Monthly Archives: April 2013

Your Reputation Precedes You…

Online reputation management has become a buzzword for marketers and the equivalent of Voldermort for business owners – many cringe at the sound. I don’t blame them. The guy who opened a restaurant, bike shop or bed and breakfast probably does a great job serving crowds of demanding clients. Now any person with a Yelp account and a gripe suddenly carries as much weight as the brand equity that’s been built over years. However, this is the nature of today’s business. Third party opinions have become a critical part of any marketing plan. Consumers are so bombarded by various media that we trust a fraction of advertisements while we believe the majority of 3rd party reviews.

Reviews

 

Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, Amazon, Travel Advisor all post reviews on businesses from mostly anonymous users. The problem with this wave of places to monitor is that the business owner feels at the mercy of the internet because it is open forum and anonymous. So, we can have a proactive game plan or tuck our heads in the sand and hope nothing ever goes wrong…which always works out.

Whether it’s a corner coffee shop or a Fortune 100 company, there are examples abound of good and bad case studies. Take United Airlines, for example, where one passenger who saw his guitar broken by baggage handlers wasn’t taken care of and now has 13 million hits on YouTube after he wrote a song about it! On the other hand, I see restaurants in Columbus like Papaya or Mikey’s Late Night Slice who have had success and even national press for proactive reputation management. One of the most progressive and impactful examples comes from Colorado’s own Icelantic Skis who actually has a group of super-fans who pay to get early product access and become the front line for reviews, endorements and positive feedback. Icelantic was more than proactive, they monetized it. Briliant.

Let’s first address the known facts:

  • Word of mouth marketing is the best marketing. Always has been. Always will be.
  • Word of mouth now happens online. On steroids.
  • Crazies will always exist; there will forever be customers that are never happy.
  • The unhappy ones are more likely to voice their opinion than the happy ones.

How to have a proactive strategy:

  • Realize that the chatter is happening online, whether you want to be involved or not.
  • Realize that the crazies will exist and write reviews eventually.
  • Be proactive and get the medium to happy people to write reviews.
  • Come up with strategies to engage and solicit reviews through Google, social media followers, post-purchase follow up. If necessary, incentivize reveiwers.
  • Keep in mind that 9 positive and 1 negative review isn’t the end of the world, it makes you look real.
  • Responding to negative feedback online likely makes you look positive and more responsive.
  • Be aware that most consumers nowadays can sniff out fake reviews.

Patch the roof while the sun is shining! Embrace reviews and use them to your advantage. And if you’re not a business owner with reviews to worry about, the same strategies apply to an individual regarding their professional reputation or social capital.

 

Thoughts? Have you chosen a business or gone elsewhere based on reviews online? Feel free to comment or even write a review on my blog below! And tune in next week when I discuss the coffee in our office and Gen Y vs The Boomers.

The Habit of Gratitude

One of the simplest yet most effective lessons I learned after four years with Southwestern was forming the habit of gratitude. Key word habit! It’s easy to take it all in and be grateful when everything is going well. It’s a different story when you wake up to an email that says the deal fell through, your important meeting got cancelled, family issues are happening at home and you walk into the office with more fires to put out than Smokey the Bear. Try being grateful then.

My first summer with Southwestern I remember seeing the top producers and thinking they never had bad days, let alone bad goal periods. Then I had a breakthrough moment when one of them spoke during a weekly training and explained that they too have set backs, they just recognize it more quickly and are able to get themselves out of a rut faster than average people. Top producers control their attitudes themselves; they’re not subjected to whatever external factors happen in their environment.

And whether it’s in business, sports or leadership, this trend of emotional intelligence is seen everywhere. The top performers are self-aware and self adjusting. What separates them from average folk is the ability to recognize and bounce back more quickly. Anyone can be happy and grateful when everything is going well – it’s the true emotional giant who after everything has gone wrong, can be aware and bring themselves back to a state of optimistic calm. Having an attitude of gratitude is one of the easiest ways to do so.

Gratitude

As far as gratitude goes, it’s nearly impossible to have a bad attitude when you remind yourself of everything you’re grateful for. Yet as business owners, young professionals and type A personalities, we have a tendency to never be satisfied or chase the next level, to a fault. How many of us say, ‘I’ll be happy once I have[insert promotion/income level/house/relationship/etc].’ Chasing, reaching, clawing and always in a state of miscontentment we create.

If you develop the habit of gratitude every morning – you’ll start every day in a great place, ready to embrace the challenges and see abundance. In order to develop the emotional muscle and not just do it when life is perfect, it helps to do it every morning for 21 days.  And, the process must be part of your daily routine. Perhaps while you make your coffee, take a shower, or on part of your commute to work. This action will trigger your memory, then for 1-2 minutes, simply state what you’re grateful for out loud, whatever comes to mind. Mine is the drive through our company parking lot as I ramble on for 90 seconds of gratitude before I walk through the door. Try this for 21 days and if your work week isn’t better, you can bill me for Starbucks and donuts to make you feel better!

Thoughts? How do you remain grateful and have a good attitude?  Feel free to comment, disagree, ask questions, or get your #hashtag on. And tune in next week when I discuss reputation management.

Meaning scales, people don’t.

Godin 2

Business leaders and marketers are obsessed with Seth Godin. Rightfully so. He’s a pionner, a genius, and leads by example to execute strategies that he teaches in his books. I’d heard interviews with Seth and read some of his content before I finally gave in and purchased one of his recent best-sellers, Linchpin. Amazon delivered on a Monday and by Wednesday afternoon I was a bit disappointed. But I stuck it out and struck gold in the last few pages. Seth included a graphic from artist Hugh MacLeod that portrayed ideas from the book. My favorite – ‘Meaning scales, people don’t.’ Right after I read this, I saw the perfect illustration of this principle at work:

book

Last fall our two-year-old company had eclipsed the 100-employee-mark. We were scaling quickly. We had just hired a new class of internet marketing agents who would do all the heavy lifting for our small business clients. One day there was a tall guy in jeans, tennis shoes and a frumpy button down shirt walking around. He stopped at one of the newly-occupied cubicles to chat with a recent hire. For half an hour they talked about where she was from, her education, her family and why she was so excited to come on board. They had never met before and as the pleasantries wrapped up she said, ‘tell me your name again?’ ‘Michael.’ ‘Good to meet you, Michael.’ Once he continued on, she turned to someone to find out who this anassuming Michael character was….founder, owner and CEO. Gulp. She let out a gasp and an embarrassed laugh as she realized she had no idea she was talking to the man who had essentially created her new job.

This event illustrates my biggest Takeaway from Seth Godin’s Linchpin – ‘Meaning scales, people don’t.’ She was there alongside 100 other employees who had taken a risk, made a move, quit a steadier job or believed in a vision. And they did it for themselves! For the meaning they saw in the company that aligned with their own; not because of any one person or the owner. Any start up or company that is looking to grow, have a large impact, or rally a number of employees around a cause must realize this distinction from day one. Meaning scales, people don’t. I was one of the very first people in sales and business development; we’ll have over 100 team members in that department alone by January. And they come aboard because of meaning. Not me or Michael or anyone else. And we will lose great people should they ever lose connection with that meaning.

I read Godin’s book around the same time our company started to look less like a startup and more like a market leader. It made me ponder what meaning we had intentionally or unintentionally rallied behind to spur our growth. Small business, entrepreneurship, innovation, an underdog mentality? I was also reminded of other businesses such as Love Grown Foods, Toms, and Patagonia – companies that represent so much more than their products. Since then, I’ve been reminded of the inherent need to focus on and promote our meaning as an organization. Individuals and personalities are fickle and finite. Chances are if you’re trying to do something massive, a human ego needs to get out of the way.

This week as you try to tackle something big and awesome, remind yourself that meaning scales, people don’t. Define it, cultivate it, share it. Then scale it.

Thoughts? What are the meanings or brands you stand behind? Have you read Linchpin or any of Godin’s other books? Feel free to comment, disagree, ask questions, or get your #hashtag on.

On Love and Languages

What would a blog on life lessons be if I didn’t cover relationships? Lately I was thinking about an upcoming trip to Europe and realized how many similarities exist between learning a foreign language and having a great relationship.

I happen to be fluent in French. It sounds cool and romantic, yet it’s been anything but to get to that point. My junior year of high school I was lucky enough to go to Paris with a herd of kids and a couple chaperones. I had studied French for three years and enjoyed it up to that point. Then one night I got separated from the pack and ended up in a little candy shop. For half an hour I stumbled through a conversation with the owner who didn’t speak English. It was such an amazing experience that I decided to commit to really learning French.

I also happen to be in a great relationship. It sounds cheesy and romantic…and it still is. For years I had been too focused on myself and my own goals than to seriously make room for anyone else in my life. Then last summer I met Brie. Within a few dates I decided to commit to having a really great relationship.

Brie

It’s been more than 10 years since I started working on my French, and a mere 10 months since Brie and I started dating. But there are a few parallels worth noting:

  1. You have to decide and commit. What a difference it makes when you really dive in.
  2. Everybody wants to do it; not everyone puts in the work. How many adults say ‘I wish I could speak [insert language]’ or ‘I wish I never stopped studying [insert language].’
  3. The solution doesn’t come a in box at the mall. There aren’t any shortcuts or quick fixes. See image below!
  4. There are growing pains. It’s not always fun or easy, hence step 1 above.
  5. Priority and time management are key. Brie is in veterinary school and I’m a workaholic. It’s been quite a learning curve figuring out how to schedule time together and plan ahead.

Rosetta

Committing to learning French has been a labor of love. It wasn’t cool or sexy when I had to master the subjunctive and every other verb tense. I forced myself to study abroad in a French school away from anyone I knew. And in Aix I chose not to spend time with American friends from Denver. I had to bring a notebook to force myself to learn every word I didn’t know. And I took extra classes in French literature during my MBA and still take Alliance Francaise courses on Thursday nights after work. But it’s been worth it. I have friends all over the world and experiences I never would have imagined. Now I plan on applying the same lessons to my relationships.

Thoughts? I’d love to hear input from other young professionals balancing careers or couples that have been married for decades. Feel free to comment, disagree, ask questions, or get your #hashtag on. And tune in next week when I break down lessons from Seth Godin’s book Linchpin.