"When I Was at X, We Used to Y..."

Suppose you throw a party, and a friend of one of your guests starts off a conversation like this:

"The last party I went to, they had little Beef Wellingtons on tapas plates. Do you have little Beef Wellingtons on tapas plates? You should really look into that, because they're delicious. They also had this really cool game that we all played; it was a riot! What activities do you have planned?"

How likely are you to invite this schmuck to your next party - or the friend that brought them?

Believe it or not, many folks* who move from one company to another do this exact same thing, oblivious to how rude and condescending they sound. Sure, you want to share your expertise, experience, and problem-solving skills, but you're missing 2 key words from the end of that sentence:

...when appropriate.

It's fine to suggest new ideas. It's even fine to suggest old ideas, if you think you know enough about the issue to understand it from your new co-workers' perspective. Usually, though, we don't. We talk when we should be listening and absorbing. As a newbie, that's your main job. If someone asks for your opinion, fine - but don't mention what you did at your old employer or who they were. At best, it comes off as grandstanding. At worst... well, if you don't know, this article is definitely for you.

Even when you do voice an opinion - when appropriate - it's always best to couch it in a way that leaves room for a conversation. Maybe this:

"I'm guessing that you probably already tried Y. How did that work?"

First, you're giving the other person credit for probably thinking of and trying the obvious solution(s). Second, you're acknowledging their expertise by asking for their observations regarding the result. Third, you're establishing that you don't have all the answers, but you're willing to roll up your sleeves and work on it together.

Popping back to our party guest metaphor, the new employee who does this is the one who runs out for beer/wine when you're low, offers to drive the really drunk guest home, and helps clean up afterward.

Those are the folks who get invited to every party.

*Guilty as charged - but I'm much better now.

Depth Charges

Every task should be done by the least expensive person who is capable of performing that task effectively and efficiently.

In other words, if you are an IT Manager who spends 4 or 5 hours to save the company $200 on its monthly phone bill, you have actually cost the company money... plus avoided doing the job that you are actually paid to do.

In the end, it's all about effective delegation. If you can't do it, you can't look yourself in the mirror and call yourself a manager.

1, 2, Many, Lots

Today I want to talk about donuts and something called the density bias, with thanks to Ted Riolo for starting the discussion.

Human brains are hard-wired to perceive the world and process information a certain way. Because of this, there are countless ways to trick your brain. A good example of that is brain freeze. When the roof of your mouth drops below a certain temperature, your brain assumes that you’re freezing to death, and opens up as many blood vessels as possible. That extra pressure is what makes your head hurt. Part of the reason that people seem more attractive when you're drunk is that alcohol blocks your brain's ability to determine a lack of facial symmetry - one of the key factors in human sex appeal.

There are ways to trick your brain to behave a certain way even without freezing it or drowning it in alcohol. As you may have heard, one of Motorcars' new business ventures is Daylight Donuts & Coffee, and there’s an aspect of the donut business that illustrates an interesting fact about how our brains work.

The retina of our eyes is actually part of our brain. Because of that, our brains - and the brains of all primates - are hard-wired to perceive quantity in a certain way. It works like this:

We can instantly recognize up to 4 of something at a glance, but our brain automatically estimates any number of items greater more than that. It’s not that we can’t count higher than 4 – of course we can – but we tend to make errors of judgement when confronted with quantities beyond that number. There’s even a joke about this that’s actually true for apes, and is one of the things that sets us apart from them: For a chimpanzee, numbers go ‘1, 2, many, lots’. Their brain can only discern quantities up to about 3 of something, so at least we’re one step up from that.

And in a roundabout way, that brings us to donuts. All primates are hard-wired with a bias toward quantity over surface volume. What this means is that you will spend more money to buy 5 or more donut holes than to buy the same net weight of donuts, because your brain is convinces you that the number of food items is more important than their size.

