Conscious capitalism. Compassionate workplace. Empathetic leadership. Kindness at work.
What do all of these terms even mean?
Many times throughout my career, I’ve dealt with dysfunctional workplace cultures, leaders who were at best disinterested and at worst emotionally abusive. Co-workers that yelled at me. Like, screaming so nonsensically, I had to hang up on them.
We talk about this behavior os “unprofessional” or “counterproductive.” But I have a better term. It is mean. It is unkind.
But what does it mean to be kind in business?
Is it simply bringing cookies to work, or covering for a coworker, or saying please and thank you? Is it letting people walk all over you, or shrinking back, or saying yes to everything? Nope.
Let’s redefine kindness in business to mean….
…clarity. Being crystal clear about instructions, expectations and next steps. So no one is left unprepared or guessing.
...listening. Holding space for other ideas and viewpoints with judgment or defensiveness.
…managing expectations. So one is ever disappointed. Contracts, agreements, clearly worded objectives and goals.
…random praise. It’s not always about telling people what they can do better. It’s about sharing what someone did well, and doing it everyday. Not just during a performance review or project debrief.
…good timing. Showing up on time to respect someone’s time. Managing meetings so goals are met in a timely manner. Knowing when to share something with the group and when a private conversation is required. Giving feedback in a timely manner.
…having tough conversations. Not avoiding conflict but openly and directly discussing when tensions are running high. It’s kind to address issues rather than sit on them and fume.
…loving honesty and directness. Honestly saying what you think and how you feel because you genuinely care. “I share this because I want was is best for the team and for you” versus “I share this to cut your down, shame you and make you feel bad.” See also Good Timing as a complement to this.
...admitting when you’re wrong. You respect others when you admit you were wrong about something and find a way forward together. You set a model that failure is okay and risk-taking is encouraged.
Clarity, listening, managing expectations and all the rest may seem like simply good communication tactics. And they are. But when done with love and respect for others as individuals and thinking, feeling, human beings, they become kindness.
Your organization’s brand is its reputation, essence and core. It’s not just a logo creation exercise or marketing’s purview from an ad perspective. It’s everything your company is, offers and stands for, inside and out.
Clients are sometimes surprised that when we work on a brand strategy process together, the key component is not just a marketing workshop, but a cross-functional workshop. “What can our engineers/CFO/HR leader contribute to a brand conversation? They don’t really understand marketing.”
Doesn’t matter. They represent a view of the customer or product that serves as an ingredient to crafting the brand story. I’ve had some of the best brand epiphanies come from someone in the room that the marketing lead didn’t think belonged there: The curmudgeon who thinks marketing is a waste of money, or the pre-sales consultant who is not quite sure why they are involved in this effort.
Here’s the thing: All of these functions are necessary to live out whatever “brand” that marketing cranks out. In fact, they ARE the brand.(Tweet this!)
Their interactions with customers and partners create a brand perception. They need to have a voice in how it’s represented but more importantly, contribute to the conversation in non-marketing speak. That’s how you get to the “real stuff,” to the way people ACTUALLY talk that is not in the press boilerplate.
When I worked in enterprise technology marketing, my favorite people were the sales engineers. They knew exactly what the product was capable of, keeping us honest in our claims, and they could rattle off use cases and benefits by memory. They dealt with customers and prospects every day. They knew the struggles with adoption and implementation beyond the sale.
All of these are key ingredients to the brand story.
So who needs to be in the room when crafting or revamping your story, values, approach and personality – or even having input into naming? Well, first of all, let’s not get crazy. You can’t build a brand strategy by committee. It becomes a Frankensteined shell of its former self with no real teeth or differentiation, because you’re trying to “please everyone” and so you end up with more bland jargon that customers don’t care about. But you can consider various viewpoints and have that represented in the final product so there is end-to-end buy-in.
Ideally, who needs to be at the brand party?
Head of marketing: Obviously. They know about lead generation and customer attraction principles, pipeline building and the prospect journey/buying cycle. But more importantly they are on the hook for execution. And clearly, many branding projects are spearheaded by marketing. I have yet for a VP of Product to give me a call about how to rebrand the company (although he or she might be the bug in the CMO’s ear!)
