Go out to lunch for a change

I am nearing the end of my fourth decade of being part of the working world and I’ve always been a fan of getting out of the office for lunch even if it means brown bagging it in the park. Sometimes that’s been necessary.

With so much time spent staring at screens, going out to lunch with someone can be a welcome break from the hour-to-hour grind of the workday. Yet somehow going out to lunch has become either a guilty pleasure or an unaffordable (both time and expense) luxury. That’s more than a shame as far as I am concerned.

So many of my professional relationships have been elevated by breaking bread. Earlier in my career when I had young children I lived by the motto of ‘you can have me during the day but nights are for my family’. Meaning that lunch was the time to meet a client or colleague, discuss business and even talk about personal things like family and travel. In the 1980’s the three martini lunches were pretty much becoming a thing of the past. Inviting clients and prospects to lunch (yes there was a time when a business prospect would allow you to take them to lunch) potentially fostered those relationships in the days before email and being ‘on call’ nearly 24/7.

I’ve written about being too busy to do anything but work, work, work. Despite that I’m here to offer that going out to lunch is an antidote to a mundane workweek in which by Thursday you cannot recall what you did or ate on Tuesday. Yet with the lengthening of people’s work hours (does anyone really only work 9-5 anymore?), instead of taking time to get out of the daily routine, people are forgetting and missing the benefits of changing one’s perspective by getting out and doing something different for an hour or two.

Keith Ferrazzi wrote a book several years ago called ‘Never Eat Alone’ and while I get the point of making eating time a social and professional activity, there are also times when I like being alone, getting a sandwich or salad, and sitting in Bryant Park watching all the people come and go.

I’ve friends who I don’t see as much as I’d like – because we’re all so busy. They are often too busy to have lunch even when we work in the same city. One other thing, I am very good at lunch. Mainly because I enjoy it so much – the change of venue, the atmosphere of different and the community created by engagement, all most often combine to elevate my spirit, and my afternoons. The work seems to always be there when I get back to my desk.

Don’t eat at your desk today. Consider a change to your routine and go out to lunch with a friend, family member or even a client. And then try to do it more often.

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B2B marketers need to be more concerned about their own brand image

As a strategy and marketing agency owner I am constantly on the lookout for what I see as good effective marketing efforts versus what is not. Since we work in both the B2C area as well as B2B areas, (as much as we wish there were no longer a distinction between the two because in both cases we are working with PEOPLE, that’s not yet the case), it’s pretty clear to me that B2B marketers care much less about their own brand.

And it makes some sense right? After all, most successful business relationships are between people (see above), and it’s mostly about the relationships you have built or are in the process of building. Except for one age-old giant burning question – How to get attention from those that do not know you or your brand at all?

Lead generation programs have been around forever. They can be critical to the success (or failure) of an enterprise. But what happens when that lead actually comes-a-calling? Or at least a-looking? As we know very often the first thing they’ll do is look for your website. Having good SEO and an SEM programs in place are standards that oddly many B2B companies completely ignore.

What happens when that hard-earned prospect arrives at your website? Was it designed in 2009? Or earlier? Your prospects will notice much more easily than one might immediately imagine. Every touch point you have with a prospect or customers reflects on your brand and that brand’s value.

On your website consider having multiple outsiders test and proofread every page on your site. The amount of misspellings I see on websites is alarming and because I am a spelling snob http://wp.me/pn6jX-An the moment I see misspellings on any communication, printed, digital or otherwise, my opinion of the brand will have taken a serious blow.

We work with a variety of clients from start-ups, to young companies to established brands. Yet all get the same initial approach and that starts with what we like to call house-building. Before you’d invite people over to your house you’d probably like to be clean and spiffy so that you will impress your guests. Having an old, outdated, clunky website and brand image may not make visitors want to come in and stay to have an extended visit. Showing photos of long gone team members, out-of-date events, and ancient (that’s like three months) blog posts, all do nothing to promote or enhance your brand image.

My co-founder, business partner and Creative Director is fastidious about proofreading, and attention to minute brand details when it comes to anything that leaves ‘our shop’, as he likes to say. We also continually work (and are working) on remodeling our own ‘house’ to reflect what we are doing right now and not what we were doing two, three or four years ago.

