DISTILL YOUR MESSAGE TO AS FEW WORDS AS POSSIBLE

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Nov 26, 2012

Distill Your Message to as Few Words as Possible

Your customers are constantly being bombarded with new information. Simplicity has never been more powerful.


It’s amazing how complex our lives have become.  Nothing’s simple anymore.  Think about it.  Even your Facebook page has a million things going on.  The increase in complexity has led to a decrease in focus.  It’s hard to know what even matters anymore.

Well the same is true for your customers.  The noise is so deafening sometimes that your most important message can easily get lost in the shuffle.  What are you trying to tell me?  What do I need to know about you and your products?  What is it you want me to remember about you, your company?

Everybody’s talking at once, saying so much, that customers can no longer remember what we started talking about in the first place.  Tweets are flying through the atmosphere as thick as a flock of birds, filling minds with an endless stream of useless information, and crowding out the few things that were really worth knowing.

Why is this so important?  Because the world is noisier now than it’s ever been, the competition is tougher and more global, and your customer is being bombarded around the clock with a massive stream of messaging that makes it ever more difficult to remember you and your company.

What can you do about it?  Focus on simplicity.  To be truly memorable, to be the one product or service that people remember when the dust settles, you need to narrow down your message, streamline your sentences, cut out all the fluff, and deliver one–yes, just one–strong, simple message, and deliver it clearly and concisely.

One of the most valuable skills in the world is the ability to explain complex concepts in simple, easy-to-understand terms.  Writing lots of words is easy.  Making your point with an absolute minimum number of words is really hard.  Yet it is so much more effective.  Mark Twain once said: “I would have written that shorter, but I didn’t have the time.”  Find the time.

Imagine you had a quick minute to tell a potential customer why he should do business with you.  Because in today’s world, that’s all you have anyway.  Write down what you want to say.  Now cross out as many words as you can, each time reading the sentence again to see if it still delivers the point you want to make.  Keep crossing out words until you have created the shortest sentence you possibly can.

Next, go to one person and deliver your simplified pitch.  As soon as you are done, have that person tell a person who wasn’t in the room what you just said.  The goal is this: if a person who hears your simple message can repeat it pretty accurately to the next person who asks what your company does, you’ve got it right.  If they don’t say exactly the words you want repeated–to build your brand and establish your company’s unique value–go back to the drawing board and simplify it some more.  Keep it brief, straightforward, and clear.  Eliminate any industry-specific jargon.  Avoid the noise and clutter.

There is an elegance in simplicity.  Simplicity does not mean removing features, benefits, or services from your product.  It means distilling what’s most importantabout those features, and explaining them in the fewest words possible.  Go ahead, write yours down, and get busy crossing things out.

(Admittedly, I probably could have written this column in only two paragraphs.)

Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of ColorJar, is a serial entrepreneur who was on the founding teams of Priceline.com and uBid.com. He is also a frequent public speaker on the topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership. @colorjar

 

5 Things That Really Smart People Do

Nov 14, 2012

5 Things That Really Smart People Do

Don’t get in the way of your own learning. Here are five ways to step aside and continue to increase your smarts.

Einstein

Most people don’t really think much about how they learn. Generally you assume learning comes naturally. You listen to someone speak either in conversation or in a lecture and you simply absorb what they are saying, right? Not really. In fact, I find as I get older that real learning takes more work. The more I fill my brain with facts, figures, and experience, the less room I have for new ideas and new thoughts. Plus, now I have all sorts of opinions that may refute the ideas being pushed at me. Like many people I consider myself a lifelong learner, but more and more I have to work hard to stay open minded.

But the need for learning never ends, so your desire to do so should always outweigh your desire to be right. The world is changing and new ideas pop up everyday; incorporating them into your life will keep you engaged and relevant. The following are the methods I use to stay open and impressionable. They’ll work for you too. No matter how old you get.

1. Quiet Your Inner Voice

You know the one I am talking about. It’s the little voice that offers a running commentary when you are listening to someone. It’s the voice that brings up your own opinion about the information being provided. It is too easy to pay more attention to the inner voice than the actual speaker. That voice often keeps you from listening openly for good information and can often make you shut down before you have heard the entire premise. Focus less on what your brain has to say and more on the speaker. You may be surprised at what you hear.

