Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why Do We Make Trust A Four Letter Word?

Hi!  Please watch this video of Daniel Newman, CEO of United Visual, who is a very smart and all around nice guy:

Amir and I had the pleasure of meeting with Dan last week to learn a little bit more about him, his business, and his management philosophies.  There were a host of good things that we discussed and I managed to capture some of that on video.  Today, I'd like to capture this first question we asked of him which was specifically around how, as a CEO he grants trust to others.

I've captured some of the things he said that piqued my interest and, needless to say, would like to get your input as well.  When he grants trust, it is because he believes:
  • that someone has the right intentions and has high integrity.
  • that someone is exactly how they present themselves.
  • the solutions offered are out of a genuine desire to help.
  • that it's best to give a little trust ahead of time and watch for results.
  • that because his time is precious, it's best to earn trust quickly because once you're "on the other side it's hard to gain it back."

Dan the CEO versus Dan the person.

You'll notice that in the beginning of the video that I asked him how, as a CEO, he grants trust.  And yet, the answer that Dan gave was as Dan the person and the sincere answer he gave was his personal model that he has adapted for business life.  Obviously, Dan the person is Dan the CEO but the lack of context in the answer is what I thought was so interesting as it could have been in any context.  

So let's talk about this further.  There are a bajillion really good, meaningful and valuable conversations taking place these days about authenticity and transparency in business, social media, etc.  And, you could argue that this question about trust fits within all of those good conversations about how human business interactions are taking place these days.  And you'd be right to do so.

I guess, sitting back, I wonder that we have to have these conversations in the first place.  Beyond our early school years and conversations at the dinner table as kids, we rarely have discussions about the processes we use to grant our trust to others in the context of personal relationships.  It's just something that becomes a part of us as we age, mature, have life experiences (good and bad), etc.  We don't have to over analyze it per se.

So why over analyze it in business?

Chiefly because we behave other than our authentic selves in our drive to win new customers or keep current ones.  The pitch is what matters and we're desperate to push features and benefits of things we want to sell (typically high margin) to people like Dan.  But senior leaders like Dan, though they assess a solution/product on its merits, what they are really looking for is a partner who appears to be the real deal.

Senior leaders like Dan want to sense that the person with whom they are engaging genuinely wants to help -- a radically different thing from someone who just wants to pitch.  As I said in this post, emotional drivers are the ones that make us give or withhold business.  We don't use emotions to justify rational decisions (based on features and benefits).  Rather, it's our emotions that color how we value/assess discrete facts and figures -- and ultimately drive what we buy.

If you don't believe me, I ask you to please watch the video again, share your thoughts and, if you've found this an interesting read, please share with others.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef

Friday, May 27, 2011

@garyvee and Vindaloo

If you're from Chicago or have any family/friends who live here, you know that our Spring has been damp and cold with spots of intermittent teasing hours of warmth.  So, I'm sure you can appreciate that occasionally we feel lazy and have a hankering for stick to your ribs food to keep us warm...  And sometimes that means we order Indian food for delivery!

Aside from the requisite samosa, Amir has a love for particularly spicy chicken vindaloo.  He finds it hard to resist its dulcet tones when it calls his name.  He heeds the call each and every time.  And, while there are many great places in town to order vindaloo, there's one place that seems to get his vote.

What's the problem?  

Well, to order from them requires no small effort.  You can't go to their website, you have to go to another site that specializes in deliveries.  Due to poor site design, it takes a while to get to the restaurant you actually want.  And then, it takes a few more minutes to locate the items you wish to order because the item numbers from the actual restaurant's menu on the restaurant's site are different from the numbers on the delivery service's site.

Calling in the order to the separate delivery service is no better -- if you give the restaurant's item number they ask you to go to the delivery site for their item number.  If you don't have the delivery service hard copy menu with you, you're directed to the site with the similar challenges of finding the restaurant and correct item numbers.  If you don't have access to either, well, you may have a problem on your hands.

Oh, and did I mention that delivery takes anywhere from 75 to 90 minutes?  

And yet we still order food (albeit indirectly) and still go there when we don't feel like staying in.  Sure, it'd be easy to go somewhere else because, after all, it's just vindaloo.