Anywhere your brand has a presence, be that social media, web, or more traditional media (print, TV, radio, out-of-home), B2B marketers can stand out from the pack first by having their house properly built, then by delivering on their own promise and P.O.D.

It isn’t impossible but it does require some thought and investment both mental and financial.

Posted in B to B marketing, B2B marketing, Brand Advertising | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

I tried to go cashless and still failed

I’ve written about digital wallets and my complete disdain for writing old-fashioned checks. Living around a major city like New York one might think that digital natives (i.e. Millennials) are living life without ever having to pull out greenbacks and silver. Debit cards, credit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Square, Venmo and a host of platform names that I am not even including show that the possibilities of a cashless life are right around the corner. Maybe there are a few that can go cashless and checkless, but for most of us it’s just not truly possible.

So far for the month of April I’ve made every effort to NOT use cash. I started with $37 (full disclosure that this effort came about because I was too lazy to go to an ATM). In the 13th day of the month I now have $22.13. Close to cashless, but for me it was not possible.

On hating writing checks: To start the month I participated in an all-day in person baseball fantasy draft on April 1 (a Saturday).   The league is made up of men of various ages (women are welcome but to this point have declined to participate), but the protocol for payment to our league ‘Commissioner’ is a paper check. It’s possible that cash would be accepted but who carries a wad of cash these days? I asked about Venmo. The Millennials all laughed and the Baby Boomers seemed unaware.

Then in my endeavor to go cashless I used a credit card to pay for everything. That’s hardly unusual as there are many people that do the same.   But even in a major city like New York I had three occasions where I was unable to use my credit card.

#1 – The deli on east 45th Street that has a policy of no credit cards for under $7.00. Believe it or not my egg sandwich was $3.87.   Had to dig out the cash and then had change jingling in my pocket all day.

#2 – Street food vendor. They don’t have Square or any other kind of credit card processor. $ 7.00. (No change was a bonus).

#3 – Toll Booth to Atlantic Beach. This was surprising. Not only that there were Toll Booth operators (why they are called operators is beyond me), but they had lanes for pass payments that did not include what I thought to be the omnipresent EZ-Pass. I asked the ‘operator’ if this was a topic of conversation and he smiled wryly and said, “sometime over a bottle of Schnapps I will tell you about it.” $2.00 each way.

The truth is that as yet, in the United States at least, we are not even close to having a true cashless society. Can we really expect kids operating a lemonade stand to have a credit card processor or Square account? That would be more likely for a high school car wash however.

There are also inherent costs on merchants to adopt cashless technologies. All that can be said to them is sorry and perhaps people will buy more if they go cashless?

Cash has been around for thousands of years. To think that there’s some near future that would not require any currency is hard for someone of my age to fathom. Bitcoin and other Blockchain payment systems are slowly becoming more popular but it remains to be seen which of the platforms will endure.

There is a certain amount of chance in my personal experience. Admittedly it’s possible that I could have gone the whole month and been able to avoid using cash had I walked or driven to different places.

Of course there’s the anonymity of cash. Many would consider that to be an asset unto itself. Cash is untraceable right? Until it’s not. I’ve seen it in the movies.

How long do you think it will take for a cashless and checkless world to take hold?


Posted in Human Behavior, Living in the World Today | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Slide presentations are not about how smart you look

Most business professionals today need to have at least some basic skills in PowerPoint or some other presentation format. I know this because personally I am pretty lousy at creating attractive and interesting PPTs. The one thing I do keep in mind when creating a presentation is that less is more. Disappointingly there are too many incidences of people behaving badly when it comes to creating a compelling and cogent presentation using PowerPoint or any other format.

I acknowledge that slide presentations can serve many different purposes. There are times when detailed information within the presentation is important to support the points and conclusions being advanced. But if you see anything like what I see, the amount of information contained in one slide can be dizzying, overwhelming and consequently…BORING!   (i.e. you lost me at hello).

Before the advent of PowerPoint the method in which most presentations were delivered was either a narrative, (today we seem to call them Whitepapers) when sent as a document, or, when presenting to a live audience, a flip chart that would contain only the bullet or higher level points of discussion.

