Marketing honesty, trust and respect

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A friend’s car got involved in an accident and he is struggling to get the insurance to pay up due to some small loophole in the contract.

I always get calls from banks offering me credit card facilities with huge credit limit, or get letters offering me overdraft or loans.

These friendly call centre agents who are just doing their job to sell you something, will not be there when you miss one installment, instead you will be harassed by collection people who are not so friendly.

What would happen if your friends and colleagues treated you the way marketers do?

What if your spouse sold your personal information to anyone who would pay for it?

If your boss promised you miraculous changes and then failed to deliver?

If your colleagues at work refused to talk to you unless you spent half an hour on hold first?

During a mentorship session this past week, I discussed the concept of values with my mentee. Treating your customers with respect and having their best interest at heart is the core of a caring entrepreneur. Always be truthful and sincere.

Instead of seeing people as a means to an end in marketing your business, how about we see them as human beings who needs caring.

Love people, use things. The opposite never works.

What if the people you liked and trusted made promises to you in order to get your attention and cooperation, and then broke those promises whenever they could get away with it?

Most of us would not choose to work with people who disrespect us as much as marketers do.

Most of us would not choose a career where everything we interact with is prettied up, made to look amazing and once you sign up, you get dumbed down.

Why do we hate marketers so much?

We don’t just hate them. We ignore them. We distrust them. When a marketer calls you on the phone to sell you some insurance or, slimming products, we look for an excuse to drop the phone.

Marketers use people as a means to an end. What is important is what they get in return [a sale, commission, income] not what is in the best interest of the client.

The client is secondary in the mind of a marketer.

In fact, when a marketer actually keeps his promise to us, we are so surprised we tell everyone we know.

I got a call yesterday from a company that wanted to “confirm my order”. When I returned the call, I discovered that there was no confirming… it was just a come-on from a company I had never heard from to sell me something new. [I would get free lunch if I came to their offices].

Somewhere along the way, marketers stopped acting like real people. They substituted a new set of ethics, one built around “buyer beware” and the letter of the law.

Marketers, in order to succeed in a competitive marketplace, decided to see what they could get away with instead of what they could deliver.

As businesses have become commodities, many of them have decided that respect is the first thing they can no longer afford. If you have ever been put on hold by a cell phone company, you know the feeling.

One sales executive confided in me last week:

“After we sell you an account, we never ever want to hear from you again. If we hear from you, it is bad news.” Hey, it is just business.

The few successful marketers we hear about again and again are all on our short list because they still show their customers respect. Apple, good car sales agents, none of them talk down to their audience in order to score a sale.

When I started working, I had a sales agent say to me that instead of giving me a ballon payment deal on my first car, how about I save money for three months and pay a good deposit on my car. He was willing to wait for three or four for me to save for a good deposit instead of selling the car on a huge ballon payment so that he can score the deal and make commission now.

Such marketers and sales are scarce today.

The magic kicks in when marketers are smart enough and brave enough to combine trust with respect.

When a marketer does not trick you with smooth talking and manipulate you on the way to a retail establishment, or trusts you to make intelligent decisions, you remember it.

Today marketing and advertising is about manipulating customers to buy and finding the first excuse or loophole to get out of a contract.

The number of companies that keep promises to their customers, respect their intelligence and keep their promises, is quite tiny.

Of course, this means that a huge opportunity exists. It means that if you seek the very best slice of the market (the individuals and companies that can spend money, wisely, on new things) you will likely do best if you let go of the trickery, manipulation, misdirection and pandering and instead focus on customers that will embrace a realistic and honest approach to doing business.

RULE ONE: Smart marketers treat their customers like respected colleagues and admired family members.

Now, apparently, it’s okay if a company reneges on an insurance claim, apparently it’s okay for an insurance company to rip you off on your claim as long as there is a loophole.

If an organisation makes a promise, then keeps it, delight kicks in.

Eric Mashale talks about branding not a a logo, or how you look or how cool you sound, he says branding is the promise you make and keep.

If a manager or an employee or a co-worker takes an extra minute or jumps through an extra hoop to honor a commitment to you, it is something you will remember for a long time, precisely because it is such a rare occurrence.

So there is the real opportunity… to follow in the footsteps of the great marketers by reclaiming the interactions that used to be commonplace.

Be real, be trustworthy, be genuinely interested, be honest, be vulnerable, and let your clients know that they truly matter.

Have the courage to make promises and keep them. Do more than you promised, not what the contract says. Assume your colleagues are smart, and show leadership by respecting their work as if it were your own.

RULE TWO: Treat your colleagues the way a smart marketer would. With respect. And keep your promises.

