Business Relationships

Choosing Business Gifts

Many businesses give business gifts to their partners and customers. Business gifts vary from post cards and pens to expensive wines and luxury holidays.

If you run a small business you won’t even consider the more extravagant gifts. But you should remember your partners and customers somehow.

How do you then decide what to give as business gifts?

I can’t give you a straightforward answer since it’s different for every business. Fortunately figuring out what to give isn’t all that complex.

Review: Good to Great by Jim Collins

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t

Rating: 5/5

Good enough isn’t good enough for some companies. And those companies become great companies. Do you want to do that? The book tells you everything you need to know to go from good to great. In fact you may even get the impression it’s easy.

Jim Collins, with the research group, studied what exactly makes a company perform much better than the market or their competitors. I think the principles they found behind the great performance are what you’d expect them to be (except for one). But most people, me included, tend to avoid them because they’re not easy or “fun” to follow.

How to Approach Specific People in 3 Simple Steps

As a marketer/blogger you sometimes need to target specific customers, businesses, and medias. That person/business may or may not have been in any contact with you. And it’s very possible they’ve never even heard of you. So, how do you approach them?

There’s a simple three-step approach to this. And the same steps apply whether your prospect is a person, a company, or any other entity (even a blog).

Step 1 – Research

Before you make any contact with the person, do your homework. Google their name for a start, but don’t think that would be nearly enough. Your goal is to find a way to make yourself interesting to them. Ideally, you’ll get them to contact you.

Understand how you can be valuable for them. Answer the question, “Why would they contact me?” If you can’t answer that, think harder.

Step 2 – Groundwork

Once you’ve understood what would make you valuable for them, it’s time to let them see that reason. At this point they shouldn’t think that you’re trying to approach them. But they do need to notice the value you can provide.

Commenting on a blog is a good way to do this. Write a comment where you refer to the value you can provide. But don’t try to sell the idea. The point is just to get the idea out there.

If you have a blog you can write a post that’s interesting to the person you’re approaching. This works especially well if you have a blog since the trackback will take care of notifying the person (if they have a blog as well). A recent post that I wrote titled, “Danny Iny is a Liar – Just Like Me” did just that, though it wasn’t the reason for writing it.

Step 3 – Approach

Finally if they haven’t contacted you, you need to initiate contact. You should still only attempt to make them see how you can be valuable for them.

Find out how they prefer to be contacted. Start with something less personal like an email and move on sending them a Tweet and to calling them directly.

Once you’ve created a situation that benefits them, you can grow your relationship.

What do you think about this approach to approaching? Share your ideas in the comments.

Joint Marketing – 3 Forms of Joint Marketing

What’s joint marketing?

Joint marketing has a few different meanings. Here I’m writing about the idea that two or more companies join their marketing efforts. This is the least used and least discussed form of joint marketing. But it may be the best thing you can do for your business.

The advantages of joint marketing are compelling. The costs are smaller, when they’re divided. And if done well, it will create greater rewards for both businesses.

There are many ways to join marketing efforts, from TV advertising to content marketing. Which marketing method to use depends of the situation.

There are a three different situations where joint marketing can be used naturally and effectively.

1. The products complete each other

This form of joint marketing is used the most. It has the most obvious benefits and almost any company can use it.

Example 1: A car company and an insurance company could easily use joint marketing. When you buy a car, you’ll need the insurance as well.

Example 2: A knitting yarn producer could team with a needle company. Until you have a nice stock of needles, you need to buy new ones for each knitting project. And many knitters are eager to try every new needle available to find “the perfect” needles.

2. The products are related

This form of joint marketing is close to the first one. The difference is that in the first form the products need each other, but in this form they only complement each other.

Example 1: A real estate agent and a furniture store. When you buy a new home, you probably want some new furniture.

Example 2: A gym and a training shoe producer. You’re unlikely to buy a new pair of shoes every time you go to the gym, but the products are still closely related. Joint marketing could easily benefit both.

3. The products share a buyer persona

This form of joint marketing is taking its baby steps. You might’ve seen some advertisements where the principle idea is used.

Example 1: A clothing line and a band can share the same buyer persona. Though clothing companies have sponsored artists for a long time, I haven’t seen this form of joint marketing used effectively, more than occasinally.

