This may be the most unglamorous and simplistic business in the world, but like every other business, it has developed a complicated and multifaceted advertising and marketing ecosystem. I am making plans and preparations to present some of StorageMart’s marketing practices at PubCon, which Forbes magazine has called a must-attend event for online and social marketing. Conferences like these are a great way to show what you are doing to peers, and study what other peers are doing. My sessions are normally about local and niche marketing.
It has been said that all politics is local. The thinking is that people vote for candidates based on how the candidates feel about or act on issues of local importance. I am not so sure this is correct.
What does this have to do with advertising and marketing? Many businesses are similar to self-storage in that they draw their customers from a defined geography. The shoe repair shop does not have many customers mailing shoes from the next state over to be repaired and mailed back. The shoe repair customers come from a rather small area, perhaps 10 minutes’ drive-time, perhaps 10 minutes walk-time. There may be reasons you would choose one shoe repair shop over another, and you might go an extra 10 minutes to get far better service or because that shop’s staff are particularly pleasant to deal with. But would you go an extra 15 minutes farther? Twenty minutes farther?
Value of the locality
Grocery stores are similar. How many grocery stores would you drive past or walk past to get to the one you like best. Grocers draw from a very tight geography as well. This is one reason you hear about the existence of “food deserts” where neighborhoods lack access to full service grocers.
I suppose the world view qualifier that I believe affects politics also affects shopping. If you only eat gluten free organically grown locally produced foods because that is what you believe in, you may pass many other grocers before getting to the one that meets your qualifications. If the local shoe repair shop uses leather repair patches made of Kangaroo, and you are opposed to making leather from kangaroo, you might travel some distance to find a shoe repair shop that only uses cow leather.
My point is that advertising and marketing is local, because your most likely prospect is the person who lives closest to your place of business. If your business practices or business niche caters to people of a certain world view, then your geography suddenly widens tremendously. If your business does not have a physical location, then your place of business is the mobile device, tablet or PC of anyone in the market for your product or service anywhere you able to complete a delivery. If your business does have a physical location, you are competing online with companies strung across the globe for the potential customers in your local area.
Advertising and marketing is local and it is not local at the same time. For storage companies in general, the focus has become heavily dependent on reaching local consumers. There just aren’t too many ways to differentiate between storage places so that one can create a niche market that will draw from a very wide area. There are not too many world views that would work for or against a storage operator to help make local advertising and marketing less of a factor.
We do look for differentiators that will help convert more shoppers into customers. A clean storage facility that smells fine is what consumers want, but they don’t always know that until they get to the storage place and take a look around and experience the smells there. It would be odd and probably counter-productive if StorageMart advertised itself as the best smelling storage place in Brooklyn. It might work, but the chances seem pretty slim.
It is difficult to appeal to other niches. How do you promote self storage as an environmentally friendly, low carbon footprint business? In some ways it is exactly those things. We encourage people to save, reuse and repurpose, because we all about keeping things rather than throwing things away. Storage places use a fraction of the electric power buildings of similar square footage use, because we only run lights when people are in the aisles and in their units. We use a lot less heating and cooling because people’s belongings are fine being a lot warmer in the summer and a lot cooler in the winter than you would keep your home, office or hotel room. Wouldn’t it seem a little weird to promote self storage as an earth friendly action that will save the snow leopard and the tiger? Maybe this would be the perfect way to promote storage and I just don’t believe it yet.
StorageMart has several properties in the greater Toronto area that are being outfitted with solar electric power generation panels on all of the roof space. Each of these properties is large enough that hundreds or even perhaps thousands of homes can be powered while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But how many people are shopping for an environmentally friendly storage facility? Even if people were shopping or such a thing, we wouldn’t know it, because Google no longer reports on keyword data.
If StorageMart is competing with all sorts of companies from outside of its many, many little geographic trade areas, and if it is difficult to fit storage in to a particular world view, how do we go about local advertising and marketing?
Distribution is the first item of importance. Look at the world’s most successful companies and you will see that they master distribution. By this I mean they are easy to find everywhere. In how many places can you find Coca Cola, Pepsi or Budweiser? We take this same approach in a local way. Any outlet that is local in nature in one of our trade areas is important to us.
Google Maps, Yellow Pages, city directories and local business listing sites get a lot of attention. These activities are the foundation for building other local tactics. Any local business should be spending a lot of time managing and tweaking these tools.
