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    The “Bumification” of Society

    Is your business trending best or bum?

    There are several definitions of the word, “bum.” I want to be clear at the beginning of this post the one I’m using is “a state of disrepair or disorder,” and not “a person who avoids work and sponges on others.” That said, I’m commenting on a shift in society in my lifetime that has become, so much of the norm, many people do not notice – but if you see it, and make adjustments in your approach and business, you can leverage it into more success, revenue, and income in your business. What I’m saying is the average person or business can easily standout and command higher prices and market share by choosing not to give into the disrepair and disorder we’ve made normal.

    You may not like what I call disrepair. You may think of it as simply a more casual society with a technology-driven, mobile attitude. Perhaps you think of it as more youthful, which it is, but nevertheless, I would argue that the average person today trends in the down-market direction rather than the upscale direction. Today, we routinely accept the lowest level of dress, speech, and behavior and sometimes justify and even herald it as being “real,” unpretentious, and in some cases more in-touch.

    I am of course, a man in his fifties, so you’ll have to excuse me, if it sounds like a grumpy old-timer passing judgment on society. I’ll accept that. However, in my work with premier and luxury brands, I repeatedly am confronted with correcting issues that should be obvious bad choices and decisions, but have been so normalized by our society that even those aiming for the top, cannot see they’re choosing far from it. I will accept as humans we evolve, and things change. Take a look at a photograph or news report from a few decades ago and you’ll see people in suits, shirts (with collars), and far more attention to conduct and speech. Today, the t-shirt is standard, suits are for special occasions, and words like, “yes,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” and even “good morning” have been replaced with “yeah,” “cool”, “you got it,” and “hey.” But what if you rejected all of this, and decided there was something better for you?

    I look at my client’s businesses and assess, from top to bottom: “How can we keep this modern, while maintaining higher-level standards?” Everything from the product presentation, to the sales and marketing process, to the operating philosophy goes through this process. The goal is to get a brand definitively higher than its counterparts and what the client might expect, and the first step is immediately eliminating lower-level standards that have drifted into the business. The dialogue of the sales associates might be wrong, the demeanor might be wrong, they might be out of character, today, they might even be using profanity, thinking it’s acceptable. They’re probably too casual with clients, and do not create the fantasy experience I often talk about. They might not even like what they do, which means they should find another job.

    Your greatest asset in business is defining, presenting, maintaining, and protecting the world you have created. Make it a world so extraordinary it’s hard for anyone to imagine something so wonderful exists. Reject the rise of the bum and keep your eye on the best.


    Four Ways to Spot a Premier Business

    Not every entrepreneur or business leader is focused on building a premier business. That’s because, creating a premier business requires savvy, taste, attention, discipline, and lots of work. However, those inclined to create businesses that tower over other businesses in their market, understand the enormous advantages. Heightened revenues, premium pricing, preferred clients, market prestige, wide and deep admiration, and recognition as an industry pacesetter are among the benefits a premier business can claim. How do you get there? Focus on excelling in four categories:

    Identity:  It’s a distinctive, unique, and elevated quality, separate from products, materials, ingredients, and workmanship. You might even say the business has a “personality” in the minds of prospects, customers, and competitors. The business itself feels like a product, and what it offers is usually done so, at premium pricing.

    Message: The business has a unique message and proposition that cuts through and resonates with its targeted audience. This message reflects the discernible desires and values of its customers – who are often more demanding. The business often speaks a language not understood by those outside of its worldview, but fully appreciated by its audience.

    Experience: A premier business has a carefully thought-through, professionally delivered, and noticeably different and elevated deliverable than competitive businesses, often redefining its category or transforming an industry through its products and services.

    Performance: Leaders demand much from these businesses as do their customers. The business is a top performer, because it has to be, to deliver its premier offerings. Often these businesses will focus strictly on a different, or more expansive set of metrics to guide the operation and bottom-line results of the business.

    Use these four ideas to spot premier businesses, and to establish your own.



