November 27, 2016


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


1. Building Customer Loyalty

There are frequent complaints from business owners and executives that customer loyalty is dead — that in the age of the Internet, the concept is outdated.

But Toronto consultant Donald Cooper insists that’s dead wrong.

“The truth is people are desperately searching for products, services, experiences and businesses to be loyal to in every part of their business and their personal lives. To change one’s supplier of almost anything from haircuts to heavy equipment is stressful and disruptive and we’d rather find one supplier we can trust and stick with them,” he writes in his e-newsletter.

Ignore the books on the topic. He boils it down to one sentence: “People are loyal to what’s best for them… or what they assume is best for them.”

If you aren’t obtaining the loyalty you long for, he offers two reasons:

  • You are currently not “the best” for anyone and, thus, not the wise choice. “Stop whining that people are different today, take responsibility for the problem and do the work. Understand who your target customers are and what life’s really like for them. Then create compelling value and extraordinary experiences that will ‘grab’ those customers while clearly differentiating you from your competitors,” he advises.
  • You’re the best for a particular group of people but have done a lousy job of communicating that fact to them. Again, you have some work to do. If it’s any consolation, he says that if you’re delivering compelling value, then compelling communication should be easy.


2. Motivating Introverts And Extroverts

Your workplace could be divided into introverts and extroverts, each group requiring a different approach to motivation.

For introverts, blogger Colin Christensen suggests on Life Optimizer:

  • Let them set their own pace: Introverts don’t perform well under pressure, and tend to get slower when being rushed. So try to give them a deadline for work ahead of time and leave them to figure out the pace.
  • Give them space: Put them as far away from other people as possible, since they need that physical distance.
  • Assign solitary tasks: Yes, we live in a world of teams but they need work they can do on their own.

Also, give them clear instructions, since introverts are deliberative and work best in a predictable environment; and acknowledge good work, since they relish acknowledgement as long as it doesn’t require standing up in front of colleagues.

For extroverts:

  • Challenge them: Extroverts love attention and challenges. They know that if there’s pressure to perform and they ace it, you’ll be paying attention.
  • Put them in charge: They love to be front and centre.
  • Give them their head: Extroverts like to control their environment, and will often chafe at too many restrictions. Give those who are competent the broad outline of what you need and let them figure out an approach.

Also, acknowledge them in public —they love the attention— and allow them to express their thoughts in meetings, so they feel valued.

Understanding these differences can improve productivity.


3. Web Design Mistakes To Avoid

Web design has become flashier and more intricate over the years, but the main problems are enduring. Usability specialists from the Nielsen Norman Group report these problems:

  • Unexpected locations for content: Many sites offer poor category names that don’t adequately describe the content each holds or they are arranged based on how the company rather than the user thinks about the subject.
  • Competing links and categories: Often users can’t clearly distinguish between similar navigational categories or links, especially when multiple sections or pages could address a specific information need. That forces them to explore each category or make a best guess.
  • Islands of information: Be careful about offering small bits of information scattered around your site, with little or no connection between them. “When users find one such island of information without links to other related information, they have no reason to think that another area of the site offers supplementary material. If people need additional information, they may move to a competitor’s site or to Google to acquire it,” Nielsen Norman warns.


4. The Pyramid Of Employee Questions

Communications consultant David Grossman says on the YourThoughtPartner site that employees have eight questions they want you to answer. Those questions are ranked like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid, so that the lower-level needs must be addressed before the more complex levels of thought can be tackled. Here they are, from the top:

  • How can I help?
  • What’s our vision and values?
  • How are we doing?
  • What’s our business strategy?
  • What’s going on?
  • Does anyone care about me?
  • How am I doing?
  • What’s my job?


