Monday, February 22, 2010

Undercover Boss Meets The Linchpin

The show Undercover Boss on CBS couldn't be a better example of why the ideas inside Seth Godin's Linchpin are so important to businesses and employees. The show takes CEO's of big corporations and puts them on the front lines of their locations to find out what makes their operations tick.

In each of the first three episodes that I've watched (Waste Management, Hooters, and 7/11) the CEO's have found people who are both making and breaking their businesses. One particular story of a 7/11 employee who ran a franchise with the one of the highest volume of coffee sales in the company knew just about everyone who came in by name. So what made that store so successful? It was the employee who went out of her way to do good stuff. It wasn't her job, but she did it anyway and the company was being rewarded for it.

That's why you need to create an organization built on Linchpins and reward them for doing good stuff. People can buy coffee anywhere, but just as the Cheers theme song goes, sometimes you just want to go where everybody knows your name.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Upsell Lessons from Dairy Queen

At my latest Dairy Queen visit they used an automated voice to tell me the day's specials while I waited to order in the drive thru. The video above is my take on how you can apply this upsell concept to your website using online video.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Linchpin Book Review

Linchpin by Seth Godin is a book that will make you think differently about the way you do business - either as an owner or an employee. In this video I touch on the differences between Linchpin and The E-Myth by Michael Gerber and how the ideas in both can be applied to build a business that creates and thrives on indispensable employees.

I think that you still want to turn your business into a system as Michael Gerber suggests in the E-Myth, but the nature of that system now needs to change to enable your employees to become indispensable as Seth Godin suggests in Linchpin. You no longer want to create a system that gives your employees a list of things to do in every conceivable situation. What you want to do is create a system that gives your employees the power to be human so that they can create memorable experiences for your customers.

Instead of setting up your hiring system to train your H.R. people to search out people with certain qualifications on a resume, empower them to search out good people first. Basic skills and product knowledge are easy to teach, but it's not as easy to teach someone how to be a good person. Your H.R. people might ask you what qualities make up a good person. Tell them that's up to them to decide. That's where the art comes in. You can't define a good person, you'll just have to trust that your H.R. staff can identify good people when they see them and find a position for them to do good stuff in.

You can't train your employees how to be helpful in every situation. But what you can do is create a system that enables them to say something other than "that's our policy" when something comes up. Encouraging people to act like human beings can still be a system, the rules just aren't as rigid.

So in closing, I'd suggest that you don't read this book unless you are willing to challenge the way you think about work, giving, art, and building a successful company. If you're not willing to think about things differently and pursue change, this book will just waste your time.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Infinite Horizons - My Take on Regina's New Logo and Tagline

Regina - Infinite Horizons.

Not sold on it yet, but I'm sure I'll come around to Regina's new logo and tagline. But what I'm disappointed in is that the Leader-Post article focused a lot of the attention of the cost of the rebranding and seemed to attribute it all to the logo.

That might be true, but a brand is not a logo. Larry Hiles commented on this, and that's why I'm confident that with his leadership this campaign will be a success.

A brand is all the things that a business does and stands for. A logo is just a way for businesses and organizations to conjure up those things in people's minds.

Mayor Pat Fiacco said that if 10 people come to Regina as a result of the rebranding, it will pay for itself. That's fine math, but the premise is flawed. People don't move to a city because they have a nice logo and a catchy tag line. People move to Regina because of what that logo represents.

I'm not moving to Saskatoon because it shines. I'm not moving to Moose Jaw because it is suprisingly unexpected. And I'm not moving to Calgary because they use a cowboy hat in their logo.

I might consider moving to Saskatoon because they've got a lot of great golf courses and a nice downtown setting that overlooks the lake. I might move to Moose Jaw because it's more affordable and has a lot of great tourist attractions. And I might move to Calgary because of the access Rocky Mountains. The logo doesn't do any of the heavy lifting to get people to move anywhere. It's what the place stands for that gets people here.

So let's hope that the logo is just the cherry on top of a much tastier bowl of ice cream.