Brain manipulation happens all the time, and we’re completely unaware of it. As you might have guessed, grocery stores - with their tiny profit margins - are among the best at it. For an example, check this out the next time you’re at the grocery store – especially if you shop at a higher-end store:

You may notice that the size of the floor tiles change from one part of the store to another. If they do, I bet that the tiles are much smaller in the parts of the store where the store makes the most profit per item – the deli, the meat counter, and the wine rack. The reason for this is that we subconsciously hear the sound of our cart’s wheels click when they roll over each tile, and making the tiles smaller makes us slow down. The more we slow down, the more likely we are to browse and buy items that make the store more money.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how to price donuts – or anything else - by volume, I’ve included a link that explains the difference between all unit and incremental pricing: https://www.cleverbridge.com/corporate/volume-pricing-strategies-digital-goods/

The Culture of No

Today I want to talk about the Culture of No.

The Culture of No comes into play when we explain to a Customer why we can’t help them.

We are almost always polite when we tell a Customer no. We speak in calm, measured tones, with a sympathetic look on our faces, and sometimes a shrug that says “Whaddayagonnado?”

You know what? Customers don’t give a damn why we can’t do something. All they see is that we are an obstacle to getting what they need or want. And what do you do with an obstacle?

You go around it. If they have more aggressive personalities, they might ask to talk to your manager. If they think that you weren’t really listening, or you’re the second or third person that they’ve told their story to, they might even ask to talk to your department head... or, later, your corporate attorney.

Most people don’t have that kind of personality, though. Most people hang up. Then they go somewhere else. Forever. And they tell everyone on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on and on to do the same.

The Culture of No is a trap – for a business, a fatal trap. There’s only one way out: Find a way to say yes.

The Culture of Yes takes more work. You have to offer alternatives – would you prefer this, or this?, Or teach yourself to say “We probably can’t do that, but we can do this – does this work for you?”

The Culture of Yes takes creativity, and flexibility. Which is a good thing, because an inflexible person is often a corpse, and an inflexible business almost always becomes one.

Everybody Knows

Tell me if you've heard this one before: Millennials are self-entitled.

How about this one: Trump supporters are racist.

Or this one: Religious fundamentalists are poorly educated.

Depending upon your own generational, political, or religious bent, you probably feel that 'everybody knows' at least one of these statements. If not, I'm certain that we can find one that resonates, because one of the things that our hyper-pattern-aware species is terrific at is categorization. We evolved to think that when caveman Erg died after eating red berries, all red berries from that point on were suspect, and that when a patch of tall grass rustled right before Erg's wife, Yrt, got dragged off by a saber-tooth, rustling of any kind meant spears up and put the kids in the center of the circle.

'Everybody Knows', besides being one of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs, is useful when you have little or no control over your environment, or when you simply lack data. The problem with it as an ongoing practice for a species that has Google, tasers, and cookbooks is the same thing that was always the problem: It only applies a certain percentage of the time, and that percentage shrinks as the data set grows. When you're talking about data sets the size of half of the U.S. electorate, a generation that is now almost 50% of the population, or a major religion, the stereotypes 'everybody knows' don't apply to literally millions of people in each of those groups.

As uncomfortable as data-mining makes some people, one of its biggest advantages is that it finally makes it possible to treat each person - each Customer - as an individual. Rather than communicating offers that a given Customer may or may not be interested in via shotgun snail mail coupons, we can gather enough information - in most cases, at little or no cost - to determine exactly what will appeal to each Customer, when, and at what price point. All that it takes is effort... and a complete change to how most organizations approach marketing.

To be heard in an age when our competitors are already probably ahead of us, even how we communicate our messages has to be individualized. How many mailbox ads do you even read before you put them in the trash? Some Customers want to be told things in person, some via email, some by phone, others by text. Deciding to communicate with all Customers in just one way is just as ineffective as making no change: a large percentage will not hear you at all.

Why waste all that time and money? That's like spending all of your money on local television, newspaper, or radio ads to reach Customers who get most of their information and entertainment online.

Remember the 3 fundamentals of keeping Customers:

  • Timeliness
  • Perfection
  • Individualized experience
Customers love to tell us what they want, like us when we listen, and stay when we offer what they need.