Tag Archives: simon sinek

Is Your Business Telling the Right Story?

You know you have a great product or service. And you may have lots of facts and figures and benefits to back up why you’re the best. But just throwing data at potential customers (even if it’s truly impressive data) won’t move them to buy. People don’t respond to logic. They respond to emotion. That’s why you’d better get good at storytelling—fast.

Stories create emotion, and emotion is what people remember. Stories help you engage and, more importantly, teach your audience. If you don’t tell a good story, your message will be lost in the media jungle.

Google processes more than 3.8 million searches per minute. That’s a lot of people looking for answers. This is happening because the way people buy has changed. People no longer respond to outbound tactics like spamming and cold calling. Instead, they research products and services and find what they’re looking for on their own.

The message for companies is clear: You must provide lots and lots of content that’s engaging and persuasive enough to pull in readers and win their business. This is called inbound marketing, and it’s the way businesses today “get found”—by helping, educating and entertaining prospects with valuable, relevant and consistent content.

Content pulls customers through the four stages of HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Methodology: Attract, Convert, Close and Delight. In other words, you create and share content—through blog posts, emails, videos, case studies, guides, etc.—that attracts the right people to your site, converts them into leads, helps close them into customers and delights them so they’ll become promoters of your brand.

Your goal is to make a human connection, and storytelling is how you do this. It’s about resonating with people who need your help and guidance. A well-crafted story helps you create contrast between choices. It helps prospects make sense of the decision they’re about to make, whether it’s deciding on a product or service or making a purchase.

See also: To Shape the Future, Write Its History  

Here are some tips for discovering the story you want to share with the world.

First, know what your story is not.

It’s not data and assertions about ROI. It’s not just your business’s history. It’s also not cliché, and it’s not what everyone else is saying. Sure, you may think you provide the best customer service in your industry, but that’s not your story. Storytelling is about standing out, not blending in.

Focus on your why

Ex-advertising executive and author Simon Sinek is known for his Golden Circle concept. The Golden Circle is all about starting with why. Sinek says most people communicate by starting with what they do and eventually work their way back to talk about how and why they do what they do. But unique and successful companies like Apple or Google communicate with an “inside-out” type of thinking. They start with the why and only then do they talk about the how and what portions of what they do.

Know your characters. 

All stories have characters. With content marketing, the people—or characters—are your readers. Good storytelling can’t happen without valuing and understanding your audience and responding to their wants and needs. When potential customers can get the answers to their questions and see themselves as characters in your story, they’ll be more likely to use your product or service and experience the happy ending you offer.

Choose your point of view. 

While keeping your buyer persona in mind, you should also determine the point of view your story will have. Will it be first person, second person or third person? There’s no right or wrong option. It will depend on your buyer persona, the story you’re trying to tell and the format of the story.

In the first-person point of view, the character is you. When you say, “I saw this,” or, “I learned that,” you’re speaking in the first person. This type of language is more confessional. It can help you establish a personal connection with the reader or build authority. Try using first person when there’s a known person, an author, behind the content. This could work for a blog post, video or even an e-book if the author is noted.

In the second-person point of view, the character is your audience. It’s when you say things like, “You’ll see,” or, “You’ll learn.” When using “you” language, it’s important to understand your buyer personas and know their pain points and goals. Tell the story in a way that shows empathy.

The third person is the “he said/she said” type of language. Case studies about your customers are a good example of using the third-person point of view. These stories can be fictional or nonfictional.

Present, and resolve, your conflict.

Once you know who the characters are for your story, it’s important to understand the conflict they face. If your story lacks conflict, you’re probably not telling a story. Instead, you’re telling a pitch, a tagline, a unique selling point or a plain statement. This approach won’t resonate with your audience, and from a content marketing perspective it won’t get you views, shares, conversions or customers.

You need to understand the buyer’s journey and the conflicts they might face at each stage. What problems are your buyer personas facing in the awareness stage? Those are the conflicts that should be in your story.

Wistia is a good example. It is a brand that provides professional video hosting. Its purpose is to empower everybody to get more out of video, and all of its content and storytelling—which is done through funny, engaging educational videos along with blog posts, guides, help articles and webinars—circles back to this purpose. One blog post is titled “Improve Your Audio: How to Reduce Echo in Your Video.” In this case, the reader’s battle with echo is the conflict, and it’s stated right there in the headline. The rest of the blog post explains how to resolve the conflict.

