Is It Important To Find Your Tribe?


Saturday, 7:01 pm

Sheffield, U.K.

What is a tribe, exactly? Let’s ask the Internet.

a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.

Seth Godin talks a lot about tribes – why they are important, how they form and how you can lead one.

If you really care about something – it’s very like that there are others like you out there.

But, should you give a damn? Or are you better off spending your time working on your own? What is the benefit of belonging to a group?

There seem to be three broad reasons when you look into it.

You can change from what you are now to what you really are

We spend a large part of our lives learning to conform. From being told what to do as kids to signing contracts to do work as adults.

We learn there is a right way to act, to be, to think. The people around us act and behave in this way and anything outside the norm is odd or uncertain.

Along the way, we may have forgotten what we really are at the core.

If you’ve watched Sherlock Holmes, the one with Benedict Cumberbatch, there is a scene where a villain urinates in the fireplace to show that he can ignore any rules that others think is in place.

That’s probably not a wise approach to follow but the principle – one where we start to trust ourselves more and don’t try so hard to fit in – may help us move in the right direction.

And that’s one where you realise that most of the things that stop us from doing things are barriers that we have put up ourselves, barriers in our heads.

We may have stories about why we don’t fit in, why we’re different, why we’re not going to be accepted. We may have issues about gender, race, nationality among others.

But, these are stories we tell ourselves. And, if we want to change, we can find people with similar experiences and stories of change. People like us – and that’s one kind of tribe.

You can be part of a movement for change

If you believe in something – believe enough in it that you’re ready to change the world, then having a tribe will help.

Let’s say you want to stop fracking, change the law on cycling without a helmet or stop parents smacking their children – there is probably a group of people out there working very hard on the issue.

People will have different views – and so you will find multiple groups that will welcome you in. The price of entry, however, is that you have shared values and beliefs.

This kind of tribe is simply an emergent property of human society. It’s not good or bad – it just is.

Climate change activists and far right campaigners are simply different kinds of tribes. Society in general decides whether one tribe is good and another is bad – whether some can be allowed and other s controlled or banned.

If a well-defined tribe doesn’t exist around your area of interest, then you have the chance to be a leader, to bring together scattered people around your vision for a better (in your opinion) future.

You can be part of a group that has a common commercial interest

This final tribe is something that is so common that many of us just don’t realise how important it is.

Business – commerce – is an activity that happens because people trust each other. The easier you make it to trust someone, then more likely it is that your business activity and sector will do well.

That’s why every city has a Chamber of Commerce – a tribe that brings together local businesses. That’s why there are guilds and associations.

Imagine you’re setting up a market – should you put people that do the same thing close together or far away?

Should you group florists, food joints and book sellers close by or mix them up?

It turns out that having your competition close to you is better for customers.

When they can quickly compare between competing offerings, they make decisions more quickly.

When you can see what the competition is doing, you can become better at what you do.

A tribe isn’t a group of people that hang on your every word…

Some people think that finding a tribe is the same as finding a following – a group of people who idolize you and will buy everything you put out.

The people who have that kind of following, however, almost never seem to have set out with that in mind.

It looks like the ones that succeeded cared first – believed first, and the success followed later.

If you want to find your tribe – perhaps you should start by being clear on what you believe in.

How Can You Come Up With Amazing And Workable Ideas?


If you’re reading this, you’re probably a entrepreneur, founder, CEO or someone with a leadership role in an organisation – even an organisation of one with you as the only employee.

The challenge you have is growing your business – how are you going to go from 0 to 1, from no sales to the first few, from the first few tens of thousands to your first million.

How are you going to change and compete and be efficient in every part of your business?

There are some very important decisions you need to make – about who you work with, what stuff you need and how you do things.

How should you go about things if you want to get it right?

Let’s start with how to do it wrong.

Imagine you’re the CEO of a company that makes bottled vinegar and you think it might be a good idea to go into the ketchup business.

You call in your team and ask them to do a study – work out whether this is a flyer or not.

What is that team going to do?

Warren Buffett wrote in 1989 about the institutional imperative – that force in business that makes smart people do stupid things.

For example, he write that “Any business craving of the leader, however foolish, will be quickly supported by detailed rate-of-return and strategic studies prepared by his troops”.