Example 2: An organic food store and a book store often share a buyer persona. That buyer persona is the ethically aware university student who’d rather eat organically, and who reads for pleasure and because of the studying.

Your imagination is the only limit when you think of ways to use joint marketing to your advantage. The only principle: The marketed products need to add to the value of the other, in the marketing effort. So, they don’t actually have to be related, but the advertisement should be somehow more valuable to the prospect, because of the joint marketing.

If you have examples or ideas to share, I’d love to hear them. Write a short comment…

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Management vs. Leadership – What’s the Difference?

Management and leadership are often thought of as synonyms. There’s a significant difference between management and leadership.

Wikipedia describes management: “… the act of getting people together to accomplish desired goals and objectives using available resources efficiently and effectively.”

It’s possible you think that’s the description for leadership, but it’s not. But what is leadership then?

What is leadership?

Leadership is often seen as a part of management. But I can just as easily see management as a part of leadership. And you don’t need employees to be a leader.

Leadership is easy to understand through the characteristics of a leader. Here’s three most important qualities leaders embody.

1. Leaders have a vision of a future. They believe in their vision and they’re ready to work towards that future even without help. And they spread the idea in any way they can.

2. Leaders are good with people. Leadership is based on trust, which the leader gains by providing to the followers what they want. Only someone who understand people, can give them what they want.

3. Leadership requires charisma/enchantment. Charisma and enchantment don’t necessarily mean attractive looks. Voice, speech patterns, eye contact, clothes, and of course the words used, are often more important than looks. I recommend “Enchantment” by Guy Kawasaki (my review) if you’re interested in enchantment.

If those are most important measures of leadership, then what is management? I wrote earlier this week about manager’s role. To sum it up, managers work to enable a future. Managers take a goal, created by their leader, and then use the available resources to accomplish that goal.

Difference of management and leadership

Simply put leadership is empowering people to work, management is enabling the work. The difference of management and leadership is blurry and difficult to see in practice, because most managers embody some characteristics of leadership. And many leaders work as managers, or at least deal with their goal’s management issues.

Managing requires you to interact closely with your employees/subordinates/followers. Leadership on the other hand is possible without personal contact to your followers. Or at least contact to a small part of your following can be enough.

Personal contact is the easiest and most effective way to create a following, but leadership is first and foremost based on the idea, or the future, the leader believes in.

The only reason I categorize articles about leadership under management, is simplicity. I believe there’s a significant difference between management and leadership, but I also believe managers should understand how to lead.

Many schools teach management/leadership/etc. including degrees like bachelor of science in organizational management. And I guess you can learn a lot from them, but only if you choose to do so…

What do you think about management and leadership? Are they synonyms? Is one included in the other? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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Review: Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki

Rating: 5/5

After reading a few pages I knew I’d love this book. My belief turned out to be justified. The book is about enchantment and it is enchanting.

Guy Kawasaki worked at Apple when the first Macintosh was released. He’s job was to be the “chief evangelist”, marketing to put it simply. Later he’s worked for and started a few companies and written several books.

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions is his latest book. It describes, in wonderful detail, what makes something enchanting. It explains how you can be enchanting, make your product or company enchanting, and how to resist enchantment. And it is all done in an enchanting way.

The structure

There isn’t a plot to the book. Rather it tackles one aspect of enchantment at a time. This works perfectly well, though I usually prefer books written in “story” format.

Guy Kawasaki obviously knows exactly what he writes about, the book is a pleasure to read. Ideas are reinforced with examples, expert opinions, and studies.

Because of the simple one-idea-at-a-time structure, I’ll use the book as a reference book for a long time. Though I think some of the chapters and headings could’ve been a little more descriptive to make finding single ideas easier (fortunately there’s an index at the back that helps with this).

It almost seems as if there’s nothing about enchantment that isn’t described in the book. But still you’d like it to be longer, just to keep reading.

What is enchantment?

Guy Kawasaki describes enchantment: “Enchantment transforms situations and relationships. … It changes skeptics and cynics into believers.”

An enchanting person is someone you instantly trust. Someone who’s example you want to follow.

An enchanting product is one you believe in and tell all your friends about. One you’re willing to defend if others threaten its idea.

