May 29, 2012


unintended consequencesWe can easily take for granted people who are important to us. I don't mean clients or family or ourselves. I mean external collaborators (e.g., centers of influence, partners, affiliates, team members).

Do you cancel, postpone or shorten meetings with collaborators? That sends a bad message about your
  • reliability (e.g., "I'll meet with you unless something more important comes along.")
  • planning (e.g., "I haven't finished _______ which is due tomorrow.")


There will be situations outside your control. You or a family member might get sick. You might get a flat tire on the way. A freak storm may make the roads treacherous. You'll get some sympathy. If the other party faced the unforeseen, you'd understand too.

Other times, you can plan around potential perils. For instance, since traffic is unpredictable, you could leave a cushion.


There's anticipation for a meeting. There's energy too. Cancel and both are lost. The balloon gets popped. The spark may vanish forever. The consequences may not become clear until you’re looking for help later.

An appointment is a promise that rescheduling breaks. That’s hardly a way to build trust. Ditto for canceling or forgetting an appointment. Deduct points for answering your phone or checking email during a meeting.


We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.
--- Ian Percy
What we do makes sense to us but that doesn’t mean others understand. Unintended harm is still harm. What would not harm you may harm another.

What Happened?

In the last year, I’ve had several situations in which a collaborator canceled or rescheduled an appointment with a day’s notice or less. The reasons looked relatively minor but the consequences are not. They lost out and I got the gift of free time. And content for a blog post.

I’ve been tempted to tell the offenders but decided they aren’t worth the time.


Leaving too little time between meetings or for meetings saps energy. If the discussions are flowing well, they get cut short if you need to dash to your next meeting. Another solution is to leave ample gaps between meetings and use the time savings to do other work.

That’s the end of this rant!


PS Feel free to forward this post to anyone you think needs it.

May 22, 2012


prescientAre you a visionary?

If you were, would you call yourself one?

Who would believe you? Are they credible or gullible? We're judged by the people around us.

Titles are earned and require signs of ongoing merit to maintain. There's no rest for the worthy. Think of a hot air balloon in flight. You've got to keep adding fuel and take time to refuel. Regular maintenance is a good idea too.

Pompous self-aggrandizement flops like the ears on a bored bunny. Whatever. Ho hum. La di da. Rather than impress, you might achieve the opposite result.


If you are a "visionary", what's your vision?  Who's following you (voluntarily)? Who's spreading the word (without getting motivated by self-interest)?

If you're a "leader", what have you accomplished and who has followed you (voluntarily). Who has vouched for you (voluntarily)? Where's the evidence?

If you're a "best-selling author", have you done anything except make money or buy your books yourself? If you were well known, would you call yourself a "best-selling author"? Or would you say you're the author of The Hunger Games or Blink? If we don't recognize your name or your book titles, we don't know you. What does "best-selling" mean anyway? If that means #1 in sale of books, your name would be known.

If you're "award winning", have we heard of the award? Did you face real competition? How recently did you win? Is the award relevant?

If you're a visionary leader and a best-selling author of an award-winning book, congratulations. You're beyond the scope of this post.


Rather than make claims, act.

Describe what you've done (if relevant) and what you do. Be factual. Let people make their own judgments. They will anyway from the clues you provide and the ones they find.
Speaking of visionaries, I'm reminded of Minutes To Memories by John Mellencamp:
The old man had a vision but it was hard for me to follow.
I do things my way and I pay a high price.
If you're making grand claims about yourself, you're paying a high price in lost credibility. How do you meet or exceed expectations when you've inflated them? That’s not very visionary.


PS Do you make pompous claims in your LinkedIn profile or biography? Get outside opinions.

May 15, 2012


antiqueOld cameras become antiques. Old websites become embarrassments.

A website remains essential for small business. An outdated website is better than no website but not by much. An outdated website is an easy-to-spot sign of neglect that you're condoning. Clients might wonder what other shortcuts you've taken.

This post has ideas to freshen your website.


A static website looks dead or neglected. Add life. Embed your Twitter feed. Have a plugin to show your latest blog posts.

Remove notices of upcoming events which took place last year. Post back issues of your newsletter so that visitors know what to expect before they subscribe.


Stop teasing visitors. They don't want to fill out forms to get contacted by you at your convenience. Tell them what they want to know. Post a price list or typical price ranges or your hourly rate. Give estimated completion times. Explain your satisfaction guarantee. Describe your process.

Don't worry about your competitors finding out. They may already know or can guess. Don't worry about potential clients balking. They'll find out eventually. Why not deal with the objections online? You'll save their time and yours.


There's nothing wrong with stock photos unless they look like standard stock photos. Avoid predictability. On your contact page, why show a too-staged-to-be-real smiling woman wearing a headset? We've seen that too many times before. Use real photos instead.


Don't say "we" if there's only you. Use your size as an advantage. Tell visitors why smaller is better. Exude your personality. Leave bland for the big businesses.


Keep in mind that for visitors, "you" (meaning them) is powerful. Rather than saying "Our clients choose us for speedy service" how about "You get speedy service from ThisCo" or "ThisCo gives you speedy service". If your competitors also give comparable service, you'll need to come up with something that's different (and still true).


Your company has people. Show who they are with a photo and description. Include their contact information too. You want to be easy to reach. In the biographies, include links to LinkedIn for testimonials given and received. Embed their business-related Twitter feed, rather than having a link.
Use the same head-shot on LinkedIn and Twitter. Consistency helps with branding.


"Most websites suck because HiPPOs create them."
--- Avinash Kaushik, Google Analytics
HiPPO means "highest-paid person's opinion". The design you like may not suit your clients. Don't give undue weight to your personal preferences. Use a professional web designer and pay some attention to their recommendations. Your site is not for you.

If your website gets lots of traffic, you can use real-time A/B testing to identify what works best (see Inside the technology that's changing the rules of business, Wired, Apr 25, 2012).


Some visitors will visit your website on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. How does your site look? If you're using Adobe Flash, parts of your site won't function on iPhones or iPads.


You can create a business card using templates. You can also create websites with blogging platforms like WordPress or Blogger. You could even do the work yourself. Possible doesn't mean ideal. Your site might look generic and imply your work is too.


Make your contact information easy to find. Post real clickable email address like rather than "myname [at]". With good spam filters, you won't get deluged with spam.


Appearances matter because clients and potential clients can't tell if you're good at what you say you do. Maybe you were, but are you now? Maybe you can still do good work, but will you for them?

You can provide content to allay the fears. If you claim to offer an excellent seminar, show live video clips. Show samples of the handouts. Consider video testimonials from attendees. There's lots you can do without much effort. 


PS When was your website last updated?

May 8, 2012


Please contact meWhen you speak, how do you collect contact information from your audience?

Your audience knows you want business. You can pursue them, or let them pursue you.


Put your business card in the basket to win. And there are no losers because you'll all receive my wonderful newsletter filled with sales pitches.
You've probably seen that approach. How did you feel? I rarely enter. Privacy is too important to squander on trifles.

Last month, I saw a touted speaker use the Draw Ploy. The session was ho hum. We weren't told what the prize was. I entered to see what he’d do. The next day, I started getting weekly emails I did not request. That’s spam, Bye bye trust.

A slightly better way is get permission. For example, ask them to write “newsletter” on the back of the card or make a mark.

Sometimes there are attendance sheets with columns for name/email address and checkboxes for "add to mailing list", "request free ebook". The legibility of the handwriting can be a problem and contact information gets seen by others who sign up.

Maybe you offer an ebook or other enticement in lieu of a prize. Either way, you're buying attention with a lure. You’re also creating extra work for yourself.


When you speak well, your audience pays you with attention, applause and business. There are lots of them but only one of you. Value comes from scarcity (the #2 principle of influence). Who needs who more?

