He’s Just Not That Into You…

I headed up to Philly today to say goodbye to Jenny and Steve. Jenny’s visiting Steve as usual, before she heads back to NYC. They’re both my friends from Syracuse and they have a very complicated relationship.

While Steve was playing bball, Jen and I hung out at Starbucks and ended up having a conversation about our boy grumbles, as per usual. She complained about Steve and his commitment phobia, and I complained about Blake and my constant inability to understand how he feels about me.

Jenny was on a roll, when this older lady sitting behind us got up to go throw something away. As she stood up, she turned to Jenny and said “You just need to forget him! You should have boys begging to be with you. He’s crazy”

I exclaimed, “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell her!”

The nice lady came back from the trash can, and added that she needs to read that “He’s not into you book.” We chatted a bit, and when she left, she wished her good luck. “It’s a new year! Time to start fresh!”

Oh the wisdom you pick up from random Starbucks patrons.

I should really take the same advice. I told Blake I had some stuff to deliver to him, and he asked if I wanted to just mail it to him. Because apparently he’s not planning on seeing me when I get to LA in two days? Because he’d rather just text message me. All. The. Time.

But, you know, that’s it. Because it’s not like he cried when he said goodbye to me. Or texted that he missed me for weeks after he left.


How to Win Clients and Influence Customers

The pursuit of new business is an opportunity to shine on multiple levels. Think of a pitch as a mission in interpersonal relations mixed with a little bit of firsthand insight.

However, the only way to gain those new found tidbits of insider knowledge is to peel back layers of uncertainty and assumption.

Focus on getting to know the client on a level playing field.

What makes them tick?

Who are they as a person?

Here are five tips on winning opportunities of influence and driving new business outcomes:

  • Be personable.
  • Respect the suit.
  • Embrace the hustle.
  • Know your differentiator.
  • Be real.

A client is only as valuable as your commitment to look beyond the money.

Build meaning and win. Win big.

A More Meaningful Story

Every business is in the storytelling business. The ultimate challenge for brands of all types is crafting relevance along the journey of life. Consumers are seeking a meaningful story.

If we can somehow channel the best attributes of our existence as a brand, individual, or ideal then we will be equipped with the right tools to help share our story.

But sharing our story is only the beginning.

The next step in engagement is placing your audience at the center of attention.

How do we accomplish this?

By making your customer the lead character.

Take your audience on a journey of challenge, accomplishment, purpose, and success.

Doing so will unleash an immense arena of relevance and maybe even lead to fresh advocacy.

Here’s to the story. Make it a meaningful one.

What’s In a Brand Name?

The contextual testing of a brand name is a good exercise in directed effort.

Coming up with a name for a new or existing venture can be quite a challenge. Opinions may flourish. Winning ideas may get lost in the shuffle without some type of control mechanism.

Naming provides its participants with an opportunity to pull from history. The past, present, and future all play a role in naming. Inspiration is everywhere.

  • Language
  • Books
  • Technology
  • Science
  • Art
  • Color
  • Commerce
  • And so forth.

What are the attributes of a winning brand name? Perhaps, those are measured and explored over time. A closer look at the process of naming and its required techniques can help ease the journey.

The following are some exercises or ideas for coming up with the one:

  • Brainstorm using mind maps.
  • Test the name in context.
  • Say it out loud.
  • Put it everywhere.
  • Be methodical.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Play around.
  • Explore variety.
  • Capture everything.

The right name could mean the difference between success and failure and it is this simple truth that should drive all who are called to a more distinct approach.

Build brands that matter.

The Startup Pyramid of Needs

We might be familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs but are we in tune with the impact of relevance and resonance? Moving individuals from a point of awareness > interest > desire > action is a lot like Maslow’s pyramid, in that, it’s a process.

As entrepreneurs, we often face moments of inspiration and strive for immediate confirmation of our ideas. For it is the idea that sparks energy, commitment, and eventually, market validation.

However, an idea is just an idea.

But an idea that moves is much more powerful.

When canvassing your startup or business idea, do you strive for the top of the pyramid or basic foundational existence in the marketplace? This is an interesting question for several reasons.

At the Top of the Pyramid

The point of self-actualization is very similar to the question of Why? in Simon Sinek’s famous Ted talk. If you know why your business idea exists you’re well on your way. Always strive for a powerful why.

The Bottom of the Pyramid

At its most basic level, the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid is a case study in necessity. These are the fundamental needs that must be met before we can even ask why or move up the pyramid.

Winner: The bottom of the pyramid.

Here’s why:

Is your product a nice-to-have or a need-to-have type product?

Most would probably prefer need-to-have.

Now it’s up to you to sell why people simply cannot move forward without your product/service/widget and piece of startup awesomeness.

A Focus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the Central Coast

We must embrace and leverage rising trends to survive the changing landscape of technology. Silicon Valley is a popular post for new business growth and entrepreneurship but the fact remains that we must see Silicon Valley not as a destination but rather a mindset. Bringing this same mindset to the Central Coast was the topic of conversation during a recent Futures Forum event held by the Innovation Initiative of the Economic Alliance for Northern Santa Barbara County in Santa Maria, California. (Disclosure: I’m an active participant of this initiative.)

We are enabled with an immense opportunity to increase the vitality of our region and pioneer a new era of innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the Central Coast. Close to one hundred people gathered together at a state of the art facility located in the heart of the Santa Maria Valley. An old special efffects studio played home to our discussion on innovation and emerging trends. Topics included the rising influence of the Latino market, coworking spaces, innovative agriculture, open education, and of course, entrepreneurship.

A highlight of the Futures Forum included an effort to showcase a unique online ideas campaign aimed at sparking discussions around what locals see as the vision for the future of our region. Several exciting ideas shaped the conversation around what kinds of activities and levels of focus is desired including key participation from young professionals on a panel.

Another exciting highlight of the event was active participation by Simon Anderson, a Chief Futurist at Futur1st.com, consultant, speaker, and co-author of Foresight 20/20: A Futurist Explores the Trends Transforming Tomorrow.

A successful event featuring a virtual keynote fueled by real discussions is only the beginning of what expects to be a budding community of innovation, startups, economic vitality, and regional possibilities right here in Santa Maria, California!

The Ultimate Innovation Model

The race for impact and forward momentum often requires that decision makers invest in strategy and iteration. Several prominent models exist that help organizations from startups to Inc. 500’s navigate the waters of possibility. Appreciative Inquiry is one such model that has the potential to change both outcomes and organizational culture.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a capacity-building process that begins by valuing the organization and the culture in which it is embedded; by learning about the organization, its relationships, and its environment; and by identifying and building on existing strengths rather than examining in detail problems and deficiencies. Appreciative Inquiry puts organizations back in touch with their “deepest living values.” And it can help an organization create its niche by identifying its collective hopes and dreams and then designing a process for realizing them.

Appreciative Inquiry utilizes a unique model aimed at helping individuals focus on the positive and build upon what’s working. The 4D model is based on several steps that move the needle of progress.

a cycle of activities that guide members of an organization, group, or community through four stages: discovery – finding out about moments of excellence, core values, and best practices; dream – envisioning positive possibilities; design – creating the structure, processes, and relationships that will support the dream; and delivery – developing a plan for implementation.

The 4D model is a useful tool for startups as they move through iteration and its build–measure–learn steps or for organizations seeking an alternative to traditional plan–do–check–act plateaus.

AI is typically thought of as a “soft” strategy used in creating organizational visions, aligning groups, and building cultures. – The Art of Appreciative Inquiry by Theodore Kinni

Appreciative Inquiry is an innovative approach that should rightly find its place in the toolbox of decision makers and champions of opportunity.

The Multiplicity of Integration

It’s 6 a.m. and you hit the alarm clock and do a quick check of your smartphone for any updates. After freshening up, you probably listen to the radio to get in the spirit of things. A few minutes later, you probably check your smartphone again before and during breakfast. On the way to work, you turn on the radio and listen to your favorite station.

Now count the number of times have you encountered or interacted with media? And we’re just talking about the early morning hours!

