Thursday, December 19, 2013

Real-World Tactics for Reducing Stress

Make regular appointments with yourself and keep your employees happy

It’s no secret that we live in a hyper-caffeinated, always-connected world. Work/life balance is a pipedream for most professional people these days, even more out of kilter during the Holidays.

Fortunately, there’s hope. And you don’t have to go on retreat to India or Nepal to find a solution. One of our clients, CEG Worldwide, does a lot of coaching and research for elite financial advisors. In a recent study, CEG found that six out of ten high-income advisors were very satisfied with their current success despite the constant stress and anxiety that comes with managing millions--sometimes billions of dollars of other people’s money. As many of you know, year-end is often a time of wits-end.

Uncertainty about politics, the economy and the markets means many advisors have to reassure their clients continuously and they have to do a lot more hand-holding than they used to. CEG managing principal John Powell said a lot of advisors simply don’t take time for themselves and work too many hours, even though many times the long hour are sincerely in the interest of serving their clients better.

Face your stress head on

Here are three stress-reducing techniques that Powell recommends:

1. Trim your mix of clients. Examine your existing client base carefully to see if you are serving too many non-ideal clients. Sometimes it’s just better to let them go than to bend over backwards trying to save a relationship that isn’t meant to be.

2. Time block. Smart advisors block out time on their schedules for client meetings, during which they won’t accept phone calls or other interruptions. But they rarely do the same for other important tasks—from business planning to family time to exercise. Make regular appointments with yourself; block out that time on your calendar and treat that time it as sacredly as you do the time you reserve for your clients, Powell recommends.

3. Step away from the desk. CEG reports that some of its coaching clients significantly increased their earnings once they started taking more time off. Vacations forced them to be more efficient at the office. Also, when they were away, their creative juices start flowing again because they were away from the distractions of their normal environment.

Keep your people happy

Another good way to reduce stress around the office is to keep your employees happy. Jen Agustin senior director of marketing at a marketing technology company, Bizo, wrote recently that there are three keys to keeping your staff happy: (1) Top management sets the right tone; (2) Employees feel trusted; (3) You hire people with the right culture fit, not necessarily all the qualifications you seek.

1. Set the right tone at the top. No matter what size the company, Agustin said the “tone” ultimately gets set at the very top and trickles down to every employee. That tone can be positive in the form of fun, honesty and transparency, or in unfortunate cases, it can convey feelings of intimidation and mistrust. Which type of organization would you want to work in?

2. Show employees you trust them. At Bizo, you can work from home whenever you need to, but Agustin said 20 percent of its employees work from remote offices located across the globe, from Abu Dhabi to Omaha and Honolulu to Seattle. But it doesn’t stop there. According to Agustin, the only vacation policy Bizo has is, “take it when you need it.” When it comes to expenses, the rule of “treat the company’s money as if it was your own.” HR, are you listening!?

3. Make prospective employees feel like part of the team—during the interview process.  Instead of the usual interrogation or ambush style interviews, take candidates out to lunch or happy hour, or invite them to non-confidential meetings and ask them to participate as they would if they were already part of the team. “Past work experience is certainly important, but there’s no substitute for hiring someone whose positive, helpful attitude will ultimately trump any missed checkboxes on an interview questionnaire,” related Agustin.

We couldn’t agree more.


Stress is unavoidable, especially in the professions most of us have chosen. The good news: You have control over how you react to it, who you work with, who you surround yourself with and how you get yourself back to the right work-life balance.

Tags: Jonathan Powell, CEG Worldwide, reducing holiday stress, Jen Agustin, Bizo, keeping employees happy


Friday, December 13, 2013

Don’t Try Too Hard to Have Fun During the Holidays

If it’s not coming naturally at your office, forcing the festivities only makes morale worse
As we mentioned last week, office parties and Holiday mirth are in full swing this time of year. Go ahead and enjoy yourself and make sure your staff, colleagues, vendors and strategic partners do too. Just be sincere about creating a jolly atmosphere. Nobody likes to have fun forced on them--especially if you’re in a miserable environment the other 11 months of the year. 

I once worked for a high-pressure, Israeli software start-up that coerced every employee (and their families) to attend every company social event on the calendar—or else. The food, music and venues were always top-notch, but how much fun do you think was had when 70 percent of the faces from the prior-year’s Xmas party photo were not there the following year? Dogs and casual dress were allowed. But even with foosball, how much fun do you think the engineers and developers were having when every other cubicle had a poster of an Egyptian pyramid-building team with the caption: “The floggings will continue until morale improves”?

Maybe that’s why 66 percent of American workers change companies or job functions every year, according to the
Sales and Marketing Institute.

Now is not the time to avoid making decisions

Also remember to keep your eye on the ball because if you let the next three weeks slip by you without making any real decisions, the empty chill of January will be on you faster than the piles of dead Christmas trees by the curbside.

As Oliver Burkeman noted in the New York Times this week, “fungineering” is in full swing right now. “Despite the sobering economic shocks of recent years, the Fun at Work movement seems irrepressible. Major companies boast of employing Chief Fun Officers or Happiness Engineers; corporations call upon a burgeoning industry of happiness consultants, who’ll construct a Gross Happiness Index for your workplace, then advise you on ways to boost it.” 