You don’t need to give a prize. Worse, you're wasting valuable time with the draw. Speak well and interested audience members will want to approach you afterwards. Save time for this.

While chatting, you can exchange business cards and ask if they'd like to connect on LinkedIn. That’s a low key to stay in touch even if they don’t need your services at the moment. If they don’t invite you within a few days, you can reach out to them, Once connected, their entire network knows about you.


Provide easy ways to reach you. You can put your contact information on your final slide. You can have a business card placed at each seat. You can have a one-page summary that includes your contact information as a handout at the front of the room after you’re done.

Better still, reach your audience without collecting business cards or sending emails.

Let the organizers do the work. They already have the tools and permission to send emails. What do you have that your audience might want? How about your slides, a video recording and other resources? Tell your audience what you’re making available and how. You’re supporting the organizers and helping your audience. You’re planting seeds for reciprocity.

Bonus: the organizers can reach people who didn’t even attend. You can’t.


I usually create a web page with a copy of the slides, a video and additional resources. I send the organizers a link to share. No email accounts get filled with unwanted attachments. I can make changes or add more content. Also, I can track visits with Google Analytics. Here’s the most recent example. Next week, I volunteered to show the unemployed how to earn trust. Here’s the page.

A destination gives you another huge advantage. You're adding to your digital tapestry.

Have you ever seen lousy speakers? The organizers booked them on faith and got duped. If you build a page showcasing your presentations (like this), they can see what you’ve done with their own eyes. You reduce their risks immensely.


Some top speakers don't give their contact information. I asked one why. Because he's findable online. He said he wasn’t interested in anyone too lazy to do a Google search.

Instead of contacting your audience, give a great presentation, be inviting and be findable. Let them contact you. We value what we earn over what's handed to us. Be the one they want.


PS Do you pursue or get pursued?

May 1, 2012


all revved up but ...Where are they?

They used to come. They're getting what they said they wanted. Yet they aren't showing up. What's wrong?

What worked then may not work now. If you're organizing events, attendance may drop over time.

Here are three likely reasons why:
  1. Wrong content
  2. Wrong attendees
  3. Wrong time

The Content

Your audience is investing their time and/or money to attend for reasons they may not clearly state or acknowledge. They may say they're attending to learn. Maybe they're really coming to find new clients directly or indirectly.

If you have speakers (especially unpaid ones), they're expecting something in return. One speaker said that when she's paid, she delivers value. When she's unpaid, she creates pain which her services can sooth. That's a disguised sales pitch. If the speaker at each event is doing that, doesn't the audience get weary --- especially if they’re paying? Commercials are free on TV.

Unless your group is particularly desirable (e.g., TEDx), you'll have difficulty getting speakers who normally charge.

What a bind. Speakers want better audiences and audiences want better speakers. In 2011, organized the perfect social media workshop but attendance was low.

Maybe you can find knowledgeable speakers who aren't selling anything. For example, retirees, professors, journalists, hobbyists, Toastmasters and bloggers.

The Attendees

What attendees say they want may not be what they really want. Answers can be noble and predictable. And uninspiring. Just because we need something doesn’t mean we’ll get it. Think of exercise.

If your members are entrepreneurs, won't they ask for topics like improving skills, getting more clients or boosting productivity?

We're overloaded with things we could do from past events, the media and even quaint sources like the books we bought but haven’t read.

We don't need more ideas.

We need help implementing the ideas we already have. Change is difficult. Can members give each other support and spur accountability? That's what a mastermind group does. Maybe peer mentoring would be better than speaker-based events? What a great way to share and show expertise.

The TimeS

Things change. With such excellent content online, there's less reason to attend live events unless there are other compelling reasons like networking or a need for continuing education credits.

Attendees get bored with routine and want novelty. Unless you have a timeshare or cottage, do you vacation at the same place every year?

In the past, I'd join organizations with annual memberships for two years before bailing out. Now a year is long enough. For pay-as-you-go events, I'm even less tolerant. How about you?


PS Which events have you stopped attending?