Posts tagged ‘Communication’

In Business, Are You a Sunflower or a Wallflower?

Sunflower or wallflower in businessBarbara Walters famously – or infamously – asked Katherine Hepburn, “What kind of tree are you?” in response to a comment from Hepburn. So now I ask you: In your business life, what kind of flower are you? Are you a sunflower or a wallflower? While it might seem that the correct answer should be a sunflower (the official flower of nudism, right?), the truth is that you can succeed as either type.

Tour any greenhouse or plant nursery and you’ll see that flowers and plants are typically classified as being most likely to thrive in one of three conditions: full sun, full shade, or part sun/part shade. The same is true for business professionals, I think. Some of us thrive with full exposure to the limelight, some of us do our best work when cloistered away from the mainstream, while still others (like me) do best with a mix of conditions. Knowing the difference can put you on the path to happiness and success. Let’s take a closer look:

Many businesses – particularly retail and highly competitive service businesses – need lots of exposure to lots of eyeballs just to stay alive, let alone reach for the sky. Owners of these businesses are often sunflower types, clawing for the sun and drawing energy from being in the spotlight. But even sunflowers can’t do it all. In this age of so much competition for attention and “mind share”, personal burnout can come early and hard for those who work too hard, try to do too much, and, well, climb too close to the sun. To attain and maximize exposure without inviting burnout, sunflower business owners should enlist the services of creative professionals to help them spread the word about their businesses. These creative professionals can add valuable perspective as they create ad campaigns and online content, as well as manage social media communities.

Other business professionals – the wallflowers – tend to be more comfortable out of the mainstream, out of the spotlight. These might include entrepreneurs running virtual businesses or other work-from-home enterprises. They might be artists. They might be artisans creating unique items for niche markets. Regardless of the creative process, a common characteristic for successful wallflower-driven businesses is that they are often best built and maintained through local referrals, word-of-mouth, or tight-knit online communities. No need for big ad budgets; just a small army of local and vocal fans.

And then there are the hybrids, those of us who seek the spotlight at times, but also need to retreat into a virtual cocoon to do our best work for our clients. We benefit from occasional moments in large groups, but also from professional strategic alliances, person-to-person networking, and social media prospecting followed by personal outreach. Creative and consulting businesses like mine do well with this mix, as do personal service companies.

So… Are you a sunflower or a wallflower? If your personal entrepreneurial and leadership style fit the exposure requirements in your industry, chances are you’ll be comfortable in that skin. If not, you should consider seeking help from others with the right personality types to augment your own. Regardless of whether you thrive in the sun or the shade – and regardless of whether your business is currently blooming or wilting – with the right approach you can, indeed, achieve success undressed!

Bob

Less is More, or Finding Focus in the Art of Subtraction

Michaelangelo David Statue Nude“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

I was inspired to rediscover this quote from Michelangelo upon bringing into our home an ornately carved Asian coffee table. My partner inherited the piece of furniture from his parents after his mother’s recent passing. The table is an extraordinary example of meticulous craftsmanship. From a single oval slab of wood, an artist has uncovered oriental maidens, pagodas, flowering trees and even a dragon. Just as Michelangelo could see an angel hiding in a block of marble, so did this anonymous artisan see characters living in the wood. What does this have to do with business? What does this have to do with nudism? Everything.

I am in the business of helping people discover and share why customers should choose their companies over their competitors. I do this by helping them determine the right messages and the best images to promote in print and on the Web. How do I discover and craft the most meaningful messages and media for my clients? I ask some leading questions, and then I listen, echo and fine-tune. I’m certainly no Michelangelo, but like the artist, I do my best to take a shapeless mass and cut away what isn’t relevant to set free the essence of what lies beneath. It’s a tough thing to do for your own business (tough even for me to do for mine!), but it can be done. Here’s how to get started:

First, consider yourself; not your company…yourself: What are your skills, your talents? (Don’t be modest.) What are your professional passions? What would others say are the benefits of working with you? Are they right, or are your true gifts hidden beneath the image you think you should project to the world?

