Monday, December 24, 2012

¡Merry Christmas and The Very Best on 2013!

I want to take this opportunity to wish you the best in the world, not only during these holidays, but for each of the days on the New Year which is to start in just a few days!

I also want to thank you wholeheartedly for having accompanied me on this adventure again, for supporting the articles I post here, for helping me learn through your comments, for letting me go into your lives, and business, and for allowing me to share with you my honest, professional thoughts about this wonderful world of marketing, advertising, social networks and, in brief: business!

I will restart posting on January 7, taking these days off to enjoy the best gift God has given me: my wife and kids!

Obviously I will also take advantage, as a good blogger that I am, to organize several articles I have to write, which I am sure will be of your interest.

May these Holidays be a wonderful time to share, enjoy and cherish moments of joy, brotherhood and love with all your loved ones, your friends, your partners and all the people around you!

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Suffering Of "Tunnel Vision" While Managing Your Business?

Suffering of "Tunnel Vision"?
We all know that having goals is necessary, we could even say it's mandatory if we want to know whether the actions we are taking, both in our marketing efforts as in life itself, are effective or not and, therefore, will enable us to make proper decisions in a timely fashion.

But it often happens that the "achieving goals" thing becomes a crying rally and, behind it, many entrepreneurs put themselves into a frantic race towards achieving those goals as if the intensity or cruelty of the race itself was in itself their goal.

One of the things I like about driving is that, if you look around, you can make yourself aware of many things: the landscape, a particular building, signs announcing different things (some important, some not so much), other cars , and so on.

However, when you enter a tunnel, have you noticed how everything suddenly changes?

Inside the tunnel your focus is on the road ahead and the exit if you have it in sight.

Your focus is on the light you see at the end of the tunnel or, in the best case scenario, you stare at the car in front of you. After all, there is not that much to look at while inside the tunnel, or is there?

Inside the tunnel, there are very few elements that assit you in creating an overall view of what's happening on your surroundings, allowing you to be aware of what's happening around you and how all this can affect your ride, yourself and those who are with you in the car.

Does this sound familiar to you? This is the way in which many entrepreneurs, perhaps yourself, manage their business: fully focused on achieving their goals.

They simply go straight forward, driving without looking around, not paying attention to the things around them and without giving any importance to the influence, positive or negative, that these things can have on their achievement of those results, business profitability, and therefore satisfaction of all people related: stockholders, employees and partners.

How can you change this way of managing your business and be more effective?

Well, you must start by not thinking as if you were inside a tunnel. Don't keep you focus only in your goals and achieving them, but concentrate on coordinating and  managing, the best you can, all neccessary actions you should take to achieve the goals you've set.

And for doing that and being more effective, you should use all the information that is around you. If you pay close attention to your surroundings, you will surely find new opportunities, avoid difficult situations for your company such as that driver who is zigzag driving at a very high speed and whom, if doesn't maneuver quickly, will destroy your car, and will hurt people inside of it, including yourself, of course.

Open your eyes and ears to enjoy the scenery. Gather information. Develop alternative plans. Who is to know? Maybe you come to find a shortcut that helps you achieve your goals in half the time you expected? Maybe a "business angel" interested in funding your project? How about a competitor going bankrupt and leaving an open spot for you?

Related Posts:
Marketing: Where Can We Find The "Starting Point"?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Facebook: A City Full of Street Vendors.

Vendedores en cada esquina.
Last week I published an excellent article by my a friend of mine, Pilar Perez Baz (@PilarPerezBaz), in which she talked about facebook comparing it to a city full of people who gather there to share things about their lives, interact with others who are interested in the same kind of things, and, generally, hang out.

In my case, for instance, Facebook allows me to keep in touch with my family, a part of which is in Venezuela, and the others spread out through Chile, Germany, Trinidad, and me, my wife and kids here in Spain.

It also allows me to regularly chat with friends I have in the United States and, in brief, Facebook has helped me stay in touch with the people I love, with those with whom I want to nurture relationships along the road and to develop new ones as well, forever destroying geographical barriers.

Today, there are street vendors on every Facebook corner.

However, what began as a platform that you can use to keep in touch with the world, has started to become a street market, where traders will sell their products, stand on street corners with big horns and begin to demand your attention, so that you to buy from them and not anyone else.

They will invite you to follow them, will become your friend, but at the end of the story, they just want to sell you something.

And that's fine: They are merchants. They have products. They need to sell. The problem is that, with their horns and banners, we can’t see the beauty of the city in which we live, in some cases, their noise interrupts conversations we are having at a square or in a coffee shop.

When we’re walking down the boulevard, those guys try to sell us things putting their goods in front of our face, not even allowing us to salute that friend with whom we arranged to meet there.

The problem is not about what they do, but the way the do it.

Obviously if you are a trader, facebook gives you a great tool to get in touch with your audience, to develop long-term, lasting relationships, breaking geographical barriers that may limit your business, add value to relationships, and above all, generate more business.

After all, your marketing efforts must ultimately focus on bringing in more sales, more business.

However, your desire to sell ain’t bad itself. The problem lies on the way you are doing your things. If you want to keep blowing the horn, standing in one corner of the street, yelling to the top of your lungs to the world how good your products are, probably people will end up covering their ears, completely annoyed.

What can you do to take advantage of facebook and bring in more sales?

  • Provide relevant content to your audience: identify the areas of your business that may be of their interest. If you sell security systems, for instance, provide tips on how to better protect your house, what precautions to take when going on vacation. Even talk of other products that may be of great interest, such as doors and security gates, even though you consider them competition, the can add a significant value to your customer’s life.
  • Share news, videos, posts and other material you find that somehow can improve your customers’ lives, bring new ideas, fresh, altruistic, interesting and innovative.
  • Join groups where they discuss topics of your interest: Share the knowledge that makes you an expert within your business, provide tips, offer help, stay always available as a company and as a person.

You will always have traditional tools to promote your business, such as sponsored post or paid facebook ads, however, if we remain faithful to the idea that gave birth to facebook, which was to unite people with people, You’ll do an excellent job if you follow the tips recommended above, make your presence on facebook a little bit more “human” and you’ll be making more money.

Keep in mind it’s not about taking a megaphone and shouting from the rooftops how good your products are, but to prove you're a company which wants to interact with its audience, willing to share and add value in a world increasingly interconnected.

Related posts:
From Conversation To A Brand New Sale in 6 Simple Steps.
“It’s not called Sociale Media for notihng.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Facebook: Neither With You Nor Without You.

Facebook: Ni contigo, ni sin tí.
I think the social network in which I spent most of my time is Facebook. But surprisingly, it isn’t the one I like the most. And so, why do I then keep sharing bits of my life through it?

A few days ago, a colleague asked me what my thoughts were about facebook and what came out of my mouth surprised me: I still think I'm on it mainly because the people I want to share moments with are particularly active users of this  successful social network.

