Archives for July 2012

Today’s online world may force us to create business platforms in two dimensions.

To Aaron Shapiro, CEO of the digital agency Huge, online marketing means creating immersive environments where people go to get their problems solved.

I found this Interview with Booz and Company to be enlightening relative to how I think about websites and my digital presence.  The idea of having two businesses in the context of how I actually use the internet makes sense.  In particular the idea of creating a digital wrapper as opposed to the “brochure ware” so common among practitioners today.

S+B: What implications does this have for marketers?
SHAPIRO: Today, a company effectively needs two businesses to succeed: the core business it’s always been in, and a digital wrapper that meets user needs online. This means companies have to think of themselves as software businesses, competing in the digital sphere with Google and Amazon. They have to create a software layer around their whole company, where all their constituents and stakeholders will interact with them.

The best strategy is to be a filter.  Read More on Strategy + Business

What I would do:

If you have been following me for any period of time you have watched the iterative nature of my online presence.  The ideas in this article resonate with me as I successfully  create an online dialogue with the DeathCare profession.   My choice to engage on topics of interest to my readers rather than touting how wonderful I am causes my presence to grow and buzz to increase.  All the things outlined in this interview.  Of course I am wonderful but only my mother cares about that.

Note: S+B articles may require you to subscribe.  I believe the subscription is free

A Great Article on Coping as Funeral Directors

This from Caleb Wilde a young and bright funeral director deserves to be a part of every mortuary school curriculum.  If you don’t already subscribe to his blog, WHY NOT!

There’s been an overwhelmingly positive response to my article “10 Burdens Funeral Directors Carry“.  We funeral directors carry a unique set of burdens.  And there’s ways — both positive and negative — that we cope with our burdens. 10 Burdens Funeral Directors Carry“.  We funeral directors carry a unique set of burdens.  And there’s ways — both positive and negative — that we cope with our burdens.

Here’s 10 coping methods funeral directors use.…More at 10 Ways Funeral Directors Cope

Why Funeral Directors Mistreat Vendors & Staff

 

One of the inconsistencies I have observed frequently in this profession over 30 years has been the treatment of vendors by normally caring, gentle and empathetic people…namely funeral directors.  Frankly, it’s puzzling.  This article helps explain it but also give some great tips on how to stop it.

A man and two children, a boy about nine and a girl about seven, were walking ahead of me in silence. The boy looked up and said something to his father. Whatever he said set off his father who started yelling at the boy. I could see the boy’s pain as his father’s words hit him. It was heartbreaking.

What happened next took me by surprise, but shouldn’t have: As soon as his father stopped yelling at him, the boy turned to his little sister and hit her.

As I thought about that boy, I realized how often I — and so many people I know — do a version of the same thing. We say or do something to someone when, really, it’s meant for someone else….More at Who Are You Really Mad At? – Blogs – Harvard Business Review

What I would do:

We all experience frustrations in business…with customers and with vendors and with…well, everything.  But we don’t really want to be rude.  So, I would recognize that sometimes I can be rude and I don’t want to be.  Decide I don’t want to be that way and resolve to change.  Share this article with my staff and begin holding each other accountable to practice kindness.  Maybe turn a coffee can into a penalty jar.  Each time we are rude to someone we have to contribute $5.00.  Every quarter the proceeds go to an outing for the staff.

Do you want to be known for your prickliness or for your kindness?

Good Advice For Handling Staff Subversives

There is a saying:

“When You Fail to Walk In Your God-Given Authority,

Someone Else Will Take It Away From You And Use It Against You!”

Funeral home cultures are notoriously passive aggressive, challenges don’t often occur as dramatically as described in this article.  But they do occur…and regularly.  The advice given here is good advice regardless of your gender.

It was a quiet afternoon, as almost the entire team was out for an offsite retreat. It had been three months into my new job and I was left holding the fort. Then the phone rang. The CEO’s office wanted some analysis in an hour. Someone had to go and present the data. That someone had to be me!

But while the query was routine, the database was managed by an IT guy who had issues with female authority figures. Other women had warned me about him.

I requested the report from him and explained the urgency the best I could. The simple report should have taken ten minutes. Yet, after anxiously waiting for forty-five minutes and despite an email reminder, I still did not get it. Finally, I walked up to him and asked him to “please hurry it up as the meeting starts in fifteen minutes.” That’s when all Hell broke loose….More at Handling Direct Challenges to Your Authority » The Glass Hammer

What I would do:

You don’t always have to be confrontational.  But there are times that call for it and you have to know when those are.  Remember, others are watching.  Be prepared.  Call your antagonists out.  It will be a relief for everyone.

