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A New Kind of Average American

Many businesses need to reach average Americans. Sure, it might be an average American with a particular interest or hobby or need, but at the end of the day you’re probably going after the average Americans. Have you given much thought to how much the average American has changed in just the last 10 years? Is there any chance your business is still going after an old average rather than the new average?

Here are seven truths about today’s average American:

  1. Today’s average American has a mobile device.
  2. Today’s average American browses the Internet on their mobile device.
  3. Today’s average American has a broadband Internet connection in their home.
  4. Today’s average American streams the audio or video they want when they want it.
  5. Today’s average American has a digital network of hundreds of people they’re connected to instantly.
  6. Today’s average American can take pictures or video everywhere they go.
  7. Today’s average American is publishing content online in the form of updates, Tweets or photos.

The average American business knows all of this but hasn’t adjusted to the realities of this new kind of average.

It’s one thing to know who your target audience is. Is another thing to have an accurate view of the way they live, act and engage. Whether you’re going after average or going after the fringe, take a moment to check yourself that you have the clearest picture possible of who they are today and not just a memory of who they used to be.

Image credit: Classic Film via Flickr for use under Creative Commons.

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Put All Your Baskets In One Egg

Undoubtedly you have been warned not to put all of your eggs in one basket. The meaning of the phrase is clear enough: avoid placing all of your opportunities in a single source. The goal then, according to this egg diversification system, is to spread those opportunities out into multiple sources so you won’t only depend upon a single source.

That sounds like a good plan but there’s a flaw with it. It assumes all eggs are good eggs. It assumes every egg is of equal value. It assumes some eggs as easy to obtain as others. There’s very little focus on the egg in this old saying. It’s time to look at the egg.

Know Your Egg
My friend Chuck has his eggs in three baskets. Sounds like a wise move, right? One basket is his primary source of income–his landscaping and lawn care business. The second basket is the money he makes as a trainer at a local gym. The third basket is the multi-level marketing business he joined a year ago.

Chuck is an excellent landscape and lawn guy. He makes 90% of his household income on that business. He’s also a good trainer. He’s passionate about his work there but brings home only about 7% of his total income from it. His remaining 3% of income comes from the multi-level marketing business which is requiring him to do things that aren’t really strengths of his.

My concern about Chuck’s situation is that while he has eggs in three diverse baskets, Chuck is really unclear about his eggs. Chuck is the egg. His strengths and passions are the egg. It’s time to flip this old saying.

You Are The Egg
Chuck knows himself well enough to know he loves being outdoors and he loves the landscaping and lawn care business. He doesn’t settle for 99%. Everything has to be 100% correct. He’s meticulous. That’s just what you want when you hire a guy like Chuck. That’s also why he’s making the majority of his income here. This is his best egg but he only has one basket in this egg. All the other baskets are completely unrelated to this egg. Chuck would be well served to forget the idea of putting his eggs in multiple baskets and instead put all his baskets in his single excellent egg. 

The idea of putting all your baskets in one egg supports the idea of diversifying your interests but also means that you know your strengths well enough that all of the baskets relate back to what you can do well. Putting all your eggs in one basket doesn’t require you to examine the quality of the basket or egg. It just advocates diversification. Putting all your baskets in one egg, however, requires that you know your egg well enough to determine which baskets actually make sense for you. 

My buddy Chuck is working exclusively with alternative fuel lawn mowers and other environmentally friendly lawn care methods. He’s the only guy in town doing that which sounds a whole lot like a future basket opportunity for his egg. Maybe he’ll turn that experience into consulting or become an advocate for it or some other thing that keeps him going deeper with that really good egg. Focusing on you’re strengths will actually make you stronger.

Play To Your Strengths
The idea of playing to your strengths isn’t new. The idea of diversifying your business interests isn’t new either. The idea of making sure your playing in your strengths while you diversify is all I’m advocating. You may see some success in the diversification of random things but why not diversify where you’re strongest so a lesson you learn working in one basket will be able to apply to your other baskets?

You Need A Friend
It’s highly likely that once you decide to do this you’re going to realize you need a friend. The funny thing about working in your strengths is that you realize you need help from other people in the areas where they’re strong and you’re not. For instance, my friend Nathan and I started Epic Frequency together several years ago. He’s the designer, developer and general creative visionary for our little company. I’m the business development, marketing and branding guy. We’re both working within our strengths and it’s working out nicely. Epic Frequency is one of several baskets in my egg and I make sure my role within the company fits my strengths.

The next time you find yourself considering a new opportunity ask yourself if the basket is good for your egg. Perhaps it’s time to evaluate something you’re already doing. Can your role within that particular venture become more egg-worthy if it’s not already? Or maybe you need to back everything up and spend some time determining your strengths in the first place. Try starting with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 test, reports and book. Spend some time charting all the things you’ve done in life that really made you feel like you were operating within a core strength of yours. The more clear you are about your egg, the better baskets you’ll choose.

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It’s Not Business. It’s Personal.

The Godfather started it. You may not know the scene but you know the line from Michael Corleone played by Al Pacino:

“It’s not personal Sonny. It’s strictly business.” 

It’s a statement being used somewhere today in a conference room or over lunch or on a putting green to justify doing something that’s going to feel personal to somebody but the decision is good for the organization. You’ve may have said this. You may even believe it. Undoubtedly you’ve been on the receiving end of it at some point.

Another movie sought to take this idea on. In 1998, Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail pushed against it. Joe Fox, the corporate book retailer played by Tom Hanks put Kathleen Kelly’s (played by Ryan) little bookstore out of business. He said it wasn’t personal. Just business. But it was personal:

Joe Fox: It wasn’t personal.

Kathleen Kelly: What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s personal to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?

Joe Fox: Uh, nothing.