It happens because organisations and groups of people interacting together have dynamics – and the factors that make us human also cause problems when it comes to making decisions.

You would think that most managers and people that work in businesses are rational and take decisions on a reasoned basis.

It often doesn’t – reminding us of the story of the accountant who, when asked during an interview what he thought the profit from an example set of accounts would be, got up, close the door and, in a hushed voice, asked the interviewer “What do you want it to be?”.

Instead, start by imagining you can have anything you want

Give yourself and your people free rein. Imagine you could do anything – get whatever resources you wanted, go wherever – you could have anything you asked for that you needed to achieve your goals.

Note the point about what you need. Let’s say you want to meet 10 companies. What do you need? Is it lists? Is it telesales people? Is it a website?

What do you need to have in order to hit that goal of meeting 10 companies?

Then – insist that whatever you have pays for itself in a reasonable time

You want to hire 10 people? Fine – as long as they pay for themselves in 12 months.

You want a website? Fine – as long as it brings in enough money to pay for itself in 24 months.

You want to go out and exhibit at conferences? Sure – as long as the sales from the people you meet there pays for the costs.

Make people take responsibility for results

When you do this – the ideas you come up with and those that your team come up with are likely to be more reasonable.

You’ll get a plan from operations that says by investing in new machinery, you’ll cut costs.

Sales will add people, but this time it will be the right ones.

Marketing will create material and content – but this time it will be aimed at informing and educating customer and not stroking the egos of the managers who work here.

People respond to incentives

If you want amazing ideas – put the right incentives in place.

When there are no rewards for success or penalties for failure, people come up with weak and lazy ideas.

When challenged, however, they come up with good ones that they know will work.

Your job as a leader is to create the right conditions for your team to get on and deliver results – and then get out of the way.

What Is The One Thing You Must Wipe Out In Every Sale?


Thursday 10:05pm

Sheffield, U.K

Are we in a brave new world where technology is all that matters and classic human skills are not going to be needed any more?

Or is human nature going to prevail – as we obstinately cling to our biological ways of doing things?

Take the success of Amazon, for example. What makes it special? Why has Ebay become so popular?

The most obvious answer is that they timed it well – they had the technology and created the systems and processes – the infrastructure – needed to do business in the world of the Internet.

You could buy books on Amazon and sell your old stuff on Ebay.

But – just because you can do something doesn’t mean you will.

The two internet giants (and others) created new markets that were transparent and that you could trust.

Reviews, Ebay seller ratings, guarantees, escalation processes – all these helped reassure people that their money was safe if they used the platform to make a purchase.

Many of us can still remember a period when we didn’t fully trust things online. We might look it up online, but then go into a store to buy it.

Then we went into stores and checked online to see if we were getting a good price.

Now, we use stores like display cabinets – a place to look at things before we place an order from the cheapest place online.

The thing that Amazon and Ebay got right, eventually, was removing all risks for us as buyers of products.

And this is something Facebook is learning, perhaps painfully.

Facebook enables us to be producers and consumers of information – of stories and pictures and memories.

The problem is that they have also allowed their platform to be a seething quagmire of misinformation, propaganda and sleaze.

We don’t trust them or their platform, or feel it’s a safe place for us and our kids – and now they are having to do something about it.

They’re learning something that great marketers have always known – if you want someone to make a decision, take away every barrier, every risk that they could possibly face.

Let them try it out, pay later, offer a guarantee, let them have their money back at any time if they’re not happy.

Bend over backwards to make sure that they can make a decision and be confident that they can back out if they have even an iota of regret.

Some people are scared of doing this – what if they get taken advantage of?

But – back to human nature – more people will do the right thing. There will be some people who take advantage of you, but that will be a small number that is more than offset by people who decide to take a chance on you because of what you say you’ll do to remove any risk for them.

And, if you have a good product or service, you know they’ll be happy.

If we’re not confident that we have something good – then we need to fix that first.

But after that… you know that it will help the customer.

So… wipe out every last little bit of risk and then let them make the choice that is best for them.

The 7 Basic Fundamentals Of Selling Anything


Wednesday, 8:10pm

Sheffield, U.K.

I’m musing about value – and how to get it across to someone else.

It feels like there are lots of people with many ideas.

There probably always were – if someone looked into it, they’ll probably find that the percentage of people with ideas has stayed the same over time.

It’s just that there are more people to start with, and it’s easier to talk about our ideas, what with social media and email and all that kind of stuff.

But most of us have had no real training in telling the difference between a good idea and a bad one, a profitable idea and a money pit, something worth doing well and something not worth doing at all.

Our brain plays tricks on us as well. It’s well known that people fall in love with things they have done themselves – the IKEA effect – where we regard our amateurish creations as at the same level as professionals.

But then – we also need to remember that experts aren’t always right – amateurs often invent things that go on to revolutionise industries.

For example, the Wright Brothers worked with bicycles but built the world’s first successful aeroplane.

But, on a more down to earth basis, what do you need to know in order to sell something?

There are seven key factors that, according to the Institute of Direct Marketing (IDM), are key to selling anything.

1. A product or a service

That seems obvious – and you possibly have one already. Whatever it is, you need to be able to talk about its features, advantages and benefits.

What can it do, why is it better and what will it do for your customer.

2. Aimed at a target audience

You can’t sell to everyone. In fact, there will be a small number of people who need what you have, want it more than they want the money in their pocket and actually want to talk and buy from you.

Everyone else is milling around, getting in the way while you get to that core group of people – your customers.

The better we know and understand our target market, the better we will be at…

3. Creating an offer that they find irresistible

You can sell anything. Cow dung is valuable – it’s a heating fuel, organic fertiliser and floor covering…

It comes down to price – how much, discounts – what percentage will you take off, and terms – how quickly, what quality.

Someone will bite – and you just need to make those terms as attractive as you can.

4. You need to think about how they’ll see it

Are you going face to face, sending letters or reaching out electronically.

The format is simply the way in which you put the information in front of someone but…

5. The creative is how it looks when it’s there

Many people think pretty pictures sell – but the mistake is thinking that’s all you need.

You need something your prospect can read easily, understand quickly. The harder you make it, the more people you’ll lose.

Plus – you need different approaches for different people.

6. And they’ll be ready for it at different times

Fashion is the perfect example of seasonal selling – following the weather and what you need – and helping you make impulse decisions.

But there are other things that matter – budget cycles are important, common renewal dates are worth targeting and there is an overall business cycle in many industries.

7. But nothing matters if people don’t come back to you

The final part of the selling puzzle is making it clear how to come back to you.

The other day I nearly walked away from a purchase I had already decided to make because the person I was talking to explained everything about what they were doing, except how to order.

They talked about the website to the point where I thought that was the only way to order.

It was only as I was about to walk away that the point about signing up now came up – and that rescued the sale.

Customers need to be told what to do to order. In detail.

More is nice… but the basics are essential

These seven steps are crucial when trying to sell anything – and I’m going to keep them in mind when assembling any piece of product or service marketing from now on.

How To Stand Out From Your Competition


Monday, 9.33pm

Sheffield, U.K.

What is the single biggest problem with looking at what your competitors are doing and trying to emulate them?

For example – if they have a flashy website and spend loads on pay-per-click advertising – do you have to do that as well to compete?

If they attend particular trade shows or go to awards, do you need to have a presence there as well.

Does a me-too strategy work?

The problem is that if you do what everyone else is doing, then what is it that sets you apart? Why should someone choose you over someone else?

This is something that many organisations struggle to get right. The boss looks over at the competition – perhaps she gets an email newsletter – and wants to know why her company isn’t sending out stuff like that.

It’s much easier to mock up a newsletter and start sending it out instead of questioning whether the newsletter adds value and if clients would actually read it.

Competing on such a basis is effectively an arms race, with everyone spending money to keep up with everyone else.

And, because the Internet effectively makes it free to send out stuff, ridiculous amounts of crap floods into our inboxes every day.

There’s a simple principle that we should keep in mind when advertising what we do.

If you are holding a red flag in a sea of blue flags, you’ll stand out from everyone around you.

That doesn’t happen if you’re holding a red flag and are surrounded by others also holding red flags.

If your business is doing what everyone else is doing then you have to come up with something new, something unique – that makes you look different from everyone else.

Many businesses are too scared to appear anything but corporate. They think that by projecting an image of themselves that is all polished wood and starched shirts they will come across as professional and competent.

Fear rules how they make decisions. They don’t want to send out controversial messages that polarise their audience. The words they use are dull and insipid.

It’s not about shocking an audience. Instead it’s about attracting their attention and then getting a message through to them.

And that’s very hard to do with everyone else shouting at the same time – especially on the internet.

Imagine how you would act if it cost you $10 to send each message. You’d be much more careful about who you sent it to, what you said and how you created a deal for them.

This doesn’t mean we should ignore the competition.

You should study them, read every message they put out and learn exactly how they advertise themselves.

Then – figure out what you can say and show that is different.

How To Stay Laser Focused On Your Goals All Year


Sunday, 10:13pm

Sheffield, U.K

It’s halfway through the year. July 1st. But you knew that already.

How is it working out for you? Are you on track to achieving what you wanted to do at the start of the year?

Sometimes it feels like we’ve just drifted – that time goes increasingly quickly. Part of that, according to a neuroscientist friend of mine, is how our brain processes time as we age.

So, are you doing ok? And if not, what can you do about it in the next six months? If yes, what can you do better?

Is what you do aligned with your goals?

We build castles and lives with one brick, one action at a time. I get distracted by lots of things – ideas, activities, possibilities. How should you choose what to do at any time?

The answer is probably not to spend time choosing. Instead you should create daily routines, rituals that are aligned with your goals.

That’s age old advice for writers, for example. Write at the same time every day, with the same tools, following the same process.

If you want to get healthy, lose weight, create a ritual that involves going to the gym in the morning. Do a set routine.

Don’t spend time trying to think about what you’re going to do when tired and bleary eyed in the morning. Just get your clothes on and get out the door.

At work, is what you’re doing aligned with what you’ve been asked to do? More importantly, are you working on stuff that makes you better, more valuable?

If so, create a ritual where you spend the hours before lunch working on valuable stuff, and the time after lunch working on administrivia.

Create and follow rituals and you’ll make good progress.

Remove everything that isn’t helping you move in the right direction

I find it very easy to get distracted by a new system, a new way of doing something, nice paper, a software package, something I code myself to do a task.

Sometimes this is good. Sometimes I need to allow myself to do something that doesn’t have a point, just because my brain won’t stop nagging me until I do it.

Checking Facebook or LinkedIn isn’t one of those things.

The problem with having devices that let you look at your digital world anywhere is that you look at your digital world everywhere.

And that’s just not necessary.

We need big blocks of focused time to do good work. The only way to get big blocks is to remove distractions, by reducing what can get into our world in the first place.

Willpower doesn’t work. Think you can avoid reaching for your phone when you take a break? Think you can avoid chocolate?

The only way is to stop having it available at all. If there is no mail on your phone, then you can’t check it. If there is no chocolate in the house, you can’t eat it.

Stay on track by writing layered goals and actions

How do you know you’re doing well? And how can you correct yourself.

The best way to do this is by writing it down. And then writing it down again.

The formal term for this is reflection, or reflective practice – looking back at your own experiences to learn from them.

One tactic that works well is to write layered goals. Start with the year – what are all the things you want to achieve next year.

Then think about the month ahead. What do you want to do next month?

Next plan the week ahead. What are you going to do?

Finally, what are you going to achieve tomorrow?

Finally – make specific plans.

Researchers have shown that we think about lots of goals much of the time. We can hold things we want to do – from sorting out the washing to completing a merger and these thoughts mix and intrude when we’re trying to focus.

In essence, things we haven’t done interfere with what we’re doing right now. So, we need to get specific – which means that we need to say how and when we’re going to do something,

Breaking that down – let’s say you have a list of things you want to do tomorrow. Say you want to clear out the garage. Is it enough to write that down?

Not if you want to get it done. What you want to do is get down to the precise next action and then time-block it.

So, that means getting clear that at 10:15 tomorrow, you’re going to box up all the junk on the left hand side of your garage, put it in the car and take it to the recycling yard.

Or something on those lines.

There’s six months still left to turn things around, so if you aren’t on track already, the best time to start is now.