Business Secret, Learning From Mistakes, Marketing

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Most of my entrepreneur clients, at some point in our coaching relationship, want me to help them more clearly refine their marketing plan. In an earlier blog article I emphasized the need for a specific and excessively detailed description of the target market. Clearly, this is the most important component of a marketing plan that really works. I am always amazed at how long it takes for that “blinding flash of the obvious” moment when my client sees the importance of the targeting exercise.

Right behind targeting, is the incredible opportunity to auger into the mind of the prospect and how they make a buying decision. The absolute best way to think about this is to do a brain-dump and write down a long list of the fears and frustrations that your prospects have when contemplating purchasing your product or service.

Ask yourself, what do your prospects worry about, or have been previously disappointed by you and your competitors?

This is really hard for business owners to jump into the psyche of their prospects and to be on the other side of the transaction. Why? Well, it’s because we are distracted and blinded by our preconceived thoughts of what works and what doesn’t.

So, what does an entrepreneur do? Write down and refine your list. Interview your employees to validate and expand your list. Ask a few of your trusted clients for their input. Seek out the thoughts of your neighbors, spouse, friends, and colleagues, and expand your list. Prioritize that list of fears and frustrations from high to low.

What typically happens is that the list that the owner writes down differs from what you get from your friends and folks that aren’t emotionally involved in your business. Don’t dismiss what outsiders tell you because they are an objective perception from the marketplace and they are potentially your future clients.

Once you get a wider perspective of how your prospect views your business pitch, you can tailor your message to address the concerns.

Here is the key thought…..write this down……your marketing messaging should then overtly emphasize the solution to their fears and frustrations. This could be your slogan, your pitch, and your unique selling proposition.

When you can obliterate the conscious concerns of your prospect, your message becomes more effective and clarifies the reasons that they use to choose you.

Brilliant and easy to do, provided that you have the courage to ask rather than assume.

Coach Dave

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Business Coaching, Business Secret, High Performance, Influence for Success, Leader Development, Learning From Mistakes

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There is a tremendous amount of “psychobabble” out there about the keys to personal success. Lots of quick-fix soothsayers that have the mystical magic cure. I generally subscribe to the theory that you have to prove it to me before I believe it. Call me a cynic or call me cautious, but I have signed up to this idea because it just makes sense and I have seen my client business leaders win using it.

Be – Do – Have

The idea is…….If you want to have something different in your life than you have today, you need to be a different person and do some different things.

Sounds pretty straight forward but here is an example that might improve the optics.

A mid-term CEO yearns for better business results and she has exhausted her ideas about what to do. So instead of a predictable laser like focus on doing more new stuff, her better investment is finding ways to be a different type of leader. An introspective look at who she is and what she stands for is probably the key to garnering support and momentum. Her team will respond quicker and more passionately to a different honest and open style than just layering on more initiatives. Working on herself will be the most effective route, although the pundits (and her training) will say this is the soft and squishy HR stuff.

Most of us are trained to sort through the chaff and to get to the tactical things that we can measure. Many times this is the correct approach, but I encourage you to think introspectively about how effective you are as a leader.

So how do you know what might work? Find a mentor that is courageous. Listen to an objective colleague that will tell you the truth. Hire a coach and take the assessments that will benchmark your skills. Regardless of your decision, get another perspective and strongly consider that the key to getting better results may be in your mindset and what you telegraph to your team. Get some objective and honest help and be more successful.

Coach Dave

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Business Secret, Learning From Mistakes, Marketing

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So many of the entrepreneurs that I work with are stunned when I help them discover how they waste most of their marketing funds. The question that baffles the best and brightest is…..

 

“Describe in detail who you are trying to sell to”

What happens next is a stuttering, one-size- fits- all description of a high level list of all of the possible markets. This is so wrong and let me show you why.

The secret sauce of marketing is for the CEO/Owner to clearly define, in agonizing detail, EXACTLY who is in the sweet spot of the market. This shouldn’t be a generic “we sell to everyone” but a clear highly granular description of the suspects.

Include their demographics, their geography, their buying attributes, what they are like, what they look like, what they drive, how they vote, what they wear, what their politics are, what their interests are, what magazines they read, what they like to buy online, what is aspirational to them, where they eat and what they eat, etc. When one of my clients say they have it all, they only have a third of what they really need to describe.

So, if you want to get the most out of your marketing investment, start with a world-class exhausting analysis of who that target market really is.

The message and the call to action offer is insignificant to the work that you do here.

Trust me on this one. And by the way, an efficient way to save your marketing dollars is to hire me to help you figure it out.

Coach Dave

 

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Building a Better Team, Efficient Processes, Execution, High Performance, Influence for Success

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I recently watched a musical group rehearsal and I was especially interested in the method that the conductor used to carefully evolve improved competency. He insisted that the group sight-read the entire piece of music, all the way through. regardless of how many mistakes were made (and clearly there was many). He drove the group to finish the piece completely the first time through even though the musicians were frustrated and their confidence was low. Once the first run through was complete, he praised the group for their patience and found several ways to compliment the musicians even though it was hard to find much good.