One or two other key marketing roles: We want to avoid making this a marketing-only exercise. Choose one or two other key marketing roles (perhaps head of comms or lead gen) to be a voice in the conversation.
Head of product or engineering: They know the ins and outs of how the product works and what it delivers. They have spent time prioritizing features to address customers scenarios. They often work with sales when requests come in or things go wrong.
CEO: Yes, the CEO needs to make time to be part of this process. A strong brand is modeled from the top down, even if it’s defined from the bottom up in some cases. If the CEO is not part of the process and bought in to why this is necessary and how it will help the company accelerate growth, you’re dead in the water. Also, my best conversations about the larger company vision, values and market-changing impact happen when the CEO is in the room and everyone is inspired to think bigger.
Head of people or HR: Call this Chief People Officer or simple SVP of Human Resources. Time and again, I’m shocked when clients are loathe to involve HR on a brand strategy project. HR is responsible for how the company brand is perceived by prospective employees and what it takes to attract them. They are sharing the brand story every day. And they are tasked with bringing in the right talent who will make the best brand ambassadors. How can they do that if they’re not part of the process? Your people are your greatest brand assets, and therefore those responsible for finding them need to be in lock-step with the brand strategy so a consistent story is told.
CFO/COO: What? Yes. Your brand does not stop at customers’ or prospects’ doors. All of your internal policies and processes need to embody the brand promise. A brand starts from the inside out if it is to be genuine, believable and consistent. These policies extend to every vendor interaction with your company: they have their own networks to which they either talk you up, or talk you down. The brand needs to be lived out internally and with key external audiences just as much as your prospects. I’ve seen way too many Silicon Valley companies deny this fact – and while they may claim agility, speed or innovation to their customer base, their vendors are living a painful nightmare of outdated processes, lack of support, or late payments. And vendors talk. To prospective customers. You see where I’m going with this.
Head of partnerships or alliances: See above. Partners are part of the eco-system and just as much brand ambassadors as your employees. How does the brand story impact them? The perspective that partner and alliance folks can bring to the brand story is invaluable.
Head of sales and top salesperson: Brand story shaping is a vanity exercise unless it ultimately drives sales. And who knows what customers and prospects are saying better than your sales leads? They are talking to prospects in the consideration phase. What they need, want, struggle with, or aspire to be should all be factored into the brand story. And you need to know how customers and prospects talk – it’s not what we want to say, it’s how THEY articulate the problem that will most resonate. Otherwise, how do you empathize with and attract those people? I love when we can have the head of sales involved, but also the top salesperson.
Head of customer care or customer success: In the trenches, with customers every day. They know their pains, wins and how they are using the product long after the sale. They have a great perspective on which benefits we should lead with – often ones that have been overlooked in past messaging.
These leaders serve as representatives and solicit input from their teams, so that we avoid an unproductive brand workshop of 35 people.
Benefits to a cross-functional brand strategy effort
Yes, it’s hard to get all these people to fill out pre-work. Yes, it’s hard to find a time when they can all get in the same place for 5 hours. But a few amazing things happen when all these various perspectives are at the brand party:
Cross-functional leadership stops what they are doing and really thinks about the core issues. A brand conversation unearths so many things. I’ve seen disconnects over everything from future company direction, to what the product can actually do, to who we are targeting. You’d think they worked for different companies. When you’re all running on your own tracks, how can you presume to get anywhere together faster? This project is a forcing mechanism to hash our conversations that we are often too busy to have. Crucial roadblocks get discovered that have nothing to do with branding – and solutions to those issues can come out of these conversations because we’re finally talking about the big stuff that is often written off as “Well, of course everyone knows this.”
You increase buy-in and adoption company wide. When others know their functional area was represented, they feel better about the output. Those present can explain the process to their teams and specifically address what role their teamplays in living out the brand strategy in their daily work.
Employees reignite and reengage: Taking time to step away from the daily grind reminds people why they joined the organization in the first place. The energy in the room is palatable as we discuss bigger issues, including why folks are passionate about the offerings and what they hope to achieve for customers. It’s inspiring. It’s morale-building. And that buzz lasts long after the branding project is over, especially as the company brings the brand story to life visually, verbally and experientially.