But is that all?, How do I feel about facebook?

No, it’s not all. I will try to define facebook as a social network on my own way and will then try a reconciliation. For me facebook is like a big city full of life, and very, very noisy.

The citizens of facebook (its users) reside in small apartments (personal profiles). Each of these areas reflects the personal touch of its tenants, also becoming a perfect spot to manifest their own lifestyle and mindset.

These apartments can have the door open for anyone who wants to drop by without calling first or conversely, its residents may choose to close the door and decide who goes in or not (through a friend request).

I would recommend configuring your privacy settings as you like, and therefore control some of your life in such a chaotic a city, ruled on one hand by the absence of Mark Zuckerberg and secondly by these rules we know as "facebooknians".

To succeed on facebook, you’ve got to know what its main purpose is.

To succeed in this virtual city you must have a very clear understanding that your main purpose should be to share updates about your tastes, feelings, hobbies and so forth. At least that was the idea on the beginning.

Like in any big city, there is a big avenue (newsfeed) where you can freely wander around to keep up with the latest updates from your friends and greet them, or comment on their status.

Sometimes you can even enjoy a nice chat with some friends about specific subjects without even noticing it. A good way to draw your friend’s attention and interact with them on something you want, is as simple as mentioning their name or labeling them.

What if you don’t feel like talking to your friends? It’s ok. You can also enjoy a great ride by doing some window-shopping in the main avenue (visiting professional or business pages).

Facebook pages help professionals in business, companies and brands to connect with their audiences, improve customer communication and build brand loyalty. Facebook pages are an important marketing tool.

Feeling like talking about something specific? What about joining a Club?

If you just want to talk with people who have similar interests as you do, you can join a social club (or what they call "Groups" on facebook).

In the facebook "Groups", not all members have to be friends with each other, but they have become a useful channel to meet people and exchange ideas on a common theme.

So far, the way I feel about facebook is not strong enough as to invite me to undertake a full reconciliation with this social network everyone is talking about, but now I see clearly how I feel about it: What I actually don’t like about facebook is not its system, but its constant failures.

Hey, by the way ... Do you have Facebook?

Author: Pilar Perez BazI am from Zamora and love my roots. Love them so much that I can’t stay away too long from my roots but I also love Galicia, the land that welcomed me and where I gave birth to my only daughter Sara, Galician by birth and conviction. I'm enthusiastic, I like to share, love technology and the internet. @Pilarperezbaz

Related article: If you had to pay to be in Facebook ¿Would you continue to use it the same way?

Monday, December 3, 2012

From Digital to Real Life: An Amazing Experience.

In case you're wondering about what it can mean for your business to get into this issue of social networks and all these stories, I'll share with you from my own experience, last weekend when I attended the "Social Media Marathon", organized by Juan Merodio at the Convention hotel in Madrid.

It started well before the event.

Days before the event, the nerves began to be felt. It was a strange feeling: to finally meet all those people with whom I have been in touch for months, by phone, chat, email, facebook, sharing, tweeting, retwitting, commenting our publications, in brief... it was a weird feeling.

We started to share, like old friends. Messages coming in and going out. Counting the hours. As two people who are meeting for their very first time, but this time it was not two but thirty people, maybe more, getting together.

Some came from far away, others not that much. I drove all the way up from Alicante, a four-and-a-little-more hours ride, to meet with my friends, who had been just "virtual" until that night.

We created a group on "Whatsapp" and made each other company during the trip.

I left Alicante at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and took the highway. I was expecting to arrive in Madrid around 8 pm. Not a big deal.

To my surprise, at 4:30, I got a message on my mobile: My friends had created a group on Whatsapp to keep us all in touch and coordinate our arrival in Madrid along with our meeting for dinner!

Every so often, we did check in, indicated our position and estimated time of arrival at Madrid, and among jokes and stories we made our ride lighter while we’re getting to know each other a little bit better.

And finally our first meeting: The digital friends become offline pals!

The big moment came. ¡The meeting! The faces we had previously only seen on social networks profiles, became flesh and bones, real people, my friends.

It didn’t pose any major effort for us to continue with the conversations we were having through social networks for such a long time, we laughed, joked, and we showed our human face which, until then, no one had seen.

Think for a moment those girls you see in the picture above are meeting for the first time!

And how all this applies to your business, and how can you take advantage of it?

It is very simple! Would you like to interact with your customers in the same way?, Would you like to have a channel that allowed you to establish authentic, lively, relationships with them, one on one?, Would you like your customers come to your store and feel like they are at their home, relaxed and confident?

Well that's the greatest benefit you can get for your business by building a social networks presence: It will assist you in generating an enthusiastic community around your company, brand and product, one that will be committed, interested, and will happily receive what you have to offer, buy your products and recommend them to their friends. A community that will stand next to you when you have problems with other customers, because they believe you're doing your best.

Of course your next question is: How do I accomplish that?

You must start by understanding that selling in social networks should be taken as a consequence of your job being properly done rather than your primary goal. Follow these tips:
  • Find where your audience is, connect with it and get off the “I’m the big company promoting my products” pedestal.
  • Take a real interest in what they do, try to find out what triggers their interest, what doesn’t, show yourself as a social enterprise, non-commercial, share topics of interest, be as authentic and genuine as you can.
  • Get involved and bring your community alive.
  • Create opportunities to meet with them. Don’t get so worried about selling, and concentrate on developing long-term relationships.
  • Show them what you offer, your product, your services. Open your doors for people to search for what they need, allow them to buy without having you on their neck selling them stuff. 
If you do things right, your customers will liaise with you, they same way me and my new friends have kept in contact since we met over the last weekend, and... go figure!: We've even talked about doing business together!

How about that? Would you like to join us in this ride?

Related post: Relationship Value: What can you expect from social media?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Can A Soap Handicraftsman Be Social?

Chatting with Ana Garcia, Soap Handicraftsman.

Can Handcraftsmanship be Social?
Some time ago I concurred with Ana, a neighbor, with whom I’ve shared occasional comments about her entrepreneurship.

Ana is dedicated to manufacturing handmade soaps and, since she knows I'm in the computers’ area, she always asks me about computer’s stuff: my computer is running really slow, one day it starts acting up, on her own. As people say, the regular stuff for computer’s guys.

In one of the last conversations we had, having meal with some friends, the social networking subject came up to the table, and Ana said she didn’t completely understand what the point was. She agreed it’d be fine, but she’d rather talk with people on the street, as she’s always done, and she even said that chatting and spending all day long in front of the computer was not on her mind, much less sharing every little thing she does on a regular day. She even recognized herself skipping private-life oriented conversations with her neighbours.

The fact is that in that conversation some of the guys were defending having a social media presence, some were not, and at the end, everyone went home with their own ideas about the subject.

Ana and I got together again and the conversation came up, and I said to Ana:

- Ana, let’s have a vermouth and chat about social media and soap handcraftsmanship. What do you say?