Proverbs 22:10  Cast Out The Scorner and Strife Shall Cease

It’s a Brave New World Out There

I don’t know about you but the growing transparency forced upon us by social media seems more like a curse than a blessing.  But I guess I don’t get to vote and neither do you.  This brief article shows how other industries are responding and effectively using social media to reduce advertising costs and engage customers as allies.   Seems like a lot of work.  But I don’t think we can afford not to be part of the converstation

 Social media platforms allow customer networks to be bigger, faster and better organized. They increase the downside of getting service wrong and the upside of getting it right.

The effects are both direct and indirect. Zappos generates so much buzz with its fantastic service experience that the company can spend significantly less on marketing than its rivals. This virtuous service cycle spins faster because we get to trumpet our delight on Facebook.

In other words, social media improves service by making the market for peer-to-peer opinion more efficient. This is good news for good service and bad news for bad service. End of not-so-complicated story.

are in the game of helping you become a better architect of the social chatter….More at Use Social Media to Partner with Customers and Improve Service

VIDEO: 3 Counterintuitive Things You Didn’t Know About Motivating and Engaging Employees

In recent years several companies have sprung up to help funeral home owners better manage their employees.  I am in favor of this movement but their are limits.

And the limit is this:  The systems and metrics these programs install are necessary.  But the result is that they do not turn owners into leaders…they turn them into shop foremen.

There has been a void in leadership in the DeathCare Professions for more than 20 years and we have lost ground because of it.  In the video below Dan Pink discusses the Unmooring of the Profit Motive from The Purpose Motive.  I think this is what has happened.  Our preoccupation with the nickels has caused us to step over the dollars.

Funeral Professionals are Knowledge Workers not factory line workers.  While we must employ the proper management systems to control our out of control costs we cannot hope to motivate or engage Knowledge Workers to connect with our customers in the ways that will drive our futures.

If you do nothing else this week watch this video

In this 10+ minute video Dan Pink vividly and literally illustrates the 3 key principles that do motivate and engage knowledge workers…and, as I have been saying now for several years…it isn’t incentives or money.  

What I would do

Not long ago in The Creedy Commentary I created a short video entitled: Six Simple but Important Tips on Engaging Employees I would review that video.  It turns out that there are six things that demotivate employees and fixing those does not mean that you will motivate them because the things that motivate them are different.  I would also buy Dan Pink’s book Click on the photo to order it on Amazon.com

 

How To Win By Being Second

The pace and complexity of change has accelerated to a level that it threatens to overwhelm us.  But, in a counterintuitive way it turns out that athletes, fighter pilots and businesses more often win by being a little slower and letting the opponent act first.

Speed is killing our decisions. The crush of technology forces us to snap react. We blink, when we should think. E-mail, social media, and 24-hour news are relentless. Our time cycle gets faster every day.

If every one else moves too quickly, we can win by going slow.…More at Act Fast, but Not Necessarily First – Frank Partnoy – Harvard

 

 

Here is what I would do:

Here is another 4 point discussion to have with my key managers.  What are we observing?  What is it telling us?  Where is the open water?  Then decide.  For many this will be the first time.  Decide.  Unlike a military encounter you probably won’t die.  Try some small things first.  Give them some time.  But kill them if they don’t work.  ACT on your decisions.  I will guarantee one thing.  Have one little success and you will want more.

Learn How To Listen

Listening is an important skill for all of us.  I like the techniques this article discusses.  Especially dividing the paper into notes and key points.  Think I will try that.

As the up-and-coming vice president and CEO candidate for a Fortune 500 technology corporation sat before the CEO for his annual review, he was baffled to discover that the feedback from his peers, customers, direct reports, and particularly from board members placed unusual emphasis on one potentially devastating problem: his listening deficit. This executive was widely considered among the best and brightest in his company, but it was evident that this issue needed immediate attention if he ever hoped to advance to the top spot.

of them has a listening deficit…More at The Discipline of Listening – Ram Charan – Harvard Business Review

Maybe It’s Time To Start A New Fight

In light of the recent Aurora sale this article really caught my attention.  It gives me a perspective I hadn’t quite thought of for breaking out of our current rut.

All winners lose. The market leader is a dead man walking. The incumbent is cursed with inevitable failure. That seems to be the prevailing sentiment among many in the investment and journalism worlds: The smart money, they argue, bets against the incumbent. Their surmise: The world will change. The reigning corporation will fail to adjust. The right thing to do? Short them (assume that their share price will fall). Short the winners. Bet against those who flourish. Because all winners must lose, and sooner than we think.

I have heard this argument before, but for the first time I am hearing it argued as something unobjectionably and manifestly true. At some point in the last 10 years, “short the incumbent” had gone from being a daring proposition to received wisdom. There is evidence, to be sure. Of the top 25 corporations listed in Fortune in 2000, only 12 were still there in 2010. Let’s put this another way: in the decade between 2000 to 2010, half the winners lost….More at Every Company Should Build a Second Corporation – Grant

What I would Do:

Most of us can’t afford to start a second corporation and invest the resources in it but we can pretend by creating a team within our team that focuses, in concept, in that way.  Kind of like the crow’s nest on an old sailing ship. Lookouts always looking for land.  Always looking forward, thinking about how we need to reinvent ourselves and then when and if necessary beginning the process as pathfinders.  Even the smallest of us can do that.  Think of it this way:  If I own the Smith Funeral Home.  I can have within it a concept group (a skunk works if you will) I call the Tomorrow Group that meets regularly to think about future things and assumes that today will not last. This group needs to read and travel to experience different things.  For instance, my friend Ernie Heffner used to send up and coming funeral directors with their wives to weekends with their wives to luxury hotels.  Sounds great doesn’t it.  But his purpose was twofold: 1. to expose them to first class treatment most had never received and 2. have them formally report to the others ideas they had gotten for improving service back at the funeral home from their experience at the hotel.  In a way it was pretty cheap training and think about what it did for morale.  

The Social Life of Brands: Understanding How Customers Think About You

 

Connecting with customers used to be easy, now it seems incredibly complex.  So complex that, if you are like me, you start to shut down.  This article, entitled The Social Life of Brands, is not an easy read, but it is worthwhile if you want to start seeing your customers in a new way and a new perspective.

…this trend — the increasing use of social engagement by marketers — to the rise of online social media: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, fan sites, and social marketing websites (also known as private-label media) created by companies themselves. But the trend represents a more fundamental change in marketing practice, linked to insights from social psychology, behavioral economics, and neuroscience and brain research. Every form of interaction between companies and consumers — taking place online and offline, in stores and over mobile devices, in branded content and by word of mouth, and indeed through all direct consumer experience — is now understood to be shaped by the social nature of brands.

As marketers put this insight into practice in sophisticated ways, a one-way message or image can no longer compete. The value of a brand is linked to the relationships it fosters: the social connections among people who buy the product or service. Managing these connections at every scale, from an individual contact to a message that reaches millions of people, is the fundamental task of marketing today.

With the right conditions in place, a brand can move beyond a purely transaction-based relationship to become a platform for an experience that feels like friendship. Great marketers have known how to do this for decades, of course, but it is now possible to make authentic connections more consistently. Tapping into the social nature of a brand this way means thinking differently about the expectations that consumers have for the product or service, their view of the company that produces it, and the values they share about it. Some marketers, like Whole Foods, Ikea, and eBay, are consciously evoking a shift in attitude that grew more prominent in the Great Recession: a desire for less acquisition of goods (or even experiences), and for more meaningful, lasting forms of fulfillment. Companies that promise simplicity, connection, and sustainable benefits can gain the most from this shift — but only if they deliver….More at The Social Life of Brands – strategy+business

What I Would Do:

Years ago a couple of fellows by the names of Ries and Trout wrote a book named “Positioning”.  It’s a classic strategy book and I recommend it strongly.  In it they describe what they call a consumer ladder.  Basically, all vendors are given a rank by consumers on a preference ladder with the vendor or product on the top rung typically holding twice as much market share as the next product and so on and so on.  I talked once with Al Riess and asked if they had ever done any work in funeral service.  He said they had and it was among the most interesting they had ever done.  It was the only market where there was only one rung on the consumer ladder.  A funeral home was either on it or not.  So “top-of-mind” awareness is king.  I understood right then and there that regular unabated advertising, not buildings, was the key to building market share…assuming you have the right message of course.