Are you afraid of Werewolves?

werewolfHalloween is over, and we can all put away the garlic to protect us from vampires, and we should – but won’t, put away our belief in silver bullets – the preferred way to stop a werewolf. You probably don’t believe in werewolves, but lots of small business owners seem to believe in silver bullets.

C’mon, we’ve all been there. Our finger hovering over the mouse button debating if we should click to buy this new program that will generate millions of dollars, without a list, without a product, without, I don’t know, perhaps any skills at all!

This is the silver bullet – the one thing that will solve all problems, that will guide us to ultimate business success. And, of course, like werewolves and vampires, it is a fantasy.

There is no one program that will solve your problems, certainly not one that is “NOT $5,000, NOT $3,000, but just for today, for $997…”

No, I am afraid that from the beginning of time, business success comes from a combination of hard work, a little luck, and a relentless drive to jump on every opportunity that presents itself. That said, there is a bright side to some of these “silver bullet” programs. They may provide you with some leads you wouldn’t have gotten before. They may teach you something and let you bypass one or two painful lessons.

You didn’t expect to become an overnight success by finishing one college course or term (which was probably a lot more expensive than most of these programs,) why do you expect one product or program will be any different?

Halloween is over. Put away the garlic and the silver bullets, let’s get to work.

 

You’re Famous!

Everybody loves you!“Watson, I have recently realized that I am famous!” The Effective Detective exclaimed at me as I entered the room.

“Sir,” I began desperately trying to reply without piercing The Detective’s ego, and perhaps starting a major argument, “while I believe we are well received in certain pockets of the Internet, I am hesitant to say that rises to the level of a Seth Godin or a Frank Kern.”

The Detective cast a baleful eye at me as he answered, “Watson, must you be so literal? I’m quite aware that I or even we do not rise to the level of the luminaries you mention. But the fact remains that I am famous, and you should include yourself in that statement.”

“Sir, I am confused. How can you or I be famous, yet by your own admission we do not rise to the level of a Seth Godin, who as a matter of record is famous,” I answered back, actually quite confused.

“Watson, you are confusing the size of the audience with the very existence of an audience, and thus limiting your effectiveness to said audience,” The Detective said, sitting back in his chair to await my reaction.

Unfortunately for me, I was quite dumbfounded by what he had said and just sat there staring with my mouth slightly open.

The Detective took my silence as encouragement to continue and so, did.

“Watson, please close your mouth, you look like a fish. While your ability to have quite brilliant insights has been improving, I see this point has escaped you. Let me explain. A common lamentation I have heard from business people struggling to be noticed is when they look at someone like a Seth Godin or a Frank Kern, they think ‘Well this stuff is easy for them, they are famous!’ The point the complainers miss, and I admit to falling into this trap occasionally myself, is that Seth and Frank weren’t always so famous. They built their audience over time. But, one thing was certain, they were always superstars to the people who agreed to join their audience. Within that group, they were famous! Over time they have grown their tribe, and achieved a high level of celebrity. But the point is as soon as you start to develop an audience to your point of view, you are famous within that group,” The Detective stopped to let me absorb what he had just said.

“Ah, I see your point sir. You can be famous – a celebrity of sorts within a group no matter the size, but how does that make a difference for the smaller marketer?” A thought began to coalesce, but I thought it safe to allow The Detective to finish this discussion. Just in case.

“Think Watson, fame is self-perpetuating – if you allow it to be. If you recognize your fame within a select group, through word of mouth and the tendency of we humans to want to belong to groups we think are worth joining, you can grow that fame. Not only that, but within the group of your fans the ability to do business increases. After all you are a celebrity to them. You need to act like one, and I don’t mean in a rude or insensitive way, but rather an appreciative way. Your fans, followers, whatever you wish to call them, have given you something precious: their attention. Reward them with what they signed up for, you and your wisdom, experience, point of view, whatever it is that makes you, you. Of course where it is appropriate, you can, and indeed should, sell products or services that allow your tribe to leverage even more of what you offer,” The Detective stopped and this looked at me expectantly with his slight smile.

“I think I see sir, I guess not only are we famous, but many of our readers are as well!” I obliged his expectations.

“Precisely, Watson, well said! Now they just need to go out and leverage their fame, one fan at a time,” The Detective agreed and ended the conversation for the day.

They did NOT say that

I can't believe they said that“Watson, have you ever had the strong desire to punch someone in the face with no warning?”

This was a start to the conversations between The Effective Detective and I that was quite unusual. Curious, I gave an answer that I thought might elicit a further response.

“I suppose occasionally sir.”

“That is a non-answer Watson, but rather than spar with you verbally, I will merely assume you have had such a feeling, and move on to my story and point,” The Detective answered, before continuing on as promised. “You see Watson, what brought about this question was an exchange I was witness to between a young marketer concerned about the marketing of their company’s product, and a presenter on the topic of digital marketing, whom I feel should have known better.”

“A start that does not indicate the necessity of violent action, sir,” I interjected.

“Hush Watson, you are interrupting. there is more. The young marketer was trying to grasp the concept of a lead capture form on their website. When what this could actually do for them finally broke through the fog, they exclaimed, ‘So they fill out this form and give me permission to hound them!’ I of course was appalled. I turned toward the presenter waiting for him to perhaps break into an indulgent smile and explain to this poor confused young marketer the error in using the word ‘hound’. To my shock and dismay, he instead agreed with them! Something to the effect of ‘Yes, hound them.’ The Detective paused while he placed his face into his hands.

“Perhaps sir, you are over reacting. Perhaps, they said such a thing in jest,” I jumped in, eager to come to the defense of two people I had never laid eyes upon.

The Detective shot me a look before responding. “Perhaps Watson, perhaps. Luckily I contained my first impulse which was to roundly curse both of them out. I then contained my second impulse to stand up and noisily walk out on the presentation. Even if they were joking, there were 40 or so people in the room that based on their questions, were, for the most part, totally uneducated on the subject of digital marketing, and especially email marketing. For them, that statement could have very well been considered as validation of the deed. Hound them indeed!”

“What might you have said differently, sir?” I asked giving The Detective an opening to provide an alternative.

“Obviously Watson, if said young marketer had made such a stupid statement to me, I would have politely informed them that people do not give you permission to hound them. Hounding them is the surest way to make nary a penny via email, and to develop a reputation as a spammer. No, people give you permission to start a conversation, a relationship with them. It is that initial trust that allows you to deepen the business relationship, to position yourself as an authority, and, once that trust is deep enough, to consider doing business with you as a trusted advisor. Pursue the people that have asked to do business with you, that tiny fraction that are ready to buy now. But your list? Treat them patiently, and they will reward you. Treat them as property, or cash-cows, and they will punish you, leave you, and they certainly won’t do business with you.”

“Sage council indeed, sir,” I responded, knowing the discussion had come to an end.

“Just so, Watson, just so.”

Favorites

Woman relaxes in a marble tiled bath tub.“Sir,” I started out, taking the initiative in our current discussion. “I must admit to some confusion regarding the concept of favoritism.”

“Confound it Watson, you are slipping! I require a more specific query,” The Effective Detective answered with an annoyed tone to his voice.

“Sorry sir. In particular I am thinking about how companies tend to favor those who spend more with them, or invest in particular programs, versus doing the same with individuals in a work environment or perhaps even friends, a practice that is often frowned upon. My confusion is if one is right how can the other be wrong?” I clarified.

“Much better Watson, a much more specific and answerable question,” The Detective gave a slight smile. “As to your answer, I believe your confusion while understandable is misplaced. You are comparing apples to oranges. Favoritism as you put, in a personal setting is something I have no desire to address, and I leave that discussion to philosophers. Business on the other hand, both with customers and employees or contractors is a much simpler matter to deal with, since the concept of fairness is rather black and white,” The Detective took his characteristic pause allowing for an interjection or question from me.

“Why wouldn’t fairness enter into the equation in business matters, sir?” I asked

“It does, but not in the classic moral sense. You are being fair in business when you are being honest and not cheating someone. This has nothing to do about seeing different employees or customers as equal in value to each other. Customers are providing you revenue. The more revenue they bring in – without causing you undue stress or cost, the better you should treat them. They have earned it, and most likely they will respond in kind. Employees are providing you a service. If they go above and beyond they should be given special treatment as well. These are business transactions, not social interactions,” The Detective to take a breath, allowing me to get a word in edgewise.

“So you are saying that favoritism in the business environment both with customers and employees is a good thing, and in fact should be promoted?” I asked.

“I thought I just said that,” snapped The Detective with more than a trace of irritation. “Remember though, you still must treat all of your customers and employees fairly and honestly. Having favorites does not mean giving someone who gives you less money inferior service, or denying an employee something just because they happen to have a lower level job. Service and respect are given freely to all.  Perks are given to those who contribute something extra to your success, and although the perks can vary in value, they should be freely given at all levels of contribution.

“Something I wish the cell phone companies would learn,” The Detective finished, throwing his latest bill on the floor, closing our conversation.

A Matter of Context

firstplaceI began today’s discussion with a simple, direct question to The Effective Detective.

“Sir, what is the best software to manage your list?”

The Detective studied me for a moment, and gave a simple, direct response.

“You are asking the wrong question, Watson.”

“What could be wrong about such a question, sir? It is a simple inquiry as to what to use to solve a problem,” I replied, perhaps a tad indignantly.

“Elementary my dear Watson. The question you ask lacks context, which makes it impossible to answer, hence it must be the wrong question,” The Detective replied; cryptically, in my estimation.

“Begging your pardon sir, but where is this lack of context? The question is quite specific,” I tried again.

“Yes, Watson, the question is quite specific, and it is the type of question that most people would ask when making an inquiry regarding software. In fact, it is the type of question that most people ask regarding any product or service – what is the best?

“Specificity aside, the question still lacks context,” the Detective stopped for his normal pause here. Unable to help myself, I gave him his opening.

“Just what would this missing context be, sir?:

“Now you are asking the correct type of question Watson!” The Detective exclaimed with a smile.

“The missing context is the answer to a simple question: What are you trying to accomplish?” The Detective stated, warming to the subject.

“You see Watson, without an answer to the ‘what are you trying to accomplish’ question, you could go chasing down any number of rabbit holes in an attempt to answer the original question. In a sales situation, it could result in buying something that simply does not answer your needs, or getting confused and not buying anything at all. Without context, an answer to the ‘what is the best’ question is just a random guess at your intentions.

“This is why I ignore software reviews. ‘The Best’ for one person is not necessarily the best and may even be the worst, for another. Reviews reward comprehensive feature lists that in the opinion of the review author match the needs of some mythical group called ‘most users’. How the membership of that group is determined is beyond me. Now if you knew that certain features were actually relevant to your usage of the product, then knowing whether the software implements those features effectively might be useful,” The Detective paused again, looking at me expectantly, perhaps hoping for an interjection. I decided to oblige.

“So the question isn’t really what is the best, but rather what fits my needs the best.”

“Precisely Watson!”

“But what if you are not sure what you need?” I asked.

“That Watson, is the trick, and is a discussion for another time,” The Detective said, closing out this 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.”

It isn’t all about you – but maybe some of it should be

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

As I sat reviewing The Effective Detective’s outline for a presentation he was preparing, I admit that I felt some confusion. Rather than let it fester in my mind and cause me stress, I decided to broach the subject directly.

“Sir, there is a part of this presentation that I fear seems out-of-place with the general philosophy you have been enunciating practically since I met you,” I began hoping that my tone would not irritate The Detective.

“Very good Watson! I expect that what is causing you distress is the apparent conflict between presenting your business as a solution to your prospects needs rather than your own, and the initial part of my presentation that urges the participant to visualize what is best for them,” The Detective replied evenly, without a hint of irritation.

I had to admit that I had not expected him to make the connection without some additional prompting by me, but since he seemed to be open to discussion, I decided to press my luck.

“Exactly sir! Shouldn’t the major concern of any business be how their product/service even marketing content provide value to their prospects and buyers?”

“Right you are Watson, but the key phrase there is ‘the concern of the business’. Political campaign finance arguments aside, would you agree that a business is not a person?” The Detective pressed me back.

“Of course, sir.”

“However, you most likely would not argue that the composition of a business is at least part one or more persons?” The Detective waited for my answer with that slight smile that indicated he had sprung his trap, and the conversation was about to be completely under his control.

“No, I would not argue that point, sir.”

“Excellent Watson! Let us focus our discussion on the smaller types of businesses, privately owned, or even run by a sole proprietor. My point in the presentation is that, to put it in a way that is perhaps a tad maudlin, if there is no joy in the operation of the business or the delivery of the product or service, it may, in fact almost certainly will, negatively affect the business,” The Detective paused and lifted an eyebrow, signalling t me that he might be interested in hearing my thought or thoughts on the subject. I obliged him.

“So the mental well-being of said owner is critical to business success.” I said, attempting to summarize in a single short sentence what I had just heard.

“Short, succinct, and dead-on, Watson!” The Detective exclaimed happily. “The old expression ‘Money can’t buy happiness” is a bit off target. After all, having money can relieve a large number of the stresses that exist in our payment oriented society. However, if one finds the process of making that money distasteful or unfulfilling, it will generate a stress that will most certainly build over time, and is inescapable.

“Now mind you Watson, this does not necessarily mean you can blithely ‘follow your dreams’, or ‘do what you truly love’ and expect the money to flow. I would submit to you however, that if you cannot come up with a variation of ‘your love’ that brings you joy and is marketable, you must either expand your heart, your imagination, or perhaps both!

“Now then, time grows short and there are other aspects of the presentation I wish to hear your views on. Pray continue your perusal,” The Detective concluded, and we went back to work.

Do what you love or love what you do?

ID-10073588

Image courtesy of Somchai Som / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

“Tell me sir, are you truly doing what you love to do?” I started my conversation with The Effective Detective today.

The Detective paused before answering, then replied, “Watson, I must say you have developed a knack for starting out with extremely probing questions these days.”

“Thank you sir. Are you avoiding the question?” I said, pressing what I thought might be an advantage.

“Not at all, Watson, are you so paranoid these days that you cannot even accept a compliment?” The Detective asked in reply.

It was my turn to feel caught off-guard. “No sir, I just… well…”

“Ah, I seem to have rendered you speechless, Watson. While you struggle to regain your verbal skills, let me answer your question,” The Detective interjected,  with a smile that implied he had at least obtained a draw in our perpetual battle of wits, if not an outright win.

“The direct answer is no, but that answer needs a qualifier, so shall we say no, not quite,” The Detective continued.

“What I would truly love to do is continually lecture on a common problem: the inability of some business people to understand the data in front of them, not just sales and marketing data, but the personnel data they have as well. How the processes they use to manage their businesses, and  market and support their customers are not based in the reality of the data. None of which is really their fault, they are simply doing what has been done in the past, following the conventional wisdom as it were.

“However there are some difficulties in that, the first and foremost being that few want some smart aleck, even if he is a rather convincing detective, telling them something they don’t want to hear. Often, people don’t want to hear what they need to hear, they want to hear what to do next. So I needed to ah, revisit my ambitions and readjust my own attitudes to provide what people want, not what I think they needed,” The Detective paused, waiting for me to respond.

“In what ways did you readjust sir?” I asked, giving The Detective an opening to explain what frankly I found a tad confusing.

“Elementary, my dear Watson, I isolated the basic thing that gives me joy – solving a problem using a combination of analytical and creative techniques, and focused in on what I could see was a problem that lots of smaller businesses face and can recognize: the issue of taking massive amounts of data that pour into their businesses and their lives each day, sorting out the noise from the signal, and taking the appropriate action to bring in the lifeblood of all businesses – leads.”

“Poetic, sir,” I responded sincerely.

“Quite, Watson. I love what I do, I love the challenge, I love the mental exercise. It may not exactly be doing what I love, but it is certainly a variation on that, and it is something that the people I work with can understand and apply in their businesses,” again The Detective paused.

“It is doing art, as one of your favorite writers says, but how is that different from doing what you love?” I asked, still confused as to the difference.

“Ah, Watson, you’ve hit the heart of it, you see. Unless doing what you love actually answers the needs and wants of others, it will only answer your wants. But loving what you do, even if it is some hybrid of your true love, can answer the needs of those around you and not only feed your ego, but your pocketbook as well. After all, you aren’t of much use if you are homeless and starving,” The Detective concluded. His point made, we moved on to our next item of business.

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.”