Once PowerPoint became the default presentation platform, slide presentations began to devolve into grandiose, bloated, and self-serving documents intended to impress the crap out of whoever took the time to read it all (fewer people than you’d wish). It isn’t complicated as to why authors would want to have something both slick and detailed. I’m reminded of the schoolteachers that when giving a test would ask you to show your work. That’s what has occurred with so many slide presentations – they are made to show the work that went into it, instead of making easily understandable points that then would be supported by a narrative – written or oral.

Putting EVERYTHING you can think of to support your idea in the presentation actually does not make you look smarter or more thorough. Admit it, there’s a narcissistic quality to creating the ‘perfect deck’. But in doing so, you and your audience will miss the point. And the point is to clearly convey the concepts as clearly and simply as possible so the real work can begin.

As an amateur jazz pianist I learned early that being able to play lots and lots of notes with lush embellishments could show broader abilities and perhaps impress a few people. But the more important lesson I learned was the next one, which was – the real professionals know what to take out to make things both tasteful yet compelling.

Here’s my advice, try not to make your presentations look like the outfield fence at a minor-league baseball park. Your audience will appreciate it and more importantly follow it more closely without even realizing.

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When things go wrong, it’s ok to be angry but be a pro

When it comes to athletics, there’s a big difference between being an amateur and a being a professional.   Some amateurs can be highly capable and every bit as good as a professional. What separates them from professionals is that they do not get paid. While people know this already, being a true business professional is much more than simply “being paid”.

Professional athletes (and professional artists for that matter), don’t always act professionally both on and off the playing surface. But what almost all manage to do is show up for ‘work’ and put up a 100% effort. They know that nothing else will suffice.

Think of a basketball or tennis player not giving his or her all. Spectators will know pretty quickly, teammates and coaches even more quickly. Performing artists are in the same boat. Nothing else but their best efforts can be displayed lest the paying public think that they are ‘tanking’ it, or ‘mailing it in’.  There’s something special about being called a ‘pro’ and to me it’s one of the highest forms of praise.

During sporting events there are numerous occasions where an official’s call might not go in a player’s favor. You’ve seen many players get upset. But what you also see is their ability to have a ‘short memory’ of what was unfair so they can get back to playing at their highest level during the game. There’s not time for whining and complaining and that’s not going to help the team or the player win the game.

Being a true business professional calls for some of the same ‘short memories’ that professional athletes have to exhibit. Things ‘happen’ at work between co-workers, managers and employees (and vice versa). Sometimes those things make people angry. How people deal with those things are indicators of their professionalism. You are not soon going to forget being wronged (in your view) at work, so the short memory is only evidenced in how you interact with your team members after the fact.

It’s highly frustrating to realize the motivations for what may have created any particular circumstance, and then not be able to do anything about it. That happens frequently. What you might consider doing is to assess your options going forward, try to reach a decision on how you are going to proceed, set that course and do everything you can to make that happen. This is easier said than done but at least you will feel as if you yourself are taking positive steps to change the status quo. And don’t be surprised if doing NOTHING is the best immediate action, which can be even more frustrating.

In your career there will be any number of occasions when your patience and professionalism will be tested. As I tell my kids, it’s ok to be upset but always, always, be a pro.

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Civility and Humility – we should more often use our ability

As a student of human behavior (I’m right now nearly through Robert Cialdini’s 2016 book Pre-Suasion – A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade (don’t love the title but I do love the book), I too often find myself following various exchanges from friends and associates via Facebook and LinkedIn. Primarily because those platforms lend themselves to narrative exchanges. That and I am just not a big Reddit.com guy. 

When it comes to people’s behavior, it’s evident that there’s a great deal of passion that comes out in the musings of those using social media as their megaphone – intentionally or not. Social media not unlike email allows the creator/writer to have an uninterrupted pulpit from which to disseminate his or her opinions to their friends, connections and followers. And since friends, connections and followers don’t always feel the same way (could you imagine?), using social media as a bully pulpit can stoke some really interesting and incendiary exchanges.

Somehow in the process the principles of civility are being increasingly left behind. Ad hominem attacks have been taking place as long as orators and writers have been around (think ancient Greeks),but they are even more public now.

What troubles me is the way ‘friends’ jump on the opinions of ‘friends’ with personal attacks when there’s major disagreement. A lack of civility is inherent – perhaps due to the less personal nature of writing something as opposed to actually saying something. Would people actually say to face of a ‘friend’ some of the things they write to others on Facebook or LinkedIn? Some might but I advance that many would not. So why the lack of civility? Is it a lack of respect? Is there a lack of understanding of any position other than one’s own? I will leave it to others to answer those questions.

That’s where humility comes in. Humility: a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness. Too many ‘discussions’ (as lively as they are at times), lack both civility AND humility. There appears to be a deep-rooted need for people to prove others WRONG and show themselves as being RIGHT. Anything other than complete capitulation on the part of those that disagree is not enough. As if there are only winners and losers. Sure people might write that they ‘agree to disagree’, but my sense is that often that is an insincere sentiment. You don’t agree with me = you are an idiot.

I’m lucky to have what I consider to be a fair amount of friends. Those that know me don’t need to read what I have to offer on social media to know how I feel about the various issues of the day. Those that know me also know that I have great passion for the things in which I believe. I also know that slapping dissenters and their opinions will not make them ‘wake-up’ and realize how wrong they were and how right I am and do a complete turnaround of their opinions.

It’s called civility with what I hope is a bit of humility stirred in. And it really isn’t all that difficult if one makes an effort.

Posted in Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Apple Watch is an interruptive device

apple-watchLast week I ranted about unwanted LinkedIn invitations. I had a few interesting conversations with readers. So now I turn my sights on the Apple Watch, which has been around for nearly two years.

I know quite a few people that wear the Apple Watch. Which for whatever reason does not display the time when it is on your wrist. But that’s not really my point. I know the Apple Watch interruption has happened to virtually everyone reading this post.

Reviews of the Apple Watch have been a bit mixed,  but more positive than negative. And it’s two years ‘new’, and it’s bound to get better – right? Except one thing does not get better. Stopping a real life, real time, in person conversation dead in its tracks.

Don’t know what I mean? Let’s say you are in a meeting, at a coffee, or lunch or dinner. You are having a nice conversation (hypothetically speaking) and all of the sudden the person you are meeting with sees his/her Apple Watch light up with a message and immediately they are distracted and look at the message. Conversation flow is broken. But something more important has happened – you’ve been disrespected.

The next time you go out to a restaurant take a look around the restaurant and make note of how many people are out with one or more others and are looking at their phones. In fact it’s not rare at all to see couples both looking at their phones. And apparently it’s just fine.

But it’s not fine. It’s rude. I know because I do it too sometimes. I try hard not to but once someone else does it, the path is clear and what the heck if you don’t do it yourself you’re just sitting there waiting for the other person to finish with whatever it is they were doing that is evidently more important than being with and talking with you. It’s not that different from when people meet each other in a public place and they throw their phone on the table ‘just in case.’ It’s the default option and not a special case. So the default option is – a message from someone or something else is more important than our meeting.

Considering the iPhone and smartphones are relatively recent technologies whose impact on human behavior is ever-changing, people are still figuring out how to make the technology work for them. The constant checking of social media – pick your platforms, is affecting people’s lives both positively and negatively. Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal has a recent short video that hits some great points – ‘The night they locked up all the Smartphones”

The Apple Watch just takes interruptive technology to another level. I acknowledge that there are circumstances in which having messages (SMS, emails, social etc.) flash on your phone when your hands are full or you are talking on the phone (when you are by yourself), are useful and dare I offer – handy.

Since I do not own an Apple Watch I am not sure if there’s a feature there that enables the user to turn off the flashing notifications on demand. If there is, few people are using that feature.

I like technology – gadgets and otherwise. But I like people even more. And when a technology stands in the way of an interpersonal interaction it’s no longer serving people it’s enslaving them.

Posted in Apple watch, Best business practices, Personal Technology, Professional Development, Smartwatches | Tagged , , | 2 Comments