Kathleen Kelly: Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.

She’s right. It should begin by being personal. Your organization is being graded on a variety of things every day like the quality of your products or the helpfulness of your customer service representatives and if your organization’s culture begins by being personal you’re going to make better products and hire better customer service reps.

It’s not the easier path but it is the better path. The implications are vast:

  • If business is personal it doesn’t happen at arms length.
  • If business is personal it requires transparency.
  • If business is personal it demands the truth.
  • If business is personal then you’ll honor your word.
  • If business is personal you’re looking for everyone to win.

Unless your business doesn’t involve people in any form or fashion (and I’d like to know what that might be) then it’s personal to someone. A particular business decision may not be personal to you but it’s personal to someone else. If you’re lucky, you’ll never meet the person impacted by a business decision, but in today’s connected, sharing, venting out loud type of world, the likelihood that you’ll find out who your decision impacts is more probable than ever and then you’ll have to deal with that in whatever form it takes.

Of course, you could just recognize that business is personal and make decisions with that in mind too. It’s your call.

Photo credit: “Life Passes By” by Tinou Bao with permission from Creative Commons license.

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The Art Of A Meaningful Email: Real-Life Example

I’m going to guess that when you think of email you don’t think positively about it. It’s regarded as one of those necessary evils of the modern worker. You want to sort through and be done with it. People declare inbox bankruptcy and celebrate inbox zero. Email is something to conquer and short, rapid responses tend to be method for victory.

But what if you didn’t see it like that…at least not all the time? What would it take for someone to be so impacted by an email you wrote that she would want to print it out and post it in her cube?

Or consider this: is it possible to construct an email that you get what you want with no questions asked? It is. I’ve done it and you can too.

You Can’t Buy Their Hearts
I’ll never forget the time I sent an email to the PR team that was working with a client of mine. My client and I had just completed a day of planning with our new PR agency for a product launch. The problem was that the PR firm was a big, national agency and my client was a small company with a small budget. My client and I were both concerned that the agency would be excited for the first few weeks but then move us to the back burner and move on to bigger, more substantial clientele. We didn’t have the budget to buy their time so we needed to earn their hearts. I sent them an email with that goal. Here’s what I wrote them:

Subject: Reflections on yesterday

PR Team:

The 1996 film, Jerry Maguire, added three statements to the American conversation. These are still around today and likely aren’t going anywhere soon:

1. Show me the money.
2. You complete me.
3. You had me at hello.

What you guys probably don’t realize is that you had us at hello. From the first time I spoke to James on the phone I was almost certain we would work with you guys. I hadn’t even completed all the initial agency interview calls yet, but I had this sense in my gut that you were the one. Then, after a follow up call when our team we spoke with Vicky, we all said, “I really like them. They’re it.” I agreed, but the process was not over, so we continued. A few weeks ago our VP joined us as we spoke to your team along with two other agencies to make our final decision and it was immediately clear. You were the one. There wasn’t really much of a discussion. It was that clear of a choice. So while the process seemed all professional and stuff, I was thinking last night about how you guys had us at hello and you should know that.

Our expectations for you were high coming into the meeting yesterday. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest), we felt like the meeting would be at least a 9 and likely a 10. Now, having completed our initial meeting together, I think it’s fair to say you guys were somewhere around 100 on that same scale of 1-10. So yes, our expectations were high and you greatly exceeded them. Your agency is not only the right fit for us but this team of Vicky, Noah, Christy, Nicholas, Maddy and Paige is perfect for us too. So while it would be premature to say “you complete me” in this relationship, we like the direction it’s going.

Of course at the end of the day we want to take our little brand and show it the money. This time last year this company was a hope and a dream that was about to launch. Today we’re having conversations with major tech companies about mutually beneficial relationships and we stand on the edge of a product launch that we hope will propel our brand awareness and sales into the stratosphere. We want to be ridiculously and unapologetically successful but do so in such a way that we all keep our dignity. Obtaining success with honor is more rare than it should be but it’s possible. You guys share that philosophy which, again, is why you’re right for us.

So, while I could have just said, “Good meeting yesterday. We’re excited to be working with you,” it seems to me you guys deserve something with a little more thoughtfulness…hence this email.

Whether you’re a Jerry Maguire fan or not doesn’t really matter but I like what we have here and Jerry seemed to provide an appropriate backdrop to these thoughts. Thanks for being great hosts yesterday. Let’s roll.

And that was it. We found out later that day that several people on the team printed the email and that one person started crying. James, the agency president, said it was one of the best emails he had ever received.

Here’s the thing, I meant everything in that email. I wasn’t trying to manipulate them but I did want to earn their hearts for the project and it worked.

Over the next several months we saw the PR team give our little brand their heart and soul. The vice president, Vicky, even admitted secretly that they spent more time on our project than the budget allowed but they were so committed to our success they just had to do it. We had their hearts on the project and that was all we could ask for.

5 Keys To A Meaningful Email
You can draft a meaningful email too. Start with these five elements:

1. Be Sincere: If you don’t mean what you say they’ll know it. Insincerity is hard to cover up. Sincerity is hard to fake.

2. Be Personable: Speak in first person and infuse the email with your own personality.

3. Be Vulnerable: Speak plainly and don’t hold back on your fears, concerns, excitement or any other feelings. You’re writing emotionally to connect emotionally.

4. Be Clear: Make sure your intentions are obvious and your reason for sending the email is abundantly clear to everyone who reads it.

5. Be Candid: Say it like you would say it if you were talking to them. Address the difficulty or admit that the email is unusual for you. Put your guard down if you want them to put theirs down.

Email is just another way to communicate the written word. Sure, it’s usually for information or data, but what if it actually moved someone. Put some heart into that next significant email and see what happens if you attempt something more meaningful.

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