Why Do We Do This To Ourselves?

Laptop with overloaded DVD Drive. Isolated on whiteA wave of relief washed over me as I saw The Effective Detective was not carrying some kind of ridiculous prop, and did not have a look on his face indicating that he was about to drop a bombshell. Perhaps, I thought, today may be more of our usual type discussions.

“Ah Watson, so good to see you, we have an interesting quandary to consider today,” The Detective smiled his half-smile, which actually sort of worried me.

I replied, well aware I was going down a path that had been determined for me. “A quandary sir? What might that be pray tell?”

“Watson, is that suspicion I hear in your voice?” The Detective asked. When I didn’t answer immediately, he continued, “relax your mind, Watson, there are no big announcements today, merely a point of interest I have picked up on while developing some software to solve a few of the problems we encounter in marketing,” The Effective almost, but not quite, admonished me.

“I’m relieved to hear that sir, so what is the topic today?” I exhaled with a noticeable sigh.

“Information overload, or rather self-imposed information overload, my dear Watson. I find it amusing that while we all bemoan how much information is being thrown at us on a daily basis, we then turn around and accumulate vast information stores most of which are of dubious value towards meeting our goals, and we clamor to figure out how to gain even more. We complain bitterly that we are drowning in data – when it is being sent to us by others, then we go and place the burden on ourselves. Most curious as well as amusing,” The Detective took his characteristic pause, waiting for a rejoinder from me. Since we were playing our usual game, I decided to jump in whole heartedly.

“Sir, I can’t imagine what you are talking about. I see a general narrowing of information requests. I see very few people who ask for more than a name and an email address on their sign up forms. It would seem that a large percentage of other marketers have picked up on this,” I continued, interrupting The Detective who smiled that half-smile and I realized I had been set up. Again.

“True Watson, but there is one place where it seems retrieving a glut of information is still considered a best practice – a term I despise by the way, but that is a discussion for another day. Look no further than Customer Relation Management or CRM – an overblown term for Contact Management as it relates to the vast majority, where it seems a good review is dependent on how much data you can cram into their databases, and the number of useless features added on for good measure.

“The average small business person generally will have a manageable number of direct relationships, and thus needs to collect and record less information. The fact of the matter is Watson that the primary pieces of information you require when you are chasing after a prospect are their name, their company, phone and email, some notes, and most importantly: what is your next step with them and when it is to be taken? I know this for a fact, since I used to sell – quite successfully I might add, using a box of index cards organized by date with names and phone numbers and handwritten notes,” The Detective finished, slightly out of breath.

“So trying to collect and store all those tiny bits of trivia and probabilities of closing, and classifications of prospects which requires a relatively complex and cumbersome system might actually be detracting from the average person’s sales productivity!” I exclaimed, getting the point.

“Exactly Watson! A lot of us forget to make a phone call or what we said the last time we spoke to someone. That hardly requires a product that fills the screen with slots for useless information, making it that much harder to use – and thus less likely to be used. If one insists on using one of those monstrosities, they should do themselves a favor and focus on those few pieces of critical information and ignore the rest of the screen,” The Detective added.

“Something to truly think about, sir,” was the only rejoinder I could come up with.

“Quite so Watson. Quite so.”

 

 

 

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.

Arranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic

“So Watson, what new and interesting things are you starting the year with?” asked The Effective Detective, starting a new round of our conversations in this new year.

“Less starting my own list, and more fascinated by what others may be attempting,” I replied.

“How so Watson?” came the next question.

“I have been reviewing the myriad emails we receive from all of the marketing experts out there and wondering to what extent others try to execute on all of these various marketing methodologies being pushed,” I answered.

“Ah you have noted a common error, one that, as painful as it is, I must admit to committing myself here and there Watson.”

“Indeed sir! Now I am quite intrigued,” I responded, with  perhaps just a tad too much enjoyment at The Detective admitting a fault.

The Detective cast a baleful look before continuing.

“The issue, my dear Watson is how simple it can be to confuse activity with real productive work. In our efforts to accomplish things and cover a lot of ground, we begin to chase after every shiny new bauble dangled before our eyes, without thinking whether this actually accomplishes anything.

“Social Media is a perfect example. So many run around furiously creating Facebook pages, inviting their friends to like them, updating  LinkedIn profiles so that connections will see the activity and perhaps take a quick peek, tweet like crazy, hoping someone who is following 10,000 people will notice, and create Pinterest pages when they aren’t even sure what Pinterest is. The list goes on.”

“Are you saying Social Media is a waste of time, sir?” I asked alarmed.

“Not precisely Watson. I brought up Social Media merely because there are so many channels to it. I could just as easily mentioned sending out a flurry of ill-conceived direct mail pieces or non-specific emails to a list, are you starting to get my point?” The Detective smiled a half-smile, waiting to hear my answer.

“I think so sir. Would I be correct in thinking that the point is that merely doing things without much thought, simply because we have been told we need to take action, is not terribly productive?” I ventured.

“Well put, Watson! I might go as far as to say that doing what you described could actually be destructive. You could be alienating your tribe with an unfocused barrage of marketing, all in the name of generating “a touch”. More likely, but just as destructively, you will disperse your efforts, foregoing doing an excellent job on a few things, in favor of doing a mediocre job on many.

“What we all need to do is take a step back. Consider whether your action will actually produce meaningful results. With direct mail, are we targeting a well written message to a properly segmented list? Have we segmented our own list properly so that our emails are welcome and provide value? With Social Media, is the audience the one we want to be reaching, or are we just talking at people who are merely talking back at us rather than listening – something I think you see a lot of in Twitter.

“Yes, you should take massive action, but think through that action. Limit yourself to a few actions that you can focus on and execute exceedingly well before moving on to the next. More than anything else, before jumping into something, consider: will this move me toward my ultimate goal, or is it actually just a distraction from the hard work we know is needed to create something great,” The Detective finished, leaning back in his chair with a look that told me that further discussion must wait for another day.