Next, consider your industry and marketplace: What are the traits of the people who work within or serve this industry? What needs do they have? What frustrations do they share? Think there might be opportunities there, if you uncover them? It’s worth the effort to find out.

Next, consider your company and your competitors: What do you do better than them? What do they do better than you? Why do your current customers choose you over your competition? Why do the customers you lose forsake you in favor of your competitors?

With your competitors in mind, consider your differentiators: Do you truly stand apart, or do you promote the same features and benefits as everyone else?

Consider, too (and perhaps most importantly), your key prospects and customers: What do they really want and need? Do they truly care about what you think you should promote? Here’s an example: I have a client who is a realtor. He explained that he wants his business to be about creating relationships. I took exception to this. Why? After all, isn’t fostering great relationships a good thing? Sure, but when you are in residential real estate, your customers might not need your service again for 20 years. Even though being a pleasure to work with IS important and can lead to referrals year after year, what his key prospects and customers care most about is creating a successful real-time experience and transaction – buying or selling a home. They aren’t looking for a long-term relationship with a realtor. They simply want to make it through a complex and stressful experience feeling less stress and more joy. This is a different approach to marketing his business than he envisioned, but it’s one that should speak to the needs and desires of his target customers.

The Bottom Line:

These are just a few of the essential questions that can help you and your business cut through the wood, the stone, or the marble to expose a masterpiece that will be appreciated by others. By carving away unnecessary layers – think of it as the art of subtraction – you can eliminate barriers between you and those in your target community. And that, my friends, is a concept that owes much to the essence of nudism. Less, indeed, is more. And it’s a thing of beauty, in business and in life.

Want to learn more? Contact me today. Thanks!

Bob

Better Answers to Better Questions?

Naked man thinking Success UndressedMy holiday gift to you is a shorter-than-usual blog post. (You’re welcome.) Here it is:

One of the most common questions we ask, and are asked, is “What did you do today?” Almost invariably we answer with a laundry list of minor accomplishments: “I washed the car and did the laundry and finished that report I’ve been working on and I finally got a call back from…” and on and on. It answers the question, certainly, but in a literal, if less than meaningful or memorable way. Such an answer gets the small talk out of the way so we can get back to doing more “things”, and to creating and absorbing more noise.

But what if that question and its variations were banned? What if, instead of asking one another, “What did you do today?” we asked, “What did you learn today?” After all, just because we are no longer kids in school doesn’t mean we stop learning, right?

Or maybe the question should be, “Whom did you help today (that you weren’t paid to help)?” Doesn’t that elevate the very notion of being helpful?

And on that same note, what if the question became, “Whom did you sincerely thank today, and what did they do that went beyond what you expected?”

Or what about this one: “Whom did you compliment today?” Or maybe: “How did you take someone by surprise and make them smile today?”

Or these:

“To whom did you listen, today? That is, to whom did you really and truly listen? Listen not just with your ears, but with your eyes and your heart. And how did that make them feel?”

Or, “What did you do, today, to make a child feel grown up?” or “What did you do to make a grown-up feel like a kid again?”

Aren’t questions like these just as important as – or more important than – “What did you do today?” But even if that typical, expected question isn’t banned, you can still answer it in an unexpected, but more meaningful way. You can respond that what you did was learn something and help people and thank them and compliment them and hear them. And you can say that when you did those things, you transformed the person, just for a moment, but the moment was enough, because it made their day a little better. And isn’t it true that better days make better lives? And that better lives make better people?

The sad fact is that in business and in life, we follow scripts. They become embedded in our DNA. Society says, “Do this,” or “say that” or “go here,” and these become the narratives that chart our course. We do unto others as we have seen others do thousands of times.

