Monday, April 15, 2013

Come Climb A Tree With Me | by @kabaim

1,000+ year old coastal redwood
Why it is more and more difficult to make friends, true meaningful connections, as we get older and older?

Yesterday, my 7-year-old daughter taught me a significant lesson in how friendships are made.

We were at the local Farmer's Market, and I ran into someone I hadn't seen in years, and his two children.  His oldest daughter is 8.  I encouraged my daughter to speak to her, but she acted shy and a little embarrassed - didn't know what to say.

As the dad and I got into conversation, his daughter ran off to a nearby tree, followed by my daughter.  They climbed all the way up, like scary high - about 20-30 feet up.  There, they hung out for a while, just sitting up there.  About ten minutes later, they came back down, and had become inseparable chatterboxes.

It doesn't start with talking, it starts with shared experience. [tweet this]

Talking is intellectual, abstract.  Shared experience starts with shared intention.  And shared intention starts with resonating on the same frequency with someone.

Not only is talking (sometimes) intellectual and abstract, it can (sometimes) be used to push people away.  And I'm not even talking about the words.  Even if the words are nice, it provides a buffer between humans.  If you don't believe it, look into someone's eyes in silence for any length of time, and you'll see what true intimacy is, and how words can push this away.

I am so reminded of Christopher McCandless' realization, after spending months in the wilderness by himself: "Happiness only real when shared."  How true.

So, how about climbing a tree with me?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Why Sequence is Critical | by @kabaim

The Monk and me (he's of the Thai Buddhist tradition)
I ran into my friend the monk again yesterday, talking to someone else. Happy to have spotted him, I stood from afar, and just watched for a few seconds, as he interacted with a tall twenty-something wearing a hoodie (maybe the next Zuck?).

The short moment that I caught a glimpse of was like the final piece of the puzzle falling into place for me - it was a true A-HA!

Before I get into that, though, I'm reminded of a bit of wisdom and experience from the world of nonprofit fundraising that my wife Kelly shared with me over a decade ago.  Kelly worked in development for 2 top-tier universities as a major gift officer.  'Major Gifts' at these institutions are 6, 7, even 8 figure gifts.

Kelly shared with me that once you've cultivated a relationship with a potential Major Gift donor, you don't just ask for a "gift" because almost certainly, the donor will say "Sure", pull out a checkbook, and write you a check for $100K.

Nothing wrong with a $100K gift, but the thing is, these are donors who have the capacity, to give much much more.  The #1 rule of nonprofit fundraising is ask for a specific amount.

Back to our monk.  I'm watching the young man take out his wallet, and before he has the opportunity to pull out a dollar or two, the monk places his notepad and pen between the young man and his wallet, prompting him to fill out the form.  The young man lowers his wallet, and starts filling out the form.

I finally got it - that in this whole process, taking one element out of sequence can make a monumental diference.  The donor or buyer must first have built up significant perceived value before transacting at a much higher dollar level.

This is what sales and marketing is all about - building up perceived value.  And marketing and sales must follow a carefully crafted sequence and rhythm in order to have their fullest impact.  And the amount a buyer is willing to pay is very closely tied to how good a job you have done building up perceived value through this sequence and some careful positioning.

This is what makes the difference between spending $2,000+ on a MacBook at an Apple Store, and spending only half of that for a technically equivalent or even superior laptop at Best Buy.

We know the rest of the story - the young man ends up giving the monk $10 or $20, instead of $1 or $2.  And we have another satisfied customer, basking in a moment of peace, wondering what just happened, but somehow very happy and settled.


For a little more context for this post, please see How To Sell Like A Buddhist Monk

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How To Sell Like A Buddhist Monk | by @kabaim

How I learned how to sell from a Buddhist monk
Yesterday, I learned the fine art of compassionate selling from a Buddhist monk.

Right on Union Square.

In about 30 seconds.

Imagine this: you're walking to work on a busy weekday morning, in the heart of the busiest part of town.  You decide to look up, instead of down.  It's going to be a good day, you think to yourself, so you put on a smile, and you mean it. Your eyes dart around, looking for other smiles to connect with.  No such luck - everyone is looking down, too preoccupied with what the day ahead has in store for them, or absorbed in an parallel musical universe powered by their iPhones and world-canceling earphones.

