Business Planning Gratitude

It is amazing to me what a little gratitude can do and how much difference a lot of gratitude can make. I wasn’t raised sending thank you cards, so I am having to be intentional as an adult — sometimes with more success than others.

Last week I developed an internal editorial calendar and, thankfully, it was prompted by a desire to be more intentional in expressing gratitude. What specifically prompted it was connecting with @TimBerry on twitter.

Tim is the president and founder of Palo Alto Software who makes the best business planning software I’ve ever seen. So what does that have to do with gratitude? I’ve gotten two great gifts from Tim over the last few years: a copy of Business Plan Pro and an hour of his time, both in connection with the McCloskey business plan competition.

Not only can I recommend the company’s software, but I highly recommend connecting with Tim as he is articulate, experienced, and an all around nice guy — especially when it comes to business topics.

And as I continue to practice my gratitude, we can all thank Tim for the inspiration — unintentional or not!

Who are you grateful to today? Share below in the comments.

Lesson Learned from Accidentally Getting #1 Search Result

Accidental #1 in Google — Lessons Learned at AgapeArmor.com

The punchline:

  • Know your desired action
  • Focus on the right things
  • Beware when being sold
  • Know your desired action!

Here is the list of folks from the video — these are ones I listen to (and think you should too):

(And yes, I’ve gotten value from every one of the above links — that’s why I value and trust these folks!)

What do you take away from my top search rankings shown in the video? Comment below.

Five Guys Reframe

Last night I ate at Five Guys Burgers and Fries for the first time. The guy behind the counter watched us eyeball the menu for an inordinate amount of time and asked if we’d been there before. Shaking our heads he explains “the regular is two patties, the ‘little’ is one — otherwise they’re pretty much the same.”

This is an interesting reframe for encouraging over consumption (along with the name of the restaurant encouraging me to add on an order of “regular” fries that filled half the bag!). The concept that only one burger patty was for eating “light” or for a “little” kid is the first part of the reframe. The second part, that I fell for hook-line-and-sinker, was the (slightly macho) “well, if it’s regular to get the double then I don’t want to be a ‘light weight’ ” along with the “oh, and for just 10% more I get twice as much burger!

Now, here’s your challenge: reframe your product/service offering so that the choice that will serve your clients best is the “regular” — the obvious choice — and that any alternatives you give them are not as emotionally appealing. And make sure it’s win-win and ecological for everyone involved!

(And when that challenge adds a nice bump to your profits, you can treat me to a healthier over consumption at Noodles and Company or Mongolian Barbeque! ;) )

Water, (charity: water) Everywhere. . .

Like so many other resources, we often take water for granted. It’s there from the tap, in the water cooler, at the drinking fountain. But most of the water in the world is not safe to just drink. And nasties like candida and giardia don’t care about age, race, class, income, or geography.

The funny thing is, conversation can ward off the sicknesses and diseases from unclean water in developing regions. I can hear you now “What can conversation do about dirty water?”

First off, no problems of this scale are solved by one person so conversation is needed to raise awareness.

Secondly, a bunch of us got together and wrote a book on conversation and it’s impact in our 21st century world. You may have heard of it: The Age of Conversation 3: It’s Time to Get Busy. All the profits from AoC3 are going to fund clean water in developing regions.

Here’s the scoop straight from the Age of Conversation blog:

The Age of Conversation Official Charity – charity: water

The first piece of news is to confirm that the charity that benefits from each and every sale of each and every book, is charity: water. charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. 100% of public donations directly fund water projects.

Amazingly, just $20 can give one person clean water for 20 years. An average water project costs $5,000 and can serve 250 people with clean, safe water – so purchasing a copy of the Age of Conversation 3 really can make a difference to someone’s life!

So, here’s where you get to join the conversation, get busy, and clean up some water across the globe.

  1. Buy a copy of Age of Conversation 3 for each of your customers – they’ll love it and they’ll love you:
  2. Make an additional donation at our charity: water page
  3. Insert the Blog Action Day widget on your blog
  4. Tweet and retweet about the #aoc3 project.
  5. Share a link and “like” The Age of Conversation on Facebook.
Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »

And, yes, those links to Amazon generate some affiliate commissions — they are going to charity: water too!

Pick up a few copies, drink a glass of clean water thankfully, and feel good about making a difference!

Balancing Production and Promotion

One of Marlon Sanders’s key mantras is ”produce and promote.” A wise set of words if ever I heard any.

I’ve been deep in production mode the last few days and have let the promotion aspect slip. Hence, the question: where is the balance between producing and promoting?

When dealing with products the production often happens up front. Physical goods have built-in limits on how much promotion to do because once they are sold there isn’t much point in promoting them more!

Information products are the other end of the spectrum. Produce them once, promote them indefinitely (or at least as long as the information is relevant and/or useful). And with print-on-demand books and the equivalent for CDs and DVDs even the physical version of information products can be sold independent of how many copies you have in your spare bedroom closet.

Services raise an interesting balance between the extremes mentioned so far. The natural tendency is to promote like mad, generate paying gigs, and let the promotion die down while fulfilling the signed contracts. The trouble comes when all the gigs get wrapped up and the cycle starts again.

A better idea is to promote like mad, generate paying gigs, and budget time/money/energy to maintain promotion through the busy periods. This limits the amount of work that can be taken on but those of us with a strong desire to deliver quality work every time can actually use that to our advantage.

The economic rules of supply and demand suggest the solution: when demand is high (from consistent promotion) and supply is low (finite time/money/energy to put towards maintaining quality work) then the price goes up! I’ve heard from a number of copywriters that when they hit that significant busy point in their business that they started raising rates, attempting to turn people away, and extending a waiting list to those who were not turned away easily.

How nice will it be when you’ve got a six month waiting list filled with clients paying two to ten times as much as you’re paid now? How much better when you can do the equivalent with information products and indefinitely feed your service queue with qualified prospects (to extend that waiting list as long and as deep as you desire).

So, how much promotion versus production? It depends on what you’re producing, but almost always more than you’re already doing! I know I’ve turned to the man with the plan, Marlon himself, to learn more about pitching at his 6 week round table. If you move quickly you can still join us for the first official call this Wednesday.

The Many Heads of Social Media

Social media is like the mythical creature Medusa. Besides the fact that if you go in unprepared you’re likely to get stoned, social media has many slithery heads.

I’m beginning a new experiment. In the past, I was following the usual advice to pick one or two platforms and concentrate on those. I fell into that mode automatically because of my current time constraints.

Watch what happens when we take the higher intent of that platitude and balance it out with the higher intent of social media in general. The reason to pick a few is so that it is more convenient for us to stay on top of the communications and to interact fully on each platform. The reason social media is so popular is that it is about what is most convenient for each user as far as interacting with their circles of influence.

Here’s my new take: be regularly active on a few platforms, facebook and twitter in my case, and maintain a presence on as many other platforms as can be easily automated. I plan to make it clear on the other platforms that I’m checking in sporadically, or at least not daily, and will continue the conversation then. This allows people who do not happen to choose facebook or twitter as their primary platform to receive information from me in a timely manner on their preferred platform(s) while still maintaining my own time considerations by not having to keep up with dozens of platforms multiple times a day.

I’d been formulating this plan for a while but a wordpress plugin came across my radar today that helps to automate this plan to a great degree. It really caught my eye because the plugin is currently 80% off and the proceeds are going to fund asthma research. (I’m a sucker for a good deal and a bigger sucker for a charity!)

Go check out the WP-Syndicator plugin and see if it fits with your own social media plans.

3 and a Half Men Great at Managing Their Social Web Presence

Yesterday’s post riffing on Mashable’s 6 Challenges brought to mind a few folks that are really good at congruence, alliances, and being customer-centric.

All four of these men are good at all three (congruence, alliances, and customer focus) so when I emphasize one or another aspect for each it is only for example purposes. Without further ado:

Dr.Mani is a heart surgeon in India who treats children with congenital heart defects. He funds the surgeries through donations as well as through his own information marketing efforts. I hold him up as an exemplar in congruence. He has a consistent message across platforms and across time. He demonstrates that congruence through what he says in his blog posts, what he tweets and retweets on twitter, what he interacts with on facebook. He has also started to segregate some of his different aspects by creating multiple twitter accounts: @DrMani for the gestalt and non-profit aspects, and @infoprofitz for the information marketing specifics.

Mark Joyner is called the “Godfather of the Internet” for his ability to make an “offer you can’t refuse” (he is even giving away the book on it: The Irresistible Offer). His world changing projects develop through his constructs. I hold him up as an exemplar in building strategic alliances. His social media is not promotion driven, in fact he rarely sends out links — even for his own products. This is partially because Mark is selective about who he accepts into his program to promote his Simple·ology programs and relies on those partnerships for the promotion, while he builds the relationships — with his partners and with his prospects.

Marlon Sanders is a marketer through and through. His online presence is focused on one thing: producing and promoting products. This is a great thing because he is an exemplar at being customer focused and consistently overdelivers on what he promises. As an example of that, he is starting a Quickstart call this evening for his 6 Week Round Table. This may not seem like a big deal, but he is charging less than a quarter of what the typical “guru” (with little to no experience) would charge. Rewarding those who purchase early and being humble enough to create a “round table” rather than lording it over others from the head of the table shows Marlon’s commitment to his clients.

Paul Myers is a great marketer with a minimal presence on the social web. Yes, he has facebook and twitter accounts, but is rarely active at either. I hold him up as an exemplar of managing his social web presence through minimalism. Paul has a ton of great marketing resources and his primary mode of communication is through his email newsletter (which is worth it’s weight in gold!). He shows a way to be present, but not active, on the social web.

Notice, that the four men I chose as exemplars are all “old timers” — they’ve each been doing their thing online for over a decade and are still going strong. The biggest lesson here: find what works for you (and your clients) and do it with consistency, through strategic alliances, and with a focus on what’s best for the customer.

3 More Challenges to Managing a Brand on the Social Web

Today’s post is prompted by a Mashable post “6 Challenges to Managing a Brand on the Social Web” shared by my friend Gary Walter.

Here is my response to Gary’s question “are there more you can think of?”:

I hope the first guy was misquoted. ”Be everything to everyone” means you’re anything but yourself. I agree with the transparency, especially upon screwing up, and think he and/or the editor missed the mark.

Congruence is the key to what was said about making sure internal personnel know what external message to communicate. Same thing applies to individuals. And by being congruent you can *never* be everything to everyone.

It’s much more useful to polarize people and increase the gap between lovers and haters of your brand and to make sure you get as many people your brand touches out of ignorance and indifference as possible. The clearer you are on who the lovers of your brand are the less time/money/energy you’ll waste on the indifferent and the haters.

Another area they missed was choosing your allies. The alliances you make define your brand as much as the actions you take. As one mentor said ”we’re Jets and they’re Sharks.”

In many ways, this turns into an issue of congruence as well. Knowing who you are and what you stand for (and against) makes alliances easier to choose. If there is no way for me to serve your brand lovers, or vice versa, it is obviously not going to be a very good alliance.

Which leads to the last piece I think they may have skimmed, but didn’t clearly hit: being client centric. Yes, you must cultivate the relationships, but even then it needs to be based on a win-win-win situation, not just because you’ve mandated that ”we’re customer focused” or the horrible platitude that ”the customer is always right.”

By keeping the people you serve at the center of the planning and execution, you’ll not only have a clearer plan but you’ll develop stronger brand lovers, etc. “You cannot serve two masters” + “in order to get everything you want in life help others get what they want.”

And all of this applies equally well when applied on the personal level, as a small business, as a corporate entity, or as a church. Any time you’re serving others it becomes a marketing and sales situation. Marketing to let people know who you are, whom you serve, and in what capacities. Sales to get people to take action for their own benefits.

What do you think is missing from my additions to their list?

Pacing and Leading for Web Site Development?

One NLP technique is called “pacing and leading.”

Pacing and leading is about meeting people where they are (pacing) and after you’ve started building rapport you shift (leading) and check to make sure they follow your lead.

What does pacing and leading have to do with web development? An obvious choice for people who know the pattern would be to apply this sort of rapport building to the sales process.

A less obvious time to use pacing and leading is after the sale has been made. This is especially true when doing any sort of web work.

People have existing web sites, or a look and feel that they want to maintain independent of how much they claim to the contrary.

Pacing allows me to suspend what I want and be open to what the client wants to achieve with their web site. Once I’ve gotten a clear idea of what they want and developed some level of rapport, I can begin making technical suggestions and leading them towards a feasible solution.

Where in your own service offerings could you use pacing and leading with your clients (and not just your prospects)?

Instant Results from NLP

One of my teen-aged friends, Alex, was asking me about NLP today. I must admit, I got so excited about him asking that I dropped into a shameless teaching mode and we chatted through at least an hour of content before I asked what prompted his questioning.

He had seen something on TV where someone claimed to use NLP to pull off the stunt of “paying” for purchases in NYC with blank pieces of paper. Many details were lost in the retelling, but I got enough to recognize some conversational hypnosis, embedded commands, and use/abuse of metaphor.

Once he’d shared what he remembered from the TV show he asked the golden question: is that real or just stage magic?

I assumed that in this case it was some of both. Having recognized several real patterns from the very human retelling I had to admit that there was likely to be real influence going on and that it was leveraging some NLP concepts.

We went on to talk about some of the language patterns and meta programs we use to interact with the world. It was interesting to be able to refer back to what we talked about when we were interacting with the 4-5 year olds at the Lego table a few minutes later.

There was some whining over the Legos. I asked my 4yo daughter to use a good voice. Alex encouraged his 5yo brother to stop whining. Both patterns are useful at different times. I took the time to make it a teaching moment and pointed out the “towards” of my request versus the “away” of his. The light went on immediately and I saw a (permanent?) shift in Alex’s awareness of the towards-away meta program and his use of the negative command language pattern.

I love experiencing those profound shifts in awareness and behavior that occur because of sharing knowledge. In this case, I venture to guess that the effects will be far ranging.

I also find it apropos that I’ll be adding Alex to the NLP Space Monkey group as the first beneficiary of the NLP Training for Volunteers since his family are the ones who run Shily’s Promise Youth Ranch! (If SPYR doesn’t ring a bell, check out the story at the IndieGoGo project.)

I’ll admit I’m biased, but go check out the benefits of NLP Training for Volunteers and do what you’re feeling lead to do to join in — you never know how quickly you’ll benefit from NLP Training yourself!