Sorry to be a buzzkill right now, but, as Burkeman explains, “fungineering might have precisely the opposite effect, making people miserable and thus reaffirming one of the oldest observations about happiness: When you try too hard to obtain it, you’re almost guaranteed to fail.”

You might as well tell people: “If you don’t start having fun, you’re fired!”

Still not convinced? A study by management experts at Penn State and other universities, published last month, found that while “fun” activities imposed by bosses might slow employee turnover, they can diminish productivity. Another study concluded that “gamification”—a NextGen invention that turns work tasks into contests, with scores and prizes — reduced the productivity and job satisfaction of those workers who didn’t go along with it. In a 2011 study of workers at an Australian call center, where bosses championed the “3 Fs” (focus, fun and fulfillment), researchers found that many experienced the party atmosphere as a burden, not a boon.

Wrote Burkeman: “Instead of striving to make work fun, managers should concentrate on creating the conditions in which a variety of personality types, from the excitable to the naturally downbeat, can flourish. That means giving employees as much autonomy as possible, and ensuring that people are treated evenhandedly.”
A recent Danish study found that lack of fairness is a strong driver of depression at work. On the flip side, if bosses are fair and workers feel appreciated for their efforts, then even heavy workloads won’t bring people down.


Don’t forget to get an early start on those New Year’s resolutions we talked about last week. Have fun with your friends, family and co-workers—but remember those tough decisions you’re avoiding now will be waiting for you—like that bulging envelope from your credit card company—come January. The longer you avoid dealing with it, the worse it’s going to get—like forgetting to throw out that egg nog at the back of the fridge.

Tags: Oliver Burkeman, Sales & Marketing Institute, Forcing fun for the Holidays, fungineering


Friday, December 06, 2013

Start Your New Year’s Resolutions Now

Use this month to work the bugs out and test your will power.

Holiday parties are starting. Fruitcakes, cookies and chocolates are piling up in the office kitchen faster than the incomplete budget forecasts and year-end statements on your desk. Your nieces, nephews and grandchildren are texting you constant revisions to their Holiday gift lists.

Ah, the Holidays! Just get me through the next month, you say to yourself, and you’ll start hitting the gym again, lose 10 pounds, get your desk and hard-drive cleaned up and back on track for 2014.


You have to start NOW on those New Year’s resolutions and find a way to stick to them. Not to be a scrooge about December, but now’s the best time to test out your resolutions and work the bugs out so you can hit the ground running in January. You need to be brutally honest with yourself about your willpower, your stamina and how reasonable your goals are.

If you’re a couch potato, which resolution are you more likely to stick to—running a marathon in six months or walking/jogging for 20 minutes three times per week? Trust us, this works. You’ll feel better about yourself and probably look better, too the next time we see you.

Why resolutions don’t stick

While most of us sincerely intend to follow our New Year’s resolutions, most of the time we break them. According to researcher Richard Wiseman, half of all Americans set themselves a New Year’s resolution. Unfortunately, about seven out of eight of those resolutions (88%) fail. Those ain’t great odds. As Wiseman once quipped, that’s about 156 million failed resolutions and disappointed minds each and every year!

The reasons for this high failure rate are many, but some of the leading causes are that we set goals that are too high or too audacious. We also tend to be impatient, sprinting out of the gate in search of immediate “returns” rather than taking “baby steps” that will take some time before they move the needle. We also have to make ourselves more accountable to our stated goals. If you tell some of your friends and family about the new tiny habit you’ve created, you are more likely to stick to it. What’s more, writing your goals down not only makes you more likely to stick to them, but the process increases your happiness and sense of empowerment.

Beating the odds

Trying to get your clients to modify their financial behavior in the new year can be quite challenging, too. But it can be highly rewarding if true changes result, said Dr. Glenn Freed of Los Angeles based Vericimetry Advisors LLC, who we’ve been working with for several years. “And you’ll further cement your status as a client’s most trusted advisor,” said Freed.
“Framing a legal, charitable or financial planning discussion around New Year’s resolutions can be quite effective for communicating with clients,” added Freed. “You can have discussions in person or through a client newsletter. The key is to use these resolutions as a way to check in with clients throughout the year. Here are some of Freed’s favorites:

1. Personal Resolution: Get in shape.
Financial Planning Resolution: Keep in financial shape by sticking to your financial plan; keep your portfolio in shape by staying disciplined and rebalancing.

2. Personal Resolution:
Quit smoking / give up bad habits.
Financial Planning Resolution: Quit chasing the “smoking hot” returns; avoid trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” Today’s hot trend is all too often tomorrow’s toxic asset. Ultimately, bad habits are frequently destructive to your wealth (and your health).

3. Personal Resolution:
Learn something new.
Financial Planning Resolution: Be open to new investment approaches; consider new investment methodologies and asset classes; do not be satisfied with the status quo. Radical change is not required, but evolution can often be beneficial.
Glenn’s got plenty more he’d be happy to share with you at

Advisors help their clients follow up on resolutions not only in January, but throughout the year. Framing the financial planning discussion in this way at the start of the year and then following up consistently can be an effective way to help clients stay on the path to financial resolution success. Make 2014 a great year no matter what the markets, the economy and geopolitical factors throw at us.

