Plan B

What is a Plan B, besides a morning after pill?

It’s a backup. It’s the spare tire. It’s what you should have behind your Plan A.

Plan B’s are scary because we rarely even have a Plan A.  Why not? Companies usually have Plan A’s. Or Plans. Do they have Plan B’s? Shouldn’t they? What happens if the new product fails? What happens if the production line slows or stops? What do they do if they cannot obtain the part they need?  What’s their Plan B?

What’s your personal Plan B for losing your job in a reorganization? What’s the Plan B for retirement if the kids come back home with your grandchildren in tow? Or THEY lose a job in a reorganization and need a place to stay “for a little while.”

If you don’t have a Plan A, you won’t ever have a Plan B.

So what are your plans for the weekend?

Mismatched Socks and Marketing

It might have started with Helena Bonham Carter (HBC) at the 2011 Golden Globes. OR before. HBC rocked the fashion world by wearing OMG mismatched shoes!  Clearly on purpose, she chose one gray, and one red.  Not to be confused with the time I went to work with one navy blue, and one black leather pump, having dressed in the winter dark morning, only to be mortified the WHOLE DAY LONG by my style gaffe.

I received my first on purpose mismatched pair from a friend in February of this year. Cute, I thought, and I love them. At a local high school last week, I sidled up to a student, and kidded her, asking if she was aware that her socks didn’t match. “Oh,” she said. “Mismatched socks are good luck.”socks

With that, three other girls in the classroom pulled up pant legs to reveal, very seriously, that they too had opted for good luck.  Their socks did not match, and whoever added the “luck” factor deserves the you’re-an-awesome-marketer-good-for-you award.

Don’t know about you, but not only does this appeal to the environmental side of the universe, because we have plenty of sock orphans at our house, but also, it pays huge homage to the marketing theory of finding a new use for an old product. Adding the magic of “good luck” (wish I had thought of that), and you have a sock-it-to-you business that actually precedes HBC.  Come to find out that one company alone (Little MissMatched) sells $5 million a year of mismatched stuff to a very rich target of “tweens” and teens.

Meanwhile, I look to the future of being daring enough to wear mismatched anything.  My conservative self grew up wanting (because ours didn’t) for all the pieces of a place setting to match. Ask my mom.

Big Brother Google

The ThinkerDid you catch the allusion to  George Orwell’s 1984? Here we are, almost 30 years later, and the novel’s themes sniff at our heels. Someone or something is controlling what we see and hear.

Does it concern you that what you see and what I see are entirely different? Big Brother Google, in its best intention to send you what it thinks you want to see, limits not only the exact content, but also the slant of that content.  In his 2011 TED talk, Eli Pariser starts the conversation. http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html. But where does this discussion end?

I know it is great for you if your stuff pops up all over the web. Good for you.  But as a society, we may suffer.

Break the mold. Start looking at stuff you don’t care about! Stuff you don’t know about. Different stuff. Otherwise, your head will be stuffed with what someone else thinks you want to see. Maybe you don’t want to see yesterday’s “you” anymore. It’s your responsibility to see a wider view, the today you, and the tomorrow you.

We founded this country on freedom of the press, freedom of speech. Don’t cut off your freedoms to avoid being clobbered by your big brother.

Tribes

I love the notion of tribes.  It’s a gut-level ancestral haul back to ancient times. It’s also hot right now.  Seth Godin, marketer extraordinaire, extols tribes as key to effective marketing. We all want to belong, fit in, be a part of.

David Logan, co-author of Tribal Leadership and The Three Laws of Performance, breaks tribe culture into five stages as summarized in his 2009 TED talk.

FIVE STAGES OF TRIBES:

  1. Life Sucks
  2. My Life Sucks
  3. I’m Great (and you’re not)
  4. We’re Great
  5. Life is Great

Logan says that tribes are comprised of between 20 and 150 people, but that the goal for managers, leaders, and marketers, among others, is to help people move from the lower stages up to the next higher stage.  In fact, as I see it, moving people to the highest level should be the objective for all of us as humans.

I would love to be a part of a tribe/group in which everyone in it could genuinely say “Life is Great” all day long.  Logan says that only 2% of tribes reach stage five. How could we increase the percentage of “Life is Great” tribes to 3% or 4%? That fifth stage is the world-changing, innovating, creating springboard to a better life.  Start by moving your tribe up by inviting more people into yours. Then move yourself and them up. If you’re at stage five, congrats. Can I join?

User Experience UX/Customer Experience CX

Some people argue that UX and CX are different. I don’t think so really. Whichever you call it, CX and UX may be the latest rage, but they are not new. It was called customer-centered business back in the 50s(!) as “invented” by Peter Drucker.  They called it TQM (Total Quality Management) or Six Sigma from the 80s and 90s. Maybe you could call it Steve Jobs from the 00s.

If CX/UX has been in the business lore for over fifty years, why is it renamed, rehashed, recycled and revisited every decade or so? By renaming it does the business community hope it will stick this time? Hah. It’s not the concept that is broken. It is the execution of the theory that is difficult.

Here’s what we know from The Customer Experience Revolution by Jeofrey Bean. Every muscle, brain cell, organ, and liquid part of every person who works for a company must have the same vision and energy. That is: to maximize their customers’ experience with their product or service, yielding one totally delighted customer.  Anything less undermines and weakens the role the company plays in the marketplace, leaving that company at the mercy of their competitors.

So while it sounds easy, the difficulty lies in the fact that everyone in the company from the CEO to the file clerk needs to be on board or CX will not work. In other words, everyone must drink the Kool-Aid.

It’s particularly hard because everyone doesn’t agree, and things change. But you must be strong.  If there are people or departments that do not follow your lead, it’s like lowering the drawbridge over your castle’s moat, allowing easy entry to your company’s unprotected bastion.

Windsor CastleAs CEO (or small business owner), you may be standing alone along the parapet, with your brave knights falling down around your heels, arrows through their hearts, piercing the armor they put on after their shower earlier in the month. Their shields were not strong enough. They did not defend the brand, the vision, the culture, because they did not believe it would work. But you must be tough because if you let the bridge down, even a little, your competition will know it. They will charge in and all is lost.  Don’t let the drawbridge down. Protect your brand with all your heart, and a re-commitment to CX.

UX/CX Part 2

Windsor CastleYour defenders ring the ramparts. You’re ready. Cannons are manned. Piles of extra arrows in the form of solid commitments to UX lay at the feet of your sales team. Customer service team leaders have plenty of ammunition. They are loaded down with careful, happy scripts and working headphones. Their computer monitors hold reactive inventory lists – selected from the best user-experience company roundtables in your industry.  We want this; we need that. Your company listened and acted.

Your competitors surround you astride headstrong horses, their breath visible in the cool morning air. These marauders are ready to tear down your hard-won market share. You have done your homework, though. Your customers are deliriously happy. The walls hold. Good job.

Corporate Kindness

In today’s USA Today, we saw a renewed focus on corporate kindness.

In the old days, they used to call it social responsibility.

In business school, they used to tell us that social responsibility was not in the interest of the shareholders. The shareholders demand a profit, they said.

That was then. This is now. A good heart is good business.  Giving some of the profits to those in need actually gives customers a better feeling about the company. Better feeling = more business. I do not think the profits and corporate kindness are mutually exclusive… to a point. At some nebulous level, though, the line needs to be drawn. Without profits, a business will not survive, cannot pay its employees, cannot re-invest into product development. The trick is finding the right mix, the correct balance. That trick applies to most things.