The Business of Emotions

As we close out this month’s discussions on lessons, I wanted to share one last lesson we can apply to our businesses, this one on topics related to sales. Why do people choose to work with or buy from you? There are tons of reasons why people choose you including (in no particular order):

-visibility through marketing or product placement
-testimonials on your site or the internet
-convincing sales page or website
-you have what they think they need
-features offered
-referral from a friend

And the list could go on. Businesses work really hard to make their products and services visible, to gather testimonials, to write content that is convincing, to come up with helpful products and services, to come up with new and inventive features and to encourage customers to share with their friends.  We keep tinkering with each of these to try to get it just right  so we can improve our conversion rate and have more satisfied customers.

Businesses spend more money and time than ever perusing metrics to see what’s converting, what isn’t converting, and testing different things, partly because we’re able to track more than ever. If you’re serious about having a successful, growing business metrics and conversions are something you have to consider. If you are doing something that’s not effective you won’t be successful, right? Instead of wondering what’s not working metrics allow us to see what is or isn’t working.

However, there’s one factor that can screw up our nice orderly world of numbers every time: emotions. As much as we can do to direct people’s emotions or encourage them to feel one thing or another there’s a lot we can’t control when it comes to emotions. You may have the most awesome product or service in the world, one that logically should be very successful, but if people aren’t “feeling it” it may be a big flop.

So what’s the answer? Don’t just make decisions on logic and numbers alone, take into account how people may feel about your product or service and make time to talk with your intended audience and get their feedback.  You should take into account numbers and logic but don’t forget that most of the memorable and successful ads, businesses and campaigns had to do with feelings, or an emotional reaction they encouraged.

“Mankind are governed more by their feelings than by reason.” Samuel Adams

Lessons to Grow

How does success happen? It doesn’t happen because we’ve experienced loss or failure, or because someone told us we couldn’t do it, although those things can motivate us to become successful.  Success happens because we take action, action that will help us accomplish our goals or dreams. This month we’ve talked about lessons and what we can learn from the things that go on in our lives and in the lives of those around us. One of the most painful, but often the most empowering, lessons is that of loss, failure or judgment. When we face loss, failure or judgment we’re forced to make a decision: will we let it damage us, or will we let it teach and improve us?

I don’t know about you but I have friends who were told in high school that they would amount to very little. It’s not easy to overcome that negative and self-esteem-killer talk. It’s amazing how powerful simple little words can be! The old saying may be that “Sticks and stones will break my bones/But words will never harm me,” but it’s not really true: our words have incredible power, more so than ever with all of the technology that we have in 2015. We’ve seen the power in just 140 characters to ruin people and business’s lives, so it’s not that difficult to see how powerful (and damaging) our words can be. But when words are used to empower the result can be nothing short of world-transforming.

When we put actions behind our words, actions that are based on what we learned from our words and the words of others we face a choice: will we take actions that will hinder us or will we choose words that will allow us to grow and succeed? I don’t know about you but I’d much rather choose things that will make me grow, because it’s only when we grow that is there a possibility of things becoming better than they are. If you want things in your life to change, the answer is not to curl up into a little ball and cry. It’s to let go of what holds you back and grow. What steps will you take this week to grow your life?

“I don’t mind sacrifice. I don’t mind discipline. But a good coach allows people to blossom. I’ve seen that. I didn’t have it.” Dominique Moceanu

Dreams and Fears

We start off our lives with lots of ideas and ideals about the world, some are shaped based on who are parents are or what society tells us is cool or right.  Girls are taught that they should be nurses or teachers, cook and have babies.  Boys are taught about sports, cars, and tools.  Yes, some kids break the mold and have more unique preferences, but even in our much-more-open society kids today still face some expectation about who they’re supposed to be and like.

But the new truth that we’re seeing in the world today is that it’s not about what you’re doing, but that you’re doing something, something that will make a difference in the world in a positive and helpful way. Yes, the push to follow societal norms is still present in our world, it’s something that will always be part of our world.  But more and more we’re seeing people making their own choices about what is right for them, about what they want to do with their lives and less about the expectation that others have for them.

As you raise your kids or interact with other’s kids, don’t discourage their imaginations, dreams and ideals for the world.  The only way the world will become a place that we’re proud to leave for our great grand children will be if we allow the changes we know need to happen, but are too scared or lazy to make, to happen.

