Culture: Your MVP for Growth

Let me begin with this. Humans are social, intelligent, dynamic, learning, caring, resourceful, and reactive beings who are strongly inclined to make emotional connections and associations with others. We are driven by some sense of togetherness. It is one of the things that has allowed our species to thrive on this planet.

We need culture in nearly every aspect of our lives!

Yet businesses continue operate on a different mindset and rely heavily on various ‘carrot and stick’ approaches to management.

Here is what that produces:
A recent survey conducted by LinkedIn reveals that 64.7% or professionals claim they decline job offers, projects, and promotions if they don’t know, or do not agree with their culture. 52% of them claim to be actively looking for employment with places that align with their own beliefs.

The Gallup Organization has formally been studying and monitoring employee engagement since 2000 and estimate a low engagement contributes to a negative impact of over $400Billion in the US alone.

Despite this information, thousands more reports, articles, consultancies, and resources being available; nearly 80% of companies to not have a formal strategy regarding their culture.

Building a thriving culture comes down to formalizing three simple ideas with absolute clarity, dedication, consistency, and transparency.

Mission:

This is the WHAT that you are doing, assigning, targeting, or building. It is as much about the macro, big-picture notions as it is about the micro, daily details and tasks. Everyone remotely related to the process should know and be excited about the mission to which they are contributing.

Values:

These are the beliefs, attitudes, and actions that are important, supported, accepted, tolerated, and inexcusable. These five distinct lists are more important than any specific mission because when people come together based on values, they will almost effortlessly adapt or completely change the what if it doesn’t align with their shared beliefs.

Purpose:

This refers to the WHY that inspires us to contribute, and sometimes contribute our very best. It can be aimed towards a social endeavor or problem, supporting a non-profit cause, community, environmental, technological, artistic, entertainment, religious, fun/adventure, or be purely altruistic/philanthropic. It can be anything besides ‘making money’, growing, selling products, increasing profits, or any similar ilk.

Bringing clarity and sharing your MVP is the foundation of your culture. It also allows people to build emotional connections to it. These emotional connections are THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you can build. They will be created whether you focus on them or not. The difference is in the number and strength of those that support your growth efforts.

Here are a couple ways your culture determines your growth.

Talent attraction:

Because of the interconnectedness of humanity (as in the six decrees of separation concept), your current workforce is likely already connected to the next 2 rounds of talent you need to hire. Social media sites (LinkedIn is most powerful) help facilitate and visualize these connections if we use them properly. The missing factor is your culture.

Your employee Bill has a great friend named Suzan, whom you want to hire. It is very likely that Bill is in one of the groups at the top of article who is not aligned with the company, and will try to dissuade Suzan from leaving her current position even though it pays 20% less.

The opposite is also true. Suzan absolutely loves where she is working, so much that it always shows up in her smile – even in the carpool line where she and Bill regularly talk as they wait to pick up their children. Her attitude is infectious and makes Bill wonder if the extra money is worth the headaches of his culture.

The situation of Bill and Suzan occurs thousands of times every day and has likely already happened to your company on more than one occasion. In her role as Development Engineer, she developed breakthrough products for your competition. Remember, we are hiring humans. Emotional connections are crucial!

Customer attraction:

Rebekah is looking for a new car. She talks with friends about what they drive, how they like it, and service it needs. Though all of her friends can easily afford the purchase of new cars, Ramon still drives one that he has had for 15 years, and he loves it.

She had previously never considered that brand because she never heard any stories. Because Ramon (not a car salesman, employed, or affiliated by the brand) was the only one of her friends who displayed any passion for the car he drove, she went for a test drive and was comfortable making a $50,000 purchase. Her other friends talked about the next car they were thinking about buying because they were bored, unimpressed, or frustrated with their current one.

The situation of Rebekah and Ramon also happens thousands of times daily. The purchase had almost nothing to do with marketing budgets, the dealership price, or salesperson’s skill. Remember, all purchases are made by humans. Emotional connections are crucial!

 

Culture impacts marketing more than most budgets do and it comes into play in all industries and price points. It is time to invest into understanding and shaping your culture so that it becomes the MVP of your growth. Feel free to connect with me to start a conversation about it.

Goals Bring Progress

Goals are some of the most powerful tools known to the human race! Our brains are naturally problem-solving organs that have an indescribable power for creating options, ideas, and circumstances for our own success. Babies begin finding ways to get their hands on almost everything in sight—without anyone encouraging them. They naturally mimic gestures and words while learning how to crawl, walk, run, and communicate.

When handled well, this phenomenon can continue throughout our entire careers and lives.

Goals help bring focus and shape to our future. Key steps begin to fall into place once we get a clear idea in our head. Naturally some individuals seem better at this or more driven than others; but it is an ability we all have.

The best thing about having and achieving goals—better than the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction—is becoming what it takes to achieve them. No matter what happens to the item or goal itself (making a certain dollar amount, receiving the promotion, etc); the process of learning and becoming is YOURS FOREVER! Great managers and leaders understand how to use the right goals to ignite the passion and effort of their people.

Set long-range goals to keep you excited and moving far into the future. Set small, easy-to-achieve
goals to keep you motivated through regular accomplishments. Set fun goals that keep you smiling. Set BIG goals that require you to work with others. Remember that big goals are just lots of smaller goals connected together like links of a chain.

Expressing Goals:

Dreams and desires are great, but lack the action plan necessary to become reality. Learning the ideal format of effective goals helps align our own powers to make them come true. Perhaps the most difficult part of achieving goals is actually in the setting and refinement of them—not in the work to attain them.

Once goals are clearly established, internal forces begin to take over and constantly work in the background of our consciousness to bring them to fruition. The following format techniques will help streamline this process and help you set powerful and exciting goals. The nuances can sometimes get tricky as we learn how to put these fictitious ideas from our minds into a physical form. There is no ‘perfect’ way to do it, but this guide will help provide structure.

Results Goals

These are the most common types of goals as determined by a measurable result or end—$100,000 personal income, complete triathlon, achieve ideal body weight, and so on. These are relatively easy to understand and accomplish. They might be items on a ‘bucket list’, to-do tasks, or be linked to work quotas.

Write each one on a separate sheet of paper in large letters. Fill the rest of the page with action items or milestones that can be checked off the list.

Feeling Goals

These are about how you feel during (or directly after) a task. This is an ideal approach when we want to become a better presenter; build confidence, or increase comfortable in some aspect.

Start by taking a moment to honestly rate your feelings about the particular task on a simple scale of 1-10 (10 being best or strongest). Then set a results goal for where you want it to be. Finally, list some process goals that might help build your confidence.

Process Goals

These are great for pulling us out of the inevitable slumps in performance. Rather than a specific result, these focus on a specific process that is loosely correlated to bring about the conditions of a completed result.

The disconnections are critical as they prevent emotional investment into a lack of result. make 20 cold calls, attend 4 hours of networking, or run 15 miles each week. It doesn’t matter when, where, or how they are done – just that they are accomplished.

They build confidence in essential habits, facilitate key learnings, and help keep us focused on growing.

Designing Sales Processes Part 2

In part one of this article on sales processes, I stated that sales is like a jigsaw puzzle where pieces are replaced by emotions and events to make a complete picture. This article builds on the foundation questions we began last week  and continues to build the puzzle with insights into additional questions.

What do they want?

Henry Ford brilliantly claimed that if he simply asked people what they wanted, they would answer that they wanted faster horses. Rather than simply asking potential prospects what they want, it helps to actually BE a customer or potential prospect and align your passions with ideal solutions.

Understanding them as a peer sends powerful signals that build genuine trust with audiences. Intimate knowledge helps you ask questions that spark better conversations. Ask about their challenges, needs, and/or problems in ways that are relevant to what you offer.

One thing customers almost always want is a complete vision of the solution. They can likely only put a portion of the solution into words. Often, answers will be in terms of what they already know (and already know doesn’t work). ‘Faster horses’ is framed around the known method of travel. Such answers are not to be taken literally, but as sub-conscious indications that essential needs are not met

Your questions and responses can help them refine the problem at hand and see the entire solution (i.e. you, or someone else) more clearly.

When do they want it?

It seems counter-productive to try drinking from, or even watering a garden with a fire hose. It can be tempting to dump all our information and solution options on a prospect, but this tends to overwhelm them into not making a decision at all.

Part of your sales process is about timing the delivery of critical information to meet their needs and interests. It is about adapting your sales process to their buying process.

Besides matching this cadence, it is about delivering in formats they can use. Products and services for sale are only a basic level. Extending this to resources like budgeting, long-range planning, performance reviews, how-to-guides, ebooks, and audits are essential to building raving fans who receive maximum benefit.

This is clearly one of the most critical overlaps between outside sales, inside sales, new marketing, existing marketing, and client support efforts. Invest the time to collaborate share information as getting it wrong here can easily push clients away.

How is it delivered?

There is so much that goes into making a sale. Some think it stops when the order is signed. Be sure to put the same care into how the product/service is delivered as went into getting it purchased in the first place. Consistent branding is key!

I cannot offer any hard-set rules, other than being consistent. Individual people are the driving force behind your brand. Attitude is far more important than appearance. Delivery, service, and instal personnel often serve as critical intermediaries between buyer and seller. They can provide critical information back to all departments as to the performance, reliability, and packaging of products and services of all types. The best sales processes find ways to incorporate this feedback into their systems.

 

Like what you read here? Share it with others or leave a comment below. Better yet, let’s start a conversation about how we can build or update your sales processes.

Keys To Understanding Situational Content Marketing

The right piece of content, be it a letter, email, phone call, tweet, e-book, etc., delivered at the right time can shorten the buying process dramatically and even completely convert an abandoned shopping cart into a purchase.

We all know that consumers want information. But where we fall short is identifying the what, how, and when they want it.

To put it succinctly; every industry, product, and process is entirely unique and requires careful attention to details and analytics. It also requires a deep understanding of human decision-making and the challenges we must overcome to get the sale.

Executing the content marketing strategy is best with a combination of automation, triggered events, semi-personalized, and completely personalized activities.

