Exceptional Follow Through

I just received an rather interesting book in the mail. It is called “Earning Serendipity,” by Glenn Llopis. I will be digging more into the book later tonight.

I am actually quite excited to read this book. From what I can tell, Glenn has explored the traits that successful people have and uses this knowledge to help the reader develop her own path.

Like several of the other books I have read and reviewed here on the Damn Simple blog, I was contacted by the publisher and asked if I was interested in reading the book. I am always open to exploring new ideas and genres and I emphatically responded yes when asked about this book.

Here’s what I loved about receiving this book. Typically when a publisher sends a book out, the book just shows up. I guess they assume you know why you are getting it so there isn’t a note or any other info sent along with it. I was impressed with Glenn’s publisher. She sent along a handwritten note thanking me for reading the book and letting me know to contact her when I complete it so we can set up an interview with Glen.

Glenn – if you read this, make sure you thank Andrea. Though this is a simple extra, it is the type of customer service that earns loyalty.

Blogs Worth Reading

If you are in marketing, there are literally hundreds of blogs out there that you can read and learn from. The same goes is you are a small business owner. If you run your own blog, the situation gets worse because if you genuinely want to write well and build your own community around your blog, you need to be engaging others via their blogs and social media. It can become a full-time endeavor if you are not careful.

As a marketer that also loves blogging, I’ve found that reading the big blogs isn’t as useful as it once was. Sure, I will read Seth Godin’s blog every once in a while, but not like I once did. Wanna know why? Seth has a massive audience and he doesn’t have to respond to comments I write. It’s just not efficient for him to do so. There are a whole bunch of blogs like Seth’s that read for educational purposes. But when it comes to who I read and interact with online, I have an entirely different approach.

I look for people like myself, people that are interested in building great conversations around topics we love and that want to help others by sharing their ideas, comments and links. Today, I thought I would share a few links to the people and blogs I really love.

Andy G. Cook – I ran into Andy totally by accident. One night I was trying to figure out how to best redesign my Twitter page to fit the new Twitter layout. It started searching around the web for some layout dimensions when I discovered Andy’s site. He had a great post on the issue and I decided to leave him a couple questions on his post.

The next day, Andy emails me three time with links, photoshop templates, etc. Andy came through for me in ways I had never imagined. The amazing thing is that he took a simple question and turned it into a wow for me. I can’t tell you how impressed I was. I have since subscribed to his blog and look forward to reading more of his great ideas.

Suzanne Vara – Suzanne is amazing. I first heard about her from one of Chris Brogan’s posts. Since then I have been reading her posts almost religiously. Suzanne offers something unique to the whole marketing blogosphere – her voice. She always seems to find a unique way to look at the marketing and brings a fresh perspective to all of her writing.

Suzanne is an active blogger. She posts almost every day and comments like crazy. She is genuinely interested in building community and conversations about communications, marketing, and public relations. You might also want to check her out on Twitter.

Jack Macholl – You are going to love Jack’s blog. He is an amazing marker. With over 28 year’s experience, he knows his stuff. Jack is active in the blogging community. He is out there reading and commenting. If you love marketing or run a small business, you need to subscribe to his blog and listen to what he has to say. Thanks for all the comments Jack!

Oh and by the way, if you are interested in e-mail marketing, Jack’s recent post might bolster your reasons for why this is still such a powerful tool.

Josh Chandler – Josh is another one of those bloggers that I found by accident. If I remember right, I ran into a guest post he had written somewhere. I love it and followed it on over to his blog. You have to check out Josh’s site and blog. He has a rather unusual business model, one that I really need to learn more about. He is a great blogger, writer and commenter.

Marjorie Clayman – Marjorie is another blogging genius that I found from a Chris Brogan post. She is an active blogger (with a new site) and active commenter. She is hilarious and has one of the funnest writing styles around. She is also interested in helping others. Make sure you check out her site and start commenting on her posts.

Alex Whalley – I have no idea where I found Alex’s site, but I am glad I did. Alex is a brilliant guy and he is actively working to build a great community. His focus is on keyword and blog optimization, as well as helping others with tips on how to drive traffic to their sites. If you are a blogger or webmaster, Alex is sharing a variety of info that you probably need.