Apple is probably the most obvious example of an enchanting company/brand. They have a loyal following of enchanted people. Whenever a new product is released millions read the news.

But what makes Apple enchanting?

How to be enchanting

This is what the book does so well. It gives you an endless list of ways to be more enchanting. All the usual ways to interact and common situations are explained.

Want to enchant customers? Explained. How to create a movement? Explained. Want to score points in the eyes of your boss? Explained. How to use Twitter enchantingly? Explained. And so on and so on.

The risk with this kind of a book, or any business book, is to be too theoretical. Guy Kawasaki manages to mix in just enough theory to be trustworthy, but not too much to be boring.

Throughout the book, it’s clear the author understands and lives what he teaches. He uses examples of his own experiences, but not too many to seem arrogant.

Who benefits from the book

I’d say anyone who is in contact with other humans, will greatly benefit from reading this book. It’s one of the few books I’m sure to read again… and again.

As far as I know, no one has written a more comprehensive book about enchantment. Though many have written about social behavior and other related topics, no one describes what creates that sudden feeling of enchantment.

If you want a more theoretical view to enchantment or to just understand it better, there’s a list of books Guy Kawasaki recommends. But reading “Enchantment” will be enough for most people.

The end

As I wrote this post, I realized just how enchanted I was by this book. I could’ve gone on and on about what I liked about it.

To be honest the book isn’t perfect. But the flaws are small:

  • I would’ve liked colored pictures for example. I think colors would’ve made the book more enchanting ;)
  • And I hoped for a short checklist of the most important ideas. After reading the book, I have too many ideas and a short “where to start” checklist would make taking action easier.

Buy the book

Buy hardcover from Amazon

Buy audiobook from Audible (click here for a free trial = one audiobook free)

9 Things Employees Want from a Job

Employees as customers is an idea most companies have never heard of. And most companies that have heard of it, haven’t thought about it.

If employees are a company’s most valuable asset, then the idea makes perfect sense. You should treat employees as customers, as if you were selling something to them. And actually, you do sell something to your employees.

Employees are customers

You could simplify this idea and say, “Employees buy money from their employers, with their time.” In other words the time you spend working acts as the payment for your salary, which is the product you buy.

But it’s not that simple. You don’t pay with just time. And you don’t only get money as a reward.

You often spend more than half of your time awake at work. Fortunately you get more than money for that. Or at least you should.

If you’re unable to provide other “products” (rewards) for your employees, they’ll go somewhere else. This is especially true of your most talented and motivated employees. Other companies are happy to give them more than just money.

What else do you sell to your employees

So, money isn’t the only “product” your employees want from you. Certainty, appreciation, purpose, relationships, growth, challenges, opportunities, the list goes on.

The customer is always right, and the law of demand states you must provide what your customers want. So, you need to provide what your employees want.

That’s true if you want your employees to do their best. It takes a fraction of a second from a customer to notice whether or not someone likes their job. And that reflects to how well they do their job.

An unmotivated employee won’t spend time learning new skills. They won’t find creative solutions to problems. And they have no reason to stay loyal to their employers.

What employees want

Here are the basics of what employees want from a job.

1. Money. Unless you employ millionaires who are only looking for experiences, you have to pay your employees enough. Note that “enough” isn’t the same as “the most”. Other factors play a larger role in choosing where to work once you get paid “enough”.

2. Certainty. One of the basic human needs is certainty. How much of it you need varies from person to person. But for most people, work is the one place that should offer fair amount of certainty.

3. Challenges. The opposite to certainty. A job that never challenges you, is boring. And a boring job is worse than an uncertain job, for most people at least.

4. Appreciation. Usually the best way to motivate employees, is to show appreciation. People usually work harder for a status increase than a raise.

5. Purpose. The most satisfying jobs are those that offer a purpose you believe in. Charities work only because they offer a purpose for their volunteers.

6. Growth. People generally want to grow as humans. For as long as your job makes you a better person, you’ll enjoy it. This is closely related to opportunities.

7. Opportunities. Not everybody wants to be the CEO. But most people like the possibility to be promoted. Or at least to have influence on what they do on a day-to-day basis.

8. Relationships. Some people like to work alone, but most want to have people around them. Stronger relationships at work usually increase productivity.