    The Power of 1-2-3

    As I look across my desk, I realize there’s much I’m doing -- and so much I want to do. There’s my computer with my browser open to a book I’m writing, website statistics, and my email. There’s the sales pipeline I’m working on. (Got to keep those deals flowing.) Then there’s two iPhones loaded with data and information that I alternate between.

    There are many physical items; a group of client files, a book I’m reading, a couple of magazines to go through, a journal full of notes, books I’m going to sign and have mailed, a group of audio CDs I’m sending out, lists of plans, notes about more reading, a post-it note about videos to watch, and a list of topics for my newsletter subscribers, private client group, and social media followers. At my feet is a leather bag filled with files, correspondence, mail to review and more. I don’t know if your workspace is the same – but just writing this raises my blood pressure.

    But there’s something that helps me manage it all…

    The crucial thing I focus on, is what the 1-2-3 thing is, that I want to address to keep myself on track. That means: What’s first? What’s second? What’s third?

    There’s the 1-2-3 for today, and there’s the 1-2-3 overall. One is micro – the other is macro. Near-term you want to be aware of the things you’d like to accomplish today or this week. Perhaps these are phone calls, documents to create, meetings, etc. In the medium to long term, there’s the focus on what you’d like to accomplish overall. Perhaps where you’d like your business to be in terms of revenues or the inroads you’d like to make in a particular market.

    I find, despite taking on many ideas and projects, I’ve always been able to narrow my efforts to the 1-2-3 most important items on my list. I think this is why I never feel overwhelmed by my workload or the demands of an ambitious agenda.

    The idea is that we are all lots we would like to accomplish, but the thought of it, and attempting to tackle it all at one time, can be incredibly stressful. If you can remember your 1-2-3, you’ll clear away the clutter, and you’ll reduce your efforts to a manageable focus. Remember: 1-2-3.


    Why Are Luxury Marketers So Weak at Selling?

    First, you must accept my premise, although it may be counterintuitive. It would seem that luxury marketers are experts at selling, given the focus on high-end customers and high-end products and services. You would also think that all of the in-depth research produced in the luxury market would result in more accomplished and effective salespeople, but you would be wrong. Here’s why…

    While many luxury marketers have developed theories and analysis about selling, few have developed, taught, refined, and enforced, effective selling scripts, dialogue to handle complaints and objections, and closing strategies. Most luxury marketers recruit sales people who have either worked at other luxury brands that “look good” are “nice enough” and “polished enough” to represent their organizations. But this is a failing strategy, and I see it failing every day as we analyze the sales environment and performance of luxury brands, large and small. Now, the larger brands at least have a broad strategy in terms of how they want their brands represented, (still no detailed sales approach) but small brands, boutique brands, and entrepreneurs focused on luxury tend to have no sales strategy, no sales approach, and limited understanding of the difference between, saying they offer luxury and really offering a luxury experience.

    A major part of the luxury experience is the sales experience. Customers seeking the VIP treatment will first encounter the sales professional. However, the salesperson should be just that – professional, at selling the products or services of the luxury marketer. This should not be something left up to chance, but rather a well-crafted sales process that the luxury brand has installed to make sure it meets its revenue and profit targets. This is rarely done.

    The result is that luxury brands and the establishments that offer them are typically weak at selling, at best. Their sales professionals don’t know how to open conversations, probe to understand and develop interest, answer questions, or close. If it’s a retail establishment you are likely to be ignored, and can leave without any attempt to stay in touch with you. If you buy from the establishment there is little attempt to know who you are, what your interests are, to act on them, or to stay in touch. In other words, luxury marketers are often as bad as any other business at delivering an elevated experience. The only difference is that enormous sums have been invested in brand development, the retail environment, and the products themselves, but the people charged with selling these products or services have not been invested in. They are not professional salespeople.

    One reason is that luxury marketers suffer from the same bias against selling as much of the population. They apologize for it, try to camouflage it, then underperform at it, and do not develop a strong enough sales culture to dig in deep and identify how best to sell the company’s products. Larger brands are typically without a sales culture and strategy that extends across departments.

