Crushing Business

Today we’re taking a look at a book Crushing It! by Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary’s a wine expert who was using social media to promote his wine expertise and that snowballed into becoming a well-known expert on social media, and this book, which is a follow up to his earlier book Crush It!, is a look into some of the insights and lessons on entrepreneurship, social media, influence and success.

One of the big parts of this book are the stories that Gary shares, stories from dozens of entrepreneurs who read his first edition of the book and applied what he taught. I don’t typically pick up books that are mostly stories like this, but what all the stories reminded me was that you can absolutely be successful in whatever venture you start. Not everyone will be successful, but there are enough stories from a wide variety of industries that prove you can do it.

The second lesson I want to reflect on today was that of doing your own thing. Yes, there are principles like selling a quality product or places/things to participate in like social media and newsletters, that you should be participating in, but you have to be true to you and your business and your brand (don’t just copy someone else).

As I mentioned in the last lesson, the next lessons is regarding those principles and places. One of the reasons Gary has been so successful is because he doesn’t just mass produce and blast the same exact stuff everywhere, and he also follows the rules (formal and informal). Gary calls it “developing quality micro-content,” where your content is specific to the audience and the platform/place you’re sharing it. This means taking time to know the rules before just diving into a platform.

Fourth, is the importance of having a why. Yes, you should absolutely have a ‘why’ regarding why you’re in business. The more personal and passionate, the easier others will connect with your brand on a personal level. But you should also have a why behind the content you’re sharing, the people/influencers you’re connecting with, and the marketing you’re doing.

Fifth, there are some foundation keys that every business owner should be considering in order to achieve success. They include serving, offering value, teaching, authenticity, passion, patience, speed, work ethic, content, tracking and applying data, mastering social media, and being conscious of the intent behind actions and decisions.

When it comes down to it, through this book Gary encourages business owners to use social media, collaborate, do your own thing and commit the investment to make it happen. What are you crushing in your business?

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A Study on Sales Success Secrets

This month I read a book on most business owner’s favorite topics: sales. Sales may not be our favorite topic, but it’s an absolutely essential one if we want to stay in business. The book I read was Exactly How To Sell by Phil M. Jones. It was a short and easy to read book, so if you’re looking for a quick burst of insight on sales, this could be the book for you.

The book did a decent job of covering many aspects of sales including marketing and dealing with objectives, one of the earliest insights I took from the book was the importance of remembering that sales is a process, it’s not something that has one step, there are many steps from hearing about the product/service being sold, to learning about it, to the actual delivery of what was purchased through use of it.

One of the biggest keys this book shared about getting successfully through the sales process was about who the salesperson was and how they acted. Sales people in this day and age are more successful if they’re good listeners, problem solvers, empathetic, knowledgeable, helpful and responsible. Those are important characteristics for any business owner, but especially for sales people to not only make more sales, but also show they’re human to their potential customers so they feel more comfortable with them.

So how do you get more successful sales? There were 3 big reminders for me in the book, that of confidence, clarification and questions. The book made a really great statement that the role of a sales person (and the overall sales process) is to provide the potential customer or client with all the information necessary to make a decision and not feel any confusion over what’s being offered. It’s one of the reasons I encourage lots of information on sales pages, including some indication of price. Asking questions of the potential customer enables you to make sure you’re all on the same page, confirms the needs they have, and helps you make the best recommendations for their specific needs. Questions also help you and them avoid a bad pairing before things get too far and there’s a lot of wasted time and resources. Finally, confidence is important because it shows your potential customers that not only do you have the knowledge of what you’re selling, you believe in it and it’s ability to solve the needs of your customers.

Sales can be challenging, but with careful thought, planning and practice soon you’ll be seeing success! What are your challenges with sales?

Building a Business Brand

This month I read the book The Brand Mindset by Duane E. Knapp.  Like the book I read last month, it was written almost 20 years ago, but many of the concepts in the book shed light on the brand discussion that we’re having today in ways that I don’t think we’re really embracing it.  It’s also of note that almost all of the brands that were profiled in the book are still in business today, and had already been in business for many years when the book was written.  Let’s take a look at few of the topics of the book and how they can help us with branding today.

Let’s start with what branding is.  Branding is important because it can help differentiate one company from another.  A brand reinforces that a business is more than their individual products or services.  It also can help us as business owners better understand and communicate with our ideal customers.

One of the interesting things that was brought up in the book is something that is typically more connected to the hospitality industry (hotels, theme parks etc.) than businesses as a whole, and that’s the idea of calling a customer a guest.  When you call them a guest you’re given the opportunity to treat them in a specific way, a way that you may not treat them if you just see them as a customer.  A guest means they’re welcomed and honored, and you’re there to make their experience a great one.

All of this is true.  Branding is very important as it reveals the business to your customers (guests), hopefully showing them a business they can identify with and can meet their needs, wants and desires.  However there’s another side of branding that’s a big opportunity, and that’s how you can create your brand to teach the people you connect with how to treat and work with you as a business.

Think about it this way: when you’re a guest at a hotel or even in someone else’s home you’re usually a little more respectful of their stuff, you are a little more polite, and you work harder to make sure that everyone is on the same page (asking about the potential of upgrades or extra towels or what hours there are snacks/beverages available etc.).  So if you want people to pay a fair price for your products and services, build a relationship with you to buy from you multiple times, not just rant online when something goes wrong, buy from you again even if/when something goes wrong, tell others about your products and treat you/your employees with respect, that’s something you could help establish and educate your potential customers about through the branding you develop.

What does your brand say about your business?

In the Business of Love

This month I read Love is the Killer App by Tim Sanders. It was written in 2002, almost 20 years ago, but so many leadership books contain what is called “evergreen content,” advice that’s good for maybe ever, things that can inspire and encourage leaders and business owners, so I decided to read it anyway.

The first lesson I got from reading the book was an encouragement. Much of what Tim Sanders suggests are things that more businesses and leaders are doing, are doing publicly and are doing as part of large corporations and well-known leaders. It’s definitely not universal, but it’s not odd, or something done by the “special” businesses, or something that people say “oh, that’s nice” about. More businesses than ever are focused more on creating relationships than just trying to get the financial transaction to happen. More businesses are working to create experiences for their customers. And more businesses are working to make both employees and customers happy. We’re not there yet, but more businesses are thinking about people and not just profits.

The second lesson was the focus on intangibles. Throughout the book Sanders focused on a couple of ways to make an impact, and they weren’t marketing or discounts. Instead, he suggested focusing on knowledge, networking, compassion, love, caring, and charity. We’re seeing that there’s only so many products and services that can be created that are different, and what ends up being the difference maker are these intangibles that help separate products and services from others that would otherwise appear to be identical.

The third lesson is right in line with that and well explained by a quote in the book “choice spells doom for villains.” I don’t love the competing aspect of competition, but I do love that there are many choices for people to choose from in just about every area of product and service today. This means that with a little research we’re able to find exactly what we want, or get very close to finding exactly what we want. It means we don’t have to buy from the company that has terrible customer service, the company with the rude employees, or the company that doesn’t have the freshest products. It means we can shop around and very easily pick and choose where our products and services come from and we don’t have to get everything from one company and just deal with something average. But with as much “competition” as there is, it’s more important than ever to differentiate yourself, your company and your products/services from the others on the market.

Are you using intangibles to build your business and support your people? If not it’s a great time to start.

Building a Bigger, Bolder Business

This month I took a look at Think Big, Act Bigger by Jeffrey Hayzlett. I’m not big on reality TV, so my first introduction to Jeffrey was through a telesummit several years ago. I don’t always connect with individuals or leaders who are big and bold and outspoken, but Jeffrey is so much more than that, it wasn’t as noticeable or unavoidable as it is with some other leaders, in other words it didn’t define him in a negative way. And that’s really how the entire book read for me. I really felt like it wasn’t about him sharing why he’s a great leader, it was him revealing in a very personable way why who he is and the decisions he makes work, and why they might/will work for others.

In the book Jeffrey talks about what may seem like a conflicting set of topics. On one side he makes it very clear that his business (any business) isn’t meant to appeal to or work with everyone. He shares an example of how they had a slogan on a website and the team removed that slogan during a website edit because the team said it offended some people. His answer was that it was that if someone can’t see past the slogan or is offended by it, the slogan has done its’ job in weeding out the not ideal clients.

But Jeffrey also talks about the importance of asking and finding out why someone didn’t buy a product or service. Maybe it is because they’re not a good fit (and that’s OK). Maybe it’s because they don’t understand (and that’s your fault and something you can fix). Maybe it’s because the product or service isn’t up to par with the competition (again, something that you can fix). Maybe it’s because your sales people were rude, ignorant, unknowledgeable or lazy (something you must do something about). Knowing why (and doing something about those answers you can and should do something about) can mean not only an increase in business and sales, but also you bringing a better business to the world.

One of the parts of the book I appreciated most was Jeffrey’s take on teams/employees and leaders. He is a believer in hiring people and giving them the tools and empowerment to make decisions based on systems they have set up in the business. The difference with some other businesses and leaders and their employees is that Jeffrey makes a point of doing everything and having knowledge and experience in everything, from cleaning bathrooms to marketing to finances, just for starters. This means he has the knowledge and experience to do it all so he can talk with his people about everything. He isn’t stepping away from or not leading or disconnected from the business, he simply has done it all and now focuses his time on the most important things, and lets other people do what they’re good at doing.

I alluded to it at the beginning of the post and you can guess it from the title of the book, but one of the big keys is the importance of having a positive attitude, thinking bigger, acting bigger, and being real. Yes, Jeffrey grows big businesses, but this isn’t just about the size of your business or your bank account, but about being a big leader that’s making a positive impact in the world through their business, regardless of how many customers they serve.

With that in mind, I wanted to end with a quote from the Introduction: “I can think bigger, act bigger, and do it my way-because I can.” How will you make a difference in your business, be a better leader for your business and make a difference with your business for your community, tribe, and the world?

Let’s Go Places

I’ve read quite a few children’s books, both as a child and in my years of caring for children and working with families, and most of them are either fun to read, share about an experience, relate history, or teach a lesson. Some are just annoying and you never want to read again, but many are those you want to read again and again, even as an adult. One of my favorite authors who delves into lessons for adults and kids is Dr. Seuss. While I sometimes have trouble reading all the tongue-twisting words he used in his books, I still enjoy them and believe they will remain in our literary circles for generations to come.

In one of his famous books, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”, Dr. Seuss wrote: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

As leaders of and examples to children, one of the greatest gifts we can give them is the encouragement to use their brains. This includes knowing how to make decisions, being confident in making decisions, putting actions to decisions, and making decisions for yourself (not strictly based on what others say or do). Both thinking and acting are important to learn, especially knowing how to think, work through and act on complex situations.

What I love about this Dr. Seuss quote is that it makes thinking and acting sound fun! Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by situations and it certainly doesn’t look or feel fun to think or act, and that’s what the kids in our lives see. I’m not saying it’s wrong to show the overwhelm, just that we also have to show how to work through the overwhelm and not get defeated by it.

We all could use a little more fun in our lives, especially as adults. It shouldn’t feel like we’re escaping life or skipping out on our responsibilities or being un-adult. Fun is something we enjoy regularly as a kid, as an adult we just have to learn to balance the fun with the responsibilities. It’s important to show the next generation that there’s room in our lives for both fun and responsibility. Teaching them this can help them embrace their responsibilities sooner, as well as encourage them to never give up on fun.

So how do you balance responsibility and fun in your life?

Seth Godin Teaches Marketing

We’ve reached the end of February, today we’re taking a look at our business read for February, This is Marketing by Seth Godin. I often pick up Seth’s books because they’re easy to read and packed with lots of little and big insights that inspire me, remind me of something, confirm something for me, and of course give insights into being a better business owner and marketer. This book talked about many of the things that I work with my clients on and many of the things I believe can help us make business better for everyone. Let’s take a look at just a few of the lessons in it.

Marketing is about making change happen. It can be evil and it can be used to get people to do bad things like do drugs or steal or send people into foreclosure. But it can also empower people and give them the solutions and support they’re seeking. Marketing gives answers, inspires people to try things, shows what you stand for, activates curiosity, connects people with solutions, and raises awareness. it’s up to us marketers to decide if we’re going to be evil, to spam people, or respect and build on the trust they’re giving us.

Be market driven: this means that your focus is ultimately and primarily on humanity, on people. You remember that you’re marketing to humans, that every customer service interaction is a chance to wow and to care for them, that fear pops up for everyone at different points in time, that you ask people to give you their attention, that everyone is different, and you can do good things for your business by focusing on your true fans, a small audience, rather than those who don’t resonate with your work.

Finally, always be improving. Seth has written many books, and some of the ideas aren’t as applicable as they were when he wrote them. He’s learned things since he wrote his first book, yes, but the bigger impact is on the sheer amount of change that has happened in those years. You can totally go ahead and make something “perfect,” but it’s likely that that thing you make that’s perfect will be outdated or irrelevant in a matter of weeks, months or years, depending on how much transformation is happening in that industry. So instead go ahead and get out there with your well-developed product or service, and back up a not-quite-perfect offering with outstanding customer service that outshines minor imperfections and in-progress work.

What have you learned from Seth Godin?

Small Steps to Success

One thing I’m going to do this year is a blog post each month on a business or success book I read, a book you can benefit from whether you read it or listen to it, and share some insights I gathered from it. This month’s book is Atomic Habits by James Clear. It’s a really easy read for being a non-fiction book, it reminded me almost of the ease of reading a fiction book because of the writing style. The central concepts of the book were the benefits of small improvements and the power (positive and negative) of habits.

So many businesses are looking for the magic bullet that will catapult them to major success. Even if their plan is good and includes hard work, their expectations are often not in line with reality. I wish that more businesses would take a step back and take things a little slower, exactly like this book talks about. To not be in such a rush to get to success, but instead to build on their success a little at a time day in and day out, so they are helping more people that day than they did the day before.

One of the big keys behind the success of the small improvements and habits in the book is that of systems. Systems are crucial to a well-oiled business, one that can run almost seamlessly all the time regardless of the little quirks that pop up each day. Perfection shouldn’t be the goal, but systems help you get a lot closer to getting it right more often than not. Systems are the key that help you get from point A to point B well on a regular basis, helping you establish success patterns and habits that will empower you and your customers. Of course the opposite is true as well, if you don’t have the right system you won’t be as successful or success will be a lot harder to come by.

The final point I want to bring up from the book is that of clues and paying attention. One of the most helpful things you can do for your business is pay attention. Each day, each purchase, each interaction with a customer adds new information to what you already know and if you’re paying attention you can see warning signs before issues become full-blown problems. I’m not suggesting you become hypersensitive to everything that’s going on that you freak and make drastic changes at the smallest thing or first sign of a potential issue, but rather be aware of how everything is running, how people are responding, what’s going on and how you’re feeling about everything so that easily fixed small issues don’t turn into big ones and you can capitalize on the good ideas when you have them, not many months down the road after they become missed opportunities.

If you’ve got suggestions for other books I should read this year, let me know in the comments.