9. Rhythm. Since working takes so much of your time, it also creates a rhythm for you life. Most enjoy this, as it adds to the feeling of certainty.

Think of at least one way to offer more of each of the things on the list. You’re guaranteed to increase productivity through motivating employees more.

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The Manager’s Role: What are Managers For – And The Top 3 Mistakes

What’s the manager’s role? Unfortunately managers tend to have a very different answer to that than employees.

Everything most managers do falls into one of two categories: things they’re forced to do, and things they want to do.

But they’re not forced to do many of the things they should do, and they shouldn’t do many of the things they want to do.

So, what should managers do? And please note, this guide is about management, not about leadership. These two are often mixed together, but a manager isn’t necessarily a leader.

What are managers for?

Manager’s role is something most people never seriously think about. And the first answers that come to mind are usually wrong.

Here are the five most important aspects of a manager’s role. The first three are commonly agreed on, though many avoid following the advice. But most managers don’t even want to hear about the last two.

You could compress the manager’s role into, “Enable your employees to work, and then stay out of their way.”

1. Take care of management issues.

Paperwork is precisely what managers are made for (sorry to be so blunt, but let me explain). Imagine a work environment without a person who takes care of the team’s paperwork.

There has to be someone who makes sure everybody knows what they’re supposed to do and where they should be.

But it’s not your job to tell anyone how to do their job. Don’t confuse this with denying help. Don’t micromanage, but be available to help if they need it.

2. Enable others to work.

Taking care of the paperwork is just a tiny portion of this. You need to make sure people have what they need to do their job.

Communicate with other departments to know you’re on the same page. Delegate projects and tasks evenly to make sure everything gets done. The list of simple, but really important, tasks that managers should do is long.

Most importantly, make sure people have ,what they need for their work. And make sure nothing is holding them back.

3. Motivate your employees.

Most managers will intuitively say something about motivating people if asked about the manager’s role. But most managers don’t actually motivate anyone.

Most managers don’t know how to motivate people. And it’s not high on their list of things to learn. What managers often do when they attempt to motivate, actually takes away motivation.

Goals can be good motivators, but only if they’re mutual. Too often managers set goals that aren’t interesting for the employees.

A goal is motivating if reaching it is rewarding. The reward doesn’t have to be money. Recognition is usually the best reward.

4. Give all credit to others.

After a successful project a good manager is forgotten. The team should feel they did it all by themselves without your help. And if your bosses call to congratulate, you tell them they should thank your team.

Your job is only to enable others to do a great job. You can congratulate yourself for hiring the right people, giving them the necessary tools, keeping distractions away, and so on.

Why should you give away credit? Because you only enabled the success. It would be like congratulating the Sun for a good wine.

5. Take all the blame.

This is the part where becoming a manager starts to look like a choice only an idiot would make. If something goes wrong, anything at all, it’s always your fault.

The extreme example: if you need to fire someone, then you either made a mistake hiring them, or you should’ve done something before things escalated into firing.

Never let your boss complain to your subordinates, it’s your job to be the buffer. It’s intimidating to be criticized by your boss. And it’s even more intimidating to be criticized by your boss’s boss.

Common mistakes

Besides forgetting (or avoiding) what the manager’s role is, many managers do these common mistakes. If you even avoid these mistakes, your employees will like you.

Top 3 Management Mistakes

  1. Don’t micromanage. If you tell people how to do their job, it looks like you don’t trust them. If you don’t trust your employees, then hire better employees.
  2. Don’t ask people to do anything you wouldn’t do. This is the easiest way to destroy motivation and company culture.
  3. Don’t highlight mistakes, ever. Always find a positive way to explain issues. Show how things should be done, instead of explaining how someone messed up.

As a manager you have a key role in building the company culture. The way you act will quickly reflect to the entire company. I have more experience of managers who don’t understand their role. So, please take the time to understand what you’re supposed to do.

In case you’re wondering what’s the difference to leadership, I’ll write about that later this week.

How would you describe a manager’s role? Do you have experiences you could share? The comments section below is just for that.

And feel free to send this to your boss, if you dare ;) (Co-workers and/or your equals in the company food chain, may be a safer choice. There’s a chance your boss is as unwilling to understand their role, as many other managers are.)