- It’s ok for me Joaquin, but you’re not going to convince me. You know how I feel about it.

- I assure you, Ana, the last thing I want is to convince you of anything, let's just chat, okay?

And that's how the conversation started.

- Ana, how did you get started on creating handmade soaps, or better yet: how did you make people aware of your new initiative?

- Well, you know Joaquín, it all started as a casual activity. I build my soap-making workshop and started doing some testing. When I had a product that I liked, I invited some friends to test it and let me know their opinion about its texture, smell, the feeling it gave them while using it. I even said to them: “They aren’t ornaments, Ok?! You’ve got to use them because I’d like to know what you think.”

- At first, I gave away the first soaps: They were solely for testing purposes. My friends allowed me to know what they liked and what they didn’t thus giving me a chance to improve my product. Initially they received my soaps at home, but after that, I contacted a small home & decor shop owner so I could have my products for display and sale at her place.

- Good! I think you have attended craft fairs also, with people from the area, right? How about these fairs? Last time you were dressed as an Andalusian, if I remember correctly - I joked.

- Yes, it was kind of medieval themed fair - Ana answered, smiling - I liked it a lot: you contact other craftsmen and then exchange emails and ideas with them. I can get to know  how they decorate their products, and promote them in the show and it's also a way to talk to people. It doesn’t generate many sales, but always gives me ideas and suggestions, and for me, that's important: Knowing what other people think and feel about me and my product. It all helps me improve.

At the end, Ana, where are your sales coming from?

- Fundamentally from the store, then I receive orders by mail from people that have come to know about me through my website, you know, one of those DIY web pages, where I showcase what I do, have some pictures for product presentations, a contact address, email and phone number and just about that. But Joaquin, weren’t we supposed to be talking about social networks?

- Sure thing, Ana, and we are actually talking about social networks. Imagine for a moment that we are in the craft fair we were talking about. What do you see?

- Well, I can see artisans’ stands showcasing their products.

- Exactly. You can also see there is a lot of people in the square, some are your friends, and come here because they know you in a personal way, but there are others who don’t know a thing about you and simply come because they’re interested in the products you sell and manufacture.

- Yes, it's true. Moreover, there is one who is a huge follower of the fairs and we have concurred on many occasions, although I can’t say we have come to be friends. He’s always been interested in my products and we’ve chatted several times about them and how I manufacture them.

We're talking about a social network: people communicating with each other.

You, and all who come together in the square, we are all represented in this network by our personal profiles and are connected by friendship ties with people we actually know in real life, and with people who are simply interested in what we do. This also happens in Facebook, (which would be the fair), where you connect with your true friends because you know them well, and there are people who connect with you simply because they are interested in your work, when you have a business page.

There are also other networks, such as Twitter and Pinterest for example, where people are connected in different ways. Twitter, as I like to put it, is about birds chirping in the park, all at the same time without trilling to no one in particular, but it serves to quickly spread out short messages. On Pinterest, is about using images more than words, but as you see, all networks will serve to convey information, interact with people and therefore receive that much-needed feedback for your business.

- You know? You've convinced me. I want to be in social networks! I think it’d be a good way to promote my business and also to receive the comments and criticisms of my clients and friends. Without this information it’s very difficult to improve and advance in business. When do we start?.

And this way, Anna, the soap handicraftsman, begins her journey through social networks, creating an extension to her business, opening a "new space" in which to meet with clients and friends, to interact and learn from them how to create a better product.

What about you? when do you finally jump into this exciting new world of social networks?

Author: Joaquín Gómez Moreno.
Graduated in Chemistry. Professionally dedicated to Sap Business One advisory, musician by vocation and actually falling in love with Digital Marketing and Social Media as Community Manager.@gomezbar39

Related post: Relationships Value: What can you expect from Social Media?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Social Media: From a conversation to a brand new sale in 6 simple steps.

Are you listening effectively?

Many headaches occur when planning social media efforts because companies can’t clearly define a way to turn their facebook fans or social media followers into actual paying customers.

Sometimes, companies invest their time in publishing product related information and status updates, some more promotional than others, a few brands are more focused on their customers, and respond to comments and positive mentions, and time goes by without their efforts bringing in new customers which, after all, is the ultimate goal of any marketing strategy.

Last week I came across an infographic which explains with enviable clarity how companies can turn their social media acquaintances into new business.

I’m taking the opportunity to sharing it with you, completely confident it’ll help you see quite clearly how to leverage your presence on social networks more effectively and get new sales.

For the infographics, they took as a reference a sport shoes company, and on this specific case, special models for marathoners.

From the conversation to the sale in 6 simple steps.

  • Identify relevant conversations and information of interest to your business: In this case, the company remains listening on social networks, and identifies people who are talking about their upcoming participation in a marathon, which is clearly a nice business opportunity. The formula is very simple: If you are going to participate in a marathon, you become a potential buyer for a new pair of running shoes.
  • The company gathers information about the event and sets up a “timeline" between the start of the conversation and the event itself, (in this case there are still nine months to go).
  • The company starts to follow the threads of ongoing conversations being held around the event and users involved in them.
  • The company puts together an event-driven content strategy: The company begins publishing information with tips and suggestions about marathon training programs. Runners, as they are already planning their participation in the race, start searching for relevant content and find company’s posts, find it interesting and connected with the company through social networks.
  • The company invites this new audience to join their newsletter to receive tips and suggestions on how to train for the marathon, how to increase their performance, avoid injuries and, ultimately, offers information relevant to the potential customer, adding value to the relationship and engaging emotionally with the future prospect. Through the newsletter, the company gets fresh leads of potential new customers.
  • Specials and Incentives: Just when runners begin to prepare for their training, the company sends coupons with incentives and discounts for the purchase of their special new shoes, and new business is driven in
  • The company stays on their customer side, monitoring their experience with the product both during the realization of the marathon and after. In this case, it’s simply done to bring the relationship a step further and develop customer loyalty.
This last step is what I added and will vary based on the type of product or service you're offering.

Although social networks are not specifically designed for selling, they should open up business opportunities.

Basically the idea of ​​bringing in the last step is to strengthen customer loyalty, showing the company's intention wasn’t only to get the sale done, but to ensure complete customer satisfaction.

And if your customer’s experience with the product is good, there you have a great opportunity to invite them to share their feedback with your audience through social networks. Everything would then be great.

It is important that your marketing strategy in social media, you make an effort to identify these path to bring new business in, so you don’t waste time unnecessarily and can really take advantage of all your efforts and digital presence.

Below I leave the link to the original article and infographics: How to Effectively Listen on the Social Web
Related post: Relationships Value: What can you expect from Social Media?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Learn to play with the money that really belongs to you.