If we let kids have their own dreams and become what they want to be rather than forcing on them our reality of frustration, being stuck, being unable to change, and being unwilling to take action, maybe we’ll finally get the message and start making changes and dreaming dreams again ourselves.

When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.”  Jim Henson

Storefront Success

Last week I shared an article with my business newsletter subscribers about the current state of Barnes and Nobles. If you’re not familiar with the company they sell books and related materials. They’ve been in business since the 1960’s but as with other book stores have suffered since the advent of eBooks and online shopping. So as I was reading the article it got me thinking about what the reason for physical stores is anyway. Technically all businesses are physical businesses because there’s a person somewhere behind each of them, but what about businesses with physical stores you can go to to shop at? What’s the benefit and should you have one?  Let’s start off with who should have one:

1-you’re selling a hands-on service. This would be something like a cooking class, yoga class, gym membership or something else that works best if people come to you rather than you going to them or providing the service over the internet. Yes, you can sell them online but traditionally they’re known for being off line.

2-you’re selling services only to a local market.  If your goal is to reach the local community having a physical presence where your potential clients will see you during their day-to-day activities is beneficial and can go a long way to encouraging them to shop with you.

It’s important to note that I don’t recommend just having a physical presence/storefront.  Not taking advantage of the internet, even if it’s just for marketing not selling purposes is a big mistake in this day and age.  Everyone should have a website and do some online marketing whether a blog, social media, a newsletter and/or others.  So if we all have an internet presence, what’s the benefit of having a physical one?

Primarily that you sell something that people would prefer to see/touch/experience before buying.  I can’t say I want to buy fruits, vegetables or fish online, many people like to try on clothes before buying them or experience a technology device when considering different options.  But just about anything and everything can be purchased online, especially products, so if a majority of your products can be and are purchased online, i.e. books, clothing, technology, health items etc. will the physical storefront be going the way of the Dodo soon?

One key to having a successful storefront, and the thing that I think could be the defining factor in whether or not storefronts stay alive, is the experience they provide to a customer.  For the majority of non-fresh food businesses if all you’re doing is selling a product there’s no reason to buy from your physical store vs. your online store.  But if your in-store experience makes buying a product exciting, adds value to the purchasing experience or adds something completely different to the company separate from the products like demonstrations, education, celebrity experiences etc., you’re taking full advantage of all that a physical location can offer.

So if you’ve got a physical location, are you doing all you can to maximize it, or would you be more successful closing the doors and just running your business online?

Leading Until the Bitter End

Leaders have a very important role in life, whether it be at home, in school, in the government, in the faith community, or in business.  There are tons of different kinds of leaders, and all are necessary in making the world go ’round.  Why?  Because one leader can’t do it all.  Yes, it can be helpful to have a top leader like a president or king or CEO, but all of those leaders have other leaders who work under them: they don’t have time to do everything, and if they did they’d be wasting their valuable leadership abilities.  And even more important is something that’s kind of seen as a dirty secret: they don’t know everything.  Gasp!

As a business consultant and life coach I get asked lots of questions.  And most days there’s at least one question asked of me that I don’t have the answer to.  Yes, I’m being totally honest: I don’t know everything.  In fact, I’m willing to admit that to everyone and anyone and often do.  Some people are mad that I don’t know everything and can’t be or do everything for them.  But you know what? I’m totally OK with not knowing, being, or doing everything.  That’s not my job.  My job is to be the best I can at what I do.  Sometimes that means learning things so I can be of service, other times that means passing them on to someone else who can do/know/be what I can’t.

So what’s the lesson here?  Don’t stand in your way or anyone else’s way because you feel the need to be everything for everyone.  Be confident in who you are and don’t try to be anything else.  When you try to do or be more than you are you not only could run into problems for yourself, you could hold your client/family member/friend/congregant/student/constituent back from becoming all they can be.  I encourage you this week to make choices as a wise leader that are empowering to everyone, not just look out for the few.

“Leaders should lead as far as they can and then vanish. Their ashes should not choke the fire they have lit.”  H. G. Wells

How To Treat Others: 5 Lessons

One of the greatest lessons you can pass on to your kids is how to treat someone else. When you know how to treat someone properly it’s like being given the keys to the kingdom. So what are the important lessons to teach?