2. Argue With Yourself

If you can’t quiet the inner voice, then at least use it to your advantage. Every time you hear yourself contradicting the speaker, stop and take the other point of view. Suggest to your brain all the reasons why the speaker may be correct and you may be wrong. In the best case you may open yourself to the information being provided. Failing that, you will at least strengthen your own argument.

3. Act Like You Are Curious

Some people are naturally curious and others are not. No matter which category you are in you can benefit from behaving like a curious person. Next time you are listening to information, make up and write down three to five relevant questions. If you are in a lecture, Google them after for answers. If you are in a conversation you can ask the other person. Either way you’ll likely learn more, and the action of thinking up questions will help encode the concepts in your brain. As long as you’re not a cat you should benefit from these actions of curiosity.

4. Find the Kernel of Truth

No concept or theory comes out of thin air. Somewhere in the elaborate concept that sounds like complete malarkey there is some aspect that is based upon fact. Even if you don’t buy into the idea, you should at least identify the little bit of truth from whence it came. Play like a detective and build your own extrapolation. You’ll enhance your skills of deduction and may even improve the concept beyond the speaker’s original idea.

5. Focus on the Message Not the Messenger

Often people shut out learning due to the person delivering the material. Whether it’s a boring lecturer, someone physically unappealing, or a member of the opposite political party, the communicator can impact your learning. Even friends can disrupt the learning process since there may be too much history and familiarity to see them as an authority on a topic. Separate the material from the provider. Pretend you don’t know the person or their beliefs so you can hear the information objectively. As for the boring person, focus on tip two, three, or four as if it were a game, thereby creating your own entertainment.

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies@awesomeroar

8 Things Remarkably Successful People Do

8 Things Remarkably Successful People Do

The most successful people in business work differently. See what they do–and why it works.

runner winning raceGetty

I’m fortunate to know a number of remarkably successful people. I’ve described how these people share a set of specific perspectives and beliefs.

They also share a number of habits:

1. They don’t create back-up plans.

Back-up plans can help you sleep easier at night. Back-up plans can also create an easy out when times get tough.

You’ll work a lot harder and a lot longer if your primary plan simply has to work because there is no other option. Total commitment–without a safety net–will spur you to work harder than you ever imagined possible.

If somehow the worst does happen (and the “worst” is never as bad as you think) trust that you will find a way to rebound. As long as you keep working hard and keep learning from your mistakes, you always will.

2. They do the work…

You can be good with a little effort. You can be really good with a little more effort.

But you can’t be great–at anything–unless you put in an incredible amount of focused effort.

Scratch the surface of any person with rare skills and you’ll find a person who has put thousands of hours of effort into developing those skills.

There are no shortcuts. There are no overnight successes. Everyone has heard about the 10,000 hours principle but no one follows it… except remarkably successful people.

So start doing the work now. Time is wasting.

3.  …and they work a lot more.

Forget the Sheryl Sandberg “I leave every day at 5:30” stories. I’m sure she does. But she’s not you.

Every extremely successful entrepreneur I know (personally) works more hours than the average person–a lot more. They have long lists of things they want to get done. So they have to put in lots of time.

Better yet, they want to put in lots of time.

If you don’t embrace a workload others would consider crazy then your goal doesn’t mean that much to you–or it’s not particularly difficult to achieve. Either way you won’t be remarkably successful.

4. They avoid the crowds.

Conventional wisdom yields conventional results. Joining the crowd–no matter how trendy the crowd or “hot” the opportunity–is a recipe for mediocrity.

Remarkably successful people habitually do what other people won’t do. They go where others won’t go because there’s a lot less competition and a much greater chance for success.

5. They start at the end…

Average success is often based on setting average goals.

Decide what you really want: to be the best, the fastest, the cheapest, the biggest, whatever. Aim for the ultimate. Decide where you want to end up. That is your goal.

Then you can work backwards and lay out every step along the way.

Never start small where goals are concerned. You’ll make better decisions–and find it much easier to work a lot harder–when your ultimate goal is ultimate success.

6. … and they don’t stop there.

Achieving a goal–no matter how huge–isn’t the finish line for highly successful people. Achieving one huge goal just creates a launching pad for achieving another huge goal.

Maybe you want to create a $100 million business; once you do you can leverage your contacts and influence to create a charitable foundation for a cause you believe in. Then your business and humanitarian success can create a platform for speaking, writing, and thought leadership. Then…

The process of becoming remarkably successful in one field will give you the skills and network to be remarkably successful in many other fields.