Finally, get to the resolution. 

Where there’s conflict, your audience will naturally want some sort of resolution. It should wrap up the story but should also clearly call your audience to action. It should fulfill the story’s purpose. For content marketing, a resolution could be next steps or even a call to action for more content. Either way, don’t leave the audience hanging.

Find a way to connect to your audience on an emotional level. 

TOMS is a slip-on shoe company that focuses on spreading social good. Here is its powerful story: Everyone needs shoes, but not everyone has the money to pay for them. So, with each product you purchase, TOMS will donate a pair of shoes to a child in need. This strikes an emotional chord with their audience and compels them to buy.

This is an example of how a shoe retailer created a much bigger story that makes their customers feel like they’re changing the world by simply purchasing a pair of shoes. And they’ve sold more than 75 million pairs of shoes, which means they’ve also given over 75 million pairs of shoes to children in need.

Find a way to infuse your story into every piece of content you create. Storytelling is the perfect way to help readers begin the journey from stranger to customer, and it can deepen your relationship with your existing clients. Remember, people want and need to feel connected. If you tell the right story, you can capture their attention, connect with them emotionally, and win their loyalty.

Justin Champion is the author of “Inbound Content: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing Content Marketing the Inbound Way,” which can be ordered here

How to Earn Consumers’ Trust

Let’s talk about trust. The insurance industry is built on it. So why is there so little trust between consumers and the insurance industry?

According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, financial services as an industry has improved in the percentage of those surveyed who trust the industry from 48% in 2014 to 54% in 2017. While the level of trust is at least moving in the right direction, financial services does rank dead last among all of the sectors polled. Last.

Trust is not something that comes easily these days anywhere, much less in the world of insurance and other financial services. This is not great news for an industry in which we literally sell a promise to be there when bad things happen to consumers and businesses, such as car accidents, fires or deaths.

Many insurers may think of data along these lines:

Consumers trust and understand that, at the end of the day, insurance carriers are in the business of data. It’s at the core of what we do, the data is how premiums are decided, how to best protect assets and develop the fastest solutions when there is a loss, how products are marketed and much, much more. Of course, carriers can be trusted to protect that data and consumers’ privacy.

As a regulator who often hears from consumers, I wouldn’t bank on that. Simply put, there is a lot of uncertainty around data these days. Cyber-attacks are in the news seemingly endlessly, from Home Depot, to Target, to Equifax. And if consumers know one thing, it’s that their data is out there, often on old systems that may or may not be properly maintained, and many big-name companies may not have succeeded in protecting that data, and thereby their privacy.
Consumers also often are bombarded with long applications or questionnaires, sometimes with rather personal questions. Often, they are left baffled trying to understand, “Why would these people need this information?”

See also: When Not to Trust Your Insurer  

Many agents or brokers requesting the data may not know themselves. Data collected by insurance companies is input into complex algorithms in trade-secret black boxes to which few have access, much less full access.

Simon Sinek provides great insight into why leaders and companies need to focus on answering the question of “why” to maintain the focus as anyone—leaders, product managers, agents and brokers—starts the process and as any of us review whether that vision is working. Sinek says that people should consider whether “Starting With Why” in innovation will instill trust and cooperation.

If companies are transparent about exactly why data is collected, consumers can understand how it affects them. Transparency also can allow agents, brokers, consumers and others collecting the data to ensure it is as accurate as possible.

This issue is being discussed inside insurers, at insurance departments and among consumers. There can be scary downsides to secret data black boxes in insurance and otherwise.

Insurers could also use the data to provide feedback to help consumers better manage their risks. It’s important that, as new technology brings new opportunities, those asking for the information fully explain the “why” behind requests for data.

Insurance is global, and changes in other countries may cause changes that affect U.S. consumers and companies. As the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is on the eve of its effective date of May 25, 2018, in the E.U., the U.S. has the opportunity to learn from the experiences.

When the Iowa Insurance Division addresses these topics with companies, we point out the obvious. These are your consumers. If consumers ask the question about what data is being used and from what point, they should gain a clear response so they can understand fully before they consummate the transaction.

See also: 6 Lessons in Trust From Retailers 

Those in the insurance industry are given and trusted with much data. Because of that, much is expected.

It’s an incredible time to be in the business of insurance, and the expectations are high. The Iowa Insurance Division will continue to work with companies and consumers to discuss the proposed “why” for the benefit of all affected. After all, the insurance industry is built on trust.

The Planning Process in a Twitter World

I’m an analog dinosaur in a digital world. In the 1970s, I participated in an organizational planning process that lasted for nearly a year, concluding in an excellent document with many dozens of pages that came to rest on the “bottom shelf” and not the “bottom line.”

Then, ours was a Father Knows Best World – driven from the top down, operating at a snail’s pace compared with today, where we live at the speed of thought – where opportunities happen within the blink of an eye. Planning is still critically important, but the process now must be “fast, hot and cheap!” Real fast.

To convert this concept of planning to a concrete “Tweet” (fewer than 140 characters), I offer the following formula/framework: Planning includes purpose, passion, perseverance and precise performance creating a personalized and positive client experience. (128 words) This planning can be completely researched in less than an hour or two. I offer the process as “framing your future” – not the pyramid (top-down hierarchical model of yesterday) but rather a square framework capturing the part of the world marketplace that you wish to define and serve.

The base (foundation) of this framework is PURPOSE. This is the “why” of your future. Simon Sinek in his video – “Start With Why” –explains this as well as it can be done. If you are serious about the process of planning, start with the first 10 minutes of his presentation. If you don’t have time to do this, quit the process now and “continue to do what you’ve always done.”

See also: Go Digital… but Don’t Change Who You Are  

The left side of the frame is about PASSION. It is about the drive needed to live your purpose. Check out Susan Boyle’s audition on “Britain’s Got Talent.”

Watch the audience as she introduces herself – the skepticism of some and the contempt of others. In my mind, they were pre-judging the age, shape and condition of the “jukebox” from the outside and not the excellence of the “sounds (music) and passion” that was inside the “box.” In about three seconds, she won her skeptics over. Passion is needed for success.

The top side of the frame is PERSEVERANCE. It is about never quitting. It’s what (I believe) drove our troops onto the beaches at Normandy. It was about prevailing against all odds or to die trying. Check out online – Nick Vujicic, the limbless preacher. After watching about five minutes of any of his presentations, tell me about your problems or why you can’t-do something. Perseverance and quitting are choices. One will sustain you; the other will “restrain” you. You choose. Your results will be dictated by the choices you make.

The right side of this “planning” model is about performance, precision, and perfecting your product and delivery. It is about standing above the mediocrity that is most markets. It is about exceeding the expectations of your clients and the markets you serve.

It is not about being perfect in everything for everybody but is about being relentless in your pursuit of perfection. It is about becoming the “choice” of those individuals and populations that you choose to serve while recognizing they have many, if not unlimited, options. It’s more than “standing out in the crowd” – it’s about your clients and prospects searching for you and the experience you provide TO THEM in a very crowded global marketplace.

Sunday morning, my wife and I stopped at Starbucks. She loves the place and its drinks – I visit to observe the culture. I drink a small decaf coffee – she chooses a grande drink defined by words I don’t understand. She’s hip – I have an artificial hip.

Although I’m not a fan of Starbucks, I am envious of the marketing genius that was their creation. In 1970, a cup of coffee cost three cents at home and 25 cents out. Coffee was a commodity if you bought it by the pound at your supermarket. If you enjoyed coffee after a meal in a fine restaurant, it could be considered a “service.”

Starbucks leapfrogged all these distribution options and made coffee an experience. Today – for its devotees – it remains what some might consider an addiction. As I sat in the Starbucks last Sunday, I watched people stand in line to order their drink du jour and occasionally a “treat” to eat, then stand in line again to await its preparation. Many would grab and go with their drink – others would then move to a small table in a crowded room alone or with their posse – trying to talk loud enough to be heard and soft enough to not be overheard. Get the picture?