Ready to see how a brand strategy project at your company can be done efficiently, effectively and ensure all voices are at the brand party? Let’s chat!
Sometimes, we are so confident and passionate about the story we have to tell. We know that we can offer tremendous value, whether through our own brand story for customers or a creative story that leads to art, music, poetry or dance.
Commerce and art are similar. When the story inspires you andresonates for others, things just seem to flow.
Which is what was happening for me as I began the journey of writing The Empathy Edgein early 2017. After some fumbling, I had articulated the message in my heart (thanks to wise help from the fabulous Alexandra Franzen). I was pumped. I had a vision. People validated me with “Yes! This is the business book we need. We need to show that empathy at work and with your customers is the modern success model. Write it. Pleeeeaaaassssse!”
And then, as I pitched to literary agents, the fog rolled in again.
Thankfully, all of them made time to give me detailed feedback or talk with me. They were generous and kind. I was flattered they thought I was a great writer.
“Well, I’m just not sure where this really fits or how to position it.”
“I don’t know if this will fly to a business audience.”
“I can totally sell this book to a publisher if you change it from “empathy” to be a book about how ‘ feminine traits’ make organizations successful. Will you change it?”
See, that was their agenda, not mine. They were looking for a neat slot to put me in, something easy to sell. And their publishing partners were pressuring them to find “more books about women’s topics.” (This was right in the thick of the Me Too movement).
They told me they could sell this book. If I didn’t write the book I wanted to write.
I kindly said no. And pressed on.
See, my entire point with The Empathy Edgeand this message that “cash flow, creativity, and compassion are not mutually exclusive” is to make it gender-neutral. It’s not about male or female traits. Empathy is a HUMAN trait.
And if I pigeonholed it as “owned” by one gender, I’d lose the opportunity to reach the very audience who, for better or worse, currently makes up the majority of business leaders. And frankly, some of my least empathetic bosses were women, so we don’t have a lock on this either, people.
Most importantly, I’d lose those male allies who were models of empathetic leadership – and who wanted this book to help bring other male colleagues along and help me change the conversation.
So, I said no. To a sweet deal. To it being easier.
The lesson: Don’t let anyone else shape your story. If it fuels you and resonates with others, stop at nothing to tell it. (TWEET THIS!)
And now you can read the book that I wanted to write.
The pre-launch sale for The Empathy Edge is going on now. Click here for details. Buy before October 22 and get some fabulous goodies, including an invite to my exclusive author Q&A, a bonus expert video series, and even, at larger quantities, a free customized workshop for your team or event.
And, when you read it, I’d love to know: Did I make the right decision?
PS: To get some fabulous bonuses, including an exclusive author Q&A webinar, bonus video training and more, pre-order your copies of The Empathy Edge right here: https://red-slice.com/eebonus/
After placing your order, just submit your receipt on that page, and enjoy your goodies! Order by October 22. Thank you so much for your kind support! It means the world.
I like things tidy…do you? While I’m considerably less organized as a Type A personality than I used to be prior to my brain injury, I’m still an organization freak. My biggest pet peeve is the jumble of wires behind our TV that is now our hub for cable, internet, phone, game consoles and more. The sight of it literally gives me a headache.
But my obsession with organization is a huge benefit for my clients. One of my superpowers is being able to connect dots that no one else can see to create a clear, crisp narrative.
My clients often have an enviable problem: they are interesting people with many passions and skills to offer the world. And they are full of ideas on how to do it. Which is all great. Until you confuse the heck out of your target audience.
First step to clarity? Understand that not everything you love has to be a part of what people pay you to do(TWEET THIS!)
If you have ever asked, “How do I combine everything I do under one brand?”, here are 5 steps to tie everything together:
Take inventory: Write down every offering or skill you currently, or would like, to showcase to your market. Seeing things on paper is a big step to getting it out of your head and into some sort of system.
Identify the common threads: Trust me, there will be some. How do I know? Because they are all stemming from one person or company with its own unique personality! If you are drawn to offering different types of things, there is something linking those all together for you, whether it be a theme, audience or product/service “type”: Do you see a pattern across all your offerings and interests about healthy living? Storytelling? Connecting women? Transformation? Solving complex tech problems? Fine design? What is it that runs through everything?
Define your core audience: If many of your offerings can serve the same audience, great! But if they are all targeting completely different ones, you may have to pare down and get focused. It’s going to cost too much time and money to build your reputation among so many disparate audiences. Plus, people will get confused as to if you are right for them. Focus on the low hanging fruit.
Determine a compelling “Brand Umbrella”: What is the overarching theme that ties everything together? When you find the right one, you will see that you can easily fit all your offerings and passions under that umbrella in a way that makes sense to people. Brands you know and love offer tons of products or services but usually under the same brand umbrella: Method is all about pure cleaning products that don’t harm the planet. Dove is about real beauty and healthy skin. Alexandra Franzen is about writing and self-expression. Hiro Boga is about building a soulful business.
Purge: Anything that doesn’t fit. Maybe those are not your business’ core offerings but simply personal passions. Your brand umbrella can help you find your creative brand hook that can lead to a snazzy title, a unique company name, a signature touch or a unique visual device (juicy fruit that is irresistible to resist, perhaps?!).
For example, I determined a while back that my brand umbrella was “irresistible storytelling.” I help clients tell compelling stories, I speak at companies and conferences, I write books…I even enjoy acting and voiceover work, which is all about storytelling and even wrote food and wine articles for websites and print – but these are not the core ways I make my money. So I shifted that from an “offering” category to a “passion” category – and now use that personal interest to add color and life to my work.
Personal passions that have nothing to do with how you make money can also be called your Swirl, as publicity expert Melissa Cassera says. This is what gives your work a unique voice and flavor. You can color how you do the work you do with these unique interests. My love for wine and past wine writing experience does not mean I have to go out an create an entire company or offering as a “wine writer.” But it makes my stuff a lot more interesting to read!
A wise coach once told me, ‘You can do everything you want to do. You just don’t have to do it all right now or even with this evolution of your business.” (TWEET THIS!)
Many of my clients do amazing work for individuals. They are coaches, consultants, designers, or health and wellness professionals who have transformed the lives of those they serve.
But sometimes, they want bigger things.
They want to expand their client base to include corporate clients and get hired by organizations to do workshops, seminars or just be their go-to (fill in the blank) for the employees. Frankly, there’s just more money there!
But their brand has a problem: they are speaking the language of individuals and not understanding the way the corporate machine works.
See, I’ve been on the corporate side. For a long time. Vendors used to pitch me about their services and talents and I knew exactly what the world of the director or executive was like. I had to say “no” to people I would have loved to work with, simply because this was not a priority or I could not prove the value to the organization well enough.
It’s not enough to stick with the brand benefits you’ve been touting to individuals:
Reduce stress! Stay focused! Increase your self-esteem! Unlock your creativity!
When it comes to selling into large organizations of any kind, you have to bear these two important tips in mind:
In some cases, the buyer may not be your end client, which means selling them on what you can do to make them successful.
The buyer has to unlock corporate budget, which means tying your work back to corporate value.
The Buyer May Not Be The End Client
The buyer is often in charge of finding people like you, but may not be the person you will serve. For example, you might offer leadership coaching, but you’re being hired by the VP of Human Resources or Talent Development to serve their constituents.
This is important because the benefits you cite are not about the person you’re talking to, but what you can do for their “customers,” so to speak.
Who are they responsible for? What needs do they have to fill for those people?
It’s a subtle shift, but it’s about proving value to a third party. You are serving someone else, but the VP gets to make the decision. What are her goals? What are her success metrics?
Taking our leadership coach as an example: if Claire at Acme Company is responsible for employee retention, satisfaction and management capability, then chances are she needs you. She is responsible for employee success, performance, growth and succession planning. Claire is charged with grooming new leadership. Bingo! In addition to talking about what you bring to her employees, you need to make sure Claire understands how you will help her succeed in her job. Slightly tailored message that needs to be developed, but many of my clients have failed to think about Claire’s world before pitching their services.
The Buyer Must Unlock Corporate Budget
When selling to individuals, or even solopreneurs or start-up founders, they are making the ultimate decision and in many cases, using their own funds to do so.
Not so with corporate clients.
They are spending corporate budgets and need approval. Which means the client must justify how your work benefits the organization at large. It’s not enough to say how much happier, more creative, more mindful, more focused their employees will be from working with you.
You have to tie your work into benefitting the company’s growth or bottom line. (Tweet this!)
This just means taking an extra step or two with your messaging. What does all that great individual work buy the company? If you enable people to handle stress better, then the company can reduce sick days and burnout, which reduces costs and increases productivity. Can you cite any statistics or numbers? That would be insanely effective to convince the powers-that-be to loosen the purse strings.
Or maybe your work is about getting people to think more creativity or trust their intuition. How does this translate to a company benefit? Maybe you’ve seen it in action. Does it improve workplace relationships and foster better internal communications? Does it yield more innovation and employee satisfaction, which in turn helps the company not only stand out in the marketplace but attract the best talent?
Yes, many companies want to do right by their employees simply because it’s the right thing to do. They want them to be happier, to grow, to communicate more effectively, to be healthier. But the dark truth is that while the intentions are good, the bottom-line motives still exist: the expense has to benefit the company at large in some way, such as increasing revenue, lowering costs, decreasing turnover, or even attracting better talent.
The good news is that there are many simple ways to connect the dots when pitching such clients. You just have to remember the world your corporate clients live in and the challenges they face and adjust your message to be relevant.
Last week, I had the thrill of speaking on the world-record-breaking Authority Super Summit. It was 100+ speakers providing content-rich strategies for how to build an authority brand. People I adore such as Dorie Clark, Michelle Lederman and more were all a part of it.
One of the questions I got in my session was, “When creating our ideal client profiles, is it okay if one of them is based on me?” My short answer was yes, this usually happens with solopreneur businesses, as one often starts a business because of a need he or she may personally have.
If you sell something that is not necessarily something you yourself would use, then no, you would not be one of your segments. For example, let’s say you are a psychologist who specializes in domestic violence survivors. You yourself may not have experienced this and therefore, it would be dangerous to assume you know their wants and needs firsthand. Or let’s say you sell skateboarding gear to teens but you are in your 50’s. Not to say you couldn’t do this, of course, but I wouldn’t assume that your target audience’s needs, wants, pain points–and even sense of humor–would be identical to yours. Lastly, let’s say you are a female leadership coach and you specialize in helping alpha male C-level executives increase their emotional intelligence. Again, you can see why basing one of the segments completely on you would be a mistake.
With my own business, I target solopreneurs who crave more knowledge and confidence in their brand and marketing efforts. They may not be sure where to start or what to do next. But I do, which is why they come to me! From this standpoint, I can’t make assumptions that they know the same things I know. I have to take a step back and explain fundamentals and terminology.
Behaviorally, my ideal solopreneur client is indeed like me in many ways. We have the same ambitions, need to create impact, and drive to do something good in the world. We both balance work with making time for the joys in life. We might both like drinking red wine or watching Game of Thrones or even appreciate the same sense of humor. In those areas, I can base some of the profile on myself. And same holds true for my corporate segment ideal client, progressive marketing leaders in small to midsized growth companies who embrace what brand can do for their marketing effectiveness.
So my ideal clients are like me in some ways, but not in others. If they were too much like me in terms of their needs around my area of expertise, they potentially would not ever need my services.
I invite you to look at both where your ideal customers are different from you (where you can add the most value to them) and where they are the same (where you can create a brand voice and vibe to which they can relate). This blend of both is the sweet spot for attracting and delighting the right people, but more importantly, converting them to buyers and loyal fans.
Want to work with me on your ideal customer segments and exactly who you should be targeting? Let’s spend 90 minutes together in a Brand Booster Session to hash it out!
There I was, working on an exciting new program for my audience. And I was struggling for words.
Yes. Me. Struggling for words. Alert the media.
It was one of those moments as a marketer when you question your own expertise. I mean, c’mon, I do this for clients every single day! Why was I doubting my message?