But you’ve got to start NOW—not after the Holidays.

Our blog has more as well as the FREE Resources page of our website.

Tags: New Year’s Resolutions, Dr. Glenn Freed, Vericimetry Advisors LLC, financial planning resolutions


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Keep your saw sharp during the Holidays

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving, and safe travels if you’re flying or driving in this crazy weather east of the Mississippi. We tend to live, work and socialize among some of the world’s most fortunate people. Keep that in mind as the so-called “stress” of the Holidays raises your blood pressure around the office or at family gatherings. We leave and breathe deadlines every day, but I know that’s something we all need to do better here at HB.

Don’t take your eye off the blade and sharpen the saw

Also, with year-end budgets, reports, forecasts and contracts bearing down on us, it seems there’s precious little time to get our “Day Jobs” done. But, you have to find a way to do so or you’ll be sorry come January. Management guru Stephen Covey once quipped, too many managers complain "they don't have time to sharpen the saw, because they’re too busy sawing!"

But you’ve got to keep the saw sharp. You’re going to have unexpected delays, breakdowns and snafus this time of year. The key is to adjust and set reasonable expectations, not to point fingers at yourself, your managers or your staff who didn’t bring their “A Games” on a particular day.

Be exuberant, but not irrationally so

Yesterday, the NASDAQ closed above 4,000 for the first time in 13 years. Venture capital investment’s up 17 percent over this time a year ago, according to the National Venture Capital Association. There’s a renewed boom in subprime lending, according to today’s New York Times. And despite higher mortgage rates, single family home prices posted big gains in September and home construction permits rose to their highest level in five-and-a-half years, according to October government data.  

It’s easy to get complacent this time of year since macro-economic factors look pretty rosy and we know many of you have enjoyed an uptick in business this year. Remember, part of this uptick is several years’ worth of pent-up demand and doesn’t necessarily mean you can forecast it again next year. Figure out how much is sustainable and how much is ad hoc. If you’ve had a good year, make sure you know why you’ve been successful (and not just lucky). Make sure you can duplicate that success and you have invested prudently in technology and staffing to meet that demand—but not over-invested.

Our blog has more as well as the FREE Resources page of our website.

Tags: National Venture Capital Association, Thanksgiving, Stephen Covey, sub-prime lending, NASDAQ 4,000


Friday, November 22, 2013

No Time for Social Media? Make Time for LinkedIn

As we’ve said many times before on the topic of social media, each platform has its merits—if you have the time and energy to master them. But, if you only have time to devote to one social platform—we know even that’s a stretch for many of you--then LinkedIn will probably give you the biggest bang for your effort.

LinkedIn for referrals

First, look at the user base. About 40 percent of LinkedIn members are Managers, Directors, Owners, VPs or C-Suite officers. Do you want likes, winks and friends? Or do you want new clients and trusted referrals sources? We thought so.

Second, obsess about accumulating the most connections. No one’s keeping score. Definitely reach out to your inner circle and to valuable contacts that you just made at a conference or professional event. Definitely follow interesting people so that articles (or online discussions) that are relevant to your work show up daily in your inbox. But, having 50 deep connections with the movers and shakers in your industry or profession is far better than having 500+ connections composed mostly of people you barely know beyond a quick business card exchange.

John Powell, a principal at one of our longstanding clients, CEG Worldwide, noted recently that LinkedIn can help you position yourself as an expert to members of your target market. To make LinkedIn work for you, your profile must spell out the specific value that you bring to your clients’ financial lives—for example, by including your mission statement and elevator speech. Also spell out how you do great work for your clients and the biggest benefits that investors gain by working with you, he said. When you ask clients for introductions to other people—don’t be afraid to do this often-- you can mention specific people by name and increase your chances of gaining an introduction to them. The key, said Powell, is not to ask for a referral per se, but to offer a “second opinion” in which you conduct a free review for a clients’ friend and associate

Social media to identify new prospects

When used correctly, social media networks can be excellent for identifying centers of influence (COIs)—the key players and most important people in your target niche market. The idea is to meet the COI to learn more about your niche’s issues and how you can address those issues. For example, you can do advanced searches in LinkedIn to find connections among your clients who might be good to speak with. You also might then ask your client to make the introduction the next time you meet. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

LinkedIn showcases your expertise and stimulates referrals

LinkedIn introduced “showcase pages” this week that allow companies or firms to highlight specific products or services by creating dedicated sites for them on the professional network. With a Showcase Page, you can segment content to distinct audiences who are interested in different aspects of your business or practice. As some of you might have guessed, this strategy is part of LinkedIn’s broader goal to be content marketing hub for companies—not just a career networking destination for professional folks.

How to start a LinkedIn Showcase

Showcase pages can be set up by company page administrators by going to the “Edit” dropdown menu on their dashboards and selecting “Create a Showcase Page.” Businesses, which can operate up to 10 showcase pages, will be able to track page performance through existing analytics tools.


LinkedIn and other popular social networking platforms are powerful tools for disseminating information to the masses. These tools are fast, inexpensive and easy to use, but if you’re not careful, they can be a tremendous drain of your firm’s time, energy and resources. Figure out which one or two platforms you and your firm can really get behind and find an in-house champion or outside expert to help you. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Just make sure reach out on a consistent, reasonable basis and for goodness sake, make sure your profile is updated regularly make sure you have something relevant to share whenever you tweet, post, Link, like connect or pin.

More tips can be found on the FREE Resources page of our website.

Tags: LinkedIn, centers of influence, John Powell, CEG Worldwide


Friday, November 08, 2013

Do You Know Who Your “Affluencers” Are?

Hope you don’t mind if we correspond via good old fashioned email. Much as we’d like to be tweeting you, we just can’t get this weekly rant off our chests in only 140 characters. Likewise, we love it when you respond (pro or con)--take all the space you need to share your thoughts.

Have you hear about this new demographic group called the Affluent Influencers (a.k.a. “Affluencers”)? We hadn’t either until iProspect’s latest research came across our radar this week. Affluencers have the financial means to make all manner of serious buying decisions for their personal and business lives. But, they also have wide followings, so when they green-light something, they influence many others and deliver “an exponentially larger total reach both in traditional, offline word-of-mouth, and in online/social space,” according to researchers.

For more on this topic, see last week’s post about knowing your WoMi (word of mouth score).

So who are Affluencers exactly? They’re about evenly split between Boomers, Gen Xers and Millenials and slightly more male than female. The common thread is that they have household incomes of $100K+, they’re well educated and they have the ability to affect the purchase decisions of others.

There’s a pretty good chance you have Affluencers on staff. Many of your clients and prospects fall into this group as well. You might want to look carefully at how you’re communicating with them. Here’s why:

  • Millennials like to author and create content, while Baby Boomers like to listen and watch the Gen Xers prefer curating content and commenting in the social space
  • Millennials are the most likely to engage via social media daily (57%), followed by Gen Xers (45%), and Baby Boomers (37%)
  • Millennials are willing to pay for online news access, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers aren’t
The research looked at Affluencer values, preferences, and behaviors across the three generations of Millennials, GenXers, and Boomers. Though they share many commonalities, each generation also has unique needs, says the report.
  • Millennial Affluencers are more likely to respond well to messages with social benefits (fitting in, being admired, etc.) while Boomer Affluencers are more focused on personal benefits.
  • A substantial percentage of Millennial and Gen X Affluencers access the web regularly via their smartphones (69% and 58%, respectively), or their tablets (45% and 34%, respectively).
  • A notable percentage of Affluencers regularly read print magazines (YES they read print) and are substantially more likely than their affluent but non-influential counterparts to read publications in the buying guide, cars/automotive, technology, and classified advertisements categories.
Researchers say Affluencers are respected “experts” because they are well informed and eat up buying guides, Q&A pages, advice columns:
  • 90% of Affluencers research products and services online.
  • iProspect research showed that 78% of Millennial and 66% of Gen X Affluencers use their mobile devices like a computer, checking e-mails and performing web searches.
The iProspect report suggests that marketers use research findings and company data to create highly targeted customer profiles. The study shows that:
  • 50% to 65% of Affluencers (depending on generation) are always the first among their friends to try new products and services, making the concept of “NEW” an appealing message.
  • 56% to 65% of Affluencers (depending on generation) are willing to spend money to save time, making efficiency a valuable benefit.
  • Millennial Affluencers are more than four times more likely than Boomer Affluencers to create online content, making them much more likely to engage in participatory brand activities.
Macro View

Despite all the doom and gloom expected as a result of the partial government shutdown last month, sales and hiring actually accelerated in the service sector last month. U.S. payrolls advanced by 204,000 jobs last month,
the Labor Department said today—almost double what economists were forecasting. It’s really not even worth tracking the official unemployment rate anymore since the feds claim it actually increased to 7.3 percent from 7.2 percent last month. More on that disconnect next week.
More good news, The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said Tuesday that its service-sector index rose a full point to 55.4 last month—any reading above 50 is considered an expansion. The ISM index covers about 90 percent of the U.S. workforce, with heavy representation in financial services, healthcare, construction and retail. What’s more, the annual growth rates estimated for the U.S. recently came in at 2.8 percent in Q3—the fastest quarterly increase in output so far in 2013.


When it comes to reaching your target market, it’s not just connect with a single person, department or household; it’s about connecting with everyone who’s influenced by the decisions made by that person, department or household. As we discussed last week, good new travels fast, but bad news even faster. Choose you messaging carefully in this age of viral, exponential communication touch points.
More tips can be found on the FREE Resources page of our website.


Tags: iProspect, affluent influencers, Affluencers, Institute of Supply Management, jobs report, Twitter 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Do you know your WoMI score?

Better get a handle on your word-of-mouth referrals (both the good and the bad)

As the saying goes, bad news travels faster than good news, and we're not just trying to spook you here.

