Your Last Action Speaks The Loudest

Your Last ActionIt is SUCH a great feeling isn’t it? When you complete a huge project successfully, or hit that major goal it feels like nothing can stop you – and there certainly is no reason to hold back on the celebration. In fact, celebrating big achievements properly can encourage us to tackle the next assignment with the same energy as the last. Time marches on though, and those who allow the celebration to last for weeks… months… years… (I knew someone who celebrated for decades!) may be brought back to the present with a rude awakening.

Please don’t confuse what I am trying to describe for mere “remember the good old days” talk. No, that is nostalgia and a different (if not equally unhelpful – in business) feeling altogether. Nostalgia wishes for different circumstances around a person, while what I am describing is someone wishing to be a different person to be the person they felt like during a past win, even though they are now facing a new and different challenge.

To avoid the trap described above, always remember that your last (most recent) action speaks the loudest. It is the most true depiction of who you are as a person, and more importantly how finely tuned your skill set is to meet current challenges.

I’ll prove it to you in just two words. Lance Armstrong. Ok, maybe that was a cheap shot. How about… General Petraeus. Ok, ok… imagine instead for me the BEST new home marketer in the world… in 1995. Lets say he stopped learning and interacting with the outside world until we dropped him in 2013. Would he still be the best marketer in the world? His skills have not kept up – he is no longer competitive. He’s never even heard the words “online lead” before. Yet, if you called him to a meeting he would likely reference his domination of the marketing world… back when news print was king. No one would care… and they shouldn’t! Past successes more than three years ago do not indicate any better chance of future success than someone who is unproven but well prepared. Yes, the world is changing that fast. The answers for the test back then will not work on today’s final exam.

What to do then? Focus on continually increasing your skills, and not on telling others how you’ve “done this before” or “did that once.” Always be analyzing the surrounding landscape and asking “do I have the skills to appropriately tackle this challenge should it arise?” Again, if you succeeded at the same task more than three years ago, you are likely to be blindsided without careful self evaluation.

True experts will focus on skills that will serve them well forever. Can you learn quickly? Can you teach yourself? Are you disciplined? Can you interact well with other people? Can you lead them? Motivate them? Motive yourself? Can you analyze? Strategize? Take action? Are you self aware? Those will serve you much better than becoming a MySpace expert (even if it seemed important in 2006), or an expert App developer (in 2012).

So today take some positive action, and don’t coast – because tomorrow your new boss won’t have anything else to judge you on. He certainly won’t care what you did 3+ years ago.

PS. Your resume is not a piece of paper in today’s world. It is the connections you’ve made, how you’ve treated them over time, and your last few actions. That’s it. (this goes for companies too! Mind your brand.)

Mission Critical For Your Business

Mission CriticalThere are only two things that are always mission critical in business – customer satisfaction and profit. Many companies talk about how important it is that every member of their organization is actually part of the “sales force” no matter what their actual title or position is. I think, however, that it may unintentionally get everyone in the company focused on a metric that doesn’t always matter – volume. Sure, there will be periods of intense growth in any company where reaching a certain level of volume will matter and create efficiency, however taking your eyes of off what is mission critical can do serious damage.

Why do I keep using the term “mission critical?” All companies have a purpose – a mission, and the items that are crucial for that company continuing to do business are critical. Satisfaction used to be the lesser concern behind profit. Back in the “good old days” for some companies, customers had no true voice that could match the power of advertising. As long as your product was profitable enough, you could buy your way out of trouble.

Things have certainly changed. A couple bad Yelp reviews, or one ticked off customer with 30,000 Twitter followers can seriously harm your ability to continue. The best way to deal with these issues? Prove that those less than ideal testimonials are nothing but a freak accident – representing only .001% of your customer’s experiences. A secondary option is to have a brand so strong that it can take a direct hit and still give you time to prove (or improve) the prevoius point. Most companies, despite their own opinions, aren’t quite strong enough for that though.

