Monday, July 31, 2017

Fix Things First; Then Innovate

Anyone who’s driven the nation’s highways, crossed its bridges or slogged through its public transit systems knows we have a crumbling infrastructure. On the surface you could point the finger at federal, state and local governments that do not allocate the resources necessary for preventive maintenance. But as Professors Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel wrote last week in The New York Times, governmental inaction is a symptom of a deeper problem: Americans have an impoverished and immature conception of technology, one that fetishizes innovation as a kind of art and demeans upkeep as mere drudgery,” the profs proclaimed.

As we’ve mentioned several times in this blog, technology is not necessarily innovation and vice-versa. Russell and Vinsel seem to agree with us. Innovation they argue, refers only to the very early phases of technological development and use—which also narrows the scope of technology to digital gadgets such as iPhones, social media apps, etc. “A more expansive conception of technology would take into account the diverse array of tools, including subways and trains, that we humans use to help us reach our goals.”
Most technologies around us are old, and Russell and Vinsel argue that for daily life to go smoothly for us, maintenance is more important than innovation. In the computer industry, they said, software maintenance —fixing bugs and distributing upgrades — can account for more than 60 percent of total costs, they say. And roughly 70 percent of engineers work on maintaining and overseeing existing things rather than designing new ones.

“It’s not just maintenance that our society fails to appreciate; it’s also the maintainers themselves. We do not grant them high social status or high salaries,” Russell and Vinsel, noted. Typically, maintenance is a blue-collar occupation: mechanic, plumber, janitor, electrician. There are white-collar maintainers (like the I.T. crowd) and white-jacket maintainers (like dentists). But they, too, are not celebrated like the inventor, the profs said.
Like many folks, Russell and Vinser said that once you notice this problem — “innovation is exalted, maintenance devalued — you begin to see it everywhere.” They said media hounds like Elon Musk have been given “verbal” government approval for an underground transportation system between New York and Washington. He has also proposed a similar project that would revolutionize transportation in Los Angeles by creating an enormous system of underground traffic tunnels.

Apart from the logical issue of creating a tunnel system in LA--a region known for geological instability--Musk’s idea perpetuates the Silicon Valley cliché of scrapping reality and start over from scratch. With urban transport, as with so many other areas of our mature industrial society, “a clean slate is rarely a realistic option. We need to figure out better ways of preserving, improving and caring for what we have,” the profs noted.

From a personal standpoint, I have learned about the importance of maintenance vs. innovation as co-author of Naylor LLC's annual association communication benchmarking study the past six years. More than 2,000 trade association senior execs have taken part in this survey since 2010.
When asked what they could do with an unexpected 50 percent increase in their annual budgets, more than half said they would “hire more staff.” No surprise there, but even more said they would improve and significantly upgrade or improve their offerings and systems than launch new ones. Here are the most frequently cited responses:

  • Improve quality of existing communication vehicles (52%)
  • Hire more staff (51%)
  • Upgrade publishing tools, technologies or processes (43%)
  • Put more muscle behind social media (41%)
  • Improve mobile strategy (39%)
  • Launch new communication vehicles (29%)

Trade associations have no choice but to be responsive to their members’ needs and do so without raising dues. Too bad we can’t replace the word “trade association” with government, “members” with taxpayers and “dues” with taxes. Imagine a world in which our best and brightest minds focused on “fixing what’s broke” rather than disruption and creative disruption so that a very few could get rich at the expense of many.


TAGS:  Fix before you innovate, innovation over-rated, Andrew Russell, Lee Vinsel, Elon Musk not practical

Friday, July 21, 2017

Don’t Overlook Your Email Intro Lines

Those first 2 to 3 lines of copy in your emails can be just as crucial as your subject line.

If you’re like most organizations, every penny of your marketing budget has to show ROI these days. Chances are you and your “wordsmithing” team spends hours agonizing over the length, tone and design of your email subject lines. And you should. Numerous studies show subject lines really do influence whether or not your email gets read. According to Convince& Convert, 33 percent of email recipients open email based on subject line alone and nearly 70 percent report email as spam based solely on the subject line.
But, don’t forget about the intro lines that follow your subject line. Doing so is like revving your car’s engine in the driveway, but forgetting to disengage the emergency brake. In other words, lots of wasted gas and energy just to be spinning your wheels.

Okay. Your killer subject line got the reader’s attending. Now what?

Intro lines are those all-important two or three lines of text that users see immediately after opening your email.

Intro lines are even more important for mobile users since subject lines are typically cut off for mobile users. According to Incentivibe, which specializes in shared giveaways for business, marketers should use the intro line to hammer home the offer and the benefit in 65 to 85 words. That’s long enough to convey your message and call to action, but not too long to lose your recipients’ interest.

Getting ‘inactives’ re-engaged
Like most B2B marketers, you probably have tons of inactive subscribers on your lists and keeping those folks on your list is certainly not helping your deliverability stats. Some of you are probably trying to re-engage your “inactives” from time to time, but sending a once-a-year “we want you back” email does little good, according to digital marketing company, Silverpop. Experts say that’s waiting way too long.

It’s better to identify your inactive subscribers and cull them out after a few months of inactivity. But instead of deep-sixing them entirely, put them on a separate “activation track” in which you try to engage them by sending different types of content than you’d send your main list.

EXAMPLE: Ask your inactive subscribers to update their preferences in one email and send a survey of white paper in the next. Also try to find out why they’re inactive. Are there any patterns? See if your inactives fall into a particular demographic group, geographic group or industry category. See if they tend to come from one or two activation sources. Those are red flags that savvy B2B marketers will remedy ASAP.

There’s no substitute for a snappy, relevant subject line, but no matter how clever your marketing team is, if they don’t follow it up with a relevant intro line, you’re like a baseball team that keeps getting runners in scoring position, but can’t them home to home plate where it counts on the scoreboard. With 82 percent of marketers planning to increase their investment in mobile this year (Source: American Marketing Association and Aquent poll of U.S. marketing professionals), can you afford email copy that’s not optimized for your on-the-go clients and prospects?

The Free Resources section of our website has more on this topic.

Stay smart and don’t be an email tease. If you grabbed your audience with a snappy subject line, make sure you deliver on what you promised. Doing so consistently will earn you loyal followers and advocates for years to come. But being an email tease will get you on the “opt out” list faster than you can say CAN SPAM.

By the way, if you think email is going the way of Kodak, Blockbuster Video and yellow cabs, think again. You are 6 times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than you are from a tweet (Source: Campaign Monitor) and email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter (Source: McKinsey). Hmmmm.

TAGS:  email intro lines, better email engagement


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Avoiding Credibility Killers and Our Other Top Posts of 2017

It’s hard to believe the year is half over and it certainly hasn’t been dull. While we’re all looking for more certainty out of Washington, the Fed, the markets and the global arena, there are some things you can control on the thought leadership, practice development front and personal productivity fronts. Here’s what’s been keeping you and your peers up at night.

Top Posts of 2017
Online Marketing B2Beat (HB Publishing & Marketing)
1. Avoid These Written and Spoken Credibility Killers
2. I Jumped Out of a Plane (and other calculated risks)

When it comes to avoiding credibility killers (our most popular post so far this year), John F Morrow, Partner at Morrow & Associates, LLC said, “You really gave me something to think about with ‘So...’ - I know I'm guilty of that and I fear my 17 year-old son picked it up from me.”

“Spot on post,” noted Thomas Greve, Business Development Manager at EMS World. Another pet peeve, said Greve is "’lets' nip it in the butt,’ instead of ‘nip it in the bud’ as in a plant reference. Drives me nuts!”

Improving client communication and relevancy
In this age of information overload and clutter, it seems anything related to clear and better communication has been resonating with our readers and followers. Avoiding Written and Spoken Credibility Killers was by far our most-read and most frequently shared post of 2017. But you and your peers also expressed concern about mastering the writing process, getting your client communications better organized and creating more relevant content about advanced planning services.
Understanding NextGen and learning to unplug

Understanding the younger generation’s money priorities and financial advisor expectations is clearly challenging for many of your and your colleagues. While everyone’s trying to keep up with the 24/7 news cycle and the always-connected work life, you told us loud and clear that you’re very interested in simplifying your lives, learning to unplug from technology, taking strategic breaks and taking calculated risks even while on vacation.
Thanks so much for reading and sharing your comments. Let us know if there are any other topics you’d like us to cover. Keep reading. Never stop learning. Never stop challenging yourself. And for Chrissake, put down your device once in a while. Just experience the world with your own eyes and ears. If you see something remarkable, just preserve it in your memory. You don’t need to take a selfie or post it ad nauseam to all your social media platforms.

