Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mistakes as Vehicles to Success

Accidents and mistakes have given us many advantages that otherwise might have never come about. In fact, experimental accidents have been responsible for many of our scientific and medical advances over the past few centuries. The business world has also learned to take mistakes and failures to heart as learning experiences rather than obstacles. Our mistakes can be viewed as stepping stones to future successes.

Famous singer/song writer Janis Ian recently documented in a blog post several of the mistakes she has made over the years. Describing herself as prone to accidents "in the minefield of life," she revealed some whopping errors. Three noteworthy examples are refusing the role eventually played by Rhea Pearlman in the hit TV series Cheers, passing on performing at Woodstock, and declining to write the musical score for the blockbuster film, The Graduate.

These were definite mistakes, to be sure. But as serious as these now obvious blunders were, Janis Ian is still doing what she loves and making others happy in the process. She is earning a living writing music and performing, and the world is better for this. None of her mistakes in that minefield have kept her down nor kept the world from enjoying her music.

Isaac Newton's mother made a mistake that had the potential of altering the history of science. Young Isaac was pulled out of school to help run the family farm, but he was really no good at this, and his mother recognized it. She also knew that he really wanted to finish his schooling. When she realized that this was a far better fit for her son, she found another way to get the farm running as it should and allowed her son to finish school. The world of science is better because of this woman's mistake being corrected and learned from.

Many stories tell of business successes born after their founders' prior failures. Macy's, the department store chain, is one of the largest such chains in the world, but Rowland H. Macy suffered through multiple business failures before learning enough from them to bring him and his family fame and wealth.

Dave Anderson of Famous Dave's BBQ restaurants was, at one time, a not-so-famous Dave, after experiencing not one, but two business bankruptcies. One of them was as a wholesale florist supplying very large clients like Sears Roebuck. His business grew so rapidly that he failed to keep up with it, and lost the business. But, he learned from his mistakes and personal limitations. Indeed, he describes failure simply as "a learning tool."

Since Dave knew that he loved making food, a restaurant was an obvious choice, and Famous Dave's is the famously successful result, but he did not stop there. Anderson also created the LifeSkills Center for Leadership in Minneapolis, investing over a million dollars to start the program for helping at-risk Native American youth. The program focuses on leadership skills--the same skills Dave learned from his previous mistakes.

As author John C. Maxwell put it in his successful book, Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, your objectives should include this mantra: "Fail early, fail often, and fail forward." Mistakes should become vehicles, not obstacles. Like Janis Ian, despite mistakes you keep on keeping on. Isaac Newton's mother learned that correcting mistakes can create value where none appeared to be. Like Rowland H. Macy and Dave Anderson, you build success on the foundation created by prior failures.

As social activist, composer, and singer Bernice Johnson Reagon put it, “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Individuality: Use Your Voice to Emphasize What Makes You Special in a Crowded Marketplace

When you begin to create marketing materials and send them out into the world, one of the most important aspects to focus on is your voice. You can describe "voice" in marketing in many ways - from the word choices that you use to the feeling that you're trying to unlock in your target audience. Even if you're operating in a crowded marketplace and competition is incredibly stiff, we believe that your voice is one of the best opportunities that you have to emphasize what really makes you special to your readers. By not shying away from this built-in sense of individuality, and instead, embracing it head on, you can really do wonders for your marketing return on investment at the same time.

The Impression That You're Trying to Create

One of the most important things to understand about your voice in marketing is that it isn't necessarily something that you can artificially create. It's something that you're going to have to find as your business continues to grow and evolve. Once you do discover exactly what that is, however, you'll want to grab onto it, use it, and refuse to ever let it go.

Consider the example of Nike as a recent example of a powerful voice in action. Nike's "Find Your Greatness" campaign played up the idea that amazing things typically have small beginnings and sometimes you really only need a simple "push" to unlock your full potential. Obviously, as one of the premiere footwear manufacturers on the planet, the thesis of the campaign itself is, "If you want to be a great athlete, your journey begins with a pair of Nike shoes." But, the use of Nike's voice as a reflection of their own brand and individuality is unmistakable: what Nike is telling its audience is that the shoes themselves are not necessarily great, but the combination of the shoes and the undying will and perseverance of the individual are what will accomplish great things. Nike's voice in this case has created an emotional connection with its audience. They aren't saying, "Buy these shoes because they're the comfiest or longest lasting shoes that you will ever have." They're saying, "If you want to accomplish the impossible, step one is buying a pair of Nike shoes."

Is it bold? Yes. Is it almost brash in its confidence? Absolutely. But regardless of whether or not you buy into the marketing line as a consumer, you can't argue with the fact that it is a startlingly simple campaign that distills what makes Nike unique into one positive message of empowerment.


Your Voice is as Unique as Your Business


Never forget that the form your voice takes depends on the impression that you're trying to create. If you sell shoes and you want to come off like a friendly neighbor who just happens to be a clothing manufacturer, you would want your marketing language to take a much more casual and flowery approach. If you want to come across as a professional expert, you would essentially go in the other direction and prove yourself trustworthy through word choice. The key is experimenting and finding the voice behind your company and then using it to separate yourself from the rest.

These are just a few of the key reasons why embracing your voice and emphasizing what makes your business unique in marketing are so important. It isn't necessarily what you sell that makes you successful - it's how you choose to sell it. There are a million different companies that sell widgets out there, but what is it that really makes people want to buy YOUR widgets above anyone else's? The answer is your voice. If you can master that, everything else will fall into place.