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One of my favorite business books, which also made it as a Broadway play and a big-screen movie, is “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” written by L. Frank Baum in 1900. My hero in this story is not the young orphaned Dorothy, nor the Cowardly Lion, the desperately in-need-of-some WD-40 Tin Man, nor even the Scarecrow in search of a brain.

Instead it is the Wizard. To understand why the dubious Wizard is my favorite character, one must get past the portrayal of him as scheming, phony and at times nasty.

To appreciate the man behind the curtain, recognize that he is a very effective presenter, though at times this ex-circus performer behaved a bit threatening. OK, he was a jerk, but the point of this column is to take you down the yellow brick road on the way to the enchanted Emerald City and corporate success.

From this tale there is a lesson that one can say all sorts of things, not be visible, and yet still have a meaningful impact.

Another takeaway is that playing this role provides plausible deniability. This absence of visual recognition is particularly beneficial in negotiating when you, as the boss, use a vicar, aka a mouthpiece, to speak on your behalf. This allows you to have things said to others that you as the head honcho could never utter without backing yourself into a corner.

Another plus is you can always throw your mouthpiece under the bus if necessary, of course, with his or her upfront understanding that sometimes there must be a sacrificial lamb. This is not only character-building for your stand-in, but also many times presents an unprecedented opportunity for him or her to learn in real time.

Perhaps the Wizard was the first behind-the-curtain decision-maker, but today this role is used frequently in business and government. In a similar vein, the “voice” of Charlie from the well-known 1970s TV series “Charlie’s Angels” was always heard, but he was never seen.

Frequently there is much to be said for using anonymity to float a trial balloon just to get a reaction. Think about a son having his mom test the waters by talking to dad before the son tells him he wants to drop out of junior high school to join the circus. Maybe that’s even how our former circus-drifter-turned-Wizard-of-Oz got his start.

In the negotiating process it is important to have a fallback when the talks hit a rough patch by instructing your vicar to backpedal, saying that he or she has just talked to the chief and the benevolent boss said, “I was overreaching with my request.”

This also serves to build a persona for the boss-behind-the-curtain as someone who is fair-minded and flexible. All the while, of course, it’s the boss who is calling the shots and maneuvering through the process without getting his or her hands dirty.

The value of using this clean-hands technique is that it enables the real decision-maker to come in as the closer who projects the voice of reason, instead of the overeager hard charger who at times seems to have gone rogue.

It actually takes a bigger person to play a secondary role behind the curtain rather than always be in the limelight. It also takes a hands-on coach and counselor to maneuver a protégé through the minefields to achieve the objective.

However, accomplishing the difficult tasks through others is true management and the No. 1 job of a leader who must be a master teacher.

After you have guided a handful of up-and-comers a few times through thorny negotiations, you will gain much more satisfaction than if you had done it yourself, while engendering the respect and gratitude of your pupils. They in turn will have learned by doing, even though they were not really steering the ship alone.

The final step is to let the subordinate take credit for getting the big job done. This will also elevate you to rock star status, at least in his or her eyes. Soon those who you’ve taught will emerge as teachers too, and the big benefit is that you will populate your organization with a stellar team of doers, not just watchers.

So, forget about the Wicked Witch of the West and move backstage for the greater good of the organization. 

Thursday, 15 August 2013 07:28

Make it count

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A few years ago, one of my friends embarked on what he deemed an ambitious, yet simple plan: Write a New York Times Best Seller.

“Ed” had reason to be optimistic: His first two books had sold well and he had successfully leveraged them to launch a burgeoning consulting practice. Ed also had a nationally known book publisher to handle distribution for this book, and he had developed a comprehensive marketing and promotions plan for the launch.

Ed felt all the pieces were in place and was sure he would succeed. His goals were two-fold: break out from the pack and grow his business, and hit the New York Times Best Seller’s list. While his head told him the first goal was more realistic, his heart was set on the second — publicly claiming it was his only true benchmark of success.

Needless to say, Ed’s book didn’t make the list. Few books do. That doesn’t mean Ed’s book was a failure. Quite the contrary, it was a huge success.

As a result of Ed’s book, he landed numerous speaking engagements with organizations and companies around the world. He began to command four- and five-figure speaking fees from those engagements, and his book was purchased and distributed to every attendee.