Yes, profit keeps the doors open and the engine of business turning – but it now plays a secondary role to customer satisfaction. Even if you are nothing but a pure capitalist then you understand that a predicatbly higher satisfaction level than your competition will let you charge a higher premium – and increase your profit.

So today, look around and ask yourself how you can have the biggest impact on your customer’s experience and take action. Your companies margins will be glad that you did. Haven’t a clue where to start? Then start listening to your customers – closely.

The Real Story Behind What’s Missing on the New iPad

Siri isn't on the new iPadThe reviews are in, at least the ones that count. Over 3 million consumers voted with their wallet in the first few days after the latest version of the iPad was released. There’s been the usual mix of reviews praising it as perfection, and others saying it’s not much more than a cash grab. However, what I was both surprised by – and impressed with – was the lack of Siri (Apple’s digital assistant on the iPhone) and Facetime (Apple’s version of Skype) over 4g networks.

Now since you probably already know that I’m a huge tech head, you may be wondering why I was impressed that something was intentionally left out (although maybe not if you recall my “missing list” post a while back) – especially since both are really software issues? 4g is certainly fast enough for Facetime to work well, and Siri would certainly run well on a device that is every bit as powerful as the iPhone 4s. So why did Apple choose not to include them?

Neither met Apple’s own internal minimum standards for delivering a reliable customer experience that they would be proud of. Let me explain. (If you aren’t familiar with Siri, please watch this first)

Siri records sound from your device, and then sends that sound over the internet to Apple servers who interpret the sound and send back a response. This means that on the Wi-Fi only (very popular) versions of the iPad customers would have heard a reply like “Sorry, I can’t help you with that right now” anytime they weren’t on a Wi-Fi network. Imagine if they saw an advertisement of an iPad running Siri and theirs often “didn’t work” for a reason they likely do not understand – how frustrating! This isn’t an issue with an iPhone because except in airplane mode (or if the user is techy enough to navigate multiple menus to turn off cellular data) it is always connected via 3g to process the data and give Siri its witty reply to your request.

Similar story with Facetime. 4g coverage isn’t wide spread enough to reliable offer a seamless experience, and a customer’s data plan could be eaten up real fast during a Facetime call causing a larger than expected data bill and – again – an even more negative (and expensive) experience.

This is all layered on the idea that Apple products are “just supposed to work.” A perceived failure rate (remember – the software isn’t failing) of even 15% on these two singular experiences could have harmed Apple’s brand. They weren’t willing to risk it, and I applaud them for it.

Some people say Apple thinks that the people who buy their products are too stupid and that is why they make decisions to “protect people from themselves.” I think they have too much respect for their reputation, the product they deliver, and their customers to offer an unreliable experience.

What do you think? Should they have included them? Is it brave or stupid to make a decision like that? Why?

A Builder’s Online Strategy: Employ Your Home Owners

Get it straight from the horse's mouthFinal review – the 7 E’s are:

1. EARN Google’s trust
2. ENTICE people to visit your site
3. ENGAGE those “just browsing”
4. EMPHASIZE your differences
5. ENSURE you’re part of the short list
6. ELICIT a response – generate a lead and convert it
7. EMPLOY your happy home owners to earn more trust

You’ve done all the “hard” work of getting people to come to visit your website and convert to a lead, but it isn’t time to call it quits yet. You have one very important step left – capture your happy customer’s feelings on paper, in photos, or better yet – on video. They don’t have to be long. They don’t have to be professionally shot. They don’t even need to be 100% positive. (ie: stop making excuses)

Customer testimonials fall into a category that is known as the “wonderful and magical third party endorsement.” No, really. There is perhaps no more important or valuable asset for your marketing team to have on its side than a load of third party endorsements. Why? Because as Seth Godin says, and all consumers believe: all marketers are liars! (Don’t confuse this with the equally famous all husbands are clueless – although third party endorsements are key there too right? Just get the mother-in-law on your side and your viewpoint is sure to be accepted)

How to use them

We’ll talk later about best practices on how to capture testimonials, but assuming that you’ve got them – how should you use them on your website? The only thing I can tell you for certain is not to put them in only one place. This is true with all important content on your site – give the browser multiple points of entry on multiple pages. It’s too important to bury in one small corner of your website. Also keep in mind that many of the people who visit your site may never see the homepage because they will click on a link from Google that takes them deep within your site from the beginning.