Marketing Emotion vs. Efficiency: Round 2

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about how inefficiency can actually have a role in a well-marketed business. I received some great feedback regarding the article and I wanted to return to the subject with a story from a recent trip I took to Colorado with the most amazing team of people in the world.

Mexican Food Gone Wrong: Where Inefficiency Spells Trouble

mexican foodIt was the last week of September and we pulled into Eagle, Colorado. The drive was about 7 hours long and all of us were tired, hungry and ready to move around a bit. We debated about where to go for dinner and after one of the hotel staff members recommended a small Mexican food restaurant right around the corner, we promptly headed out.

I don’t know what your experience is with Mexican food restaurants, but here in Utah, few of them, especially the more authentic ones, are well kept. Typically, they look like little rundown places that are in need of some TLC. Granted, we weren’t in Utah, this restaurant was no exception. It was a complete dive, but we went anyway because it was supposed to have great food.

As soon as we walked in, we probably should have realized that we would have been better of trying out luck somewhere else. There was no air conditioning, the service was poor, and none of us walked away satisfied with the experience. My buddy, Ryan tried like crazy to get us to leave after we had walked in. Instead, we sat there like good little martyrs and sucked it up.

Back when I wrote my original post, Marjorie Claymen made an astute observation. She wrote:

I think somewhere along the line, inefficiency, regardless of the experience, became symbolic of some deep and underlying problem. If it takes a long time to get your food while eating out, even if the environment is very beautiful and relaxing, we assume that there is a problem. If someone tries to reach out and execute good customer service, we get antsy and feel like they must not get many customers. Why else would they want to talk to us so much?

In the case of this Mexican restaurant, Marjorie nailed it. We should have been tipped of immediately. My guess is that there was far more wrong with the place than what we saw. But…

Back Bowling: Where Inefficiencies Make for a Great Experience

The Back Bowl Logo

The next night, our team strolled into a local bowling alley called Back Bowling. It had also been recommended to us and after doing some research online, we decided to give it a try. At first glance, you might not want to go there. It is located in the basement of an older building. As you first enter, you have to go down two flights of stairs. All the way down, the walls are covered with local flyers and posters from recent and upcoming events. But then you enter the bowling alley.

It was one of the coolest places I have ever hung out. There were actually two separate bowling alleys on opposite ends of the area. Between them was a reception desk, an arcade, a small sports bar. The place was like a full on man cave, complete with large over stuffed leather seats, classic rock playing throughout the place, couches for the bowlers, gorgeous decor, posters and other artwork, and televisions lined the walls of the sports bar so you could catch up on all your favorite sports. It was the kind of place you could go to and hang out for hours on end, whether enjoying a beer with a few friends or even just to watch a little television.

Here’s the hitch. The service was at the counter and in the restaurant was slow. But did it matter? What I would tell you is that it didn’t matter in the least. I doubt that this was done intentionally, but it worked. They had created such a fantastic environment that none of us wanted to leave. Getting our food quickly was secondary. We wanted to be there. We wanted to enjoy our time together and we have found a great place to do it in. Slow service was actually a welcome change (none of us felt like we were being rushed through the place so the next person could have a table).

Our waitress was incredibly nice. She chatted with us at length, make a bunch of jokes and made us feel incredibly welcome. When she did come out with the food, we were awed. It was some of the best food we had eaten as a team over the last two years.

Inevitably, the conversation turned to how silly we had been the first night. It was unanimous – every knew we should have visited the bowling alley the first night instead of the Mexican restaurant. The final test came on night three. We left Colorado around 4 p.m. and had a 7 hour drive home. And everyone wished that we could have stayed another night so we could go hang out one more time at Back Bowling.

Lesson’s Learned

It is incredibly important to understand, it is important that we find ways to be efficient and to provide customers with a great experience at the same time. But at the end of the day, focusing on efficiencies may not always be what is best for our business. Being quick is good, taking care of your customers and meeting their emotional needs is even more important, especially if you want to develop long-term loyalties to your business.

War, by Sabastian Junger – book review

War by Sebastian Junger (cover image)There are books and then there Books. Junger’s “War” (amazon affiliate link) is the latter type. It is a book that every American should read so we can collectively understand what it means to send our young men and women into harm’s way.