When it comes to our work for others, we have it nailed, don’t we? We can spot their mistakes as if they were bright neon arrows. We can detect the inconsistencies, see the creative brilliance or connect dots that might seem so obvious…to us. As observers.
The power of objectivity shows itself to be a sly little superpower, doesn’t it?
I can see those things in your business, brand or even your psyche so clearly because I’M NOT IN IT! And I bet the same is true for you, too. But when it comes to following our own advice? Forget it! We’re too busy. As I often say….
Consultants are often their own worst clients! (TWEET!)
Our faces pushed up too close to the glass, we can’t see the bigger picture. Worse, we live in our own bubble when it comes to our businesses and we either think everything is important and needs to be communicated right now, or we fail to see when we’re out of touch or just plan confusing to others because it sounds so good in out own heads. We just love to guess.
To combat this, remember those people you serve? You know, your ideal customers? Your fans, your audience? Hell-oooooooo?! Remember them? The human who can tell you– in words!–what they crave, hate, value or despise?
Your customers are right in front of you. So GO ASK THEM! How?
Send them a short survey. Easy to create using SurveyMonkey for free or perhaps just a short Google form.
Ask them a thought-provoking question via email and tell them to hit REPLY. About a month or so ago, I asked my email list which adjective they’d use to describe the “brand” they’d like to have? The results were enlightening. Feel free to get in on this, fill in the blank and email me now: “I want my brand to be ___________!”
Interview them individually by phone. Recently, I reached out to a few beloved past clients and colleagues who match my ideal client persona and talked to them about what they want and need. The feedback was amazing and it’s all helping shape the new course I’m creating.
Gather a group of them together. I recently held a Business Tea Party in my home (and a virtual one by phone) for two select groups of entrepreneurs. They not only shared what their challenges and goals are but they gave each other resources and made connections of their own. Success!
Reach out to your existing audience or people who fit the bill for the type of audience you’d like to have. Send them a quick note, prepare a few direct and simple questions to discuss and be respectful of their time. And don’t forget….offer them a thank you: a coffee gift card, tea and sweets, or a donation to a charity they love.
Sometimes the easiest way forward is actually the simplest. When you are not sure of something, ask the people who know.
Looking to build, connect with and convert your audience from loyal fans to paying customers or clients? You may want to check out MOMENTUM Pro my digital course that puts you through the step-by-step paces to craft a strong brand strategy, identify your target audience, attract more clients and bring it all to life with ease.
If you do not follow social media expert Jay Baer on LinkedIn for subscribe to his Convince and Convert email newsletter, you should check both options out.
Recently, I joyfully read the transcript of his Content Marketing World keynote. He delivered it without slides or fanfare and seemed to have just spoken from the heart. His concept of The Mom Test is a rallying cry to marketers and businesspeople to stop turning content creation into a machine and focus on making connections.
Damn, I love that.
One of his gems: “Content is the emotional and informational bridge between commerce and consumer.”
And building that bridge requires more than spreadsheets and plans and analytics. It requires HEART.
Another gem: “Competition commoditizes competency”.
Meaning, if you use the same hacks, tools and systems that your competitors do, all your marketing and content will start to look the same. So, the only thing you have to differentiate what you do is your people and your passion. They can’t copy that, no matter how much they try.
They can copy form emails. They can copy price promotions. They can copy sales pitches. But if you believe in what you do and create content that improves lives in ways great or small–whether helping fight global disease or even just giving a busy mom a moment of rest and reflection–they can’t replicate that passion and brand fire.
From Jay: “But they can’t duplicate, they cannot steal if you fundamentally care more than they do. About content, and about content’s role to improve the lives of real people.
So I ask you a simple question, an existential question really:
Do you love content enough? Are you making content, or are you making a difference?”
It’s not about passion for passion’s sake. “Follow your bliss” makes for a lovely inspirational slogan but you have to marry passion with purpose. (Tweet this!)
What value does your passion offer to others whom you’re trying to turn into buyers, readers or donors?
This reminds me of an email conversation I recently had with a friend and online marketing rockstar who writes the most exuberant (and useful) content. I literally devour her words and look forward to her musings, even if she’s pitching me something. Doesn’t matter how crowded my in-box is that day – I make time to read her content.
I asked her how she organized her content marketing calendar. Her answer? She doesn’t have one. According to her: “Editorial calendars make me one sad panda.”
And you know what? Despite an editorial calendar being a great tool for staying organized and efficient (and one I recommend to my clients, in all honesty), she’s kind of right. Her content is super useful and it’s addictive because she cares. Her passion shines through every word.
Do whatever you need to do to stay on top of things. Use tools, templates, automation where it makes sense. You want to strive for consistency. But more importantly, when it comes to any marketing efforts meant to amplify your message and boost your brand, don’t just crank things out to simply check them off your to-do list.
Focus on the passion to deliver true value. Speak from the heart to attract raving fans.
How do you build your passion into your content, marketing or work in general? In one sentence, what is the passion that drives your business? Please share in the Comments!
Apple challenged us many years ago to “Think Different.” But are you stuck in a mindset rut? Sometimes this can happen when we focus solely on our role, business or even industry.
You’re networking with people who do what you do. You go to the same places. You read the same books. You’re looking at what everyone else in your industry is doing – and it all looks the same. It’s no surprise that when you surround yourself with sameness, you’ll naturally fall into a creative void.
But there’s a way to shake things up.
Change your habits, experience new things & watch the ideas flow. (Tweet this!)
For many years, I was a management consultant, working with Fortune 500 companies. Then I worked as a consumer-focused Marketing Manager for Discovery Networks. Then I became an Account Manager for an ad agency, and finally did an 8-year tour of duty in the dot.com and Silicon Valley tech scene before launching my business.
Bouncing from process design to event planning, from B2C to B2B, from communication planning to PR, from agency to client …these experiences ended up creating my biggest secret weapons. I see the whole picture. I connect dots and articulate themes that others can’t see. I can now take the best of what I’ve seen in one industry or business model and apply it to another to turn things upside down. The humor and fun I learned while marketing consumer networks like Animal Planet and The Discovery Channel? I applied that kind of human voice and vibe to B2B tech marketing to great success. The sales process and lead generation best practices I honed as a technology Marketing Director? My smallest entrepreneurial clients love that insight to not only build their brand, but to structure their pipeline and business development.
Even being an actress has added dimension to my current work. I’m able to tell stories, evoke emotion and create drama for my clients’ brand strategies and messaging. And of course, that skill enables me to light up a conference stage and delight an audience.
If you’re bored with your approach, tired of how “we’ve always done things around here” and new ideas just aren’t coming to you, sounds like you need to shake things up. Here are 4 ways you can shift your thinking and generate creative business ideas – not to mention contribute to your mental well-being:
Ditch the bedside business books: When my nightstand is piled high with business or management books, I find I’m less creative and imaginative. Not that they don’t have their place for learning important strategies (ahem…I know of a really good one on how to build your brand….), but try something completely different. Light up sleepy parts of your brain, perhaps with a memoir, historical non-fiction, dramatic fiction, moody detective novels…hell, even a juicy romance novel.* Point is, you’ve got to exercise all parts of your brain and imagination in order to come up with fresh ideas. And movies count, too: You may just find your next brilliant business tip or sexy new marketing promotion from a spy thriller.
Immerse yourself in the arts: In 2013, I took a 5 week sabbatical to attend an exclusive acting intensive through San Francisco’s famed America Conservatory Theater. From 9 am to 6 pm – and even later at times – I sat on the floor and took notes from acting masters (on real paper!). Created art with my body during movement classes. Tapped into the raw, true voice that emanates from my gut, not my head. Let go of self-consciousness during improv. Tested my strength and agility in combat fighting. When I returned to work, I was exhilarated and approached my clients’ work with fresh eyes. Creativity poured out of me and I never felt more alive. Being in plays or doing short films has the same effect for me: I am surrounded by people who think, act and express in ways that folks in my “regular” works never would and it energizes me. Instead of going to your next networking event, go see a play with a friend. Make a date to wander around your local art gallery on a Sunday afternoon. Take an improv class. Sign up for a pottery workshop. Flex your artsy muscle and expose yourself to a radically different world outside of your “business box.”