But we nudists are a different lot, aren’t we? We often see the world in a different light, stripped bare of pretense. So, as we approach the new year, aren’t we the right types to shed the expected and start looking at life in a new way?

Consider this to be food for thought (that might be a tad more palatable than Aunt Minerva’s holiday fruitcake). Till next time…may you enjoy health, happiness and continuing success undressed.

Bob

Could SPF 30 Be Blocking Your Business Success?

For business success, too much SPF is a bad thingTo a nudist, sunscreen is good. The higher the SPF the better, right? But to a business owner or entrepreneur, too high an SPF rating can be a bad thing… if the “SPF” in question is a Success Prevention Factor, that is.

Below is a list of those factors – traits and misguided behaviors, really – that can make succeeding in business more challenging. Confession: as I compiled this list, I realized that I have made most of these mistakes. Still make too many of them, I suppose. It happens. I’m human. And business is (or at least should be) a learning experience.

Okay, so here are the SPF 30 (the first of many Success Prevention Factors):

  1. Doing nothing. Do you really expect the phone to ring just because you are in business?
  2. Trying to do too much. One word: burnout.
  3. Being a “Control Freak”. The world according to you? Yeah, freaky.
  4. Being a perfectionist. Nice try, though.
  5. Not being authentic. Really?
  6. Forgetting that business is about relationships. Unless you can sell to yourself, you’re gonna need people. (And people who need people are, after all, the luckiest people in the world.)
  7. Trying to “go it alone”. If you’re an inauthentic-perfectionist-control-freak-burnout-waiting-to-happen type, good luck working in a vacuum. If you want to be something more (like, say, a success!), set up strategic, win-win business relationships.
  8. Not having a well-defined target market or ideal client. Trying to sell to everyone? You’ll end up selling to no one.
  9. Having the wrong target market. A miss is as good as a mile.
  10. Not creating a distinctive brand. Dare to dazzle.
  11. Not differentiating your business from your competitors. If you are seen as a commodity, you can’t command a higher price. Ever.
  12. Not having a marketing strategy. Plan your work; work your plan.
  13. Not having a tagline. Tag, you’re it! (If it’s memorable, that is.)
  14. Not having an “elevator pitch”. You’ve got ten seconds. Go!
  15. Making your marketing messages too complex. Simplify, simplify, simplify. (Let me condense that: simplify.)
  16. Putting all your marketing eggs in one basket. Basket has hole in it, eggs break, you go hungry.
  17. Not listening. Believe it or not, it’s NOT all about you.
  18. Trying to sell based on the features of the product or service, instead of how the customer benefits. Let them know what’s in it for them. It matters. A lot.
  19. Trying to sell too soon in the business prospecting relationship. Misfire!
  20. Selling on social platforms when you should be “engaging”. Social media are not newspaper ads. Different game, different rules. Play nice
  21. Selling to new prospects, but ignoring current customers. Low-hanging fruit can be mighty, well, fruitful!
  22. Forgetting to ask for the sale. You can do everything else right, but if you don’t ask (when the time is appropriate), they won’t buy.
  23. Not asking for referrals. Customers and strategic partners can be your best sales team, if you ask.
  24. Not learning from your mistakes (and applying what you learned). No-brainer, right?
  25. Not communicating professionally. Poor speller? Bad writer? Get help!
  26. Not being grateful. Find something to be thankful for (in even the most disappointing defeats).
  27. Not adopting a servant mentality. Serve to succeed.
  28. Not following through. Every successful pitch has great follow-through.
  29. Not being nice (even if you think no one is looking). At least one someone is looking whether you know it or not. (And then there’s that whole “mirror” thing to deal with.)
  30. Not enjoying the ride. Business is a roller coaster. It can scare you to death and make you throw up, but somehow you want to get right back on.

As daunting as this list is, there are even more SPFs that can threaten your business success. Perhaps I’ll share others in a future post. Better yet… why don’t YOU share some of the Success Prevention Factors you’ve encountered or overcome.

Good Naked vs. Bad Naked: The Bottom Line on “Top of Mind”

Good Naked Bad Naked Success UndressedIn a 1997 episode of the Seinfeld sitcom, Jerry and the gang wrestled with the notion of “good naked” vs. “bad naked”. What does that have to do with business? Well, that same critical eye might be applied to marketing exposure, specifically to the concept of “top of mind” awareness.

If you’re the marketer, of course, being “top of mind” is a good thing, right? If you’re the marketer’s target, however, too much information is, well, TMI. So where’s the middle ground? How can a marketer — and that should include all business professionals — create awareness that’s generally respected and positions the sender as a trusted product or service provider?

Provide Inherently Valuable Content

The emperor may have no clothes, but content is still king. In fact, in today’s barrage of information, the thoughtful crafting of content is more vital than ever. Think of it this way: with so many information channels — from print to electronic media, from visual to auditory, from experiential to subliminal — each of us must turn on filters. We must weed out anything that doesn’t seem important, relevant and timely. The marketer, of course, would love for every email to be opened, every direct mail piece to generate a response, every ad to be viewed and every word of every article to be read. Reality, of course, demands more reasonable expectations. Industry standards for email “opens” are generally between 15 and 20 percent. Successful direct mail response rates typically run in the one to two percent range. Your print ad’s success depends on many factors: design, placement, frequency, etc. Want to improve your chances of making strong connections? Be relevant, timely and interesting.

Here’s how to make that happen:

Respect Your Audience

Especially for a service-oriented business, while it’s certainly appropriate to remind people of the business you’re in, what often works better than the hard sell is providing information, tips, and relevant guidance based on your experience and expertise. Remember, you’re asking your audience to grant you little corners of their lives, if even for just a minute or two with each message. Make sure your content respects them, values their time, and rewards them for that privilege.

Know Your Audience

To craft successful messages you must first understand your targets. By segmenting your overall contact list of friends, family, acquaintances and associates into meaningful sub-groups, you can enhance relevance by sending different messages per segment. For example, you could classify your contacts as Suspects, Prospects, Key Prospects, Allies, or Clients. A “Suspect” might be an acquaintance, friend or someone who could benefit from, but has not demonstrated a near-term interest in your product or service; while a “Prospect” could be someone who has either expressed some interest or could be perceived as potentially needing your product or service in the not-too-distant future. A “Key Prospect”, on the other hand, would be someone who has both express interest AND has a near-term need. “Allies” would be those persons who could influence others to utilize your product or service (Allies can, naturally, also be called “Influencers”). “Clients,” of course, are just that, but can fall into one of two camps: current and former. Obviously, as interactions, interest and relationships change, your targets can move into different segments over time. It’s great to be able to move your targets from Suspects to Clients, but recognize that not all of your contacts will — or even should — make that journey.

Choose Your Media

What’s the best way to connect with your targets? In person? By phone or texting? Via email or Facebook? On the printed page? Some or all of the above? Knowing yourself and your audience — and most importantly, understanding their media preferences — should give you a sense of which platforms are most appropriate. Keep in mind that as your media platform changes, so should the scope and tone of your message; whereas in a print article like this I might have roughly 800 words to play with, Twitter will limit me to 140 characters. Choose your media and your messages wisely.

The Bare Bottom Line: A Ten-Step Action Plan

So…in the context of the information above, here’s how you can best expose yourself (think good naked “top of mind”) to your targets:

1. Know yourself (what you’re good at and why targets should contact you when they need your product or service)

2. Determine your key branding messages

3. Identify and regularly contact your targets by segment

4. Determine the right frequency of these contacts by segment

5. Determine your best communications vehicles

6. Plan and carefully craft your messages

7. Work your plan

8. Get help if needed (it can save you time and money)

9. Follow through

10. Believe in yourself

Easy? Of course not. But if you need help or advice, contact me. And stay tuned as we continue to strip away the mysteries of branding, marketing communications, and… success undressed.

