“Simon Sinek?” Yeah, he’s a TED talks guy. Ring a bell? I hope so. He’s also the author of “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” as well as “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t.”
Confession time. I didn’t catch “Start With Why” when it was first published circa 2009. But eventually, a few weeks ago, I found it. That’s all that matters now.
Below is an excerpt from “Start With Why” that begged to be shared. I hope it’s clear: I’m not trying to rip-off Sinek and take food from his mouth. My goal is quite the opposite. It’s a brilliant collection of words so I hope this inspires you to buy the book, and perhaps “Leaders Eat Last” as well.
Also, I’m sure plenty of others have regurgitated (i.e., chewed and spit out) this passage in “their own words” without giving a nod to Sinek. That’s not my style. And if for some reason this article feels like I’m just being lazy, please think again. Thanks.
It’s a simple metaphor called the Celery Test.
Imagine you go to a dinner party and someone comes up to you and says, “You know what you need in your organization? M&M’s. If you’re not using M&M’s in your business, you’re leaving money on the table.”
Somebody else comes up to you and says, “You know what you need? Rice milk. The data shows that all the people are buying rice milk these days. You should be selling rice milk in this economy.”
While you’re standing over the punch bowl, yet another person offers some sage advice. “Oreo cookies,” he says. “We made millions from implementing Oreo cookies in our organization. You’ve got to do it.”
Still somebody else comes up to you and says, “Celery. You’ve got to get into celery.”
You get all this great advice from all these highly accomplished people. Some of them are in the same industry. Some of them are more successful than you. Some of them have offered similar advice to others with great success. Now, what do you do?
You go to the supermarket and you buy celery, rice milk, Oreos and M&M’s. You spend a lot of time at the supermarket walking the aisles. You spend a lot of money because you buy everything. But you may or may not get any value from some or all of these products; there are no guarantees. Worse, if you’re budget-constrained, you had to whittle down your choices again. And then which do you choose?
But one thing’s for sure: when you’re standing in line at the supermarket with all these items in your arms, your celery, rice milk, Oreos and M&Ms, nobody can see what you believe. What you do is supposed to serve as tangible proof of what you believe, and you bought everything.
But what if you knew your WHY before you went to the supermarket? What if your WHY is to do only things that are healthy? To always do the things that are good for your body? You’ll get all the same good advice from all the same people, the only difference is, the next time you go to the supermarket, you’ll buy only rice milk and celery. Those are the only products that make sense. It’s not that the other advice isn’t good advice; it’s just not good for you. The advice doesn’t fit.
Filtering your decisions through your WHY, you spend less time at the supermarket and you spend less money, so there’s an efficiency advantage also. You’re guaranteed to get value out of all the products you bought. And, most importantly, when you’re standing in line with your products in your arms, everybody can see what you believe. With only celery and rice milk it’s obvious to people walking by what you believe. “I can see that you believe in looking after your health,” they may say to you. “I feel the same way. I have a question for you.” Congratulations. You just attracted a customer, an employee, a partner or a referral simply by making the right decisions. Simply ensuring that WHAT you do proves what you believe makes it easy for those who believe what you believe to find you. You have successfully communicated your WHY based on WHAT you do.
This is an idealistic concept and in the real world that level of discipline is not always possible. I understand that sometimes we have to make short-term decision to pay bills or get some short-term advantage. That’s fine. The Celery Test still applies. If you want a piece of chocolate cake, go right ahead. The difference is, when you start with WHY, you know full well that the chocolate cake is a short-term decision that doesn’t fit with your beliefs. You’re under no illusions. You know you are only doing it for the short-term sugar rush and you’ll have to work a little harder to get it out of your system. It’s astounding the number of business I see that view an opportunity as the one that’s going to set them on a path to glory, only to have it blow up or slowly deflate over time. They see the chocolate cake and can’t resist. Starting with WHY not only helps you know which is the right advice for you to follow, but also to know which decisions will put you out of balance. You can certainly make those decisions if you need to, but don’t make too many of them, otherwise over time, no one will know what you believe.
But here’s the best part. As soon as I told you WHY, you knew that we were going to buy only celery and rice milk even before you read it. As soon as I gave you the filter, as soon as I said the WHY, you knew exactly what decisions to make before I said so.
