I showed up early for a meeting this morning so I had some time to kill. Not being one to pass up a chance to enjoy a good cup of coffee, especially when I don’t have to make it myself, I popped into a coffee shop next door.
While I was waiting to order, I overheard a man say: “Oh I see, so you will want a web site with an easy to use content management system that you can update yourself ”.
Clearly a salesperson for a local web development company meeting a prospect.
Still waiting in line to order, I couldn’t help overhear more of the conversation.
Sales guy: “ Ok so what I am proposing may be more than you need right now. My proposal was taking into account growth and giving you a solution than can evolve along with you. Can you tell me again about your business and I will prepare another proposal for you.”
Prospect: “ Like I explained last time, we’ve been in business for a while but we do need to control our costs. We need a website our current staff can manage on their own….”
This went on for a few minutes. The prospect reexplaining her needs and the sales person nodding in perfect agreement.
Now this is speculation on my part but this sounded like a second meeting. The sales person was presenting a proposal and the prospect didn’t seem pleased that he was trying to oversell.
Listening to this exchange I had a strong flashback to when I was that sales guy. I felt a twinge of sympathy for him.
Back then, every sale was mission critical. I had an office lease, employees to pay, leased company cars that one of my brilliant business partners insisted on getting, and way too much overhead.
I had to make every sale so that all the bills would get paid and maybe, in the near future, I could actually pay myself.
You see back then when I was meeting a prospect, I wasn’t really listening to understand what the prospect was saying I was listening to respond in a way that would help me make the sale.
So when the opportunity to shed my partners and all the overhead presented itself, I saw it as a door opening. A beautiful, lovely door to a great place!
A place where I can afford to listen and not worry about making the sale, but instead worry about understanding the need so I can provide the best possible solution to really help and create value.
A place where I can say to a prospect: “ I can’t help you with that personally but I know someone who can. ”
A place where I can sleep well at night knowing that authenticity and integrity is, in fact, the most important thing.
C'est quoi un Blockchain?
Êtes-vous confus par les cryptomonnaies comme bitcoin? Vous n'êtes pas seul. Il est assez difficile d'imaginer que ces monnaies ont une valeur réelle, qu'elles peuvent être achetées et vendues et échangées contre des biens et services.
La première chose que vous devez comprendre est Blockchain, la technologie sur laquelle les cryptomonnaies s'appuient pour les rendre possibles et sécuritaires.
Voici une excellente explication de Blockchain du Centre pour la gouvernance internationale et l'innovation.
What the heck is a Blockchain?
Are you confused by cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc. ? You are not alone. It is quite confusing to imagine that these things have actual value, that they can be bought and sold and exchanged for goods and services.
The first thing you need to understand though is Blockchain, the technology that cryptocurrencies rely on to make them possible and safe.
Here is an excellent explanation of Blockchain from The Centre for International Governance and Innovation.
The work I do requires that I study people’s (ie: consumers) behaviour and how it is affected by external influences. This in turn affects their decision process in terms of many things: the products and services they purchase, how they react to advertising, what type of content will compel them to take action and so on.
Of course, one of the most influential external stimulus in the last while has been the Internet and everything related to it. Social media, gaming, connected devices, mobile devices, information overload…
It is fascinating to see how people are affected often without realizing it. For example, I have seen significant behavioural changes in my students over the last decade and a half. Attention to detail, punctuality, quality of assignments, in class participation and overall results have most definitely been negatively impacted.
Some professors ask students to put away their mobile devices during class. A few even ask that mobile devices be turned off and left at the door. I decided not to do that. Instead I allow my students to use their mobile devices but for a useful purpose, searching for information that will contribute to the content and their understanding of the course material. I do ask that they not take calls, texts or play games, during class and if there is abuse I will restrict use from that point on.
I’ve only had to do this twice in the last 6 years.
That being said, even though their devices give them access to unlimited information, and I have given them permission to use them in class, I find it interesting that they don’t have the reflex to use them for information searches.
As a student, I would have given my left … well, a lot... to have access to such a device.
In any case, as a marketer and entrepreneur you also need to understand the impact of the cyber effect. I borrow this term from Dr.Mary Aiken who has written an excellent book that discusses how the Internet is changing the human psyche.
If it’s free, you are the product
In recent days we’ve been hearing a lot of coverage on the news about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. The latter was contracted to work for Trump’s presidential campaign.
According to Christopher Wylie who worked for Cambridge Analytica, the company is a “Full-service propaganda machine”. He goes on to say that “if you can control all the streams of information around your opponent you influence how they perceive that battlespace and you can then change how they will be influenced and react.”
You might want to watch The Guardian interview. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXdYSQ6nu-M
In a nut shell, what they did was collect tens of millions of Facebook profiles, analyze them in order to understand how to influence people in order to “change their perception of reality” by providing content that they would find on Facebook and that would affect their behaviour with respect to the election.
Cambridge Analytica call it Data driven behaviour change.
Marc Turnbull, the company’s managing director said the following in a hidden camera interview about how they target voters: “It’s no good fighting an election campaign on facts because actually it’s all about emotion. The two fundamental human drivers are hopes and fears and many of those are unspoken and even unconscious. You didn’t know that was a fear until you saw something that just evoked that reaction from you.”
So that’s how it’s done. You create compelling (and possibly false) content that favors your objective which plays on people’s hopes and fears, publish it in social media and watch it propagate.
I’m hoping it isn’t surprising to anyone that this would happen. The social media business model is, after all, to get as many people as possible to indiscriminately use a software application to communicate, share their hopes and fears with their friends and sometimes the entire planet.
And all of this is free to use. They make money by selling advertising opportunities to companies that want to sell you products and services. As a marketer you can create an add and choose with a fair amount of precision, who will see it. And it works quite well. I use it all the time.
The difference is that when I use social media advertising, I don’t publish false or fake information.
As a consumer you must address the content you see with, as Christopher Wylie says: “a healthy dose of scepticism.” Question what you read and make up your own mind as to its veracity and accuracy.
Remember that if something is free, you are the product.
As a marketer, provide value in an authentic manner. You must absolutely do whatever you can to understand your target audience’s hopes and fears and use that knowledge to present solutions that will help them solve problems or enhance their life.
But you MUST NOT try to change your readers’ behaviour by putting forward false or inaccurate information.
The new year is well under way.
I started writing this a week ago as a reflection on the year that just finished. For many reasons, it has been pretty interesting… or maybe the right word would be unbelievable, or better yet, ineffable. I’ve been looking for a reason to use that word for some time and 2017 provided it.
In any case, it is over and done with. Let’s move along.
From a personal-professional perspective, I pretty well know what the new year will bring. As I did in the year that just ended, I will teach some interesting college classes to some partially motivated students, deliver seminars and conferences to groups of amazing and motivated entrepreneurs and help business owners and managers create strategies to promote their products and services and reach their own goals for the new year.
Some would say same old same old.
Nothing could be further from the truth. With respect to teaching; the principles that I am conveying may stay somewhat constant from year to year but the people I am teaching to is what makes the process interesting.
It is no surprise but it still fascinates me how a fairly simple concept can be perceived in so many different ways by different people. The challenge is finding words and ways to explain in such a way that all will understand.
Seminars and conferences are interesting in their own way since they provide immediate feedback from people in the business. The arguments from attendees are quite different than those provided by students. They come from a different place. Students need to understand in order to pass their exams. Entrepreneurs need to understand to generate more revenue.
The consulting work is most fascinating of all. It is when ideas are applied and the result is seen first hand and in real time. Feedback comes from the intended target audience who either love it or not. Marketing and communications campaigns do not provide a second chance. Social media campaigns move incredibly quickly, hopefully for the intended reasons and with the intended results. Or, they move at a snail’s pace which is generally not what was intended at all.
The one constant is people. None of what I do is possible without people. Everything I do depends on people.
I learn by teaching
I test and confirm by speaking to entrepreneurs and getting feedback
I apply with my clients.
And I start again.
Bernard is a teacher, mentor, entrepreneur, marketing and business strategist.