What Behavior are You Rewarding?

What Behavior are You Rewarding?

In almost every book I’ve ever written — and there have been quite a few at this point — I quote the best business advice I have ever heard.  It’s from my friend, Dr. Michael LeBoeuf, from his work that was originally titled, “The Greatest Management Principle in the World.”  Here it is:

“Behavior rewarded is behavior repeated.”

The problem — and wisdom — in this phrase is that it’s so much more profound than it originally appears.  Of course, it means that our customers and employees will repeat the activities that we compensate them for executing. 

However, more subtle is that it also challenges us to question: What actions are we rewarding?

For example — we want sales professionals to establish relationships with customers rather than pressuring them into a solitary closing. Yet, when we examine their compensation structure, we find there’s no additional incentives for future purchases.

In other words, we give lip service to how important that on-going loyalty from our customers. However, when we examine what we reward, it appears our focus is on closing (through any means available and ethical) a single transaction.

My friend, former Chief Customer Officer at Microsoft and Lands End, Jeanne Bliss, often mentions in her presentations the story of the hospital that posted every physician’s evaluation from patients and their families. The result was that malpractice suits dropped by 43%. When receiving high marks from patients and families was rewarded, doctors responded — to the benefit of hospital, physician, and (most importantly) customers that are called “patients.”

That’s the challenge that I make to you. Take a bit to re-evaluate what you’re rewarding and examine if it’s congruent with your goals and aspirations for the future.  My guess is that you’ll find some disconnection.

If you resolve it, you’ll be rewarding the behavior and activity that your desire.  It’s an important step to creating distinction!

Reflections on Hong Kong

Reflections on Hong Kong

After six days and five nights in Hong Kong, I am now prepared to offer a thorough evaluation of a city that has existed for thousands of years.

OK, I know that I’m not qualified to make any more than a “first impressions” commentary. However, there are three aspects to Hong Kong I picked up that are relevant to your business and mine.

#1) A city’s — or office’s — “energy” is a real thing.

Frankly, I tend to be a bit reticent about new age aspects like “the Universe” or “vibes” — however, there IS an energy to Hong Kong that is real and electric. Many other professionals on our trip mentioned it, as well.  And, a significant portion of it comes from the enormous volume of people on the streets.

I remember a study from years ago about Indianapolis.  It was known then as “India-NO-PLACE” because it was such a boring city. What the researchers told the community leaders was that a city was often judged by the energy it generated, based on people on the street.  If no one was on the street, it was easily assumed there was nothing to do and the city was dying.

Indianapolis placed two major sports arenas — then the Hoosier Dome and Market Square Arena — downtown. It’s easy for locals to forget what a huge gamble that was, for at that time, most everyone lived in the suburbs…dined in the suburbs…shopped in the suburbs…and, unless they were going to and from work, stayed away from downtown.  The result of the sports initiative was that restaurants sprung up to feed the fans attending the sporting events and concerts, which generated a “buzz” about downtown, which meant more people wanted to live and shop there. (Which, of course, would lead to more restaurants, hotels, condos, and more — and became practically a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

If you haven’t been to downtown Indy in the past few years, you’re missing a real treat. It has some of the best restaurants in the nation, the largest Children’s Museum in the world, and so much more…downtown.  Salesforce has its second biggest campus in downtown Indianapolis and the tech scene is thriving and attracting thousands of Millennials to move there. The “energy” of my old hometown is a real thing.

What does this mean to your business? For some reason, we don’t want to do business with someone or someplace that isn’t busy. I don’t want the accountant who has all the time in the world or the lawyer with nothing on her calendar. I don’t like dining at an empty restaurant or shopping in a deserted store.

Make certain you provide the appearance that doing business with you is one of the hottest things to do in town.

#2: Our opinion on much is based on little — so everyone matters.

I left the Hong Kong airport, and met Max…my guide to the hotel and for the week. Max was smiling and enthusiastic. He told me how much he loves Hong Kong. The driver of the car I took to the city was happy. The hotel desk clerk seemed to genuinely emphasize how much they appreciated my five-night stay.  I was hungry after my long flight from Sydney — and not feeling a sense of culinary adventure at that point — so I walked across the street to McDonald’s. The clerk was helpful and cheerful.