Bob

Expose Yourself, Create Ripples, and Leave Footprints

Hi. I’m Bob. I’m a marketing guy and a nudist. You might say I know a thing or two about exposure.

Water Footprint www.successundressed.comI’m also a small business owner and, statistically speaking, I know that there are thousands of you who own small or medium-sized businesses, or own and operate nudist clubs, or simply care about others who struggle to succeed in a competitive marketplace. Believe me; I face those same challenges every day. That’s why I wanted to do this blog. For you. For me. For us.

But before we begin navigating those challenges and charting a course to success, bear (bare?) with me for a little backstory…

I’ve been an AANR (American Association for Nude Recreation) member for several years, and in 2010, I had the honor of being chosen by the organization’s leaders to assist with the redesign of AANR.com. The website project was a great opportunity to help AANR strategize, visualize and realize a more empowered use of technology to expand connections with current members and clubs while also reaching out to the nude-curious. I also produced an explanatory video to introduce the new site to AANR’s extended leadership. Because I was able to work with AANR in these ways, I became more attuned to AANR’s vision and its challenges. I recognize the issues of those in the business of nudism, and I strongly identify with nudists who own and operate businesses in mainstream markets.

Now, back to our program…

AANR Home Page 04302012One of the problems facing the small business operator today, nudist or not, is knowing which way to turn with branding and marketing. Frankly, there is too much information available. What’s my solution? More information, of course! But here’s the difference:  I’m going to share with you some insights into branding, marketing, business communications, graphics and Web design that have their foundation in something we know, love and share: nudism. You are reading the first in what will be a series of posts, and perhaps even an e-book, showing how you can “Use the Lessons of Nudism to Shamelessly Build Your Brand and Market Your Business (in an Age of Exposure and Transparency).”

Make no mistake: success can be elusive. The information, tools, methods and skills necessary to achieve it are moving targets. It helps to remember that success isn’t really a destination; it’s a journey. So let’s get started with some fundamental principles to start us moving in the right direction:

Expose Yourself (as a Professional)

If you carefully, proudly and expertly provide solutions to your prospects’ needs, you will become known as a trusted professional. Professionalism is about performance; it is not about looking the part because you are dressed to the nines (perish the thought!). Nonetheless, even if you are an outstanding solution provider, you can still struggle to succeed. Probably the biggest obstacle to being perceived as a professional lies in poor communication skills. Nobody’s perfect, of course (not even word processing spell checkers are foolproof), but in today’s fire-first-aim-later culture, yours is an uphill battle if you struggle to communicate as a professional. Keep in mind, however, that you don’t have to be an expert communicator to share expertly crafted communications. The most professional thing you can do in business is to recognize your limitations and hire experts in those areas to help you look your best. If you are not an excellent writer, hire a freelancer to ghostwrite for you. Can’t spell your way out of a paper bag? Hire a meticulous editor. Does your logo or business card look amateurish? Hire a skilled graphic designer. (And yes, I’m available for all of the above. Want to learn more? Contact me!)

Create Ripples

Effective marketing takes many forms, but the idea is always to create thought-provoking influence, or ripples, that lead to establishing a customer relationship. For many smaller businesses, well-crafted “drip marketing” via continuing value-added communications can build awareness and, over time, create long-term profitable relationships. We’ll “dive in” to the pool of marketing tactics as we continue with this series.

Leave Footprints

If you act professionally, continually share information your targets will value, and delight them with a job well done when given the chance, you will leave indelible footprints along your business path. If this is your goal, it can also be your business legacy.

So it is with these principles in mind that we begin our journey. It won’t be easy. Never is. But with the focus and clarity to be found in our common passion – nudism – we can cut through the unnecessary layers and ultimately achieve… success undressed.

I’d love to hear about your business challenges. Wanna start or join a conversation?

%d bloggers like this: