Posts tagged ‘Nudism’

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

Building the Staircase of Success

Success Undressed www.successundressed.com business success staircaseHalfway through the project it dawned on me: building a staircase is a perfect metaphor for the pursuit of success.

Why was I building a staircase in the first place? A little backstory:

My partner and I were hosting a family reunion for the first (maybe the last?) time. That meant countless hours of sprucing up the ol’ homestead. The staircase (the exterior variety) was necessary because our yard has an upper portion – a private sanctuary perfect for the practicing nudist – and a lower portion accessible only via a steep embankment. Because we didn’t want any kinfolk somersaulting down the hill, a staircase seemed prudent.

Hence the construction. Hence the metaphor. Hence these lessons:

Begin with the end in mind:

I had a pretty good mental image of that staircase before I started construction. Likewise, you should picture success in your mind. Does success mean money to you? Does it mean independence? Comfort? Being debt-free? Think of success as simply, but as specifically, as you can. Some people create a vision board of images that represent success. Not a bad idea. Visualize success. Dare I say, undress it?

Have a plan:

When building the staircase, I made numerous sketches. (It helped that I had a background in architecture before I became a marketing, content and design geek.) These sketches were detailed and to scale because building a staircase on steep terrain leaves little room for error. Same for your success plan. With your vision in mind, chart a course. Make it as exact as you can, but be open to revising your blueprint as conditions change and opportunities arise.

Be direct:

It would seem natural when building a staircase to simply go from bottom to top in measured steps. But considerations and complications arise. Do you need a platform at the top, a concrete base at the bottom, a landing in the middle? Likewise for success: Are there necessary bends or detours for education, training, or strategic partnerships? Figure out the most direct route with the fewest steps. Then build that path.

Build on strong foundations:

Henry David Thoreau wrote that, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” I interpret that as meaning that dreams of success can only be made real when built on solid ground and with strong foundations. Anchor your success staircase firmly and your climb will be more surefooted. Your foundations for success could include training and skills development, a core team of strategic referral partners, a solid business plan and professional marketing.

Measure twice, cut once:

This is probably one of the fundamental tenets of carpentry. Taking an extra measure of care up front can save time and yield better results throughout your project (or throughout your journey to success). But beware of paralysis by analysis. The endless pursuit of perfection can scuttle your success.

Make sure your connections are strong:

My staircase is solid, man, solid. Not only did we sink support posts in concrete for the frame, we also used heavy-duty connectors, bolts and screws. Likewise in your quest for business success, you’ll want to make the best connections possible. Determine your best networks of prospects and align yourself with strong strategic partners. Help others succeed and they will gladly help you in return (especially if you ask).

Work with manageable steps:

Staircases are more easily built and scaled when the steps are reasonably sized and spaced. For success, know where you are going and be steadfast in your determination; but also be patient and deliberate. Rejoice in reaching milestones along the way, and use those achievements to energize you for the next part of your journey.

Install support rails:

Climbing the staircase of success (it’s not a ladder after all, is it?) will be easier if you have handrails to lean on. These can include your support networks of friends, family and associates; but they can also include your website, your branding, your marketing tools, your staff, your suppliers and customers. Install them firmly. You’ll need them.

The Bottom Line:

Success is a journey, but it is also a staircase that you will build and climb and build some more. But don’t be so focused on the construction that you don’t enjoy the climb. Take time to feel the sun and the rain and the wind on your skin, the boards beneath your toes. You’re a nudist, after all. What good is success if you can’t undress and de-stress?

Bob

Keep It Simple, Smarty

Naked Businessman Keeping it Simple for Success UndressedAs nudists, we’ve already figured out that architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was right: “less is more”. As entrepreneurial nudists designing, building and operating our businesses, let’s keep that lesson close to our invisible vests.

Simplifying your business can make it manageable, enjoyable to run, and attractive to prospects and customers. Make life a little easier for your customers and they’ll keep coming back and telling their friends about you.

How can you simplify your business for a more positive customer experience? Try these tips on for size:

Lose the baggage

My partner is always amused that I pack so much to go to a nudist resort for a week: towels, food, computer, books and magazines, sunscreen; an abundance of everything except clothes. Likewise, business owners often carry too much baggage into daily business life. We try to do too much in too little time. It can weigh us down like an overstuffed suitcase in each hand. What’s the fix? Ask for help when you need it, especially with those parts of your business for which others might be better suited.

Keep your elevator pitch short enough for a quick ride

Your elevator pitch is that 10- to 15-second answer to the question, “What do you do?”. Keep it simple. Keep it short. Keep it focused. Remember: too much information can overwhelm a prospective customer. During that initial meeting, don’t inundate the prospect by detailing everything you do or every client you serve or every success you’ve had.

Answer the Universal Question

Ever hear of WIIFM? It’s the ultimate question in the prospect’s mind: “What’s In It For Me?” Specifically, to turn prospects into customers, you’ll need to accomplish two things: 1) build rapport, and 2) let the prospect know what you can do for him or her better than anyone else can. Asking questions up front and focusing on the prospect’s needs (rather than on your products or services) can go a long way toward accomplishing both goals. And the likely result of maintaining an interested “servant” mentality is that you will answer WIIFM even if the prospect doesn’t come right out and ask the question.

Keep your “user interfaces” simple

Google, Apple and John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (publishers of the “For Dummies” books) have built global success stories by making sure their user interfaces are simple. Even though your business is most likely not destined for world domination, you still want a market leadership position. Knowing your market – and identifying your ideal client – is essential to making that happen. But regardless of the type of customer you seek, it helps to make your user interface as simple and intuitive as possible.

Just what IS a “user interface”? It’s any point where the prospect or customer “touches” your business. Any point at which your business bares part of itself in pursuit of a satisfactory customer experience.  Your company’s user interface(s) could be your website or your phone system or your salespersons or your customer-facing staff.

Ask yourself: Do these points of contact satisfy or frustrate? Does your website answer the WIIFM question with a minimum of searching? Does your phone system simply and intuitively lead callers to the right person or answers? Do your salespeople listen actively and offer solutions based on the prospect’s needs? Does your frontline staff make the customer feel comfortable and important? If you’re not sure, ask your customers. Make necessary changes to simplify and enhance their “user” experience.

Be easy to do business with

You – yes, you – are a user interface. Are you easy to work with? Are you often thanked for going the extra mile? If so, you are blazing a trail toward success. I’ve now done three projects for AANR; I’d like to think that this is due in part to being easy to work with, a partner committed to the best results and a positive working relationship. If you are not getting repeat business and referrals, maybe you aren’t going far enough to serve and satisfy your customers. Play nice. Put the customer first.

The Bottom Line:

Remember the acronym, KISS: Keep It Simple, Smarty. Simplicity almost always creates a better environment for customer acquisition and a more satisfying ongoing working relationship. Less is more. It’s the way of the nudist, and the path for the business owner to enjoy…success undressed!

How have you simplified your business? Be sure to comment!

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

Giving Thanks for Freedom, Community and Opportunity

Giving Thanks Cornucopia Success UndressedIt’s always a great time to give thanks.

In fact, as we navigate through days filled with bad news and ill will clogging the airwaves and seeping into our gray matter, reminding ourselves to be thankful is a healthy exercise, for nudists and textiles alike.

I’m thankful for my loved ones, for my partner and our families and friends. I’m thankful for our children and our grandchildren and our pets. I’m thankful for our health and our home. For yesterday and today and tomorrow. For hope.

And I’m thankful for freedom and community and opportunity:

Freedom:

I’m thankful that we live in America. Yes, I acknowledge that freedom and what it means to be an American are ever-evolving things. The world doesn’t stand still. Targets move. Sometimes we take steps forward and sometimes we fall back. But we still enjoy freedoms in America that are the envy of much of the world. I am proud of that and thankful for it.

I’m thankful that, as nudists, we can enjoy body freedom. That we have the liberty to gather in appropriate places and shed our artificial skins. That in this land of the free and the home of the brave, we have the freedom to BE brave, to be nude, to feel the sun and the breeze free of artificial barriers. How many others, in America or around the world, truly feel so unencumbered and so free? We are a lucky group to have discovered and embraced the freedom of nudism. Be proud of that. Be thankful.

Community:

We do not make our life journeys alone. We are in this together. The groups and organizations – the communities – we choose say something about us, about our collective character, about our hopes and dreams and plans. We seek out others like us, we choose our friends and we pick our pathways. For nudists, our sense of community always makes things interesting, and I’m thankful for that.

I’m thankful, too, for AANR, for our regional organizations, for our nudist resorts and clubs. What a gift these communities are for us, bringing us together with our many nudist friends. We are all different. We are all the same. What a blessing!

Opportunity:

And I give thanks for being on the path to success undressed. I give thanks for the journey: the ups and the downs, the wins and the losses. These are our opportunities to learn, to do better the next time, and perhaps even to reach, to teach, and to touch others so we can make their success pathways just a little clearer.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to share these thoughts with you. I’m grateful that you take a few moments each month to let me be a part of your journey.

Till we meet in person (or by contacting me online here), be well, be happy, be free… and be thankful.

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

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