Surprise, surprise?
Since the world began, and long before business became so complex as they are today, there was a fundamental equation that made it all work in the best way for everybody:

Profit = Sales - Costs

As long as this simple formula was respected and followed, things work very well for business owners: You had a product which costed you 50$, sold it for 75$, therefore earned 25$ in profit. And that's all the money you had in your pocket and so, the only money available to you for doing things. There was nothing more to it than that.

It’s a formula that still holds true both in small businesses, like yours, as well as in the world’s largest companies, the difference being that many additional factors are taken into consideration nowadays to calculate it.

How much does it really cost to manufacture your product?

In many cases, though it seems so basic a concept that needs no explanation, business owners don’t realize production cost goes far beyond the cost of raw materials plus the money you pay for the actual manufacturing process.

Your office rent, money paid for electricity, telephone, and Internet services, your salary and that of your employees, and many other additional costs, should be included as part of your production cost, and they all add up.

And it’s important to keep this in mind, because every expense not included in your production cost and taken into consideration while calculating your product’s sale price, will come out from the only place possible: your profit.

Note that the formula remains the same: Profit = Sales - Costs.

And at what price you need to sell your product then?

It’s very simple to avoid surprises. If you include into the costs of manufacturing your product, all the expenses it actually carries along and then you add up your expected profit margin, then you will know with greater accuracy the price at which you need to sell your product or service.

And you can also come to know at what price you cannot sell it, which is even more important, because more often than not you might end up offering incentives and discounts without realizing how much they can affect your actual profits.

For instance, when you go to a bookstore and buy a pack of letter size paper, in the money you’re paying for it at the counter, all costs incurred by the manufacturer to get that paper package delivered to your hands are included. You are even paying up for the truck used to deliver the merchandise, believe it or not.

For many people this expanded concept of "production cost" comes as a surprise and they’re unable to see it clearly.

That is why we get to learn of so many cases of entrepreneurs who get to the end of the month believing it was a successful one because they had huge sales and it turns out that, in the end, the numbers are not what they expected them to be or even ended up losing money.

What do you really have to do to make money?

If you look at the formula at the beginning of this post, the only way for you to make money is to bring in more money than what goes out (sales always bigger than expenses).

You need to learn how to play with the money you actually have, and that’s why it’s so important to have this formula in mind every day while managing your business, no matter what size it is, regardless of what product or service you sell.

Well, perhaps I shouldn’t exaggerate and say every day, but it's definitely an equation that should overall drive how you manage your business.

If at any time, you detect the money you're earning begins to decrease it might only be due to:
  • An increase in costs.
  • A decline in sales.
  • A combination of both.
Now knowing this, you will have a better opportunity to make the right decisions to continue making money (or not continue losing it) and, thus, will not be surprised by market’s normal ups and downfalls.

In your case, do you know how much your business operation costs each month, how much it costs you every day? You know how much money you're making even before you meet with your advisor or accountant?

Related article: Today’s big challenge: From abundance to shortage.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Share, You Share. But They... Are They Also Sharing?

¡Let's build this up together!
A few weeks ago, chatting with a couple of dear fellow, Andrés (@ Ander73) and Tania (@ TaniaMontoro) about social networks pillars, Andrés commented that almost everyone who "live" on this side of the line, understand that sharing and conversation are key to social media strategies.

And it's true: almost all of us "who live on this side," we are completely aware of this fact, we know how social networks function and perform, and we understand that sharing and conversation are key elements.

But if that is so, why are still out there so many companies still not understanding how to take full advantage of their social media presence?

Why many entrepreneurs still think that this is a child's play and nothing more, and  pay little attention to it?

We must break through the barrier and show this reality to the world.

It is easy for those of us involved in this social media thing, who have received specific training on the subject or have been related to it within our professional environment for some time, to understand why the conversation and interaction are so important, and what significance both might have within a marketing strategy and in achieving certain, specified goals within a plan.

But not many of those who are starting up their businesses today, or even many longtime business owners and people in influential positions, who lack of specific training in social media and marketing subject, understanding it so easily nor see it the same way and, in many cases, the only thing they have is the experience generated by the day-to-day managing of their business.

For them, talking about ROI, interaction, communication, target market, added values, unique selling proposition, social networks, facebook, twitter, instagram, and so many other terms, familiar to all of us, becomes little more than confusing, and that’s why they remain on "the other side of the line", non believers, full of doubts, not even daring to take the first steps.

It is them who need to understand why it is important to share and converse in social media.

As we help more business owners and people in decision making positions, become aware of this reality and how the rules of the marketing game have changed in social platforms, we will be doing our job for social networks to reach their full potential and be valued at their true extent as communication channels, and on the same boat, our jobs as professionals who offer services on this area will also be valued properly. And that will be good.

It is them who must take an active part in this dynamic and productive process, which in many parts of the world is already generating positive results, increasing sales and building stronger relationships between customers and companies committed to doing the job properly

Strengthening customer relationships through conversation.

It is amazing the reach your company can obtain through the proper use of social platforms and tools within integrated marketing plans.

Inviting companies to share in an open, honest and transparent way with their audiences, they get to generate interesting conversations and nutritious with their customers, and they can also get to know, in a close and certain way, who their customer is and how to effectively take care of them.

This action promotes the development of stronger relationships with customers, with its corresponding positive impact on business volume.

That is why we must promote, in a simple language that can be understood by everybody, this new way of building relationships with different audiences on the market.

Let’s make conversations and sharing involve us all, in a true 2.0 environment, with neither boundaries nor limits for anybody!

Related article: The Interaction In Social Media: Why Are “Your Comments” So Important?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Using “Click to Chat” Platforms to Create a Unique Customer Experience.

Photo courtesy of iAdvize.
Among the goals you should have set for your company if it’s selling its products over the Internet, is to find the way to make your visitors enjoy a fascinating experience while shopping on your site.

Keep in mind that in many cases, regardless of how dynamic your site might be, when your client needs your attention, unfortunately their options are often narrowed down to a phone call, sending an email, filling out a contact form indicating what their needs are or, as in many cases it happens, to browse through a comprehensive database where you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Seizing the opportunity to solve your customer’s problems in real time.

Many websites dedicate entire spaces to offering advice and recommendations to help you create an unparalleled shopping experience for your customer.

Today I want to share with you my opinion about a tool that I use quite often: Access to a customer service chat window, available 24 hours a day, which for me has been the most effective tool of all that I have used so far to contacting companies over the Internet, and it has helped solve problems on many different occasions.

These tools are grouped under the name of "Click to Chat" platforms and represent a highly valuable opportunity for you to take care of your customers’ needs right on real time, as they are happening, without having them waiting for your response until the next business day or, in the worst case, lose a customer because he couldn’t get answers to a specific question right at the moment he was making the decision to buy your products.

Try to look at it as if you were your own customer.

And since I'm offering you this recommendation because I have personally used this platforms many times, I’m letting you know how I got the most out of them.

I have my web site services with a company in the United States. Usually I access my account’s control panels at night, when I come back home after work. In the moments is late at night, as it might also be the situation for you.

And you know most of the companies don’t work around the clock, therefore my window of time to make a phone call or get directly in contact with them is very limited.

So far all the incidences that I’ve had have been promptly resolved, because they have a tool which allows me to directly chat with their customer service representatives, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it has been so convenient for me to be able to get answers to all my queries in less than five or ten minutes the most, right at the moment I need them.

If you compare this situation to waiting for hours, days, or even until next Monday, when you happen to have the problem on Friday night, then you can easily realize the immense satisfaction you get to feel as a customer by having your problems solved in real time through the use of platforms like these.

What are the most obvious advantages of online click to chat platforms?

From my point of view, there are many, and for sure I won’t be able to write them all down here, but here it goes:
  • The relationship with your customers becomes closer, more human, and that's positive.
  • Only takes one click to your clients to contact you and, most importantly, it doesn’t cost any money to them.
  • You offer your client the opportunity to openly and completely speak and share with you either their satisfaction or frustration, it’s the same. At least you have an opportunity to sort things out, and your customer will definitely appreciate it.
  • Your company’s image is definitely strengthened by showing you really care about listening to what your customers have to say.
And I think the most important of all, it keeps your customer from making the decision to go somewhere else right when they were on the middle of the buying process.

Like I said at the beginning, for me it’s a tool I really like and use, as long as the company makes it available to me. The example I’ve shares with you at the beginning of this post, is just one of many I could write about.

I use the “Click to Chat” platforms not only with them, but also with the people handling my house’s mortgage, with the bank, with some of the applications I use to manage social networks, and some other service providers who might not come to my mind right now, and it’s always proved to be very helpful.

Therefore, and to wrap up this post, I want to offer you a recommendation: If you want to assist visitors to your website in having a better experience while shopping, make this tools available to them.

It’s probably going to cost you some money, but it will always be a very profitable investment.

If you find my recommendation useful, here you’ve got  a few companies you can visit and request more information on their specific services and pricing plans.

Kayako Engage.

Related Articles: How important is what your customer experiences with your product?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How to Make a Successful Sale: Do We Create Needs or Simply Discover Them? - Part II

Can we really create needs?
Last week's article was focused on the fact that, as people dedicated to marketing  products, brands and services, our main task is to discover the needs that motivate our customers to finally make the purchasing decision for what we offer, and based on this discovery to develop all our commercial and advertising efforts.

If we can’t find such need, it’ll be very difficult to connect our product with its consumer and make the sale happen.

One of the comments I received about the post, reminded me that one of the major products developer of our time, once said that "We create needs"

I am 99% sure that we DO NOT create needs.

And I say 99% because, like everything else in this world, there is no absolute truth about anything and there should always be room for a second opinion, and a third, and many more.

Now I'll try to show you where my opinion is coming from: If it were possible for us “to create needs”, then consumers will simply be programmable robots to whom we would be able to dictate what, how and when to buy our products. And we all know it doesn’t happen that way.

If it were possible for us to create needs, companies would need not to diversify, sales would suffer no ups and downs, there would be no competition, all brands would be alike, product consumption would remain stable, regardless of the economic crisis, and a lot of things more, and as we see, none of this actually happens.

New products are created because there are business opportunities for them.

Products are created because somehow its creator has discovered a market niche to which marketing efforts can be aimed and turn that product into a profitable business.

But first, this discovery of the need must be made. The product developer must have found that there is a need in the consumers' side which must be properly taken care of and/or fulfilled, and makes sure this new product he’ll be bringing in will fill the gap and do the job more efficiently, or even on a unique way, as it has been in Steve Jobs’ case, who directed his products’ marketing efforts towards specific market segment and did it in a wonderful, unique way for each of the products they developed.

What made Steve unique, in my opinion, is that he was able to look further ahead and find out that things could be done in a better way, that products could go a step further in satisfying consumer’s needs and anticipated what consumption trends might be among people for those new products.

But anticipating is not the same as creating. Finding out where things are heading to and getting there before anyone else is not the same as creating a brand new place. And that is the virtue successful entrepreneurs have: they know how to analyze the market looking for new business opportunities to develop and create new products and services.

If we could create needs, the world would be very boring.

And boring because we would all have the same car. Why would we need a smaller, or a larger one? or why would we even need a luxury car, instead of a two-door sedan if both of them allow us to satisfy our transportation needs the same way? Or maybe everyone would live in the same house, or would wear the same clothing?

Can you imagine what it would be if drug dealers could "create the need to consume" their products?

The power lies, as it has always done, on consumers, who have the power to decide to purchase an specific product, service or brand that suits their needs, and will purchase it from the one who knows how to discover what really motivates them to make the buying decision.

This post is dedicated to you. I do hope you enjoy it.

And here you have the link to Part I: How to make a successful sale: Do we create needs or simply discover them?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How To Make A Successful Sale: Do We Create Needs Or Simply Discover Them?

Do we really create needs?
Since the world began and companies have the need to selling their products to consumers, it has been said that sales people create needs in the minds of buyers, and guide them by the hand throughout the buying process.

I'll offer you an example to illustrate this point: I love aviation and airplanes, both large and small. A salesman comes now to my house, or the office (as you like it better) and wants to sell an airplane to me.

The vendor knows I like them airplanes and comes already armed to the teeth with all possible arguments and necessary strategies "to create" in my mind the need to buy an airplane.

Will I buy it? Of course I will not, because right now, even though I like airplanes a lot as I like flying them, I'm not in the situation to buy one. The desire might be there, deep inside, to buy one, but there is not enough motivation and money to do it right now.

If you don’t have the need to buy or simply can’t buy, no matter how much the sales guy puts his best effort into explaining the reasons why you should have his product, you will not buy. It's that simple.

The industry recognized this fact a long time ago.

If you don’t believe what I say, look at the cosmetics industry, for instance. How long has it been since they discovered women buy lipsticks because it makes them feel more beautiful? It’s been a long time. Do you believe that a lipstick that doesn’t appeal to this internal women’s need, would be successful? Doubtfully, and see that their marketing is not based at all on the specific characteristics of the product itself but their consumer’s needs.

Now, what happens, for example, in the case of women who don’t like wearing make-up and promote the “make-up free”, women’s natural beauty. Do you think you could convince them to buy a lipstick? Again, doubtfully, and not because they don’t want to feel beautiful, but because they satisfy their need on a very different way and not just by using lipsticks.

That is why it’s so important to find out the real need, what motivates each of your customers. You might think that this second woman would buy a lipstick because she wants to feel beautiful too, as all women do, but note that, in her specific case, this issue goes a different way

When salespeople say they do create needs in people’s mind, it sounds to me anything but a sales pitch for monday morning sales meetings so that vendors can go out and hit the road with an adrenaline rush.

The needs are deep inside there and it’s our job to discover them.

Remember the famous "Maslow's Pyramid of Needs"? It describes a different number of classifications for the different needs that we people have, from the basic ones to the most profound.