Below are two examples from my builder’s website. The first one shows the homepage with two pieces of content highlighting customer testimonials – on the left is a video ready to play instantly, and on the right is a promotional button that will take the browser to the testimonial page. The second image shows how in a subtle and non-obtrusive way you can get this great content on every page of your site.

testimonial use on homepage testimonial use on interior page

The final piece of advice is to use this content beyond just on your own site. Think YouTube, email blasts (opt-in only of course!), Realtor presentations, and more.

 

A Builder’s Online Strategy: Emphasize Your Differences

Emphasize Your Differences - Home Builder Web Strategy

Quick review – the 7 E’s are:

1. EARN Google’s trust
2. ENTICE people to visit your site
3. ENGAGE those “just browsing”
4. EMPHASIZE your differences
5. ENSURE you’re part of the short list
6. ELICIT a response – generate a lead and convert it
7. EMPLOY your happy home owners to earn more trust

So now that a customer is on your site and devouring your relevant and helpful content, what bigger picture message are you sending them? When you follow up later (you’re going to follow… right??!), what key points about you do you want them to remember? Don’t spend time telling them “yes, we do that to.” You want to stand out and you want to be memorable… maybe even remarkable. You’re only going to accomplish this by highlighting your unique and honest differences.

- Focus on no more than 2 or 3 main points so they can be easily remembered and repeated to other influencers in the decision making process.

- Back up each point with 2 or 3 extremely specific examples.

This specificity does two things. The first is that it proves you aren’t lying or over generalizing. The second is that because it’s so specific, your prospects minds automatically will fill in the other gaps in information with the assumption that your company must address those things with a similar level of care.

Below are a few of the pitfalls I see builders fall into in their attempt to emphasize their differences. Unfortunately, they try to hang their hat on one of these four danger areas:

- “Quality” is not a difference that’s believable a lot of the time

As a home builder, you are assumed to have good quality unless proven otherwise… because you’re a home builder. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying that’s the way it is. We often do the same with doctors or dentists and do little background work on them because we assume they got the degree, so they must be good. Especially to uneducated buyers – the level of perceived quality difference will be extremely small unless heavily educated by a sales person they genuinely like and trust.

- “Green” is not a difference that more than 14% of the population cares about.

I’ve done two separate surveys of over 800 consumers in my local area over the last two years. Only 10-14% say that a home being “green” would be a key part of their decision to purchase. Nearly two thirds said energy savings above and beyond other homes would be. A far distant second was indoor air quality. The generic term “green” doesn’t tell them “what’s in it for me.”

- “Service” is something often promised and usually ignored in all forms of business.

Today’s consumer is jaded. Everyone tells them how much they care and will be there for them, and then they are disappointed time and time again. So even if this is a true point of differentiation – don’t say it yourself. You must use third party testimonials or awards to back it up.

- “Affordability” is a difference, but one that raises questions as well – be careful with this one.

There are a lot of home builders out there – especially today – that have their prices set too low. Yep, I said it… too low. You don’t need to be $40,000 – $100,000 less than the competition on your base house. That just raises the question of how much you’ve cut out (it’s the fastest way to make an uneducated buyer doubt your quality… see above!). Small differences in price really matter. When my wife and I bought our first semi-custom home we ended up choosing the lot based on a $500 price difference on a $275,000 purchase. Not too rational, but then again your buyers aren’t rational either.