Know Your Audience:

Go beyond demographics and wants/needs that were aggregated by market research. Not all females age 25-40 with liberal arts college degrees, careers paying 35K-60K, living in a specific zip code think the same way – whether they have children, or do not. Nor do they face the same challenges or opportunities.

Stop using demographics and begin using true engagement information.

Digital media allows us to get hyper-specific in attracting audiences that are aligned around actual situations, lifestyle choices, and preferences. We often find that audiences that think and behave similarly have widely different demographics.

Knowing who they are and how they want to communicate is a key aspect to curating content for them. We all want to be appreciated and engage with information that is relevant to us. An easy way to make content feel personal is to make it personable.

Rather than writing content about selling a product (solving a problem they have); one option is to write about how YOU had a problem that was solved by the product. Use the marketing research info to confidently know which problems exist, how they appear, and how solutions are found.

By writing/expressing how you personally had a challenge, you become more peer-trustworthy. Prospects and suspects don’t want to be sold! We want our problems solved – preferably by someone who understands the cost/frustrations first-hand. With this as a start, incorporate your own personality or the ‘company brand’ in ways that are not forced.

Know Your Products:

No marketing tricks or gimmicks will ever replace intimate knowledge of products. This is considerably more than the facts and figures on the brochure and sales materials. It comes from real-world applications and personal stories.

Are you able to explain how the products work – on an engineer level, user level, buyer level, CEO/CFO level? Where do the products provide superior performance, moderate performance, and NO PERFORMANCE whatsoever? How do they compare to top competitors, bottom competitors, as well as their status quo? Be able to share stories of unexpected ways customers have pushed well beyond design expectations .

Be able to navigate between multiple products that are combined together into a cohesive portfolio that allows each one’s strengths makes the others’ weakness non-issues. This works weather you are selling socket sets, wrenches, and pliers; 401k, Roth IRA, Traditional IRA; or application functionalities across phones, tablets, desktops. Make it make sense to the buyer.

Know Your Process:

Understand the various stages of the decision-making process and use them as goals for progress and action. There is a big difference between encouraging someone to exchange contact information, subscribe to marketing automation, attend a free webinar, reserve time for a sales conversation, or close a 6-figure deal for integrating products and services.

Each should be handled differently. Depending on the product/industry, some of these can be automated, while others should be highly personalized. Some should be handled by different personalities, people, or departments.

 

 

What is written here is essentially the tip of a proverbial iceberg and there is much more to discuss and customize. Connect with me here and I am happy to have a conversation with you about ways to incorporate this into your marketing and sales efforts.

How To Create Alignment In Your Organization

Before we can think about creating it, we should spend a moment or two making sure we know what it is. My favorite definitions are: A position of agreement or common understanding; Consistency across or a coming together of different ideas; An arrangement of groups in relation to each other.

In simple terms; misalignment CAUSES stress while alignment REDUCES it.

Step 1: Be Authentic

Alignment among groups and organizations is not about how well people can pretend. It is about truly connecting an internal belief that you value with an one shared by the organization. It is about finding common ground, not compromising it.

In business, leadership, sales, and any other personal relationship; alignment is a constant state of fluidity being reinforced and destroyed with every single action by all involved. Being natural and authentic is the easiest way to offer personal consistency. It is what you live outside of the ‘9-5’ that matters more than what you do and say at work.

Step 1.5: Have A Core Purpose.

This applies equally to individuals and organizations. You cannot have alignment if at least one party is unsure of the things that matter to them. Invest the time to put it into words – however rough or awkward they may sound.

A core purpose helps filter and unify the skills and contributions of people by providing a framework of what is to happen. Functions and tasks of the job easily become ways each of us go about fulfilling or living the organization’s core purpose.

Profit and money are not your purpose. Period. They are poor approximations of value, connection, and trust.

Step 1.75: Share It With Others.

It is pointless to have a purpose if it doesn’t excite you to the point of nearly bursting at the seams to share it with others! So start sharing it already.

Know that sharing your purpose is an open-ended invitation for others to critique it as well as tell you theirs. That is the beauty of it all though. Through these exchanges, we constantly update and refine our purposes while we are exposed to new ideas. You will undoubtedly want to add some aspects you hear from someone else.

Step 2: Repeat. 

State your purpose and values three times daily for 60 days, then twice daily for another 60, followed by the first thing in morning for another 60. This repetition not only helps you refine your purpose, it is crucial to being an authentic reflection of who you are and what you believe.

Just as you start to get bored with it, you’ll get find yourself in a situation that challenges you – either reinforcing or shifting your values.

I had a client ask if I was interested in a project that would put a great deal of money in my pocket and increase my status in an industry. It was perfectly legal, but didn’t align with my purpose. When I gave my reasons for respectfully declining, I was instantly applauded for the display of integrity. We both still have great respect for each other though we haven’t done business together in over a decade.

In case you are interested: My purpose is to engage people, create value, and grow businesses. It has been an exciting 20 year work-in-progress and I anticipate another 20 years of the same pleasure.

 

Do you want help discovering your organization’s core purpose? Connect with me here and I will be happy to discretely offer my assistance.