The other day I wrote about what Ice Buckets Teach Us About the Spread of Ideas.

Almost immediately after it was posted, the personal challenges started to roll in.  I realized that I was next.  I’m the President & CEO of OCLC, a global library cooperative providing research, programs and services that help libraries share the world’s knowledge.  As we supported the ALS mission, we had a little fun with one of our product offerings (WorldShare).

I am so proud of the OCLC associates, who joined this organization to make a difference.  They are some of the most philanthropic people I have ever met.  It is because of their amazing spirit that we are consistently named among the Best Places to Work in IT, year after year.

Creating A Buzz: 7 Ways to Stand Out

bigstock-Honey-in-glass-jars-with-flowe-44092480

It’s a honey festival.  What would you expect?  Honey!  And honey is a commodity, right?  It’s all the same.  If you want honey for a recipe, or to add to some hot tea, you pick up some honey at the store.

My view of honey completely changed when I attended the Lithopolis Honey Festival last year. I left not only with new information about honey, but also with observations on how to make nearly any business stand out.

Arriving at the festival, I see the streets have been closed to allow for tents to fill the streets.  People are everywhere, crowding the vendors.  With so many people milling about, how do the honey manufacturers attract customers?

As my family walks down the street, we stop to visit each table.  I begin to notice how wrong I am about honey.  There are innumerable ways that each company is different.

STAND OUT

Here are a few ways that I began to see the differentiation:

Don’t sell a product.  Entertain the audience.  Crowds gather around to see “Bee Beard.”  That’s where a man of perhaps questionable sanity has somehow managed to create a beard made of hundreds of bees, extending down his body and circling his head.  From the number of people crowding around, it’s clear that this team is successful.  It’s hard not to stop and take a look.

Use personality to develop loyalty.  Some honey producers were present in the aisles with a friendly smile. They were not accosting or overly aggressive.  These savvy customer service honey sellers met us in an engaging way, answering questions.  Somehow in the first minute, we know the history of the business and the family.  You don’t need an academic study to know that you are more likely to buy from someone you know.

Create unexpected flavor.  Did you know that honey could come in cinnamon or raspberry?  Resisting the chance to try various flavors is futile, so we stop and taste a few.  Now we are comparing notes, sharing tastes.  Engaging with a product in this way increases the sale opportunity. 

What Ice Buckets Teach Us About The Spread of Ideas

Refreshing

 

Actors, sports figures, musicians, and even a former United States President have been doused in ice-cold water in recent days.  If you haven’t witnessed this, you may be enjoying a summer on a remote island with no connection to any media.  For those of us who have watched this phenomenon take off, we may ask what lessons we can all learn from it all.

Why did this take off?  What is it about this campaign that made people act?

 

Purposeful

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is for a meaningful purpose: to raise money to find a cure for a devastating and fatal disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  The financial results are stunning.  If the challenge were not tied directly to a bigger purpose, it would have failed.  Not many people would participate without an important cause.  It’s hard to turn down a challenge with a purpose.

“An idea spreads faster when purpose is married to challenge.” -Skip Prichard

 

Powerful

Technology has changed everything.  It’s easy to record a video, upload it to a social media account, and see what happens.  The video brings multiple senses and emotions into play.  We can see our friends’ reaction to the water; we can almost feel the cold of the ice; we hear the laughter in the background.  It’s a powerful multi-sensory appeal.  When you add the emotional appeal of the cause, the call to action becomes almost irresistible.

“An idea spreads faster when more senses are involved in the call to action.” -Skip Prichard

 

Personal

The challenge has a uniquely personal appeal.  One person challenges others to join in.  Instead of merely forwarding an email or sharing something on social media, it demands participation.  That’s where it becomes uniquely personal.  If this challenge were a cookie-cutter replication, it would not spread.  It’s the personal spin that draws us in.  Bill Gates didn’t just have water thrown on him; he sat down and designed a better way to execute.  The personality of each participant shines through.

“An idea spreads faster when personalized.” -Skip Prichard

 

Public

5 Critical Moments to Evaluate Your Strategy

businessman with hat in front of two roads

“To see things in a new way, we must rise above the fray.” -Rich Horwath

 

Not too long ago, I featured Rich Horwath, the author of Elevate: The Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking here to discuss the common mistakes of strategic planning.  Rich has helped thousands of managers with the strategic process.

After the interview, I decided to follow up with him to ask when leaders need to abandon or re-evaluate a strategic plan.  I have seen executives stick with a plan and others modify or abandon a plan.  Most leaders don’t want to open up the plan over and over because it shows indecisiveness, a lack of confidence or it creates confusion.  That said, there are times when a major review or rewrite is important.  So, I asked Rich:

When is revisiting the plan the right thing to do?

The ability to modify strategy at the right time can literally save or destroy a business. Here is a checklist of five moments when it is critical to evaluate your strategy.

 

1. Goals are achieved or changed.

 

Goals are what you are trying to achieve, and strategy is how you’re going to get there.

It makes sense then, if the destination changes, so too should the path to get there.  As you accomplish goals and establish new ones, changes in resource allocation are often required to keep moving forward.  In some cases, goals are modified during the course of the year to reflect changes in the market, competitive landscape, or customer profile. It’s important to reflect on the strategy as these changes occur to see if it also needs to be modified.

 

“Goals are what you are trying to achieve, and strategy is how you’re going to get there.” -Rich Horwath

 

2. Customer needs evolve.

 

The endgame of business strategy is to serve customers’ needs in a more profitable way than the competition.  But, as the makers of the Polaroid camera, hard- cover encyclopedias, and pagers will tell you, customer needs evolve.

The leaders skilled in strategic thinking are able to continually generate new insights into the emerging needs of key customers.  They can then shape their group’s current or future offerings to best meet those evolving needs.

 

“The endgame of business strategy is to serve customers’ needs in a more profitable way than the competition.” -Rich Horwath

 

3. Innovation changes the market.

 

Innovation can be described as creating new value for customers.

The new value may be technological in nature, but it can also be generated in many other ways including service, experience, marketing, process, etc.  It may be earth shattering, or it may be minor in nature.  The key is to keep a tight pulse on your market, customers, and competitors to understand when innovation, or new value, is being delivered and by whom.  Once that’s confirmed, assess your goals and strategies to determine if they need to be adjusted based on this new level of value in the market.

 

4. Competitors change the perception of value.