Summary

War is Junger’s no holds barred, gritty look inside of an Army platoon stationed in the heart of violence. Junger shares his first-hand account of his time with some of America’s bravest young men, many of whom find themselves in love with the day-today fight for survival.

Why Should You Read War?

You should read this book for one simple reason. You, the citizen and voter, have a responsibility to be informed. Though our elected officials are the ones who vote on resolutions of war and make life and death decisions for our loved ones, ultimately, we are the ones that are responsible.

This isn’t a political statement. It is simply a plea to you. Please take the time to learn about these issues and make an educated decision about who you are putting into office.

War and Marketing

I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to talk about how this book relates to marketing. It might seem like a stretch, but it does. Junger has an impossible task – impartially observe and report on the very soldiers he is living among and must rely on for his very life. There is no humanly possible way to do this. Sure, detailed notes and video taped footage can help add objectivity. But there simply is no way to separate the emotion that is involved when living on the edge like this with others for weeks, months and years at a time.

As we work on campaigns and develop plans for clients, often we lose objectivity. It is very easy to do. After devoting a ton of time and emotion to projects, we become incredibly passionate about what we do. We want to win. We want our clients to win. And through it all, we become more and more emotionally involved.

After reading “War” you are left with a feeling that there is little hope for the soldiers you have read about. Most of them joined the military to escape civilian life. They found a home in combat and may never be able to return to a normal civilian life again. And you have to wonder about Junger – what does the future hold for him after all he has seen and been through.

Now, marketing is no where near as scary or difficult as what Junger describes. We have tools to maintain our objectivity. Simply put, if we are finding ways to measure the impact of our marketing and are using that information correctly, we can easily make adjustments, ramp up efforts that are working and ultimately help our clients win.

Are You Objective

How are you measuring or score carding your efforts? What are you measuring? Is what you are measuring helping you understand why things are happing the way they are?

2 Creativity Tools that Will Knock Your Socks Off!

lateral action blogI have been in a slump as of late. Between burning myself out with some rather intense workouts and a rather stressful few weeks as work as we go through some major growing pains, I finally hit the wall in a big way. I was tired, my body hurt a bit more than usual, and I really was struggling with motivating myself.

The solution was simple – I made sure I got a little more sleep; I switched up my diet; I changed my reading habits from solely reading business books; I forced myself to start having a little more fun; and I made concerted effort to immerse myself in some new projects. Along the way, I discovered two amazing tools that I wanted to share with you, especially if you are interested in honing your creative thinking abilities.

A Blog for Creative Action

I cannot remember how I happened upon the Lateral Action blog, but you should definitely check it out. Their whole mission is to help their readers tackle the challenge of becoming more marketable by becoming an amazing creative thinker. Currently, they post once a week, so you won’t become overwhelmed with reading. I really like this approach. Instead of putting out tons of material, they focus on providing one quality post a week. (note to self – remember this for future blog development)

They have also developed a free course. I signed up for it when it first launched and I continue to be impressed with the quality material they are sharing. If you are in marketing, are a creative, or just want to improve your own creative thinking skills, this is a site you should add to your feeds.

Sometimes All You Need is a Good Whack In the Head

No, don’t hit yourself, but if you are stuck on a problem, have I got the solution for you! I am always interested in finding new ways to approach a problem. There are a ton of free books out there, but the problem with all of them is that once you put the book away, returning to it can be a problem (maybe you left it at home, a coworker borrowed it, etc.). What if you could have a creative problem solving tool right in your hand whenever and wherever you need it?

Enter Creative Whack Pack. It is an iphone app that was developed to help you break out of your old thinking habits and help you develop new ways of thinking. I downloaded Whack Pack about a week ago and have used it several times, both with personal and professional issues. I am amazed at the apps simplicity and effectiveness. The app was created by Roger von Oech. He has a great site/blog that you might want to check out as well.

What are some of the tools you use to keep your thinking fresh and energetic? How are you injecting creativity into your life? What are some of your favorite creativity tools?

Check out Lateral Action and grab yourself a copy of Whack Pack today. You won’t be disappointed.