P.S. I really enjoyed the editorial piece in the L-P today commenting about the re-branding. Very good insights.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Women Entrepreneurs of SK Presentation

I had the pleasure of speaking to a great group of ladies with the Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan on Thursday, January 28th. My presentation was about an hour long and took a warp speed journey through the process of incorporating the web and social media into the marketing mix.

All the videos are embedded in the player above, but here's the table of contents:

Part 1 - Introduction to Sean and LRS Consulting
Part 2 - What are people doing online?
Part 3 - Google Overview
Part 4 - Google Adwords
Part 5 - Using Content and Video to Drive Traffic
Part 6 - How to Dominate Google with Video
Part 7 - Converting Web Traffic
Part 8 - Facebook Fan Pages and Facebook Advertising
Part 9 - Twitter Basics
Part 10 - Show Up!
Part 11 - Questions and Wrap Up

Need me to elaborate on any of these subjects or on anything I left out? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Show Up!

Right now I'm reading the book Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy--Until You're 80 and Beyond by Chris Crowley & Henry S. Lodge, M.D. and in every section of the book so far it hammers home the idea that if you want any of the principles in the book to work, you have to show up.

This got me thinking that this doesn't just apply to getting fit and living a better life, this applies to everything - be it becoming successful in business or being a good spouse or parent.

Want to know how to be successful using Twitter in your business? Show up and interact. Join the conversation. Don't watch from the sidelines.

Want to be successful at losing weight and getting fit? Show up. Don't go all out on Monday and stay on the couch for the next two weeks. You've got to show up consistently.

For exercise, Henry and Chris recommend 6 days a week. For a video blog it might be three times a week. Or maybe five times. But the long and short of it is, the more regularly you show up, the more chances you have to get better.

That's why I'm showing up here. If I don't put out regular videos, I'll never get more comfortable speaking and I'll never force myself to think about new ideas and apply them differently. If I don't talk about the books that I read, I won't get full value for my time.

Want a few more examples of people that are showing up?

Gary Vaynerchuk is my favourite example of someone that shows up all the time to pump out Wine Library TV. He sells a lot of wine and sees a ton of other opportunities from it.

Seth Godin shows up every day on his blog. In the process he inspires a lot of people and gets to do good stuff that means a lot to him. He also sells a lot of books.

Jeph Maystruck shows up regularly to share his thoughts on his blog and on Twitter. That's going to lead to big things for him, like video blogging from the Olympics.

Adam Hicks shows up all the time. He could be doing a lot more relaxing, but he builds businesses and takes on big projects that do good stuff.

Rod Pedersen shows up after hours. Most sports radio guys just do their on air stuff and go home. Rod does that too, but then he pumps out great insight for Saskatchewan sports fans to digest every day. Maybe CKRM is paying him to do it and maybe they aren't, but either way it's not something that was in his original job description.

So what are you doing to show up? Who else do you know that's doing a great job of showing up? Let me know.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How To Set Up a Twitter Listening Station w/ TweetDeck

The video above will show you how to set up a Twitter listening station using TweetDeck to allow you to track mentions of your business name, @replies, direct messages, and your industry keywords in real time.

I've talked in the past about good examples of using Twitter and ineffective uses of Twitter in business. Putting TweetDeck in front of your customer service team will allow them to stay on top of your brand and your industry on Twitter - enabling them to keep your customers happy.

If you're a just small, people probably won't expect you to be as instant with your replies as a WestJet or a Stub Hub, but you should still be listening. Even if you don't feel comfortable jumping in right away, you should at least start watching the interactions that impact your business.

If you have any questions about using Twitter in your business, drop them into the comments section or email me at sean(at)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Regina Chamber of Commerce Tax Plan

People who read the headline "Cut education taxes: Chamber" and nothing else in the Leader-Post missed the point. The point wasn't that the Chamber wants to cut education taxes, the point is that they want to pay for education differently. Their recommendation to the Sask Party government is to pay down the provincial debt and use the savings from the reduced interest payments to reduce/eliminate the education portion of our property taxes.