As many of you now, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) has been the gold standard used by businesses, professional service firms and trade associations to measure customer recommendations and loyalty.
According to Temkin Group research, five out of six companies (83%) asked their customers the Net Promoter question: “How likely is it that you would recommend (this product/service/brand) to a friend or colleague?”

But, according to new research from ForeSee, a more equitable method of deleting “detractors” from the measurement equation provides, a better, more real-world gauge of the word-of-mouth recommendation quotient. ForeSee has collected more than 2 million survey responses over the last two years to research and develop a more accurate and precise way to measure both word-of-mouth promoters and detractors.
Enter ForeSee’s new Word of Mouth Index (WoMI) for the next generation.

WoMI measures both likelihood to recommend and likelihood to detract from a specific brand by adding a second question: “How likely are you to discourage others from doing business with this company?” By measuring both positive and negative word of mouth, business leaders gain a next-generation metric that, when viewed within the context of the customer experience ecosystem of metrics, provides actionable insights that can help leaders improve key business outcomes, including word of mouth, says the report.

The report suggests that a system that significantly advances the measurement of the customer’s experience with primary benefits for businesses operating in today’s high-speed, word-of-mouth-driven culture would include:

  • Any measurement with one simple value that can be used to rally stakeholders (executives, employees, Wall Street, board members, etc.) around their customers’ experience and across an organization
  • An understanding of the difference between True Detractors and True Promoters to eliminate the risk of alienating customers who aren’t legitimate detractors
  • Adding a second question to understand what drives negative word of mouth as well as positive word of mouth to allow companies to take proactive measures to fix issues
Review the complete Foresee report in PDF format.

Macro View

While the two-week government shutdown earlier this month caused a short-term dip in consumer confidence and housing prices, just keep the long-term view in mind. The major market indices remain at or near their all-time highs; and with the Fed’s continued stimulus program expected to keep interest rates near historical lows for the time being, the forecast for equities and overall household wealth should be robust. Remember, housing prices are still up about 13 percent over this time a year ago. As the Fed said in a statement yesterday, the economy continues to grow “"at a moderate pace" and exhibits growing underlying strength.”

On the business front, more than two-thirds of S&P 500 companies (68.7%) are beating analysts’ earnings estimates, according to Thomson Reuters data, which is comfortably above the historical average of 63 percent. Only about half of companies are beating topline revenue forecasts, Thomson Reuters reports, but to us, this just means companies are being more productive with the capital and talent they have at their disposal. Another positive indicator, the Commerce Department announced Tuesday that businesses increased their inventories by almost half a percent in the latest reporting period (August), a sign that they expect stronger demand for their products.


While testimonials, endorsements and “likes” are great, nothing beats a word-of-mouth referrals from a satisfied client or customer. On the flip side, nothing’s more dangerous in this viral communication age than a negative review shared by electronic, phone or face-to-face interaction. Make sure you not only have a great handle on your core competencies—but your core incompetencies as well.

More tips can be found on the FREE Resources page of our website.


Tags: Net Promoter Score, Word of Mouth Index, WoMI, Foresee, Temkin Group

Thursday, October 24, 2013

LinkedIn Drives the Most Traffic to Corporate Websites

As busy professionals who’ve been around the block a few times, we’re guessing you’re more comfortable with LinkedIn than you are with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other popular social media platforms. Don’t let your younger staffers (or kids) give you a hard time about that. Chances are your peers feel the same way about LinkedIn--and it’s your peers who are the primary decision influencers at their organizations.

Let’s face it. Most of us don’t have time to put the energy we’d like to into mastering social media and social networking. But, if you’re interested in driving qualified prospects to your website and to your other online resources, concentrate your energies on LinkedIn. We’re not advising you to ignore the other social media channels since each has its merits. But, there are only so many hours in the day and LinkedIn will probably give you the best bang for your social buck.

Still not convinced? Well, the new Investis IQ Audience Insight Report tracked visitors to corporate websites from social media platforms. Guess what? LinkedIn drives significantly more traffic to corporate websites than all the other social platforms combined. And you thought LinkedIn was just a respectable place to keep your professional bio and contacts up to date!

According to the survey, LinkedIn accounts for nearly two thirds (64%), of all visits to corporate websites from social media sites—and that percentage is growing, researchers say. Twitter is a distant second, although it’s gaining traction, up from 4 percent in 2011 to 14 percent today. Researchers attribute that growth to the increase in the number of companies adopting Twitter for corporate communications. Ny contrast, Facebook’s sharehas decreased by nearly half in the past two years, to 17 percent from 30 percent. The findings may indicate that Facebook is a declining platform for B2B corporate marketing.

Get mobile ready

Researchers believe the Big Three--LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter--account for 95 percent of visits to corporate websites from social media sites. No surprise there, but the report also found that 20 percent of all traffic to corporate websites came from mobile devices (primarily of the “i” variety). However, less than a one in four companies (23%) provides either a dedicated mobile site or a “responsive” website. There is clearly a lot more for corporate websites to do.

Improving your LinkedIn Profile (and your firm’s)

There are many quick and easy ways to improve your LinkedIn presence, just make sure you think each step through carefully before you post. We’re talking about your professional reputation here. These are just a few:
Make sure you have a company page, not just a personal one—and share content that adds value. The company page enables you to do display your slide presentations, video clips, press mentions, articles, recent awards and anything else that makes you a “thought influencer.”
Join a group (the right way). Participate in discussions that your clients and prospects are likely to be following. Again, there’s that “thought influencer” angle. Just don’t post comments for the sake of getting your name out there. If you’re not really adding value to the thread, sit that particular discussion out and just follow along. Wait till the next topic comes around. Sooner or later, there will be one that’s right in your wheelhouse and you can post and opine with 100 percent confidence. You (and the group) will be glad you waited for your turn at bat.
Start your own group. Look closely at the types of questions for which your clients or customers are frequently asking your advice. Chances are thousands of other people whom you’ve never met are wrestling with the same issue. Find the common thread within those questions—say risk management, tax mitigation or portfolio insurance—and form a niche group around those topics. Once again, you’re positioning yourself as a though leader and it’s a great way to draw new prospects into your nurturing funnel.

Just a word of caution. It’s easy to start groups—it’s harder to maintain them. Be consistent. Be proactive and be honest with yourself about how frequently you (and your team) can post and moderate. 
Social and mobile is not going to go away, but you can’t possibly keep up with all the new technologies, applications and uses of it. It’s better to master one or two and seek help for the rest. There are plenty of talented, reasonably priced contractors out there to help you—but you may also find a few folks right under your own roof with a real passion and interest for a particular mobile/social channel. As my old Israeli army boss used to say, “You don’t get if you don’t ask.”

More tips can be found on the FREE Resources page of our website.


Tags: LinkedIn traffic driver, LinkedIn for business professionals, LinkedIn over Facebook Twitter, Social Media Marketing, Investis IQ Audience Report

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What business, financial pros can learn from association leaders

A recent article of mine (with companion video and benchmarking research), drew from interviews with over a dozen top execs at North American associations. As many of you probably know, trade associations are at a crossroads right now. Many of their core members—Boomers—are aging out of the workforce and the up-and-coming members of many professions don’t use the word “join” the same ways previous generations do. What’s more, the web provides many of the same information for free that associations used to charge a pretty penny for and social media has allowed Millenials to be better connected and on a more global scale, than even the most extroverted of boomers and Generation X’ers.

So are trade association about to go the way of the 8-track, the PC and the Blackberry? Not so fast. Our research shows that about 40 percent of them have enjoyed membership growth over the past three years. The better ones are getting pretty good at adapting to changing times and are finding new and clever ways to connect with always-on-the go members and think long and hard about what their key value proposition is. In most cases, it’s by being the most trusted and No.1 voice of their industry. They’re deep into data mining to see what makes their members tick and they’re finding new ways to generate revenue besides the good old fashioned dues bill.

So what’s in it for me?

Just substitute the word “client” or “customer” for member and much of what top associations are doing could be very transferable to your business or practice. I also thought you’d be interest in how one of our clients is smartly integrating articles with companion video and proprietary research to provide a deeper content learning experience for their stakeholders.

As always, more tips can be found on our blog and the FREE Resources page of our website.


There are a lot of smart people out there. Don’t limit yourself just to your own industry and professional peers. A good idea is a good idea, regardless of who or where it came from.

More tips can be found on the FREE Resources page of our website.


Tags: what business leaders can learn from trade associations, boomers retiring, Millenials well connected

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Adapting Without Caving in

What B2B marketers can learn from wrestling’s reinstatement to Olympics.

With Syria, 9/11 and the new Apple iPhone introduction dominating headlines this week, you may have missed another important story that’s been stirring international controversy since February. The sport of wrestling—real, unscripted, grappling by remarkably fit men and women—overcame a death sentence by the International Olympic Committee this winter and was reinstated (video). That rarely happens.

This means wrestling, a sport which dates back to the ancient Olympics over 3,000 years ago, is back on the Summer Olympic program, at least through 2024. Even if you don’t know a half-nelson from a headlock, there are some valuable lessons here for any marketer who thinks their brand and products are so entrenched in the marketplace that they will never be challenged or lose relevancy.

Big time wakeup call

In February, wrestling, which has appeared in all the modern Games dating back to Athens in 1896, was axed from the 2020 program after the IOC executive board made an assessment of the performance of all 26 sports in the 2012 London Olympics. Just like that. Cut. After 3,000 years.

Our comment at the time, “IOC Grappling with Irate Customer, Member Base” was the most widely read and circulated post in the six year history of this weekly blog. We’re big sports fans here, but we rarely cover athletics in this forum unless there’s a business angle.

Sucking it up

Rather than throw in the white towel (wrestlers rarely do), or publicly criticize the IOC for its short-sightedness, the world wrestling community sprang into action via social media, traditional media and face-to-face outreach. For once, countries as diverse as the U.S., Russia and Iran found some common ground (some would say common enemy). The global grappling community flooded the IOC website and amassed a list of petitions, signatures and endorsements on its behalf from 35 of the 50 U.S. governors and from leaders from over 100 countries. Outdoor competitions and exhibitions were held in major cities around the globe to showcase the sport to average, everyday citizens.

