Mom Was Right: It’s Best To Share

I was reminded this past week, once again, that sharing information is one of the greatest ways to differentiate yourself, position your services and products, grow a customer base, and build loyalty. And I’m not talking about sharing little tidbits that you can frame as content marketing to show your inbound efforts. I mean real sharing.

Success in this arena requires more than just having the information to share. You need to have confidence as well. All too often people want the benefits of content marketing without sharing any content. “If we put the actual valuable stuff out there,” they ask, “how are we going to sell it?”

I would ask, “What better way to build a market than by building a community that is educated about the value of what you do?” Put it out there! And although you can teach theory and strategy and concepts and implementation, you cannot ‘give away’ your experience. Be confident enough in your unique ability to turn these lessons into results that you are willing to share the lessons with others.

 

If someone is inspired by your content, you’ve helped them. If someone implements on their own, at least they know that you were the spark and they’ll come back for more. If implementing on their own makes them successful enough, they may want to continue to grow and feel that they now need to hire you to take it to the next level (the person who has helped them). Or, they may tell others about how much your material has helped them and send another person your way. Or, they might start trying to implement and realize they don’t have the knack for this and need to hire the expert. Or, they may hire you straight-away.

So, what am I talking about? Exactly how much information, knowledge, and insight am I telling you to give away? As much as you can. Yup. This week I was reminded of this as I wandered to a blog posted by Moz, formerly SEOMoz, that features 21 tactics to acquire customers. I loved it, nodding at points ranging from manual outreach to double-loop referral programs to guides to industry surveys. This drew me to the site…where I ended up spending some time. Why?

I found myself looking at presentations from the recently finished MozCon 2013. Is it the same as being there in person? Absolutely not. As good as hearing the archived presentation? No. But is it interesting? Yes. Does it position the conference as something I might want to attend in the future? If the content of the slides looks good, yes. It’s like Moz is telling me, “Look at how many ideas are stimulated by looking at the slides. Imagine what would happen if you were here.” Except instead of Moz telling me, I figure it out for myself. When we’re coming to our own conclusions, we’re more likely to trust them. And we’re more likely to remember them.

So, there you go. Share information. It’ll have people coming back, generating more and more interaction with you, and firmly positioning yourself as a valuable resource, an expert, and someone who’s nice enough, and confident enough, to share. You build community. You build trust. You build a future.

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Smiling: Contagious Energy

This past week my dad visited Seattle. Seattle’s great and it’s fun hanging out with my dad, so it was easy to go different places and smile. As we wandered the city, museums, and my home, I realized two essential things about smiling.

1. Energy lives behind smiles.
2. Smiles inspire, transmitting energy and smiles to others.

On Monday, dad and I went to Pike Place Market to pick up food to make dinner. Pike Place Market is filled with energy. We bought sea scallops at the famous fish market. It’s the one that appears in those “fabulous customer service” videos because, well, they have fabulous customer service. It’s not all handshakes and nice-ness, it’s energy. They are chanting and throwing fish around. And you know what? It’s that energy creating smiles. People literally stand around watching them, smiling.

Public Market Center sign at Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle

Entering Pike Place Market

So we bought sea scallops and when we signed for the credit card, the orange overalls guy says, “Thanks for the tip! We love tips!” then he yells, or bellows might be more accurate, “We got a tip!” Then all the other orange overalls yell, “We got a tip!” I was smiling by then, also embarassed, but smiling. Rarely does leaving a tip make me feel quite so happy.

Seafood at Pike Place Market Fish Company

This experience got me thinking, smiling is really hard to do if you’re feeling drained. It takes energy. You have to be excited, inspired, or touched by something to smile.

This also got me thinking about how much I make my co-workers smile and how much they make me smile. It’s actually an essential element of a work environment (just as much as personal relationships), but I had never thought about it before. If you’re talking about work, energized by it, enjoying it, you’re going to smile. And if you’re doing it right, you’ll be inspired to smile by those you work with and you’ll inspire them to smile too.

Here’s to hoping that all of you out there are smiling! Smiling is too important to forego. Dad and I were inspired to go home and cook an amazing dinner, all while smiling. (Well, dad did most of the cooking.) It was delicious!

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Gold’s Gym Assumes Wrong

We’re all guilty of assumptions. It’d be pretty hard to get through life without making assumptions. We look at facts and then we put together the most reasonable story. Here’s an example:

Fact: He has big muscles. (You can observe the fact.)

Assumption: He must workout a lot. (Probable story, but maybe it’s related to his employment instead.)

The problem with facts and assumptions come into play when we become glued to our assumptions so that we can’t allow another scenario. We stop listening because we think we already know.

This is a danger for everyone, every profession. But I see it as one of the most dangerous hazards in marketing and communications. It’s our job to really listen, and to help everyone in our organization really listen to our clients, even when what is being said seems to fly in the face of reason. Really listen, then you can see if you’d like to alter your assumption.

Last week, my brother visited Seattle. Tyler works out. On Thursday, his last day in town, we decided to go to the gym together. He had a travel pass and I had a Gold’s Gym membership, so we went to my gym. Instead of heading to our separate routines (my cardio and his strength training), I asked if I could follow him around. I only see him once per year and I figured it’d be fun to shadow him, especially since he’s like a little boy in a candy shop in the gym. It’s fun to see how much he loves it.

When the Fitness Manager for the Gold’s Gym approached us and asked us how long we’d been working together, Tyler explained he was visiting and I said he was my brother. The Fitness Manager said “You’re obviously showing her how to use these machines, pointing to the muscles that they’re working. You’re training her.” Now, if the Fitness Manager was watching us this closely, you might think that he would have noticed that we’d been working on triceps for 90 minutes. Anyone who looked at me for 30 seconds would know that I would NEVER ask a trainer to help me work on my triceps for NINETY MINUTES.

But the Fitness Manager’s mind was ignoring certain facts. He was zeroing on other facts, which gave him strong conviction in his assumption.

His facts: This guy is huge. This girl is not. This guy is showing her how to do these exercises. This guy knows enough about these exercises that he can point to the part of the body they are working.

His assumption: This guy is training this girl. This guy is trying to make money off from my gym without hiring my trainers. This guy and this girl are scumbags who must be stopped, insulted, and made to leave.

So, now I’m making a few assumptions about the exact wording of his assumptions, but I have the facts of the conversation that have created my assumption. Needless to say, the encounter was not something I’d like to repeat and I have since canceled my membership.

Fact: My brother and I are not the same size.

But this experience got me thinking: how often do we all make mistaken assumptions? And what impact do they have?

It certainly made me think about how I communicate about my Center’s services and all the different ways our audience is touched by our brand, services, and people. It’s my responsibility to help everyone in our organization think about their impact, think about their assumptions, and open up general discussion about what goes well and what does not.  And I need them to help me with my assumptions as well.

I hope that the subsequent conversation I have had with the Fitness Manager will better equip him to work with other clients differently. And I hope the membership cancelation email I sent to him and the General Manager will open conversations within the organization about its mission, vision, and message. The message last week was: YOU ARE AN AWFUL PERSON AND SIBLINGS CANNOT WORKOUT TOGETHER. That wasn’t what I signed up for.

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The Secret Behind Working Hard

I never dreamed that I would summit an erupted volcano and look in, but that’s what I did on Saturday. My husband and I summited St. Helens with two of our friends. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day. We climbed all that way with our ski gear and I realize now that I had also never dreamed about the feeling of skiing down a volcano with miles of mountains in my view.

Part of the rim left from the eruption in 1980.

Today I found myself thinking about how or why I did it, seeing as though I had not dreamed of it. I’m usually a planner. I’m a goal setter. I dream and then go after it. And I’m a believer in the power of visualization — visualize yourself doing it, or help someone else visualize it, and you’re more likely to succeed. But I didn’t plan this, set this as a goal, or even attempt a visualization.

What I realized was that I really like to work hard. Seriously. And, in fact, I think most people like to work hard. Working hard is not the same thing as working all the time. Working hard is pushing yourself, strategizing, doing all you can do in that moment. For hours, I was climbing for the pure joy of exerting energy. Contributing to something. Enjoying something.

