Marketing

What’s your 15 second story?

At some point you’re going to bump in to someone you want to impress at work. It might be in the elevator, getting a coffee, or across a table while you’re both waiting for a meeting to commence. You’re not sure if you should say something and then they look over to you and ask ‘so how’s it going?’

If anyone with a ‘C’ or ‘GM’ in their title asks ‘how’s it going?’ they’re not asking you about your cat, or weekend, or recent holiday, they’re being polite and filling a few seconds and this is your chance to tell them something great that’s happening that they’re unlikely to know about.

A great 15 second story should cover off five key things:

1. Never assume they know what you’re talking about. A detailed answer full of technical terms, or assuming they know about your project in detail, is not helpful. You won’t have time to explain all the details or bring them up to speed on the history of the project so that your reply will make sense. Wrap your answer up to a high level view they’ll care about.

2. Make sure you include your boss or your team in your reply.We’ve‘ and ‘we‘ sounds a lot better than ‘I‘. The C-level exec wants to know the department is sound. Every team has a few particularly bright sparks, but the C-level exec wants to know that while there’s progress and innovation there’s harmony too. They also want reassurance your boss is across what’s happening – that you’re not running off and being a lone-wolf . You never know what they might share and with whom, which brings us to a crucial point,

3. Don’t say anything which can’t be backed up. It’s flattering you have a few seconds of this exec’s time but don’t make things up. Avoid the temptation to ‘creatively expand’ the truth or build something up beyond its true value. Maybe you’ve had a win recently stream-lining a process or are taking new things to market but making big statements such as ‘we’re going to change the whole company with this!’ or ‘it’s going to change the whole industry’ are, in a C-level’s mind, either bullshit or something they should have been across well before this 15 second chat – neither of which make your boss or you look great.

4. You never have problems, you have opportunities. The C-level exec has enough problems to solve for each day, this 15 second discussion is not the time to bring up another one. They’re already managing profitability, market share and shareholder challenges, there are proper channels for dealing with smaller HR issues, or that ‘it’s cold today’ or that you need more funding for Project XYZ (everyone always needs more funding, now is not the time to tell them you need more too). Real problems should be escalated properly.

5. They can’t solve anything for you right now. This is just a 15 second discussion, they’re not asking ‘how’s it going?’ so they can try and solve your biggest problem, they’re not writing down your answer and going to make it their top priority to solve for you. They want a good news story so be accurate in your reply and give them some.

So what should a great 15 seconds story sound like? Just one example is below.

Q: “Hey Jim, how’s it going?”

A: “Hey Sam, it’s going really well thanks. The team and I are just about to launch a great campaign, it’s tested well, we have a great baseline plan and we’re going to be trying some new things in market too. We’re very positive. How’re you?”

It’s a great reply because the C-level exec now knows: 1. Things are great and the team is working collaboratively towards a goal and you’re a part of it. 2. You haven’t given them percentages or baffled them with numbers (big or small)  3. What’s about to be in market – representing the whole company – has been mitigated for risk and done well (C-levels love a more sure bet) and, 4. The company is being innovative but off a good baseline that will get the company the majority of the way there anyway.

Ground-hog day

Every year a new school-year starts and the evening news will splash pictures of twins or triplets skipping to school on their first day. Every year global politics will lurch one way or the other creating a bit of upheaval for a while. And every year when the school-year ends some incredibly smart teenagers will be in the news having deservingly Ace’d the exams talking about how they’re finding it hard to choose between a double degree in something fantastic.

Every year fundamentally the same things happen. And that probably sounds depressing to some but it shouldn’t, because it’s actually a wonderful opportunity.

Take a look around your business and as well as focusing on insights for next month and the next quarter begin focusing on foresight for next year. Get your team organised and start accurately logging not just the quarterly sales and trends, but what you and the market actually did so the business can reference it next year.

Did a competitor come out with an industry moving campaign this quarter? Did your company release a new product that did well? Was there new regulation which materially affected how customers bought? Log it all and make it accessible to a broad group of people.

You may not even be at the same business next year but that doesn’t matter. Imagine walking in to your next job and all this was already done, the year ahead would be so much easier. You and your team would have more freedom to focus on more important things because you’d be able to see the previous year or two of the entire industry at a helicopter-view level immediately. Opportunities would be obvious, it’d just be left to you to leverage them.

Nobody is coming to help.

Nobody is coming to help. It’s a stark and confronting reality that almost immediately invites a fight or flight response and in business we see it every day.

Whether you’re trying to resolve a bad customer experience that shouldn’t have happened or if you’re tackling structural change to your industry, or whether you’re simply trying to pull your business out of disappointing quarterly returns, the reality is in that moment no one else is coming. There’s no second team just like yours squirrelled away in another room, there’s no one else already working on the problem, there is just you and a handful of others to solve this.

The only time someone else will come is when you’re gone and by then it’s too late to do anything because it’s not your problem anymore.

The realisation that it’s up to you and your team, or you and a cross-section of colleagues all focused on a single task above all else can be an incredibly empowering, uplifting and educational experience.

If you succeed it’s because of your collective works. If you fail but tried everything you could then at least you’ve learnt a lot and your effort will show. But if you fail because you spent too much time trying to mitigate risk from lack of action,  and in doing so don’t put enough actions in to the market, then you’ll have learnt little and achieved less.

So no matter your challenge, be it with your boss, your customers, or your whole business realise this: no one is coming, it’s up to you to make the difference.

So go make it.

What are you waiting for?

What are you waiting for? What’s your company waiting for? The right time? The right seasonality? The right market conditions? For that competitor to stop doing so well?

Apple didn’t wait for the market to mature to launch the iPod or the iPhone, Microsoft didn’t wait for the right time to launch the PC, Facebook didn’t wait for the social networking market to be firmly established to launch their product so people would understand what they were all about. Being the driver often means heavy lifting, but it also means it becomes yours to own and educate and create advocates from.

Stop waiting. Start doing. Create your seasonal uplift, be the driver of new demand, you be the thing that stops your competitor doing so well.

If you’re waiting for someone else to come along and stop your competitor doing so well, don’t worry, they will, but it won’t be your company that enjoys the majority of the spoils.

If there’s a flat period of seasonal demand each year – create your own spike. Then that period will become known as your period. Now you’ll have competitors chasing you.

Is it worth it?

It’s a question we all ask ourselves multiple times per day – even if it’s just unconsciously – ‘is it worth it?’

If your customers are thinking for too long about whether you’re worth their time, their money, their social reinforcement or their verbal recommendation then you need to be working harder at giving them more reasons to shorten the time they spend evaluating you.

You see this evaluation most frequently in the supermarket. People paused in aisles staring at one or dozens of similar brands trying to decide which one they’ll buy.

Take a look at your business and what your company puts in to the market. Find the opportunities where you can engage with your current and new customers in brand appropriate ways, perhaps even where your customers don’t expect you to be, but when you’re there, it becomes a natural and welcome addition.