I decided I loved Hong Kong. Sure, part of it was the overwhelming nature of the city’s skyline. Part was the unique feel of being in a very different land. However, four individuals and their attitude formed the majority of my opinion about a city of almost eight million people.

Your community isn’t going to manage the attitudes of your employees.  But, you can. Are they generating the impressions on your customers that I have about Hong Kong?

#3: Live YOUR culture

It’s pretty obvious that Hong Kong does not want to be like the United States. Sure, there are more than enough KFCs and McDonalds to go around — but, more important, they take great pride in the local cuisine. They revel in their customs and they way they do things. (Meaning, “You can do things how you want to when you’re at home — here, you’ll do things our way.” It’s a message delivered with a humble posture and broad smile.)

An often-heard frustration was directed to those they called “Chinese immigrants” — in other words, people from mainland China who were taking advantage of the relatively new relationship between Hong Kong and China.  According to lifelong residents, many have moved from mainland China to live in their city and receive their benefits without contributing to the system like someone who had grown up in Hong Kong.

Even though I was technically in China, Hong Kong has its own currency — the HK Dollar — that is separate from the Chinese system. Every car in Hong Kong drives on the left side of the road — like the British Colony it formerly was — unlike the rest of China that drives on the right side.  It’s just more ways of demonstrating that Hong Kong lives its culture — which it views as separate and distinct.

What’s your culture? Do you have it defined as precisely as Hong Kong has theirs? Do you know how it compares and contrasts to other organizational cultures — just like Hong Kong knows how their culture is unique from the traditional Chinese?

You cannot live a culture if you aren’t certain of its values. 

Start there. Start with developing your core values — and the live and grow your organizational culture.

Hong Kong may be the most vibrant place I’ve ever been. I can’t wait to return.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if I felt that your business was that iconic?

What’s Your Equator

What’s Your Equator

As I write this, I’m on an airplane flying from Sydney to Hong Kong. And, as I follow our journey, I see from the map from the screen in front of my seat that we are about to cross the Equator.

When I was a kid in Crothersville, Indiana in our grade school geography class, the Equator seemed about as far away to me as the moon. In our small classroom, we studied tropical climates, the Equator’s global positioning, the countries above and below it, and the differences in weather and seasons between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Yet, I have to admit, it never occurred to me there in my wonderful rural hometown, and with the circumstances that surrounded me, that I would ever actually cross the Equator in person, as I have now done many times.

The first time was when I was invited to be a part of the Indiana Trade Mission to Brazil. I had just left office as the State President of the Indiana FFA (then the Future Farmers of America), and our Lt. Governor Robert Orr thought that the trade mission he was leading to Indiana’s sister state in the southernmost region of Brazil would be well served to have a student representing young Hoosiers. And, thankfully, he selected me.  It was a life-changing experience — not in the least because I was the only teenager as a part of an adult group of businessmen.

I grew up on that trip in many ways. It was my first experience in being a part of serious business meetings. It gave me the opportunity to see how economic leaders and governmental authorities conducted business. I even had a short conversation with the President of Brazil.

Many years later, I’ve lost count of how many times that I’ve crossed the Equator for business —and even a small number of times for pleasure and vacation.

The main point is this: what seemed so unreachable for me at one point in my life later became achievable…then, somewhat normal.

What’s YOUR version of the Equator?  What seems unattainable for you in life right now, given your current circumstances?

My message to you is that what seems so far away now truly is possible to achieve. It might take a while — it was a decade between the young dream of travel and the crossing into a new hemisphere for me.

However, I would be willing to wager that if you take the dream…and add hard work, planning, and execution…you, too, will find the reality is superior to the fantasy. I truly hope you do.

Want more business? Be more emotional.

Want more business? Be more emotional.

I spent much of this past week in San Diego at my first Social Media Marketing World conference. Thousands of professionals ranging from entrepreneurs attempting to build a business to executives with the world’s most formidible brands joined together to hear speakers (including me!) and dialog with one another about the future of marketing.

The common theme was a basic and impactful one: connect with customers through emotion and humanity.

If you’ve followed my work, you know I was writing about this over fifteen years ago in my first book, “ALL Business is Show Business!” Any effort in show business succeeds only when it creates the desired emotional connection with the audience. A drama makes you sad, mad, or scared…a comedy makes you laugh and joyful.

I’d strongly suggest to you that the same is true in your business. You’ll succeed when you create the desired emotional connection with your “audience” (in business, we call them “customers” and “prospects”) in a compelling manner.

The significant problem is that few have really examined how they want their customers to FEEL. We know we want them to BUY. We hope they’ll REPEAT their business. We pray they’ll REFER their friends.

However — in most cases — we haven’t really focused specifically on how we want customers to FEEL…which is the major determinating factor in whether or not they’ll BUY, REPEAT, and REFER.

  • Start today.
  • Ask yourself — and your team:
    • how we make our customers feel today,
    • how we want them to feel,
    • and how we close the gap between our current reality and our desired outcome.

When you create the emotional bonding that you desire and customers crave, you’ll probably find that everything else will work out just fine for you and your organization.

Backing off is sometimes a good strategy

Backing off is sometimes a good strategy

Is anyone else tired of the constant push-push-push that we’re seeing today out of everything from products to personalities?

From political leaders to personal marketers, some have evidently developed the position that staying in front of the public and consistently hawking their products or programs is the way to break through the clutter in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace.

Yet, many of us are growing weary of this relentless and intense assertiveness.

I notice that I’m using LinkedIn a little less than I used to. The reason? I’m tried of the ongoing sales pitch. Here’s one from today:

“I can organize a one to one conversation with our Founder, to share the insider insights we have uncovered generating ideal clients for Coaches and Consultants all over the globe. With your permission, I can find a 30-minute slot on his calendar for you this week? After this message, I won’t follow up again, so let me know! “

…this came AFTER my response to the initial message that I had zero interest in their “uncovered insights.”

Two points: First, as I discuss in “ICONIC,” many of these marketers look at the sheer number of these messages that they fog out — than count the responses — and reason that if they send more, they’ll sell more. So, they continue the barrage, without understanding another critical metric: the number of people blocking them. Wouldn’t you rather go a bit slower, and maybe have me warm to your approach? Isn’t that a better strategy than asking me to marry you (so to speak) before we’ve even been on a first date?

Second, it’s ok to take a breath every once in a while. A musician friend of mine asked his manager how come other acts were relaunching to great success, while their act continued to move forward at a slower pace. The manager responded, “You fans will never miss you if you won’t go away.”

Perhaps there’s a lesson there for all of us. It’s OK to take a step back every so often.

Relentless pursuit might make a sale — but, eventually, it’s exhausting.

And, no great relationship — personal or professional — is built on one party becoming tired of hearing from the other.

There must be a REASON for customer loyalty…

There must be a REASON for customer loyalty…

Recent news stories are touting a “retail apocalypse” in progress now. Some are suggesting that brick and mortar stores are facing impending doom because customers are running elsewhere.

The problem is, the reason offered for why they assume customers are bolting for other alternatives is wrong.

My wife, for example, has complained for the past several years about one lingerie retailer filling our mailbox with catalogs — yet delivering an inferior product and experience at the mall. Why should she continue to shop there?

This past Christmas, she and I were shopping for toys for family members. At one retailer, we entered a dirty store to be met by surly employees. Why would we continue to shop there?

Customers aren’t loyal to your building or store. They only become loyal to your customer experience.

In other words, if you chose to deliver an inferior experience to a competitor — whether next door or online — you have decided to gamble on customer loyalty and word-of-mouth.

The arrogance of some businesses — who presume that because they open their doors so customers can encounter untrained employees and crappy merchandise that they deserve repeat business and a break over online stores and other available alternatives– is asinine.

WHY should a customer be loyal to your business?

You used to be able to say, “We’re nearby in their community.” That doesn’t work any more. You could say, “We have the largest selection around.” I’ll bet you can’t win that battle anymore, either.

The ONLY aspect that will drive long-term loyalty from customers is a consistent delivery of the Ultimate Customer Experience.

If you aren’t willing to invest in your business — and in your people — to achieve that goal, it’s NOT a “retail apocalypse.”

It’s that you lost the game you thought you could play the same old way and win in today’s marketplace. You failed to provide your customers a compelling REASON to be loyal.

(PS: If bricks and mortar stores are dying — why did Amazon purchase Whole Foods and the Wall St. Journal report they’re trying three more store concepts?)