As Bruce Johnstone states in his column, the Chamber's plan is a stroke of genius! It takes an abstract idea (paying down the debt) and packages it with an idea that most tax payers can relate to (education portion of property tax). Paying down the debt sounds like a good idea, but it doesn't really do anything specific for anyone. There are indirect benefits to paying down the debt, but for the most part our debt numbers are so huge that the average person can't relate to it. What the Chamber has done with it's recommendation is put paying down the debt in a context that makes it easier for people to envision on a personal level.

As the book Made to Stick talks about, they are telling a story that is:

Simple - Pay down debt = less property tax
Unexpected - Cut taxes and keep programs!
Concrete - Savings in interest funds education
Credible - It's from the Regina Chamber of Commerce
Emotional - It's about taxes, education, business, and politics.
Stories - The interest saved will fund education, which in turn will reduce taxes - making us a more attractive province to do business in.

But this is only step one. Now the ball is in the Sask Party Government's court. Yes, potash money could be better right now, but with this plan in place it would be in everyone's best interest to continue to pay down the provincial debt as they have been doing for the last few years.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Made to Stick Book Review

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath is to ideas what Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't is for business strategy. It's a truly great read with many memorable stories to prove their SUCCESs principles.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fed Ex Absolutely Positively Doesn't Deliver Overnight

Fed Ex failed to deliver on their promise to absolutely, positively deliver overnight last week in Toronto. Stub Hub didn't help matters and maybe they didn't pass along the right postal code, but Fed Ex didn't seem to want to go too far out of their way to get our package to us as promised.

Ironically, as I was reading Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath & Dan Heath a few days after my troubles with Fed Ex, where a story appears about their Purple Promise award. The book tells stories about how Fed Ex employees set out on foot to avoid traffic jams just to get their packages delivered on time. That was hardly my experience as you can tell from the video above.

So what do we take from this negative interaction? Stories can be powerful, but if they aren't truly embodied by the entire organization, the power won't transfer over to the customer experience.

Telling the stories to the public will win you some good P.R. points, but if you fail to communicate them to your front line employees, they're useless.

Trouble With Stub Hub

I don't like posting negative stuff very often, but sometimes the negative can be useful in figuring out what went wrong and how to improve it.

I was in Toronto last week for the Landscape Ontario Congress trade show (My takeaways from the event are here). When we were in town, the Leafs were playing the Hurricanes at the ACC on Tuesday night. We bought tickets through Stub Hub because the game was sold out. They were supposed to be digital tickets we were purchasing, but for some reason the broker couldn't get digital copies to us, so they said they could courier them to us overnight and have them waiting for us when we got into Toronto on Monday. If those tickets couldn't get to us they promised to get us equal or better tickets to the ones we had purchased in order to get us to the game.

We checked in to the hotel on Monday and there were no tickets. No big deal, the game wasn't until Tuesday. We talked to the folks at Stub Hub and they said they had sent them out with Fed Ex Monday and they would be there by noon on Tuesday. Noon on Tuesday rolls around and no tickets. Stub Hub talks to Fed Ex and they say that somehow the postal code of our hotel wasn't given to them properly, so the tickets couldn't be delivered. Stub Hub says now that we would have to pick up the tickets from Fed Ex, but the problem was that we were a 30 minute cab ride away from ACC and had no idea where the Fed Ex location was in relation to that. Also, Fed Ex said that the package was still with the driver and didn't know if it would get back to the depot before game time.

So only a few hours before game time we're stuck without the tickets that were promised to reach us by noon at the latest. So what can you do for us Stub Hub? How about we take you up on that offer for equal or better tickets that you might actually be able to get in our hands before game time? Nope, can't do it. The best they could do is offer us a $50 credit for a future purchase. Nice gesture, better than nothing, but it did nothing to solve our problem of getting to that game.

So we had to take a $65 cab ride downtown to pick up tickets on faith that the driver would be back at the depot before game time. We lucked out and the tickets had just arrived before we got there to pick it up (the cab meter running while we wait to pick up the tickets). No thanks to Stub Hub. No thanks to Fed Ex.

