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.

How much profitability are you sacrificing by being irrelevant?

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

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

Buy Scott’s comprehensive marketing guidebook on 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.


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.

How much profitability are you sacrificing by being irrelevant?

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

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

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

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