    Another factor is demonstratively “clouding the issue of selling” in the minds of those on the frontline. This means excessive language about “the customer experience,” and “interacting with the brand,” etc.  While there is a place for these concepts and phrases, you cannot be afraid to say the word, “sell.” I can guarantee you that the great retail merchants in luxury used the word, “sell” on a daily basis.

    A disconnect from the idea of selling is common in larger retailers, hotel chains, airlines, etc. where the person who interacts with the customer is unaffected by revenue growth. As an entrepreneur or business owner, this is something you cannot afford. One way to getting your team to sell more is letting them know that everything you do exists to build revenues. Even luxury marketers focused on the term, “customer experience” should be clear that developing a great customer experience is rooted in wanting to sell more product.

    Many luxury marketers are afraid to stress the objective of selling because their focus on sales has drifted to becoming a byproduct of their advertising and other promotional efforts. But, this is a mistake.

    What’s quite challenging today is the luxury marketer can become a victim of societal and cultural norms that often reflect and promote mediocre presentation, conversation skills, hyper-sensitivity to the wrong things, and negatives perceptions of selling. I’ve seen salespeople in luxury environments unable to complete sentences without the word, “like,” (“Are you ‘like” looking for….?) completely unaware of how to approach a modern luxury customer who may well be dressed in a t-shirt and jeans but worth millions. It’s time to acknowledge that there’s a weakness in sales strategy and skill and take steps to fix it.


    The Retail Businesses Quietly Soaring

    In my travels, I’ve noticed something. There are retail businesses that are opening and thriving that are not supposed to be doing well, at least according to the statistics.

    Major brands are closing brick and mortar locations. The word in retail is that everything is shifting online. In Manhattan where living spaces are dominated by apartment dwellings, the doorman who had limited concierge duties, now runs a full-scale package receiving, storing, and distribution operation. Each day, tons of packages from United Parcel Services, Federal Express, and online retailers like arrive. That’s because there’s been a major surge in online shopping. What you may not know is that a special kind of retailer is thriving today, despite competition, – and in a big way.

    I would call retailers, doing well right now, community-centric. These are local brands that are entrenched in their communities, and have forged a special connection with the people who live and work there. What’s interesting is that, this was always the model for retail success. It’s just that many retailers forgot how to work the formula.

    Here’s how it goes: You know the residents, the mail carriers, crossing guards, teachers, and other merchants. You know the police and firemen. You recognize parents and their kids. You know senior citizens, pastors, priests, and rabbis. You interact with them. You have laughs with them. You remember their special days and events. Your place is often a meeting place. You have addresses and phone numbers. You see them at community events. In other words, you have a stake in the success of the community.

    The retail model that doesn’t work are businesses who are there just to take money out of the community. Often, they have spaces that are too big, and staff who are impersonal. Rents are too costly for today’s economics. You have to sell big-ticket items to cover the cost – and that is the national brand’s game. The best strategy today, for most small retailers, is to have a modest physical space with a big virtual footprint. This strategy is working for specialty food stores, bookstores, bakeries, fitness centers, hair salons, and a host of other businesses. And the savvy entrepreneurs, are combining their retail sales, marketing, and operations, with online and social media strategies. They are connected online, leveraging every bit of data, and mining their database, as well as maximizing personal relationships for repeat orders. These retailers are learning the ropes of getting attention via social media and creating an aura around their businesses that extends beyond their neighborhoods.

    I have a few clients who are uncharacteristically quiet about what they are doing because they don’t want competitors to know their secrets, but trust me, many retailers are making it work. A few years ago I deliberately pushed my retail clients to step it up and get technology and data savvy. I asked them to create more interesting images through social media. I even got involved in a project incorporating animated characters to grow one brand. It is thrilling to see more imaginative approaches to the business, and it all coming alive. And I can tell you, it works.

    If you need help with your retail brand, perhaps innovative ideas to drive more revenues and become the premier retailer in your category, get in touch. I’d love to see you soar like many others. Write me: