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Biz Resolutions Gone Rogue

As we approach the second calendar quarter, we’re entering that precarious time when many begin to flail and outright fail with their New Year’s resolutions—no matter how impassioned or well-intentioned they were at the time of inception. This phenomenon is so pervasive that a litany of studies are “peeling back the onion” to reveal exactly why so many are unsuccessful in fulfilling career, life and self-enhancing promises we’ve made to ourselves. 


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One recent Psychology Today article reveals that there may be four specific reasons“you may be standing in the way of your personal growth.” These are goals that are unclear, or feeling overwhelmed, discouraged or not ready for the change. And, while having a backup plan is an anxiety-alleviating strategy often proffered by field pundits, an Elsevier-published study titled “How backup plans can harm goal pursuit: The unexpected downside of being prepared for failure”explores the notion that “the mere act of thinking through a backup plan can reduce performance on your primary goal by decreasing your desire for goal achievement.” Speaking of anxiety, failing at New Year’s resolutions just may be impacting your emotional health. A report published by ReearchGate.net correlates the “conflict between goals (inter-goal conflict) and conflicting feelings about attaining particular goals (ambivalence)” that are both “believed to be associated with depressive and anxious symptoms.”


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Whatever the reason your own New Year’s resolution has veered off-course, it’s never too late to rally, turn the tide and start realizing some quick successes. But it does take a bit of concerted effort, ideation and bona fide grit to make those resolutions a reality. In an effort to pull back the proverbial curtain, I tapped a variety of high-achievers and “serial doers”—“Firestarters” in various industries and trades to share advice on what it takes to start, create and even disrupt in order to achieve goals. Their anecdotal circumstances and points of advice also exemplify differences between people who actually make things happen and those who only think about making impactful changes, but never quite get there.


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#1:Be Persistent with a Purpose

Best-selling author, lauded corporate executiveand sought-aftermotivational speaker Steve Pemberton recommendsunleashing “the power of persistence” with visceral determination.Having overcome a litany of adversities growing up in the foster care system to ultimately become a C-Suite powerhouse for global leaders the likes of Monster.com, Walgreens and Globoforce, Pemberton has walked the walk when it comes to “surthrival” and perseverance. Relative to the research mentioned above regarding the helpful or hurtful nature of back up plans, for Pemberton there was no such thing. There was simply no other option than to persist toward his goals, however small or large, that were doggedly pursued one at a time until, collectively, he reached that mountain peak. Then, he did it time and time again, also having spent much of his professional life helping others do the same. His childhood experiences not only gave him the resolve and tenacity to stay the course, but to do it with purpose and meaning—for Pemberton, a burning desire to “pay it forward” and help others break through obstacles in their own lives. 


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#2: Consistency Breeds Commitment

Ask people if they are committed individuals and many will say “yes,” however; commitment is often defined or regarded quite differently from culture to culture, and even person to person. Individuals often assert their commitment to their goals until a circumstance arises that knocks them off balance, comfortably absolving themselves of blame in the process. It’s no wonder a whopping 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions are purported to fail by February. “In order to remain committed to a goal or cause, one must conduct themselves with steadfast consistency in working toward it, and upholding it when you’ve achieved it—no matter what hardships present along the way,” urges social activist and acclaimed personal injury attorney Christopher Chestnut, partner at The Chestnut Law Firm. Despite Chestnut’s amazing early career trajectory, including recognition from former President Barack Obama (who was Senator at the time) for courtroom excellence, earning a National Bar Association award and winning a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against Big Tobacco, he suddenly found himself immersed in challenges threatening his reputation, livelihood and future at large. This included being in a dispute with his former mentor. While Chestnut was faced with possibly “losing it all,” having many chances to quit, his devotion to the idea of “justice because you deserve it”—the actual slogan of his law firm—gave him the emotional strength and fortitude to remain committed to the profession he worked so hard to attain. Consistency forges a path and, rather than focusing on the end destination, holding on to the ideals for “why” you want to grow can reinforce your commitment and serve as guideposts to help you navigate those inevitable bumps in the road. 

#3: Remain in Relentless Pursuit

Russian-born Eugene Gold grew up poor, ultimately immigrating to the United States with the hope of a better life. In the process, he faced setbacks too numerous to count, from financial to professional to social. But he was relentless in working toward his career goals. So much so, Gold was coined a “relentless-preneur” for his unwavering belief that rejection actually fuels success. Gold reveres failure and regards rejection as an asset. Gold points out that, “every single time you fail and every single time you get rejected, you are that much closer to a ‘yes’ and more knowledgeable at how to get there.” It’s with this maverick mentality that Gold built a business that’s grown by a staggering 4,400 percent. His incredible, fearless determination landed his company at No. 65 on the coveted Inc. 5000, also appearing on Entrepreneur 360 list twice. Producing such staggering “against the odds” results is certainly difficult, but entirely attainable with the right mindset. 
Another fast track case-in-point is Chi Ta, a self-made millionaire who grew his Airbnb business to $2.4 million upside in nine months, making him one of the world’s largest Airbnb hosts by dollar volume. He not only attributes his rapid-fire success to determination, dedication and consistency, but also by being willing to take those calculated risks and leaps of faith needed to push past the status quo and not just be good … but great. Before growing his Airbnb empire, Ta was working toward his “wealth” goals in the mortgage industry where he served for over a decade. But, when he uncovered gig economy opportunity in the homeshare space and curated what he felt was a powerful strategy related thereto, he brazenly pivoted and shifted his professional point of focus on the new pursuit. Today, Ta is one of the global leaders in his field and his now mentoring others on how to achieve just the same. Gold and Ta are examples of how quickly things can get back on track after an undesirable result. Their mega success demonstrates that people falling behind on their New Year’s resolutions can actually parlay pitfalls into renewed intentions that can reinvigorate. 

#4:Value and Demonstrate Loyalty

It often takes a strong character to accomplish things in life, and this holds true for New Year’s resolutions as well. This according to “Character Coach” Gary Waters who enjoyed a 30-year career as a NCAA basketball head coach. Waters believes that character begins by being loyal to yourself and that quitting is the most disloyal thing you can do. Loyalty means different things to different people, of course. For Waters, loyalty is about the commitment one makes to a cause. It involves a feeling of devotion or obligation to something in both good times and bad. Other definitions describe loyalty as involving faithfulness to something to which one is bound by pledge or duty. In all instances, however, loyalty is about integrity—keeping one’s word or upholding expectations as demonstrated through one’s actions, optimally in a sustained and habitual manner. Waters believes that ingraining a sense of loyalty to one’s own wants and needs is a fundamental aspect of character building. Once you’ve mastered this for yourself, you can then impart the value of loyalty on those you have an impact on—be that in the workplace, at home or on a playing field. 

Irfan Khan also knows a thing or two about loyalty. As the president and CEO of Bristlecone, a company whose size he has doubled the last four years by completely centering it around the needs and wants of his customers, Khan is an expert in “antifragility.” A concept defined by popular economic thinker Nassim Taleb, an antifragile system is one that, “instead of breaking under stress and change, thrives under it. The antifragile grow and improve from external shocks.” While typically applied to supply chain management and a consumer-centric approach and attitude in business, Khan asserts that trials and tribulations that test and attempt to undermine one’s loyalty can, and should, actually make that loyalty stronger and uncompromising. 

#5: Recalibrate When Required

It is to be expected that one will face stress and difficulties in their road to successful resolutions, but some of those roadblocks may be signs it’s prudent to rethink your goals altogether. Career coach Sheeba Forbes faced this same dilemma when starting her practice intended to help women advance in the workplace. Many times, as her business was establishing itself, Forbes had to step back and re-evaluate if a particular goal was what she actually wanted—or even needed—or if it was time to “course correct” and adapt her objectives slightly to accomplish the bigger picture of what she set out to achieve. This ability and willingness to readjust and reacclimate to new conditions and situations taught her the value of taking a break, stepping back to re-evaluate goals and ensure the “why” behind them still aligns with current circumstances and desires. To this point, Dr. Quinella Minix, a personal performance coach, concentrates on intrinsic motivation. She advocates a focus on knowing what drives you and why. Minix underscores that it’s easy to get distracted by the “wrong why,” which can lead you down a path that wastes time and energy and can often take you further away from your goal.

The demonstrated value of strategic recalibration aside, when it comes to getting New Year’s resolutions back on course, for many the secret sauce is simply a matter of maintaining one’s vision, focus and persistence. This mix is what helped former NFL wide receiver Marques Colston become the New Orleans Saints all-time leading wide receiver (one of the top 50 in NFL history for receiving touchdowns) and, today, an entrepreneur helping retired athletes and other professionals become skilled entrepreneurs and investors in their own right. “Even though I attended a small school, my ‘plan A’ was to go to the NFL,” Marques notes. “When people asked me if I had a ‘plan B,’ I would respond that my ‘plan B’ was for my ‘plan A’ to work. I just didn’t see it any other way. It was all or nothing.”  

Can this “all or nothing” mentality help the throngs of folks failing with their New Year’s resolutions reel it back in and taste victory in their own right? It seems to me that such staunch intentions can certainly be a helpful means toward that end. But reality is there’s no one single method that can guarantee goal-setting success. The insights and perspectives above can help you ascertain what’s missing in your own plight and freshen your approach, optimally lighting that fire in your belly and sustaining it until you cross the finish line. It may not be easy, but perhaps you can perceive this truth as a thrill rather than a kill.

About The Author

Biz Titans Reveal How To Reel In New Year’s Resolutions Gone Rogue

As we approach the second calendar quarter, we’re entering that precarious time when many begin to flail and outright fail with their New Year’s resolutions—no matter how impassioned or well-intentioned they were at the time of inception. This phenomenon is so pervasive that a litany of studies are “peeling back the onion” to reveal exactly why so many are unsuccessful in fulfilling career, life and self-enhancing promises we’ve made to ourselves. 


Featured Sponsors:

 


One recent Psychology Today article reveals that there may be four specific reasons“you may be standing in the way of your personal growth.” These are goals that are unclear, or feeling overwhelmed, discouraged or not ready for the change. And, while having a backup plan is an anxiety-alleviating strategy often proffered by field pundits, an Elsevier-published study titled “How backup plans can harm goal pursuit: The unexpected downside of being prepared for failure”explores the notion that “the mere act of thinking through a backup plan can reduce performance on your primary goal by decreasing your desire for goal achievement.” Speaking of anxiety, failing at New Year’s resolutions just may be impacting your emotional health. A report published by ReearchGate.net correlates the “conflict between goals (inter-goal conflict) and conflicting feelings about attaining particular goals (ambivalence)” that are both “believed to be associated with depressive and anxious symptoms.”


Featured Sponsors:

 


Whatever the reason your own New Year’s resolution has veered off-course, it’s never too late to rally, turn the tide and start realizing some quick successes. But it does take a bit of concerted effort, ideation and bona fide grit to make those resolutions a reality. In an effort to pull back the proverbial curtain, I tapped a variety of high-achievers and “serial doers”—“Firestarters” in various industries and trades to share advice on what it takes to start, create and even disrupt in order to achieve goals. Their anecdotal circumstances and points of advice also exemplify differences between people who actually make things happen and those who only think about making impactful changes, but never quite get there.


Featured Sponsors:

 


#1:Be Persistent with a Purpose

Best-selling author, lauded corporate executiveand sought-aftermotivational speaker Steve Pemberton recommendsunleashing “the power of persistence” with visceral determination.Having overcome a litany of adversities growing up in the foster care system to ultimately become a C-Suite powerhouse for global leaders the likes of Monster.com, Walgreens and Globoforce, Pemberton has walked the walk when it comes to “surthrival” and perseverance. Relative to the research mentioned above regarding the helpful or hurtful nature of back up plans, for Pemberton there was no such thing. There was simply no other option than to persist toward his goals, however small or large, that were doggedly pursued one at a time until, collectively, he reached that mountain peak. Then, he did it time and time again, also having spent much of his professional life helping others do the same. His childhood experiences not only gave him the resolve and tenacity to stay the course, but to do it with purpose and meaning—for Pemberton, a burning desire to “pay it forward” and help others break through obstacles in their own lives. 


Featured Sponsors:

 


#2: Consistency Breeds Commitment

Ask people if they are committed individuals and many will say “yes,” however; commitment is often defined or regarded quite differently from culture to culture, and even person to person. Individuals often assert their commitment to their goals until a circumstance arises that knocks them off balance, comfortably absolving themselves of blame in the process. It’s no wonder a whopping 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions are purported to fail by February. “In order to remain committed to a goal or cause, one must conduct themselves with steadfast consistency in working toward it, and upholding it when you’ve achieved it—no matter what hardships present along the way,” urges social activist and acclaimed personal injury attorney Christopher Chestnut, partner at The Chestnut Law Firm. Despite Chestnut’s amazing early career trajectory, including recognition from former President Barack Obama (who was Senator at the time) for courtroom excellence, earning a National Bar Association award and winning a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against Big Tobacco, he suddenly found himself immersed in challenges threatening his reputation, livelihood and future at large. This included being in a dispute with his former mentor. While Chestnut was faced with possibly “losing it all,” having many chances to quit, his devotion to the idea of “justice because you deserve it”—the actual slogan of his law firm—gave him the emotional strength and fortitude to remain committed to the profession he worked so hard to attain. Consistency forges a path and, rather than focusing on the end destination, holding on to the ideals for “why” you want to grow can reinforce your commitment and serve as guideposts to help you navigate those inevitable bumps in the road. 

#3: Remain in Relentless Pursuit

Russian-born Eugene Gold grew up poor, ultimately immigrating to the United States with the hope of a better life. In the process, he faced setbacks too numerous to count, from financial to professional to social. But he was relentless in working toward his career goals. So much so, Gold was coined a “relentless-preneur” for his unwavering belief that rejection actually fuels success. Gold reveres failure and regards rejection as an asset. Gold points out that, “every single time you fail and every single time you get rejected, you are that much closer to a ‘yes’ and more knowledgeable at how to get there.” It’s with this maverick mentality that Gold built a business that’s grown by a staggering 4,400 percent. His incredible, fearless determination landed his company at No. 65 on the coveted Inc. 5000, also appearing on Entrepreneur 360 list twice. Producing such staggering “against the odds” results is certainly difficult, but entirely attainable with the right mindset. 
Another fast track case-in-point is Chi Ta, a self-made millionaire who grew his Airbnb business to $2.4 million upside in nine months, making him one of the world’s largest Airbnb hosts by dollar volume. He not only attributes his rapid-fire success to determination, dedication and consistency, but also by being willing to take those calculated risks and leaps of faith needed to push past the status quo and not just be good … but great. Before growing his Airbnb empire, Ta was working toward his “wealth” goals in the mortgage industry where he served for over a decade. But, when he uncovered gig economy opportunity in the homeshare space and curated what he felt was a powerful strategy related thereto, he brazenly pivoted and shifted his professional point of focus on the new pursuit. Today, Ta is one of the global leaders in his field and his now mentoring others on how to achieve just the same. Gold and Ta are examples of how quickly things can get back on track after an undesirable result. Their mega success demonstrates that people falling behind on their New Year’s resolutions can actually parlay pitfalls into renewed intentions that can reinvigorate. 

#4:Value and Demonstrate Loyalty

It often takes a strong character to accomplish things in life, and this holds true for New Year’s resolutions as well. This according to “Character Coach” Gary Waters who enjoyed a 30-year career as a NCAA basketball head coach. Waters believes that character begins by being loyal to yourself and that quitting is the most disloyal thing you can do. Loyalty means different things to different people, of course. For Waters, loyalty is about the commitment one makes to a cause. It involves a feeling of devotion or obligation to something in both good times and bad. Other definitions describe loyalty as involving faithfulness to something to which one is bound by pledge or duty. In all instances, however, loyalty is about integrity—keeping one’s word or upholding expectations as demonstrated through one’s actions, optimally in a sustained and habitual manner. Waters believes that ingraining a sense of loyalty to one’s own wants and needs is a fundamental aspect of character building. Once you’ve mastered this for yourself, you can then impart the value of loyalty on those you have an impact on—be that in the workplace, at home or on a playing field. 

Irfan Khan also knows a thing or two about loyalty. As the president and CEO of Bristlecone, a company whose size he has doubled the last four years by completely centering it around the needs and wants of his customers, Khan is an expert in “antifragility.” A concept defined by popular economic thinker Nassim Taleb, an antifragile system is one that, “instead of breaking under stress and change, thrives under it. The antifragile grow and improve from external shocks.” While typically applied to supply chain management and a consumer-centric approach and attitude in business, Khan asserts that trials and tribulations that test and attempt to undermine one’s loyalty can, and should, actually make that loyalty stronger and uncompromising. 

#5: Recalibrate When Required

It is to be expected that one will face stress and difficulties in their road to successful resolutions, but some of those roadblocks may be signs it’s prudent to rethink your goals altogether. Career coach Sheeba Forbes faced this same dilemma when starting her practice intended to help women advance in the workplace. Many times, as her business was establishing itself, Forbes had to step back and re-evaluate if a particular goal was what she actually wanted—or even needed—or if it was time to “course correct” and adapt her objectives slightly to accomplish the bigger picture of what she set out to achieve. This ability and willingness to readjust and reacclimate to new conditions and situations taught her the value of taking a break, stepping back to re-evaluate goals and ensure the “why” behind them still aligns with current circumstances and desires. To this point, Dr. Quinella Minix, a personal performance coach, concentrates on intrinsic motivation. She advocates a focus on knowing what drives you and why. Minix underscores that it’s easy to get distracted by the “wrong why,” which can lead you down a path that wastes time and energy and can often take you further away from your goal.

The demonstrated value of strategic recalibration aside, when it comes to getting New Year’s resolutions back on course, for many the secret sauce is simply a matter of maintaining one’s vision, focus and persistence. This mix is what helped former NFL wide receiver Marques Colston become the New Orleans Saints all-time leading wide receiver (one of the top 50 in NFL history for receiving touchdowns) and, today, an entrepreneur helping retired athletes and other professionals become skilled entrepreneurs and investors in their own right. “Even though I attended a small school, my ‘plan A’ was to go to the NFL,” Marques notes. “When people asked me if I had a ‘plan B,’ I would respond that my ‘plan B’ was for my ‘plan A’ to work. I just didn’t see it any other way. It was all or nothing.”  

Can this “all or nothing” mentality help the throngs of folks failing with their New Year’s resolutions reel it back in and taste victory in their own right? It seems to me that such staunch intentions can certainly be a helpful means toward that end. But reality is there’s no one single method that can guarantee goal-setting success. The insights and perspectives above can help you ascertain what’s missing in your own plight and freshen your approach, optimally lighting that fire in your belly and sustaining it until you cross the finish line. It may not be easy, but perhaps you can perceive this truth as a thrill rather than a kill.

About The Author

Conversation Marketing Hacks: 8 Ways To ‘Speak Human’ & Change The Game

Nobody starts out automatically caring about your products or services. They care about how you can make a difference in their lives.  No matter the context, all relationships begin with a “handshake moment,” whether literally or figuratively—those first few introductory moments that reveal a great deal about the character of the person standing before you. Why should company interactions with current and prospective customers or clients be any different? 


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Sure, “content marketing” has been a crucial ingredient impelling the evolution of traditional marketing into today’s more personalized approach, bridging the gap between cookie-cutter TV, radio, and print mass marketing to highly customized digital and social media-driven communications. Even so, today’s more personalized digital communications have plenty of challenges, all too often falling on “deaf ears” and “blind eyes” amid a marketplace becoming highly desensitized to the glut ofadvertising and marketing messages its exposed to any given hour of any given day…year in and year out. 


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So, how can brands can make and maintain meaningful connections and create a lifetime value with customers in ways that’ll set them apart in a “noisy,” increasingly jaded and discriminating marketplace? How can businesses tell an authentic story so as to foster maximized marketplace engagement and breed brand loyalty?  According to Kevin Lund, author of the new book, “Conversation Marketing: How to be Relevant and Engage Your Consumer by Speaking Human”the proverbial key to the Kingdom is for companies, no matter their size and scope, to simply “speak human.
In this new book  Lund, who’s CEO of T3 Custom—itself a content marketing firm helping brands learn to “speak human” and supercharge ROI reportedly by as much as16-times, provides an in-depth analysis of what’s required to succeed in today’s modern marketing era, which he’s aptly coined the “Conversation Age.” Specifically, he details key principles critical for driving the more evolved conversation marketing approach, which can help companies amplify results on multiple fronts. 


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According to Lund, “Those who are wildly successful at conversation marketing understand the strategy is not simply about propagating online content and sharing through social media accounts. Rather, it’s a disciplined approach to communicating with a target audience in a way that tells a simple, human story that will educate, inform, entertain and, most importantly, compel customers in a way that fully captures mind–and-market share through messaging that truly resonates. Companies must stop talking ‘at’ their customers and, instead, connect with them by simply speaking human. And, it’s far beyond that initial ‘handshake moment—it’s through a constant stream of congenial engagements with each individual consumer, or the marketplace at large, based on trust and performance.”


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Think it’s complicated to be an adept conversation marketer and speak human to your constituents? Think again! Below are eight of Lund’s tactical strategies from the new book that can help companies large and small become more engaging and relevant with customers, and the marketplace at large:

1. Earn Attention

To gain attention in today’s crowded marketplace, it’s prudent to do the opposite of what most everyone else is doing. That means don’t deliver clichéd, boring content that’s written for robots—search engines or otherwise—and for generic consumption. It’s unsustainable for you and your brand as well as frustratingly futile for the audience you’re trying to reach. Instead, speak human by engaging your audience with eye-level language in order to gain their attention and set your brand apart. Learn to use language that educates and entertains the audience. 

Earning attention starts with asking yourself what you and your company are passionate about and conveying that genuinely in that all-important “handshake moment” of first contact—online or otherwise. Assume you’re meeting the person on the other side of the screen for the first time. Think of what you can say that’s new, memorable, a standout, and jargon-free. Also, understand and adapt to your audience. You wouldn’t talk the same way to an aging Baby Boomer as you would to a teenager.

2. Tell a Story

How do you hold someone’s attention long enough to break down a topic and engender his or her trust, but also in a way that’s unforgettable and leaves that person feeling more knowledgeable than before? The answer lies in good storytelling. 

Good conversations are filled with good stories and anecdotes. But be mindful that the hero of the story isn’t your company or its products, but rather how your product or service will have a positive impact in your customers’ lives. If you can elicit an emotional response, you’re onto something.  Some standout companies have figured this out. Apple’s story, for example, isn’t about devices. It’s about innovation and how our lives are being changed for the better with Apple technology in them. Learn how to make your story short, to the point, and easy to share online.

3. Stay Humble

Being humble begins with letting go of ego—that instinctual part of the psyche that screams for a marketer to make too much noise about products or services and brag about themselves. Sigmund Freud developed a psychoanalytic theory of personality he coined the “id,” and marketers often tap into their own ids by telling the world how great their company and its products are, and how great a potential customer will be for buying them. The id operates based on the pleasure principle, which demands immediate gratification of needs. 

In conversation marketing, speaking human dictates that your customer’s needs, not your own, are top priority. Your audience wants to know what you can do for them, and that means stop talking about yourself and drop the megaphone. Instead, embrace a different approach that thoughtfully and humbly explains why you do what you do and why it can make a difference in someone’s life instead of focusing on your bottom line. Stop beating them over the heads with the fabulous features and benefits of your products. Instead, tell stories that inspire and resonate with their own life experiences.

4. Pick Your Party

Equally important to the “how” of your conversation is the “where.” It should all fit seamlessly together and feel natural and organic in that moment.  Part of learning how to talk to your audience and engage them in any form of conversation is deciding where to talk to them in the first place. 
This means doing the footwork to learn where your potential customers gather, and meeting them on their own ground. Where do your potential customers hang out on social media? What are they saying, and what challenges are they discussing that you can compellingly weigh-in on? Easily available research tools can help you join the right conversation at the right time and in the right place with consistency.

5. Be Relevant (on a Molecular Level)

True listening is about far more than hearing words. It’s also about fully understanding the message and concepts being imparted—whether they’re needs, wants, desires, or even complaints. Being relevant means making sure you’re talking about topics that are of sure interest to your audience, and that’s often achieved by addressing their pain points. Before a marketer can aptly communicate and speak to such pain points, however, he or she must first hear what the prospect, customer or marketplace has to say. It can be dangerous, expensive and ultimately futile for companies to presume to inherently know what should be said in conversation marketing. 

6. Start the Conversation 
How do you gain audience attention in a way that prevents you from just being part of the noise? It’s no longer a question of whether you should insert yourself into the world of content marketing. It’s a matter of when you’re going to start talking, what you’re going to say, and how you’re going to say it. One good approach is to base that initial conversation on your unique value proposition for the given audience. 

It’s important to always remember that your target audience doesn’t care about you. They care what you can do for them. If you’ve done your research, you’ll be familiar with their pain points and better prepared to offer answers that address their needs. Don’t be a “me-too” marketer who dishes out the same information as everyone else. Instead, develop a unique angle with a thought-provoking headline that sparks attention—even better if it disrupts conventional thinking. In addition, know your topic inside out before communicating, and make sure any other people handling your communications are experts in the field. You don’t want to risk sounding trite or inaccurate.

7.  Stop Talking

Unlike a monologue, a conversation is a two-way endeavor. Knowing when to stop talking is as important as knowing what to say and when to say it. It’s the only way to truly get a sense of what your audience (or your potential customer) is thinking in reaction to what you’ve offered, and whether to stay the course in your strategy or tweak it on-the-fly. Once you hear preliminary reaction, you can respond to questions and concerns before moving ahead or otherwise couse-correct as needed. Also bear in mind that what your audience isn’t saying can be just as impactful as what they do convey.

Once your message is out, take a step back and “read the room.” That could mean monitoring online response to your blog post or using various tools to learn which of your resources are drawing attention. Are people engaged? Are they adding to the conversation? What should you do if the feedback is bad? Don’t consider a negative response or lack of response necessarily a failure. Instead, see it as an opportunity to adjust, make changes, and perhaps find ways to better meet your audience’s needs.

8. Ditch the Checklist

Before every takeoff, airline crews verbally work through an extensive checklist. There’s a detailed set of tasks to cover before the plane can even push back from the gate. However, in an ebb and flow conversation marketing context, this adherence to a certain protocol can pose limitations. Indeed, one problem with simply sticking to a checklist is that a content marketing strategy will never evolve with the times or differentiate itself in any way from what everyone else is doing.

Successful marketers endeavor to open new horizons. They take a step back and ask bigger questions about themselves and their companies’ ultimate goals, as well as what sort of new challenges their audience or customers might face over time–how to aptly adjust when needed. 

Lund also suggests finding sources of inspiration. “Explore some of the successful content marketing plans that showed passion, ditched the tired old language, zeroed in on what customers needed, and started a real conversation with the market,” he urges. “Then scrutinize your own strategy and see where it might be lacking, so that you can continually refine your own checklist.”

About The Author

3 Communications Basics That Build Confidence

Communication is ingrained in every facet of life, yet many struggle with fear, insecurity and general ineffectiveness when they find themselves eye to eye with someone to present ideas, address complicated situations, express feelings, negotiate or just “sell them self”—all whether in a personal or professional context.

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According to Megan Rokosh, a global business communications expert with over 12 years of agency public relations, media and creative strategy experience, “Some people are paralyzed with fear at the very thought of taking an idea and communicating it, both in the workplace and in their everyday life. However, confidence can be significantly bolstered by heeding even a few simple strategies—some basic fundamentals and essentials—that can improve one’s poise and self-assurance…and results of the endeavor at hand.”

Here are three of Rokosh’s confidence-building communications requisites:

1.) Craft situation diffusion dialogue. Create an assortment of “go-to” statements you can have at-the-ready to handle awkward or hard situations and moments. These are assertions and declarations that you know work well and that you can whip out quickly when needed. For example, if you are late to a social outing, rehearse saying “I’m so sorry I kept you waiting, my rule is when I’m late, all the drinks are on me.” Or, when you’re at a loss for words, you can assert, “I could have sworn that I packed my tongue today” and lighten the moment. Having such short statements up your proverbial sleeve helps to avoid stumbling your way through awkward moments.

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2.) Give in to vulnerability. Vulnerability often equals likability and they are indelibly connected—so use that truth to your benefit! There’s not much more off-putting than arrogance, and seeming vulnerable can make you more relatable. If you’re nervous and kicking off a meeting, tell your audience to “be gentle with you” and have a quick laugh to loosen everyone—and yourself—up. Self-effacing humor can be a powerful tool. Or, if you’re having a difficult time understanding something, you can say, “I’m so sorry if I’m holding us up here, but would you mind explaining one more time?” Your contrition will surely endear.

3.) Address adversities head on. You will undoubtedly face times at work and at home that require you to address something difficult. Although challenging and scary, the situation usually must to be addressed to be effectively resolved. Great leaders always speak up and you should, too!  Make clear from the beginning that you intend to hear and consider the other person’s side, stating something like, “Your perspective is valid and really want to hear what you have to say, but first, please allow me to share my thoughts….” followed by a the suitable words. This will give you the floor, hopefully uninterrupted, since the other party has been given the assurance they’ll have a chance to present their side as well. As goes without saying, this discourse should be in person versus via text or email whenever that’s a possibility. There are times when a call or in-person meeting is just the right thing to do and where words, inflections and expressions if face-to-face will be far more impactful and meaningful.

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Rokosh also reminds us that the world’s best communicators are trained. “It’s very that an incredible communicator hasn’t put in extensive work toward their oration skills so they can speak eloquently, pause in powerful silence when appropriate, address very difficult media questions, etc.,” she notes. “It’s important to remember that, while some people are inherently talented communicators, for many (if not most) becoming a confident communicator requires learned skills. It’s one simple strategy like those above built upon each other, and proactively putting them to use, that will get you where you want and need to be.”

As an advice-doling expert, Rokosh doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk. Having worked with many high profile global organizations and consulted with C-suite executives from nearly every industry, she’s created hugely successful platforms founded on effective communications. This includes working directly with top-tier media like Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Ad Age, Adweek and scores more. Rokosh was even invited to partake in the elite “Business of Media, Entertainment and Sports” program at Harvard.

So, if effectively communicating is an area of insecurity for you, if you find yourself being held back by the fear, or if you just want to amp up your existing communications prowess, try Rokosh’s three easy tips above to feel more resilient and controlled—or, at least, exude the image that you are.

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8 Great Ways to Foil Small Business Stagnation

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A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report revealed nearly half of all small businesses fail within the first four years of their existence. While there are many proven causes, including owner incompetence, inexperience, fraud and neglect, one killer culprit often flies under the radar: stagnation. Indeed, losing momentum—with respect to revenues, market share and other mission critical indicators—is one sure fire sign that an entrepreneurial endeavor is in grave trouble.

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The good news is that a stagnated organization can take a number of proactive tactical measures—many fairly easily instituted—to turn the tide, spur change and, in doing so, kick the growth engine back into gear. Knowing she would have some insights, I connected with self-professed “Bosspreneur” Becky A. Davis of of MVPwork LLC. Not surprisingly, she offered a great number of strategies that entrepreneurs can employ right now to spark short-term progress.
The following are eight of her concepts that really resonated with me, also because they’re each highly effective within the framework of a long-term strategy for sustained growth.

Be a better “Bosspreneur.” An entrepreneur is defined as a person who takes a risk, start a business or enterprise to make money. Bosspreneurs do the same, but also have written and quantifiable targets, goals and actions. Not just focusing on staff and other external variables, they focus on self-improvement and believe they themselves can and should learn from anybody. Bosspreneurs accept responsibility. They are open to change and they want others to succeed. They consistently break down barriers. A Bosspreneur does not just own a business, they own their behavior.

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Promote ingenuity with immediate impacts. Ask employees, customers, partners and vendors this question: “What three things would you change right now that would impact the company this month or quarter?” No group is too “unimportant” or insignificant to offer valuable advice, opinions and perspective. Hold internal weekly brainstorming sessions with staffers for creating and collaborating on innovative ideas such as streamlining processes for speed and efficiency. Create a task force to document, analyze, prioritize and take tactical action on those ideas you feel will have an immediate impact on the business and then segue to those where the benefit will be realized longer term. When things stabilize, continue to do this once a month or quarter at the very least.

Be a stickler for staff accountability. As a business owner, it’s important to continually challenge your team and hold them accountable for activities resulting in measurable growth. Once you have set clear expectations and provided training and coaching, step back and give staffers the autonomy needed to perform the clearly articulated duties expected of them. Don’t micro-manage but do require regular progress reports so you can recalibrate as needed and remain proactive rather than reactive. If performance does not improve, it’s time for an accountability conversation. Have this conversation sooner rather than later, as the longer you take to expect improvement, the worse the situation will become for you and your team.

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Identify and resolve conflicts and unsavory politics. Conflicts, whether they are between personnel, staff and vendors, or even within the supply chain, can directly affect your company’s bottom line. Work to resolve those inevitable workplace conflicts so the company can come out even stronger on the other side. Do not forget, everyone is watching what you, as a leader, will do or, as importantly, not do. Taking a “wait and see” approach or hoping a situation will just pass is not a solution, but rather is more likely to foster a toxic work environment, often perpetuated by low performers, which can cause high performers to seek employment elsewhere.

Play all positions. Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra gave LeBron James the nickname of “1-through-5” for his ability to play and defend all five positions on the floor—an ability that earned James three NBA titles and four MVP awards. It is just as important for small business owners to be able to adjust and flex to their employee’s thinking styles to inspire an all-star performance from the team. Small business owners should be able to be similarly named “1 through-4” based on the four critical thinking styles: 1) the Analyzer only seeks the facts without the emotion 2) the Organizer – detail oriented, structured and procedures-oriented; 3) the Synthesizer – big picture people that are imaginative and excel at holistic in their thinking; and 4) the Harmonizer – The always empathetic, emotional and expressive person always seeking ways for people to get along. As the leader, to get the best productivity and create a high performance teams and third party relationships, you need to be able to play all four of these communicating positions based on how others naturally think rather than how you naturally think.

Even during hard times, give praise and rewards. When things are not going as well as expected, going out of your way to recognize and reward even small successes right now can re-invigorate key players and the team at large, fostering a renewed fighting spirit. Rewards don’t have to cost money. It could be an extended lunch hour, thank you email or word of encouragement. Employees get nervous when things are tough but if you increase your communication during those tough times, it will ease some of the tension. Always give credit where it’s due: create a formal monthly honors or rewards program that recognizes employees company-wide, at any level, for developing ideas and solutions that have a tangible beneficial impact on the bottom line.

Invest in top talent. According to research compiled from 3,800 small business leaders and conducted by Salesforce.com, growing small businesses prioritize talent retention at a much higher rate than large enterprise. As a business owner, surround yourself with the smartest and best talent possible to propel your company to the next level. Invest the time to find those superstars—even in a part time consultative or contract capacity if you can’t afford to hire them on full time. The ideation, energy and optimism that comes from high-caliber staffers can be contagious and give the entire company a boost.

Pay it forward. As the business owner, take an active role in the community through pro bono work on boards and committees. Such activities often proffer new networking opportunities, enhance the image of the company and its figurehead, and drive good publicity—all of which can reinvigorate revenues. Sometimes when you pull yourself away from the business and serve someone else, it helps to clear your mind. Giving always has a way of coming back to you.

If your company is stuck in a rut, don’t wait another day to change course with the hope that somehow things will turn around without serious intervention. Taking immediate action and implementing growth acceleration strategies like those above will reinvigorate your business, strengthen your team and help ensure your business maintains forward momentum.

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