Then, about 30 yards ahead, your eyes lock with the other solitary smiling eyes, heading your way. In the form of a Buddhist monk in full garb.  He's acknowledging your smile, he's acknowledging YOU.  He walks straight at you, and his demeanor and attire disarm you.  He is trustworthy, and he knows you.

As he approaches you, he hands you a golden card.  Of course, you take it.  On it, it says, "Work Smoothly, Lifetime Peace".  A little cheesy, you think, but it has a quality feel to it.  As you look up, his right hand comes up to shake yours, and you reciprocate, and shake his hand.  A warm, sincere handshake.

Work Smoothly, Lifetime PeaceIn his accented English, he says something that sounds like, "would you consider a donation?"

You're thinking, sure, why not, I have a few bucks to spare.  As you motion for your wallet, he gets out a spiral notepad and opens it up.  On it is a simple form, and you see other people's names on it.  He hands you a pen and the pad, and gestures for you to fill it out.

The first column has the heading Name, so you write down your first name, like the others before you have.  The second column says Location - there's just enough room to squeeze in the two letter code for your state.

The third columns asks: 'What do you want?'  You pause, not quite sure what to write, and the friendly monk tells you to just write 'Peace', like the others before you did.  Wow - I want peace, you think.  Yes, you really want peace.

The last column has the amount donated.  You look at what others before you gave - whoa, $20, $50, $10,...  you don't write anything in the column, and tell the monk you need to check how much you have.  You hand him the pen and pad, as you get out your wallet.  You look and realize you only have three singles and one $20 bill, which you pull out of the wallet, while pondering what you're going to do...

You mumble something like "I've got a $20..." at which point the monk says "Twenty is good", and takes the $20 bill, writes $20 on the amount line in the notebook, and pulls out a wooden bead bracelet which he places on your left wrist, lingering to hold your left hand for a moment, in gratitude.  He does this all in one continuous sequence, in the blinking of an eye.

He bows with a "thank you", turns, and continues on his way.

This all took 30 seconds.  You stand there, wondering if you've just been 'had' or if that is the best $20 you've ever spent.

Then you realize the monk is your Zen Master, and that he just taught you the fine art of compassionate selling.

It's going to be a great day!


So here's the monk's hot selling tips, in 12 steps (and sequence is critical!):

  1. Target your audience.  In this case, people willing to make eye contact.
  2. Be approachable.  Be likeable.  Smile.
  3. Be credible.  A monk's garb will do it in this case.
  4. Offer something of perceived value.  How about a golden card?
  5. Ask, at a low commitment level. As monk did:  "Would you consider a donation?"
  6. Spend time building up perceived value. Filling out a form will do.
  7. Give people what they want and heighten perceived value, by promising "peace."
  8. Social proof. Show how others just like you (fellow SF residents) are making substantial gifts.
  9. Make the real ask, commensurate to the giver's ability and perceived willingness.  "Twenty is good!"
  10. To seal the deal, thank them with a gift, something of value (bracelet in this case).
  11. Thank them in words. "Thank you." Be sincere.
  12. When you've completed the deal, leave.  Fast.  As quickly as you came.


Addendum: I've been getting feedback from a variety of folks that point 12 really rubs them the wrong way, and now reading it again, I can see how this can be taken badly.  The real point is "do not linger", not so much "take the money and run."  Once a transaction is closed, making small talk is really not a good idea, so graciously thanking someone and allowing them to move on and appreciate their purchase (rather than hanging out with a sales person that just won't stop) is an appreciated move - just make sure the customer understands how they can reach you if they have any issues or questions (the monk left me his calling card - I know where to find him).

Monday, March 11, 2013

Content and information is dying... | by @kellylordkim

The following is a guest post by +Kelly Kim 

We need to provide our audience with transformative experiences.

No one needs more information, unless they are doing something very specific -- and they are searching on those terms, i.e. how to purl stitch.

When people are browsing (which they are always doing on Twitter or Facebook, via their streams), they are looking for something to capture their attention and hold it.  They want to be transformed -- or if they don't know THEY want to be transformed (which they do) they at least want to have transformative experiences. 

These would include inspirational experiences, entertaining experiences, experiences which create insight or real shifts.  We want to be moved.  