See also: The Challenges of ‘Data Wrangling’  

What caught my eye were the “splash sticks” that were being inserted into the cover of the filled coffee cups. I don’t know if they are there to keep the coffee hot or to keep it in the cup. To me, it was Starbucks’ never-ending pursuit for the “perfect experience” for their customer or more correctly their “followers.” Starbucks has been successful – it is the “little things,” the endless pursuit of perfection, that will assure their future.

Does your organization live its Purpose, with Passion, Persevering regardless of the circumstances, and constantly monitoring and demanding Performance, Precision and innovating to assure Perfecting the client Experience?

How Millennials Are Misunderstood

The Simon Sinek video on managing millennials has gone viral.

How do I know? I’ve received tons of emails from clients, trainers and members of my online community asking for a response.

As a millennial who studies millennials for a living— I found Simon’s video disturbing.

I started an international training and consulting company to help leaders understand and engage my generation. I’ve sat through one too many conferences featuring Xers or Boomers talking about millennials—as if we were on display at the local zoo. I’ve developed hundreds of tools like this free social media policy template to help leaders better relate to millennials.

At age 43, Simon Sinek’s recent rant elevates him as another non-millennial guiding his peers on what millennials want. When men talk over or on behalf of women, it’s dubbed “mansplaining.” So what is it called when someone—other than a millennial—feels the need to explain who millennials are—Boomersplaining?

What Sinek says isn’t all wrong—but it is in no way complete. His vantage point gives him an incomplete picture of who we are and yet again places a stereotype on this young generation.

See also: Why Millennials Are the Best Workers  

Here’s why Simon Sinek is flat wrong on Millennials:

1. Millennials don’t have low self-esteem.

We were handed trophies for absolutely no reason—by well meaning parents and coaches sensitive to our feelings. Understanding how we were raised is the #1 strategy to marketing, recruiting or retaining Millennials. However, the accolade culture of the 90s and 00’s has actually had an opposite affect on my generation than what Mr. Sinek argues. Millennials have extremely high levels of confidence according to Pew Research. Millennials are ambitious—in our travel plans, relationships and careers. Sometimes too ambitious. It is this over-confidence that is misinterpreted as entitlement. From asking for a raise to expecting access to the C Suite—Millennials exude a solid confidence in who we are and what we can contribute. The challenge comes in how leaders can capture this confidence and use it for good.

2. Millennials aren’t the only ones addicted to social media.

Try separating a college student from her smartphone and you will quickly learn just how addicted Millennials are to technology. It’s not just Millennials who treat their devices like phantom limbs. Nearly 80 percent of Millennials admit to look at their smartphones first thing in the morning. Smartphone usage isn’t much different for Xers or Baby Boomers. However, Millennials are the first generation that uses social media to see the world—and simultaneously letting the world see them. We are using technology to innovate, to dream, to collaborate and challenge ourselves to become our best selves. The answer lies in each of us becoming self-aware to use our devices responsibly and respectfully. Technological etiquette (what I call “textiquette”) is just as necessary in the classroom as the corner office. Most companies have outdated or non-existent social media policies– even though studies show it is signficant in retaining Millennials. I have developed a template for leaders to use– 100% free. Download your free social media policy template here.

3. Millennials don’t expect instant gratification.

Sinek points out nearly everything worth having— job satisfaction, meaningful relationships and purpose— takes patience. However, I have discovered this truth interviewing hundreds of Millennials: if you want to appease Millennials keep things moving. If you want to retain Millennials make them a part of the movement. It’s not just a need for speed that distracts Millennials; it’s an addiction to involvement. Millennials have a fear of missing out, better known as FOMO. Leaders can capitalize on Millennial FOMO and motivate my generation with short term and long term goals we help create.

According to Sinek, the future is bleak for my generation: “The best case scenario is that you’ll have an entire population growing up never finding joy…. Just waft through life… fine.”

Simon Sinek throws a fair punch that feels more like a low blow. He paints my generation as reactionary and out of control. He patronizes our passion and need for meaning.

Sinek sees a shade of us, but he doesn’t truly know us. And I don’t blame him. Simon is a brilliant thinker and skilled writer. But he cannot advocate for a generation that has been talked over, lumped together and mislabeled our entire lives.

No, Simon. Millennials are not the victims.

We were dealt a bad hand. But we aren’t blaming our parents. They sacrificed their health and happiness to give us a better chance. We’re not satisfied with our careers and we resent the lie that degrees guarantees employment. But we’ve also learned that whining isn’t attractive.

The recession was the best thing that happened to us. We learned about ourselves while traveling the world, starting from scratch and paying off loans. We discovered simple but powerful truths: we could do it on our own but we don’t have to and the life we create is ours to enjoy.

See also: No, Millennials Do Not Rule the World  

The future is ours—and we will build a better America because we’ll do it together. We are confident because we will change the world, even if we don’t know our next move. We don’t need bubble wrap, beanbags or free beer. We aren’t defined by safe spaces. And although we appreciate the perspective, we’ll stick to representing ourselves and smashing the boxes you keep putting us in.

The 5 Personal Persuasion Styles

Can you imagine a world where everyone was inspired to go to work? Do you inspire your team to greatness as a leader, or are you one of those leaders who are quite comfortable with your staff coming to work every day without any sense of purpose? The No. 1 problem facing many organizations today is leadership.

A Simon Sinek YouTube video titled “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe” tells the story of a group of Marines that came under heavy fire from three sides in an ambush in Afghanistan, when one Capt. William D. Swenson repeatedly ran into the line of fire to bring injured men to safety and saved at least a dozen lives. A GoPro on one of the medics captured Swenson and a comrade carrying a wounded Marine to a helicopter for evacuation. After putting the man down, Swenson gave him a kiss on the forehead and then ran back into the kill zone.

I said to myself, wow, if a man is willing to give his life for me, I will follow him to the ends of the earth. (Swenson received the Medal of Honor.)

While a business environment is obviously not a war zone, even though we sometimes use war as an analogy, the sort of deep-seated love that Swenson showed needs to be present in a workplace, and it is missing in many organization today. People don’t feel safe, and they do not believe their leaders will have their backs when they are in the line of fire.

The greats of leadership have a persuasion style that allows them to sell their ideas and inspire people to follow their vision. One of the most critical skills in the repertoire of any leader is the power to inspire and influence people by their words and actions rather than coercion.

See also: How High-Performing Salespeople Persuade  

In a fascinating book, The Art of Woo, Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas, by G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa, the authors discuss five different leadership personality approaches to persuasion: Driver, Commander, Promoter, Chess Player and Advocate. Some people are comfortable using three or four of these styles, while others prefer to play only one or two.

This book draws from many other brilliant authors and expertly highlights the value of authenticity and self-awareness in your ability to persuade and influence. The book says you need to make two basic choices: Are you other-oriented or self-oriented? (In other words, are you going to tailor your messages for your audience, or are you going to make unmodified announcements rather than spin them for each audience?) And, will you be loud or quiet?

The book then goes through five styles; one of the keys to great leadership is understanding your unique persuasion style. While you are reading, consider your present environment, your employees, values, etc. and ascertain which communication approach is best aligned to your natural persuasive leadership personality.

Driver (Higher Volume and Self-Oriented Perspective)

According to Shell and Moussa, when individuals are high-volume and prefer to announce their perspective without a lot of adjustment for their audience, other people are likely to experience them as demanding. They can be overly one-dimensional and prefer to persuade people by saying things like “Do this my way, the right way or you can hit the highway.”

I remember working as a plumber’s assistant in my younger days, and all the employees called the founder of the company Frank Sinatra — because he liked everything his way.

But if drivers are dedicated to the organization mission, they can be effective persuaders. The book mentions former Intel CEO Andy Groves, who personified a high-volume, self-oriented CEO and was hugely successful.

Grove kept a wooden bat near his chair. One day, just after a meeting had gotten started, several executives slipped into their seats. Grove fell silent at their arrival, then grabbed the bat, slammed it onto the table, and shouted, “I don’t ever, ever want to be in a meeting with this group that doesn’t start and end when it is scheduled!” Intel was subsequently famous for on-time meetings.

See also: Should You Use a Coach/Mentor?  

Grove wasn’t a nut; he was very aware about his communication style and the culture he wanted to create at Intel.

Commander (Low Volume and Self-Oriented)

A commander speaks from a position of quiet confidence and authority, using expertise combined with finesse to make a point in an understated way. The book highlighted J.P. Morgan as someone who conducted himself from a position of quiet confidence and credibility.

You don’t have to be an aggressive Driver when you want people to know exactly what you think. Indeed, a quiet, understated demeanor can often be much more efficient. People listen. The Commander keeps his counsel and puts a premium on maintaining as much control over decisions as possible.

In a financial panic in 1895, Morgan played the Commander with finesse, saving both America and his financial empire from a fiscal catastrophe.

The Promoter (Higher Volume and Other-Oriented Perspective)

Promoters are outgoing, optimistic and assertive. They are friendly. When played well, this role features a gift for gaining and maintaining a wide circle of relationships. The CEO of SAP, Bill McDermott, immediately comes to mind.

During his 17 years at Xerox, where he became the youngest divisional president, he was assigned to turn around the Puerto Rican unit, which was ranked 64th out of 64 divisions in the world. The following year, that same division was No. 1 in the world.

When asked about the spectacular turnaround, Bill McDermott said that he listened to the people, because they know why things aren’t working. McDermott said people told him two things:

  1. They wanted a vision, so they could be inspired when they came to work.
  2. The staff wanted their holiday party back.

When the division went from 64th to 1st in the world, they got their holiday party back, at the Old San Juan Hotel.

The Chess Player (Lower Volume and Other-Oriented Perspective)

The Chess Player style involved plotting a set of moves that brings about the desired outcome. Leaders with this type of personality prefer to operate in more intimate settings, quietly managing strategic encounters behind the scenes. A Chess Player is an effective strategist who is less extroverted than the Promoter but shares with the Promoter a keen interest in what makes other people tick.

Shell and Moussa point to John D. Rockefeller. In 1865, Rockefeller wanted to end a partnership with four men, but the firm could be dissolved only if all the partners consented.

Rockefeller went to work behind the scenes, lining up support from some banks. When he got the support required, Rockefeller provoked a quarrel over an oil industry investment and quietly extracted himself from the unsavory business partnership. If Rockefeller was more prone to a driver personality, he may have engaged his partners in a shouting match or threatened litigation, demanding they release him so he could follow his dreams. However, Rockefeller took the path of the Chess Player by carefully plotting a set of moves behind the scenes.

The Advocate – Moderate Volume and a Balance Between Self-Oriented and Other-Oriented Perspectives.

The Advocate uses a full range of tools to get her points across. The Advocate strives for balance — persistence without shouting, being mindful of the audience without losing perspective. A classic example used in the book is the founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton.

Walton visited one of his stores and noticed someone at the front greeting customers. Walton was fascinated with the idea and told his team that all the stores should have greeters. Now, Walton could have simply ordered people to do what he wanted. But he was seldom the Driver that Andy Grove was and instead relied on a more moderate combination of vision, persistence, relationships and reason to get people to see things his way.

There was a lot of conflict over this new initiative, and Walton went to lengths to explain why this greeters program would be good for the company. He let the debate go on in an attempt to fully explore all the ideas. After 18 months of discussion and experiment, Wal-Mart finally adopted the practice company-wide.

Walton did not dictate or say things to his executives such as “Don’t you trust my judgment?” or “Don’t you think I know a thing or two about what is good for Wal-Mart?” Instead, Walton sold his vision, and his team eventually brought into the concept.

As a leader, you need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses in persuasion. You need to understand your preferred communication channels, and likewise, you must take into consideration the dynamics of your environment, your organizational values, culture, people, etc.

Some companies are fierce guardians of their business values, and if there is a misalignment it can cause havoc within the company. For example, you cannot be an Andy Grove in a culture that promotes family values, teamwork, collaboration, etc. The culture is completely different.

See also: Systematic Approach to Digital Strategy  

Woo-based persuasion is all about aligning interest, values and relationship as people find it easier to say yes rather than no. Regardless of your personality, when your team trusts you, when you figure out which channels of communication your counterparts are best attuned to, your will gain tremendous credibility within your company.

My personal persuasion style is more of a Chess Player. I prefer to quietly managing strategic encounters behind the scene. What is your personal persuasion style?