Rather than defend its legacy status as one of the original Olympic sports, wrestling took its demotion as a “wakeup call.” In short, it was time to modernize the sport and make it easier for the average Olympic viewer to understand, with more offense, less stalling, more female competitors and shorter time periods. All while preserving the sports’ basic integrity.

Even former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld got into the act. Rumsfeld, a former Princeton grappler, wrote an open letter to the IOC and an emotional op-ed piece for the Washington Post and other media outlets.
“Wrestling is a universal sport that anyone can participate in regardless of geography, weather, race, gender, or economic background,” Rumsfeld wrote in February. “All that is needed is a flat surface, two competitors and a referee.”

“This crisis gave us the strength to change and we finally found we can change," observed Nenad Lalovic, new head of the international wrestling federation (FILA).

“I would like to offer my congratulations to the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles,” said IOC President Jacques Rogge. “Wrestling has shown great passion and resilience in the last few months. They have taken a number of steps to modernize and improve their sport, including the addition of more women and athletes in decision-making positions; rule changes to make the sport more exciting and easy to understand; and an increase in the number of women’s competitions.”


Every once in a while a company, group or leader gets knocked from atop its long-held pedestal, accepts its new reality without making excuses, and finds ways to change and adapt to a new environment without sacrificing its core values. As a sports entertainment product, Olympic-style wrestling—real, unscripted, grappling—is not perfect and still has a lot of work to do. But the discipline, focus and resilience that so many of the sport’s leaders learned as young athletes, will help them find the path of least resistance through the new environment of TV- and mobile-friendly Olympic competition/entertainment. Don’t be afraid to change, or assume you’ll never have to. But when you do make changes, explore all viable options carefully and never stray from your core values.

More tips can be found on the FREE Resources page of our website.

Tags: Olympic wrestling, Jaques Rogge, IOC, FILA, Donald Rumsfeld, Nenad Lalovic, US Iran Russia agree

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Every Day Is Labor Day; Are You Listening to Me?

As we rub the late summer sand, sunblock and slumber out of our eyes today, let’s remember what yesterday’s Holiday was all about—taking a break from work during a “work day” to honor those in the workforce.

While these three-day national holiday weekends can easily stretch into four or five days, I know I’m not alone when I say it’s getting harder than ever to get back into groove. Funny thing about it—most of us were checking email, posts, tweets and fairly tethered to our mobile devices over the long weekend, so it should be easier to get caught up, not harder, right? Not so fast.

We may have been “checking in” while out of our normal work routine, but we weren’t trying to hold back the information deluge.

Also, the so-called work day has lost its conventional boundaries and the pressure to stay in touch has never been greater. The pace of doing business is also faster than it used to be and the amount of information that the typical worker must manage is infinitely larger than before. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO or the summer intern.

I’m not sure if all this technology is making us more efficient, but at least there are more ways to communicate with each other and connect with someone if they’re ignoring you on one of their phones. Problem is, you never get a break and your brain never has a chance to recharge for optimal efficiency and fresh ideas.

Understanding different communication styles

I recently did a piece for Association Adviser, which has a following of over 5,000 trade association execs. 
While working on the article, it became clear that workforce communication styles are changing and we’re never going back to the “command and control” top down style in the association world. It seems the same holds true in the corporate and government sector.

Jeff DeCagna, chief strategist of Principled Innovation, told me that 21st century [association] leaders increasingly rely on “collaboration, listening and nurturing,” rather than command and control.
At a big association gathering I attended last month, Susan Cain, best-selling author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, said that introverts are increasingly finding their way to the corner office. She also said you need to understand that introverts on your team aren't "lesser contributors or less successful in social interaction." Instead, they process knowledge and interact with their surroundings in a quieter way. "They tend to be passionate, but somewhat shy and value periods of solitude which allow them to be [optimally] creative."

Getting personal

My wife and I had a heated debate the other night about who’s not paying enough attention to the other. She claimed I no longer have the ability (or willingness) to listen to what she’s trying to share with me. I claim she no longer has the ability to summarize information or divvy it up into digestible chunks that I can handle after a long day of being communicated to. I’m try to follow what she’s sharing, but get overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of details and nuance she can pick out of things that happen to her during the day

Does any of this sound familiar?


Whether it’s in your work, your family or volunteer settings, we could all do a better job of respecting each other’s personality types (i.e. introverts vs. extroverts) and communication style (free-flowing conversational vs. bullet-point and concise; emphathy vs. problem solving).

If you naturally dominate the room, learn to let others into the conversation as they may have great insights to share with the group. If you’re naturally shy, learn to speak up. If you’re a great story teller, maybe you can work on giving the abbreviated version first, and reigning back on the details unless your conversation partner truly asks for them. And if folks are telling you that NOT everything in life can be condensed into 140-characters or a few terse bullet points, then maybe allow those around you to share a few details and some color. It’s not only how they communicate information, it’s how they tell you they’re feeling.

Make each day about doing great work, not about laboring to communicate.

More tips can be found on the FREE Resources page of our website.


Tags: Association Adviser, Jeff DeCagna, Susan Cain, Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking men vs. women communication

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bye Bye Blackberry?

In case you missed it, Joseph Nocera, had an insightful piece in yesterday’s NY Times about companies who get paralyzed by early success and forget how to adapt when market forces or other competitive dynamics come into play.

From Wang Computer in the 1970s to Research in Motion (aka Blackberry) today, the technology industry is littered with companies who were not nimble, ruthless or willing enough to “disrupt their own business models when they sense a threat on the horizon.”

It’s not only complacency or lack of fresh ideas that comes into play, but the alliances and strategic partnerships (tech folks call those the installed base), makes it harder to operate and harder to compete.
Same goes for law firms, accounting firms, financial planning firms and insurance pros. It’s good to get bigger, stronger, more powerful and hopefully wealthier—but it’s almost impossible to have a lock on the marketplace for long. Your premium service can become a competitor’s loss-leader in a flash. Your top talent can bail out on you at a moment’s notice and your clients might not be complaining overtly (but chances are they’re shopping around).

I recently succumbed to pressure from peers (not to mention my kids), and purchased an Android smartphone to replace my creaky Blackberry. My typing stinks on the new device and I’ve misdialed a few numbers, but the apps are great, it’s highly intuitive and my overall productivity is higher after just a few days.

To make sure you’re staying lean and mean, check out our Gut Check self-assessment test or other
tools on
the FREE Resources page of our website.

Macro View
Consumer confidence paused in August, mortgage rates are rising, residential home construction rose less than expected in July and the stock market had its worst week of the year. If you think that’s cause for alarm, then think again. The financial markets are up 16 to 18 percent for the year, housing starts cranked out another 6 percent last month and the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan is still near its six-year high. If some investors (e.g. profit-takers) are using this as a cause for alarm it’s like worrying about Detroit Tigers slugger, Miguel Cabrera having only a few big hits last week. When you’re hitting north of .360 for the year, even going one-for-three once in a while will take your batting average down a few tick, but you’re still putting up MVP numbers.

It’s easy to get complacent at this time of year when the weather is hot, workspace are half empty and the “Out of Office” replies outnumber your received emails. Don’t give in and wait for after Labor Day. Now’s the time to drop the email device and see clients and prospects in person. They’ll appreciate the effort and relish the chance simply to talk and listen, rather than having to type, post and scroll. 

More tips can be found on the FREE Resources page of our website.


Tags: Joseph Nocera, Wang Computer, Blackberry demise, complacency, unable to adapt

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Live Events Still King in B2B—But Reasons Not So Obvious

Keep your antennae up in the elevator and on the shuttle bus. Make time to engage an introvert

A new
study from ABM (The Association of Business Information & Media Companies)  reinforces what many of you suspected, but may have been reluctant to express to your peers. B2B marketers still place a higher value on live events than on any other media channel for lead generation and for promoting new products. Researchers found that 89 percent of B2B marketers considered face-to-face events a “successful” channel for them. Rounding out the top five were: Sponsored white papers (75%), sponsored video (69%), webinars (64%) and e-newsletter advertising (64%). TV, radio, outdoor and mobile brought up the rear, with less than one-in-three marketers advocating their use.

As I head off to one of the biggest annual events in the association world this weekend, it’s hard to argue with the power of face-to-face interaction in this digitally dominated world. But where I’ve personally gotten the most value is not from the trade show floor, planned networking events, “meet-up” destinations or social events—it’s from the chance encounters on hotel and convention center elevators, in the fitness center and especially on the shuttle busses to and from the convention center.

More on that in a minute.
At the end of the day, everyone at an industry or professional conference shares common interests with each other—or else they wouldn’t be going there to network, learn and associate with their peers. They’ve taken time out of their busy schedules (and dollars out of their budgets) to make the commitment to attending. And you never know if that chance encounter will end up being more valuable to your business or career than any of the planned meetings you had on your schedule.

Macro View

Despite a lackluster jobs report, home prices jumped 12.2 percent over this time a year ago, marking the largest annual gain since March of 2006, according to the Standard & Poor’s Case Shiller 20-city home index. Researchers said home values are rising as more buyers are bidding on a relatively tight supply of housing with the prospect of rising mortgage rates on the horizon.

Meanwhile, and index we created of business and entrepreneurship magazines (Fortune, Inc., Entrepreneur, Wired and Fast Company) was down 1.5 percent over this time a year ago according to min/min online data suggested a mixed bag on the B2B advertising front. On the midsize front, Inc. was up 39 percent, while big company Fortune was down over 17 percent. On the entrepreneurial side, Wired was up 9 percent, but Fast Company was down 17 percent year-over year.


You never know who you’re going to run into. But if you don’t get your face out of your screen and your fingers off the keyboard once in a while, you’ll never find out. As Susan Cain, best-selling author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop talking,” quipped in her keynote address today at the ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo in Atlanta, “some of the best ideas come from serendipitous interactions.” Long live the serendipity of live events!

More tips can be found on the FREE Resources page of our website.


Tags: Live events, serendipity, power of live events, B2B marketing, ABM, Association of Business Information & Media Companies, Case Schiller, Susan Cain, power of introverts, ASAE annual conference