Remarkably successful people don’t try to win just one race. They expect and plan to win a number of subsequent races.

7. They sell.

I once asked a number of business owners and CEOs to name the one skill they felt contributed the most to their success. Each said the ability to sell.

Keep in mind selling isn’t manipulating, pressuring, or cajoling. Selling is explaining the logic and benefits of a decision or position. Selling is convincing other people to work with you. Selling is overcoming objections and roadblocks.

Selling is the foundation of business and personal success: knowing how to negotiate, to deal with “no,” to maintain confidence and self-esteem in the face of rejection, to communicate effectively with a wide range of people, to build long-term relationships…

When you truly believe in your idea, or your company, or yourself then you don’t need to have a huge ego or a huge personality. You don’t need to “sell.”

You just need to communicate.

8. They are never too proud.

To admit they made a mistake. To say they are sorry. To have big dreams. To admit they owe their success to others. To poke fun at themselves. To ask for help.

To fail.

And to try again.
Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden

The most successful people in business approach their work differently than most. See how they think–and why it works.man holding a picture of a blooming treeGettyI’m fortunate enough to know a number of remarkably successful people. Regardless of industry or profession, they all share the same perspectives and beliefs.

And they act on those beliefs:

1. Time doesn’t fill me. I fill time.

Deadlines and time frames establish parameters, but typically not in a good way. The average person who is given two weeks to complete a task will instinctively adjust his effort so it actually takes two weeks.

Forget deadlines, at least as a way to manage your activity. Tasks should only take as long as they need to take. Do everything as quickly and effectively as you can. Then use your “free” time to get other things done just as quickly and effectively.

Average people allow time to impose its will on them; remarkable people impose their will on their time.

2. The people around me are the people I chose.

Some of your employees drive you nuts. Some of your customers are obnoxious. Some of your friends are selfish, all-about-me jerks.

You chose them. If the people around you make you unhappy it’s not their fault. It’s your fault. They’re in your professional or personal life because you drew them to you–and you let them remain.

Think about the type of people you want to work with. Think about the types of customers you would enjoy serving. Think about the friends you want to have.

Then change what you do so you can start attracting those people. Hardworking people want to work with hardworking people. Kind people like to associate with kind people. Remarkable employees want to work for remarkable bosses.

Successful people are naturally drawn to successful people.

3. I have never paid my dues.

Dues aren’t paid, past tense. Dues get paid, each and every day. The only real measure of your value is the tangible contribution you make on a daily basis.

No matter what you’ve done or accomplished in the past, you’re never too good to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and do the grunt work.  No job is ever too menial, no task ever too unskilled or boring.

Remarkably successful people never feel entitled–except to the fruits of their labor.

4. Experience is irrelevant. Accomplishments are everything.

You have “10 years in the Web design business.” Whoopee. I don’t care how long you’ve been doing what you do. Years of service indicate nothing; you could be the worst 10-year programmer in the world.

I care about what you’ve done: how many sites you’ve created, how many back-end systems you’ve installed, how many customer-specific applications you’ve developed (and what kind)… all that matters is what you’ve done.

Successful people don’t need to describe themselves using hyperbolic adjectives like passionate, innovative, driven, etc. They can just describe, hopefully in a humble way, what they’ve done.

5. Failure is something I accomplish; it doesn’t just happen to me.

Ask people why they have been successful. Their answers will be filled with personal pronouns: I, me, and the sometimes too occasional we.

Ask them why they failed. Most will revert to childhood and instinctively distance themselves, like the kid who says, “My toy got broken…” instead of, “I broke my toy.”

They’ll say the economy tanked. They’ll say the market wasn’t ready. They’ll say their suppliers couldn’t keep up.

They’ll say it was someone or something else.

And by distancing themselves, they don’t learn from their failures.

Occasionally something completely outside your control will cause you to fail. Most of the time, though, it’s you. And that’s okay. Every successful person has failed. Numerous times. Most of them have failed a lot more often than you. That’s why they’re successful now.

Embrace every failure: Own it, learn from it, and take full responsibility for making sure that next time, things will turn out differently.

6. Volunteers always win.

Whenever you raise your hand you wind up being asked to do more.

That’s great. Doing more is an opportunity: to learn, to impress, to gain skills, to build new relationships–to do something more than you would otherwise been able to do.