You want loyalty? Treat your customers with honesty, trust and respect.

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Quit: Not the Same as Failing

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To quit is not the same as failing.

Strategic quitting is a conscious decision you make based on the choices that are available to you.

My personal test is fairly simple and straight-forward:

If you realise you are at a dead end compared with what you could be investing in, quitting is not only a reasonable choice, it is smart one.

Failing, on the other hand, means that your dream is over.

Failing happens when you give up, when there are no other options, or when you quit so often that you have used up all your time and resources.

It is easy to throw your hands about becoming a failure.

Quitting smart, though, is a great way to avoid failing.

When Thomas Edison says I found 1000 ways it didn’t work, he meant he quit 1000 times ways to get the light bulb to work but did not fail, because he didn’t gave the adventure, he gave up on the different paths but stayed the course.

Know this difference is knowing the difference between quitting and failing.

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Quit: Coping is a lousy alternative to Quitting

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Coping is what people do when they try to muddle and limp through.

They cope with a bad job or difficult task.

The problem with coping is that it never leads to exceptional performance.

Mediocre work is rarely because of a lack of talent and often because of the Cul-de-Sac.

All coping does is waste your time and misdirect your energy.

If the best you can do is cope, you are better off quitting.

Quitting is better than coping because quitting frees you up to excel at something else.

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Quit: The Noise Inside Your Head

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Right at this moment, my clairvoyance tells me you are having a conversation that involves a lot of rationalisation.

You are explaining to yourself why those Cul-de-Sac on the read you are in are not really dead ends [they are.]

You are busy defending the mediocre work your company does because it is the best you can do under the circumstances [it is not.]

You don’t want to quit, it is not fun, it is not easy, so you haven’t. But you should. You must.

Or, you could just settle for being average.

The longer you stay, the more average you become.

Sometimes quitting the average is the smartest move you can make.

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Quit: Never Quit

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What a spectacularly bad piece of advice.

Never quit?

Never quit wetting your bed?

Never quit that job that makes you miserable?

Never quit selling a product that is now obsolete?

Never quit compromising your values, ethics and principles?

Never quit cutting corners?

Never quit a sales strategy that is not yielding results?

Wait a minute. Didn’t that coach say quitting was a bad idea? That quitting is for losers?

Actually, quitting as a short-term strategy is a bad idea.

Quitting for the long term is an excellent idea.

Quit things that will compromise your long-term future.

Winners quit all the time, they quit the right things, at the right time. The operating words being “right things” and “right time.”

I think the advice-giver meant to say:

“Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment.”

Now that is good advice.

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Quit: More often

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It is okay to quit, sometimes.

In fact, it is okay to quit often.

It is smart to quit smoking, emotional abuse, manipulative behavior, bad-mouthing, gambling, backstabbing, arrogance, prideful habits etc.

Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.

You should quit if you are on a dead-end road.

You should quit if you are facing a cliff.

You should quit if the project you are working on has a challenge that is not worth the reward at the end.

Quitting a project that is not going anywhere is important if you want to stick out for the right one.

Getting off a Cul-de-Sac is not a moral failing, it is a smart move.

Seeing a Cliff coming far in advance is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it represents real insight and bravery.

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Quit: Work and mediocrity

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Mpho just got another promotion. He worked for a software company in Johannesburg, and, over the last fourteen years, he has had a wide range of jobs.

For the first seven or eight years, Mpho was in business development and sales. He handled big accounts account for a while, flying to Cape Town, Nairobi, Nigeria, Washington every six weeks or so.

It was hard on his family, but he was really focused, and really good.

Two years ago, Mpho got a huge promotion. He was put in charge of his entire division, 50 people, the second biggest group in the company.

Mpho attacked the job with gusto and relish. In addition to spending even more time on the road, he did a great job of handling internal management issues.

A month ago, for a variety of good reasons, Mpho got a sideways promotion. Same level, but a new team of analysts reporting to him.

Now he is in charge of strategic alliances. He is well respected, he has done just about every job, and he makes a lot of money.

Imagine the conversation you could have with him:

“You have been there a long time, my friend.”

Mpho will not buy it:

“Yes, I have been here fourteen years, but I have had seven jobs. When I got here, we were a startup, but now we are a big company. I have new challenges, and the travel is great….”

Go on, interrupt him.

Mpho needs to leave for a very simple reason. He has been branded. Everyone at the company has an expectation of who Mpho is and what he can do.

Working your way up from the mail-order room to CEO position sounds very sexy, but, in fact, it is unlikely. Possible but unlikely.

Mpho has hit a plateau.

He is not going to be challenged, pushed, or promoted to CEO.