5. Zingers

  • Straighten up and get going: Here’s an unexpected way to improve productivity: Don’t slouch.  Journalist Michael Grothaus found that slouching at his desk, before his computer, encouraged procrastination. When he focused for a week on sitting up straight —and yes, it was hard— he cut the time spent before starting work from 10 minutes to one, as he has more energy and positive thoughts. (Source: FastCompany.com)
  • Cultivate for the future: One hiring practice most companies ignore is developing a “most wanted list,” says recruiting expert John Sullivan. They seek employees when an immediate need develops rather than finding desirable candidates over time and building a relationship of trust for when the day comes they can be brought on board. (Source: DrJohnSullivan.com)
  • When you can’t afford to be ignored: Email is great for sending articles to clients, invitations, confirming meetings, or scheduling appointments. But sales consultant Colleen Francis says it’s too impersonal and too easy for clients to ignore when used for vital business. So don’t use it for sending proposals to major clients. And use the phone for cold calling prospects. (Source: Engage Selling)
  • Setting stretch goals for ethics: Most companies have key performance indicators for referrals, satisfaction, market share, and the like — always trying to improve. But Seth Godin says there are no key performance indicators for ethics because companies strive only to be ethical enough. What if being ethical were the most important goal, charted like the others? (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • Corner cutting may point to a clunky process: Organizations don’t like employees who cut corners. But HR consultant Tim Sackett takes an opposite view after working for Applebee’s, where the best cooks routinely found ways to cook menu items better and faster than the standardized procedures they had been given. He says cutting corners is an indicator you have loaded waste into your process. Many times employees cutting corners are showing you a better way. (Source: The Tim Sackett Project)


6. Q&A With 8020Info:
    To Give Or Not To Give

Question:  Is giving holiday presents to clients passé? Or is it still something I should do?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

Perhaps not passé. But definitely a minefield — and a complicated one.

Obviously it starts with whether the person you have in mind celebrates the season with gift-giving, at home or at work (it could be different for each context). Related is how many people you plan to share with: a lot of people, or just a few select clients? And what obligation could you be putting them under — notably, will they be prepared for the gift or feel awkward because they feel a gift is required in return.

In the workplace, the idea is to differentiate yourself from competitors. So while the gift may be a purely altruistic gesture in the spirit of the season, most likely you are trying to deepen the relationship and you might ask how you can differentiate yourself from competitors serving the same clients and doing the same thing:

  • Presumably you do that not by extravagance but through meaning. Do you, however, know your clients well enough that you can find an appropriate gift at an appropriate price that will strike a chord? (Or will they immediately, tactfully rid themselves of the present?)
  • Books can be nice. But you have to get it right. The book that you love may be a burden to them — they may not particularly want to read it, yet worry you might ask a question about some particular point. Or giving a hard-cover book to a Kindle devotee could lead to a conversation about how wonderful eBooks are rather than reflecting on the gift.
  • Gift certificates for a restaurant can be charming — invite them to enjoy an evening out with their partner, on you. Hopefully it will be a enjoyably memorable occasion that will connect to you. Perhaps it’s best if you know their favourite restaurant or, if you talk with the individual subtly beforehand, you might get a sense whether they would like to try something new.
  • Timing can also be important. It used to be that, before the holidays, so many gifts were being given it was hard for the client to distinguish yours. Offering something at another time could be more surprising and, thus, viewed as less ritualistic or formulaic. Gift certificates work as well for a birthday or Valentine’s Day, for example, as for December holidays.

You’ll need to think carefully and choose wisely.


7. From Our Water Cooler:
    Disciplines of Strategy Execution

While many strategy development discussions may land fairly easily on general goals, what should be accomplished and how may take a little more thought.

When setting your strategic priorities, you might also need to consider The 4 Disciplines of Execution identified by Sean Covey, Chris McChesney and Jim Huling from FranklinCovey:

  • Narrow the Focus: First, the authors advise us to Focus on the Wildly Important — that is, focus on less so that your team can achieve more. Instead of trying to improve everything all at once, start by selecting one (or, at the most, two) extremely important goals that will make all the difference to your success. Then make it clear to your team what matters most.
  • Leverage: Next, look at what will drive success in achieving that goal. (They call it Acting on Lead Measures.) “The battles you choose must win the war” — they must ensure the success. What few, new activities will be vital to achieving your strategic goal?
  • Engagement: Track those activities carefully, by Keeping a Compelling Scoreboard. The highest level of performance comes from emotional engagement, which requires knowing how you’re doing — you need a “player’s scoreboard” that allows your team to determine instantly whether they’re winning or losing.
  • Accountability: Unless we consistently hold each other accountable, a goal naturally disintegrates in the whirlwind of day-to-day busy-ness. A rhythm of regular, short and frequent meetings —what the authors call Creating a Cadence of Accountability— will help team members hold each other accountable for producing results. Each one should announce the one or two most important things they will work on over the next week that will have the biggest impact on moving forward. Those commitments drive day-to-day execution.

It’s not enough to simply determine the general goals for a strategy to succeed. You need to define a winnable game, with a strong focus on the disciplines of strategy execution to move your organization forward.

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8020Info helps strategy teams think better together as they develop and effectively implement research / stakeholder consultations, strategic plans, change and marketing communications. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.


8.  Closing Thought

Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.

— Robert Collier