Brian climbing St. Helens with Mt. Adams in the background.

Tackling something big enough to make you struggle mandates moments when you’re overwhelmed or exhausted, and when you’re working hard you definitely make mistakes. But working hard is more rewarding. And you know why it’s more rewarding? Because if you’re motivated enough to work really hard, you’re doing something you love.

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Big Questions Before the Website Redesign

A couple of weeks ago a couple of colleagues asked to talk about a big project: a website overhaul. They wanted to hear about the process my organization had recently undergone to see how it applied to their plans. As they framed their process-to-date to open the conversation, it became clear to me that we weren’t going to be talking about a redesign. Today we were talking about an organizational infrastructure of work, team dynamics, and process.

Organizational Infrastructure of work: My colleagues were struggling as they began to wrap their minds around a comprehensive website redesign and I could see they were struggling with organizational infrastructure. There are two types of organizations I’ve repeatedly seen struggle with this:

1. complex governmental or privatized organizations most of which have evolved as “sprawl,” adding components to the business as funding allows or having purchased other companies

2. tiny non-profits that work with bare-bones staff and have had to chase funding in order to survive.

So what problem am I referring to with “organizational infrastructure of work”? In web design, it would be labeled “information architecture.” It’s a broad-based understanding of what the organization does, broken down into understandable and relatable components and pieces. It’s an overall vision and mission that is then supported by pillars that make sense, that explain what the organization does and how it does it. It’s a systematic categorization of work. And it’s damn hard.

Properly done, an organizational infrastructure explains itself to everyone, from clients to employees, to leadership, to funders. It’s a framework that helps define, orient, and move an organization forward. It has to have buy-in, support, and involvement from every level within the organization. If an organization doesn’t have this, it needs it. It won’t only be your website that thanks you.

Team Dynamics: Another issue that was at the heart of what my colleagues were asking was team dynamics. Unfortunately, they have a player that’s not interested in varying perspectives, doesn’t have the patience for a long process, and is unable or unwilling to move outside of that all-to-detrimental comfort zone. Needless to say, this is not good. Especially since this team member has a skill set that the team needs to get this project done.

I, and probably many others, enjoy open, exploratory dialogue in team meetings. It’s particularly free-form in early meetings, as we explore options to get to our desired end. In the case my two colleagues presented, many options and avenues are going to have to be explored prior to the meetings because more fully-formed thoughts and ideas will be needed to introduce conversation. Hopefully, the extra thought and research will equip my colleagues with more questions and examples that help get the difficult team member thinking in different ways, more objectively weighing alternatives. This is important because his advice is crucial to success.

Process: The third piece of the puzzle was process, but I’m not referring to the steps required to get this job done. We talked about process in a much larger, more theoretical sense. The challenging team member wanted to build this website without involving very many people. He was afraid the process would be dreadfully slow. All of us, I’m sure, can relate to this concern. But for this group, the first handful of meetings had been held as closed-door meetings with only certain people (that the difficult team member wanted) invited.

Those that have read very many of my blogs will know that one of my rules is the rule of transparency. It builds trust; it builds teams; it builds organizations. I don’t think you can build a website, a website that’s going to succeed beyond its launch, without having people in your organization buy into it. This is a tool that represents these people. This is a tool that will need content and input and promotion from those people. You cannot build it in a vacuum.

Of course, you do need to set a framework for involving people because it can get very unwieldily and slow the process down or kill the project altogether. But the key stakeholders need to be involved, and it has to be real involvement.

When we headed out of the office, I felt like we had touched universal truths — ones that can be hard to coalesce but that are essential. It doesn’t matter if you’re building a website, a strategic plan, a brand new product, or a recruiting a new board member, you need patience, persistence, and communication if you’re going to succeed. Building an organizational infrastructure of work, building team dynamics, and establishing your process protocol will require your vision, coupled with flexibility, to get to your goal. And you’re going to have to take every opportunity presented to you to educate people at all levels in the organization about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

I wish my colleagues the best of luck. All steps are steps forward, and I look forward to seeing how far they can take this one.

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