How to Spot a Lie: Top 3 Ways – Negotiation Techniques

The ability to spot a lie is valuable in any negotiation. The most usual lie is about your reservation value; how much you’re willing to pay, or how cheaply you’re willing to sell.

If you’re able to spot a lie your counterpart tells, you have an advantage. But lets first learn how to spot a lie.

Here’s the top 3 ways how to spot a lie:

#3 Spot a lie with observation. You can learn to read micro expressions and body language to spot a lie.

Some emotions cause universal and recognizable micro expressions you can learn to spot. Micro expressions are involuntary and quick (less than 0.25 seconds long) facial expressions.

There are seven emotions that make you flash the corresponding micro expression. Anger, disgust, fear, surprise, contempt, happiness, and sadness all have their own facial expression.

It’s extremely difficult not to show these emotions. Under pressure it becomes near impossible. Whenever you notice your negotiation counterpart showing these emotions, you know what they actually feel about something.

For example: Your counterpart makes an offer of $100,000 and says it’s their limit. You respond as if it’s a really good offer. If they show contempt at this point, they’re likely willing to pay a lot more; they think you’re selling for too little and that you believed their lie. You may be able to get a lot more. If you didn’t notice the emotion, it would be difficult to know if the offer really was their limit or not.

If you want to learn how to spot micro expressions, I can recommend a training program by Humintell. The training is effective but it can be a bit tedious as well. A much more entertaining way to learn about micro expressions is to watch the TV series “Lie to Me“ (one of my favorite TV series). As a bonus you’ll learn a lot about body language an its tells. It doesn’t replace training, but it’s a great introduction to spotting lies.

#2 Study your opponent. If you knew everything about your opponent’s situation, they couldn’t lie to you.

Your opponent is most likely to lie about their reservation value. If you’re able to figure out their reservation value (approximately) before they say anything about it, you have an advantage.

Before you start negotiating, exhaust every source of information you have that could help you estimate their reservation value. Dig up their previous deals and contact your industry contacts for information.

Most effective way to estimate your negotiation counterpart’s reservation value is to ask this question: “What can they get from the deal you’re negotiating?” Answer this question in every way you can imagine and you’ll form an idea about their reservation value.

#1 Contingency contracts. There’s no better way to test your negotiation counterpart’s honesty than contingency contracts.

A contingency contract states that if something happens then something else happens.

For example: You’re negotiating with the builder of your new house. You want the house to be ready before Christmas and the contractor says it’s going to happen. If the contractor really believes the house is finished by Christmas then they shouldn’t oppose a contingency contract. The contract could say that they’ll pay you back $1000 for every week the project is delayed.

For the sake of fairness the contract should also state that you’ll pay them a bonus if they finish the project early.

Now you know how to spot a lie. Next week I’ll write about what to do when you spot a lie.

Do you have other ways to spot a lie? Please, share them in the comments.

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3 Goals of Negotiating

Most people believe there’s only one goal in negotiating; the value of the deal. Fortunately negotiating isn’t just about money.

Here’s the goals of negotiating:

  1. Price and other aspects of the deal.
  2. Your reputation.
  3. Sense of fairness.

So, money isn’t the only goal of negotiating. If you want to be trusted in your industry you need to think about the other goals too.

Your reputation is a valuable asset. People who trust and like you will more easily start negotiating with you. And they’re more likely to make concessions. You can create a reputation as the good negotiator who creates value. Or you can be the blood sucking jerk who no one should trust.

With which one would you rather negotiate with? Your reputation as a negotiator is also your company’s brand in your industry. You can kiss good-bye to favors if your only goal in negotiations is to get the best price. Focus on creating value to all parties; instead of focusing on hoarding the pie, bake a larger pie to share.

Sense of fairness is a strong motivator for people. Most will work harder for fairness than money. And everybody hates the guy who’s unfair to others.

It’s a part of your reputation, but it’s also a separate thing. It’s often a good idea to sacrifice a piece of the pie to create a mutual feeling of fairness. And if you start by being fair they’re more likely to act fair later in the negotiation.

It’s usually a small price to pay to create a trusting business relationship. Treat someone unfairly in a negotiation and they’ll treat you unfairly later on.

So, the next time you’re in a negotiation think about the 3 goals of negotiating. And see how well you’ll be treated in the next negotiation.

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