Humanising – the real value of Real Time

Real Time Marketing and PR“Our people are our greatest asset.”

“Our differentiator is our relationships.”

“Product X is great but it’s our people and our culture that really makes the difference.”

“Our competitors could walk into this place and look around. They can even copy everything we do, but they can’t copy our culture or our people.”

Have you ever heard these statements? I have. Many times.

David Meerman Scott (in Real Time Marketing and PR) has nailed a fundamental shift in communication:

…the web has actually brought communication back full circle to where we were a century ago… communication is once again real, personal and authentic… word of mouth has regained its historic power…

Humanise your company.

If you believe these statements, if you truly believe them, then place your trust in your people and culture, and let them wow the world. Give them the tools – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and whatever else is next – to share that very same culture and grow those same relationships – in real time.

If your people and culture can’t be copied then surely that is the one thing you can fearlessly make public.

88 tips for business – Rework reworked (a reminder list)

Rework book coverRework is a string of 88 short essays by Jason Fried and David Heinmeier Hansson – the founders of 37signals.com (we are big fans of their products Highrise, Basecamp, Campfire and Backpack at Bluewire Media).

It’s a gem, so I thought I’d write a one line summary of the 88 to remind me.

If you don’t want to read the lot, here’s the themes I took out of it:

  1. Never accept the status quo/age old wisdom/rule of thumb without seriously asking “Why?”
  2. Simplify [I really like Jason Fried’s Twitter credo: It’s simple until you make it complicated]
  3. Break BIG into small
  4. Be personal and real

For those who want the details…

Rework reminder list:

First:

  1. The new reality: You don’t have to work 80hr weeks in an office – you can work from anywhere in the world with people from all over the world.

Takedowns:

  1. Ignore the real world: “That would never work in the real world” is an excuse.
  2. Learning from mistakes is overrated: “When something succeeds, you know what worked – and you can do it again.”
  3. Planning is guessing: Contemplate the future, but don’t obsess about it – there are far too many variables to accurately predict it.
  4. Why grow?: Maybe the right size for your company is 5/40/100.
  5. Workaholism: “The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.”
  6. Enough with “entrepreneurs”: “You just need an idea, a touch of confidence, and a push to get started.”

Go:

  1. Make a dent in the universe: Make a difference
  2. Scratch your own itch: Solve your own problem.
  3. Start making something: Ideas are abundant, execution is what counts.
  4. No time is no excuse: If you really want something, you’ll make time.
  5. Draw a line in the sand: Know what you do and know what you don’t do.
  6. Mission statement impossible: Your actions speak much louder than your words.
  7. Outside money  is Plan Z: Spending other people’s money has a noose attached.
  8. You need less than you think: How would you do it with $0 to spend?
  9. Start a business, not a startup: All businesses, sooner or later, have to make a profit.
  10. Building to flip is building to flop: “You need a commitment strategy, not an exit strategy.”
  11. Less mass: Lean business = responsive, quick to change and flexible.

Progress:

  1. Embrace constraints: Constraints force creativity
  2. Build half a product, not a half-assed product: “Getting to great starts by cutting out the stuff that’s merely good”.
  3. Start at the epicenter: Begin with the stuff you have to do.
  4. Ignore the details early on: Get the big picture right first – details will come later.
  5. Making the call is making progress: “Decide and move forward.”
  6. Be a curator: “It’s the stuff you leave out that matters.”
  7. Throw less at the problem: Trim down the problem first.
  8. Focus on what won’t change: Timeless desires, not what’s hot and new.
  9. Tone is in your fingers: Equipment is often a crutch and never a shortcut.
  10. Sell your by products: Spot by-products and see opportunities.
  11. Launch now: Additional features can come later.

Productivity:

  1. Illusions of agreement: Get real with your ideas – draw, build, hum.
  2. Reasons to quit: Keep asking: “Why am I doing this?”, “Is there an easier way?”
  3. Interruption is the enemy of productivity: Switch everything off and get more alone time.
  4. Meetings are toxic: Agenda, set a timer, few people, be specific, have action items.
  5. Good enough is fine: Maximum result with minimum effort.
  6. Quick wins: Smaller tasks + more frequent celebrations!
  7. Don’t be a hero: Ask for help before investing more time.
  8. Go to sleep: It helps.
  9. Your estimates suck: Break big projects into small projects.
  10. Long lists don’t get done: Make smaller ones and prioritise visually.
  11. Make tiny decisions: “Small decisions mean you can afford to change”.

Competitors:

  1. Don’t copy: You can’t lead by copying.
  2. Decommoditise your product: Pour yourself into your product and everything around it.
  3. Pick a fight: Taking a stand always stands out
  4. Underdo your competition: What you don’t do is just as important as what you do.
  5. Who cares what they’re doing?: Set your own parameters.

Evolution:

  1. Say no by default: But don’t be a jerk about it.
  2. Let your customers outgrow you: Stay true to a type of customer rather than an individual customer.
  3. Don’t confuse enthusiasm with priority: Write your idea down, wait a few days, then evaluate priority.
  4. Be at-home good: Your product needs to get better with use.
  5. Don’t write it down: Listen to your customers, they’ll keep reminding you when something really matters.

Promotion:

  1. Welcome obscurity: You can take more risks/test more options when no-one’s watching.
  2. Build an audience: You won’t have to buy their attention, you’ll have earned it, so they’ll give it to you.
  3. Out-teach your competition: Teaching = trust and respect.
  4. Emulate chefs: Share your “cookbook” (your IP).
  5. Go behind the scenes: Show people how your business works
  6. Nobody likes plastic flowers: Don’t be afraid to show your flaws.
  7. Press releases are spam: Be specific and personal with your approach to a journo.
  8. Forget about the Wall Street Journal: Niche media often produces higher levels of direct activity.
  9. Drug dealers get it right: Give a little away up front – they’ll come back for more.
  10. Marketing is not a department: Marketing is something everyone in your company is doing 24/7/365.
  11. The myth of the overnight sensation: “Trade the dream of overnight success for slow, measured growth.”

Hiring:

  1. Do it yourself first: That way you’ll understand the nature of the work.
  2. Hire when it hurts: What happens if you don’t hire to replace?
  3. Pass on great people: It is much worse to have people on staff who aren’t doing anything meanful.
  4. Strangers at a cocktail party: Hire slowly.
  5. Resumes are ridiculous: Use a cover letter and what they’ve actually shipped.
  6. Years of irrelevance: Experience is irrelevant – what matters is how well they do it.
  7. Forget about formal education: Classroom smart doesn’t necessarily give you what you need.
  8. Everybody works: Small team means everyone has to do work, not delegate it.
  9. Hire managers of one: Motivated people set manage themselves.
  10. Hire great writers: Clear writing = clear thinking.
  11. The best are everywhere: Use people from all over the world, then meet in person every now and again.
  12. Test drive employees: You only really get to know someone when you work side by side with them.

Damage control:

  1. Own your bad news: Acknowledge, Apologise, Act.
  2. Speed changes everything: Answer quickly and personally.
  3. How to say you’re sorry: Accept responsibility, use “I”.
  4. Put everyone on the front lines: Don’t protect the people doing the work from customer feedback.
  5. Take a deep breath: Listen to complaints about change then take a breath before you respond/change again.

Culture:

  1. You don’t create a culture: You live and breathe it, then it will happen.
  2. Decisions are temporary: You can change a decision when the circumstances change.
  3. Skip the rockstars: Create a great workplace, and you’ll attract great people.
  4. They’re not thirteen: Treat staff with respect and trust – it will be reciprocated.
  5. Send people home at 5: You don’t need more hours, you need better hours.
  6. Don’t scar on the first cut: Don’t create a policy straight away – communicate first.
  7. Sound like you: Write, talk like you do to a specific person/target.
  8. Four letter words: Easy, Need, Can’t – don’t use ’em.
  9. ASAP is poison: Save your urgency for when you truly need it.

Conclusion:

  1. Inspiration is perishable: Take it and use it when it’s there, because it won’t be forever.

Implementing Role Practice – A 24 second Why to and How to Guide for Business

A friend of mine asked me a question the other day:

What are the most important things you’ve implemented in your business?

It got me thinking…

So I’m starting a series of posts to answer the question. For the time being, I won’t put an order of importance on them but that might come later. This is the first.

Implementation Series – Post #1 – Role Practice

24 second summary:

Why to:

At a MINIMUM, Role Practice helps you and your staff improve: confidence in challenging situations, consistency in approach & knowledge sharing.

How to:

  1. Choose 3 people to play three roles: Salesperson, prospect, observer
  2. Choose a scenario and act it out (change roles/scenarios regularly)
  3. Everyone gives feedback on performance
  4. Practice 15 – 30 mins daily
  5. Apply it to all aspects of your business: customer service, HR, networking etc.

Resources:

Bluewire Media – Scenarios for Role Practice (PDF 100KB)

Details:

Jack Daly
Jack Daly

The back story:

“Role practice” sounds a bit funny because it’s a mixture of words.

Role play + practice = role practice.

Adam and I were introduced to the concept at a seminar by Jack Daly – a sales coach from the US. The idea behind role practice rather than role play, is to get better each and every time. All skills require practice to get improvements and that was why Jack distinguished the two.

You can check 2 quick video interviews with Jack on our Bluewire Media blog: 4 gigs from facebook; #1 sales tip.

[Aside: I liked the “game” of his tagline: “If you think you know sales, you haven’t met Jack!”]

Chet Holmes – another sales guru – was really big on it in his book too: The Ultimate Sales Machine.

What is Role Practice?

It’s a group exercise to practice sales, customer service, HR or any other situations that you and your staff have to face.

How to run a Role Practice session:

I’ll use sales as an example.

Firstly pick a group of 3 people (2 is sufficient though) to participate in the following roles:

  1. Sales person
  2. Prospect
  3. Observer – to offer feedback to person 1. Often they learn the most from a session.

(If you only have 2 people, then the “Prospect” can also act as the “Observer”. If you have 4 people, you can have 2 Observers.)

Then choose a topic (eg initial consultation, sales phone call etc) and everyone plays their part.

Over time, you can throw as many curve balls as you like to increase the difficulty of the scenario.

Learning:

The best way to evaluate is to ask the sales person to assess their own performance based on 3 questions:

  • What do you think you did well?
  • What do you think could be improved?
  • What do you think you’d do differently next time?

Then ask the Prospect and Observer roles for their feedback based on these questions too.

How can you implement this?

Here’s how we did it:

  1. Made a Bluewire Media – Scenarios for Role Practice (PDF 100KB) that we need to practice and stuck it on the office wall.
  2. Choose 1 topic each Monday at our Weekly Meeting.
  3. Role practice daily from Tuesday – Friday (15 – 30 mins after our 9:05am Daily Huddle).

[Aside: The 9:05am Daily Huddle and Weekly Meeting routines is an idea from Verne Harnish – I’ll definitely be covering this in a later post in this series]

I’d also really recommend applying this not only to your sales process but to your customer service process – or in fact any other part of your business where staff face difficult situations.

We’ve applied it to:

  • Answering angry phone calls from clients
  • Sales calls
  • Initial consultations
  • Chairing meetings (slight tweak – we ask the questions after they have chaired an internal meeting – eg the Weekly)
  • Networking at a Bluewire Media event
  • Lots of others: see full list

Results:

  1. Massive confidence boost for all of us in situations we find challenging (which will be different for each person)
  2. Consistency in approach to customer service
  3. Knowledge sharing among staff for best practice

My favourite part? It’s simple to start.