“Sell Me This Pen” The Right Way

Last week Brandon and I had the pleasure of helping out at Campbell Collegiate with some mock job interviews. We were pared with students from grades ten and eleven and grilled them on their skills, interests, and experience as we attempted to find a student we would “hire” to work at Strategy Lab. Being the weirdo that I am, I asked almost exclusively out-of-the box questions like “Who do you think would win in a fight between a silverback gorilla and a grizzly bear?” and “How would you describe the colour red to someone who’s never seen colour?”. One test I used for every candidate was the old-school Jordan Balfort challenge: “Sell me this pen”.

Traditionally this is used to develop persuasive, cold-call sales techniques which is more than a little sleazy, but there was method to my madness. At the beginning of the day we were given free Conexus-branded pens (thanks guys!) and as I handed one to each interviewee to sell me I was hoping against hope that someone would think big enough to use the Conexus brand in their sales pitch.

As far as TED Talks go Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” has been used to death in marketing circles to the point where it’s almost become a tired cliche. I stress “almost” because I think it’s truly timeless and I get something new from it every time I watch it. My interviews with these kids were the most beautifully perfect embodiment of the “Why-How-What” concept.

What?

The majority of the students immediately tried to sell me on the different features of the pen like the stylus, the grip, the ease of use, etc. The bells and whistles that made it a good pen among pens, but didn’t really make me want to buy it. I mean, if I already have a pen why would I shell out money for this specific one? They were trying to sell on the “what”.

How?

A handful of the interviewees told me all the things I could do with the pen. Doodle, write notes, draw pictures, you name it. They positioned the pen as a means to an end and something that would solve a problem I had. This went one step beyond just showing off the features because they were identifying something I needed to do and trying to sell me the solution, or the “how”. But I wasn’t satisfied.

Why?

One student out of eight took the bait. It’s my second last interview of the day. I hand her the pen and she thinks for a while, then turns to me and asks “Can I use the Conexus logo in my pitch?” Up until now no one had even seemed to notice the logo, so I start to nod excitedly. “Well I would probably ask you first if you were a Conexus member, then I’d tell you that by buying this pen you’d be supporting us so we can help more people”. I’m freaking out at this point. Finally, someone sold me the “why”.

Here’s the moral of the story. Modern marketing requires us to not only show off the features or solve people’s problems, but to actually connect with them and make them feel something. There’s a reason paid programming “As Seen on TV” ads seem almost laughable these days. There’s a reason the practice of trying to convince people buy something they aren’t in the market for seems inherently sleazy. Creating a belief or a community or a world-changing vision creates intrinsic motivation in your customer base to not only buy from you, but to love you. Once you have that, you’ll never need to market again.

 

 

Saskatchewan in Keywords – May 2017

May 2017 will go down in history as the month of the fidget spinner.

For any of who don’t know, Google Trends is a wicked cool tool that allows you to view real time Google search query data by location visualized. You can view the top search keywords in a given industry or generally across the the country or province over the past day, week, quarter, month, or year. Typically the top Google searches from month to month are more or less what you’d expect (some iteration of “Google”, “Facebook”, “YouTube”, “weather”, “news”, etc.), but what I find more interesting is the fastest rising keywords in a given month, or those which have experienced the highest increase in search volume. You can view these above by clicking the bottom right-hand arrow and selecting “Rising”. Here are the search terms which will now and forever define May 2017 in Saskatchewan.

 

Cinco De Mama

Topping the list by a wide margin are searches related to the tragic suicide of Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell last week. Everyone’s favourite excuse to drink tequila at 11 in the morning Cinco De Mayo also topped this month’s search queries. Predictably, searches spiked dramatically for Mother’s Day as absent-minded sons and daughters (myself included) scrambled to remember what day it actually was, only to forget and look it up again a few days later. You’ll also notice a fairly significant increase in searches related to the latest craze in boredom-suppression: fidget spinners.

 

Despacito Means “Slowly” in Spanish

In addition to raw web search results, Google Trends also let’s you view to the fastest rising search terms on YouTube specifically. This month Miley Cyrus’s latest hit Malibu drew a great deal of attention and, correspondingly, a considerable amount of search traffic. A tearful performance at this week’s Billboard Music Awards didn’t hurt either. Topping the charts for increased search results on YouTube this month was…Wait a second…Fidget spinners again? What the heck is going on?

