When and to whom should you say thanks

In an insightful book written by Robert Caildini called Influence, he cites several studies that provide evidence that people tend to have a mindless reciprocity reflex.  For example in one study Christmas cards were sent at random to a bunch of people who the researched did not know and the great majority of recipients sent him a card back.

It is common practice for professionals to send their clients a Christmas card.  This is a nice gesture and one that is wholeheartedly endorsed by Hallmark.  However, to the extent that everyone does it I believe it loses its intended meaning, that being to let people know you are thinking of them.  This is made worse when you get two (or more) cards from the same firm each signed by the same people and you know they have been at their desk late into the night busily signing a pile of 500 cards and wishing they could be at home.

There is a wonderful traditional universal holiday in the US called Thanksgiving (the last Thursday in November).  It is my favorite holiday of the year simply because it really is a time when people get together and give thanks (and not gifts) for all the good things they have in their life–especially family but also circumstance.  In my view this should be the time of the year we send a card, or some other form of thanks to the people – clients, team members, firm partners and strategic alliance partners – who we want to thank for the contribution they have made to our life.

If you’re not in the US then create your own Thanksgiving Day – it might be the day your firm was founded, or your country’s National Day, or your Birthday but whatever day you choose, make it a day you can relate to with a sense of gratitude.  The other thing you could do of course, is to spontaneously send a gratitude card or note your valued clients, partners, team members etc at random.  For example, set aside an hour a month and send out 10 notes – I suspect it’ll be the best relationship (read marketing) exercise you do during the entire month.

If Caildini and the other researches in this space are correct (and from my own experience they are) you will probably see the mindless reciprocity reflex characteristic of people kick in.  This will take the form of closer relationships and loyalty with clients, more referrals, greater team loyalty and motivation and one more extremely important thing …. even if none of these outcomes happen in the short term you will feel happier simply because you sent a nice positive message to someone you know. See the recent Harvard Business Review (Jan-Feb 2012) article called Positive Intelligence.

Six pieces of advice you can give (and take) in a slow economy

I was reading the April, 2012 editing of Inc. magazine this morning and came across an interesting article that I think all people in business would benefit from reading. It was titled Fast Growth in a Slow Economy and suggested 5 strategies to grow sales when people aren’t too interested in buying. I’ve added a 6th strategy and that is, Continue reading “Six pieces of advice you can give (and take) in a slow economy”

Superior performance is not an accident

At various times over the years I have had privileged access to inter-firm comparison data for the Profession. A couple of things jump of the page from my analyses: (1) firms with the highest net profit per partner (let’s say top 5%) get there through a variety of legitimate strategies; Continue reading “Superior performance is not an accident”

Take a look at this firm’s advertisement through the eyes of a customer or prospect

There’s a session we do at Boot Camp where we talk about the issue of differentiation in the context of positioning and ask participants to list the services or activities their firm offers that represent customer value propositions.

Predictably, the list is long but we rarely see anything on it that other firms don’t do, could not do or represent something of real value to a client.  People buy, or are at least interested in, differences and yet the typical menu of services offered by accounting practices in print or on the web reflect sameness.  How can you expect a prospect to think about switching to your firm if you are not different in a way that is likely to be more valuable than your current service provider? Continue reading “Take a look at this firm’s advertisement through the eyes of a customer or prospect”

It’s what you believe not what you sell that’s important

After Steve Jobs announced he needed to take leave for medical reasons back in January 2009, Tim Cook, as interim CEO, was asked by an analyst whether he expected to be the permanent CEO.  According to a post by Bill Taylor on the Harvard Blog site, Cook did not answer the question directly but instead said …

“We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products, and that’s not changing,” Cook declared.

“We believe in the simple not the complex…We believe in saying no to thousands of products, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us,” he added.

“We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in ways other cannot…And I think that regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well,” he concluded.

Success in life and in business really does turn on why we do what we do.  It’s the core values we hold close that determine how we organize ourselves and our business.  On reading Cook’s statement of their fundamental beliefs it’s absolutely clear what their competitive strategy is. It’s unequivocal.

Once the “why” is clear – we are here to make great products; the “what” logically follows –  focus on a few products that are meaningful and important; and from there the “how” becomes self-evident – deep collaboration and cross-pollination to innovate in ways others cannot — that’s Apples’ competitive advantage.

What do you want your business legacy to be?

When Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard graduated from Stanford in 1937 they decided to start a new business. They subsequently memorialized their early discussions in a set of “founding notes” which, in relation to the question of what they were going to actually produce, simply mentioned “we want to direct our efforts toward making important technical contributions to the advancement of science, industry, and human welfare.”   The question of what to manufacture was noted in the meeting minutes in the following way … “The question of what to manufacture was postponed.” Continue reading “What do you want your business legacy to be?”

Strategy in times of rapid change

A typical definition of the word strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a vision, the two key words being “plan” and “vision”.  I’ve been talking about strategy a lot lately because I believe the lack of a coherent strategy is the barrier that prevents firms from achieving their full potential.  They either lack a vision, they lack a plan of action or they lack both.  In other words they lack a strategy. Continue reading “Strategy in times of rapid change”

Do you have an elevator speech?

You need to be able too win over prospects in 118 seconds – 8 seconds to hook them and 110 seconds to reel them in according to Jeffrey Hayzlett.  In the April, 2012 edition of Success Magazine Hayzlett describes how to structure your speech. Continue reading “Do you have an elevator speech?”

Your edge quickly becomes the margin

The purpose of developing and implementing a competitive strategy is to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.  Competitive advantage means the firm earns higher-than-average industry profit.  There are potentially as many successful strategies as there ideas for getting an edge.  However, some strategies are easily copied and the edge quickly becomes the margin.   Continue reading “Your edge quickly becomes the margin”