essential reading for success in business and life. It promises to teach one simple, elegant and powerful idea: Know when to quit and when to persist. Or, as Kenny Rogers would put it, “You’ve got to know when to hold and know when to fold”.

The first time I read the book, I understood this. But it was the second time I read the book that I got the real Aha! moment. I think the book actually delivers two ideas, and the second – unadvertised in the promotional blurb but prominent throughout the book – is the more important.

It’s this: If you’re not the best in the world, quit.

This, more than the quit/persist idea, is what makes this book essential reading, especially in this connected, competitive world where being #1 brings all the success and being #2 leaves you highly vulnerable.

So how is it possible for everybody to become the best in the world at what they do? Well, the trick is that you get to decide what “best” means, and you get to decide what “the world” means (Well, actually your customers decide, but it’s your job to position yourself in front of the right customers). The point is, mass marketing is dead. Choose a niche market and a customised offering that makes you the best. If you can’t, quit.

Buy the book here from Amazon.com.

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>The Vendor Client relationship – in real world situations

 15th August 2009 by gihan

>There’s a very funny video going around about client/vendor consulting relationships, and how they might operate in “the real world”:

This is funny, no doubt about it! But let’s not allow the humour to trick us into thinking it’s making a valid point. All this proves is that consulting relationships are different from retail transactions.

For instance, let’s script another restaurant scene, but this time with the shoe on the other foot …

(Customer calls over the waiter …)

Waiter: Good evening, sir.

Customer: Good evening. I’d like the steak, please, but there’s no price on the menu. How much is it?

Waiter: Well, it depends.

Customer: Depends? Depends on what?

Waiter: It depends on how hungry you are, sir.

Customer: How hungry I am??? What’s that got to do with it?

Waiter: Well, obviously, sir, a hungry person would value it much more highly. It wouldn’t be fair to charge as much to somebody who isn’t so hungry. That’s why we rate your level of hunger on a scale of 1 to 10 before quoting you a price.

Customer: That’s ridiculous! But OK, if you insist: I’m a 6.

Waiter: Ha ha! Good one, sir. No, seriously – you’re not the best person to assess that. We’re the food experts, so we’ve designed a diagnostic survey that gives a far more accurate reading. And I might say, sir, that most people turn out to be hungrier than they thought they were! Don’t worry, sir – it won’t take long and it won’t cost much.

Customer: Cost??? Are you saying you’re going to charge me BEFORE you tell me how much my meal will cost?

Waiter: Of course, sir! How can we quote a fair price without knowing how hungry you are? We have to match our service to your requirements.

Customer: Look, I really don’t care whether I “match” or not. Here’s $20 – what can I get for that?

Waiter: Oh, sir – we can’t just take your money. Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice!

Customer (storming out): Forget it! I’m going to the burger joint across the street. THEY’LL give me what I want.

Waiter (sniffing haughtily): Yes … but not what you NEED.

(Fade)

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Busting the Mehrabian Myth

 25th July 2009 by gihan

For years, speakers, trainers, consultants and other educators have quoted Albert Mehrabian’s “55/38/7” research, saying that only 7% of the meaning of your message comes from the words you use. And for years, I’ve been telling them that this is wrong. Not the research itself, but the way it’s wrongly quoted as if it applies in all communication situations. As Mehrabian himself points out on his Web site, the research applied in very specific situations:

“Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like-dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.”

Now this brilliant YouTube video explains it clearly:

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>You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

 15th July 2009 by gihan

>

So the crowd gave you a standing ovation after a great keynote
… or that hot prospect gave you a verbal agreement at that crucial sales meeting
… or your newest coaching client finally committed to taking clear, specific actions
… or a reader told you that your book changed her life.

Feels great, doesn’t it? But … Have you ever had that feeling, and then discovered the audience walked out and didn’t change anything? Or that hot prospect never got back to you – or chose somebody else? Or that coaching client never did end up doing what they said they would do? Or that reader forgot what she’d read within a few days?

How could this be??? They loved you! You knew it, and they knew it!

So what made them fall out of love with you?

Today’s audiences, clients, prospects and consumers fall in and out of love with stuff a hundred times a day. They haven’t got time to go on a date – the best you can hope for is speed dating.

Sure, your idea was gorgeous, witty, brilliant, ruggedly handsome, Down To Earth and had a Good Sense Of Humour. But, as far as they’re concerned, so is every other idea they see, hear or touch in the day.

So when something better – or maybe even worse – comes along, that gets their attention – and yours goes to the back of the line.

What can you do to fix this?

Simple: Attach your idea to their future.

You know your idea is good – after all, that’s what they fell in love with at the start. The problem is, you made it too easy to forget, because you didn’t connect it to their future.

You see, a new idea is – by definition – new, different, unfamiliar, maybe even a little bit uncomfortable to them. So it’s not surprising they have a natural tendency to go back to their old, same-same, familiar, comfortable way of life.

As John Lennon famously sang:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

OK, so how do you do this?

