The Sanctity of Trust

There is nothing more meaningful in life than trust.  It’s the ultimate bond between humans. Husbands, wives.  Moms and daughters, Fathers and sons, friends, business associates….  A disregard and violation of this most fundamental significant trait is — well, shameful.  In my view, the back stab, blind-eye, convenient omissions are a revelation of character.   Shame, shame on you. You Matter–and NOT in a good way.   You violated trust.

We are all human and occasionally fall short of “saintly” standards.  There’s going to be gray areas..but I’ve witnessed trust violated in a variety ways.  Here are some true, and truly shameful, case stories….

A vendor, not so artificially, jacks up pricing because they know their trustworthy client will never get a competitive reference check and call them on the carpet.  I once witnessed a person in his industry ask “this is a huge project, and I know they won’t check pricing, how high do you think I should go on the price?”  My answer was “How about “fair”?’   (Happen to know they ignored my view)

Due to a long-term “relationship” a vendor does backflips and invests significant time and resources to develop client solutions; only to have purchasing “bid it out” to everyone with a zero investment….and rather than stand-up and advocate for fairness and consideration, the client just turns a blind eye.  Internal politics should not trump trust or integrity.  (yes, this one hits close to home–and good luck getting my professional assistance in the future).

Bait and switch.  A vendor features one product, but delivers something inferior because of “a special” that allows them a greedy margin.   Sure, business is about profit but this tactic is (winky-wink) pulling a fast one for your benefit at the expense of someone else not getting THE item they paid for.

Finally, the character flaw.  In an attempt to appear generous, you get overcharged–but then have a gratuitous line item appear on your invoice.  Something like “Thanks for your trust and business: 10% Valued Client FREE goods discount”….to make you feel appreciated; the problem–you paid 15% more to start with.

And then there is the good, earned, legitimate “trust”….like when a client reorders but there is a special available.   You could just enjoy a large profit margin; but instead extend the ‘special’ to benefit your client as a “win-win”.

That’s how trust gets built…and validated….it’s not “you” or “me”…it’s “us”.

 

Valentines Day–will you be mine?

THE day of relationships is on the horizon; so naturally I have a view or two—as it relates to building a brand community perspective, functioning efficiently and avoiding ‘purple squirrel’ moments.

Let’s consider that you’ve decided to give the worthy object of your affection flowers.   Does it matter if they are dandelions or roses?   Of course…what would dandelions say about the brand of you?   Probably the same as a thoughtless, half-witted promo-tising item.

Would it matter if the roses are brought home from Walmart in a bag or delivered to her/his (hey, let’s not stereotype) office?   Probably.   The goal isn’t to give flowers, it’s to make them feel special–much easier to achieve in front of envious, admiring witnesses.   (Do you give corporate recognition one-on-one in an isolated cubicle; or in front of colleagues–it matters!)

Would it matter if the roses were in a box or a nice crystal vase that could sustain the moment years beyond wilting?  Probably.

Would it matter if the roses were red, yellow, white, pink….? Probably not.

Would it matter if the stems were 12″, 14″?  Probably not

Would it matter if there were 3 sprigs of babies breath and green…or 6?  Probably not.

In the world of corporate promo-tising, too often the insignificant details (I don’t like this zipper pull) fog the process of your true, sincere objective:  create & sustain relationships.  People Matter….and some details do too; but don’t let the insignificant paralyze you from doing anything…because dandelions still trump indifference.   Show you care; and the love will follow.

Happy Valentines Day Everyone…and relationships are important EVERY day.

 

 

Thinking INSIDE the Box

The techy, modern, intrusive world creates a love/hate relationship.  We are slaves; addicted to our toys that distract us off on various tangents; losing focus while chasing shiny balls.  The Irish call it “foostering” about.  Confession time:  you go on the web, click interesting links and 10 minutes later can’t remember why you opened the browser?

Same with meetings, same with objectives…too much clutter competing for earnest focus…or the ability to allow your mind wander into a natural state of ‘peace’.   Life, thoughts, grand plans–all get rather murky, convoluted and pretzelly (as in twisted).  In my manner of zig when all the world zags, I’ll share a ‘paradigm buster’ concept:  Think INSIDE the box.

That’s right, stick your head securely in a box and don’t come out for 20-30 minutes.  No distractions, no external ‘ideas’….just you and your head.   My box is a stretch asphalt, bike, mp3 player and destination no-where.  In winter, my box is a x-country ski trail.  Fall…glass of bourbon, my dog, the stars and a campfire.  Spring time–a hike, 5 mile jog…or a glass of ??   Daydreaming is great exercise.

Every day should include some truly ‘alone’ time…without any smartphone, tablet, laptop, conference calls, e-meeting…  Start simple;  pack a lunch and go find “an island” for 30 minutes…and have a notebook handy to jot down strategic thoughts that flow into the void of your brain INSIDE the box.

Word of the Day: fooster

Rubberband Marketing…

This blog post dedicated to the following email I recently received:  “click now, for our dynamic, technology infused promotional solutions…”.   This was for a USB drive;  c’mon…give me a break from the superficial hype.  Beyond the spam email, my issue is “dynamic & infused”.   Is it any wonder 98% (that’s just my guess, no statistical merit other than hunch) of email remains unread and dumped in the trash folder?   This flaw is “rubberband marketing” — stretching the truth; and your credibility. That’s no way to begin a relationship; because at some point, it is going to snap back in your face.  Ouch.

Authenticity is really a pretty easy concept–but are we so ashamed or disrespectful of our true self that it requires a stretch?  The opposite is confidence & transparency.   You’re comfy in your own skin and can deal with revealing a less than ideal, polished (fake) persona.   You know you’ve “got the goods” so your communication is honest, true.  People can discern that vibe.

Anyone in corporate America can relate to meetings – both internal and with outside sources – that are filled with confounded, modern phrases intended to impress.   “Synergy” is among my favorites because it’s used so often and I can’t remember a time where back end politics weren’t the reality.

dilbert-bingo

For your amusement, I’ll share a favorite web link called “The Bull__it Generator“.  It randomly takes nouns, vowels and adjectives to combine them into meaningless impressive sounding phrases.    Sadly, pretty funny!

Bringing it back close to home; think of your promotional items.   Are they authentic to your brand character…or just spewing meaningless budget into space.  Are they attempting to bribe, impress–or communicate?   Is the inevitable destination (like email spam) of the trash bin…or have a legit ability for some ROI?    Be honest…and hopefully you’ll expect quality items–with an authentic message associated with your name.

Customer Service.

call bell     Ding…Ding, Ding, Ding.   Ah, could I get some help………please?

Let’s face it; everyone tosses “service” around with about as much integrity as a politician.  Sadly, it’s evolved to a meaningless generic….but the reality is; when delivered with integrity, it still carries weight.

While at a trade show several years back, a supplier was extolling their new commitment to “service”.   “You can find whatever you want on the website, and when you need pricing it’s completely available in download format.”  Unless you meant self-service, that’s not service.  

Likewise, I absolutely LOVE it (sarcasm) when I call somewhere, get the auto answer “system” that spends the first 2 minutes attempting me to go to their web page.  This is “service” (?)

Uhm, my view of “service” is directly linked to doing something for someone else.  And here are some examples of what happens in the real world; and what could/should happen…

My definition of “service” is linked to anticipation and empathy.   It lathers me (just a bit) when a supplier “service specialist” sends an email “the item ordered is not currently available”.   OK, so now what?  Maybe just a smidgen of info and helpfulness like “but we’ll have it available early next month” or “if you care to substitute, we have navy instead of the black”.   Instead of communicating solutions, they create a problem–and then move on to let you dangle.   Sound familiar?

Another real example; a little bit better.    I received this email: “the L-401 is not available, but the L-415 could be substituted”.  That’s great; what the heck is a L-415?   With just the most minimal of effort (and empathy), that person could have included either an image of the L-415, a direct hyperlink…or maybe both?  THAT would have been service; take the extra common sense step.  People are either too busy, too self absorbed or just ill-equipped in training to actually provide “service”.  It requires an attitude beyond the hurried, untrained path of lease resistance…

Final example of service evolution is closer to home.  Our client had an event and my support staff knew we needed to forward the tracking #’s for various items….but specifically, we did not send 5-6 separate  emails…but just one, COMPREHENSIVE email with ALL the tracking #’s and a subject line titled “Complete Event Tracking # Info; from Badger Promotions”.   Instead of pecking through multiple emails with Lord knows what subject line originally used; it’s one simple, easy-to-access source.  Done.  That qualifies as “service”…and while I’ve never been told, I know that when the pre-event tasks go wild/crazy; they appreciate having the info in one spot and at their disposal.

Next time you speak about “service”; don’t do yourself a “disservice”.   Make sure your integrity is legit and shines through of truly going the extra mile for someone.  Think about what THEY need & want.   You Matter….and so do “the little things” in our lives.   A little “service” goes a long way; and makes you feel good, fulfilled as well.  It’s the Golden Rule.

One final revealing note on “service”…. it’s a game changer.  The tracking example above was for a client over 1000 miles away on the west coast.  I’ve had the honor of serving them for over a decade…and never met them (acquired via referral).  They have local options, but value the team orientation and real value-added service provided.  Competitive advantage; and yes, it makes ME feel good to be appreciated and valued.   Legit service is not just “lip service”; but a genuine competitive advantage (that fewer and fewer want to understand.  (instead “let’s make an app for that”).

Trust…respect.

This, a follow up view building off my previous “preparation” blog.   Here’s where the rubber meets the road: vetting a business partner–and then allowing them to apply their expertise (so you can get results and not churn endlessly in something that lies beyond any area of proficiency/expertise).

Last time, I spoke of good old Abe Lincoln’s view of sharpening an ax–well, I’ve got one to grind right here.  Do a better job of vetting your partners.  Look for experience and integrity….then trust it and step aside.   Which doesn’t mean (at all) that clients shouldn’t be part of a collaborative process; but too much internal talent time gets spent  (i.e: wasted) “developing ideas” that often are far, far away from achieving the original objective, creating detours and roadblocks or have no possible, practical means of implementation based on restrictions of time and budget.  (This run-on sentence is purposeful–like many projects that seem to have no conclusion)  You certainly have better, more productive things to do than attempt to do your vendors job, right?

Don’t change (or stay with) vendors based on “likability” or “price”….find somebody that knows what is what; that adds genuine value–and then let them work to create the solutions you hired them to provide.  In an industry that is CONSTANTLY changing, the only ‘expert’ is one that is in the game–with a sharp ax.  Rather than second guessing every detail; perhaps you’d achieve more enlisting the services of a competent, trustworthy partner and OUTSOURCING THE PROCESS while respecting the very expertise of why you hired them in the first place.   Just sayin’…look for waste, especially in time & talent…and then let everyone (including yourself) channel efforts within their strengths and priorities.

Like ax sharpening Abe, my Dad applied simple, honest logic.  A favorite of his: “Lead, Follow or Get Out of The Way”…because Dad saw the end game.  Preparation ONLY matters if it’s followed by actually getting something done; and done right.

 

Preparation…

A common trap exists in dealing with ‘urgent’ priorities.   One of my favorite quotes is that of Abe Lincoln:  “Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the ax”.

So it goes with execution of your promo-tising marketing plan.  What?  You don’t have “a marketing plan”…or just never bother to apply it to promo-tising expenditures?

Another great planning axiom is the definition of success:  when “opportunity meets preparation”.   How true; and challenging.  Who has time to prepare?!  There is certainly considerable validity in expected ROI on your marketing investment….but like most “investments” that opportunity for return may not be immediate but rather take patience, persistence and finally appear, not in a gradual trend, but as an opportunistic spike.  In many instances, the pendulum of analyzing “returns” has swung too far.  The need to demonstrate immediate ROI is short circuiting the prudent practice of “investing, preparing” to meet the next opportunity.

Case study:  Years ago, I attended a trade show in LasVegas.  The kind most attendees spend 3 times more time in the casino than the convention floor (familiar?).  Were I an exhibitor, it would have been difficult to put justifiable ROI for the time and expense involved.  The silver lining though is anyone bothering to actually work received some quality conversational, collaborative time.  2 years after the show, an opportunity arose for a project involving watches….and I reached out to an exhibitor from this poorly attended show that made the investment to be there…and actually create a relationship*   Bottom Line:  my client was thrilled with the result…and my vendor secured a $10,000 order.  In his words: “well it took awhile, but I finally paid for that Vegas show”.

Moral.  Maintain a sharp ax….and keep swingin’.   You never can predict when, how, where the promo-tising investment is going to ‘pay-off’…but if done with strategy and purpose that little tangible message will help make a pay day happen.  Trust it, Believe.

* (another future blog topic; don’t greet booth guests by sitting indifferently on a chair in the corner waiting for 5pm to arrive.  Sadly this was the norm of about 90% exhibitors–why bother?).

You Matter!

“April showers, bring May flowers”….and so it is with recognizing the talent around you; the talent you depend on to lift, hold you high.   April is also home of Admin Assistant Day….shower those around you with a little recognition and watch your success bloom.

Personally, I’m not fond of the numerous “hallmark” days (valentines, sweetest etc.) that have been created mainly for commercial purposes–call me a frugal cynic.   Like those popular commercialized days, Admin Assistant Day is another ‘opportunity’ to tell people that they matter.   There are plenty of ways to express your gratitude but the central objective is always sincerity and setting aside “a moment” to actually show you notice…and care.    Actions speak louder than words.   Of all human needs, everyone’s core desire includes some basic human validation.  Let them know they matter.

What to do?   There will be critics regardless of what you do; that’s not reason to avoid recognizing the benefits and energy others bring to the team.   A personal hand written note is cheap as it comes; but will also demonstrate that you took time and thought for a truly “personal” moment.   It’s THAT simple; and it will have far more impact and connectivity than tossing a $25 Target Gift card in a generic greeting card with ‘thanks’ hastily scribbled on the bottom.  Don’t think $, the value is truly in the action.

Want to sustain that grateful vibe…that’s where a simple “message advocate” can be of assistance.  There are plenty of very affordable, unique awards or items that when properly presented accomplish your goal of recognition.

Like anything, plan ahead and do it right…throwing something together in haste may be counterproductive.   (They’ll see through it like a husband walking through the door on anniversary night with a box of candy from the convenience store)  If you didn’t plan, get out the note card and spend 15 minutes on a handwritten note–then jot on your planner to avoid the same problem next year.

Finally, like all the ‘hallmark’ days…remember every day; especially on unexpected occasions, it’s wise to let someone know they matter in your life.

BTW: it feels great to tell people they are awesome and significant

 

 

The Pursuit of Less

Credit to an interesting Harvard Business Review blog by Greg McKeown…here’s a really compelling case that supports a “less is more”, “keep it simple stupid” approach to business–and life!   A highly relevant, ironic view that success is actually the foundation of failure.

Of particular promo-tising note is the “endowment effect” that’s noted near the end.  Great (research based) human insight into how we value things.  Might explain some of the items in my basement? 🙂

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/08/the_disciplined_pursuit_of_less.html

 

Hello World!

This site is about working together, sharing information and (hopefully) thought provoking insight into the challenges of marketing and relationship building.  Message Advocate’s stated purpose is “tangible promo-tising strategies to build relationships & a brand community”.  Centered firmly in the core is the simple “you matter” affirmation; every person in ‘the community’ is part of creating, sharing the brand experience.

Rather than focus on ‘stuff’ (that will can follow naturally when appropriate) let’s collaborate on  opportunities and strategy to engage people–in any genuine manner.   It may be a traditional client relationship  but communicating with employees and sales teams is equally (if not more) vital.  All people matter.   Goals can range from increasing your client base to motivating participation in wellness, safety initiatives or simple acts of human validation  (AKA: recognition).  You have a message–and in a world full of proliferation and distractions, it’s going to take an effort to make yours distinctively memorable.   Let’s get creative to “make it stick” and build relationships.  You can’t succeed alone.

Jerry