And to rub salt in the wound of this messy situation, two days later when we're on our way back from Toronto I check my twitter stream in the Calgary airport where I find that a Stub Hub Twitter account has sent me multiple messages looking to find out if there's anything they can do to help. In fact, there was something you can do to help - two days ago! When you're in the live event business, I would think that timing is a little bit more critical than that.

I talked about WestJet's use of Twitter for customer service and one of the things that stood out to me was that they responded within 20 minutes. That's the proper way to use Twitter for customer service. Twitter is all about instant communication. Waiting for two days to respond actually does the opposite of helping when timing is critical. It just makes people upset. I appreciate that they want to make it right, but it was just too late.

So I guess at the end of the day, this is my chance to vent and learn a lesson. If you're going to use Twitter for customer service, do it right and make it timely. And when you say that you're going to do something (like ensuring that you deliver tickets to you before an event), do it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Trade Show Tips - Focus On The Customer

Last week I was in Toronto for the Landscape Ontario Congress Trade Show as an attendee as opposed to an exhibitor. We were looking for new products to showcase in our new retail store that will open up in the spring.

The show was great, but one thing that stood out for me was the difference between a good trade show exhibitor and a bad trade show exhibitor. The biggest takeaway that I had was that success was not in the product knowledge, but instead in the approach of the exhibitor. Exhibitors who tackled the interaction with a customer first attitude got their message across much better than the ones who only wanted to ramble on about how good their product was.

As I said in my last post, step out from the shadows and leave a comment. Leave a trail!

What have you experienced as either an exhibitor or attendee at a trade show that stood out to you, good or bad?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Trust Agents Book Review

If you haven't picked up Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith yet, you should. Even if you aren't big into the web (although if you're reading this I would argue that you are into enough) you can still get a lot out of this book because the principles apply to life in general, not just on the web.

So what were the main takeaways from the book for me?

  1. Leave a trail
  2. Do good stuff

There's lots of details that elaborate and make these ideas stick out, but the jist of the book comes down to those two points for me. If you're reading blogs, Twitter streams, or Facebook updates, no one will know that you were there unless you leave a comment or reach out to start an interaction. The same goes for in-person events. Don't go and stand on the sidelines just to say you went. Step out and talk to people - make your presence known and add to the conversation.

The second point is just the Golden Rule. Whether it's on the web or in person, go out of your way to help someone out or just do something nice without expecting anything in return. When people experience your good works, they'll file that away and look for ways to pay it back at some point. The beautiful thing is that because you're not expecting or asking for anything in return, you'll never know when those people might turn around and repay you. A lot of people never will return the favour, but some will, and that's when everyone wins.

So in closing, if you're reading this I would encourage you to step out of the shadows and leave a comment. Leave a trail!

P.S. Thanks to Jeff for lending me the book!

Friday, January 8, 2010

WestJet's Fantastic Use of Twitter for Customer Service

This isn't the first time I've posted about WestJet and it probably won't be the last either. They're a company that continues to provide as a great example for businesses to learn from time and time again. This time, they're doing it through their use of Twitter.

Twitter has become a tool that a lot of companies, big and small, are using to broadcast their message out to potential customers. That's nothing new. But the companies who are using Twitter to the best advantage are the ones who are using it as both a listening station and a gateway for customer service. (Sidenote: Check out Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust for more information about setting up listening stations)

My experience with WestJet on Twitter comes from late November, 2009 when we were trying to get my mother-in-law's flight changed from Regina to Calgary. She was in town visiting and needed to bump her return flight up by a couple days so she called in to WestJet to make that happen. After 20 minutes or so being on hold I was getting tired so I sent out a frustrated tweet and went on to do other things while my mother-in-law stayed on hold. Now I didn't check Twitter again until the following morning, but in doing so I missed some valuable information:

Turns out someone at WestJet is actually using Twitter to listen to customers when they are having troubles! I was already following @WestJet on Twitter, so they saw my tweet, quickly followed me back and sent a direct message to me to keep me updated on the hold times.

Now they could have simply sent a generic tweet about hold times and that would have been good enough to get me by, but it's the last line of the tweet that really stood out to me. The person on the other end went to my profile, saw that I was from Regina and asked if I was coming to the Grey Cup. That wasn't the case, but it was very likely that it could have been given my location. That was also the reason the hold times were so long - a ton of Rider fans trying to make travel plans to get to Calgary for Grey Cup weekend.

