Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Why Educated Confidence Will Carry You Far In Business

To say that confidence is an important quality for a business leader to have is an understatement. At any given time, your employees are going to be looking to you to make decisions and provide insight. They need to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you're confident in the actions you're taking. You need to know that you've given serious thought to the long, often difficult road ahead of you and that you're making the right move for the right task at the right time. If people can see that you believe in yourself, in your business, and what you've worked so hard to build, they'll start to believe in those things, too.



But something many people often don't realize until it's far too late is that "confidence" and "educated confidence" are NOT the same thing.



What is Educated Confidence?



Trust, belief, faith, conviction - these are all among the most essential ingredients that go into creating a confident leader. But one of the most important is also one of the ones that is rarely mentioned - humility. Humility allows you to acknowledge that even though you're a leader, you're still just one small cog in a much bigger machine. A living, breathing machine with a life of its own - one that is much more powerful than any one individual working within it, even when that person is yourself.



In many ways, educated confidence is all about slightly adjusting your perspective to account for your own limitations. You need to be confident in the fact that you're not always going to have the right answer to every problem you face. And that's okay - because you're also confident in the people around you and you know that you'll get through it together like you always do.



You need to be confident in the fact that you are going to make mistakes as a business leader - probably a lot of them, in fact. But this is something that you welcome because you're also confident in your ability to learn the right lessons from these mistakes and strengthening yourself and your entire organization in the process.



It's All About the Decisions



It has been said in the past that leadership essentially comes down to your ability to make decisions - but this is only one small part of a much larger story. It's also about your ability to see those decisions through the lens of all possible consequences, both good and bad.



An overly self-confident leader often becomes one that people follow because their paychecks depend on it, not necessarily because they want to. We've all had these types of bosses - the people who are experts at delegating responsibility (read: barking orders) but who always seem to disappear when those proverbial chickens come home to roost.



A leader armed with the power of educated confidence, however, is someone that people follow because they just can't help themselves. They acknowledge that they don't have all the answers and they likely never will, but that's okay - because "we're all in this together." It's the idea that just because you're a leader doesn't mean that you're always right - and you wouldn't have it any other way.



Educated confidence is that little voice inside your head that says "maybe I should get a second, or third, opinion on this, as this is definitely outside of my wheelhouse." It's a voice that you shouldn't try to stifle or tamp down, resist or ignore.



Instead, you need to give that educated, confident little voice a megaphone.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

You Can Never Have Too Many Purchase Points

The sales funnel in a business has changed dramatically in recent years, thanks in large part to how digital and print marketing have been married together. The customer experience is now a fragmented one, and if you're only giving your audience one opportunity to buy, you could be leaving lots of money on the table. In truth, you can never have too many purchase points in today's modern climate for a number of key reasons.

How Freedom Gave Way to Multi-Point Marketing

The internet, in particular, has naturally led purchasing decisions to become more complex over time. Because more information is now readily available than at any point in the history of consumerism, people now spend huge volumes of time researching before they make that move towards a purchase. They're also getting their information from many different sources. Dimensional Research conducted a study that revealed 90% of people are influenced by online reviews before making a purchase. Another study revealed that 36% of people use a company website before making a purchase, another 22% rely on face-to-face interaction, and 59% even find out what their friends or family members have to say before they make a decision one way or the other.

You might think that this massive influx of information would make the sales funnel simpler, as it's now easier than ever to find the actionable information you need to make the most informed decision with your hard-earned money. However, it's actually had the reverse effect. Things have gotten significantly more complex as even the average consumer's opinion is now being pulled in a number of different directions.

The 21st Century Sales Funnel

This massive shift in the way that consumers operate has created a ripple effect, changing the way businesses operate at the same time. It requires marketers, in particular, to respond in more diverse ways, starting with not just how they've optimized their sales funnel to take into consideration 21st-century buying practices, but how they've designed the funnel in the first place.

According to a piece that first appeared in Forbes, content marketing is one of the primary keys to helping address these modern day challenges. Essentially, modern businesses need to assume that EVERY point in the sales funnel is a potential purchase point and content needs to be created to match. Content marketing lets businesses created and distribute relevant, valuable, and consistent content to attract their clearly-defined audience. If you're assuming that your audience could be ready to buy at the drop of a hat, naturally how you design that content will have to respond.

In essence, content and your larger marketing efforts must now be ready to address problems earlier in the buying cycle than ever before. The only purchase point in your sales funnel can no longer be the one at the end. Any point can now be a purchase point if you know what you're doing. These types of techniques also give way to an added benefit of allowing marketers to take advantage of more diverse channels to attract the largest audience possible from the outset.

So, not only are you getting consumers who are ready to buy sooner than ever before, but you're also getting a larger number of leads entering into the funnel. It may be trickier to manage, but it's the type of situation that our marketing ancestors would have gladly killed for.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

That Cranberry Drink of Yours Might be 87 Partnership Years Old

The typical perspective taught in business class is that one must compete against other similar businesses to obtain, hold onto, and grow a market share. And for that to happen, either the market must be new, or someone has to give up some of their market shares to make room for a new business. However, while this "top dog" approach is treated as the norm in capitalism, it's not always the best approach to business success.



Making Cranberries Successful



The Great Depression of 1929 began because of a stock market crash and a sudden loss of cash liquidity. As a result, both successful and not so successful businesses were destroyed when the crash occurred.



However, in 1930, amidst the worst economic condition the U.S. had seen and with thousands out of work, the Ocean Spray Cooperative was started in Massachusetts. This cooperative venture, started by three separate cranberry farm growers, was the result of a smart and realistic realization that going it alone in the post-crash market was not going to be possible. Rather than fight and compete against each other, the three growers bonded together to combine their resources and success.



It ended up producing one of the few business success stories launched in the midst of the Depression. Today, that same cooperative now includes a membership of over 700 different farm operations in six states and two countries. The key to their major success was partnership and sharing versus competition and "winner takes all" attitudes.



Half a Loaf is Better Than No Loaf



Going it alone in business may mean you're accepting pain and struggle that isn't necessary. Business owners should look around and see if there is any potential to partner up or form an alliance with available competitors, thereby sharing a larger market potential than what their single business is capable of. The results can potentially ensure long-term viability and strength versus suffering from the common "flash in the pan" syndrome so prevalent with new small businesses and startups. This approach can be particularly effective and strategic when a business wants to venture into an unknown, new territory that the potential partner is already present in.



The digital world offers multiple ways for partnerships to be established. Businesses shouldn't limit themselves to just horizontal relationships with other similar businesses. Vertical relationships with suppliers and end users or business clients can lock in additional market share and business not accessible by simply going it alone.



For those who think that partnerships are temporary mutual positions at best, take note of the fact that 1930 was some 87 years ago, and Ocean Spray is still going strong with cranberries as well as other agricultural products for the national food market.



While cooperating with other businesses may not work for everyone, clearly, the synergy of the many can outdo any singular benefit of a lone business acting in a market isolated and against everyone.