TAGS:  Top posts of 2017, Avoiding credibility killers, making the writing process simpler, advanced wealth planning topics


Monday, July 03, 2017

Embrace Your Entrepreneurial Freedom(s) on Independence Day

It’s the eve of Independence Day in the U.S.  We know most of you are secretly toiling away trying to tie up loose ends before rushing out to barbecues, boat trips and fireworks. You may be at your beach house, lake house or mountain cabin, but you’re catching up on work because you are an owner, founding partner or team leader with dozens of people depending on you.
It’s what you do.

Let me repeat. It’s what you do when you’re trying to create real wealth, not just punch a time card or brown-nose your way up the corporate ladder. It’s not a burden—it’s part of your freedom and independence.
According to author and entrepreneur coach, Dan Sullivan, there are four basic freedoms that keep successful entrepreneurs going when others would give up:
1.       Freedom of Time.
2.       Freedom of Money.
3.       Freedom of Relationship.
4.       Freedom of Purpose.

While most of the world’s wealthiest people are self-made entrepreneurs, money isn’t what motivates them to go off on their own with no guarantee they’ll be successful or even solvent. According to Sullivan, it’s freedom. Let’s take these four types of freedom one at a time:
Freedom of Time. You want to spend your working life doing what you really enjoy doing and minimize the amount of time you spend doing what you don’t enjoy—or working with people you don’t respect. You also want the freedom to spend time NOT working too. You need time to pursue other interests and have a full life.

Freedom of Money.
 According to Sullivan, you don’t want a ceiling on how much money you can make for doing a great job, for coming up with valuable new solutions or inventions. And if your efforts generate money, you don’t want anyone dictating how much of that money you can keep, argues Sullivan.

Freedom of Relationship.
 Sullivan’s point is that there are certain people you love working with—both inside and outside your business—and you want to spend more time surrounded by people you mesh with (and respect) and less time with people who don’t. Entrepreneurs have that freedom. Most other working stiffs (both blue and white collar) don’t.

Freedom of Purpose.
 This enterprise you’ve created is not just a job or a career. Sullivan argues that your enterprise is a vehicle to all sorts of things that relate to your fundamental values and ideals in life. This allows you to have a tremendous sense of purpose for being on this planet. According to Sullivan, “entrepreneurs are the greatest contributors of money, opportunity, and capability to communities all over the world, in every field of human activity.”

We all get swept up in the day-to-day minutiae and it’s easy to lose sight of your four essential freedoms. Sullivan and other experts say this is what clouds your thinking, causes you to hit barriers and encounter complexity.

Take advantage of Holiday-disrupted weeks like these to review your Four Freedoms and bring your life back into focus. Your life will get simpler and each step and decision you make will have more meaning. The U.S. may no longer be No.1 in many areas, but it’s still a much better place to live, work and build wealth than the vast majority of other countries.

What’s soccer have to do with entrepreneurial freedom?

Patriotic pride has been on full display the past several days and no better example was the U.S. vs. Ghana Men’s soccer match I attended on Saturday in East Hartford, CT. A rowdy, but well-behaved crowd of about 30,000 cheered on both sides in a tough, well-fought final tune-up for the World Cup qualifying rounds. Several thousand green and black-clad Ghanian supporters mixed in boisterously, but peacefully, with the red-white-blue home fans who chanted U-S-A throughout the stadium and in the parking lots.

Opposing players helped each other up after each hard tackle. Flopping and yellow cards were kept to a minimum. Beer-soaked spectators saluted each other after each opposing goal was scored. Scores of Yanks wearing American flags took selfies with their new Ghanian friends in traditional robes. If you’re keeping score at home, the U.S came out on top 2
-1, with “highlight reel” goals by emerging American stars Dom Dwyer and Kellyn Acosta, who each scored their first international goals and U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan saved a penalty kick. Expect both teams to surprise some folks in the 2018 World Cup.

After Saturday’s soccer match and tonight’s fireworks, I’m reviewing my Four Freedoms and thinking that maybe, just maybe, there’s still hope for the world.

Best, HB


TAGS:  4 Freedoms, Dan Sullivan, USA Men’s soccer, entrepreneurship