Further, Ed’s speaking engagements lead to dozens of private companies hiring him to provide one- and two-day seminars, where he taught executive teams how to implement the ideas he espoused in the book. Ed was also presented with numerous business opportunities for new and existing clients to tackle initiatives beyond the book’s subject matter that he had not previously considered but were related to his expertise.

Finally, Ed did sell thousands upon thousands of copies of his book in bookstores nationwide and online through booksellers like Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. His book was in the hands of the right people — and lots of them — and he had established a national profile.

Viewed through this lens, there is little doubt that Ed’s book was wildly successful — even if it wasn’t a New York Times Best Seller and even if it didn’t stack up to his primary benchmark.

This is the reality of book publishing. Each month, I speak with dozens of entrepreneurs and CEOs about their nascent book ideas and the possibility of having Smart Business Books handle development and publication of their stories and manuscripts. I begin every conversation the exact same way: “If your goal is to have a New York Times Best Seller, we’re not the right option for you.”

That’s because you should write books for the right reasons. If your only goal is getting on a best-seller’s list, then your ambitions are off the mark. Writing and publishing a book is not like a professional sports team’s season — there isn’t one winner who takes the championship and a bunch of losers who fall short. Publishing a book is not an all-or-nothing proposition.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t aim high with your goals, and having your book become a best-seller is certainly one way to measure success. Setting reasonable expectations, however, is essential.

So why write a book?

One of the most important questions you should be able to answer when thinking about writing a book is, “Who is going to read it and why?”

As Ed’s story demonstrates, a book is a very useful business development tool. It is an immediate conversation starter, an excellent credibility builder and one heck of a leave-behind. If you’re engaged in marketing, why not capture your expertise through a book?

Another reason is to celebrate a milestone or establish a legacy piece. It could be for a 50th or 100th anniversary, or to recognize the history of an organization upon the founder’s retirement or death.

And, if you are interested in helping others succeed, a book is a great way to share your expertise or what makes you and your organization special. For example, if you’ve built an amazing corporate culture where productivity blossoms and innovation flourishes, the “how” and “why” are good subjects for a book. And if you’ve been involved with several mergers and acquisitions, consider sharing what worked and what didn’t, and the lessons learned along the way.

Whatever your story, the key is having a reason to share it with others. The bottom line: It’s your story. Make it count.

In his autobiography, famed filmmaker Frank Capra wrote, “If you have to think about it, forget it.” The idea that one’s gut instincts were the best guide to success certainly served the man who made such timeless classics as “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

I’m a firm believer in that notion. Because I’m in the business of consumer products, I try to look at things from the customer’s perspective — from concept to delivery. What do they want or need? How will they use the product? What can make it more appealing or useful? What will differentiate my product from other similar products out there? 

Trust your gut

I’ve learned to always trust my gut. The bottom line is that if the customer doesn’t like my products, he or she isn’t going to be buying them. It’s that simple. And if they’re not buying from me, I’m not going to stay in business for very long!

A huge mistake people often make in business is to overthink things or make things too complicated. For example, you should make purchasing easy for your customer — buying from you shouldn’t be a chore. So if you have a product that your customer doesn’t understand right away or if you make them think too much about it, the intrinsic benefits of the product will evaporate. Either way, you’ll be doomed.

I thought about getting into the high tech watch business a few years ago. Everywhere I looked, I saw watches that would monitor your heart rate, check your workouts, interface with your computer, create a workout program and cook dinner too!

Yeah, it was revolutionary stuff, but for me, that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. Because I’m also a consumer, I asked myself what I personally wanted in a watch.

First, I wanted to be able to actually read the dial without squinting at a tiny display.

Second, if there were too many buttons, or I needed three hands to get to the function I needed, that would be a big problem for me. Truthfully, most of the watches out there were not what I wanted to buy.

I figured there were other people out there just like me, so when I had the opportunity, I came up with a vastly simplified watch that was easy for the average person to use. It had a nice, big display and you didn’t need a phonebook-sized manual to figure out how to use it. The odds makers would have said to go high tech, but my gut said low tech. I followed my instincts, went with low tech and wound up with a huge hit. 

Still, do your homework

Bear in mind, I’m not saying you should ignore the world around you. Doing your homework and staying aware of business trends is always important. In fact, we have more resources at our disposal than ever before. Research studies, product test launches and focus group data can be invaluable.

Still, it’s easy to get caught up in all the information and have it cloud the big picture. All the data in the world doesn’t guarantee success — no matter what your marketing department tells you! — but it can help reinforce one’s decision-making.

Like everything else in our world, the science behind business has become increasingly complex over the years. But sometimes it’s wise to take a step back and evaluate your business or a new opportunity from a wider view. If you do so, you’ll often find that a broader perspective offers you a much clearer look at what you’re dealing with and the solutions will also be easier to spot.

As you move forward with your business, always remember what got you there. What did your customer or client like about you? New ideas and opportunities will continually come your way as you expand and you always should be open to them. At the same time, it’s important to follow your instincts. Stay grounded and never forget how you initially achieved success. The path to a bright future begins by believing in yourself to make wise decisions.

Tony Little is the founder, president and CEO of Health International Corp. and executive chairman of Positive Lifestyle International. Known as “America’s Personal Trainer,” he has been a television icon for more than 20 years. After overcoming a car accident that nearly took his life, Little learned how to turn adversity into victory. Known for his wild enthusiasm, Little is responsible for revolutionizing direct-response marketing and television home shopping. He has sold more than $3 billion in products bearing his name. Reach him at guestbook@tonylittle.com.

 

Sunday, 30 June 2013 20:16

Balancing 'character' versus 'characters'

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When we start off working as youngsters, most of us don’t have the common sense to move beyond our juvenile selves to assume more mature character traits appropriate for the workplace.

We also typically land in jobs where our potentially outrageous behavior can cause the least amount of damage — in my case, this included mating freshly-grilled burgers with appropriate-sized buns for the steamer storage bin at Burger King.

Later, our mismatched personalities of “future business mogul” and “party animal” duel it out in college during classes, internships and more responsible employment.

Then we madly scramble to figure out who we really are before we interview in the full-time professional world — where, of course, our potential employers think we’re only going to stay for two years anyway.

However, when each of us eventually enters the professional workforce, our youth and inexperience still typically dictate the creation of a brand new professional personality where one may not have existed before.

The result: a work-week personality vs. a weekend personality.

After all, it’s normally not advisable to do shots out of someone’s belly button in the Board Room.

As the years pass and our resumes expand, these dueling personalities pretty much have to unite as one — a multi-faceted persona, we can hope, but one nonetheless.

Even so, we were all young once. Beginning with everyone’s first foray into the workforce, an ongoing battle commences of “character” versus “characters” — who we are as compared to who we sometimes pretend to be.

Perception versus reality

These days, society doesn’t always help.

First, the wireless world has all but stripped today’s youth of the ability to communicate in person.

Then, with the increasing popularity of Reality TV, our “character” is often influenced by “characters” whose “reality” bears no resemblance to whom we are or who we should be.

For example, not immune to the allure of a Real Housewife, I still understand that I am sometimes being entertained by bad behavior while an impressionable youngster actually may tragically aspire to become “16 and Pregnant.”

And though “Saturday Night Live” alum Darrell Hammond has laid claim to the longest tenure of any SNL performer (1995-2009), this does not mean his personal character compares to the various “characters” he has portrayed: President Bill Clinton, Vice Presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney, Regis Philbin and an Alex Trebek-loathing Sean Connery.

My recent chat with “businessman” Hammond revealed a man who sermonizes the value of hard work, determination and goal setting. He’s not really a president — he played one on TV.

At least pop-culture icon Judge Judy Sheindlin presents a reality-based version of the legal system — one that rewards polished communication skills, honesty, respect and even posture. Like her or not, Judge Judy’s least-successful guests suffer very public consequences stemming from a lack of preparation and yes, character.

Facing the job ahead

Of course, we can still complain about the seemingly selfish behavior of our younger generation, but before we throw Gen-Y under the bus. Who was driving the bus in the first place?

Weren’t today’s successful CEOs, VPs, senior managers and entrepreneurs also the parents who raised Gen-Y?

The bottom line: experienced business professionals must accept a more significant role in mentoring our young charges as they are essentially playing an adult version of Follow the Leader.

There is simply no greater example of character in business than a willingness to mentor and lead by example.

Though, to an actor such as Hammond, "honest" refers to a truthful portrayal of a character, using "honest" as a character trait resonates equally well in the business world.

After all, no one wants to deal with a business professional who is acting the part.

Real character matters.

Speaker, writer and “professional storyteller” Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Fla. He can be reached at Randy@mindzoo.com or (571) 238-4572.

 

 

 

Google Pay Per Click advertising is a great tool for building brand awareness and generating leads online. It can be a bit of a complicated process for some, so it’s important to have a good foundation in the fundamentals of maximizing your PPC performance. 

There are four things you should be doing for your PPC to reach its full potential.

1.) Organize keywords to target niche prospect groups

The difference between an ignored ad and an effective ad is its relevance. An ad for jewelry gets ignored when in the search results of someone searching for remodeling services. The way you can make your ad the most relevant to prospects is by separating them according to the keywords they target and organizing them into groups.

The more thoroughly you organize your keywords, the more specificity you can use when creating your ad. That means your ads appear as if they are made specifically for the prospect, because they are.

Organizing your keywords does two things for your PPC:

1.) It makes your ads more relevant to prospects.

2.) It increases your click-through rate.

These are the exact factors that also give you a high quality score for your ads. A high quality score gets you better ad locations on websites and better ranking for search ads. It also gives you a lower cost per click for your ads. Google is rating your ad on how helpful it is to your prospect, based on its relevance and click-through rate.

2.) Create consistency throughout your PPC process

The PPC process is three steps: 1) Grab prospects’ attention with a relevant ad. 2) Direct them to a landing page that elaborates on what the ad offers. 3) Present a special offer as an incentive for prospects to fill out a contact form.

From your ad to your offer, your PPC marketing message and design should feel continuous and cohesive. It shouldn’t feel like three steps. If your landing page looks different than the image ad that attracted the prospect, the user will experience a disconnect.

You should simply build upon each step to build trust throughout the process, ultimately leading to the prospect filling out your contact form. That’s how you turn them into a lead for you to follow up with using your ongoing marketing methods.

3.) Optimize ads for phone responses

For most businesses, phone responses are a more valuable lead than the kind you get from contact forms, so it’s a great idea to optimize your ads to generate these calls. There are two ways to do this:

1) Make sure your number is displayed in all images and text ads.

2) Adjust your display times to only show ads when you’re in the office. This gives you the opportunity to get those calls and make the most of them when you’re open for business. Your phone responses don’t cost you anything. You only pay for clicks.

4.) Use ad extensions

PPC ads have a small character limit, but luckily Google offers Ad Extensions. These give you the ability to present important marketing information without adding to your character limit.

Six extensions they offer:

1.) Location Extension: Helps prospects find your office.

2.) Product Extension: Shows pictures and prices of your products.

3.) SiteLink Extension: Presents multiple pages from your website simultaneously.

4.) Phone Number Extension: Adds a click-to-call number beneath your ad.

5.) Social Media Extension: Shows how many +1s your Google Plus page has.

6.) Seller Rating Extension: Shows the rating your customers have given your company. Google only shows it if it’s four or fivestars.

Make sure you are taking advantage of every opportunity to improve your PPC efficacy. You’ll see the difference in your sales numbers.

Get Pay-Per-Click targeting options that get you more quality leads by going to www.postcardmania.com/google-adwords-targeting-options

A pivotal challenge for companies is to differentiate themselves from competitors. While different isn’t always better, better is always different! A business model describes how an organization designs and delivers value by providing stakeholders a shared understanding of how the business operates. A strong business model offers a competitive advantage by demonstrating that the firm does something different, more innovative and better than its rivals. 

Herbert Kelleher and Rollin King sketched out the Southwest Airlines business model on a breakfast napkin in 1967. Recognizing a need for a service-oriented low cost airline, the “Texas triangle” meant that Southwest would fly dozens of daily flights between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. In 2000, David Neeleman, a former Southwest manager, launched JetBlue Airways by adding quality to the service/value mix.

In steps the digital era

The digital era has driven many recent business model transformations. Apple’s iTunes is a great example of the changing music industry. In the past, record companies, distributors and retailers controlled channels and profits; now the artist and platform (iTunes) has the market power.

Newspapers have struggled to become information providers as their readers aged and defected to other media. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and USA Today have stellar reputations and large/loyal customer bases. They can charge fees for online content. In contrast, most metropolitan newspapers are a less viable option as free alternatives (websites, smart- phones, community magazines and television) abound.

Google, Facebook, Apple, and Salesforce.com are examples of shapers since they open platforms for third-parties and create new market space. Participants embrace and enhance shapers’ platforms and may include applications (apps) developers, service firms or online e-tailers.

Zynga, a Silicon Valley social-gaming company, has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues through Farmville. Millions of users manage virtual plots of land, grow crops, raise animals, and use online tools such as tractors. It has been estimated that there are more than 20 times more people playing Farmville than there are actual farms in the U.S. Other examples of strong business models are listed in the table below.

Take apart your business model

Consider these questions as your management team assesses your business model. Can you clearly explain your business model? What is unique about your strategy? How does it compare with your direct and indirect competitors?

Have you broken any industry rules lately? Can you develop a more innovative and interesting business model? Will your business model win in the market? Does your organization truly deliver superior value for customers?

AW500hart

ArtWeinstein, Ph.D., is professor and chair of marketing at Nova Southeastern University and author of “Superior Customer Value — Strategies for Winning and Retaining Customers.” He may be reached at art@huizenga.nova.edu or (954) 262-5097. Visit his website www.artweinstein.com.

 

Egos are a big factor in business. Egos can cost companies a lot of money.

I learned this simple fact a long time ago, and to this day, it amazes me how much time, energy and resources are wasted by individuals unwilling to check their egos at the door and let their companies be successful. Believe me, I have an ego myself, and I have to remind myself that all the time.

We all know the type — the guy or gal who always has to be right and whose questionable judgment in business stems either from a sense of self-importance or is based upon what they feel others expect from them because of their position. This person can even be fairly pleasant and well-meaning. But when they turn out to be someone with whom you have a working relationship, things can go downhill very quickly, especially when they’re pushing ideas and making decisions for all the wrong reasons.

I sell a line of bison meat products, which is marketed as a healthful alternative to beef. One day, the company with which I was partnered hired a new marketing fellow who immediately wanted to change the packaging. It was clear that he wanted to make a big splash with his new bosses, but I was dumbfounded by his decision.

I argued, “We’ve been enjoying tremendous success, and our branding has been very clear. Why in the world would we want to change it when we have a winner?” I’m a pretty agreeable guy, but I also know when to dig in, especially when I’m fighting for something I believe in my heart is right.

After a brief internal debate, my partners agreed with my logic, and we happily continued on with our hit product.

In business, it is paramount that everyone looks for the perfect solution that works for everybody else. This isn’t about getting along with each other just for the sake of it but rather about learning to be successful together.

Ego, when it comes from a place of experience, confidence and wisdom, actually can be a tremendous asset if properly managed by the individual.

I’ve recently started working with a good friend of many years, and I totally respect his ego. He understands exactly what it takes to be successful and has the experience to enable him to accurately size up a situation and make sound business decisions. He also knows how to work with partners like me, creating a complementary relationship, not one in which there is constant bickering.

When you’re around people with healthy egos, they create an aura of chemistry and trust and can provide a nesting ground for others to be their best. These types of individuals don’t make radical changes on a whim, but they try to understand their business environment, then make decisions to either build upon existing success or fix what is not working. People like this aren’t afraid to make wrong decisions because they have the confidence — the ego — of knowing that eventually they will make the right decision.

In dealing with complicated business relationships, the most critical relationship is the one we have with ourselves. Always ask yourself the reasons behind your decisions, especially if you are challenged by peers, partners or others in trusted positions.

There is nothing wrong with standing up for what you truly believe in. But be sure you are guided by wisdom and a clear thought process with the intention of truly solving a problem or building upon previous achievements. If not, allow yourself to hear other voices and have a healthy enough ego to let them contribute to your success. ?

 

Tony Little is the founder, president and CEO of Health International Corp. and executive chairman of Positive Lifestyle International. Known as “America’s Personal Trainer,” he has been a television icon for more than 20 years. After overcoming a car accident that nearly took his life, Little learned how to turn adversity into victory. Known for his wild enthusiasm, Little is responsible for revolutionizing direct-response marketing and television home shopping. He has sold more than $3 billion in products bearing his name. Reach him at guestbook@tonylittle.com.

 

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