That’s called scale.
With a WHY clearly stated in an organization, anyone within the organization can make a decision as clearly and as accurately as the founder. A WHY provides the clear filter for decision-making. Any decisions—hiring, partnerships, strategies and tactics—should all pass the Celery Test.
The bottom line…If you haven’t read Sinek’s “Start With Why,” now is the time to add it to your 2015 TODO.
Success in being effective and being efficient is (IMHO) very similar to regular success. That is, it’s not about grand slams and home runs. It’s not even about doubles and singles.
The real magic happens at the plate. It’s about knowing which pitch to swing at, and which to let go. In short, you can’t hit a single—let alone a grand slam—if you’re constantly swinging at the wrong pitch.
For example, many people get all jazzed up about Facebook. “Look at that grand slam!” And those same people get all star-struck about on how far the ball went / is going.
The brilliance is that Facebook swung at the right pitch at the right time. Obviously, the swing (i.e., execution) also plays a significant role. But they also didn’t swing at some crap pitch in the dirt.
The bottom line…Mitigate your risk—i.e., increase your chances for success—by staying focused and letting the wrong pitches pass by. Losing focus and swinging at pitches not worth swinging at is not a strategy of the successful.
If you follow my online business writing you’ll already know I’m a dedicated disciple of the ideals of the Avinash Kaushik School of Analytics. Not only does he understand the data and how best to derive information from it, but he’s also spot on when it comes to broader business and business culture issues that compromise the promise that analytics can deliver.
His monthly-ish blog articles are consistently exceptional. This one rises to the top of that:
That said, it’s not rocket science—just stop for a moment and think about how you think. Do you differentiate one brand experience from the next? Not usually, right? Bad service is bad service and great service is great service. Keep in mind that there is always a brand on your tier (or lower) that is willing to raise the bar. If that brand isn’t you then you will forever be playing catch up. If Guests don’t care about silos they certainly don’t want to hear excuses either.
Again, think about it. You’ve done it yourself. You’ve taken a lower tier brand experience and applied it up a level or two. Your competition isn’t just to your left and right, it’s behind you too. When was the last time you looked behind you? As for inspiration…it’s right in front of you. It’s every time you leave the house.
There are two essential bits that I want to pull from Loir’s article:
“Naturally, those experiences shape his expectations. This person’s definition of a great experience is influenced largely by the vendors that serve him. Welcome to your new competitors—the best-of-the-world companies that are obsessed with customers, not competitors.”
“Don’t let industry thinking be an excuse for inferior customer experience. The ultimate competitive advantage will not be achieved by making product-to-product comparisons or catching up to the next vendor. Rather, a true edge will be achieved when customers are standing in line to purchase from you.
Indeed, customers will vote with their wallets. So it is time to immerse yourself in their world. Measure yourself against the best vendors in the world serving your customers. Ask yourself this: When my customer has been asked to spend $10,000, how has he been treated by the vendor?”
Thanks Lior. Thanks for further validating the Alchemy United state of mind.
Anyone who has gotten within ten feet of a project of any size understands the classic adage:
Let’s pretend for a moment that you go with Fast and Cheap. Fair enough, not every effort demands or allows for the premium package. F & C is also a sign of the times. Budgets are tight and markets are as fluid as ever. However, not picking Right does not mean you should abandon all sense of best practices and PM common sense.
For example, let’s say you decide to refinish a chair. The ultimate solution would be to take it to a professional with the proper experience and equipment and let him/her work their magic. Your next choice might be to get the right equipment yourself (or borrow it from a friend), buy a “Furniture Refinishing for Dummies” book and slot out a weekend to get the job done. But maybe its a chair of not much value and all the top choices would be overkill.
Again, fair enough. You just want to give the old chair some new life. None the less you probably shouldn’t ignore all sense of Right. At the very least you should sand the chair down a bit, give it a thorough washing and possibly slap on at least one coat of primer before you repaint. Deciding to completely bypass Right and just paint the chair “as is” in most cases would be a mistake. The type of mistake that you will eventually regret. The type of mistake that will just have to be redone again the minimal Right way.
On a more practical level, let’s say you want a website and you want it Fast & Cheap. These things happen sometimes and you have to deal with the cards in front of you. But that doesn’t mean all sense of Right should be abandoned. In fact, in order to keep Fast & Cheap on target there still needs to be a minimum commitment to Right.
Here are a few rules I’ve come up with that will help your Fast & Cheap project shine:
Fast & Cheap Rule #1 – Remove as many unknowns as quickly as possible. This is essential. Looking at the map while you’re flying forward is dangerous. For example, if your core team is familiar with web host X, CMS Y and copy writer Z then stick with those. Unless there is some irrefutable and compelling reason to switch horses then stick with what you know as much as possible. If someone doesn’t have a working understanding of a particular tool or element, get them up to speed ASAP. Mitigating unnecessary distractions is essential to efficiency. Avoid shiny new objects and any other unknowns as much as possible.
Fast & Cheap Rule #2 – Define the destination as quickly and as tightly as possible. There’s no sense embarking on a high-speed journey if you don’t know where you’re going and what provisions you might need to get there. Running fast for the sake of running fast might be fun in grade school gym class but it’s no way to get a quick & dirty project done on time and within budget. Be smart! Figure out where you’re going before you turn the key and stomp on the gas. One or two wrong turns at high-speed could result in undesirable and costly consequences
Fast & Cheap Rule #3 – Ask Why. Then ask What. Before you ask How. Obviously, closely related to Rule #2. For example, don’t start talking about the website’s design until there’s an agreed upon Why and What. For iproperty development the boilerplate I also recommend using is:
1) Who is the target audience?
2) What are their expectations?
3) What content and functionality is necessary to meet those expectations?
4) How does that correlate to the wants and needs of the brand?
Again, it doesn’t matter how Cheap and Fast you’re moving if you get to the wrong destination. It doesn’t matter if you pick a website design that looks nice if it’s ultimately inappropriate for the Why and What. You could get lucky. But why rely on luck when investing in a bit of time can do the trick? Yes, there is no doubt design is important. But its true value exists within the context of the business needs (i.e., Why and What). If you believe that defining the Why and What is too overwhelming then proceed at your own risk. Some might say, “We can’t afford the time for that.” No actually, the reality is you can’t afford the risk of not filling in these blanks. Ultimately the time invested now will be a bargain to what you pay later if you don’t get lucky.
Fast & Cheap Rule #4 – Listen to your able and trusted resources. Let’s say you take your car to the shop because you’re having a problem. The mechanic takes the car for a short drive and then puts the car up on the lift to have a closer look. Shortly thereafter he/she comes back and says you need services X, Y & Z. Do you say no thanks and then specify he/she replace A and/or B? Or do you ask for an explanation and then more likely than not proceed as recommended? At the risk of repeating myself a slight bit, unless there is some irrefutable and compelling reason not to listen to your able and trusted resources then stick with what they recommend as much as possible. A quality resource is not going to speak just to be heard. If the idea sounds feasible and their explanation reasonable then follow their path.
Fast & Cheap Rule #5 – Hit the expectations reboot button. Once you’ve run through the previous steps, do a quick loop back around and share what’s been documented in order to get everyone—resources and stakeholders—on the same page. It’s going to be worth reminding everyone that the meal is closer to fast-food than it is white table cloth fine dining. Even so, someone at some point is going to be tempted to discuss the wine list. Simply put, there is no wine list in this phase. Therefore, start a list for future enhancements. Not only will this list eventually come in handy, but it will also be a polite and positive way to say no not now.
Conclusion – Pardon me if this sounds a bit direct and honest but Fast & Cheap is not an acceptable excuse for being mindless. Sometimes cutting corners is necessary. But doing so with no seat belt on and while wearing a blindfold is foolish at best. Some times it’s necessary to be fast and be cheap but there’s no need to top that off with a stinky pile of hasty.
A Final Note – While this article focused on Fast & Cheap, the truth is many of these concepts apply no matter what two and a half options you pick from the list. And while you can’t have it all, the fact is there are smart ways to get the most from what you do have. All you have to do is look and think before you leap.
“Tips for Successfully Managing a Website Redesign” by Phil Edelstein (WebsiteMagazine.com, February 2011). At this point there are plenty of organizations that are on their second, third or maybe even fourth iteration of their website. What’s interesting is that there still seems to be a noticeable number who are not satisfied with the results they are getting. This article on Website Magazine makes a number of good points. However, I’d like to take a moment to supplement and refine Phil’s recommendations.
First, let’s start with the idea of redesign itself. To simplify what is now such an essential tool to be just a matter of “design” is understating the context and significance of the matter. While I’m certainly not going to belittle the skills and education of my design colleagues and friends, developing an effective iproperty in 2011 takes much more than attractive aesthetics. I would suggest using a term like “re-launch” or “re-architecting” over the misleading “redesign”.
Once you have embraced that shift in mindset, inventory your business needs, expectations and short and long term objectives. Phil suggest you figure out what you want. Frankly, I’m not a fan of wants. There are plenty of organizations that got what they wanted but not what they needed. I firmly believe the goal is to figure out what you need. Remember, this next investment isn’t just about design. This means that your resources—both on your internal team, as well as anyone from the outside you might engage—should be capable of defining and discussing business needs. It is also ideal that you have some internal discussion and agreement about needs before you reach out to anyone else. The list you compile will serve you well when you’re building your team.
However, don’t do too much before you pull in a vendor. Ideally the vendor you hire should be able to add value by being both objective as well as offering new ideas. They shouldn’t just listen and take notes (i.e., about your wants). They should be able to participate and help you move past wants and define your needs. The better your business needs are understood and universally agreed upon, the more likely they are to be met. There’s no panacea here other than communication and collaboration. This step is essential so don’t focus on how long it takes. Focus on getting it right, whether that’s two weeks or two months.
For the sake of brevity, I’m going to skip over the idea of wireframes and how that fits into the process prior to actual design. I will say, yes do wireframe. Even if they are sketches on the back of the proverbial envelope. Nowhere is it written that wireframes have to be formalized in Visio or a similar tool. The point is to take your needs and render them visually without being distracted by a formal design. Sure, there are some great tools for testing the actual interactions but let’s not go there today.
At some point things will progress and you’ll be ready to discuss and define the design slice. Some of you might scold me for saying this but don’t be afraid to look at the gazillion templates and themes that are already available. I’m not suggesting you purchase some generic off the shelf design. I agree that brand and branding is important. However, I am suggesting that it makes sense to collect multiple reference points and give your creative proper direction. They should have to start in a complete void. Be sure to look at site in other industries as well. Quite often you can pick up an idea or two that will help. And finally, when evaluating a design don’t look at it from your perspective, look at it how others are going to see and use it. Often you might be making a first impression. For example, the flashy Flash intro might be cool but those get tired pretty quick.
Most of all, be available, be willing to participate and communicate, and never lose sight of the fact that you are making an investment. This isn’t going to just happen overnight, nor is it going to be all fun and games all the time. Chances are good you’ll have other priorities you’ll have to juggle. There will be some difficult decisions and probably even some rattling of swords. But this is serious business with what should be a fairly healthy budget investment behind it. Don’t underestimate the need for teamwork, agility, participation and communications. Ultimately, you’ll only get out what you’re willing to put in.
In most cases a website is marketing and/or selling something. It might be a product. It might be a service. It might an idea or a non-profit’s mission. But ultimately, it’s selling. In order to get your ideal salesperson and/or marketing manager you’d invest a reasonable if not significant amount of time. You’d be thorough and diligent. You wouldn’t just take the first person that walks in off the street. Nor would you just throw your new hire at a desk and say, “Okay, get to work.” Start your relaunch process with the hope of hiring the employee you never had but always wanted. There’s no doubt that’s going to take more than just “design.”
SEO is short for search engine optimization. SEO is the art and science of trying to think how search engines think and making adjustments to your website to fit that M.O. That thinking is how search engines crawl and index your website’s pages. It’s how and why search engines exist — to match search queries, best they can, with a list of web pages that might satisfy that query.
Search engines are like high tech matchmakers using sophisticated algorithms to spark a relationship. These top secret black box algorithms evaluated countless characteristics of a web page and a website and then rank the results of that evaluation. In short, if it’s on your website, then as far as search engines are concerned it matters.
One of the easiest and most overlooked SEO best practices is properly naming the files that are the images on your site. For example, file123.jpg is probably not going to be as effective as seo-tips-and-tricks.jpg (if someone is searching for: SEO tips and tricks). Again, search engines are going to use any insight possible in order to make the best match between searcher and site. Makes sense, right?
If you’re looking to be smarter and get more out of your website by making it more “SEO friendly”, please check out Mikal’s great article on image file naming.
“Keep Your Graphic Designer on a Short Leash” by Tim Ash (Website Magazine, February 2010). It’s Friday so let’s get right to the meat of the matter. First, it’s not just your graphic designer you need to keep on a short leash. Chances are good you need to keep you on one too. A web site is a tool. A tool that helps you meet certain objectives to engage your guests. But more importantly, it’s a tool that helps your guest satisfy certain needs. In short, it’s about them, not you. Define those needs and then work from there.
For example, just because you (or your designer) see something “cool” on another site does not mean it’s a good idea. The question is, does that “coolness” meet one of your defined needs or not? If it doesn’t help to meet a need then it should be taken off the table. No ifs, ands or buts. The fact is, there are far too many “cool” but bad ideas out there already. Don’t get sucked into thinking “cool” is the answer. Quite often such gimmicks get tired pretty quick. Unless of course you want your brand to seem tired.
Tim’s key pearl comes in the final paragraph:
The moral of the story is clear: When it comes to landing pages, graphic artists need to follow a minimalist visual aesthetic that focuses on conversion and not window dressing. The new landing page may not be exciting visually, but that is not the objective. On a toned-down page the call-toaction emerges from the relative stillness of the page. “Boring” works. And it makes more money — that should make it plenty exciting.
A colleague and I were fortunate to witness this first hand a couple weeks ago. Considering that this was part of the Web 2.0 Expo’s free seminars, is simply amazing. Rushkoff alone was worth the time and the cost of the train multiplied by a few thousand, at least. Cheers to O’Reilly for bringing that event together and having Rushkoff expand our minds. Challenging, brilliant and not to be missed.
It’s a holiday week so you’re either quite busy or slowed down to enjoy the moment. Either way let’s skip the usual intro and jump to some highlights.
Measuring the totality of viral’s impact is extremely difficult, if not impossible. After all, how do you measure emails forwarded from personal accounts? Or URLs copied-and-pasted into instant message windows? Or a remark passed over a fence? And yet, no one would argue that messages spread virally are extremely powerful. After all, consumers are far more likely to trust one another than any marketing pitch out there. (See “Who Do You Trust About Trust?,” and our interview with “Trust Agents” co-author—and 2009 CRM Influential Leader — Chris Brogan, in Required Reading.)
According to customer experience company Satmetrix, and codeveloper of the Net Promoter score (NPS), word-of-mouth recommendations by promoters are increasing year over year in all industries. The uphill trend is not due to an increase in viral marketing–specific campaigns, says Deborah Eastman, chief marketing officer; rather, the Internet and social media have ignited a sharing frenzy.
Customers don’t care if you want them to pass something along. Abandon the PR lingo and the corporate speak. No one wants to listen to it, let alone pass it on to their friends. “Share honest information,” says Tom Anderson, managing partner of Anderson Analytics. “What are you worried about—your competitors seeing it? Big deal. Everything’s instantaneous now.”
The bottom line is this… If you want to tap into the natural conversational energy of the crowd, then you have to give them something worthy of discussion. But you also have to take that a step further and realize that worthy is defined by them, not by you. Traditional marketing’s one-way, dictate it and they will listen approach no longer applies. In fact, spin might only get you backlash.
We are by nature social beasts and that can certainly work to your advantage. Nothing beats word of mouth! But in order to win you must be honest and you must be authentic. Most of all, you must give them something truly worthy of their time. Because don’t you expect the same?
“Retail Democracy (Even bad reviews boost sales)” by Jennifer Alsever (Fortune Small Business Magazine, 28 September 2009). First, please pardon the delay in sharing this with you but FSB is one of those publications that does not post their articles on their web site when they street their print version. Yes, print still has its low tech place (i.e., convenience, no need for a wifi, etc.)
In short, great article! First, it reiterates one of the common AU themes — it’s not about you, it’s about your guests and their expectations. The focus should be on what they are looking for (e.g., authenticity, honesty, information, etc.), not on what you want to supply. They are not going to care if you’re meeting your needs. They will however care very deeply about if you are meeting their needs.
Think about it. When you visit a web site and see only glowing reviews, what does that do for the credibility of what you read? Do you not expect something more realistic? The irony is many people have the same expectation of other sites but when it comes to their own they want to scrub them so clean that they might as well be a faux Hollywood movie set. In short, context matters — there is such a thing as too clean.
Second, for a bit of positive spin, there is also the SEO (search engine optimization) aspect. In this case it basically comes down to the old PR adage, “bad press is good press.” In other words, comments become content; content gets indexed by search engines; the more content you have indexed the more likely a search engine is to connect you with someone doing a search. Granted, not every visit is a good visit. But as long as the click in is not costing you, via a pay per click (PPC) campaign, then it might not be so bad either.
Remember… Context matters — there is such a thing as too clean.
“Leading Change – Why Transformation Efforts Fail” by John P. Kotter (Harvard Business Review, www.HBRreprints.org). In this day and age, it’s difficult to have a conversation about almost anything without some reference to change. In fact, one of the longest standing uber-buzzwords is innovation, which obviously requires change. Ironically, what doesn’t seem to change is that so many fail at trying to change. Mr. Kotter’s ideas might be the difference maker for you.
Truth be told, neither of these articles are new. However, they do address many of the fundamentals and the universal truths that continue to challenge every organization regardless of the date on the callendar. As they say, “Change is constant.” The issue is, are you going to be proactive, reactive, or a victim of your denial that things are never going to be as they were.
Answers to these two questions neatly sum up the situation:
— Do you believe the retail coffee business is harder now than it was two years ago?
— Do you believe it is going to get any better in the next two years?
Whether you were asked these questions last year (when times were bad) or this year (as times got worse) or next (as things improve), the answer is the same. “Yes, it’s getting harder. No, it’s not going to get any easier.”
So here’s another question: If the coffee business is not going to get any better in the next couple of years, then who has to get better? The answer: “You.”
Bob Garfield, Advertising Age editor-at-large and co-host of On the Media, documents how the digital revolution has separated the 350-year connection between mass media and mass marketing, and prescribes a new way for business and institutions to go forward in the changing media landscape. His book The Chaos Scenario looks at what happens when the traditional media world order collapses and there’s nothing in place to replace it.
Mr. Garfield does a perfect job of summing up the current state of marketing and how the internet empowered guest is changing everything. Click to get a free download of the first two chapters of The Chaos Scenario.
“What Data Mining Can and Can’t Do” by Allan E. Alter (CIO Insight Magazine, June 2007) The subject of business intelligence (BI) came up in a meeting a couple days ago. The discussion centered around using broad patterns, as well as past behaviors of individuals to make future predictions. This article isn’t new but given the authority of Mr. Peter Fader (who is the interviewee) it will help you properly wrap your mind around this topic.
In short, there seems to be a fair amount misunderstanding when it comes to BI. Well, at least Prof. Fader thinks so.
“We wanted to redefine the game because we believe this is a competitive advantage for us and we wanted things that really would benefit our guests,” Lewis says. By creating an experience different and easier than that of other supermarkets, Lewis believes customers will bring in more business for the company.
and another bit from the last paragraph:
Members of the Haggen staff took the time to hear the opinions of customers before implementing the program by holding a panel to discuss their preferences about supermarket shopping. “We wanted [the program] to make the experience easier for them to shop in our stores,” says Lewis. “We respect our guests and their time.”
Makes you want to pick up and move to Bellingham, Wash.
This brief interview of Alan J. Fuerstman, the chief executive of Montage Hotels and Resorts, packs a mountain of insightful punch. In fact, we have all trudged though 200+ pages of a best seller to get half of what Mr. Fuerstman offers in a faction of time. Sounds like a great organization, eh?
The real story?
1 – This isn’t rocket science. There is no reason why other B2Cs and even B2Bs can’t use these concepts. Whether it’s a web site, or a retail store, that person engaging your brand is a guest. Those who accept and embrace this excel. Those who are in denial… Well, we’ve all had too many below average experiences, eh?
2 – Notice that Mr Fuerstman doesn’t even mention revenue, profits, etc. Why should he? He understands that if he and his people focus on the guest the money will come. It’s really that simple.