1-Respect-it’s important to have respect for those who are older or wiser than you, which could be anyone, so it’s best to try to respect everyone. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them, it just means that you can’t try them for treason (or worse) because they like the color blue and you don’t.

2-Politeness-this is about knowing how to act around others and what’s not appropriate for the group that you’re with, but it’s also about some of the basic tenets that you should follow when you’re in the company of others, whether physically or virtually. Yes, it’s good to have fun and games, but a kind act or word goes a long way beyond one of hatred or rudeness.

3-Listening-we’re pretty good at talking but not so good at listening. We’re a world of people who talk at work, online and all day long. It’s how we express ourselves so it’s not something we can avoid. But we’re not so good at being patient and listening to others, which is just as important as talking.

4-About Ignorance-unless something has changed that I don’t know about, you don’t know everything and neither do I. To assume that you do could have serious repercussions depending on exactly how ignorant you are and what you do that shows that ignorance.

5-Forgiveness-this is one of the most important lessons because it’s about the future. It’s not really about the past or the present, but about how your future and the future of someone else will go. Forgiveness isn’t always easy, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that it wasn’t the right choice for everyone.

These are some of the lessons I learned growing up, what about you? What lessons did you learn and what ones are you trying to pass on to your kids?

“My parents would always say, ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s a guy picking up the garbage or the President of the United States, treat everybody as you would want to be treated.” Dan Marino

An Interesting Business

There’s a lot of debate about what makes things go viral, why some things are purchased more than other, similar, things, and why some companies fail and other similar ones don’t.  Sometimes it’s as simple as saying that trends change and people responding to those changes to account for the loss or failure.  Other times it’s simply the fact that what they’re selling is innovative or bad enough to make the market respond one way or the other.

But with the advent of the internet being reachable in so many parts of the world more people than ever are starting businesses.  And simply put there are only so many things you can sell, so there’s bound to be repetition.  Sometimes the repetition is necessary because one company couldn’t competently supply the whole world.  Sometimes the repetition happens because a company can’t come up with anything better than what’s already out there and believes that if that company was successful the idea will work for them too.

But the reality is that doesn’t always work.  You learn pretty quick if you’re doing an honest marketing effort of your offering if people will respond and buy or not.  And sometimes they don’t for a myriad of options.  But the one I want to highlight today is a lesson that we’ve been working on since our childhoods: boredom. If your product or marketing effort isn’t as interesting as it could be you might not be as successful.  Think about it: the videos and ideas that go viral all have something interesting about them whether in how they look or in what they’re promoting.

Just because you have a “boring” service or product like diapers or accounting doesn’t mean that your marketing or interest in the business should be equally boring.  Nor should you allow your business to look like or be marketed like all the others in your industry just because you don’t have any better ideas.  You’re not limited to your own ideas, get help!

So take a good look this week at your business: is it interesting or have you presented it in a way that attracts rather than discourages or repels attention?  Even your amount of perceived interest in the business can have a big effect on potential customers.

“When you’re writing a book, with people in it as opposed to animals, it is no good having people who are ordinary, because they are not going to interest your readers at all. Every writer in the world has to use the characters that have something interesting about them, and this is even more true in children’s books.” Roald Dahl

What’s Your Motivation?

What is important to you in life?  Is it your friends? Your health? Your job? Your partner? Your family?  What are you willing to drop everything for, or maybe even die for?  Countless studies have been done over the past few decades of how we’re slowly killing ourselves with our bad habits and decisions.  While we’ve made lots of progress over the past few decades, we’ve also had some serious setbacks when it comes to the choices we’re making, especially in the health areas.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and working on is finding my motivation.  Why?  Because you can work a job, have a life, and do things all while looking and feeling like a robot. That’s not really living, that’s getting by.  And we’ve seen lots of examples this year of people who died while still very young, so it’s a big reminder that each and every day is valuable and any day could be your last.  So what’s the point in bringing up motivation, after all you kind of have to see to your responsibilities, whether you like them or not, right?

It’s about our emotional involvement and attachment to who we’re with and what we’re doing.  If we’re not motivated, invested or otherwise really interested and it’s just a cut-and-dry responsibility, often we don’t give it our best effort, and the effort we do give it is lackluster, lazy, or late.  So really, one of the things we’ve missed out on is choosing things that we’re properly motivated for and interested in.  Yes, sometimes you have to make a choice about a job or food because you’re desperate but even then more often than not you do have a choice (probably several) and you’ve chosen not to look for them or act on them.  But when you’re able to make a choice based on what you feel is truly best for you or what motivates you it will get done quicker, you’ll be less likely to complain about it, and even when you face challenges you’ll be in a better mind frame to deal with them because you’re really invested in what you’re doing or the person you’re helping.