But it's not just vindaloo.  It's the favorite vindaloo.  I can't help but think that if it were easier, cheaper, faster, better, etc., to order it, then we'd be doing a lot more of it and we'd be shouting it from the rooftops.  Right now, it's too much of a chore to enjoy it (which I know to be a #firstworldproblem) to do anything more than eat it because it tastes good.

The wine guy is right.  What if vindaloo emotionally connected with us?

On twitter, a friend (Hi Chris!) shared this video of Gary Vaynerchuk.  Please have a look:

Truly, what would happen if ordering vindaloo were a bit easier?  What would happen if instead of us exerting effort to give someone business that it would be someone else exerting effort to make it easier for us?  What if they were to be more like @garyvee and give and give and give without expecting anything in return?  What if they were to thank me for my effort in special (not necessarily over the top ways)? It's simple: we'd order more vindaloo.  And tell our friends to try some, too.

The jig is up. 

Clearly, this is more than just vindaloo.  It's about value.  What is business' view on valuing customer relationships beyond requisite (social) CRM and other loyalty devices?  Frankly, those activities are "keeping the lights on" these days.  

Truly, how much does business value "halo effect" when it comes to how it chooses to relate to its customers either directly or, in vindaloo's case, through a separate entity? Does it take steps to create tangible as well as intangible connections with customers and prospects?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  If you think your colleagues/friends would have something to add here, please share this post with them.  And thank you.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

1 Is The Loneliest Number

As you read in my last post, I spent a glorious three days last week at #unGeeked.  If you've never been to one, I recommend that you go -- not only for the discussions but the friends that I know you will make.  There were a bunch of great sessions about storytelling, branding (personal or otherwise), content, community, trust and a whole lot more.

Since then, I've been absorbing everything I heard.  And today, I read this interesting post by Sam Fiorella  which has helped to crystallize my thoughts further.  I don't want to do his writing disservice but net net the post is about the foundations of consumer trust in this new social economy.  I recommend reading it if you've a moment.

All of us like, share, stumble, tag, broadcast, podcast, post, tell stories and do a lot of other attention seeking things that tell a lot of people that we are individually active, like to engage and are eager to always. add. value. where. possible.  In other words, There's no time to hear what you think of me because I'm too busy telling you what you should think of me.  This is not only true of individuals but organizations as well.  It is a one sided conversation.

Sharing is caring but it is not connecting.

In Sam's post, he suggests four things to build trust with customers: a compelling value proposition, relationship building, establishing transparency and demonstrating vulnerability.  And he's spot on with all of them.  He goes on to conclude that it's not that businesses earn trust so much as customers decide to grant it to them.  He's right and yet I would go a bit further.

I would like to add the consumers decide to grant trust because they feel a connection to the businesses trying to serve them.  This can be through one or all of the product, customer service, shared values, quality, etc.  Some may say it's semantics but connecting is something I think none of us are doing enough of (or well) these days with some notable exceptions like My Starbucks Idea.

I'll admit to being a little old school.  I believe in using every social platform as a filtering device as opposed to an amassing device.  That whole Dunbar's Number thing makes sense to me along with a dash of Pareto.  I still like in person meetings if only for 30 minutes or so.  I don't seek an astronomical number of LinkedIn connections.  And, while my ego would love a bajillion Twitter followers, ultimately, it's just not how I roll.  And I'm okay with that.

Consequently, I worry that some people confuse "content" or "experience" with connection.  They are not the same things.  They don't even live on the same street.  My focus group of one opinion is that these words are said and written too much.  And now, they have kind of lost their meaning.

Content isn't just some romance copy that fills an empty space.  

It's meant to be the start of a connection between two parties.  It's an appetizer, it's a teaser and it's a promise of things to come if the customer decides to listen on the path to ultimately granting trust.  And so, the beginning of the connection should be nurtured and protected not unlike an infant.

So as all of us like, share, stumble, tag, broadcast, podcast, post, tell stories and do a lot of other attention seeking things that tell a lot of people that we are individually active, let's also remember that it's not always meant to be a one to many.  A one to one is perfectly fine too.  It just shouldn't be one.

