How to Test and Protect Your Business Idea

My friend Sean Gallagher at StartupFreedom recently interviewed me about execution, idea protection and business sustainability.

Here’s what we learned:

Coming up with a creative business idea isn’t the magic solution to making money online.

In fact, coming up with a really creative, innovative business idea may even be harder to make money with.

You may create something that is innovative and unique but nobody in the market may be willing to pay for it.

Enjoy the interview!

LET ME ASK YA THIS:
How do you keep moving forward and maintain your vision when so many people put your idea down or don’t understand it?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS:
For the list called, “99 Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

The world’s FIRST two-in-one, flip-flop book!

Buy Scott’s comprehensive marketing guidebook on Amazon.com and learn how to GET noticed, GET remembered and GET business!

How to Look Good Naked

Dishonesty has a limited shelf life.

According to a recent study from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, eighty percent of divorce lawyers have reported a spike in the number of cases that use social media for evidence of cheating:

“Flirty messages and photographs found on Facebook are increasingly being cited as proof of unreasonable behavior or irreconcilable differences.”

Unfortunately, the study forgot to mention one thing:

This problem isn’t the computer – the problem is the character of the person using it.

People don’t get divorced because of Facebook – they get divorced because dishonesty is written all over their face. Employees don’t get fired for blogging – they get fired for being stupid. And organizational leaders don’t go to jail because some intern squealed – they go to jail because they’re morally bankrupt cracker-honkeys. THE REALITY IS: If you choose to live a dishonest life offline – there’s going to be a huge echo online. And your digital footprint will slip on the technological banana peel and destroy the things that matter most in your life.

How are you branding your honesty?

That’s the key question.

Because I’m not saying you need to get naked – I’m saying you already are naked, and if you don’t consider the implications of your truth, you lose.

Here’s a list of strategies to help you undress for success:

1. Offer unprecedented access to information. Privacy is so last century. Even if you don’t lay your cards out on the table. People are still going to learn what they need to know about you on their own. May as show ‘em your goods.

Besides, opacity breeds mistrust. Just ask blogger and online marketing Chris Brogan. On the bio page of his website, there’s a disclosure list of every single relationship he maintains: Affiliations, partnerships, board positions, advertising commitments and product endorsements.

His clients love this. Hell, his non-clients love this. And people all around the web are talking about Brogan’s informational undressing. My question is: When was the last time somebody blogged about your contact page?

Lesson learned: Be unusually honest, radically transparent and highly respectful to the organizations and individuals with which you connect. Prove to people that to live the brand is to leave no doubt in their minds about whom, what and why and you. How could you magnify what you can’t hide anyway?

2. Be uncompromisingly public with your thoughts. While blogging is not the answer for everyone, it’s still the smartest strategy for making your organization more approachable and transparent.

The cool part about blogging is: It’s directly related to profit. But only if you recognize both the intentionals and incidentals of the medium. For example: If your intention is to share your thinking – incidentally, you will become a better thinker. If your intention is to educate and build community with the people who matter most – incidentally, you will earn more loyalty.

Interestingly, HubSpot recently conducted a fascinating study on online marketing. They looked at data from fifteen hundred customers, mostly small and mid-sized businesses. According to their results, companies that blog have three advantages over those who don’t.

First, blogging companies have fifty-five percent more visitors – which means more people to convert.

Second, blogging companies have ninety-seven percent more inbounds links – which signals authority to search engines.

Third, blogging companies have four hundred and thirty-four percent more indexed pages – which boosts findability with search engines. What’s your excuse for not blogging yet?

Look: Statistics might lie – but Google doesn’t. The intentional commitment to make your organization more approachable results in the incidental consequence of greater profits. As long as you’re willing to go public with your thoughts. What did you write today?

3. Take it one step further. Twenty years ago, Progressive made insurance history: They started giving their customers access to the competition by offering comparison quotes from other providers. Brilliant.

Three years ago, General Motors made automotive history: They started asking Saturn dealers to provide one or more of the competing models in the showroom. That way, customers could look at it, sit in it, drive it and realize how much better it was that the other guys. Genius.

And last year, Patagonia made green history: They launched The Footprint Chronicles. It’s an interactive mini-site that allows customers to track the impact of five Patagonia products from design to delivery. Awesome.

I wonder what step your organization could take to knock the socks of the untrusting masses. And it’s not like it has to be a big step. All you have to do is quit something average. All you have to do is make the mundane memorable. All you have to do is turn rare into remarkable. Get gutsy or get gone. Are you allowing people to examine your organization’s life habits?

4. Befriend the current. Every organization has customers. Whether you call them users, clients, volunteers, members, or employees – you’re still serving somebody. And the reality is: They already know everything about you. They’re already stalking you. And they’re already sharing private, internal information to their friends and family.

Why not surf that wave? Why not leverage the trend by turning customers into partners? Consider creating an internal system to welcome complaints – and solicit solutions – from the people you serve. Burn your suggestion box. Replace it with a question box.

By remaining steadfast in your willingness to learn where you suck; your organization will only grow stronger. And instead of swimming against the current – at the risk of alienating the people who matter most – you respect the waters. You identify the unavoidable, unstoppable swell. And you allow the current to carry you where the market is going.

That way, you can spend less time swimming and more time listening. Gnarly dude. What are you pretending not to know?

5. Know when the cost of disclosure is too high. Like anything, transparency requires balance. And you don’t want to become a victim of your own approachability. Take it from a guy who’s been wearing a nametag twenty-four seven for over a decade: Personal privacy – what’s left of it, that is – is a beautiful thing.

And while I believe that anonymity is bankruptcy; I also believe that boundaries are saviors. Don’t be so transparent that you lose the magic. After all, that’s part of why people do business with you: Because you intrigue the hell out of them. And if you’re too transparent, you run the risk of disappearing completely.

You have to maintain some level of mystique. Otherwise your ability to fascinate will evaporate. The challenge is figuring out where you draw you line. Remember: If you don’t set boundaries for yourself – other people will set them for you. And then they will violate them. And then they will tell all their little friends that it’s okay to do the same. All because you never set a precedent of no. Will your transparency degrade into invisibility?

ULTIMATELY: It’s only a matter of time.

Everything matters, everybody’s watching and everything’s a performance.

That’s the reality of the marketplace: Your audience is everywhere, and they’re growing more powerful by the day. Never underestimate them.

Because sooner or later, as Seth Godin says, they’re going to see the effects of your actions. And living as if this is certain makes it far more likely that you’ll find a happy ending.

A helpful question to reinforce this principle is: “Do I want to become known for what I’m about to do?”

Try posting that on your office wall.
Try asking that before your next holiday party.

Because if you run around expecting not to get caught, eventually, the world is going to bust you.

REMEMBER: The past always reincarnates in one of two forms – either to pat you on the back or kick you in the ass.

Look – you’re already naked anyway.

May as well look good.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How will you organization leverage transparency?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “6 Ways to Out Position Your Competitors,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

The world’s FIRST two-in-one, flip-flop book!

Buy Scott’s comprehensive marketing guidebook on Amazon.com and learn how to GET noticed, GET remembered and GET business!

Twenty Secrets Smart Leaders Know About Engaging Their People

Let’s talk about your people.

Users. Customers. Clients. Employees. Staff. Volunteers. Members. Students. Followers. Congregants. Audience members. Participants. Listeners. Viewers. Subscribers.

What engages them?

CONSIDER THIS: The word “engage” comes from the French engagier, which means, “to make a pledge.”

Maybe that’s the real question:

Why do people pledge themselves?

To the leader. To the team. To the organization. To the mission.

Why do people engage?

Here’s my theory:People engage when they feel essential. Are you treating them like vestigial parts, helpful additions or vital components?

People engage when they feel unrestricted. Who are you asking to edit themselves?

People engage when they feel seen and heard. How does your organization stay sensitive to the needs of the human spirit?

People engage when they see themselves reflected. How are you giving them a front row seat to their own brilliance?

People engage when their lives are participated in. Are you fitting them into your nice little plan or celebrating how you fit into their lives?

People engage when they believe they can add value. How are you inspiring others with a vision of what they can contribute?

People engage when they have something to believe in. Are you giving them a compelling reason to follow you into the sunset?

People engage when they develop a deeper sense of why. How do you challenge them to calculate their personal currency?

People engage when they feel part of something that matters. Do yours see their work as a grind or gateway to something bigger?

People engage when they know their role has a direct impact. How are you helping them calculate the value of their contribution?

People engage when the work they do gets under their fingernails. How much of their labor has become part of their very being?

People engage when they’re allowed to publicly display their successes. Are you trying to be the life of the party or trying to bring people to life at the party?

People engage when they do work that unites with their sense of life. How does your organization serve as a mirror of your people’s core?

People engage when the fruits of their engagement become transportable assets. Can your people recoup their discretionary effort when they leave, or does all of their emotional energy become property of the organization?

People engage when they’re consistently given the opportunity to do what they do best. How are you embedding their passion into the pavement that leads the way to success?

People engage when they’re treated like human beings – not integers on the annual report. Are you approaching them as unique individuals, or as a means to your organizational ends?

People engage when they’re applauded for their strengths and not berated for their weaknesses. Are you trying to make them fall in love with you, or helping them fall in love with themselves?

People engage when the purpose of their engagement is to help them become better in all areas of their life. Are you building people, or building your dream and exploiting people to do it?

People engage when their work becomes a vehicle through which they are able to live what is important to them. Are you contracting them to erect a building, or commissioning them architect a vital index of their values?

People engage when their work isn’t a set of tasks, but an opportunity to build a platform that pushes them to something bigger. Have you confronted the fact that people are loaning their talents to you until something bet?

What about you?

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Why do you think people engage?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “46 Types of Marketing,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Satisfaction not enough?
Customers not telling their friends about you?
Want to learn how to deliver unforgettable service?

Buy Scott’s book and learn how to get your frontline in line!

Pick up your copy (or a case!) right here.

How to Die

Everything on this planet has a life cycle.

Products. Services. Industries. Plants. Planets. Animals. Ideas. Blogs. Relationships. Recessions. Religions. Philosophies.

Nothing is immortal.

Except for Keith Richards. Seriously, that guy just doesn’t die.

But when it comes to organizations, the same rule applies:

Non-profits. Faith communities. Charities. Clubs. Trade associations. Membership organizations. Volunteer groups. Outreach programs.

They have life cycles too. And whether or not you want to admit it – and whether or not it happens on your watch – closing down shop is inevitable. As often as you update, as frequently as you reinvent and as strategically as you promote, eventually, everything outlives its usefulness.

Everything has to die. And if your organization has degraded to the realm of uselessness, I triple dog dare you to consider the following strategies for shutting your doors:1. You can’t force feed involvement. People always make time for what’s important to them. Always. And sadly, it doesn’t matter how many phone calls you make, how amazing your meetings are or how inspiring the board of directors is.

Any number multiplied by zero is still zero. No matter how big that number is.

And if increasing your efforts won’t be enough to make a difference anyway – why kill yourself? Declining membership, poor volunteer support and lack of organizational vitality might have nothing to do with you.

It doesn’t mean people don’t like you – it just means they have different priorities. Or they’re tuned into different frequencies.

The ugly truth is: You might not fit into their lives anymore. And if your organization is struggling to become a regular part of your members’ schedule, that should tell you something.

If mediocrity is the highest you can get, you’re not being fair to yourself, your people or your organization. Are you throwing a life jack to something that’s already sunk to the bottom of the ocean?

2. Detachment mitigates the pain of quitting. As a leader of your membership-based organization, you’ve contributed your share. From dollars out of your own pocket to time away from your family to energy out of your own reserve, it’s not like you aren’t devoted to the success of the group.

And that’s exactly why it’s so hard to confront the mortality of your organization: Because you’ve already invested so much emotional labor. That’s the real issue: Not the shame of failure – but the emotional attachment to the thing that’s failing.

But, when you divorce your heart from of the problem, the solution becomes a no-brainer. That’s when you realize that just because something sucks – it doesn’t mean you suck.

And as a result, walking away doesn’t seem so bad anymore. Especially if you’re the only one putting in any effort. Or if three people are doing the work of ten. If that’s the case – or if that’s been the case for a while – maybe it’s time to stop fooling yourself.

Working overtime to convince yourself that this group going to work is a waste of your time and talents. This thing isn’t something to overcome – it’s something to outgrow. Are you preserving the illusion of something that’s not actually there just because you’d feel guilty if it wasn’t?

3. Celebrate your victories and walk off the field. In a recent article in FastCompany, non-profit thought leader Nancy Lublin writes, “Organizations don’t exist simply to exist. They should wear a termination notice as a badge of honor.”

What’s there to be ashamed of anyway? You had fun, did the best you could, learned a ton, helped the community, deepened relationships with key people and fulfilled your mission for as long as you could.

Don’t overstate the possibilities and exaggerate the potential of your organization out of guilt. The stress and frustration will slowly drive you insane.

If it’s not worth it anymore, if the efficacy of your efforts is outweighed by the frustration of the people who exert it – and if the point of diminishing returns has come and gone like a busboy in a burger joint – it’s time to throw in the towel.

Take whatever chips you’ve won, fold the hand and get on with your life.

People will be thrilled you read their minds, sacked up and made the call instead of them. Are you willing to confront your organizational expiration date?

4. When growing is no longer possible, give up. In Seth Godin’s book The Dip, I learned that people quit for two reasons: Either because it’s hard, or because it’s right. Let’s explore two examples:

If you shut your organizational doors because you don’t feel like getting up on Saturday mornings to attend meetings, you’re quitting because it’s hard.

But if you shut the doors because you regularly find yourself standing around when the music stops only to look up and notice that you’re the only one dancing while the rest of party either grabbed a chair or went home, you’re quitting because it’s right.

Ultimately, the decision to close shop is simply a matter of severity. It’s either a problem or a predicament. And your challenge is to discern the difference.

If it’s a problem, that means you can create a solution. Cool. But if it’s a predicament, all you can do is manage the response. Also cool.

Look: Every group runs its course. Don’t try to revive an organization that’s not important to people who aren’t even coming anyway. Dive into death. Are you using the shovel to make the hole bigger with one foot in the grave?

REMEMBER: There’s no shame in shutting your doors.

Especially if the hinges have been accumulating cobwebs for some time.

It’s never pleasant when you realize you’ve outlived your usefulness.

But it happens. Actually, it happens a lot.

And if that’s the case for your organization, my suggestion is simple:

Accept it, enjoy the ride and get on with your life.

Keith Richards would be proud.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Is it time for you to die?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “19 Telltale Signs of the Perfect Job,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

The world’s FIRST two-in-one, flip-flop book!

Buy Scott’s comprehensive marketing guidebook on Amazon.com and learn how to GET noticed, GET remembered and GET business!

Does Your Organization Pass the Rice Paper Test?

Rice paper amazes me.

Fresh out the box, it looks like a paper plate.

But.

Dab a little water on it, wait about sixty seconds – and it morphs into a playful, clear and stretchy material that perfectly protects your delicious food, yet carries no shame about the contents within.

What’s interesting is, rice paper is surprisingly strong. And durable. And it seems that no matter how many vegetables you stuff inside of it, it never rips.

Huh. I never knew transparency could be so effective.

What about you? Does your organization pass the rice paper test?

If not, here’s how your bottom line can expect to suffer…Transparent companies are more trusted, according to a recent survey conducted by Brigham Young University’s Department of Communication.

Their research proves the link between corporate openness and employees’ belief in the companies they work for. The study, run by Dr. Brad Rawlins, asked employees across all parts of the business questions about trust and transparency. And their survey of over four hundred healthcare workers found statistical evidence for a link between how open companies are and how much their employees trust them.

That’s what happens when your organization passes the rice paper test. And since trust is the only currency that counts, the lesson is simple:

When you open yourself to the world – the world will opens its wallet to you.

Here’s a list of ideas to help make your organization more transparent:

1. First things first. Before you’re everywhere, you better know you who are, what you do and why you do it. Otherwise it won’t matter where you end up because nobody will recognize you – including yourself. As comedian Russell Brand told The New York Times a few weeks ago:

“Fame is a hollow and brittle experience if not nourished and underscored by something valuable.”

The secret is to sit down and ask yourself, your team and your organization three questions. But not just any questions – the big ones: Who am I? What do I do? And why do I do it?

And if you’re serious about transparency, here’s an exercise guaranteed to change you and your organization forever: Grab three sheets of paper. Write one of the above questions at the top of each sheet. Next, number each page from one to a hundred.

Then, spend the next week answering each of the three questions – one hundred times each. For a total of three hundred answers. It will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. The self-confrontation alone might kill you. But I promise: You have no idea how powerful this exercise is.

I just finished it myselF and can legitimately say it was the most profound self-exploration activity I’ve ever tried. Remember: Your identity is your most valuable possession. When was the last time you reacquainted yourself with it?

2. Retire your low profile. Earlier this year, Corporate Responsibility Magazine released its first annual list of the thirty least transparent companies, exposing those organizations that choose to hide in the dark. The list covers a variety of industries, ranging from Abercrombie & Fitch to Fidelity Investments to Weight Watchers.

But when asked what gets you on the black list, author Jay Whitehead revealed the universal mistake: “Share no data beyond what is legally required.”

On the other end of the spectrum, companies like Zappos embrace transparency to an astonishing degree. Tony Hsieh, billionaire founder of the company, pursues disclosure that most executives would consider freakish. But in his experience, “The more they know about us, the more they’ll like us.”

That’s the cultural shift: It’s not how well you know your customer – it’s how well your customers know you. Plus, how willing they are to share that knowledge with their friends. After all, what people remember about you is who you are.

And, your organization isn’t transparent because you say so – it’s transparent because customers walk away without a doubt in their mind about who you are, what you do and why you do. Which of your secrets are hemorrhaging organizational profits?

3. Be gloriously explicit. People are tired of being lied to. People are sick of wading through the ever-rising tide of corporate and political hogwash. And people are forever jaded from the countless times they’ve been burned, duped, fooled, conned, scammed and screwed over.

Provide information that’s truthful, substantial and reliable. If you can do that – online – at least a few times a week, people won’t just pay attention, they’ll pay dividends. And the best part is: You don’t need a budget for transparency. Humbly exposing your own heart is something paid with bravery, not bucks.

You just have to make it your mission to provide more honesty per square inch than anybody. And you have to remember that honesty is three things: Telling the truth, honoring your truth and respecting other people’s truth. Are you willing to live with the consequences of being honest?

4. Secrecy is an endangered species. The reason younger generations willingly forego their online anonymity is because they don’t know any better. As digital natives, privacy was never an option. From profiles to preferences to pictures, from status updates to streaming videos to geographic locations – radical transparency was just something they did because was something everybody did.

It became the norm. And the danger, if you choose not to do it, you instantly became untrustable. You’re like the guy in the parade who refuses to wear the ribbon. May as well strip your truth bare for the entire world to see.

Here’s how: Broadcast past screw-ups. Publicize your current failings. Set up an online water cooler to blog publicly and freely about your new projects. Install company wikis where people can complain about problems and suggest solutions. Make your content searchable. Any of these strategies will enable you to enlist the help of your global braintrust.

Look: You’re already naked. May as well start dancing and see who joins you. Are willing to conduct business in the buff?

5. The Internet rewards transparency. People aren’t reading the Wall Street Journal to learn who you are. They’re searching blogs, social media feeds, discussion boards and online community threads. And if you’re not a player in that world, you’ll be left behind with the rest of the dinosaurs.

“The reputation economy creates an incentive to be more open, not less,” writes Clive Thompson from Wired. “And since Internet commentary is inescapable, the only way to influence it is to be part of it. Being transparent, opening up, posting interesting material frequently and often is the only way to amass positive links to yourself and thus to directly influence your reputation.”

The reality is: Customers and employees are poking around anyway.

The question is: How could you make that work for your organization? How could you turn everyone into a partner in the process?

Because if you don’t make transparency your natural tendency, people will start to wonder why you’re not open like everyone else. The time has come to peel away the pretense and serve up a bolder truth. Don’t worry: You can still show yourself to the world without getting arrested for indecent exposure. Are you free enough to risk being seen by people?

6. Turn customers into working partners. Netflix offered one million dollars to anyone who could improve the accuracy of their movie recommendation algorithm by ten percent. That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. It takes guts, vulnerability and humility.

The secret lies in surrendering control. Enabling people to take your idea into their own hands and make it better. And openly embrace a fan mentality and transfer ownership to the customer. That’s how transparency enables spreadability and spreadability grows into long-term viability. You’ve got to find people that have big mouths, share your world with them – give them megaphones – and then get the hell out of the way.

However, before you start delegating product design to the first guy that shows up at your front door, there’s a question you still have to consider: What do you see when you see people?

The answer to this question underscores everything you do. Everything. For example:

At your company, are your customers the people who buy you, or the partners who bolster you?

At your organization, are new members the integers on the annual report, or the individuals behind your movement?

What. Do. You. See. When. You. See. People. Answer that question first. Then let them go crazy. Have you joined hands with the folks who matter most?

7. Take your own hiding places away. I remember the first time I ate a restaurant with an open kitchen: I was twelve, I was somewhere in Florida and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Later when the chef delivered our food, I asked him why there were no walls. And his answer was something I never forgot:

“We’ve got nothing to hide.”

What is your organization hiding? What ideas do you have that you’re afraid people will steal?

Because I’ve got news for you: There is nowhere to hide. Everything matters, everybody’s watching and everything’s a performance.

Maybe your office needs more mirrors. Not literal mirrors, necessarily. Just something – or someone – to consistently offer a reflection your truth as the world sees it.

I don’t know about you, but I love mirrors. They lay it naked. They reveal the lies you tell yourself. They offer everything you hate about yourself, staring back at you. Doesn’t get more transparent than that. How self-confrontational are you willing to become?

LOOK: You can’t place a red seal over the door of your heart for much longer.

Share your voice or make your exit.
Take your corporate skin and turn it inside out.
Willingly strip yourself of your inconspicuousness.

And as you stand there, naked and pulsating, wide open for the world to see, your courageous transparency will evolve into copious currency.

Take your organization and put it out there on a platter for people to relate to, eat up and tell their friends about.

Be like rice paper.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How transparent do customers and employees believe you are?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “6 Ways to Out Position Your Competitors,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

The world’s FIRST two-in-one, flip-flop book!

Buy Scott’s comprehensive marketing guidebook on Amazon.com and learn how to GET noticed, GET remembered and GET business!

Is Your Company a Phonebook?

A few weeks ago we talked about retaining relevancy.

For your person.
For your company brand.
For your organization as a whole.

IN SHORT: Don’t be a phonebook.

Today our discussion continues with four more strategies for staying relevant:1. Renew your relevance to adapt to your customer’s lifestyle. Did you know that McDonald’s offers free wifi? Yep. It’s pretty sweet. Hell, I’ve gone there with my laptop on several occasions to write in an alternative creative environment. It’s good for the brain. And it’s definitely a nice break from my living room.

But what’s interesting is that growing up in the eighties, the only technological advances at my McDonald’s were the motion activated toilet flushers. And even those didn’t always work.

Now, thirty years later, offering free wifi is the perfect strategy for McDonald’s to renew their relevancy. Especially considering the dramatic differences between their customer and their end user.

Think about it: Parents don’t care about the food. They just want is to check their email while their kids play on the Fun Land. Kids, on the other hand, just want to stuff their faces and hang out with their friends.

What’s your gameplan for responding to your customer’s lifestyle? How will you stay on top of changes in customer requirements?

My suggestion is simple: Just ask. Try your customers’ heads on. Or, try being a customer yourself. That’s how you find out what hassles and inconveniences surround the occasions when people do business with you. Uncover that and your organization will renew its relevance faster than you can say, “You want fries with that?” What customer lifestyle change do you need to adapt to?

2. Proficiency and passion aren’t enough. Yes, be excellent at what you do. And yes, do what you do with a white-hot fire in your belly. But make certain those aren’t the only two moves in your playbook.

In the current economic marketplace, competence is assumed and enthusiasm is expected. As such, proficiency and passion are merely the price of admission. The bunny slope. The cover charge for competing in the game of business. And unless you can connect those two things to a context that’s relevant for the people who matter most, you lose.

I’m reminded of Whole Foods Market. Not only is their product and service incredible. Not only are their employees walking brand ambassadors. But their ability to retain relevancy is amazing.

For example, each store has a Customer Comment Board. Which, if you’ve ever worked in retail, is nothing new. Except for the fact that each employee personally handwrites her answers to each comment. Even the negative ones. Especially the negative ones. This open feedback loop demonstrates an admirable level of askability.

What’s more, it reinforces Whole Foods’ question-friendly environment. And as a result, their organization is a living, breathing case study that proficiency and passion without practicality is waste. How will your organization do the same?

Remember: Be good, be on fire – but be practical. Otherwise you’re just winking in the dark. Are you passionately and skillfully irrelevant?

3. Contribute across the board. When you democratize intentionally, you monetize incidentally. That’s what good multidisciplinary and comprehensivists do: They stay relevant by delivering value across the board.

In a recent article on The Bulletin, Dave Bontempo wrote, “Figure out how you can integrate your work with that of other departments, sharing ideas on productivity, new technologies and marketing. Create a portrait of yourself as someone who goes beyond the boundaries of your cubicle to add to the bottom line. The added component of flexibility to your personal profile significantly ups your relevance factor.”

Take the manufacturing world, for example. I’ve read about companies implementing a system called parallel production. This is when all the departments produce and discuss together throughout the entire production process.

The cool part is, this strategy is eminently feasible inside most organizations. You don’t need a factory – you just need the faculty to get outside of your normal function. How will you add distinctive depth to your current role?

4. Velocity without relevance is valueless. When you stop moving, you stop mattering. That’s why bands stay on the road for months at a time: No tour, no touch people.

That’s why professional speakers love airports: No planes, no profits. And that’s why blogs and social media feeds trump traditional websites: Nobody wants to read something on the web that’s two years old.

As such, the key to retaining relevancy is as simple as staying in motion. Otherwise the powerful forces of inertia will obsolete you faster than you can say, “Where Are They Now?”

The only thing to be careful of is not to destroy everything for the sake of action. Some businesspeople are so action-oriented that they forget to stop and reflect on what’s happening. And their customers suffer a result.

The key is to balance velocity with value. Because in the end, you risk more by doing nothing. Make the necessary moves. Enable the active force. How are you assuming responsibility for keeping current?

In the end, what matters is: No relevance, no revenue.

Don’t be a phonebook.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How much profitability are you sacrificing by being irrelevant?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “11 Ways to Out Market Your Competitors,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

The world’s FIRST two-in-one, flip-flop book!

Buy Scott’s comprehensive marketing guidebook on Amazon.com and learn how to GET noticed, GET remembered and GET business!

9 Simple Strategies to Slay Your Inner Editor and Let Your Truth Sing

I don’t edit.
I don’t rewrite.
I don’t do drafts.
I don’t go back and revisit old work.

I write things once, I write them in blood, and I publish them to the world with zero regret and infinite confidence.

Sure, I might change a few words here and there. Or modify my position on an issue. And of course, always make grammatical improvements at the request of my (awesome) editor.

But that’s proofreading.

Editing means correcting the core of something.

And the moment you allow that to happen – to the work or to the person who authors it – is the moment you betray yourself.

Self-editing renders your creativity timid and impotent, and it’s not fair to your core to let that happen.

THE COOL PART IS: Living a life without editing yourself isn’t just about writing.

It’s about walking your truth.
It’s about breathing your brand.
It’s about staying loyal to yourself.
It’s about giving your river a voice and letting it flow.

Ready to put away your red pen? Let’s explore strategies to slay your inner editor and let your truth sing:1. Live without interference to the expression of your own individuality. Refusing to self-edit means you’re determined to stay undeterred when people attack you for exercising your ability.

This will probably happen more than once. Especially from the mouths of the mediocre. And it’s essential that you proactively pursue your own path despite lack of popular appreciation and understanding.

The hard part is, when the hurricane of Haterade devastates your inner landscape, it leaves a lot of soul damage. After all, your work isn’t close to your heart – it is your heart.

If you’re like me, you have this deep-rooted tendency to express your total sense of life. To embrace the totality of your truth, knowing that everything you do is an extension of the world you came from.

My suggestion: Don’t just stay the course – stay your course. Otherwise you destroy yourself in response to an invitation from others to stop living. Where are you holding back from expressing yourself?

2. Keep brighter company. Find people who won’t try to change you. Ignore people who attempt to smother you with their bodyguard of dogma. Delete people whose life goal is to stamp out any shred of creativity. And avoid people who seek to systematically beat the originality out of you.

Individuals like these are cul-de-sacs of deadening cumulative saturation. And unless you surround yourself with people who challenge, inspire and support you, their negative voices will blend with your own. You’ll subconsciously absorb their whispered suggestions. And the red pen of self-editing will run out of ink very quickly.

As graphic novelist Alan Moore said, “When we’re doing the will of our true self we are inevitably doing the will of the universe and it’s impossible to do anything wrong.” Whose voices are blending with your own that cause you edit yourself?

3. Endure the scrutiny of spectators. “Scott, not everyone will get you. Learn to be cool with that.” My mentor told me that a few years ago. And it reminded me that you’re nobody until somebody hates you.

After all, if everybody loves your brand, you’re doing something wrong.

Then again, that’s just part of the success equation. And it’s shocking because you figure everybody would be happy for your success. But they’re not. Outside of those who really, really love you – your success will piss most people off. And it will drum up significant resentment, even if it’s never vocalized.

My suggestion is: Don’t get mad at people for being mad at you. It’s their perfect right. Just tell them, “I respect your opinion of my work,” and get on with your life. Otherwise their envy will encourage you to edit yourself.

Remember: If people don’t like you, why would you assume they have good taste?

Clearly, they’re morons. Otherwise they’d recognize your awesomeness a lot sooner. When the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune head your way, will you hold up your shield calmly or head in the other directly cowardly?

4. Accept not the status quo of the thinking that surrounds you. Don’t walk somebody else’s path. Don’t resign to reaching a certain familiar melody. And don’t allow the world to superimpose onto you its prefabricated definition of who you should be.

Otherwise, what you need to practice gets lost in what you are told to believe. The question is:

How do you drown out the toxic chorus of voices calling you to edit yourself?

Easy: Stop allowing the world to choose for you. It’s anesthesia of the heart. Don’t be bound and limited by the thoughts others have formulated for you. Instead, believe that you are the shaper of you.

Ask permission from your heart and nothing else. Be brave enough to inquire within. Trust yourself. Walk in a receptive and expectant state of mind. And you will remove what blocks the path of truth.

Ultimately, you’ll sustain more honesty per square inch than anyone you know. And you’ll reach a level of intimacy with yourself where you won’t need to write more than one draft. Ever. Remember: When you look outside of yourself, all you find are more questions. Whose permission do you seek?

5. Don’t save your opinion for later. Especially in those moments when you get the squirms. Find some means of saying the essential thing that is within you and let your art find its own legs.

The key is to remain respectful in your response. I learned this from my friend Nico during a workshop with a group of Toronto sanitation workers. She offered a suggestion that stopped the collective heartbeat of the entire audience:

“Listen to who you are before responding.”

Great idea. Especially since each of us has our own personal and emotional response to existence. Without that, without listening to who you are first, you’re just a parrot. A ditto. A copy machine.

As novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand once said, “If you, as an independent thinker, are trying to move the world – you cannot shrug”

She’s right. If you’re going to do your own thinking, you’ve got to give up what you’ve been taught to believe, impose your own order on chaos and slash your canvas to pieces. What do you need to let out before Friday?

6. Make no restrictions on your testimony. The question I constantly ask myself while writing is, “What do I risk in presenting this material?” If the answer is, “not much,” I don’t write it.

But.

If the material scares me, I write it.
If the material stretches me, I write it.
If the material makes me hesitate even a millimeter, I write it.
If the material convinces me that some Podunk housewife in Texas is going read one particular sentence of my blog – and think to herself, “Dude, this guy is disturbed!” – then I’d definitely going to write it.

That’s how you slay your inner editor: By redirecting your fear into a more creative channel. The challenge is learning how to assess the risk level of the ideas you share with the world.

Try this: Create a personal security system. Some form of biofeedback to alert you that your work has entered dangerous, honest and unedited territory.

*A hesitation in your hand?
*Do you notice a pulse in your gut?
*An increase in perspiration down your back?

Good. Now you know – based on bodily wisdom – that you’re crafting material that’s real and true. Which means you don’t have to edit. Because you’re living the best, highest version of yourself. What system can you put in place to remove the restriction of your expression?

7. Stand your ground without stepping on people’s toes. I should note that’s there is one caveat to living life without editing yourself: Terminal uniqueness. It’s defined as “thinking you’re uniquely qualified, excessively entitled or appointed to behave a certain way at the expense of others.”

Not attractive. And people can smell it from a mile away. The challenge is balancing between self-editing and self-righteousness. Because while you don’t want to wear yourself out trying to be something you’re not, you also don’t want to wear others out by trying to be on all the time.

Otherwise you wind up sticking to your guns only to shoot people in the foot. Including yourself.

Just be careful. Have some tact. You don’t need to share your opinion on every issue with every person on every occasion. Silence isn’t self-editing – it’s just self-etiquette.

Make sure you don’t become a victim of your own conviction. Otherwise commitment without cordiality becomes contamination. Is your commitment to slay you inner editor causing collateral damage?

8. Stock is the enemy of stardom. In his book Act of Creation, Arthur Kohler suggested that the measure of an artist’s originality is the extent to which his selective emphasis deviates from the conventional norm.

Case and point: There are no cover bands in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But this isn’t just conjecture – I’ve actually been there several times. And every time I go, I’m reminded of one fact:

The musicians who were inducted were the ones who refused to edit themselves.

From Springsteen to Jagger to Lennon to Gilmour, these people gave their music a singular quality. And the world followed whatever came out of them.

That’s the lesson for musicians and non-musicians alike: Every worthwhile life has a theme song.

If there’s something inside you, it’s your duty to sing your story. In a recent blog post, entrepreneur Seth Godin democratized it beautifully:

“The people who successfully start independent businesses do it because we have no real choice in the matter. The voice in our heads won’t shut up until we discover if we’re right, if we can do it, if we can make something happen. This is an art, our art, and to leave it bottled up is a crime.”

Just follow whatever comes out of you. Grab it with both hands. Crack the egg open and let the light come shining in. And never underestimate the power of a liberated artistic mind. Who’s doing a tribute to your music?

9. Trust most the art that executes quickly. Few things in life are more exhilarating than getting on a roll with your work. To the point where you lose track of time, shut yourself off from all external noise and, in my case, spill a mug of green tea down your pants without even noticing it until the dog wanders into the room three hours later and starts licking your thigh.

But, that’s the good stuff. That’s when you’re wired into the hard drive of the creative unconscious. And as such, one of my mantras has become, “Quiet. The art is coming.”

If you truly want to slay your inner editor, you have to learn when to shut up and take down notes. That’s all creativity is anyway: Active listening. You don’t decide what you’re going to write – you listen for what wants to be written.

What sucks is, the voice of your self-editor can get pretty noisy. Your challenge is to listen to the voice that comes quickest – not loudest. Do that and you’ll bleed your truth all over the page.

Remember: Most of this stuff operates below the threshold of awareness, engineered by the unconscious. So, while you don’t need to know where you’re going – you do need to go there with everything that you are. Are you ready to receive the gift of yourself?

REMEMBER: Self-editing is self-betrayal.

Look: I know what you’re thinking:

Sometimes it’s safer to sabotage the work.
Sometimes it’s safer to sabotage yourself.

And you’re right – it is safer.

But to those who seek to turn their lives into remarkable portraits of brilliant creative expression, safe is a very dangerous place to be.

Stop editing yourself.

Your heart can’t take it anymore.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What is preventing your truth from singing?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “11 Ways to Out Market Your Competitors,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

The world’s FIRST two-in-one, flip-flop book!

Buy Scott’s comprehensive marketing guidebook on Amazon.com and learn how to GET noticed, GET remembered and GET business!

5 Ways to Retain Relevancy So Your Organization Doesn’t Fall off the Face of the Earth

The evidence is overwhelming:

Start-up companies are spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars creating elegant solutions to problems nobody has.

Membership organizations are suffering low attendance because traditional, boring, and non-engaging programming refuses to align with multi-generation preferences.

Government-funded advocacy groups are draining their entire budgets conserving insignificant resources that are going extinct anyway.

Corporate advertisers are projecting onto customers what they think they ought to want, instead of actually listening to their problems and satisfying a compelling need.

THAT BEGETS THE QUESTION: How much profitability are you sacrificing by being irrelevant?

ANSWER: Too much.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, multinational corporation, starving artist, local mega church or non-profit do-gooder, consider these ideas for retaining relevancy:1. Teach the dog new tricks anyway. Regardless of your age, it’s impossible to be relevant if you refuse to play the technology game.

And if you think that’s easy for me to say that because I’m a digital native, you’re right. Technology doesn’t intimidate me because I’ve always been around it. I consider that a fortunate position.

Then again, I certainly understand technology’s power to threaten relevancy. For example, I recently delivered a presentation via Skype for one of my clients. It was fun, challenging and different – but also a little scary.

Not because I was talking in front of a screen, but because I wasn’t talking in front of a live audience. And I couldn’t help but wonder, as a public speaker: Does this type of disruptive technology threaten my profession’s livelihood?

Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. But I’m still learning the technology anyway. Because it doesn’t matter how old the dog is – if the new trick matters to your customers, you still have to learn it. Old age isn’t the problem – old thinking is. Are you obsolescing yourself with it?

2. Your customers will tell you how to stay relevant. In a recent interview with FastCompany, Steve Jobs summarized Apple’s innovation strategy in four words: Turn feedback into inspiration.

The cool part is: It actually works. Like, really well. I had the perfect opportunity to execute his suggestion with one of my readers, Dawn. She emailed me with deep concern about an unsuccessful job search:

“I’m feeling chewed up and spit out. Being jobless is heartbreaking. Where do I get the inner fortitude to get up one more day and try again?”

Great question, I thought. But instead of giving her off-the-cuff advise; I spent the next week writing a post called, How to Find the Inner Fortitude to Get Up One More Day and Try Again, Even When the World Kicks You in the Crotch with a Golf Shoe.

To my delight, the blog post was featured on NPR the day it was published. And I sent a copy to Dawn, who replied with the following:

“You really invest yourself, very personally, in all your articles. That is why you are (and will be) relevant: Because you’re always there to listen to the people who really need you. That is the basis for true dedication. When we help others we do help ourselves.”

Your customers won’t just teach you how to stay relevant – they’ll tell you how to sell to them effectively. Is it important to the customer, or does it just make you feel better?

3. Enable a regular attention stream. Attention is currency. Think about it: We live in a world of continually eroding confidence. We work for a world of steadily declining attention span. And we market to a world of gradually fragmenting participation.

If you want to retain relevancy, you have to remember that you’re competing against everything else in people’s world.

Take faith-based organizations, for example. Congregational vitality is at an all time low because they’re trying to buy attention with boring. Doesn’t work that way. I don’t care what version of God you believe in: People don’t come to services that fail to engage their spirit.

Therefore: The only way to enable a regular attention stream is to be interesting. What’s more, attention is irrelevant if nobody cares about what you’re offering.

“Most of the people in this world don’t – and will never – care about what you’re doing,” suggests Josh Kauffman in The Personal MBA. “Your challenge is to earn the attention of the people who are likely to buy from you. Otherwise, people ignore what they don’t care about.” How will you combat your customers’ overwhelming urge to ignore you?

4. Grow bigger ears. To retain relevancy, you have to develop an ongoing relationship with your market. Naturally, the foundation for this relationship is the same for all healthy relationships: Grow bigger ears. Here are three strategies for expanding your listening platform:

First, use every listening post you can find. From offline to offline, from electronic to human, from walking the floors to monitoring tweet streams, whatever gives you insight into how your customers operate is a worthwhile endeavor.

Second, listen deeply. That means don’t just listen for the facts; listen for what the facts point to. Like my doctor, Steve, who once told me, “When you listen with your ears, patients give you their own diagnosis; but when you listen with your heart, patients give themselves their own cure.”

Third, listen for the right reasons. Not just enough to flip the answers for your own uses. Not just to boost your ego. And not just to confirm what you already think. Staying relevant means getting out of the way of what you need to hear, listening to where you suck, then responding by becoming better.

The whole point of growing bigger ears revolves around the following leverage question: What does expanding your listening platform earns you the right to do?

Answer: Everything, that’s what. Everything. Are you listening to the sound of your own voice or the music of your customer’s voice?

5. Maintain a steady stream of minor enhancements. Relevant doesn’t have to mean radical – just regular. After all, consistency is far better than rare moments of greatness.

The secret to keeping the stream flowing is to implement routine relevancy audits. Ask yourself and your team questions like:

*What irrelevancies have you recently discarded?
*What do you share that people actually give a damn about?
*Is the information you have truly relevant to the client and the client’s situation?

This will fuel your ability to make minor enhancements along the way. Interestingly, the word “relevant” comes from the Latin relevare, which means, “to lesson, lighten or relieve.”

This creates a few more questions for your audit:

*What burden do you lighten for your customers?
*What pain do you lessen for your customers?
*What does your value relieve customers of?

Remember: Relevancy isn’t a chore; it’s an ongoing progression. It’s not just about becoming relevant – it’s about relentlessly pursuing relevance to make sure you continue to matter to the people who matter. Are you combining relevancy with frequency?

THE BOTTOM LINE IS: No relevance, no revenue.

But.

It’s not about financing.
It’s about focusing.

It’s not about killing yourself.
It’s about keeping the brand current.

It’s not about discarding the soul of yesterday.
It’s about embracing the spirit of today.

It’s not about focus groups, demographics and target markets.
It’s about directly communicating with your audience in a meaningful, honest way.

That’s how you retain relevance.

You establish a direct link between the journey of your organization and the joy of the people it serves.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How much profitability are you sacrificing by being irrelevant?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “11 Ways to Out Market Your Competitors,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

The world’s FIRST two-in-one, flip-flop book!

Buy Scott’s comprehensive marketing guidebook on Amazon.com and learn how to GET noticed, GET remembered and GET business!

The Otis Elevator Guide to Preserving Your Customer’s Sense of Control

Did you know that most “close door” buttons on elevators don’t work?

It’s true – they’re called placebo buttons.

They’ve been around since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed about twenty years ago. And according to the act’s homepage, the button is there for workers and emergency personnel to use, and it only works with a key.

Also, according to the Otis Elevator Company, most door close buttons can’t override the minimum required amount of time doors can stay open. Whether or not you press the buttons, the doors will eventually close.

THE QUESTION IS: Why the dummy buttons?I read a fascinating article on You Are Not So Smart that cleared things up:

“Non-functioning mechanisms like this are called placebo buttons, and they’re everywhere. If you do press the buttons, and later the doors close, a little spurt of happiness will cascade through your brain. Your behavior was just reinforced. You will keep pressing the button in the future, even though any direct benefit from them is only imagined.”

WHICH MEANS: The buttons do work, just not for the elevators.

Their real function is to preserve people’s sense of control.

Here’s why that matters.

In the psychology manual, The Handbook of Competence and Motivation, their research proved that human beings operate out of a model to feel autonomous and in control of their environment and actions. Thus: The feeling of being in control is a basic human need.

And the minute you reinforce and preserve that control, your organization wins.

What’s your close door button? How are you preserving your customers’ sense of control?

Let’s look at five practices for doing so:

1. Allow customers to write their own ticket. My friend Mark runs weekend retreats for small business owners. At the end of his seminars, he literally passes around a hat and asks people to pay an amount commensurate with the value they received.

It’s a risky pricing model, but Mark has conducted over one hundred of these retreats, every year, for the past twenty years.

Lesson learned: Risky pricing lead to regular profits.

Your challenge is to enable your customers to take your price into their own hands. Yes, this practice requires tremendous self-trust and confidence in your own value.

And it’s not for everybody. But that’s the cool part about vulnerability: It doesn’t just enable profitability – but also builds long-term viability. Transfer control to the customer, transfer money to your bank account. Forever. What if your customers wrote your price tags?

2. Remember the customer of the customer. As a public speaker, I travel a lot. Naturally, I experience my share of airline delays. Fortunately, when my ride picks me up at the airport, she’s never uncertain about my flight status.

Why? Because she parks in the Cell Phone Lot. It’s a new feature offered at Lambert International that beautifully preserves customer control. Located a few blocks from the main terminal, it opens early and closes late.

And with a giant screen indicating flight statuses, airline records and other relevant information, picker-uppers can relax in their cars without worrying about when (or if) their loved ones are going to arrive.

The cool part is, this example doesn’t just focus on the customer – but the people closest to the customer.

Which, if you think about it, is a customer too. Your job is to figure out whom your customer needs to look good for. Whom they need to make happy. Whom they’re coming home to. Are you forgetting about the people who matter to the people who matter?

3. Asking activates control. First, ask people how they will be affected by the decision. Listen closely as they tell you how to serve them better. Second, ask people what they would like to see happen next. Odds are, their request will be reasonable.

Third, ask permission for everything. It can’t hurt. And it helps you avoid additional guesswork. Fourth, ask customers to do something to help facilitate the problem solving process.

By putting them at the center of the decision, you not only preserve control but also enable new solutions to surface that you otherwise would have missed.

Ultimately, these four examples of asking restore the balance. That’s your goal: To give people enough control so they don’t worry that their basic needs won’t be met, but not so much control that they’re wasting time and energy making unnecessary choices. Are you asking the same questions as your competitors?

4. Provide a virtual steering wheel. My friend Chris Johnson sells flat rate web jobs. One of the cool things about working with his company is the very moment your transaction is complete, you’re prompted with a video. It doubles as a thank-you note and multimedia tutorial:

“Thanks for your purchase,” says an enthusiastic voice on the screen. “This brief video will explain exactly how to use the program you just paid for. That way you can get the most out of our services.”

This is a perfect tool for preserving customer control for several reasons. First, it’s immediate. No waiting. No wondering. And no window between when you buy and when you start using.

Second, the video closes the execution gap. Instead customers just paying money and then fading into the ether, Chris equips them with step-by-step instructions to optimize their purchase.

Finally, the video assures that customers know exactly what they are buying. And that level of expectational clarity is priceless. How are you guiding your customers along the uncertain path?

5. Provide clear, consistent contact points for managing progress. As a lifelong control freak, I’m fortunate to have a web team whose amazing client service appeases my obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

Check this out: Every time I put in a request for a programming modification, they email me with a copy of my Support Ticket. It includes my original request, a status report and the name of the tech involved with my project.

Over the life of the project, I’m emailed with occasional, non-annoying updates that keep me posted on the ticket’s progress. Eventually, when the ticket is done, I can offer feedback on the process.

Lesson learned: The speed of the response is the response. Even if you’re not able to solve your customer’s problem right away, consistent assurance that you’re on the case preserves their sense of control. How are do you update your customers on their statuses?

REMEMBER: All customers are control freaks.

Whether you serve them online, offline, in the air or in person – make a conscious effort to preserve their sense of control.

Until then, I’ll see you in the elevator.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How well do your customers know you?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “11 Ways to Out Market Your Competitors,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

The world’s FIRST two-in-one, flip-flop book!

Buy Scott’s comprehensive marketing guidebook on Amazon.com and learn how to GET noticed, GET remembered and GET business!

How to Live the Brand Without Annoying the Bejesus Out of Everyone You Meet

You never know when your brand will need to rise to the occasion.

That’s why consistency is far better than rare moments of greatness.

But.

Living the brand isn’t what you think it is:

It’s not about dressing for success.
It’s not about converting yourself into a corporate clone.
It’s not about memorizing some hollow, hackneyed mission statement.
It’s not about puking your unique selling proposition all over everyone you meet.
It’s not about integrating a sequence of promises that align with organizational initiatives.

All that does is annoy the bejesus out of everybody you meet.

HERE’S THE REALITY: To live the brand is to leave no doubt in people’s minds who you are, what you and why you are.

Let’s explore a collection of strategies for doing so:1. Act from embodiment. My mentor, Bill Jenkins, constantly reminds of me the following truth: “Eventually, you start to become the thing you’ve been teaching.”

This happens to every great leader. After a certain number of years, you wake up one morning, look in the mirror and think to yourself: “Wow. I am the message. I am my own best case study. The word has become flesh.”

It’s a glorious moment, albeit an unpredictable one. The tricky part is, in order to become the physical embodiment of your understanding – in order to truly live the brand – you have to be patient with yourself. Learning to live physically what you know intellectually doesn’t happen over night. Or over month. Or over year.

But, when your life begins to enshrine what your lips proclaim, the world doesn’t just pay attention – it pays dividends. As long as you’re willing to hang in there. Is the message you’re preaching the dominant reality of your life?

2. Be disarmingly predictable. People trust brands that are predictable. Which means it’s your job to prove customers right. To confirm their suspicions about the value you deliver and the values you stand for.

That’s all branding is anyway: An expectation. A shortcut. A predictable infection. And your challenge is to decide what you’re going to breathe into people – then sustain that spirit through every touchpoint.

For example, I’m a Walgreen’s junkie. Always have been. Not because of their prices, which are usually high. And not because of their service, which is usually average. I pick Walgreen’s first because every store – across the country – sustains emotional predictability.

No matter which location I walk into, I immediately feel at home. I know exactly where everything is. And I always get in and out quickly. In fact, I recently heard a cashier say to the customer in front of me, “Every Walgreen’s is your Walgreen’s.”

I totally agree. And I know I’m not the only one. How predictable is your brand? Because every interaction you have with somebody either adds to – or subtracts from – the overall perception of your brand. What can customers expect about your behavior?

3. Polarize people purposely. The last thing you want is everybody to like your brand. For two reasons. First, you’re nobody until somebody hates you. At least that’s what my therapist says. Second, if everybody likes you – that means nobody loves you. And that’s a deadly combination.

The secret is to practice strategic urination. To intentionally piss off the right people. After all, if you don’t risk turning anybody off with your brand, you’ll never turn anybody on with it.

Take my friend Ellen. She never ceases to become annoyed whenever I mention my one of my books. Then again, she’s not even close to being my target reader. So who cares? I’m happy to piss her off any day of the week. And we’ve been good friends since college, so it’s cool. Ellen knows I’m just doing my job.

That’s strategic urination. And keep in mind; you don’t want to polarize the people who matter most.

Take the hospital by my house, for example. Every day when I pass by, I notice a cloud of smoke coming from the side door. That’s where stressed out nurses take their nicotine breaks. Unfortunately, it’s also where patients drive by every day. And those are not the people that hospital wants to polarize.

For your organization, the challenge is to live the brand in a way that pleases the people who pay your bills and polarizes the people who don’t speak your language. Who did you piss off today?

4. To live is to let go. My grandfather, Frank, has been living the brand every day for thirty-seven years. As a result, his company, Closeouts With Class, has been a major player in the wholesale industry since the early seventies.

Recently, he celebrated his eightieth birthday. And my father made a speech to commemorate his leadership – both to the company and to the family. Somewhere between the tears and laughs, here’s what he said:

“As our leader, Frank never asked us to fill his shoes – he just fabricated the foundation: The sole. And from that foundation, he gave each of us permission to make our own shoes. His only request was that we wore them loud, wore them proud and wore them daily.”

That’s a helpful lesson for anyone in a leadership position: If you want your people to live the brand, allow them to do so through vehicle of their own uniqueness. Don’t worry – it’ll still be consistent with the core of the organization.

You just have to trust that if you provide your people with a solid foundation, everything that grows from it will stay in alignment. How are you enlisting people to take the brand into their own hands?

5. Make the invisible inescapable. Let’s talk about your fans. The people who have an ongoing love affair with your brand. The reality is: They don’t care what you know – they only care how you think, and how your thinking will help them become better.

The question you have to ask yourself is: How do you express how you think?

The good news is, the available tools for doing so are both easy to access and easy to apply. From blogs to social media outlets to public visibility, your goal is to take what’s in your head and get it onto people’s radars, under people’s skin and into people’s hearts.

Without that, your thoughts will remain just that: Thoughts. And all gorgeous gray matter will go to waste. And every branding effort thereafter will be nothing but winking in the dark. How are you thinking in three-dimensions?

6. Trust your genius to speak eloquently. Living the brand means never interrupting your work while it speaks for itself. Stepping on your own toes is a form of self-sabotage, and it’s costing your organization money. Daily.

Instead, here’s my self-promotional suggestion: Take advantage of every opportunity to let your genius speak. Let nothing go unstamped by your personality.

Don’t worry: You’re not bragging. You’re not showing off. And you’re not annoying the bejesus out of everyone you meet. It is possible to be in people’s faces without being on people’s nerves. You’re just living the brand by letting your truth speak in a remarkable way.

The tricky part of letting your genius speak for itself is that it threatens average people. And they will try to degrade your brand into something less.

You cannot let this happen. Life’s too short to surround yourself with people who don’t challenge and inspire you. Find new friends or find your brand forgotten. Are you a living brochure of your own awesomeness?

7. Brands that make upgrades make money. A brand is a living, breathing, changing thing. And if you don’t change along with it, you’ll be about a relevant as a two-year-old newspaper. In his book, Utopia or Oblivion, Buckminster Fuller revealed his secret for lifelong growth:

“Ask yourself a little larger and more difficult question each day.”

Here are few to get you started:

*What habits do you need to jump out of to reinvent your brand?
*Have you identified the truly distinct values that will fuel your future momentum?
*How much self-reflection do you need to administer to scare yourself into the next version of yourself?

That’s the upgrade formula: To return to your own experience inventory for answers. Because if you want your brand to be one constant rebeginning – one universe of continual transformation – you’ve got to participate regularly and responsibly in your own evolution. How will you upgrade your brand into ever more devastating weaponry?

Okay. One caveat before we finish up…

As you live your brand in all your unedited glory, you still have to beware of the potential downside: Terminal uniqueness.

This is thinking you’re uniquely qualified, excessively entitled or self-righteously appointed to behave a certain way at the expense of others.

That’s living the brand to the point that you end up killing it.

Don’t be that guy.

If you truly want to live the brand: Be cool. Be smart. Be honest. Be you.

And most of all: Be consistent.

Because you never know when your brand will need to rise to the occasion.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Do you have a brand or are you living the brand?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “26 Ways to Out Brand Your Competitors,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

The world’s FIRST two-in-one, flip-flop book!

Buy Scott’s comprehensive marketing guidebook on Amazon.com and learn how to GET noticed, GET remembered and GET business!

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