If your life looks boring, distasteful or you have to drag yourself through your day, I’d say it’s a good time for a motivation check.  Are you really invested in things that are important to you, are you doing things because people have told you to or are you just doing what’s necessary to get by?

“You need to feel that the game is important to you. Lose that feeling and you lose your edge. There’s no faking that kind of emotion. You can’t invent the feeling. It’s got to be natural, real.”  Dan Marino

Pursuing a True Partnership

Are you thankful for your life? This is one of life’s greatest secrets: to truly be thankful for what you have, where you are, who is part of your life and what the future holds. Of course, in order to be thankful for those things it’s necessary to have those things. Each day we’re making choices about things that we want as part of our lives, choices that affect our customers, our kids, our partner and/or our family, and choices about what the future holds. Whenever we make a choice we have to live with it, change it, embrace it or deal with the fallout.

One of the things I’m most thankful for is my partner. We work well together, we don’t mind each other’s quirks, enjoy the quiet moments and work through the hard ones. I’ve experienced what it’s like to have a partner who isn’t on the same page as you and it makes things incredibly difficult, not to mention not as much fun or as motivating to do the work required in a relationship.

I’ve said before that your happiness is really your responsibility, not theirs, and I still believe that. But part of being a partner is about seeing to their needs and desires, making sure they’re cared for, encouraging them, supporting them through the tough times, pushing them to be better and/or meeting them where they’re at depending on what is called for at that time.

A relationship that is a partnership works off mutual trust, happiness, interests, goals, chemistry and love. In a true partnership that’s meant to last these things take time to develop, they’re not instantaneous. But romancing each other, learning about each other, discovering the secrets, creating new stories and memories, and embracing what could be forever are part of the fun of a building a partnership.

If you’re in a good partnership have you told your partner lately how grateful for them you are?

“Marriage has made me a lot happier and I’m deeply in love with my wife, and I thank God for her every day…It is really rare to find someone you really, really love and that you want to spend your life with and all that stuff that goes along with being married. I am one of those lucky people. And I think she feels that way too. So the romantic stuff is easy because you want them to be happy.”  Harry Connick, Jr.

Start off Smart

When people consider starting a business they typically do one of two things: look at what other people are doing and copy them or come up with a “nifty” idea/concept/product they think will be super successful. Either can be a successful business, and your success isn’t just determined by how you start the business, but much of your success does depend on this second decision you’re making in your business venture (the first decision being to start a business, of course). Starting a business is a lesson in many things, including many things about yourself and the people in your life. Let’s take a look at a few of these lessons today.

First, believe in what you’re starting. If you don’t believe that the idea that you’ve based your business on really works you won’t be able to sell it or endure through the challenges that you will face as you develop and grow your business.

Second, do the research. Whether you do the research yourself or you hire it out, make sure to check that it’s a viable idea and people not only think they might buy it, but there’s actually a need for it and it’s something that buyers are open to buying right now (in the middle of and directly following a natural disaster people aren’t looking to buy vacation houses, they’re looking for basic supplies and repair services, so don’t try to sell vacation houses).

Third, learn from other businesses. You aren’t the first person to start a business, so don’t try to go it alone. If you don’t have a lot of money there are lots of free articles and videos online as well as lots of free or inexpensive courses you can take, not to mention the loads of free resources in your local community and at your local library (you can also join Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited for $10 per month). Other businesses have been through it before so take a look at what is working for them and what isn’t, which may lead to some things you can try differently than they’re doing and carve out your own corner of the market.

Finally, be yourself. I don’t recommend just copying someone else, their ideas, while amazing, may not be right for you, your business or your customers. You should be creating a unique business that speaks to your brand of customers. Working to steal customers from another business with the exact same products and business model won’t be easy or get you very far, especially if they’ve done a lot of work on creating brand loyalty.

What lessons do you have for people thinking of starting a new business?

“There will never be another Frank Sinatra. I never wanted to be another Frank Sinatra. I only wanted to be another Michael Buble.” Michael Buble