Mpho, regardless of what he could actually accomplish, has stopped evolving, at least in the eyes of the people who matter.

If he leaves and joins another company, he gets to reinvent himself.

No one in the new company will remember young Mpho, the Mpho with an endless upside and little past.

Our parents and grandparents believed you should stay at a job for five years, ten years, or even your whole life.

But in a world where companies come and go, where they grow from nothing to big listed companies on the securities exchange and the disappear, all in a few years, that is just not possible.

Here is the deal, and where is what I told Mpho when we spoke recently:

The time to look for a new job is when you don’t need one. The time to switch jobs is before it feels comfortable.

Go. Switch. Challenge yourself, get yourself a raise and a promotion.

You owe it to your career and your skills.

It is easier to be mediocre than it is to confront reality and quit.

Quitting is difficult.

Quitting requires you to acknowledge that you are never going to be #1 in the world, at least not at this.

So it is easier just to put it off, to procrastinate, not admit it, and settle for mediocre.

What a waste of talent.

The longer you stay in that same position, the more mediocre you become.

This is one instance where it is okay to quit.

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Voting vs. Weighing Machine

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When you look at marketing from the industrial point view, the question you ask when marketing your business is:

“where is the mass?”

“How do I reach everybody with a product that is average?”

“How do we make this offering popular?”

This is when we keep score of the wrong thing.

The father of value investing, Benjamin Graham, explained the concept of voting vs. weighing concept by saying that in the short run, the market is like a voting machine, adding up which firms are popular and unpopular.

But in the long run, the market is like a weighing machine, assessing the substance of a company.

The message is clear: What matters in the long run is a company’s actual underlying business performance and not the investing public’s fickle opinion about its prospects in the short run.

Politics, entertainment, idols, big brother, social media are examples of voting machines, but your doing work that really matters is a weighing machine.

The voting machine is about being popular, about how many people who know, about who follows you on social media.

The weighing machine is about substance, about what difference and impact you are having in your community.

Today we live in an age where the mass market is dead, instead we have hundreds of micro markets where there are little markets of interests.

The voting [popular] machines is broken, what matters in the long run is the weighing [impact] machine. 

Is your event, product, service, relationship or message weighty?

Weigh more than be popular.

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The face of privilege

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There is no such thing as a “self-made man”. We are made up of thousands of others.

Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the makeup of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.

Other than in a Rambo movie, there is no such thing as an army of one.

*Pensil illustration is courtesy of Toby Morris.

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Quiet Confidence: Obama after dark

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It is okay to be by yourself, to sit still and think without feeling guilty about it.

Often people feel guilty about wanting to take a trip about themselves. It has been instilled in us that wanting to do things by yourself is a bad, negative, anti-social thing to do, it’s not.

We need to honour the next generation of quiet children.

The kids who are sitting alone by themselves drawing, scripting or reading something, teenagers who through their adolescent years develop a passion for art or reading that they decide to explore the world of art or reading all by themselves, these kids should be honoured and not made to feel weird.

I’m not saying a man is an island, or that we should be alone and not talk to each other. That’s not the point of my thoughts.

We are human beings, we love each other and we need each other. Life is meaningless without love, trust and friendship.

I’m not saying we should abolish group work or team-work totally, today’s problems are so complex that we can’t solve them alone, we need to stand on each other’s shoulders to some degree.

But what I’m saying is that human nature has two opposites poles, one pole has a group of people deriving energy from others and another pole has a craving for privacy, for solitude.

We need to find ways of fueling both these poles so that everybody is functioning at their best.

Barack Obama is an introvert and even though he has a busy schedule, he manages to have alone time.

In this article titled Obama After Dark: The Precious Hours Alone, Mr. Obama calls himself a “night guy,” and as president, he has come to consider the long, solitary hours after dark as essential as his time in the Oval Office. Almost every night that he is in the White House, Mr. Obama has dinner at 6:30 with his wife and daughters and then withdraws to the Treaty Room, his private office down the hall from his bedroom on the second floor of the White House residence.

There, his closest aides say, he spends four or five hours largely by himself.

However introverts and extroverts need each other. They are the yin and yang of each other, they compliment each other very well.

The most effective teams in an organization are those that have a balance of introvert and extroverts.

Most marriages [and relationship] are introvert extrovert marriages, where one partner is introvert and the other extrovert.

Barack Obama is married to Michelle who is an extrovert. Barack’s deputy Joe Biden was an extrovert, his chief of staff was also an extrovert.

There is a need to appreciate and honour introvert the same way we celebrate extroverts.

Don’t feel guilty or apologetic about wanting to spend quiet time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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