Success is based on action. The more you volunteer, the more you get to act. Successful people step forward to create opportunities.

Remarkably successful people sprint forward.

7. As long as I’m paid well, it’s all good.

Specialization is good. Focus is good. Finding a niche is good.

Generating revenue is great.

Anything a customer will pay you a reasonable price to do–as long as it isn’t unethical, immoral, or illegal–is something you should do. Your customers want you to deliver outside your normal territory? If they’ll pay you for it, fine. They want you to add services you don’t normally include? If they’ll pay you for it, fine. The customer wants you to perform some relatively manual labor and you’re a high-tech shop? Shut up, roll ’em up, do the work, and get paid.

Only do what you want to do and you might build an okay business. Be willing to do what customers want you to do and you can build a successful business.

Be willing to do even more and you can build a remarkable business.

And speaking of customers…

8. People who pay me always have the right to tell me what to do.

Get over your cocky, pretentious, I-must-be-free-to-express-my-individuality self. Be that way on your own time.

The people who pay you, whether customers or employers, earn the right to dictate what you do and how you do it–sometimes down to the last detail.

Instead of complaining, work to align what you like to do with what the people who pay you want you to do.

Then you turn issues like control and micro-management into non-issues.

9. The extra mile is a vast, unpopulated wasteland.

Everyone says they go the extra mile. Almost no one actually does. Most people who go there think, “Wait… no one else is here… why am I doing this?” and leave, never to return.

That’s why the extra mile is such a lonely place.

That’s also why the extra mile is a place filled with opportunities.

Be early. Stay late. Make the extra phone call. Send the extra email. Do the extra research. Help a customer unload or unpack a shipment. Don’t wait to be asked; offer. Don’t just tell employees what to do–show them what to do and work beside them.

Every time you do something, think of one extra thing you can do–especially if other people aren’t doing that one thing. Sure, it’s hard.

But that’s what will make you different.

And over time, that’s what will make you incredibly successful.
Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden

ASK THE CAPITALIST: CAN I CONNECT LINKEDIN AND TWITTER TO REDUCE MY NEED TO POST TWICE?

November 06, 2012

Ask the Capitalist: Can I Connect LinkedIn and Twitter to Reduce My Need To Post Twice?

Smart people try to look for hacks that automate work.  For example, if you’re trying to create a relevant social content stream as a candidate, manager or recruiter, it make sense to answer the following question:

“Kris:

I do updates to build my professional brand on both Twitter and LinkedIn.  I don’t mind doing this, but since the updates are pretty much the same, it would be great if I could update one and it automatically updated the other.  For example, is it possible to set it up so if I post to Twitter it automatically shows up on my LinkedIn account as an update?”

-Christine

—————————-

Hi Christine –

I like the way you’re thinking.  You’re experimenting with the social tools and are looking for ways to be everywhere without taking the time to be everywhere.  Well played.   The answer is…. maybe.  In June of 2012, Twitter announced an end to their partnership that allowed users to sync updates from the two sites. According to Twitter, the site is increasingly focused on “proving the core Twitter consumption experience through a consistent set of products and tools.” This essentially means that LinkedIn users can no longer automatically sync their tweets to publish on LinkedIn.

Boo.  That sucked.  It was all Twitter’s fault, not LinkedIn’s.

Buffer screen shot

Users like you are now be forced to post their LinkedIn updates separately. Or, how LinkedIn positions it, “Simply compose your update, check the box with the Twitter icon, and click ‘Share.’ This will automatically push your update to both your LinkedIn connections and your Twitter followers just as you’ve been able to do previously.”

Basically, users can post from LinkedIn and have that message go out to its Twitter following, but not vice versa.

So no automatic API exists, so doing the manual dance above is one way to deal with it.

The other way?  Use a 3rd party tool like Buffer or HootSuite that allows you to link all your social accounts to the same account, then do an update and select all the social accounts that you want that update to appear on.  This type of system allows you to control your digital life, do one update and blast it out, and even time when you want it to show on each social account.  It’s a better way to deal with it.  The picture to the right of this post is a screenshot from Buffer, where I’m sharing a cool HR website via a social update, then sharing it across twitter and LinkedIn at the same time.

No direct API from twitter to LinkedIn?  Just another example of the man trying to hold us down.  Buffer doesn’t care.  Kind of like the Honey Badger.

-KD

3 Questions to Help You Answer “How Effective Are You at Work?”

3 Questions to Help You Answer “How Effective Are You at Work?”

Effective

Once a quarter or so, I find it valuable to step back and ask: How am I doing?

Otherwise, you can end up consumed by work for years at a time and not be really happy, or not be really getting anywhere. So it’s helpful to take some time to step back and check in with yourself.

Here are three (3) questions for success:

Question 1: Am I delivering on or ahead of expectations?

Judge yourself. Don’t wait for a performance review. I spent 23 years reporting to managers — and I did my own performance review 17 of those years.

Once you confirm that you are indeed delivering great results, then check:

  • Are you clear about the business value your work provides?
  • Could you be working in a way to add even more value?

One of the reasons people get stuck is that they think delivering on their job description is enough to get ahead. It’s not. That lets you keep the job you have now.

To get ahead you need to do more than what’s in your job description.

You need to figure out what else to do and then you need to do it. Don’t wait for your manager or someone else to tell you that you need to do this.

Don’t be held hostage by your job description.

If your job description is defined in a small and narrow way, then it’s up to you to figure out how to add more value. Also, you need to figure out how to get your job done without using up all your time and energy. You need to make room to do the extra stuff. (Lots of techniques for how to do all of this in my book RISE).

Question 2: What am I known-for at work?

Another big reason some people get stuck (while others get ahead), is that they forget to think about how they are showing up at work. Once you are convinced that you are contributing work that the business values, you need to ask yourself, “Can anyone see it?”

The most successful people find ways to create visibility for their work and for themselves and their teams.

I have been having this conversation lately with people from new college grads, to executives trying to step into CEO positions, and pretty much everyone in between.

  • You have a personal brand whether you know or it not.
  • Find out what people think of you — or find out if you are invisible.
  • Then, plot a course to manage what you are known for on purpose.

The challenge is that the work itself will take up all of your time and energy if you let it. And managing your reputation does not seem like your day job. So it’s helpful to think about building your credibility as part of your day job. And it’s true because high credibility makes your more effective in your work.

People with high credibility and strong personal brands get more done.

They are trusted. They are faced with fewer challenges and fewer stupid questions about, ”Why did you choose that? Why does this cost so much? Did you evaluate that other thing? How do you know this will work?”

People with high credibility get to go faster. They don’t need to spend so much time defending their honor (and their budget). They are permitted to just GO, without justifying every expense and every decision.

You can’t build credibility if you are invisible.

It’s the difference between getting the work done, and showing yourself as leading the effort, communicating effectively, and connecting with your peers in a meaningful way. What more can you be doing to show up as personally leading strategy and making a difference. What do you want to be known for?

Some people call this political and think it’s a waste of time, so they opt out. They expect their reputation to thrive and grow on their results alone. Some people even feel that it’s much more important to NOT call attention to themselves. That is fine, but if you choose the invisible path, don’t be discouraged or upset if you get passed over.

Showing up is not about bragging, it’s about leading – you can be humble, and still show up as having a strong personal brand — and the stronger you show up, the better you’ll be at your job.

Question 3: Is what I’m doing setting me up for where I want to go?

First, ask yourself if you know where you want to go. What do you want all this work to amount to? What kind of role? What level? Geography? Business area?

Once you decide what it is you want, you need to consider the following:

  • Is the work I am doing getting me the experience I need to get to the job I ultimately want? It’s up to you to make sure you are getting the experiences which will get you access to the kind of roles you want in the future. This is what career development is really about — deciding what you want to do next, then getting experience in that job before you are in it. You also need to pay attention to how you are perceived relative to the role you want.
  • Am I someone who is known for being a good fit for kind of job that I want? If not, you’ve got some work to do. This gets back to the question of how you are showing up. In addition to getting the right experience, you need to make sure that you are getting known as someone who is a good fit for the kind of job you want.

Find experiences beyond your current job, and then make connections with people in the places you want to be later. Make sure they can see you doing the new work.

Succeed on purpose

Most people who succeed do not do so by accident. They don’t just work hard and rely on their results to be admired, and expect to be “discovered” and ushered into the next big thing. They get there by managing how they invest their time and managing what they are known for.

This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work and LIKE Your Life.

Patty Azzarello is the founder and CEO of Azzarello Group patty.