For the love of Pete…UNPLUG!: Guilty. I admit it. I’m never without my phone within 1 foot of my body and panic if I can’t find it. My husband says my tombstone epitaph should be, “Where’s my phone?” because I ask it about 100 times a day. But seriously, guys. It’s time for a Digital Detox. Let’s stop crossing the street glued to our phones. Let’s step away from the laptop for a day (a week, a month…) Look up. Open your eyes. Connect to others around you at the coffee shop or grocery store. When was the last time you people-watched at the airport and invented fun back-stories for the strangers who pass by? Do you want to get new ideas? Then you have to experience life, connection and reality. Start with one afternoon you designate as “tech-free” and see where it takes you.
Move your body: My good friend, Melody Biringer, Founder and CEO of CRAVE and a serial entrepreneur, swears by “business meeting walks.” This was one of my favorite ways to connect with her. Walking miles, we’d work out business challenges and come up with brilliant new ideas. I always had a fresh perspective on my work after our walks together. Go for a hike. Take your dog for a walk. Swim, Bike. Dance. Do yoga. When you move your body, you give you mind the break it needs to generate new ideas later. I make time every week to go to Crossfit and spend mental energy focused on my strength and agility. Start with a 15-minute mid-morning walk every day, regardless of where you work (I’m sure you can walk the halls or around the parking lot if it’s not the nicest setting). Shut the door on the boring conference room and take your next one-on-one meeting on the road as a stroll in the park or downtown.
What about you? What shakes up your thinking and enables you to come up with fresh new ideas for your business? Please share in the Comments. Or let us know which one of these tips you’re going to follow ASAP!
*In full disclosure, some links may be Amazon affiliate links where commissions are paid. But that’s a win-win if you decide to check out these great reads!
Image Credit: Wilerson S Andrade via Flickr
You have big plans for the New Year. I just know it! You want to build your business, increase your brand awareness, streamline your marketing efforts and, essentially, get your irresistible message out there – with style and grace, naturally.
Whether you are a business owner, or have a book, cause, or project to get off the ground, here are five plucky and practical books I recommend to amplify your message and ignite your efforts this year. (Tweet this!)
Whitney Keyes is a consultant, international speaker and professor who offers smart, simple and super fast marketing strategies for organizations big and small. Plus, she’s a trusted colleague and I’ve seen her work her magic first-hand. This book breaks down a marketing and sales plan into something doable, practical and – dare I say – fun to execute.
This book will make you love and appreciate the art of networking. Seriously. Whether you’re an introvert, or simply and extrovert who hates business card-swapping and idle small talk, Sandy Jones-Kaminski is a networking maven and shows you how to network the right way so its fun and fruitful. One hint: It starts with generosity and curiosity – not forceful sales pitching. Sandy shares helpful conversation starters, online connection do’s and don’ts and ways you can get more out of that next conference or event – other than parking yourself by the pastry table.
Michelle Tillis Lederman is an executive coach and corporate trainer who has boiled her years of experience with large corporations down to 11 simple principles for making sales, forming partnerships and managing teams. This book is a perfect read for entrepreneurs, business leaders and job seekers alike if you’re trying to get out there and promote your message or mission.
Sarah Granger is an online guru, technology master and digital marketing consultant who has worked with clients ranging from political campaigns to corporations. This book is a great primer on how to seize digital opportunities to make both your personal and professional life richer. Her tips and case studies cover important guidelines on everything from making online connections with possible clients and partners met to privacy to encouraging your kids to behave responsibly online. Sarah offers a positive spin on the digital revolution and how it can help us connect, create and collaborate when used appropriately.
Sorry, couldn’t resist adding my book, especially since I’ve added more robust content in this 2nd edition on networking, social media and content marketing, in addition to new case studies and interviews with marketing experts such as Jay Baer, Ann Handley and Mike Michalowicz. The book outlines a simple ten-step questioning process to clarify your brand strategy, focus on your ideal audience and make thousands of marketing decisions with more ease and confidence. The goal is to help you attract more of the right customers and save valuable time and money by avoiding “random acts of marketing.” Doesn’t that sound good?!
Which books do you recommend to boost your business or brand? Please tweet me @redslice and let me know.