Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What "Made To Stick" taught me about speaking to high school students...

A few months ago, I volunteered to speak at my former high school, Ashbury College, about e-marketing and e-business.

It was a career day activity that involved grade 10 students where they signed up for sessions to hear about careers they might be interested in.  I was paired with Omar Sheikh, the CEO of eBargainBuddies.  We were told that we'd have 30 minutes total with three separate groups of students.  Omar and I spoke on the phone in advance and planned out our presentation.  We made a PowerPoint slide deck and decided that he's start the presentation with a top 5 reasons why you should get into e-marketing and e-business, tell them about himself and then he's throw to me and I would introduce myself and give a breakdown of e-marketing.  Omar would then finish up with 5 minutes on social media, eBargainBuddies and some advice and we'd come in at 20 minutes with 10 mins left for questions.

I have to say that I think Omar and I did a really good job of preparing.  We made an interesting deck, switched up who was talking and did our best to make our presentation as lively and interesting as possible.  We recommended they do something they are passionate about, get started as soon as they want and try to have as much fun as possible doing it.  I used Perez Hilton as an example in some of the things that I was talking about in an attempt to make it more relevant to them.  In the end, I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

A short while after the presentation, I started reading Chip and Dan Heath's "Made To Stick" and I kept thinking back to the presentation and how I could have applied what I was reading to that presentation.

I won't go into detail, because I think everyone should read the book, but it says that ideas stick when they display any number of the following characteristics:

  • Simplicity
  • Unexpectedness
  • Concreteness
  • Credibility
  • Emotional
  • Stories
As I read the book I kept thinking back to the presentation and wondering what I might have done differently.

Here's a few:

Unexpectedness - Although we did a top 5 reasons to get into emarketing/ebusiness slide at the start, I would have done something much more unexpected and shared a piece of trivia that asked them to answer a question or something fun where the answer was completely unexpected.  I could have been something interesting about Facebook or something else that might have grabbed a bit harder at the start of the presentation.

Concreteness: Here I should have used the story of Perez Hilton to illustrate what and how somebody could go about getting to emarketing and ebusiness instead of just using it as an example in a few places.  I think that the Perez Hilton story really interesting and I think it shows how an average person can transform a simple blog into a multi-million dollar business.  Actually, emarketing/ebusiness is loaded with stories just like that of Perez and I could have picked any number of stories to use this idea of concreteness.  

Credibility: I believe that this is an important concept for any idea but when dealing with teenagers, I think credibility is key.  I learned this from many years of coaching tennis/skiing but I also learned it the say of the presentation when I told them I was their gym teacher's brother in law (instant credibility).  In this area, I could have shared some quotes from prominent figures about ebusiness/emarketing that might have helped them understand the ideas and concepts we were talking about (making more concrete) were in fact real and achievable by almost anyone with a little hard work.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What you can learn from Lisa Lavie...

Youtube is celebrating its 5 year anniversary this week.  I remember pretty clearly when I first saw Youtube back in early 2006.  Back then it was just a collection of silly videos people were doing for attention and while in some ways, not much has changed, it has been interesting to see it grow into the second most mentioned brand on Twitter and earning upwards of 2 billion views a day.

Perhaps later this week, I'll post some of my favorite clips but for now, I'd like to share what you can learn from Lisa Lavie, the Youtube singing sensation who's story is featured as part of Youtube's 5th.

1) Don't wait to start:  Lisa started her career with nothing but her cashier savings.  In today's world, there is no point waiting for somebody to tell you that you can do something.  Get out there and do it.

2) Connect:  Lisa takes the time to respond to everyone who posts comments.  It's not some automated robot like those people who have auto-replies answering follow messages in Twitter, it's actually Lisa that does that work.  People respond to people, not machines.

3) Give back:  What did Lisa do with her network of fans and peers?  She organized them to raise money for the earthquake victims in Haiti.  More and more the idea of giving back is starting to be the primary, if not secondary reason why people use social platforms like Youtube.  Use what you have to give back.

Friday, May 14, 2010

All of a Sudden, It's All About Privacy

My feelings towards Facebook are fairly well documented and quite widely known.  And as much as I would love to see it go down the drain, I have to admit that I am growing more skeptical that it is ever going to go the way of Myspace.

One of the reasons I have always felt the way I feel towards Facebook is their handling of privacy.  Which unless you've been living under a rock, has been the big subject this week.  Because I love his blog, I'll point you to George Parker's (warning, language) summary here.  I should also mention that some of my favorite podcasts had AMAZING discussions on the matter that are well worth a listen if you'd like to hear some highly informed and well thought out discussion on the issues.  Here is the best one I listened to this week.  Take the time and listen for SURE.

Privacy on Facebook tends not to be a huge issue for me personally because I have always been careful with my privacy settings.  I don't share many of my albums, I have my profile fairly well locked down (my gf complains about this often) and I generally review my settings often to make sure they are the way I want them.  I am also fairly vocal to my friends about Facebook privacy and like to remind them to review their settings.

The summary of my position at this point is this:  I think Facebook's approach to privacy (catering to the lower common denominator) is dangerous and wrong but the average person doesn't know enough or even care enough to leave the platform.  This means that while everyone will grumble, it will in the long run blow over.

At the same time, I think Facebook has stepped into a hornet's nest  and it better be careful how it walks in the future.   If the management is smart, they will take this as a wake up call.

The reason I say this is that until very recently, much of the chatter was kept inside "tech" circles and didn't really get heard by the general population that made up the bulk of Facebook users but I think that this is about to change.

Supposed transcripts of chats make for great stories and it is only a matter of time before the issue of Facebook's maverick approach to privacy is something that everyone knows about.  Even more importantly, it may soon be something the people that are NOT on Facebook hear about and something causes those on Facebook to leave.

The world we live in is changing.  Our lives are becoming increasingly shared and digital and for the longest amount of time, people's expectations of privacy had not caught up.

If you ask me, the winds of change are blowing and the only question now is where everyone will end up.

UPDATE: Here's a story from the BBC about Facebook calling an all-employees meeting on the issue.... so maybe they are listening.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Thoughts on Starting Out in Sales...

I'd like to share some thoughts on sales for those people who are considering or starting to make the jump into sales.  Sales can be extremely challenging but also extremely rewarding.  Here are some of my thoughts.
You Sell Everyday: Sales is all around us and we do it every day.  We sell ourselves and our ideas on a continual basis and I think that anyone getting into sales should take some time and think about how they sell themselves and/or their ideas and what works for them in a natural setting.  I learned that for me, it is important that I have a thorough understanding of what I'm selling because that breeds confidence in what I am talking about.  I need to feel like I am authority on my product or service category so that I can engage prospects on many different types of conversations and ultimately help take it to my product or service.

Do Your Homework:  I'll say it again - there has never been so much amazing information available for free.  Do some research and find sites and podcasts about selling.  I mention a few here.  Listen to them and take what you feel will apply to your situation.  You'd be surprised how quickly you can improve using information available for free.

Get Motivated:  I believe that sales is as much about being motivated as anything else.  There are lots of people out there who go to work everyday and can sit in a cubicle and avoid talking to people all day.  In sales, you're not moving opportunities forward or closing deals in less you are talking to people and every time you do this, you have to bring your A game.  I'd say a good 25% of the sales materials that I read are about attitude and motivation so if you haven't figured out what gets your heart pumping.... you better!

Develop a System:  While every sales interaction is going to present something different, I think it is important to develop a system to how you sell.  Everything from keeping track of leads to how you follow up should be made in a system that works for you.  I'm sure that it is going to be different for everyone but make sure that your system is manageable and can scale as you get busier.

Get a Mentor: Personally, I don't have a mentor in sales at this moment, but this is one of the next things on my list.  I have spoken to many a sales professional that tells me getting into a mentor relationship with a seasoned sales veteran will help you set goals and stick to them.  It always helps to have somebody looking over your shoulder and giving you the encouragement you need to be successful.

What are some of your secrets to sales success?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Doing The Trade Show

Sorry that I haven't been posting too much lately, things have been busy at work.  I should mention that I have still been thinking about some blog posts and there should be a few good ones on the way soon.

I spent a few days in Toronto last week at the LLHA show.  I did some fundraising at an event on Friday and then painted floors at a cottage all weekend.  LLHA stands for Luggage, Leather Goods, Handbags and Accessories.  I was at the show to get a feel for the luggage industry, to meet current retail partners and of course, to meet some new ones. 

The luggage business has been through a few years of declining sales.  Some reports suggest sales in the luggage and travel accessories business is down between 20 and 30%, depending on the sub-category.   Regardless, things appear to be picking up and by all accounts, this year's show was bigger than last year's show.   There were more suppliers displaying product and more buyers there to make purchases. 

There was a seminar that presented the current state of the accessories business with some good insight from an industry analyst and I summarized that on my company's blog

A former colleague of mine has a good post about some things he learned at a recent trade show.  Worth a read for sure but here are some of my thoughts on trade shows. 

You Gotta Display:  My company didn't have a booth because we didn't meet the criterial (we should for next year) but if you're going to be a trade show, and the people you want to talk to are the ones walking the aisles, then you should display.  If you're there to meet with potential partners, and they are displaying then I think you can get away without having a booth.  The reason I am saying this is that it can be really hard or close to impossible to find people on the floor.  In my case, many of the people I wanted to talk to had appointments at booths for discuss orders so they didn't spend too much time walking the show floor.

It's All About Lunch:  I ended up doing some good networking in the lunch area.  People are relaxed and everyone is gathered in one area.  Just be sure to be respectful of the fact that people are taking a break so don't take up to much of their time.

Keep Your Head on a Swivel: Trade shows are a complete attack on your senses and things will be happening all around you at all times.  I recommend that you work hard to keep your head moving at all times because you never know when opportunities will come your way.  I met potential partners in the elevators, lobby and in the shuttle on my way to and from the show each day.  Business doesn't start and end on the show floor!

I was a great few days in Toronto (I used to live there) but I'm glad to be back in Ottawa.  More posts coming this week so get ready...