What kind of Halloween personality is your business?

Does your business resemble any of these Halloween personalities?:

  • Spiderman – Your company is super-human and does all it can to be a hero and make a difference.
  • Frankenstein – After the many merges and silos of departmental solitude, your company is only a massive heap of mismatched parts that are poorly woven together to somewhat resemble a healthy company.
  • Fairy – Your company does not mind that it is not in the spotlight so long as it leaves goodness in its path.
  • Ghost – If people are really still and concentrate they may get a sense of your presence but by in large your company is invisible to everyone.

What other Halloween personalities can businesses resemble?

Happy Halloween everyone!

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Going backwards to keep going forwards

First, if you haven’t watched this amazing college football video of Division III Trinity College vs. Millsap, go ahead and take a little break and watch this video.

The great thing about laterals is that they seem counterintuitive – you go backwards in order to keep going forwards. In reality, there are times where this is the only way to advance.

There are many laterals in business that may help you keep going forward:

  1. Firing customers. Some customers may be draining all of your resources (money, time, employee moral) and are actually holding you back. Letting these customers go can help keep you moving forward.
  2. Firing employees. At other times it’s some employees that are the dead weight. It may be their negative attitude or contentious nature that is preventing further advancement.
  3. Tighter focus. Sometimes the right backwards corrective measure is to sell your product to a more concentrated audience with more things in common and one who will truly appreciate and advocate for your product. Remember, it is better to be the hero to a few instead of invisible by all.

When your forward progress seems to have stopped, don’t forget that you have an option to go backwards in order to keep moving forwards. In the words of the flight attendant during the explanation of the emergency procedures, sometimes the nearest exit may be behind you.

Seinfeld on Marketing: Excuses

It’s Friday! Congrats, you made it to the end of the workweek. In this episode of Seinfeld, Jerry is discussing with Elaine his ideas for not hanging out with Joel Horneck, a guy that he’d rather not spend time with:

ELAINE: (Reading from Jerry’s notebook left on the coffee table.) “Picking someone up at the airport.” “Jury Duty.” “Waiting for cable guy.”

JERRY: Okay, just hand that over, please.

ELAINE: Oh, what is this?

JERRY: It’s a list of excuses; it’s for that guy, Horneck… I have that list now so in case he calls, I just consult it and I don’t have to see him.

As consumers we really hate to hear excuses from businesses:

  • I’m sorry but all of our representatives are busy now. Your call is very important to us. Please continue to hold.
  • I’m sorry Sir but that’s not my department.

Like Wonder Woman using her wristbands to deflect bullets, some businesses use excuses to try to deflect any responsibility away from them. It’s our company policy (deflect). Our computers are down right now (deflect). I’m new here (deflect).

Excuses are like eating a piece of cake with “butter-based frosting after six decades in a poorly ventilated English basement” – sooner or later they will come back to haunt you (That’s your bonus Seinfeld quote for the day).

Bonus #2: Speaking of excuses, here is a company that for better or worse is getting some news as of late. The company allows you to buy excuses that look as if they come from areal hospital or a fake summons for jury duty.

Happy Friday everyone!

This post is part of a weekly series, Seinfeld on Marketing.

What do you call it?

In an excellent poem by Mary Oliver, she says:

[A]re you breathing just a little and calling it a life?

In the same vein, couldn’t we ask ourselves:

  • Are you tweaking your logo just a little and calling it a brand strategy?
  • Are you playing it safe just a little and calling it smart business?
  • Are you advertising just a little and calling it your marketing?
  • Are you spamming just a little and calling it lead generation?
  • Are you listening just a little and calling it customer service?

What other questions can you add along these same lines?

Humanness

The family and I recently watched The Jungle Book together. We got out the required popcorn and snacks and settled in for a nice evening together. Within minutes, I remembered why it is one of my favorite Disney movies of all times.

Do you remember King Louie, king of the orangutans? He wanted to learn to be just like a human being and learn the secret of “man’s red flower” (fire). Humanness is not only a trait desired by overzealous orangutans, but companies that want to succeed as well.

Shortly after Jet Blue’s 10-hour weather-related tarmac delay last February, Darryl Jenkins – an airline consultant, said: “Everybody knows now that these guys are mortal.” I think a sense of mortality and other human qualities is just what every company needs.

Forgiveness is a human quality. Passion is a human quality. Affection is a human quality. The only way to receive these human qualities from your customers is to first act more human (no surprise). The more personal and human interactions that customers have with your company, the more forgiveness they are willing to show, the more passionate they will be with your cause and the more affection they will feel towards your company.

This is why blogging for some companies really makes sense. It is a chance to bear your soul and show that your company is really just a collection of people just like me who have loved ones and a passion for what they do (for a great example, see Southwest Airline’s Blog). Showing compassion, having a sense of humor and spontaneity are human qualities that will bring the human side of your business to the surface. It goes without saying (so why am I saying it?), only your employees, actual humans (did I just write that?), can bring these human qualities to your business. That is why hiring employees that show these emotions quickly and easily makes a lot of sense.

By the way, if you are keeping score at home, having an automated telephone menu system, perfunctorily spouting off your company policies and having committee approved conversations monologues with customers only docks your humanness quotient.

How human is your company?

(P.S. I should have a picture of me on my “About” page sometime this week. Not that anyone is beating down my door to put a face to my writing, but I think it will help show that I am indeed human and not a pod – if that was ever in question).

Seinfeld on Marketing: Having a feel

Happy Seinfeld on Marketing day to you all! In this episode, there really is no need for a setup, so jump on in the pool:

KRAMER: What’s today?

NEWMAN: It’s Thursday.

KRAMER: Really? Feels like Tuesday.

NEWMAN: Tuesday has no feel. Monday has a feel, Friday has a feel, Sunday has a feel…

tuesdays.pngDoes Tuesday not have a feel? Tuesday can be easily forgotten being that it is wedged between it’s-back-to-work Monday and hump-day Wednesday. Poor “feel-less” Tuesday. Without having a feel, it is often overlooked and ignored.

For businesses, “a feel” could be interpreted as a memorable and remarkable experience. Whole Foods has a healthy and natural feel. Harley Davidson has a rebel feel. Apple has a sleek and innovative feel.

Does your business have a feel? How do you get a feel? Those companies that we often associate as having a strong feel (or brand) usually concentrate their efforts on the four D’s of strong brands:

  1. Differentiate. Make your business stand out from the rest. Do the opposite of what is being done in your industry.
  2. Discover. Allow customers to discover for themselves why your business is so special. Refrain from “telling” your target audience why you are special. Now is the time to remember that “it is better to be a guide on the side than an sage on the stage”.
  3. Delegate. Give control of your message to your evangelists that are ready and willing to spread the good news of your business to their friends and family members. Provide them with the easiest and painless way possible for them to share.
  4. Delight. Continual innovation or providing moments of astonishing customer service all help to keep your customers interested and coming back for more.

At least Friday has a feel. Happy Friday everyone!

This post is part of a weekly series, Seinfeld on Marketing.

The Interdependent Group

scale.pngIn the last Seinfeld on Marketing, I only briefly touched on the three types of groups. Today we’ll discuss more in depth the last group, The Interdependent Group.

If you ever work in groups (and who doesn’t), The Interdependent Group is the Holy Grail of groups. In this type of group, each member is independent in work and thought yet is mutually dependent on each member of the group for the final outcome – but there has to be the right balance of independence and dependence. If the scales are tipped too much to the “dependent” side and each member relies on others unhealthily for input, the result is usually the collective bland ideas of The Consensus Group. If on the other hand the scales are tipped too heavily to the other side and “independence” reins supreme, the result is usually the amassed hodgepodge of confusing ideas of The Frankenstein Group.

A good example of The Interdependent Group at work comes from the making of the book The Age of Conversation. In this book, each marketing guru from Drew McLellan to Gavin Heaton independently wrote a chapter about word of mouth marketing and combined them into a book (by the way, it’s worth the read and the proceeds go to charity). This project seemed to have the right combination of independence (the authors submitted their chapter free from tight restrictions from the other members) and dependence on the out come (the flow of the book worked and the group relied on one another to produce the final result).

The difference between the Age of Conversation and the Novel Twists project I brought up yesterday is that the independence/dependence scale of the Novel Twists project is out of balance. Not only are the authors at Novel Twists dependent on the outcome, but given the structure of the novel they are also dependent on the input as well (if one author introduces a new character or involves a character in some action, it has to be carried out by subsequent authors).

Any relationship where people have to work together for a common purpose (albeit in business, personal relationships, communities, politics, etc.), the optimized power realized from a group will only come from the independent input and the common dependence on the output of interdependent groups.