Okay, let’s try one more thing. Finally, Google Trends allows you to narrow keyword searches to those used in Google Images. There has to be something interesting there, right?

 

ARE YOU KIDDING ME FIDGET SPINNERS AGAIN. The only discernibly higher search phrase for images in Saskatchewan with an increase of 150% was fidget spinners. Wow.

May 2017 ladies and gents, the official month of fidget spinners in Saskatchewan.

 

PS: For reference, here’s what the trend line for fidget spinners looks like over the past year. Wild, right?

Let’s Take a Second to Remember The Basics

So you’re a business looking to dive into social media. What does that even mean? Back in the day when social was just beginning to become the massive snowball it is today, getting involved as a business was messy. It was imperfect. You had to watch and listen to how people were using various platforms. You had to try things and make mistakes. You had to learn in real time as things were changing and growing and evolving.

Nowadays it seems like you can just decide “I want to be on social media”.

And you probably should be. Creating a community and actively engaging with that community has become the new marketing model. Storytelling and relationship building are more important than ever, overtaking “brand-building” or “reach and frequency” as key outcomes for your marketing budget. That being said, businesses seem to be pivoting to social as a silver bullet for their online marketing while fundamentally forgetting basic marketing concepts. Before you even think about creating a page or an account be it SnapChat, Facebook, LinkIn, or the like, check yourself against these basics when it comes to social media

 

  1. Not all platforms are created equal.

    Gone are the days when you could just set up a Facebook and Twitter page, link them to auto-post and call it a day. There is a buffet of options to choose from when it comes to social platforms. It can be overwhelming, which makes it so surprising that most company’s first instinct is to jump into everything at once. Specific, methodic targeting is becoming a lost art. Less is more. Get really good at one thing, not mediocre at five. Take stock of your core function as an organization, the type of content you’ll be posting, and your audience and be selective with the platforms you choose. Which brings us to rule number two…

    never-half-ass-two-things-whole-ass-one-thing

  2. Focus on where your people are (and where they want to see you).

    “We need to be on Snapchat”. Why? Is that really where your target audience is? Is that going to be the best use of your time? Is that where you’re going to make the highest number of meaningful connections? More importantly, is that where your people even want to connect with you? You may have the best concrete company in the world, but I don’t necessarily want to look at concrete on Instagram. Founder of the Social Fresh Conference Jason Keath speaks regularly about the importance of focus when it comes to social media and his message is simple: if you really want to convert you don’t need to be (and probably shouldn’t be) everywhere. Respect your audience, view your business through their eyes, and act accordingly.

  3. Have a freaking purpose.

    This is possibly the most bizarrely broken rule in the book. Organizations and companies seem to think that the equation goes “IF I’m active on social media AND I get lots of likes THEN my business will do better”. What the heck does that mean?! There are so many other steps involved in that equation. I recently caught an episode of the Jelly Marketing Podcast (would highly recommend) featuring writer and speaker Tod Maffin where he hammers the idea of true purpose home and slays the concept of vanity metrics. What are you specifically trying to achieve with the tools you’re using? Are you trying to keep your membership up to date with new information? Are you trying to show how easy your product is to use? Are you trying to showcase the genuine personalities of your team? Have a purpose beyond getting likes and followers. Those will come and arguably don’t matter as long at your working towards a clear goal.

  4. Create value.

    Advertising and selling without value creation does not work. Period. Full stop. I don’t care about your car dealership. I don’t care that you can broker my mortgage. I DO NOT CARE. Do something that makes my life better, even a little. Tell me something interesting I didn’t know before. Better yet, show me it in a cool way. Make me smile, make me laugh, make me think, solve my problem. Do something that goes beyond the basic transaction. It’s not just a nice touch anymore, it’s expected.

Well there you go. None of this is particularly ground-breaking. They’re things we as internet marketers have been shouting about for years, but as the social media space becomes more and more crowded and confusing it’s important to remember the basics. They’ll save you time, money, and a whole lot of headaches.

An Open Letter to Social Media

Dear Social Media,

We’ve been together for a long time. We’ve seen some major highs and some rock-bottom lows. For better or worse, I always knew I could turn to you. Always knew that at the end of the day I had a screen and a community of people I sort of knew who could validate however I was feeling, and if they didn’t screw ‘em, I’d find new ones that did.

I was really your first love. Previous generations never had you and never dreamed they would. Throughout the time that we’ve been together you’ve grown and changed so much. On one hand it’s fascinating to see your relationship with each new generation change. On another, it’s exhausting trying to figure out how to approach you on any given day. Secretly I worry that I don’t really understand you as well as someone much younger does. Are you outgrowing me?

Lately things have been different. I’ve started seeing someone else: the world around me. There’s so much beauty to be seen, so much fun to be had, and so many memories to savour without your constant interruption. As much as I love having instant access to anyone, anytime, anywhere, as much as I like the likes, things are better in 360 full-colour.

You were always best when you made the tangible world brighter and more exciting. You still amaze me with your ability to connect people and tell stories, but lately you’ve been dividing people and shifting their focus inwards.

I think we need to take a break. We’ll still see each other around, but right now we both need to figure out how to actually be social again.

 

Sincerely,

Us

You Have Time, You Just Don’t Know It // eps 53 #inthelab

I was going to start this blog with a quote about how precious time is, but after a quick Google search for “time quotes” that seemed kind of unnecessary. Just about every majorly quotable person has said something about time and how we use it (or don’t use it) and it seems pretty clear that we’re all on the same page: Time is the most valuable, fleeting commodity we have and, much like Bill Murray movies, there never seems to be quite enough of it. We all marvel at that select group of high-functioning individuals who seem to be able to achieve so much with the exact same 24 hours afforded to us every day. Perhaps my favourite response to “I don’t have time” comes from Gary Vaynerchuck. There’s some language that’s a little NSFW, but the sentiment is real: Everyone has time, stop watching f***ing Lost.

Now, does this mean you should live your life like a non-stop automaton, never allowing yourself a second for personal growth or relaxation? No. But it does highlight the importance of taking real stock of how much of your time is spent inefficiently, probably without you even knowing it. Now I’ve never been a big fan of the “self help” mentality, but over the past few weeks I have challenged myself to follow three things to make better use of my time and so far I gotta tell you, they’re helping a lot.

digital marketing regina 2

1. Stop Procrastinating

As an avid, life-long procrastinator I know full well that this is easier said than done, but completing tasks immediately as opposed to letting them pile up can take a mountain of stress off your shoulders and save you time in the long run. Things always seem to take longer when you leave them until the last possible minutes. Start with small things. Wash a dish right after you use it. Make a phone call you need to make when you think of it, not a few hours later. You’d be amazed at how these small behavioral patterns will eventually form broader habits that will save you time.

2. Identify your “Peak Times”

I have never been, and will likely never be, a morning person. Between the hours of 9 and 10:30 am I might get a half hour of real work done on a good day. My most productive hours fall between about 7 and 9:30 pm after I’ve worked out and had a few hours to wipe my brain clean from the rest of the day. This is when I get the most work done, so this is when I work the most. It seems logical, but I’m sure you’ve felt it. The restless dread that comes from knowing you have the motivation to do something but convincing yourself that outside of your nine to five isn’t “work time”. Figure out at what point during the day you’re likely to achieve the most and DO IT. You’ll find yourself getting three hours of work done in one simply because of your mental state.

3. Make a Checklist

Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and actually writing out exactly what you need to get done in a given week is just what the disorganized monkey in your brain (don’t kid yourself, we all have one) needs to find a track and stay on it. The more detailed and step-by-step the list, the quicker you will accomplish the task at hand. Imagine you’re putting together Ikea furniture if that helps. With a few vague illustrations and a general idea of what the thing is suppose to look like, you’ll probably be able to put something resembling a dresser in a few days. Throw in some actual detailed instructions and you’ll have that puppy done in an hour.

Write yourself better Ikea instructions.

Well there you have it, my three ways of skinning the cat that is the average work week. I can’t imagine a point in the foreseeable future when any one of us will get more that our allotted 86,400 seconds in a day, but what we do get is to choose how we manage those seconds in order to get the most out of our day and ultimately, our lives. Time is precious and, much like change in the couch cushions, we typically have more of it than we think. It’s just a matter of believing that and knowing where to look when the pizza guy arrives.

Why Podcast?

 

Over the past few years the podcast as a content piece has seen a major resurgence. Much like the rise, fall, and rebirth of blogs (remember the early Blogger sites?) podcasts have found new life. But why should you as a business or as a person care? Why should you podcast? If you’re reading this instead of listening to the recording above, you’re probably a little skeptical. Here are six reasons why you should stop reading right now and hit that “play” button!

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