The trick to making a successful sale is learning to discover which of those needs is what motivates a buyer to make the decision to buy a product at an specific time, and, once you discover it, increase the urgency and demonstrate how your product will help your client meet that need.

Note that for each buyer the reason to buy the same product might be different. And that is why it’s so important to establish a dialogue with your prospective buyer to learn about their real needs and connect them with specific features of your product.

The secret lies in the ability to listen carefully and discover the real need.

Only allowing your customer to open and calmly express how they feel about your product, their expectations, concerns and many other related things, you will be able to understand what will motivate them to buy it.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that you can create a necessity on your client’s mind, because you will take a long, hard trip to go nowhere. Instead, focus your efforts in discovering their real needs and connect them with what your product, company or brand offers.

You will be surprised at the results.

When you put it into practice, can you tell me how it goes? If you've done it before, can you share with me how it came out?

Click here to continue to the second part of this post:
How to Make a Successful Sale: Do We Create Needs or Simply Discover Them? - Part II

Related article:
Corporate reputation and sales reps’ responsibility.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Social Media: Who is responsible? The ball or the player who kicks it?

Is it the ball or the player?
Last week an article was published in a well known website whose title was "5 Reasons Social Media is Killing Marketing" and it generated quite an interesting conversation around it.

Personally, I would like to share with you my opinion on this issue, because I’m convinced it is important to clarify some concepts before they might be misinterpreted by young entrepreneurs and business people who can really come to think marketing is dead and social media are guilty of such death.

Social media is an additional marketing tool in your bag.

If there is someone who says social media are "the magic bullet to generate sales," as the article reads, then that person is making a serious mistake. Like any tool, social media, by themselves, don’t do anything.

They become either effective tools or not, depending on the way you put them to use not otherwise. Hence the title of this article: A ball parked in a soccer field by itself, is nothing more than a tool. It becomes an effective tool, or not, depending on the foot and skills of the player who kicks it, there is nothing more to it.

If social media has created "a generation of young professionals who speak instead of listening", it is responsibility of these professionals, not the platform they are working with.

Social media haven’t killed anything: They opened up another channel to interact with your audience.

Much is said that if you look for the quantity rather than quality, it’s a mistake. And it doesn’t have to be that way. In social media, as in many other things in life, there are no absolutes and, as Einstein said, everything is relative in this world.

Even though I’m a strong believer in quality over quantity, I also recognize that if your strategy is simply to gain as much visibility as possible, then quantity is the goal you’re gonna be going after.

It all depends on the lens through which you look at it, and the glass will be the goals you want to accomplish with your social media presence. For some people, it will be quality, for others quantity. At some times you'll want to generate conversations, others you’ll want to generate sales.

Everything will depend on the goals you have set, and on that, platforms like Facebook and Twitter can do nothing for you. If you use them incorrectly your goals will not be achieved, and you have to have that clear on your mind as it’s nobody's fault but only yours.

Social networks complement your marketing strategies.

Keep in mind you are doing business with human beings, and because it is people like you and me, at the end of the day, we all like to deal with humans whenever possible.

I say "whenever possible" because, again, there are no absolutes in this thing. There are companies with whom I have done business without having to interact with a live person.

However, in these cases, the company has made available for me communication channels to resolve my doubts and questions, such as online chat, Twitter accounts and others. Again, whenever you have the chance, establish with your customers a direct and personal contact, which is always more effective, even if it’s over the phone.

Social networks are always a complement to your marketing strategies, sometimes a very effective addition, other times not so much, but they’re there to be a piece of your overall marketing mix and help you achieve your goals, not to replace all marketing channels.

There is no need to choose between one or the other.

You don´t have to go either only digital or offline. It’s not like that. What is clear is that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in just one basket. The future of social networks isn’t certain and clear, as they might come and go, as has already happened in some other cases.

Nobody can guarantee Facebook will continue as the leader within 10 years, therefore, your marketing strategy should not only count on this platform, nor in any other for that matter.

Your company must have a comprehensive marketing plan, not focused on any specific platform, but properly built upon a mix of all platforms required to efficiently reach your customers, both potential and current.

That's why the key is orchestration: All your marketing efforts, and all platforms you’ve decided to use, should all work as a great orchestra in which the ultimate goal is a sweet melody: achieving your goals.

The big problem is improvisation: Not having a plan.

As with most things in life, in marketing and social networks not having a plan is almost synonymous of disaster. But marketing isn’t the one to blame, or social networks for that matter. The responsibility is on you, for not having a plan or clarity on your goals.

Social networks have been a great addition to the way we do marketing. A new tool. A very powerful one indeed. However, as the ball in a soccer field, if it falls into the hands of a non-skilled player, then wonderful things will never occur.

I recommend you read the article that inspired this post. When you do, think that social media are like the ball. What happens will depend on the player kicking it, not the ball itself.

Don’t you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments area, and you’ll enrich this little conversation.

Article that inspired me: 5 Reasons Social Media Marketing is Ruining Marketing.
Related article: Did you put all your eggs in just one basket? and also the Relationships’ value: What can you expect from Social Media?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

SMB can also be written with G of Greatness.

With G for "Greatness"
A couple of days ago, while talking with a very dear friend, Joaquín Gómez (@Gomezbar39) we commented about certain practices occurring in companies, (not so regular practices if we could say).

Practices which are often associated with small businesses’ operations, or companies that don’t have great facilities, great capitals, or even the possibility of having a strong payroll, specialized in each business’ area of ​operation.

A comment made by Joaquín during our conversation, strongly caught my attention: "Welcome to the S of SMB", as it reminded me that these irregular practices not only occur in small but also large corporations, and that, I have proven on my own experience.

That's when I realized that the difference between a small business and a large corporation is not the size, nor capital, nor assets, nor a large customer base, but the mentality of its officers, directors, or of those who have the power to make decisions.

A business’ greatness begins on the mind of its owner.

Being an SMB doesn’t have to be a sentence that forces you to manage your business punch after punch, making your decisions as the great foreman squeezing his pawns, hiding from suppliers and being late with his payments.

Being an SMB doesn’t have to be a bad excuse or a false justification for the inappropriate management of your business. Quite the contrary.

Being a small business is a great opportunity to be different in a society that cries out for people to show that things can be done the right way, even with limited resources. It’s an excellent opportunity to set an example, to rise the bar, and make money while doing things right.

The difference between a SMB written with S for “small” and one written with G for “greatness” really relies on your mindset as an entrepreneur, the ideas you have, in the illusion that you put into your business, in the way you project it towards the future and how all these things apply to your daily operations.

In fact, with the right mindset and attitude your company can be much more efficient than larger corporations, and can also create a more positive environment both internally, within the company itself, and externally towards your customers and suppliers.

Let the S in SMB only refer to the size of your company and not the way you manage it.

