Pick Two Types of Service

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The temptation for businesses, especially after they have success, is to overreach. You have the choice of price, quality and service as your focal points in the marketplace. But you can only have two. We are tempted to be all three. But we live in a world of natural trade-offs.

Part of being in business is knowing what you are committed to and will deliver to your customers. You can go broke fast when you muddy the water with perfectionism.

If you are good and fast, but not cheap, then expect to turn away prospective customers that are not a match. It’s not a fit for what you are about. You can wait patiently for the people that will come your way that want what you are offering.

If you are in the business of being fast and cheap, keep that habit, message and approach day in and day out. There are plenty of people that are looking for your offering and can live without good. It’s good enough.

I know restaurant owners that own two types of restaurants. One is fast and cheap. They have a steady flow of traffic. It’s a volume game.

The other restaurant looks nothing like the first. It is fast and good.

They don’t comingle the two concepts. They are different businesses with different patrons.

Perhaps you want to get bigger after you see successes. How about focusing on leaning in further to your success and be better instead. Deeper focus and commitment to the two service items that make you who you are will go a long way towards growing your business.

What two are you? How can you get clearer and more committed?

If You Are Not the Winner Do This

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Someone has to be the the winner.

Someone has to be Facebook. Or Uber. Or Google.

In our connected economy, we have a winner-take-all dynamic. It’s easier to consolidate and see a clear winner arise from leveraging a business system.

However, what we see and are aware of is based on a success bias. We don’t see who is second or has lost along the way. I’m not sure studying the outright, asymmetrical winners is helpful to everyone else. A 1/99 ratio where 1% takes 99% of the winnings doesn’t leave room for replication.

If everyone can participate like the winners then there’s much to learn. We can simply persevere through the same business roadmap laid out by the winners.

But, that is far from the case in the trenches of business today. You can’t simply copy what a forerunner or market leader has done. Their barrier to entry comes from a consolidated position over time from efficiency, especially after they won the lion’s share of the votes early.

So, you have two choices:

  1. Be first
  2. Be different

Being first has its own risks with great rewards. If you innovate too far ahead of the market you may only be setting up the success of the second mover who learns from your mistakes and capitalizes en masse.

Being different can work well for premium products and services especially well where price sensitivity and comparison become difficult for the buyer. Your differences create unique positioning that keep you from commoditization traps. I prefer to design around being different as a strategy. It works well in a world of too many options and scarce attention.

Design Around Differentiation

If you are being compared as an option, then you are not different enough in your proposition.

Sure, you can insist on being better, and this favors buyers. Comparison becomes an opportunity to move the conversation away from value and towards price. That’s what’s left if there is not clear differentiation, simply price. That’s that natural place for a buyer to focus when they can’t see what is special about you or your offerings.

That signal, price comparison, can be your motivation and trigger to work harder at designing a different product and positioning it accordingly.

Here are some strategies to implement towards the hard work of differentiating:

  • Value. What is the output, the result? Can you integrate the experience, product and service in such a way that the value is what becomes the primary focal point, not the rudimentary parts?
  • Positioning. Are you able to affect the perception of how you are seen, especially in comparison to your competition? What word do you want people to think in their minds when they think of you? Make that the essence of how you communicate, frame and connect with buyers.
  • Price. Can you price higher and be worth 10x the amount? Instead of asking how much you can squeeze out, ask how you can be at the top of the pricing ceiling and make your customer so happy they are eager to pay you. They feel they got the deal.

Differentiating has its own work and you have to care enough and focus on driving the experience so high that price becomes a secondary issue.

Imagine the impact if you did the hard work of design and delighting people.

Look What I Did For You

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It’s much easier to sell “Look what I did for you” than “Look what I avoided for you.” ~ Nassim Taleb, Antifragile

I lament that our society and human nature exalts the glamorous over the shrewd.

“Look what I did for you” garners perceived value so readily. Perhaps it’s because we are wired to respond to what we can see, feel and touch more so than what was accomplished conceptually.

And, quite frankly, what can be sensed sells more efficiently than what is avoided.

For the seller, tuning into what you do communicates value. That’s your task. Make the unseen felt and valued.

There’s the challenge of helping customers with what may be needed and then ensuring they get what they wanted.

Insistence on what people should perceive as value can be fatal if that’s your goal.

How do you show what you did for someone?

Building a Money Making Foundation

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Money is flowing every day. Deals are made. People pull out their credit cards continuously  to buy what they want.

We don’t have to create demand as much as we need to sell things that people want to buy and make it easy for them to do so.

If you are so impatient and frenzied to get the next sale and have to continually hustle without creating a selling machine, where will you ultimately be in six months? Still hustling and struggling to get the next deal?

If you are so busy that you make it hard on yourself, it’s because you undervalued or ignored the need to build a solid money-making foundation to your business process.

Maybe you have a few sales already. Great! You could step back and learn a few things to build a foundation that could drive continuous sales. Here are some key strategies to build such a foundation:

  • Profile your best customers. People that already pulled out their wallets bought from you for a reason. Did they have urgency? Were they in a certain demographic? Were they motivated by guilt? Seek to find the pattern.
  • Identify the place your best customers hang out. Perhaps your best customers are executives. Do they tend to congregate in a LinkedIn Group? Are your customers opinionated consumers that pin frequently on Pinterest? Work backwards and fish in the pond where the fish tend to be.
  • Design your message to attract your best customers. There is a problem of attention and focus today with the onslaught of instant information at our fingertips. What gets people to look your way? How can they tune into your signal? Be sure the message pushes on their problem that they may not be considering. Study how the copy in your articles or messaging in your headlines speaks to your ideal customer’s pain.

These are a few thoughts to start your process of building a foundation for selling. There are many other details, but if you are always hustling then scaling your efforts becomes an ongoing problem. How about simply starting with these strategies and seeing if you can build a foundation that attracts and makes selling easier?

Repackaging

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How can you reposition or repackage your brand?

You don’t have to do business the way you are set up currently. You could take the same core value you sell and repackage how you present your wares and skills to the market. The position you are in was a choice. Maybe it was practical. Early on someone asked for a price. You named it and that set you on a trajectory.

Your current position became tradition. And our habits and choices are hard to change once established unless there’s a need to change the form factor.

What if you doubled or tripled your price? Have you tried this exercise?

You may have to reposition your offering to enhance the value perception. Or your product may need more features and benefits.

The hard thinking to explore your option are only limited by your imagination and willingness.

Repackaging your offering can allow you to have more revenue for less effort. And that is good for the market. You can focus more on value than on paying your bills. You have less to manage in headcount, systems or clients. You can focus more.

Furthermore, you are forcing yourself to innovate by disrupting business as usual. You have to have vision and conviction that you can bring more and you are worth it.

Nothing sits still. The world is always changing and forces are acting on you and your business. If you are sitting on your laurels, you will become commoditized over time.

If you are asking how to bring more value, then you are innovating. This is the research and development we must all do continually to remain relevant. It’s good for you and for your customers. Seek to repackage continually and demand more of yourself so you can be worth more to others.

How can you repackage to be worth more?

Appreciate Timing

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To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. ~ Mark Twain

When you approach someone with an idea or something you want to sell, assume you are out of phase. What are the chances of being in phase.

Sure, if you have an urgent care office, people show up because they are sick. The timing is right.

But when you are initiating in the marketplace of overcrowded, abundant offerings, people are likely not thinking about what you are offering. And if you act like the man with the hammer nailing everything around you, then you will likely find disappointment.

Timing matters a great deal. Getting in phase and helping someone’s mind get ready for hearing you gives you chance to be heard and valued. But this takes more work than simply going around nailing everything in site. It requires strategy.

Instead of asking how you can sell, ask yourself how you can help people be ready to receive what you are selling. The prerequisites likely come from your past buyers if you would study what caused them to buy.

What mindset did your previous buyers have?

How can you help someone to consider something they have not considered previously?

What problem became so acute it bugged them immensely? How can you push on this point?

It’s thinking about process and connection to create the timing and readiness for your message and offering to be received. This may require more appreciation for timing than you currently have, but in effect, you can build a sustainable pipeline by simply tweaking your approach.

Most people you engage are not ready. The question now becomes, how can you help your prospective customers become ready to hear you?

It’s pushing on the heavily weighted factor for selling – timing. Master this and you create the ongoing environment for continuous conversions.

Exponential Growth

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Our human brains have a hard time understanding or accepting exponential trends. We prefer and interpret events and trends to be linear.

Like a nice Sunday drive that is steady in course, direction and speed, we think life events unfold this way.

However, the reality is that we have acceleration occurring at unprecedented speeds. Whether it’s world population, bandwidth or medicine. We are not linear. We are exponential.

This comes from the compounding effects of technology. When technology enters your marketplace, you are off the industrial progress of linear trending and onto exponential growth.

We used to watch blue collar factory work get replaced by robots and automation. Now, the same has happened for white collar office workers. Robots are faster, cheaper and don’t complain.

The network effect of using LinkedIn, Upwork or Twitter to find talent or get things done with a modular project team is within everyone’s grasp now. You just have to rally around your idea and lead. All the resources are a few clicks away to make your ideas happen now.

The network effect is accelerating and available to anyone that is connected. And everyone is connected now.

So, what happens to your position right now? The world is not standing still and the security you might feel could be a deception. You might feel like it’s a linear zone when you are merely in the first part of an exponential curve. It’s not inconceivable you will be replaced or your cost will dramatically reduce.

Once network effects and digitization occur, the commoditization process begins. Computing power, bandwidth and storage are near zero cost. And every day our hypercompetitive economy keeps changing the rules because someone is building on top of the collective knowledge that makes the next step of innovation easier.

The strategy for a world of exponential growth is not to go hope and find places where things are merely linear. That’s not going to happen. The trend across modern reality is efficiency and demonetization.

No, the fit strategy is to map yourself into an exponential mindset. You can participate, thrive and get rich by keeping pace with and trending with exponential growth. Make it a foregone conclusion that automation will replace your work today. But it doesn’t have to replace you.

Your opportunity lies with the ability to develop your personal leadership and use the existing and emerging technology of today to build something people will buy. Start with a few. Make it work. Then make it work at scale.

Have you accepted exponential growth?

Commit to Things You Can Sustain

I think we have mass hysteria embedded in our humanity. When fads come along or some new shiny platform appears, people jump at it and go nuts.

At one time, blogging had millions of people participating in the blogosphere. Most of it was noise and clutter.

Youtube has hundreds of videos uploaded every minute. We all have cameras. Why not shoot some videos and store them? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it, make pushing things out so convenient wherever you are. 

But all these fronts have a cost. And the reality is that if you want attention and business deals, you have to play the long game. There are not nearly as many bloggers out there. Everyone’s chasing some new fantasy. But the real writers are still around working on their craft and sharing their thoughts.

Same goes for all the other platforms. Atrophy sets in for the masses. And those that experience success gaining new customers or an audience keep learning and keep showing up. As Jim Rohn said,

“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.”

If you keep flitting from one thing to another, you lose the momentum and discovery that comes from learning, connecting and being consistent. I think it’s why passion is so important. If you like something marginally, how are you going to be around for years building an asset in attention or engagement with those that resonate with you? The deal is that they give you attention and you give them consistency.

So, before you start pushing hard on some new platform, think about whether you can sustain it. Will it be core to your habits and something you look forward to doing every day?

I happen to enjoy writing with over 1,500+ articles to date on my blog. And I don’t anticipate stopping anytime soon. It’s sustainable and enjoyable. The work gets to compound and live on rather than simply stop and rot.

What few things do you find you can commit to and sustain?

Yes, But Do They Value It

Hearing that phrase, “You have to add value,” can sound wonderful as part of your business habits. But what does it really mean? It can be a lofty idea without materializing into something real that connects with another person.

The better question when you are working with a customer is to look at them with full attention and think, “What is valuable to them?” It takes concentration and intentionality.

We are in our own heads too much and think about what is valuable to ourselves without realizing it most of the time. Then we project what we value onto others. It’s easy to do. But it’s starting from the wrong place.

Asking what your customer truly values means you can see their worldview and the story they tell themselves. Often what they value is unspoken:

“I want to feel important. Make me feel important.”

“I want my network to respect me and see my accomplishments.”

“I want comfort and ease these days.”

“I want to not worry and feel secure about my position.”

“I want to win and be perceived as the top dog.”

The easy way to find out what is valuable to someone is to simply observe. Turn off the sound. Look at what they do and ignore what they say. We say things to position and appear put together.

And if you are thinking that you are providing great service and feeling good about your own efforts, you may miss what is really going on in the customer experience and relationship. The question is still about whether your customer values what you are doing, not whether you value it.

This kind of insight and approach to how you do business requires strategic thinking. Step back and think about what is valuable to people you deal with. Think about the things they are not saying but are true.

Then meet those deeply held motives and beliefs to retain, nurture and grow your relationships.

What do you observe as valuable to your clients that they are not saying?

The Myth of Credentialism

The logic of getting more education or credentials used to make sense in the past in the industrial economy. Things were nice and neat then. If you wanted a promotion or you got laid off, the thought process of becoming more marketable by getting an MBA, a law degree or another degree altogether could position you for a better track than where you were.

In essence, this kind of thinking was a bet based on companies, recruiters and HR professionals looking at the signals you are presenting to slot you into a known hierarchy. The model and the credentials assume that there’s a nice box you can fit within.

However, if you are paying attention, look at the trends:

  • Companies are getting smaller, not bigger
  • LinkedIn shows a regular pattern of people switching jobs every 3-5 years
  • Older people are expensive and competing with younger talent a fraction of their pay
  • We have access to talent anywhere and everywhere in the world
  • What is working for a company can evaporate next year
  • Anyone can be an entrepreneur now
  • You can learn any skill you want. If you want to, that is.
  • Those at the top and the bottom have access to the same information and tools.

If you want to go $60K in debt to get some more credentials, ask yourself how that fits into the new economy and the trends. It assumes someone values and wants to pay for your new credentials.

What if you took that debt and invested it into an idea instead? Think about the bet you are making. You have the opportunity to put yourself on your own path. You get to learn skills that open the world up to you rather than limit you to someone else’s temporary paradigm for cash flow.

Just because something is working now in a business does not mean it will last for the next five years, much less the next year.

Yes, credentialism is a myth and dangerous bet. You could end up on the short end of the stick over-educating yourself while the world is outpacing your degree and learnings. It’s an old mindset for an old economy.

When you live in a world where someone who does not go to college can make millions if they work hard, learn from their failure and can test their ideas over and over, how does credentialism fit?

What’s your strategy for staying relevant and valuable enough to make the big bucks?