Had I been on Twitter at the time they sent the direct message, I probably could have asked when a better time to call would be and my guess is that the fine folks at WestJet would have been able to save my mother-in-law some time waiting on hold.

And probably the greatest thing about all of this is that WestJet communicated all this via private direct message. No one else could see this information except me. They aren't doing this to put on public display how good their customer service is. They genuinely care about their customers and what is being said about their company.

The one thing that tweet didn't do though is shorten the wait time on the phone, but if they keep doing it, it will. If people know they can get some simple questions answered through Twitter, less people will need to call in and waste the time of the customer service agents. A lot of questions can probably be solved with a simple tweet with a link to the answer online. And while WestJet does send out a lot of tweets about sales and company announcements, I think the customer service angle will become more and more prevalent in what they use Twitter for because customers just want to be heard and responded to.

I'm flying out to Toronto from Regina on Monday. Guess who I'm flying with?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Eh! O' Canada-Go! - The Pepsi Cheer Fiasco (With One Event Marketing Positive)

Eh! O' Canada-Go!

Just give it a Google and you'll see that there's a lot of talk about the new Pepsi Canada Cheer Nation cheer - and it's definitely not all positive.

We attended the first 2010 World Junior pre-tournament game between Canada and Sweden on Sunday, December 20th at the Brandt Centre in Regina when the Pepsi Cheer had it's first live fire run.

It wasn't received very well.

Even though Pepsi employed a team of cheer leaders (not typical cheerleaders, but regular people leading a cheer), every time they tried to start the chant it barely got off the ground. In my opinion, there's too many syllables, and it's too slow. But that's not the biggest problem.

The biggest problem with the whole idea of the Pepsi Cheer is that a big corporation is trying to latch on to Hockey Canada's positive brand image by supporting it's team with a new cheer that didn't need to be created. The problem was that there was no problem. We had a cheer.

Go Canada Go!

It's easy to chant over a sustained period of time, you don't have to teach it to anyone, and it can start spontaneously without the input of paid cheer leaders.

It wasn't broke, but Pepsi tried to fix it anyway.

I'm not sure how all the contracts work, but wouldn't it have been more beneficial for Pepsi to get their actual product inside the building during the event? The concessions at the Brandt Centre were still serving Coca-Cola products just as they do all year round! I'm pretty sure the beverages I purchased at a number of the games all came in red cups anyway.

I know there's got to be some way around this because when the Brier was in Regina, Alexander Keith's (a Labatt product) was the beer sponsor and managed to get it's product into the building that traditionally serves Molson products every other day of the year.

But it's not all bad for Pepsi. We can learn a little bit from their event marketing skills. During the game they had one head cheer leader who had a microphone, a bunch of t-shirts to give away, and some over the top dance moves that actually did get the crowd going. I've got a cell phone video embeded at the bottom of this post to give you a little taste of what he was like. He was so over the top and high energy that everyone around him fed off that energy as well. So that worked well in my opinion.

The trouble is that Pepsi also had about 6-8 more cheer leader type people going around the stadium trying to start the Eh! O' Canada-Go! cheer that were far from high energy. They'd jog down into the aisles and not do much more than whisper the cheer to get it going. No big dance moves, no t-shirt waving, no microphone, no energy. They had the right idea with the head guy, but when you throw in the rest of the people who weren't 100% committed, it came off looking like a huge fail.

What Pepsi needed was 3 more of these guys around the rink to bring up the energy in the rink (in the absense of a better cheer):

Now I didn't get any of his dance moves, but you'll get the idea. The rest of the Pepsi team had about 1/100th of his enthusiasm. So the lesson here is that you've got to find high energy people that are 100% committed to the cause if you're going to pull off a successful event marketing promotion.

Maybe Pepsi should have hired Jeff to lead their cheer. I bet it would have sucked less:

P.S. You can sign up for Pepsi Cheer Nation to get your name displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame. I did it to see if anything good comes of it, but nothing to report so far.