I'd love your thoughts on here as well as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or (dare I say it) in person.  Please also share this with your friends if you'd like to do so.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef


Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Trip to Sesame Street...

Here's a funny little video that a friend posted on Facebook recently:

I'll share with you that I've must have watched this easily a dozen times.  I love it for its humor, its irreverence and its ability to engage multiple audiences all at the same time.  While I was pondering all of the lovely ways this video is so great, this tweet flew by from @AlanSee which crystallized my thoughts:

"What is our business? Who is the customer? What does the customer value? - Peter Drucker"

And, in a moment, I became inspired to write about Sesame Street.  Like many of you, I watched many an episode while growing up.  I loved all of the characters (real and muppet) and felt like I had a relationship with them.  I felt like the screen was a mere detail.  I was "in it" and captive.  I felt like I was part of the neighborhood.

Sesame Street knows its customer.

Their customers are the adults who enjoyed the celebrity appearances then (Lena Horne, anyone?) and the adults who are about to have kids or who have kids now that remember the magic then but can enjoy it still (Old Spice parody).  They still feel like they are part of the neighborhood - but just maybe in a different house.

Skeptical?  As an adult, I've made many references to Sesame Street; if I've finally met someone after only hearing about them, I'll make a Snuffleupagus reference (Big Bird's formerly invisible friend).  And, I'm not the only adult who can make those references.  A new friend mentioned on Facebook that he was taking his kids to Sesame Street Live and another new friend posted "Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street."  Yesterday, this was the back and forth:

 Sean Hand 

 Casey M. Karl 

 Sean Hand 


It pays to know what your customer values.

I know what you may be thinking.  You may be thinking that Sesame Street is a rather poor example because it's on public television.  Well, during a session on Cause Marketing at #unGeeked Chicago, Sima Dahl mentioned donating to PBS because she thinks Sesame Street is important.  That was her only reason.  She can't be the only person to have that level of passion and commitment to Sesame Street.  

It pays to have share of pop culture.  Sesame Street is successful because it still wants us as part of the neighborhood - even if we haven't tuned into an episode for years.  It remembers us and delivers things to us that reinforce the connection.  They have always been masters of word of mouth and viral marketing...  way before those things had names, shapes and thought leaders imploring us to consider them as strategic tools.

What's your take on Sesame Street?  I'd like to hear what you have to say.  And, if you have Sesame Street fans in your circle, please share with them.  I'd love to hear their two cents as well.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef

Monday, May 9, 2011

1 Dislocated Elbow

I've been watching a lot of NBA playoff games of late...  I watched in disbelief as Memphis took out San Antonio and the Mavs sweeping Amir's beloved Lakers.  In both cases, it came down to who wanted it more.  It's not that the losing team didn't want it.  It's just that the other team had more of a hunger.

Similarly, I saw Rajon Rondo dislocate his elbow in Game 3 of the Heat - Celtics matchup.  I also saw him come back into the game in the 4th quarter and helped his team win that game decisively.  Here is video with the highlights (note: the fall is not for the faint of heart).

Why would someone come back into a game when in such excruciatingly awful pain?  No one would have questioned him if he had not come back.  But he came back.

It's a little thing called desire.

I read another good Mitch Joel post the other day and it came to mind again after I saw Rajon Rondo bravely play, fight for loose balls, dribble with one hand, pass with one hand and make some shots in the Celtics Game 4 loss tonight.  Here's a part of that post:

"How badly do you want something?

It's very interesting to think about the things we want and lay them against the things we have. Take a long hard look at what you have. How did you get it? Did you get it because it just showed up? Was it given to you? Odds are it was neither of those things. You did something about it. You committed yourself to it. You didn't stop until you had it. You wanted it bad enough to truly (and deeply) commit yourself to the tasks that needed to happen for the stars to align.

We want more followers on Twitter. We want our Blog to be more popular. We want our videos to go viral on YouTube. We want people to like us on Facebook.

Even if we tossed aside asking "why" a brand would want any of these things (let's assume it fits perfectly into their marketing strategy), the truth is that wanting any of those things are nice and easy to say. What's hard is committing to making it happen."

