The One In A Million Chance

One in a MillionThings had been quiet around The Effective Detective in the last week. I was hoping that things were going to stay relatively quiet for this week’s discussion, whatever that might be. The Detective seemed to rouse himself as I came into the room.

“Watson, how very nice to see you today,” The Detective started. “Do you know what this is?” he asked, holding up a rectangular piece of thick paper.

“I do believe it is a lottery ticket, sir,” I replied, and then out of some misplaced sense of possibility, I exclaimed, “You didn’t actually win sir?! Has lady luck smiled down upon you and granted us riches?”

The Detective heartily laughed before replying, “Heaven’s sakes man! Do you know what the odds are of winning this ridiculous game of chance? I merely needed you to identify it to start today’s discussion, not jump to conclusions regarding my possession of said ticket.”

“Seems a simple lesson, sir, don’t gamble, it is a waste of time,” I sighed dejectedly.

“That is where you are wrong Watson! All things in life are gambles. There is a chance for success and a chance for failure. Where we go astray is simple – we look only at the level of effort and risk against the chance that we could win, ignoring the overwhelming odds of actually doing so.”

The Detective paused briefly, and I took this chance to interject, thinking our conversation had somehow gone off the rails, if indeed it had ever been on the track at all. “But sir, what in the world does this have to do with business and marketing?” The Detective gave me that half-smile, and I realized that once again, I had fallen into one of his carefully laid traps.

“A shame Watson, your powers of logic and observation had been showing great signs of improvement. The relationship is simple. Why is it that you think so many entrepreneurs have invested so much time and energy in social media and Internet Marketing of physical products? Social Media especially carries little risk in terms of investment. We ask a bunch of people to like our page, or follow our tweets, or help make your latest video viral and then sit back and wait. You know that over a billion people are on Facebook, and you believe even though there is little chance very many will see your posts, ‘if’ they do, the payoff will be fantastic! Of course the payback only comes to a lucky few that were in the right place at the right time,” a second pause, and I thought I would see if I could provoke a reaction.

“So it is hopeless then. We should all just pack up and give up on business since only the lucky ones will win!” I answered injecting what I hoped was just the right amount of sarcasm.

“That would be silly and rather stupid Watson. You are missing the point. I said all things in life are gambles. The key is to take the occasional no risk, big return gamble – like buying a lottery ticket or posting on social media, but to be far more consistent with the gambles that carry a little more or sometimes a lot more risk – posting consistently on your blog and sending it out to your list – which requires time and effort – along with the occasional offer leveraging the trust built up. Creating local events – which will often cost you something for at least the venue, and time and effort to market – that might bring in a few thousand dollars, but builds up both possible client and referral relationships. Are any of these guaranteed to generate that big score? Of course not, but they are far more likely to generate something! Too often we look for the risk free score. The result is almost always disappointment.” The Detective looked at me expectantly, his point now made.

“Not hopeless, just not risk or effort free,” I said after a minute of reflection.

“Well summarized Watson! Now shall we get back to our slightly risky work requiring effort?” The Detective answered, closing discussion for another day.

The Power of Your List

Composite image of blonde businesswoman standing with hands on hipsI noticed that The Effective Detective looked particularly contemplative, and more out of curiosity than concern, I asked about it. “Sir, you look very thoughtful. Is there a particular insight you are considering?”

“Eh? Oh Watson, sorry. A particular insight yes, but interestingly it is coming from a discussion I had today that taken at face value, could have been considered quite depressing. A friend and colleague was feeling rather cynical today. The trajectory of their business life was not quite what they had hoped for. In particular they have found themselves rebuilding once again,” The Detective began.

“That does sound rather depressing sir,” I agreed.

“Yet from that dreary beginning came a rather illuminating insight Watson. You see, they had started reaching out to connections, and even at this time of the year, when most people are not thinking much about business, had arranged some meetings to discuss some new opportunities,” The Detective continued.

“During the holiday season and so close to the end of the year sir? That is quite surprising,” I interjected.

“Quite so Watson, but the true insight comes from the phrase reaching out to connections. There is an old quote attributed to Andrew Carnegie, I am not sure of the exact wording but the basic idea is that even if everything is taken from you, if you still have a list of contacts, you can rebuild it all. My colleague down in the dumps as they might be, is leveraging their contacts to rebuild. How easy it is for us to forget the power of our lists, be it a contact list build through years of networking, to a list built through patiently speaking to people, and advertising. If you nurture that list, what you can create from it, no matter what has happened in the past can be astounding. The two keys of course are building and nurturing. It does one no good to sit and wait for people to realize our genius. We must go out and proclaim it to the world, and build a tribe. But then we must nurture that tribe, feed it if you will. Those who are willing to do that, reap amazing rewards,” The Detective concluded.

“Sir, I must admit, I have nothing to add to that,” I replied, surprising the Detective and myself for admitting it.

“Well then Watson, let us pour ourselves drinks, and salute the holiday season, and in particular the new year!” The Detective exclaimed as he smiled at me.

“Happy New Year sir!”

Helping Hands

helping_hands“Sir, have you ever noticed the tendency of people to immediately find fault with ideas you might have rather than offering support? ” I began our weekly conversation.

“Watson, that is a tiresome point. Surely you have a more worthy complaint? ” The Effective Detective answered with what sounded like a bit more irritation in his voice than usual.

“Perhaps I am thinking more of the roadblocks people set up for you once you start down the path, especially when you ask for assistance,” I replied.

“Ah, now there are two sides of the same coin. You know of course of the Maryland Crab Barrel Principle, Watson? ” The Detective responded sounding more animated by the minute.

“Of course, sir, that the other crabs in a barrel will pull down one who is starting to climb above the others,” I answered.

“Precisely Watson, whether it is to drag them back down to their level or to try to climb over them after they have started the job, the effect is the same, the crab trying to escape is brought down. The roadblock problem you speak of is similar. You will hear people are busy or offer the same type of discouragement that was as offered before. Two sides of the same coin,” The Detective paused looking at me expectantly.

“Yes sir, but I was hoping for an answer to the problem rather than an explanation! ” I exclaimed, perhaps a bit more sarcastically than I intended.

If the Detective was perturbed by my outburst, he did not show it. Rather he gave me that half-smile that I knew meant I had fallen into one of his traps, and began quietly, “Just so Watson. For the first, I have no solution other than the obvious: ignore them. You will rarely find support from fearful people who think it best to bring you down rather than try to better themselves. Better to keep your mouth shut, if you wish to continue to associate with such people – or you have no choice, as with family, or abandon them for more like-minded acquaintances.

“But for the second there are multiple choices that one can proceed with; for brevity I will discuss only two. The first and most obvious is also the most painful. Do not ask for assistance, or ask for only the most minimal amount. This goes against all time management teachings and restricts the amount of work you can accomplish, but it is very controllable and the only person you can disappoint is yourself,” The Detective paused, allowing me to interject.

“That seems a stupid way to work!” I exclaimed.

“I did not indicate the wisdom or stupidity of such a choice, Watson, merely that it exists, and some would say there is wisdom in learning some of the pitfalls and choices to a path before asking others to join. However there is another way. That is to lay every thing out in excruciating detail, leave nothing to chance. Detail the way. Then, if someone objects, you can be fairly certain they are merely trying to pull the lead crab down, no matter what their reasoning is. At that point you can move away from them and do that part yourself or find another.” The Detective finished.

That seems to be putting the burden on yourself no matter which path you choose,” I said, feeling a little put off.

“Who is benefitting from the effort after all is said and done, Watson? “

“Ah, well-played sir, ” I answered knowing the answer.

“Let us move on Watson ” The Detective smiled, ending today’s discussion.

Baby Steps

CB101959“Sir, I know we should always keep our focus on the positive, but we see so much failure, I find myself drawn to it,” I started my conversation with The Effective Detective on a down note, reflecting my mood.

The Detective stared at me for a moment before answering. “I understand your pain, Watson, but I feel your concern is misdirected.

“Failure, Watson, implies action. You cannot fail at something unless you actually attempt it. What we tend to see is inaction.”

It was my turn to stare for a moment, then give my response. “Perhaps, sir. But wouldn’t it be the fear of failure that causes the inaction?”

The Detective smiled. “A fair supposition Watson. That plays a part,  but not in the way you might think it does. Someone that takes the risks involved in going into business will generally understand they are going to fail along the way. The nature of an entrepreneur is such that failure, while still biting, is not always a sufficient deterrent from proceeding. No, there is a different problem at work here,” The Detective paused as he usually does at this point in our conversations and smiled at me expectantly. I decided, again, to not disappoint.

“You have my attention, sir. What would the problem be?” I said, giving The Detective his opening.

“Tell me Watson, does a toddler learn to walk by suddenly standing up and running a marathon?”

“Sir?” I asked, a bit confused.

“It is a simple question Watson, is that how a toddler learns to walk?” The Detective asked again, with just a trace of irritation.

“No, of course not sir,” I recovered, preparing for the full explanation.

“Correct Watson. The toddler begins with a step. Then two steps, three. In no time they are strolling around the house wreaking havoc. The toddler doesn’t worry about running a marathon. The toddler worries about taking the next step. But for some reason as adults we feel we should be immune from this cycle. We should be able to go from crawling to running the marathon.

“So, as adults we spend our time looking for that silver bullet, that magic elixir which will allow us to instantaneously reach everyone in our market and turn them into faithful customers. However, as adults we have acquired something toddlers have yet to learn – caution. So we hesitate, debating over whether this method or that will make the magic happen, and we end up doing nothing.

“The funniest part of this Watson is that we miss the most important aspect of the toddler’s baby steps,” here The Detective paused, waiting for me to interject and invite him to make his final point.

“Which would be, sir?”

“Elementary my dear Watson, the most important aspect is that by taking baby steps, the toddler ensures success. They take a step and then pause to gain their balance. If need be they fall gently, if not gracefully, on their bum.  They make small adjustments all the while making steady progress. With each attempt, they learn something new, incorporate that knowledge and move closer to their goal.

“We adults on the other hand, think we should be able to bypass the process and go straight to success.  Our impatience betrays us. But because we fear going all in, with good reason, we do nothing,” The Detective stopped with a look that told me the discussion was over for today. But I couldn’t resist getting one last observation in.

“Wisdom from the mouths of babes, sir?”

“Quite so Watson, quite so.”

Swinging for the Fences

The Case of the Opportune Observation

“Sir, I have an observation I would like to get your opinion on,” I began today’s conversation.

“Quite Watson, and what would that observation be?” asked The Detective.

“It would seem that the conventional wisdom today is that one should ‘swing for the fences’ every time you attempt something,” I stated.

“A baseball metaphor Watson? How interesting,'” observed The Detective.

“I admit to some difficulty in selecting an appropriate metaphor for what I am observing. It appears to be this feeling that you should be trying to hit a home run every time you step up to the plate, if I can be forgiven for extending the baseball metaphor,” I replied, perhaps a bit sheepishly.

“Actually, I believe the metaphor to be most apt, Watson,” The Detective assured me.  “It is that belief that prevents a large number of small business people from attempting more simple programs that while not bringing in the kind of results that say a well thought out, expertly written, and executed direct mail campaign to ten or twenty thousand prospects would, might still have respectable returns. What these business people see instead is the need to ‘hit a home run’ and they are terrified to risk it because, ‘what if they get it wrong?’. Frankly, seeing the state of a lot of marketing pieces these days, I would say they are right to be terrified,”  pausing only for a second before continuing on.

“Let me tell you a story about my distant childhood, Watson.”

“I’m not sure that is necessary,” I objected, not sure where this was going to lead.

“Poppycock! Of course it is necessary,” The Detective corrected me, “I shall get to the point directly, if that is what you are afraid of Watson.”

At this point I felt the better part of valor was retreat, so I asked him to continue.

“When I was a young lad, I played baseball. I was probably the smallest person on the team, and not very strong, yet I was always assigned to bat first in the line-up. Can you guess why Watson?” The Detective asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Actually, no sir, I cannot imagine.” I answered, figuring this would be the fastest way to the answer.

“Because, Watson, whilst I was physically incapable of hitting a home run, I was very good at hitting singles. Simply put, I got on base a lot. If I was on base, than obviously I had a much greater chance to score than if I was not. If I had spent my every at-bat  ‘swinging for the fences’ I would never have hit a home run, and probably rarely gotten on base.

“As a small business you most likely will not have a huge budget for marketing – not a lot of strength to hit those home runs that bring in gobs of prospects. But even with a small budget, you can get on base. You can get some prospects to engage, to begin a relationship, and hopefully to, at the risk of a double entendre, eventually score;  to do business with them. Certainly a greater percentage than if you do nothing due to fear of risking a large lump sum. The point is to do something intelligent with the resources that you have,” The Detective concluded.

“A nice summing up of the metaphor sir, ” I responded.

“Thank you Watson, shall we move on?” said The Detective, closing the discussion.

 

The Mystery of The Incomplete Explanation Part 2

“Where were we Watson,” started The Detective.

“I believe you were just going to start a further explanation of point two from a previous discussion, sir. Lost Customers to be precise.” I quickly replied.

“Quite Right. Actually, this one in a way, is self-explanatory. It astounds that more business people don’t see it.

“You see Watson, in the haste to get new customers, because everyone knows they are the life-blood of a business, business people often forget they already have a source of said ‘life-blood’: people who have already bought from them. Unfortunately, too often they either take them for granted – assuming that because they were so impressed with the service and/or product they received, they will come running back when they need something additional, or they don’t think of them at all, acting as if all customers are new customers. Of course, the result is the customer does not think of them either.

“A truly ‘lost’ customer must be approached cautiously. After all, there has probably been no real communication for some time. But you must find a way to reestablish contact. Direct mail, email, the method may depend on the data you have. Here is where caution comes in. Suddenly pummeling them with reminders that you are still in business and why the heck have they not visited you, or the same old flyers you send out would be counter productive. These are people who have done business with you before. They want to – and may already,  think of themselves as special, as having done you the kindness of having done business with you – no matter that you may feel you saved their business, made them look good to their client or boss, or simply given them a great deal! Your perception is irrelevant.

There must be some kind of offer to entice these lost souls. It needn’t be anything large, just something of value. After all, they were your customer once, if you provided a quality product and good service, they probably would most likely welcome the contact; a much easier sale I would say. In all probability it wasn’t that they did not want to do business any longer, but, like for most of us, life simply got in the way, and since the business did nothing to reestablish the relationship, it slipped away like an old High School friend,” finished The Detective with a flourish.

“How poetic!” I exclaimed.

“Yes, well, sometimes it is easy to get carried away Watson, let us not dwell on that,” replied The Detective sheepishly.

“Of course, sir. Shall we take a break before going into another mystery?” I asked, giving him an opportunity to slip away from the subject.

“Excellent idea, Watson, Excellent idea!”

 

 

The Mystery of the Disturbing Discussion

It had been a bothersome day for me. I had made the mistake of reviewing some commentary that had disturbed me. It wasn’t the subject matter per se, and not really the opinion of the author’s, since everyone is entitled to that, but rather something about  the tone of the discussions. I decided to see what The Effective Detective thought about it, and perhaps soothe the sense of discontent I was feeling.

“Good day, Watson,” the Detective cheerily greeted me, “ah, but from your look I would say that it is not such a good day for you.”

“Quite observant, sir,” I replied.

“Well, that is part of my job now isn’t it,” he laughed. “Have a seat and let us discuss what is causing your long face.”

“I was reviewing a discussion online…” I started.

“Political, religious, or business?” The Detective interjected. “Not that it actually matters, I suspect that it wasn’t the content that was bothering you, but rather something about the progression of the discussion,” he finished.

“Good lord man, where you looking over my shoulder without me noticing you there?” I asked, shocked that he seemingly read my mind.

“Elementary, my dear Watson,” The Detective replied with that slight grin of his. “There could only be two things that would cause you to look so down in the dumps, one: that you whole heartedly disagreed with the thoughts being bandied about and yet you refrained from joining in the discussion, resulting in frustration, or two: that there was something about how one or more participants in the discussion were acting, and you became distraught because you could not figure out just what that something was. Since you looked more thoughtful than angry, I easily deduced that it must be the latter. Pray enlighten me.”

“Spot on as always sir,” I answered after a slight pause. The Detective gave a slight bow. “The person who had started the discussion confused me. He reacted to every objection to or observation about his points not with an attempt to consider, or even understand it, but rather to either belittle, or turn it to his point of view in some way. He seemed to be incapable of saying, ‘Good point! I shall consider that.’ “

“I have seen that attitude too often myself Watson,” sighed The Detective. “It has brought down many a good business person, I’m afraid. It is not so much that they are convinced they are right, but rather fear that someone might think less of their expertise or decision making if they stray from their stated beliefs. It has caused business people to pursue product lines or services for which there is no market because they believe there has to be, when just a minor change in their direction towards an existing market could lead to success. They are afraid to admit that they don’t know everything or that they might be mistaken, when the fact is we must always be willing to learn and admit mistakes or lack of knowledge.”

“Even you sir?” I teased.

“Especially me, Watson, especially me.”

 

 

 

playing in pen