We live in a society where information and media permeate our daily activities. The most fascinating element of our journey is how we seamlessly transition from one form of media to another with ease.

Smart business folk and leading marketers understand that we live in a fragmented marketplace where numerous channels (radio-newspapers-magazines-internet-mobile-billboards-etc.) present many opportunities to engage consumers.

Integrated marketing communications helps to bring orchestration and control to an otherwise uncontrollable arena.

The field of integrated marketing communications “involves the process of planning, executing, evaluating, and controlling the use of various promotional-mix elements to effectively communicate with target audiences.

We’re not just talking about the 4P’s of marketing but rather a mindset and unique approach to synergies in brand communication touchpoints. Every brand has a unique narrative. Integrated marketing communications comprises multiple elements that ensure a consistent message across various marketing channels.

That’s why social media is so popular! Social media is comprised of many tools, technologies, and networks that allow for meaningful interactions. The key, however, is to see social media as just one small part of a much bigger integrated marketing communications approach. Even within the arena of digital media we find opportunities for and levels of integration.

By providing multiple channels for users to talk with you, you let customers choose the channel they’re most comfortable with. And by doing that, you increase the likelihood that they’ll connect with your brand in any number of ways. (How to Make Money with Social Media)

A strategic approach fueled by a hub of optimized touchpoints can help businesses engage consumers who are constantly in a state of media flux. Let’s do them a favor by offering controlled value-added content across multiple touchpoints in a convenient manner.

Cause Marketing and Collaborative Impact

What do you get when you put a bunch of nonprofit stakeholders in a room for close to three hours?

Ideas, possibilities, and good intentions.

Being in a room full of local nonprofit leaders is a journey in lessons learned. I recently had the opportunity to participate in a collaborative impact session aimed at joining the resources of the Central Coast’s local nonprofit community. As a huge fan of collaboration, communication, and cause marketing, it was rewarding to be in a room full of people passionate about causes.

The aura we find in a room full of not-for-profit minded individuals is somewhat different from that of a room full of profit oriented marketers but that is, of course, to be expected. It’s also very debatable when we consider the fact that storytelling works regardless of profit orientation.

Several individuals in the room took the time to talk about the issues of the past and how individuals tend to get sidetracked by good ideas and unique possibilities. Some touted the fact that the cause marketing arena tends to revolve around a follow-the-leader (consultant, in this case) type mentality as opposed to focusing on collaborative impact and tangible results.

Questions raised included:

  • How do we align our resources?
  • What are some ways to move the needle of engagement forward?
  • Who are our cause champions?
  • How do we reach our communities?

You can imagine what it must have felt like for a brand strategist/communications specialist/digital marketing agency guy passionate about the role of branding in cause marketing to sit quietly.

Trust me when I say that a bullhorn couldn’t have been more appropriate.

A bullhorn would have allowed me to communicate in grand fashion the importance of branding and digital engagement in cause marketing. I would have loved to have had my hands on some maracas! Nonprofits throughout the Central Coast of California have common goals and some are leading the charge in how to effectively engage in cause marketing. But the truth of the matter is that there is what some (a cool dude in the audience) termed an issue with bridging the gap of motivated people, medieval institutions, and high powered technology.

How do we bridge the gap?

What are some ways to connect and engage our communities in today’s offline and digital environments?

Visibility marketing built on the synergies of social media, storytelling, branding, and strategic communications.

That’s how!

Why Social Media Crisis Management is Critical to Your Brand

The speed of technology combined with the power of word-of-mouth activity creates a volatile marketplace for today’s brands. The communication environment we find ourselves in is by no means an arena for the faint of heart. Audiences are savvy, connected, and armed with the exponential maginitism of social media.

For many brands, a crisis is bound to occur. It might be small in nature such as a simple miscommunication or grandiose in scope. Think BP, Carnival Cruises etc. These are all of course very unfortunate events and my heart goes out to those affected. Nonetheless, what this reminds us as communication specialists is that no matter the size or level of a crisis consumers are tapped in to who we are, the things we broadcast, and what we stand for as a brand.

There’s a label that should be attached to every single social network focused on people.

“Handle with care.”