For the times being, a change of course is required to be made. The inertia and heavy weight of the economic crisis is creating really deplorable scenes in many areas, not to mention its impact on those families which are really hurt and doing bad.

Make sure that the S of SMB only serves to identify your company by its size and limitations, but that has nothing to do with the way you manage your business and make decisions.

It is a good time to show that quality is not achieved with money but with effort and hard work. Manage your business with a capital G of greatness, with good, honest and transparent management, focusing on delivering good service and better quality and adding value to your relationships,

You’ll see how things begin to be different within your business and, who knows, you might already be closer to moving to the M of “Medium Size” business.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Advertising, marketing and sales: Why are they so regularly mixed up?

Advertising, marketing & sales.
If you take a look at the photograph illustrating this article, you'll find there are three newborn babies, cute and beautiful.

Three babies that are identical triplets and each will have its own name, although certainly more than once people will confuse them with each other. It is normal and happens all too often.

With advertising, marketing and sales it happens the same way: They are frequently used on an interchangeable way. It’s not uncommon to hear business owners refer to "marketing plans" when they really mean "sales activities", or want to do a "marketing campaign", when they really want to do some "advertising".

It is a fairly common situation, but it can have important consequences.

Where lies the difference between these three terms?

The difference is that, despite being so closely related, as the three little girls in the picture (yes, they are three little girls), each has its own name and personality. And since they are so different from each other, you should really make an effort to get to know them a little bit more.

You know I like to share with you using day-to-day words, so I will try to define for you, in simple words, what each one of them means for me.

Marketing is all you have to do to get your product from your hands to your customer’s. That’s why we find here the famous four "Ps" which stand for Price, Product, Place and Promotion. Marketing controls and has to do with all of them.

If either one of them is missing, your marketing strategy would not be complete. Marketing is then fundamentally about strategy, planning, and knowledge.

Advertising is communication. It’s about letting people know something about your product, company or brand. It’s about movement of information. Remember that your customers can’t buy from you if they don’t know that you exist and become familiar with what you offer. Regardless of the class or type of communication action you put together to make people aware of what you have, advertising is simply a communicational process.

Sales is the transaction itself. The moment of truth. It’s the change of ownership of your product or service. It’s the process that allows your product to leave your side and become your customers’ belonging. And it could be the most important process of all, because it’s the one that generates the revenue.

And I say the most important one, because if your marketing strategy, with its corresponding advertising campaign, doesn’t generate sales, it could be considered a failure.

Why is it important to know the difference between each of them?

Precisely because if you don’t know what the differences are, you're probably not making the most out of what you are doing and, therefore, are unlikely to achieve the results you’re expecting to, or even worse, you will not be getting the maximum results you could get if done properly.

I'll show you a couple of examples and will try to explain you, in a very simple way, what fails:

  • You have a salesperson who goes out to work without having catalogs of your products: What is the problem? Your marketing strategy fails to consider the "P" to promote the development of appropriate product literature to give support to the sales people.
  • You have a website through which your customers can’t buy your product or doesn’t indicate where they can buy it: What is the problem? Your communication strategy fails, by not closing the circle that should bring every prospective client to where purchases can actually be done.

And as such, I daily encounter situations like this, in which the actions taken show, quite clearly, people don’t fully understand the many (and sometimes sublime) differences between advertising, marketing and sales.

If we were to leave it as a summary:

Marketing equals strategy
Advertising equals communication
Sales equals money.

In your company’s case, do you recognize the difference between each of the triplets? Or do you refer to advertising, when what you really meant was sales?

Related Articles: Marketing: Where can we find the starting point?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Corporate Social Responsibility: Are we starting from the right point?

CSR: Are we starting from the right point?
It appears we are getting used to making totally ours slogans that sound nice to everyone’s ears, build a positive, socially accepted image around our businesses, but end up being initiatives which don’t make it to the real life, and aren’t put into practice even within the company itself.

Where should all changes start with? It is clear that for a real change to happen, we must begin to promote that change from the inside out, within ourselves.

If we were talking about your company, it happens the same way: If you want to contribute to build a more just, more equal society to live in, you should begin to develop that same society you wish for within your own company. Shouldn’t you?

One of the concepts that are now being used very often, is that of "corporate social responsibility" or CSR for many. Let's start by defining what CSR is.

What is "Corporate Social Responsibility" anyway?

According to Wikipedia, is:

"Corporate social responsibility (CSR), (...), can be defined as your company’s active and voluntary contribution to improving their social, economic and environmental surroundings, (...) Corporate social responsibility goes beyond compliance of laws and regulations, assuming your company is fully respecting and complying with them (...) It would be difficult to understand a company’s efforts to develop CSR activities without first complying with responsibilities and duties within their own industry."

If you want to clearly understand it: your company has a responsibility with the society, the world, with customers, employees, suppliers, partners and shareholders, for the simple reason of being engaged in a commercial activity.

And that responsibility is not only to develop and deliver a high quality product or service. That is understood, implicit, or at least should be. It goes much further, implying even your responsibility as a company to add value to your customers, drive innovation and change at all levels, and much more.

But my question is: Why corporate social responsibility is associated with outbound activities such as caring for the environment, participating on or even providing funds for charitable foundations, and alternatives of the same nature, forgetting the one area in which the company has quite an important responsibility: their own employees?

Why CSR is associated with outbound actions your company carries out?

Isn’t it your company’s responsibility to create an adequate environment for its employees and provide them with decent working and economic conditions, within the company’s own financial capacities? Isn’t it one way to add greater value to our society?

It shouldn’t be more valuable for your company to financially support a program for the protection of dolphins in a remote country, instead of providing your employees with good, and adequate working conditions, if not to say decent, it sounds a little tougher.

Not that charitable programs are not a good idea, not at all, but your corporate social responsibility starts on a different place.

It seems the economic crisis has created an environment in which many companies forget that their first and most important responsibility is towards their employees, then to their clients and afterwards with society. Keep always in mind that, at the end of the day, your business’ performance is on the hands of employees who work for you.

In many cases, the economic crisis has become an excuse to reduce salaries, increase working hours without increasing wages, open "work for free in exchange of experience" opportunities, and even go as far as charging people for giving them an opportunity to work, completely failing to fulfill companies’ key responsibility.

Do not forget that your business strongly depends on your own employees.

And if you get it clear, then it is easy to understand how you can begin to offer great value to society. The first way is to provide value to the people who make your team, your employees, and that you can do by creating a working environment that not only meets current legislation, respect human rights, but also give each person the economic value their work is actually worth.

Even take into consideration that by doing this, you are offering your contribution to recovering from this economic crisis that afflicts so many, because you're allowing your employees to have more money to buy things and enjoy a better lifestyle.

Corporate Social Responsibility is not just a phrase that sounds good, but a real and concrete commitment of your company with the whole environment in which it operates.

Do not allow the economic downfall to transform your business in a place where nice things are said, but only said, because when it comes to what is done, awful things that we can not even mention happen.

That way, you're actually helping to create a better society, don’t you think?

Related article: Working for free, when, why and for how long?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Olympic Games: An important marketing lesson for your company.

Not only the gold medal counts.
The Olympics are finished and with them two weeks of excitement, competition, records, tension and expectations.

Fifteen days during which the whole world centers its attention on one city (in this case, London) to enjoy a memorable sportive experience.

Many people refer to winners and losers. I do believe it goes a bit beyond and, above all, it's about competitors. It's about young athletes(and some veterans in between) who came to this meeting to give their best, and even though some go back home without medals in their hands, surely they have in their minds the memories of an extraordinary experience.

Backstage these Olympics, which showed those who still have doubts about social marketing and the use of new media technology being here to stay, there are many lessons that can be applied to the marketing strategies of your company or personal brand.

Of these lessons, I want to stay with one: not only the gold medal counts.

Not only is the gold medal the one that counts.

The general trend is to consider "winners" all those who win medals by finishing among the top three positions, especially the one who gets the first spot and wins a gold medal. This time, there were also the "Olympic diplomas", some sort of a tribute to those competitors who, even being non-winners, had an outstanding performance.

The same holds true for business: the trend is to consider "winners" only those business who are in first place, the industry leaders, those with the highest turnover, but then: What happens to business, perhaps like yours, that don't make it to the "Top 10" list? Are they losers? Why?

For many athletes, only the gold medal and the Olympic record count, because only then can they become famous, grab the world's attention and get the best sponsorships. There was even the case of russian athlete, Viktoria Komova, who cried because her team failed to win the gold medal and had to settle for silver. Just imagine: the silver medal! Second place in the world and she cried!

However, for businesses, the story is quite different. Of course it'd be great to be among the top 10 in the world. Of course it'd be great. But you don't need to be number one, to have a successful business.

In fact, there is a huge list of names of companies that fail to be among the 500 largest companies in the world, but they are doing an outstanding job with their customers, feed the families of many employees and bring in important benefits. Are they losers for not being number one?

The victory is not in the competition but the continuous preparation.

Do you think Usain Bolt's victory came just is those 9.63 seconds it took him to run the 100 meters flat? What do you think of the South African runner Oscar Pistorius, the handicapped competitor, and those who managed to improve their personal bests, even if non-winning?

All of them gather around a common point: They have for a long time continuously trained to give the best of themselves not only in the Olympics, but in each of the competitions they have participated previously. Think about those 8 runners who smashed the 100 meters race in less than 10 seconds! Not one but eight!

They say that wealth is in the journey, not the destination.

The Olympics should be an inspiration to you.

Absolutely they are an extraordinary inspiration, that's granted but you should not concentrate your efforts only in taking home the gold medal, and be among the top 10 in your industry, because in business it's not all that counts.

The Olympics should inspire you to prepare for and consciously manage your business for success, to have a long term action plan, to grow better every day, for continuous improvement of your products and your team, for keeping strong relationships with your customers and, above all, to make of every day, every challenge, every moment a growth experience and memorable learning.

If you have the chance to win the gold medal and be among the first, great! but remember that you don't need that to have a successful business and a good portfolio of happy customers.

Inspired on: What the Olympics Has to Do With Your Business (Not Much) written by Margaret Heffernan.

Related article: Do you want a successful product? Become your most demanding customer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Strategic Planning: The difference between desires and goals.

I'm a rookie biker. Rather, I should say I have been biking for about three months now to lose some of that weight that is always there to spare.

I don’t run much: one hour twice a week and, on weekends, since I have a little more time, I do five hours between Saturday and Sunday.

A few days ago, being at the end of one of my rides, already tired and willing to get back home, I had a very interesting experience which I want to share with you.

Two riders passed me by the left side, calmly and without apparent effort. Not only they did pass me, but moved away from me at a good speed. Of course my competitive spirit was hurt and I immediately began to feel the need to not leave the situation just like that.

For a moment I was torn between whether to push myself to try and reach them both or just leave the situation alone. The reflection that followed caught my attention.

We have to clearly understand the difference between desires and goals.

On one side there was the option to push myself a little more, press the accelerator down and try to heal my wounded pride, reaching the two cyclists who had passed me. That meant using energies that I did no longer have, exposing myself to an unnecessary injury and, at the end, not finally finishing my biking session that day if I had got hurt.

On the other hand, there was the option to leave it alone. Why? Because after all, I went out biking not to compete with anyone but to get some exercise, burn extra calories, get some workout for my legs and increase my endurance. Little more. My goal was not to compete with anyone, even though at that moment it was the desire of my heart.

Then I remembered that many businesses do the same thing too: They mix up what they want with the goals they wish to achieve.

Be careful with what you wish for, because you can get it all.

Although it seems an implausible story, there are many cases of companies that have gone bankrupt just after having had their strongest growth periods. I remember a UPS commercial I saw many years ago in which they were showcasing a group of young entrepreneurs who were very happy to finally have their own e-commerce platform up and running.

While congratulating each other on how nice the platform they just launched looked and felt, they suddenly stopped, staring at each other, speechless, because something was happening: Orders were coming in continuously through their e-commerce site!

The first orders were received with satisfaction but, as orders piled up, they came to realize they weren’t ready to fulfill such a strong demand and didn’t have any alternative plan of action designed to cope with such a situation.

A goal is not necessarily what you want, but what you can achieve and deliver.

In the case of the UPS commercial (I'm trying to find the link in youtube to drop it here), the desire of the young entrepreneurs was obviously to increase their sales. That’s the reason why they launched their e-commerce platform to begin with

Maybe a little planning in advance would have kept them from running into this situation or, at least, allow them to have options to choose from, but they didn’t think of it. And although this one is about an advertisement and it doesn’t provide any further detail on the story, we could probably assume that the company, not having the ability to fulfill so many orders, perhaps began to fail on delivery dates, ran out of inventory, and some other things. Maybe they didn’t. Who knows?

Your wishes can become a nightmare.

If we were to be talking about your company, do not mix up what your best desires are for  it with what the company can actually accomplish. Wishing to double your sales is always a laudable goal to consider, as it is with opening new offices and expand. Who does not want to accomplish things like that?

However, it is not only about what you want to achieve but about being certainly ready for what it means to achieve such goals and stay at the same or higher level thereafter.

Going back to my biking case, perhaps I could have increased my riding pace and reach the bikers that had passed me, but if I had hurt myself, what then? Would you let your company go bankrupt, only for wanting to achieve something for which your company is not ready yet?

For now, I’ll continue biking with the same goal: to do some exercise, lose weight, and increase my endurance. Every time I run, there are some cyclists that I pass, and others that pass me. However, I have my goal clear on my mind and no longer suffer for my own desires.

Can you do the same for your company?

Related post: It’s time to grow: When it’s not good to wear too many hats.