Worthy of imitation

Publishing content to customer needs, not a calendar

At PatSnap, the Head of Content is Timi Olotu, and he has established an incredibly effective practice. He and his staff develop blog posts, research, and interviews which are prized by PatSnap customers. The process of interacting with customers, performing research, then tracking statistics is so well ingrained, that having a "content calendar" is irrelevant. 

Managing Editor: A Different Kettle of Fish: How Timi Olotu Has Built a Successful B2B Content Marketing Program, 2018-Oct-16 by Lee Price

For one, research is key. I try to instill a research sensibility with my team. One of the first things I invested in at PatSnap was a Blue Yeti microphone. We regularly interview people and we need the audio quality to be good. Then we have a framework to document all the key insights, and behavioral and attitudinal trends that we learn from those calls and from talking to salespeople.

But I would say the thing that really gives us an edge is that we spend a lot of time really trying to figure out what we should be talking about. When I joined I tried to stamp out the mentality of having any kind of weekly or monthly publishing quota. We try to stay responsible and do end up publishing pretty much weekly. However, what was important was to shift the mentality away from "we need to be talking" to "we need to be saying something compelling."

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Why good board members are hard to find

I'm all for having a very small board of people who actually want to contribute.  

Twitter: The Great Non-executive Director (NED), 2018-Oct-13 by Fred Destin

2/ what we normally get - a bunch of high level comments at board meetings only and vague moral support for the founders.

3/ what we’d really like - firstly someone who cares as deeply about the success of the business as the others around the table, and anticipates issues and dynamically maps out opportunities... 

6/ here is my list of wants from a great NED : (a) consigliere to the founders (b) independent voice on strategy (c) help align the board when issues arise (d) hold both investors and founders to account - be the institutional “memory bank” of the board

7/ (e) help the company anticipate major issues - in particular when it comes to financing (f) provide strong moral and ethical compass to everyone at difficult times (such as say a recap) (g) reframe the debate when it gets stuck

(h) speak the hard truths no one wants to hear in a non-partisan way (I) get to know everyone in the team and be a cheerleader for morale (j) help recruit (k) help with execution in areas of expertise. 

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Customer empathy games proposed by IDEO

IDEO has developed a very good program to help companies get their employees to empathize with customers. If employees are not users of the product, customer empathy is always an ongoing challenge.  

Harvard Business Review: To Get Employees to Empathize with Customers, Make Them Think Like Customers, 2018-Sep-28 by Erin Henkel and Adam Grant

What’s the best way to cultivate empathy? The standard answer is to spend more time with customers. For example, leaders at IBM, Medtronic, and Microsoft have sent their people out to meet customers and see their products in use. But recently at IDEO, we’ve been encouraging companies to go a step further. Instead of just getting to know the customer, we want employees to become the customer.

The idea is to create an embodied experience for employees, rather than just a conversation. People learn much more when they are physically engaged in an activity, not just talking about it. But you can’t just take employees through the actual customer experience. They already know it like the back of their hands; it’s too easy for them to get defensive and justify the way they already do things.

Instead, we bring people into different contexts — removed from typical day-to-day company operations — that can serve as a metaphor for what customers experience and therefore jolt employees into a more empathetic stance.

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Work a little harder when using bald words to communicate. Use Bill Jensen's CLEAR model.

Texting, emailing, slacking (a communication thing now--right?)... all these channels rely on typed words with no vocal nuance. This lean messaging can also lead to being confused and getting ignored. 

Behaviorally-focused messages can be patterned for success. Okay, let's C.L.E.A.R. a message, as designed by Bill Jensen, author of Simplicity and many other books and tools.

The message could be an email, or a multi-part text, or even some meeting notes after the face-to-face. 

  1. For the first sentence or phrase, communicate how the message is CONNECTED to what the recipient does, or wants to be doing, or to accomplish: "Since I know you're working on the ____ project..." When we start this way, we are making the message more relevant, and the recipient more attentive. We are answering the "why do I care?" question. 

  2. The second part is to provide a LIST of actions... It can be a one-item list. Here are the things the recipient could do to realize their goals in Point 1 (see above). It's a very good idea to make this 'list' either a set of steps or a single boldface command. 

  3. Set the EXPECTATIONS. Share what results they can expect from taking action. What does the recipient's success look like? Paint a picture. Say, "if you follow my suggestion, you'll see progress in...." As David Allen would say "what does success feel like?"

  4. Point out the ABILITY of the recipient(s) to achieve their goals. The LIST of actions you provided in step 2 must be things that the recipient is empowered or capable of doing. Remind the recipient they have the power, whether it's formal authority, talent or even just persistence. (If during this step you realize the recipient does not have the capability to execute the list you provided in Point 2, stop and reconsider your message.) 

  5. Close the message by clarifying the RETURN (or ROI: return on investment). Spell out "what's in it for me, as the recipient of this message." Show your faith in their capabilities and how you will rejoice in their success. They need to know they can get what they want. This point is often referred to as the WIIFM: the "What's in it for me?" point.

    In many cases, you should let them know that success is not the only good outcome. If they can explain all the causes and issues that obstructed success, and they know that sharing this information will benefit them, then their shared knowledge may benefit many, many more people. 

This communication model has been invaluable to me over the years. It doesn't always make things happen, but when it doesn't work, I usually end up with clear feedback. And I'm always sure that I'm not wasting my time or someone else's energy. 

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Have you heard of the 'amplification' tactic for promoting women's ideas?

Recently, I was in a morning round table meeting where new people were trickling in but not chiming in. After watching for awhile, I interrupted a speaker who'd had the floor for several minutes to ask one of the newcomers to introduce herself. The speaker didn't appear to be annoyed. We need to help people speak up and get credit. This amplification idea is so powerful. 

Adam Grant: Wondering (Excerpt from June 2017, Question 1)

We all need to promote our work. I’ve learned in my research that successful givers are ambitious for others and ambitious for themselves. When you produce something you think is interesting or important, share it with people who might benefit from it. If that’s the only thing you share, it looks like self-promotion. But if you regularly distribute and recognize other people’s work too, there’s no backlash. You’re known as someone who has useful knowledge and is generous in sharing it.

That leads me to my favorite advice on this dilemma, which is to gather a group of supportive colleagues who will work together to make sure you each get the credit you deserve. A group of women did this brilliantly in the Obama administration: they called it amplification. Let’s amplify that.

Washington Post: White House women want to be in the room where it happens 2016-Sep-13 by Juliet Eilperin 

When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.

“We just started doing it, and made a purpose of doing it. It was an everyday thing,” said one former Obama aide who requested anonymity to speak frankly. Obama noticed, she and others said, and began calling more often on women and junior aides.

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Using micro-goals to stay on track toward our goals: the big picture is our enemy.

"Chunking," or breaking down a project into micro-goals, has long been recognized in productivity coaching. However, it's also extremely important in motivating co-workers. We tend to spend too much time on the vision and not enough time kicking around little ideas to move the project down the road. Recognizing the success of every micro-goal is vital. I love Scordo's quote... 

The big picture is actually your enemy.

Scordo.com: How To Achieve Goals: Micro-Goal It And Keep It Simple by Vincent Scordo

Now, I don’t have a window into Federer’s brain (only he knew what he was thinking on Sunday) but his keen ability to simply win the tennis match; namely, keep the ball between the lines until your opponent makes an error or misses a shot is a superb practical life skill.  Here are a few others that may help you achieve a few goals of your own (albeit maybe less impressive than 16 Grand Slam tennis championships):
1. Tune out unimportant variables.  When you want to achieve something specific it’s not good to act or think philosophically.  The big picture is actually your enemy.
2. Don’t change your style or approach if it works most of the time.  For example, if you’re a good saver and have had success with investing in low risk vehicles (like a traditional savings account, CD, bond, etc.) don’t begin buying large quantities of securities because the current trend is big returns on your money.  In the long run, you’ve probably picked an approach that has worked and switching tactics will not get you closer to a particular goal.
3. Surround yourself with people who think like you.
4. Avoid panic until the last possible moment.  Staying calm is a great life skill; in addition to preserving your blood pressure and heart the ability to maintain a calm mind helps you stay relaxed and avoid pressure and a muddled perspective (remember you want laser like clarity on your end goal).  Having said the above, I do advocate letting the steam escape at some point.
5. Prepare.  If you know how to do it and have proved to yourself that you can achieve a goal then doing it again is a matter of being well prepared.
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What other firms refuse to learn from Costco

Why aren't the benefits of better compensation common knowledge among business owners? 

Harvard Business Review: Inequality isn't just due to market forces, 2017-Mar-30 by Adam Cobb

For example, Costco has long been recognized as a “high road” employer that pays above market wages, offers good benefits, and provides workers opportunities for advancement. Despite these significant labor investments, from 2007 to the end of 2016, Costco’s stock price increased over 200%, far outpacing the overall growth of the S&P 500 (58%) and that of competitors like Walmart (45%) and Target (26%), which is known to pay workers low wages and offer relatively meager employee benefits. Of course, this is just one example, and there are a number of reasons why these firms’ performance varied during this period. But research shows that firms that pay workers higher wages, provide better benefits, and offer predictable working hours attract workers who are more productive and more committed to their employers. And improved worker productivity and lower turnover frequently more than offsets these firms’ higher labor rates.

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