Even though all these are technically considered "content," the word content sounds so static. Content is not meant to be static, as it has become.  It is meant to be fluid.*

Content marketing at its best is giving people transformative experiences, for free, then asking them to pay for more of the same -- just at at deeper level or longer term.

* Actually this is what Coke said in its epic manifesto on how they consider content -- fluid stories is what they said

+Kelly Kim is co-founder of Twylah - a personal branding platform which provides you the easiest way to build your brand online.  She also tweets as @twylah and @kellylordkim on Twitter.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Just fake it | by @kabaim

Yesterday, I woke up at 3am with a giant pit in my stomach.  I couldn't sleep anymore, and my mind went directly to overwhelm and disaster-creation mode, reflecting what my gut was feeling, and started racing into a vicious downward loop.  When I finally got out of bed at 5am, I was feeling full-blown entrepreneur's morning sickness, and could not shake it.

Not again!  WTF, I just came back from an amazing weekend in NYC, made some amazing friendships with an incredible group of entrepreneurs.  Why was this happening to me?  Again.

So with the little resolve I had left, while on the way in to the office, I decided to do something about it.  Something simple, something easy, just something.

So I put on a big smile.  Until it hurt.  Literally.

It wasn't easy - it was so incongruous with how I was feeling inside.

Nothing happened at first, although I did notice some people looking at me strangely ('why the shit-eating grin?').  I also noticed that there were very few other people smiling.  Actually, most people in the streets had a scowl or worried look on their face.  So I'm not the only one, I thought...  I also connected with a few other smilers - wow, there are people out there who just smile!

By mid-morning, the smile thing started to take hold.  I noticed a lightening of the weight on my shoulders, a softening of the pit in my gut, an easing of my heart.  My mind started clearing up, I jotted down the things I needed to get done for the day, and started cranking away.  I felt energized.  And good things started happening.

Don't know how much there is to this, but I know this feels solidly true to me: the mind follows the body.  So sometimes, it might just be okay to lie to yourself a little bit - I mean, tell your body to lie to you.  Yeah, just fake it, and see how it feels.  Good things might just happen.

Update: so it turns out there is science behind the smiling thing => check out this article.  Thanks +Elizabeth Hunter for sharing.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Entrepreneur's Morning Sickness | by @kabaim

Today, I woke up feeling great.  Admittedly, it was still around 5am, pretty much the time I've been waking up 'naturally' for the past few years, but something was different.

I did not have that churning feeling in my stomach, like someone had just kicked me in the gut.  My mind was not going haywire with all the possible disaster scenarios of how my startup was going to fail, how I was going to become an embarrassment to all my friends and investors, how I was going to lose everything and become homeless, and the list goes on.

If you're reading this and nodding, or feeling queazy because you truly understand, then you know what Entrepreneur's Morning Sickness feels like.  It is the price we pay (and the daily reality we deal with) when we dare step out and go for it, and attempt to create something that will change the world.

But today was different.  Somehow, my heart and gut conspired to tell my mind that I just needed to focus on what is going to happen now, today.  I woke up to the realization that tomorrow, or 6 months from now, I will have the opportunity to address whatever comes my way that day.  No need to worry about it now - it's no use.  It's energy and mental bandwidth wasted, trying to solve a problem that doesn't even exist.

I hope this serves.  Frankly, I'm tired of getting kicked in the gut by my imagination.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

On Twitter, Everyone is a Personal Brand | by @kabaim

Are you on Twitter?  I mean, do you actually tweet?

Did you know that with every tweet you post, you are emitting a brand signal - you are shaping the perception of those who follow you.  The perception they have of YOU.

Now here's the big question: Do you have any idea what that brand is?  Yes, what brand are YOU?

Some interesting news: you are a personal brand!  Whether you want it or not.

Oh, you're actually tweeting from a company account?   So you're a brand, not a personal brand, right?

Well, here's an interesting take on this idea: on Twitter, everyone is a personal brand.  Yes, even companies and big brands.  There is no difference between a personal and business account on Twitter - we're all the same.  No special treatment for anyone (unless, of course you pay for it through promoted tweets & follows).

So, what is YOUR brand?  Is it something you can be proud of?  Does it reflect the real you, or the YOU you want to be?