Other steps to consider
Local relevance is the next item of importance. I don’t mean relevance in the way internet marketers used to use the term relevance before Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird. I mean relevance in real life with real people in real situations. Is your customer service top notch? Do you support local events, local organizations and local charities? This local relevance generates positive online reviews and positive real-world word-of-mouth, which all influence how powerful a local brand you have. The more powerful your local brand, the easier it will be for people to recognize you when they search and to the easier it will be for search engines to identify you and show you to people who are searching.
Online social engagement is the next item to consider. There are many social sharing sites that are powerful influencers and allow those people who find you relevant to speak well of you and to be a part of your wider network of support. There are those who scoff at social engagement and say that it does not produce definitive returns on investment. I would answer that when people are checking in at your place of business on their favorite social site, that when people like, share and comment on your postings, you are getting valuable referrals, recommendations and affirmations that others in the geography you work in will notice. This is powerful stuff.
Video is another very important part of the mix. People love to watch video and they love to watch interesting, funny, entertaining or informative video. It is tough to make storage be all of those things, but you have to try and have a little fun with it.
Mobile is the fifth piece of the puzzle. We have tried to make the mobile version of Storage-mart.com user-friendly and easy on the eyes. We use many advertising partners to serve ads to mobile users when those users are in our geographic areas. When you see how quickly people are changing their use habits and now spending most of their online time on their mobile devices it makes your head spin. We plan to spend a lot more time working on ways to make it easier to find StorageMart and easier to find a storage unit in the mobile environment.
We don’t pretend to have all the answers to the advertising and marketing questions. In fact, I am not sure we even know all the questions. I expect that if we continue to focus on local distribution, local relevance, social engagement, video and mobile, we will find a way for enough people to find us easily.
If all advertising and marketing is in fact local, then we are on the right track. In the meantime, we might discover the one world-view twist that makes storage a must-have item for cool people everywhere.
Tron Jordheim is CMO of StorageMart, one of the world’s largest privately held self-storage companies with locations across the U.S. and Canada. He has helped lead the company to double-digit revenue growth for the last four years by embracing digital marketing and call center support. With 40-plus years of experience in sales, marketing and training, he continues to be sought after as a public speaker, sales trainer and consultant. For more information, visit http://www.tronjordheim.com.
“People are people” the old saying goes. That means everyone brings his or her own personal baggage with him or her to work. People make poor choices, act rashly and defend their own comfort zones. People have agendas all their own that often have nothing to do with the work agenda that you, as the manager, are promoting.
The best managers try hard to motivate and guide their people to meet agreed-upon goals. Procedures, protocols and guidelines are put in place to help keep things fair and organized. Feedback, motivation and direction are given. But at the end of the day, good managers realize there is no good way to manage people.
But since managing people is the key to any business success, you have to try anyway.
There are many books on people management, and you may have practiced all the different styles. There are really only two things to do. One is to make sure your staff is getting ongoing training, feedback, correction and motivation for all their work-related behaviors. The other is to leave your people alone and let them work. The trick is to know when to do which with each person.
Here are some ways you can try:
Create models of best performance and best practices for employees to learn, copy and aspire to. You can create goals, requirements and performance thresholds to use as measurement tools.
Be fair and consistent in enforcing performance requirements and work rules, and be honest with them in your assessment of business conditions, in communication of company policies and your feelings about their performance.
Know your people
Get to know your people individually so you can find the right way to approach them, motivate and correct them. Spend a little time with each of your direct reports and encourage them to spend time with each of their direct reports.
Spending time together helps solidify teamwork, helps clarify any issues and helps to make sure you and your people are being accountable to each other.
Stop relying on email and memos. Have personal conversations with the people in your group. Allow your people to be honest with you. Spend a little personal time with each person every month if you can.
Learn to be a good listener. You will learn a lot about how to deal with your people if you hear what they say.
Leave well enough alone
Sometimes managers feel that people can perform better and can produce more, but if employees have found a comfortable and satisfactory balance, it is best not to disturb it. Resist the temptation to over manage.
There are times your people just need to be left alone to do their jobs. Some days you will work hard to mold people’s behavior and performance when what they really needed was to be left alone to do their jobs. Some days you will leave people alone when what they really needed was to be working with someone. Try to ask yourself each day, Who needs time from me today?, Who needs to be left alone?
If you allow yourself to admit that there is no good way to manage people, you can do your company a lot of good by trying to be a better manager every day. Work on best practices, get to know your people, communicate personally and above all, leave well enough alone.
Tron Jordheim is CMO of StorageMart, one of the world’s largest privately held self-storage companies with locations across the U.S. and Canada. He has helped lead the company to double-digit revenue growth for the last four years by embracing digital marketing and call center support. With 40-plus years of experience in sales, marketing and training, he continues to be sought after as a public speaker, sales trainer and consultant. For more information, visit www.tronjordheim.com.
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/StorageMart
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LinkedIn - http://www.linkedin.com/company/storagemart
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YouTube - http://www.youtube.com/user/StorageMartMedia
Failure is part of success
Six tips to improve your leadership decisions
We need to accept that we won't always make the right decisions, that we'll screw up royally sometimes — understanding that failure is not the opposite of success; it's part of success. — Arianna Huffington
Our decisions help define us as individuals and organizations — our great decisions and our poor ones. We can never entirely eliminate imperfect decisions. As Ms. Huffington suggests, we can learn from them and build successes after even our largest failures. There are also some things we can do to decrease their likelihood.
Play to your strengths. As with most things in life, self-awareness helps. Making decisions is no different. Are there some patterns about how we make decisions?
Is there something we do that tends to lead to better decisions? Are there questions we ask of ourselves and others that help us?
Manage your weaknesses. It’s also important to know what aspects of helpful decision-making we tend to naturally neglect.
Do you think primarily about financial metrics and fail to consider how a decision will affect people? Do you find it hard to think about consequences one year out? Two years out? Further?
Include people in your decision-making who think differently than you.
These principles can also help you manage weaknesses that are common to all us — the tendency to seek out information that confirms our current beliefs or opinions.
Having those around us who can present alternative views without the threat of dismissal can help us make better decisions.
Align your decisions. It’s easy in the midst of a fast-moving world to neglect the anchors or guides we intentionally create to help us when we need to make decisions.
For example, if your organization has put a stake in the group to focus on innovation, you have a primary filter for making decisions. Will this action enable innovation? But that question alone is not enough. The follow up question should be “How will this enable innovation?” If you can’t clearly explain that to yourself, you’ll never be able to explain it to others.
Be happy. Cool off. Our emotional state is a key influence on our ability to make decisions. With a slightly elevated mood, we have more insights and can see more options both of which are important to making decisions. When we’re angry or upset we tend to take fewer risks and are less likely to reframe our options to allow for better decisions.
Test it. When possible, test your preferred option in appropriate ways. Act “smartly” as quickly as you can. This means that you act quickly with the resources currently available to you, you know what an “acceptable loss” is and you don’t exceed it, and that you “bring others along to acquire more resources; spread the risk, and confirm the quality of your idea.”
A simple example of this principle is a pilot project.
Do something. Research suggests that we regret not taking action more than taking action. We regret not going to college, not taking risks in our job, more even than choices that weren’t the best decisions in hindsight.
These are just a few helpful principles to begin to improve your decision-making. You’ll learn more as you honestly assess the effectiveness of your decisions and are open to changing how you make decisions.
Andy Kanefield is the founder of Dialect, Inc. and co-author of “Uncommon Sense: One CEO’s Tale of Getting in Sync.” Dialect helps organizations improve alignment and translation of organizational identity. To explore how to make decisions that are congruent with what you stand for, you may reach him at (314) 863-4400 or email@example.com.
The idea of driving aimlessly seems glamorous in movies and songs. In reality, few of us get in a car without knowing how to reach our destination. We’ve created smartphone apps, GPS devices and satellite mapping to make our trips as efficient as possible and to avoid what we know to be an inconvenient, expensive outcome — getting lost.
I bring up this idea because many companies using social media have inadvertently become lost drivers. They start using social platforms with the goal of reaching some number of likes, retweets or shares, but as they embark on their social media strategies, many experience a disconnect between the content they post, blog and tweet and their progress on measurable business goals. These companies are driving without a roadmap; they just don’t know it.
Sound familiar? If social media isn’t working for you, your social media approaches may be missing a fundamental component: an effective content strategy. Here are three ways a solid content strategy will enhance your company’s social media success.
A like is just a like
All social media engagement is not created equally. To be successful, the social media activity that you generate needs to support your marketing goals — whether you want to improve employee engagement, boost customer conversions or build interest in a new product.
Creating a content strategy before you engage in social media will help your business clarify the specific marketing goals you want to achieve through content, as well as what messages you need to communicate to reach those goals. This process will ensure you get the right likes, shares and retweets from social interactions.
Social is a vehicle
Social media is a vehicle for sharing compelling content with your audience, and it doesn’t work if you don’t know what issues, topics and trends your audience finds compelling. Part of developing a content strategy involves learning how those you are trying to reach want to be talked to. Where do they go for information? How much time do they spend online? What kind of content are they looking for from your industry?
By getting to know the interests and pain points of your audience (customers, employees, shareholders, etc.), you can develop tactics to reach your online audience more effectively, saving you time and enhancing your company’s social influence.
Relevant content is meaningful
Kings of social content don’t become that way by luck. They use strategic tactics to connect with their audience through the right channels at the right times. More importantly, they make these connections meaningful and memorable by posting and sharing strategic, relevant content that their audiences desire.
When you deliver social content that your audience members find valuable or interesting, they’ll reward you by sharing your content, engaging with your business and, ideally, helping to promote your reputation as a thought leader in your business or industry. A content strategy allows you to do that by providing a roadmap for what kinds of informative, helpful, educational or creative content you need to make meaningful interactions.
As a recent Huffington Post article put it, the golden rule of the web is clear: “To know us better is to sell us better.” Ultimately, being successful in the social media space means taking the time to map out what success looks like. In this sense, a solid content strategy is not only an important component of any social media strategy, it’s the key to driving the results your business wants.
Michael Marzec is chief strategy officer of Smart Business and SBN Interactive. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7078.
When Albert “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap was the CEO at Sunbeam in the late ’90s, he had a reputation for ruthlessness. Besides massively downsizing the company, he was also known to intimidate everyone around him and resort to yelling and fist pounding.
While extreme, Dunlap’s behavior is an example of the type of “dictator” leadership that used to be fairly common in the C-suite. Rules were rules, there were no exceptions for anything and people were just a line item on a budget. Need to cut thousands of jobs? Don’t think twice about it.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Christ-like leader. This leader focuses more on building people up rather than tearing them down. This type of leader understands that there are rules, but sometimes to do the right thing, the rules need to be broken. For example, during the economic downturn, some Christ-like leaders went well beyond what was called for to make sure laid-off employees were taken care of.
They made sure they had the use of office resources to look for a new job and did everything they could to lessen the hardships. They weren’t required to do this; it was just the right thing to do. They saw employees as human, not just numbers on a spreadsheet.
Does it cost money to take the more humane route with your leadership? Yes and no. From a short-term, bottom-line perspective, it probably does cost a few more dollars to help people through a hardship. But long term, it can pay dividends. By treating people with respect and doing the right thing, it helps eliminate animosity toward you and your company from both the ex-employees and current ones. Maybe there are some good employees who you wanted to keep, but couldn’t afford. By showing compassion, when the economy turned around, they were far more likely to consider coming back than if they had just been shown the door with little regard to their well-being.
And what happens when these ex-employees end up in key positions in companies that could be customers? Do you think an ex-employee who you mistreated is going to buy anything from you or recommend your company to someone? It’s a small world, and what goes around often comes around, so it’s always best to treat people as best you can.
You can lead like a dictator and still get results. But do the ends justify the means? Will you conquer all, only to find yourself alone with no friends, the equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol?” Or will you have an epiphany and realize there’s a better way to do things?
During this holiday season, think about your leadership style and the long-term effect it has on people’s lives. If this exercise makes you uncomfortable, then maybe it’s time to change how you lead. ●
What would it take for a company to succeed if its leader could effectively do only one of the following: innovate, instigate or administrate? We all know that an innovator is the one who sees things that aren’t and asks why not? The instigator sees things that are and asks why? The administrator doesn’t necessarily ask profound questions but, instead, is dogged about crossing the “t’s,” dotting the “i’s” and making sure that whatever is supposed to happen happens.
Ideally, a top leader combines all three traits while being charismatic, intellectual, pragmatic and able to make decisions faster than a speeding bullet. Although some of us might fantasize that we are Superman or Superwoman, with a sense of exaggerated omnipotence, the bubble usually bursts when we’re confronted simultaneously with multiple situations that require the versatility of a Swiss army knife.
Business leaders come in all shapes and sizes with various skill sets and styles that are invaluable, depending on the priorities of a company at any given point in time.
Every business needs an innovator to differentiate the company. Without a unique something or other, there isn’t a compelling reason to exist. Once those special products or services that distinguish the business from others are discovered and in place, it takes an instigator to continuously re-examine and challenge every aspect of the business that leads to continued improvements, both functionally and economically. It also takes an administrator — someone who can keep all the balls in the air, ensuring that everyone in the organization is in sync and delivering the finished products as promised to keep customers coming back.
As politicians and pundits of all types have pounded into our heads in recent years, “It takes a village to raise a child.” All who practice the art and science of business have learned that, instead of a village, it takes a diverse team working together to make one plus one equal three.
On the ideal team, each member possesses different strengths, contributing to the greater good. The exceptional leader is best when he or she is an effective chef who knows how to mix the different skills together to create a winning recipe.
In many companies, however, leaders tend to surround themselves with clones who share similar abilities, interests and backgrounds. As an example, a manufacturer may have a management team comprised solely of engineers, or a marketing organization could have salespeople who came up through the ranks calling all the shots.
If everyone in an organization comes from the same mold, what tends to happen is, figuratively, one lies and the others swear to it. This builds to a crescendo of complacency and perpetual mediocrity.
There is a better way. Good leaders surround themselves with others who complement their capabilities, and savvy leaders select those with dramatically different backgrounds who will challenge their thinking because they’re not carbon copies of the boss. This opens new horizons, forges breakthroughs and leads to optimal daily performance.
Strange bedfellows can stimulate, nudge and keep each other moving toward the previously unexplored.
To have a sustainable and effective organization, you can’t have one type without all the others. While everyone on the team may not always agree, each player must always be committed to making the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
The single most important skill of the leader who has to pull all the pieces and parts together is to have the versatility of that Swiss army knife — selecting the precise tool to accomplish the objective at hand. ●
Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. “The Benevolent Dictator,” a book by Feuer that chronicles his step-by-step strategy to build business and create wealth, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Reach him with comments at email@example.com.
More than 800 years ago, medieval philosopher Maimonides outlined eight levels of charity, the greatest of which was supporting an individual in such a way that he or she becomes independent. In Maimonides’ view, support was defined as a gift or loan, entering into a partnership or simply helping that person find employment.
Few things are more powerful than philanthropy — especially when its end goal is to better the lives of others. These days, philanthropy, and corporate philanthropy specifically, has assumed a broader role in society.
Today, companies give back more strategically than ever before. They align themselves with nonprofits that foster missions they believe in. The wealthiest people on the planet have even coordinated the Giving Pledge (www.givingpledge.org), where they’ve committed to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.
At last count, more than 115 people had taken the pledge. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates may be the most prominent names on the list, but others include Spanx Founder Sara Blakely, Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert, Progressive’s Peter Lewis and Netflix Founder Reed Hastings.
Last month, one member, David Rubenstein, CEO and co-founder of The Carlyle Group, discussed the importance of philanthropy during a presentation at EY’s 2013 Strategic Growth Forum.
In his pledge letter, Rubenstein explains why: “I recognize to have any significant impact on an organization or cause, one must concentrate resources, and make transformative gifts — and to be involved in making certain those gifts actually transform in a positive way.”
One way Rubenstein is being transformative is through “Patriotic Philanthropy.” He has given $10 million to help restore President Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home and underwrote renovations to the historic Washington Monument. Yet Rubenstein’s most noteworthy initiative is the whopping $23 million to acquire a rare copy of the Magna Carta, ensuring it remained in the United States. After its purchase, Rubenstein gifted it to the National Archives.
Not everyone has Rubenstein’s vast resources. But every organization and any individual can make their own impact.
In the workplace, for example, organizations that give back elevate their status perception-wise among competitors and peers. It doesn’t take much. But by being a company that cares, prospective employees want to work for you. For your existing team, deliberate and well-organized corporate philanthropy programs quickly take on a life of their own, becoming a rallying point.
Think strategically and get started by finding your cause. We all have them. They exist at our very core, forming the belief system we live by every day. So why shouldn’t our philanthropy follow that same course? Consider aligning your giving or volunteerism with something you personally believe in or care about; something that fits with what your company does or something that is close to your employees’ hearts.
Most important, get involved and just make a difference. It really comes down to that. One initiative that has always impressed me has been the annual CreateAthon event undertaken by WhiteSpace Creative, a member of the Pillar Award class of 2005. You can read a first-hand account of this year’s program here.
Being a good corporate citizen goes well beyond making good business sense. When you align yourself with causes you care about, whether big or small, you make a difference in someone’s life. And the bottom line is this: It is all of our duties to get involved. It’s no longer a question of if, but rather of what, when and how. ●
Dustin S. Klein is publisher and vice president of operations for Smart Business. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7026.
Neil Sedaka’s song “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” was obviously aimed at personal relationships, but when a new hire has to be dismissed, breaking up is hard to do.
No one hires a new team member with failure as the goal. In terms of real world situations, 46 percent of new hires fail in the first 18 months, according to a 2012 report by PR News. And when CareerBuilder researched the cost of a bad hire in 2012, 41 percent of companies reported costs to the organization in excess of $25,000.
Those are substantial monetary costs, not to mention the costs in ways that aren’t so measurable, i.e., loss of credibility of the individual responsible for the hire, negative employee morale, loss of customer/client support and lost productivity. Why does this happen, and what can be done to significantly lessen a negative outcome? Let’s look at three stages that can help avert a bad hire.
Review criteria for the position
Urgency to fill a position is cited as the primary reason new hires fail. Under urgent conditions, a review of job requirements has seldom been accomplished, making the likelihood of the interview process being done well improbable.
If the individual responsible for the hiring process does not have a complete understanding of what this new hire is responsible for, as well as the ability to communicate corporate culture attitudes relative to this position, the interview process will operate under less than ideal circumstances. Taking time for a complete review of the position and establishing skills and attributes necessary for a successful hire is imperative for success.
Create a brand ambassador
The first day a new hire enters the work place offers a unique opportunity for him or her to become a brand ambassador. While getting all the proper documentation for employment is absolutely necessary, it doesn’t need to take place in the first hour.
Imagine how nice it would feel to walk into a new office with signage ready to go, branded golf shirt/pen/mug on the desk and business cards already done.
The on-boarding process is too often relegated to filling out forms, introductions and handshakes. What a wasted opportunity to tell a new hire how he or she is a valued member of the team.
Establish goals and objectives
Of course, the reason someone is hired is to perform certain tasks, achieve goals and contribute to the success of an organization. When CareerBuilder asked about the definition of a bad hire, 67 percent of respondents reported that the quality of work was “lackluster.” This tremendously high percentage begs further questions concerning the process for establishing expectations and goals.
If expectations and goals are not discussed, agreement cannot be reached. Unless they are written down, along with identifying dates when they are to be accomplished, too often the parties involved assume everyone is on the same page.
Have the discussion, write down the goals and objectives using SMART criteria (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) and monitor the progress.
While there are no guarantees in the hiring process, take the time to review the job criteria, create a brand ambassador from day one, establish SMART goals and objectives from the beginning and beat the 46 percent that fail. ●
Julie Nimmons serves as a chair for Vistage International in the St. Louis area. Vistage provides professionally facilitated peer advisory experiences that help CEOs, business owners and key executives grow their business. She can be reached at (314) 301-9823 or email@example.com.
For more information on Vistage International, like its Facebook page www.facebook.com/Vistage and follow on Twitter @vistage. Connect with Julie Nimmons on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/julienimmons
Have you ever been caught in the trap of using the words “performance” and “results” interchangeably? The distinction between the two is important to consider if you want to get the best out of both. It’s pretty simple, actually. Results are the outcomes you produce and performance is how you get there.
However, here’s something you may not have considered. In fact, it might even seem counterintuitive. If you’re focused mainly on bottom line results in what you measure and reward, that will eventually lead to the deterioration of both performance and results. Here’s why.
Outcomes vs. inputs
First, we all know that people tend to repeat behaviors that are reinforced positively. Likewise, people tend not to repeat behaviors that produce a negative response. Next, it’s important to realize that no one has direct control over results — unless the game is fixed or there’s a deliberately unfair advantage. People can only control performance.
Now, if bad performance always led to bad results, and good performance always led to good results, it wouldn’t matter which one you rewarded — results or performance. But that’s not always how things work. Sometimes you don’t get good results even when you give your best effort. Other times, the opposite is true.
That’s not how things usually happen, but look at what you get when they do. If you fail to reward people for good performance because they had bad results, you discourage them from repeating the good behavior. If you reward them for good results in spite of poor performance, you reinforce poor behavior in the future. The cumulative effect over time is inevitable. Every time you focus on results in a way that either reinforces poor performance or discourages good performance, you take a step backward with long-term results.
Performance is the bottom line
Of course, you have to add up the numbers on the bottom line eventually. Even if winning in the world of business means producing results, lasting success still requires focusing on the drivers of those results, and it’s important to reward effective execution regardless of the outcomes in the short term. Think of it this way: Winning is the name of the game, but performance is the bottom line.
Clearly, if effective execution isn’t producing the desired long-term results, you need to find the problem. It serves no purpose, however, to penalize people for poor outcomes if they’re doing the right things in the right way at the right time. If that happens, you need to fix the strategies or systems, not the people. Otherwise, you’ll destroy trust in your organization.
That premise has particular significance for managers in the “people” side of the business. For HR professionals, it’s pretty obvious. Some compensation and bonus programs are notorious for focusing solely on immediate, bottom line results without regard to how they’re produced. That kind of practice often leads to short-term success with negative long-term consequences. Good programs encourage performance that looks at the long haul.
You have to communicate effectively about the steps to success. If it’s results you’re after, you’d better be talking a lot more about what it takes to produce them, because in the end, it’s how you get there that counts. ●
Les Landes is president of Landes & Associates. The firm provides management consulting services in the areas of organizational communication, employee engagement, marketing, public relations and continuous improvement systems. They are the creators of the “ImaginAction System,” a tool for getting employees engaged in systematic continuous improvement. Landes is also the author of multiple articles, as well as a recently published book, “Getting to the Heart of Employee Engagement: The Power and Purpose of Imagination and Free Will in the Workplace.” For more information, visit www.landesassociates.com.
Connect with Les Landes on LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/leslandes or find out more about Landes & Associates on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LandesandAssociates and follow on Twiter @LandesAssocs.
Consider this business scenario: You’ve landed a big account for your company by converting a highly prized prospect into a valuable client. The new client has hired you to handle a specific scope of work and is counting on your team’s ability to deliver work that goes above and beyond.
While nothing is more important than delivering great customer service to satisfy the client, you may not realize that you’re probably overlooking unrealized opportunities to forge a stronger relationship with your customer.
In today’s business landscape, most large companies offer an array of products and services. More often than not, however, your clients use you for a specific service or skill set. And unfortunately, in this scenario, most companies focus solely on the task at hand — delivering what they’ve been contracted to deliver — failing to take ample time to think about the bond they’re creating with the client and what could be next.
In more simple terms, it is one thing to provide service that keeps a customer; it is another to keep that customer and expand the relationship to become a trusted partner.
Provide value in a deliberate way
The good news is that this is an easy fix. Establish a content marketing program that allows you to distribute thought leadership to your clients.
A content marketing program will help you provide value that other service providers may not, and when clients see you as an informational resource and partner, it will be easier to expand the relationship.
Take this example into consideration: You are an insurance provider and your main product is life insurance, therefore most of the communication you have with your clients surrounds that topic.
With a comprehensive content marketing program in place, however, you can educate your clients on the recent trends in the insurance industry and how that affects the individual. At the same time, you can give them an overview of your company’s wellness program and let them know that if they joined, they could reduce their monthly premiums.
As you can see, you’re not just providing your client with the original service, you’re also providing them with both your thought leadership — aka value — and additional offerings.
Personal connections payoff
Aside from providing value to the client with the content you distribute, a strong content marketing program allows you to showcase your brand’s personality. Clients will be able to connect with your brand on a more personal level.
Providing continually updated content through the right channels to the right clients enhances your day-to-day communications. Clients start seeing you as thought leaders and partners instead of just service providers.
It will help you expand relationships and, as a result, generate new business through more products and services.
Show them more than just what they see on the surface — show them how active you are in the community, or how much fun you had during a recent company outing. If may sound trivial, but your clients do similar things, and seeing you connect with the community and/or employees will help forge a more personal connection. You never know; you and your client may support the same charity, organization or team.
Open communication also will help strengthen relationships to the point where you can capture a premium price and eliminate price-jumping clients. Clients will pay more for a valuable relationship than simply look to get the lowest price elsewhere. ●
David Fazekas is vice president of marketing services for SBN Interactive. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 250-7056.