The conductor immediately went to the hardest passage in the music where there were many problems and patiently worked each section through their individual parts until they were more confident. Amazingly, the quality of the performance had improved significantly.

The next step was to go to second most troublesome part of the music and he did the same. This was repeated and the quality progressed until all of the tough parts of the score were at an equal level of competence.

From there it was back to a complete run-through of the music to discover where he needed to teach and reinforce. In the end, the consistent doubling back to the problem areas, coupled with constructive encouragement, allowed confidence to soar and ultimately deliver a near flawless performance.

My guess is that you have just quickly compared my story to how you and your team manage employee performance. So let’s recap what will work for you and your business.

1. When teaching a new method or process run through the entire process completely and look for good things to say

2. Find the most troubling area that needs work and drill until it’s good

3. Go to the next most troublesome area and do the same

4. Reinforce, cajole, encourage, and raise expectations.

5. Enjoy the applause

Coach Dave

 

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Business Secret, Communication, Execution, High Performance

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Dr. Paul Berman

Dr. Paul Berman, a former client and friend, passed on unexpectedly earlier this month leaving a large group of grieving family members and colleagues, shocked patients, and a thriving medical practice.

Dr. Paul was one of those bigger-than-life guys who filled the room with his personality. He had a booming voice, a commanding presence, and was relentless about finding ways to help the folks that fell through the cracks of our society. He sported an alpha male’s loud and aggressive bark, but after you sorted past the charming take-charge bluster, his huge empathetic heart was clear to see. I will miss Dr. Paul.

One of the gifts that he gave me was a simple lesson from his medical school training. He explained that in med school, students are taught using this method..

“Watch one, do one, teach one.”

I was struck by the simplicity of this concept, yet it presents a real challenge for business owners and executives. I have watched many of us abbreviate this sequence and ultimately miss a chance to impact performance. All too often we execute on the watch and do parts done, but we forget that real learning comes from the teaching part.

So, if you really want to cement learning and mold your team to think differently, ask them to teach you what they learned. You and I are then presented with the opportunity to shape, through careful coaching, how they will teach others.

A simple but effective lesson for this coach and hopefully for you also. Thanks for the lesson, Dr. Paul!

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Business Secret, Efficient Processes, Productivity, Time/Self Management

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If you are like most of us human-types, you struggle trying to stay organized and ahead of your tasks and deadlines. Many times, we find that our sense of well-being and accomplishment is how many things we get done instead of the quality of what we achieve. We get into checklist mode and bask in the flow of released endorphins when we cross out another item on our to-do lists. “More is better” is usually how we keep score. Let’s call these tasks the “urgent and not important”.

The dirty little secret is: our businesses and careers would be better off if we stay diligent finishing the really critical stuff. Let’s call this the “Not urgent but very important”.

To prove my point, I just read a study that said that when business people leave their email open while they are at work, they change their tasks 37 times per hour.

So instead of staying focused doing the really important tasks that require a longer period of sustained focus, we jump around like a hummingbird drinking expresso. Sure, we get things done, but it is only transactional accomplishments.

The moral of the story is this. If you want to accomplish the really big and important tasks that add value to your business and career, close down your email and reopen it only at specific times during the day. Additionally, be courageous and get away from your desk and go someplace where you can concentrate on the tougher more time consuming work. Your success may hang in the balance. Be brave!

Coach Dave

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Blind Spots, Building a Better Team, Business Secret, Communication, Execution, High Performance, Uncategorized

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I love coaching business owners and executives. I love the variety and that I can really help my clients.  Every hourly appointment has some sort of new fresh twist and sometimes a bizarre problem that gives me pause. (What still amazes me is that even after all of the years working with leaders, new stuff happens.).

What never changes is this really simple idea that transcends the size of businesses and the type of business or industry.

Ready for a profound kernel of knowledge?  Here goes:

Your people don’t understand how their work contributes to the success of the business and therefore they don’t execute on what you expect.

I am telling you the truth and I am not simplifying the problem.  Sure, you might rationalize that the big division that you run is so complex that folks in non-managerial jobs just won’t get it. Conversely, if you run a small business, most folks think that it should be easier to synchronize staff with your business vision & plan.

The fact is that both small and large, strong and weak, have a huge opportunity to improve momentum, execution and profitability.

Try this:  ask a random sample of your team to tell you about the top three company initiatives and why this is important.  You are going to be startled at what you learn.

Even better, after you have been in front of your team to teach and inspire, ask a few of the attendees to tell you what they heard you say was important.  My guess is that you will want to call me to help you be more effective in communicating your expectations and get your team linked to your goals.

As the saying goes, “communication is the response that you get”.

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Balanced Lifestyles, Blind Spots, Building a Better Team, Execution, High Performance, Learning From Mistakes, Managing Pressure & Stress, Self Management, Taking Time to Think

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It's not the Goal, it's the Journey

I remember from Driver’s Ed many, many years ago that concept of driving at a high speed and then slowing to normal traffic speeds and then the really weird feeling that driving slow in normal traffic was waaaayyyy tooooo sloooowww. The experts call this…being velocitized.

I see this frequently in business leaders. The hard-charging, over-achieving executive has adapted her lifestyle to an incredibly fast hybrid blend of business and family life. She has morphed, and evolved, from a normal pace, to a super-human rhythm that appears to work for her, but leaves her colleagues, employees, and family literally blown into the roadside ditch from her considerable momentum.

As a culture, we admire energetic, high-impact, bigger than life leaders. We respect and admire the leaders that can be more than we can be. We also secretly wait for the fiery accident like a NASCAR fan.

The reason for this missive is that there is a serious disregarded negative effect on her organization. While she convinces herself that high speed action is good, her team prays for an introspective moment of clarity. They yearn for a chance to seek her counsel and advice. They hope for a few moments to better understand what they are supposed to do to fulfill her agenda.

I propose that most senior executives need to really consider how to downshift their exotic business “sports car” to a much lower gear. Let’s enjoy the open roof, roll down the windows, and soak up the sun & wind. I propose that you force yourself to take a bunch of excruciatingly slow laps around the track. You will be much more effective and you find balance, but more importantly your team will catch up to you. In the end, your success will always be measured by how effective your team executes, and not how fast you drove on the speedway.

You have been velocitized, and just like your Driver’s Ed instructor, I highly encourage you to slow down to the pace of the traffic around you.

Coach Dave

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Business Secret, Communication, Leadership, Team Dynamics

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There could be a fire raging below

Is there a fire below the surface?

 

I stumbled into a forest fire a few years ago in the mountains out west. You are picturing the blazing forests with exploding trees and flames leaping across roads like on the 10 o’clock news. What I hiked through was much different. The trees were gone, it was an amazingly beautiful day and there was over a foot of snow on the ground, yet there was a huge fire burning beneath the soil. Amazingly, I walked through this huge mountainside, with little evidence that a fire was burning for many months under the surface and under the snow. The only indication was the occasional column of smoke venting into the sunny day. Can you imagine an underground fire, with little showing, and the end was nowhere in sight?

Cut to the next scene. I recently spent a day in a company that was quietly torn apart from two dysfunctional leaders that couldn’t agree on strategy, or just about anything. At face value, everything was fine. Yet, under the surface, there was a raging fire of discontent, conflicting school-boy egos, terrible direction, and a company in disrepair. To the outsider, everything was fine. To the staff, and the long-term customers, there was a spiraling swirling motion always found in commode. In a sense, a raging firestorm of a bad culture and stunted growth much like the underground forest fire. Both examples will wreak devastation. One on the ecosystem, and the other denoting the end of a business.

I will never know how the forest fire was started or how it manifested itself underground. What I do know is how to correct the really poor behavior and decisions in a business that lead to the erosion of the soul of an organization.

Many leaders refute the power of the “softer side” of running a business. They downplay the importance of a vibrant culture, or a mission/vision statement, or performance evaluations, or mentoring, or courageous, optimistic encouragement. If you want to prevent the below-the-surface fire in your organization, do the hard work now. You don’t have the time, manpower, or money to put out the fire if it burns below the surface.

Do the right thing now!

Coach Dave

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Blind Spots, Building a Better Team, Business Secret, High Performance, Identifying Talent, Leader Development, Learning From Mistakes

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Who Do I Pick to Lead?As a corporate leader, I have made a ton of mistakes over the years and one of the biggest has been one of hubris. I believed that I was personally capable of reshaping all below average performers into future superstars. Sorry about the gender reference, but one of the prevailing theories within my company at the time was…..”It takes a man to make a man.” Wrong as it seems today, I hope you get the gist of the idea. For years, I believed that it was my responsibility to create future leaders out of raw clay.

I admit that I am a card-carrying member of the “half full” vs. “half empty” club, so I am by nature an optimist. Unfortunately, my personal view on life has sometimes clouded my objectivity about people. Gosh that really hurt, to write that…..

What I have learned, the hard way, is that most people are predisposed to a certain personality type, behavior, and limited by their aptitude and attitude. We as leaders must simply be overtly objective about their capabilities and their ability to lead.

I admit that I have always loved hard working people that are driven to exceed. In fact, I am one so I am naturally attracted to people like me. The danger is to overlook the flat-bellied hard-charger’s dominating desire and tenaciousness, to decide if the leadership traits outweigh their limitations.

In the end, smart wins. Especially street-smart people.

In the end, passionate people win.

In the end, the ability to honestly and genuinely influence and motivate teammates wins.

In the end, those with strategic capability beat those that work within their current situation.

If you have someone on your team, that when you describe them, you rationalize their shortcomings, you need to punch yourself in the face and seriously consider an upgrade.

If you have someone on your team that you find yourself thinking about moving to a new position because it’s a better fit, you are a wimp and you need to deal with the problem today.

If you have someone on your team, that you have described as…”he/she isn’t hurting us”. Go right to a door and bang your head against it, and then make the right decision.

Just because you are in charge, does not make you infallible. You can’t “make” leaders. What you can do is create an environment that develops leaders like a factory line. You can set up supportive systems that grow leaders. You can surround yourself with tough, people-first, goal oriented direct reports. You can, and should invest personally in shaping the next generation.

But…keep it simple, be honest with yourself, and trust your instincts.

Coach Dave

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