Use these four simple phrases:

  • “When you …”
  • “Whenever you …”
  • “The next time …”
  • “Every time …”

Here are some examples:

  • “Give yourself a big mental hug when you pass by the ice-cream freezer at Coles and head for the fresh vegies instead.”
  • Whenever you turn the key in your ignition, hook up your phone to the hands-free kit.”
  • The next time your network crashes, call us – we’ll be waiting.”
  • Every time you turn on the tap in your kitchen, remember that half the world’s women have to walk an hour a day to get fresh water.”

Get the idea? These simple phrases take your idea from the present (now) and attach them into your audience’s future.

Is that all it takes to be memorable? Of course not. You still need the brilliant idea, the receptive audience and the elegant presentation. But you know you’ve got those things already – that’s what made them fall in love with your idea in the first place. These phrases help them remain in love with it.

So use these phrases – they do work.

Err … I mean: The next time you’re preparing a presentation, remember to use these phrases – they do work.

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>Reflections on a fabulous month away in Prague

 4th July 2009 by gihan

>I’ve just returned from a month in Prague, which was a combination of work and pleasure (“weisure”, as New York University sociologist Dalton Conley calls it, or “furking” (combining fun and working), as Kirsty Spraggon calls it).

Here are some of my insights, reflections and ideas.

1. Yes, you CAN do it.

Travel no longer has to be about EITHER work or pleasure, or even a work trip with a holiday tacked on to the end. It really is possible to combine work and fun into your everyday life while travelling. That doesn’t make you a workaholic who can’t switch off work even when on holiday. It means you’re in the lucky position of being able to work in an exotic location!

I first realised this a few years ago when I started spending Fridays working outside by the river at Matilda Bay here in Perth. I pack my laptop, mobile phone and wireless Internet card into a backpack and ride my bike down there, sit myself at an outdoor cafe and work there all day. Occasionally somebody passing by would say something like, “What a shame to be working on such a beautiful day”. But they were the exception. Far MORE people would say, “How lucky that you can work in such a beautiful environment”. Of course, both attitudes are equally “right” or “wrong” – I just happened to adopt the more useful one!

2. Plan a soft landing.

When planning my trip, my biggest concern was for the first few days, making sure I would be able to set up everything easily in Prague for a smooth transition. It made it a LOT easier that I was staying with a friend, so I knew I would have Internet access, a desk, a local Czech SIM for my phone … and a friendly face when I arrived.

For my next trip (next year), I won’t have that luxury. So I have to do more planning ahead. But it’s worth the effort, because I know if those first few days go smoothly, it makes everything else so much more relaxing.

3. Don’t work too hard.

One of my goals was to spend the month in Prague doing “business as usual” – as easily as I would work in Perth. On reflection, that was an unrealistic goal. Not because it was more difficult than in Perth – it wasn’t – but because I wanted to spend more time doing personal stuff.

“Well, duh!”, I hear you cry – and you would be right. But it just hadn’t occurred to me. I thought I could fit in a full day’s work and get a full day’s play as well. Something had to give, and luckily for me, my work was flexible enough that I could reduce those hours in order to give myself more play time.

4. Start before you’re ready.

As I said, one of my goals was “business as usual”; and, despite the reduced working hours, I was able to make this work fairly easily. This was mainly because I had already set up my business to be able to work in this way.

Perth’s isolation can be an obstacle, but it also has the advantage that if you want to reach beyond Perth, you just have to figure out ways to do it without constant travel. For me, I do most of my consulting and mentoring by phone; I do presentations by webinar and teleseminar; I do almost all my sales calls by phone; I use Skype for long-distance calls; I have a good mobile phone plan; I record podcasts and interviews by phone; I have an on-line membership site for clients; I publish e-books, online courses, blogs and podcasts; and so on.

So all of this stuff happened exactly the same way when I was in Prague – as far as my clients, subscribers and network were concerned. I do do some stuff face to face, but because most of my clients aren’t in Perth, that’s a minority of my work, not the bulk of it.

If you’re planning this sort of trip, I suggest you start implementing some of these things as well. Don’t wait until the month before your trip – that’s too late. Start now, so that when you do announce you’re going away, your clients and business contacts won’t really be affected.

5. Stay in touch in a controlled way.

The Internet makes it so much easier now for us to stay in touch. But be careful and choosy about what you share with whom. I had four levels of contact:

  1. Phone and e-mail for specific people
  2. Facebook for family and friends – for general, chatty travel news
  3. My blog and newsletter for my business contacts – for a more business-like tone of voice
  4. Twitter for anybody else

This meant I could keep in touch, but do it in an appropriate way for each group. It meant business contacts didn’t see my personal travel photos, and friends and family don’t have to wade through business-related stuff. I do that anyway when I’m at home – so I was keen to keep that discipline while travelling.

Of course, sometimes I could share my communication among different groups. Nowadays, Web 2.0 technology makes that easy. For example, if I put some photos in an album on Facebook, I can choose to make that album visible to others. I used that feature, so I could share (some) photos with my business network as well, in case they were interested (If you’re interested, click the pictures below to see some of my photos of Florence, Prague and Berlin).

6. Just do it.

At the start of the year, I set this goal for spending a month in Prague. But I kept dragging my feet and putting it off. Finally, two things forced my decision: My friend Brandon was going to leave Prague soon; and I read that Singapore Airlines was offering very low fares.

Looking back now, I can’t believe I procrastinated so much. I’m so glad those two external things forced my hand! My advice to you is: Don’t wait. Yes, do all the appropriate planning and preparation; but don’t get bogged down in it. It’s better to do it too soon than too late.

You won’t regret it, and you’ll have a wonderful experience.

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>What are you doing with your excess capacity?

 22nd June 2009 by gihan

>I was chatting to a friend about a workshop he attended years ago. At the time, he was a manager in one of Australia’s largest companies, which ran a management retreat to brainstorm ideas to increase profits without costing money.

Sounds like they’re hoping for a miracle, right? No. As it turned out, the focus of the retreat was to ask each manager to examine their own business units for excess capacity – in other words, things that aren’t being used to their fullest extent. These were the first targets, because it’s often possible to just work them a bit harder to create “free money”.

For instance, my friend’s company was involved in production, so they had machines sitting idle at various times. By re-using those machines for other tasks, they were able to improve productivity and profitability. The point is, they wouldn’t have been able to do this if the machines had been at full capacity, or if they were paying for the machines on a per-hour basis. The idea worked because (a) the company owned the machines, (b) they were sometimes idle, and (c) there was another way to exploit that idle time.

Apply the same thinking to your business. What assets do you have that you’re not using fully? Look for something with the same three criteria: (a) You own it outright or pay a fixed fee for using it; (b) it’s not running at full capacity; and (c) there’s another way to use it.

Here are some examples:

  • Seats at a presentation: Unless every presentation you give is sold out, keep 2 or 3 seats available for prospects, so they can see you in action.
  • Your time: If you’re not busy delivering your expertise, invest more time selling it.
  • Monthly contracts: If you’re paying a fixed fee for something, work it really hard. For example, I pay a monthly licence fee for a webinar service. It’s worth it just for the paid webinar I do each month for my clients. But even so, it still has excess capacity. So I use it for free marketing webinars, hosting webinars for clients, and conference calls.
  • Support services: Do you have the world’s best PA when it comes to booking travel? Offer his/her services to others – either as a goodwill gesture or as a paid service.

These are just a few random examples, but I’m sure you get the point.

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>Expect More: Inspiration to keep going

 17th May 2009 by gihan

>Has anybody ever told you it can’t be done or you’re not good enough? Take heart – you’re not alone! Here’s a two-minute video clip I created to inspire you to be yourself and keep going through the tough times:

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If In Doubt, Do Something – Anything!

 30th April 2009 by gihan

I recently bought my six-year-old nephew Riley the book “Goha, The Wise Fool”, which we read together before he goes to bed. The main character Goha is an ordinary man who sometimes does clever things and sometimes does silly things.

My favourite Goha story (so far!) goes something like this:

Goha was taking a stroll one day, when he was accosted by some pesky kids, who started teasing him, taunting him and throwing stones at him.

He was getting annoyed, but then had an idea for getting rid of them. He said to them, “Listen, I’ve got some good news for you. The Governor is having a big party today, and he’s giving away cakes, ice cream and lots of presents. Go there quickly before you miss out!”

Sure enough, the kids were excited and rushed off down the road.

Goha watched them go with a smile on his face. Suddenly he started running after them. “After all”, he said to himself, “It might turn out to be true!”

I ask Riley after each story, “Was Goha being wise or foolish?” This time, of course, he wisely said, “Foolish”.

We’d all agree, right? And yet I wonder whether you’re acting like Goha in your business?

What stories have you been telling so often you’ve started believing them yourself?

Are you telling yourself times are tough and clients won’t buy, so there’s no point asking?
Or that your standard services are the best you can do?
Or that there isn’t anybody else doing what you’re doing?
Or that you can’t increase prices in this tough economy?
Or that audiences won’t buy from you during presentations, so there’s no point even trying to sell from the platform?

Whatever your assumptions are, they’re probably holding you back – even if they’re related to the economy. In fact, I should say especially if they’re related to the economy. It’s the perfect time now to try different things. We’re in uncharted waters, so anything you “know” to be true probably isn’t. The only way to find out is to try!

Here’s the good news: As a small business owner, you’ve got a huge advantage, because big business sucks at this. They’re slow, heavy and can’t change direction easily. They’re saddled by policies, HR, shareholder perceptions, office politics and protecting their turf. You’re different – you’re smart, nimble, agile and flexible.

Here’s the even better news: It’s so easy and cheap to do. You don’t have to re-structure your whole business; just make up some new offerings. After all, what does it take to make a sales call to a loyal client, promote a special offer to readers in your next e-zine, or quickly write up a new service on your Web site?

Will you be as wise as Riley or as foolish as Goha? Your choice.

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