I've had multiple conversations with business contacts lately about the things they want and their relative willingness to put in the work to achieve it.  I'm sensing a certain complacency - almost a "If I build it, they will come" type of philosophy.  It's certainly charming in a baseball movie but not necessarily in these times where there are competing forces for share of eyeballs, share of wallet, share of likes, share of [insert your metric here].

"It's a platform, not a campaign."

That's also a line from ol' Mitch's post.  I talked about c/klout in my Empire Avenue post and the point I brought up then really rings true in my mind especially after seeing so much basketball played with drive and heart.  It's all well and good that I can learn how to "game" a system (pun intended) to drive up my share price and lend the impression that I have more influence than I actually have.  
Technology is pretty and I'm as captivated by the next flashy object as the next person but I sometimes wonder at the "value" it brings.

Ultimately, whether I'm around for the long haul is directly proportional to the level of effort I'm willing to commit to the goal.  The Lakers and the Spurs are done for the season -- they were ranked 1 and 2!  Something to think about as we set goals.

What say you?  Please share your thoughts and, if you've liked this post, please share with others.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm worth 33 Eaves

That's my share "price" on Empire Avenue as of this writing.  Since I joined last week, I've constantly monitored my share price, rejiggered my activity on the site plus other social platforms, speculated by buying shares of unclaimed twitter handles (@rupaul, @revrunwisdom and @bravoandy, I'm waiting...) all in the pursuit of more "value" such as it is.

I've been really focused on driving my price up.  I'd hate to think that I have no c/klout, influence, likability, respect, trust, cool factor or whatever makes people popular these days.  See, my days of having enormous thick glasses in junior high are still fresh in my mind and I do what I can to purge these memories.

It seems I'm a bit of a hypocrite.

Yes, it's true.  But thankfully, I've figured this out early on.  See, the problem is that I'm never going to drive my share price up if I keep focusing only on driving my share price up.  I've had my blinders on in a big old way in that I've been focusing on myself instead of on YOU.  And, if you've read any of my posts from last month, you know how I feel about self interested marketing/business/sales behavior!  Doh.

I've said before that people buy based on emotional drivers.  I've said that it's not that our emotions justify the rational decisions (discrete facts and figures) we make. It's that our emotions color how we value discrete facts and figures and then drive what we buy. And, work with me, Empire Avenue is no different.  Sure, your price is derived by a of social media behaviors but all of those are predicated on "engaging" with others.

My interest is your best interest.

If I sit idly, so does my price -- actually, it may fall.  If I am not focused on you, nothing good may yield for neither you nor me.  The onus is on me to provide practical value to you to not only invest in me but also perhaps tell your friends about me too.  That's the only way that I'll be able to survive in the long term and if survival's truly my goal, my activities are 100% oriented to being good for you.

I've not mentioned Mitch Joel in a while but he wrote a lovely post the other day about utilitarianism in marketing as well as an example of Charmin's "Sit or Squat" app to back his point up.  I'm going to excerpt the relevant part here but please do take the time to read it in its entirety.  It's worth it.

"The rise of Utilitarianism Marketing is not something we see talked about as much as we should. When something out of the marketing department doesn't have a huge splash around it or a billboard in Times Square for the senior management team to point at, it tends to get yawns. The yawns happen because the numbers don't look the same when benchmarked against traditional mass media or other forms of advertising. Actually giving consumers something valuable seems counterintuitive to most marketing departments because they equate "value" with "cost" and the last thing a marketer wants to do is give something that costs them more money to less people than the heat they are getting from their traditional advertising.

The point is this: if you give something to people that they actually want to use.... no, need to use, they will love you and be loyal to you forever."

I'm still in the game.

The tragedy of the human condition is such that I will still continue to fixate on my share price and the level of "right" behaviors to drive it up. That doesn't change and I'm not going to try to introduce a more zen like approach to Empire Avenue. That said, this lesson for me in this enjoyable game is that it's so easy to fall back on self interested things as opposed to what's best for you.

Having pledged my commitment to your best interest, I've put my ticker below... Won't you consider a purchase? ;). And, if you've liked this post, comment below -- I'd like to become acquainted with you.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef