How to Create Highly Effective Virtual Client Interactions

This is a Guest blog post by Chris Tully.

How to Create Highly Effective Virtual Client Interactions

In this seventh month of social distancing, client communications seem ever more remote – less accessible and a bit aloof as well as physically distant. How in the world can your sales force stay on top of their game and meet their goals? Now is the time to reassess your sales team’s online skills, and teach them how to create highly effective virtual client interactions.

Recent research about how sales have changed during COVID-19 tells us that sales teams need to adopt new skills in addition to adapting the old ones. It’s similar to losing one of our five senses – when we can’t see clients’ body language during a virtual meeting, for example, our other sales-senses have to learn to pick up on different cues.

When you are making a virtual presentation to clients in a group setting, remember:
• People have shorter attention spans
• Key decision makers often go missing
• Attendees are more reluctant to say what they’re really thinking, so you could get blindsided in follow up.

You definitely don’t want to wing it! Here are some guidelines to follow, based on Gartner’s Framework to Enable Effective Virtual Selling. These will make your client interactions more engaging and highly effective.

Pre-Meeting Planning

Iron out your rough spots. Most people’s presentations have one section that generates a lot of questions or sparks debate, maybe because it isn’t crystal clear. Role-play with sales team members acting out the client’s part until you’re satisfied you can address all concerns.

Make sure the stakeholders will be there.
 When you’re giving a pitch your all, you want the decision makers to be there! Check ahead of time to ensure all the stakeholders will be present during the webcast. If not, find out the designated proxy so you know whom to focus on.

Share your agenda of expectations.
 Give a meeting agenda to your contact ahead of time of three or four items indicating what you want to accomplish and what questions you anticipate from them. This laser-focuses your audience.

If you’re in a situation where the client also is meeting with your competitors, these focus points will make you stand out as a company that won’t waste their time.

You’ll be prepared for a very productive virtual meeting!

Client Presentations

Before the Meeting

Limit your meeting to 45 minutes, including the time for open discussion. Clients often schedule meetings back to back, on the hour, and often schedule you on the same day as your competitors. One thing I’ve learned over my career is how appreciative they are when you give them some down time!

Commit to starting the meeting 15 minutes after the hour, or ending 15 minutes early. Sharpen your presentation to 20-30 minutes and end the discussion a little early. Remember, less is more.

Insist on key players in attendance.
 You’ve already checked on the key decision-maker’s presence or proxy in your pre-planning. What if you log onto the meeting and they’re not there? You can ask if they want to reschedule – if the absence is last minute, they just might want to.

If it’s professional and polite to continue, then make sure to follow up directly with the person who missed your presentation to share your materials and your ideas.

Have your material up and ready to share.
 Make your presentation interactive by engaging your audience with questions. Encourage collaboration by using electronic white boards if you think that will help people better understand the concepts (particularly if it isn’t the audience’s main area of expertise).

Don’t be afraid to bring in “experts” via live link or a recorded testimonial – the more tools of engagement you use the better, as long as the content is relevant and not for theatrics.

During the Meeting

Test for understanding as you go. Using live polling if you can to get quick feedback or see what your audience is thinking – it works really well if you’re presenting to a large group logging in from multiple devices.

Zoom, GoToMeeting, and other platforms have a polling feature. This is a great engagement tool that lets you find out if people are tracking what you’re saying.

Call on audience members. 
When you get objections (expected from your pre-call rehearsal), pull out potential support by calling on specific individuals to share their perspective.

For example, “Tom, you had some thoughts when we talked last week – can you share your perspective?” This can backfire, but you should be smart enough to know who to call on and how to address any negativity.

Get consensus on next steps.
 Have specific next steps in your presentation and get agreement on these before you end the meeting or revise them to suit the situation. Email those next steps along with a proposed timeline to all in attendance following the meeting.

Immediately After the Meeting

Debrief with the decision maker. Ask the most senior client rep to stay for a debrief at the end of your presentation (“Could you hang out with me for a couple of minutes to clarify a few of things?”). Since you’ve kept your meeting short, you have a good chance that person will have time for you.

Email your “leave-behind” of the presentation after the meeting. Many clients will ask for a handout ahead of time, but don’t do it. You want them to listen to your emphasis and elaboration, not follow along on the handout and perhaps miss the point. Emailing the material after the meeting also gives you a chance for an extra touch point with clients.

Follow Up

Within 24 hours after your presentation, do these three things:

Thank the client for the meeting in an email.
 Include a recap of your key points and the agreed upon next steps.

Confirm the next meeting date.
 Also confirm who will be attending and the objectives for the meeting.

Include a specific call to action to continue their engagement with you.
 An example might be to, “Please complete a 1-3 question survey about our discussion.”

100 percent of your sales team’s time is trying to influence others or engaging with someone trying to influence them.
Your job as a leader is helping them get good at handling both of these roles with a focused, genuine manner. Then they will be able to create and participate in virtual client interactions that are highly effective, as well as productive for your company.

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

5 Steps to Marketing Success Post COVID-19

This is a Guest blog post from Sandy Barger, Partner and CMO of Chief Outsiders.

5 Steps to Marketing Success Post COVID-19

 

You guessed it, digital marketing will reign supreme once retail business resumes.

A February Market Trends 2020 survey of chief marketing officers (CMOs) with experience across both Fortune 500 and emerging brands shows the strong continuing trend toward digital advertising, with 80% of CMOs expecting to increase digital spending this year. A few weeks later, COVID-19 hit and digital became even more of an influence. Social distancing and working from home forced people to accelerate their movement to digital across all walks of life—from personal to work to social. Zoom alone grew to 300 million daily participants versus only 10 million back in December. As marketers continue to increase their focus on digital marketing, the top priorities will be on tactics that provide additional information, including organic searches, email marketing, paid search, and content marketing.

Most businesses know digital marketing and providing customers with information is important. In fact, these are usually the first marketing actions companies take. However, “lack of information” is not a problem. Studies show customers are bombarded with information, receiving up to 10,000 brand messages a day, according to the American Marketing Association. Rich content doesn’t just deliver information but provides the right information. The Digital Age has made for a more sophisticated and informed type of customer. While slogans and taglines may still catch attention, customers are looking for details and, in this competitive landscape, brands must get their stories right.

To break through the clutter, creating the “right” story must include what people are looking for. At the core of failed marketing tactics is a lack of WIIFM, an acronym that looms large in the storytelling paradigm and stands for “What’s in it for me?” It’s an essential question the answer to which can make or break the connective tissue that bonds your marketing story to the customers. Luckily, there are steps you can take to create a compelling brand story with a successful WIIFM.

5 STEPS TO COMPELLING DIGITAL BRAND STORIES

1. Understand Your Target Audience

We see it all around us today, the many different and often polarized points of views. We see it in our political system, our news, and our tastes—onions or no onions. To create the right story, it is important to consider the unique needs and interests of your target audience. For that, sound research—both qualitative and quantitative—is needed. While data from an expert research company yields the best insights, it is not the only option. Lower investment options such as customer interviews or surveys through online tools such as Survey Monkey provide valuable insights.

2. Understand Pain Points or Motivations

While companies are currently providing lots of information, it is usually about the company and focuses primarily on the product or service features. In doing so, companies often require customers to make the leap to the “WIIFM” themselves. To effectively communicate “WIIFM” it is critical to understand your customers’ pain points or motivations. Addressing pain points such as likes, wants, needs, and fears makes for the most compelling content. That’s referred to as the Persuasion Code.

Here’s a case in point: A technology company recently developed a new innovative service solution. The launch of the service generated a significant amount of awareness, but it did not convert into sales. The reason is the messaging failed to identify current, compelling pain points. It ultimately was able to drive sales by retooling the messaging to focus on its attention-catching innovations and how they could address target customers’ existing pain points.

3. Develop Authentic Claims 

Customers are very vocal about their satisfaction with products, which is helpful for brands. In fact, word of mouth referrals and reviews are the most compelling source of information for customers. With the Digital Age, customers, both satisfied and dissatisfied, can amplify their points of view. A study in 1983 found that 85% of customers dissatisfied with a clothing item told an average of five people. (Richins 1983). Now a dissatisfied customer can tell thousands—instantly.

Over two-thirds of business customers rely on reviews and 67% of survey respondents said that the reviews they saw online made an impact on whether or not they purchased a product. Companies and businesses can lose as much as 22% of their customers with just a single bad review or article. (Moz.com study).

Reviews are not always fair. In fact, 39% of reviews are false (Best SEO Companies), but someone reading that review does not know that. So to get positive reviews and avoid negative ones, your marketing message needs to make use of authentic, clear, and truthful claims.  You then need to deliver on the expectations the messaging is setting.

4. Provide Competitive Points of Differences 

Now that the brand has developed the messaging that will create an action, the customers must understand that action should be with your brand. New technology and factors such as globalization have resulted in fewer barriers to entry and more competition across all industries. A compelling story needs to include the brand’s unique value proposition and/or how the product or service is different from the competition. Otherwise, the brand has created the demand for someone else to capture.

5. Provide Proof

Customers are skeptical of brand claims. In fact, 63% of customers say they trust what influencers say about brands much more than what brands say about themselves in their advertising (Edelman 2019). Given this lack of trust, it is important to provide proof. There are several ways of doing so from statistical data, case studies, demonstrations, and of course, social media influencers.

Today’s customers are digitally savvy and have endless access to information. To get them to move from awareness to action requires more than just information. It requires a consistent, compelling story…and that requires a step-by-step development of “WIIFM” messaging.

 

 chief-outsiders-sandy-barger-portrait

Sandy Barger is Partner and CMO with Chief Outsiders, an American fractional CMO group. She works with B2B and B2C companies on product development, go-to-market strategies, and lead generation. Find more info at http://www.chiefoutsiders.com

 

5 years as an entrepreneur | Advice on how you can build your own business throughout this pandemic

This is a Guest blog post from Thomas Ma, an awesome up and coming entrepreneur whom I have had the pleasure of watching grow these past few years. He is the LA-based Co-Founder of Sapphire Apps Media.  This is great reading for any young person or aspiring entrepreneur.  Lots of lessons learned. Enjoy!!

1*m9rU_Wx_86bBx429A0fASg

I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was heading home from my last final of the semester to wrap up my junior year in college.

I had no internships lined up, and no idea what I wanted to do with my life. All of my friends had internships and it seemed they had their professional career figured out.

Nope not me. No one called me back. Since it was the last day, I decided to take one final stop at the college career center to see if they could help me out.

This is when I bumped into one of my friend at the career center and we started talking. Suddenly I started to get all these ideas in my head.

From that moment, I went back to my apartment, and continued to carve out my idea. I didn’t stop. I put 100% into it from that day. Of course it started out slowly. I had a lot to learn.

One Fun Fact:

It took me from May 9, 2015 — April 2017 before I had my own company bank account. That’s nearly 2 years!

In light of this 5 year mark, I wanted to put time and share what I would do today especially in this pandemic. My hope is to get other people to progress with their own journey. This advice is good for any type of industry.

Chapters:

1. Marketing yourself on upwork.com

2. Building out your network

3. Be vulnerable and share your journey

4. Learning a New Skill

5. Tools that you should know about

6. Outsourcing Talent

7. Digital Marketing

8. Building your digital brand

1. Create an upwork.com account to market yourself

Study other people in your industry. If you are into consulting, you look up consulting on upwork.com

1*iwNlJwjTUr6SzhmvFvvW0g

 

 

Look at the following:

Hourly rate, $ they’ve earned, success rate, and country their from.

In this case, Kim has a great profile. He has a high success rate and over 6 figures earned.

Here’s his profile:

1*rIAuhupGDzl8hVYw7Ie3HA

 

Look at is his hourly rate, title and what he is putting in his summary. It’s clear that he’s getting reached a lot.

Below his profile is his work history. Study how much he has earned and how much people are paying him.

Do this for 5–10 of the top earners int his category. This is the benchmark.

Try your best to optimize your profile so that it matches up with some of the best on Upwork. When you apply, at least you will stand out.

As you build your account in the beginning, it’s going to be tough. You’re going to have to be relentless. This means applying to as many jobs as you can. It may even mean not making a lot of $ to build up your profile.

Review and job success rate is critical to standing out as an applicant.

2. Build out your network

When starting out, it’s critical that you have a network. In order to thrive in what you do, you have to surround yourself with like minded people. These are the people who you will hang out with the most and learn from. You will also progress with these people and it’s amazing to celebrate milestones together and also being there for one another when things don’t go as planned.

If you don’t have a business network, it’s okay 🙂 I will share some of the things that I would recommend.

Before you build your network:
Make sure to optimize your social media profile with what you do. That includes Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, etc…

This way people get a sense of what you do when you connect with you.

Here are a few places you can find events or meet people:

The strategy applies to all the platforms below: When you join the platform, go to the search bar and enter keywords that relate to your niche. If you were in fitness, you could try wellness, health, fitness, coaching etc.

Facebook Group:

Eventbrite (Tons of free online events)

Meetup:

Linkedin

Instagram DM (search out hashtags in your industry and engage with people)

If you join a new group, read what members are posting. Engage with their post if you like it, and add them as a friend.

If they accept you as a friend, shoot them a compliment and let them know you liked their post. If they respond, ask if they are interested in connecting with you via zoom.

While on zoom, spend time genuinely getting to know the person.

Things you can talk about:
How covid has impacted you

Your background on how you started

Sharing what you’re passionate about

Favorite books

Why you started

The purpose of this is to build your own network. If people genuinely get to know you, they’ll support you. You never know who they know.

After you connect, you continue to stay in touch with them and invite them to events that you hear about.

As you continue to evolve your network, you will have access to more events.

This strategy can even be applied to zoom hangouts. To engage on zoom, you can send them a private message and use the same strategy.

In the space of creating your own brand, showing up is half the battle. You have to show up and build your network every day. Make it a goal to fill up your entire calendar with zoom events and zoom meetings.

Things to avoid at networking events:

1. Don’t ask the “what do you do” question. That’s straight to the point of what they do and it shows you don’t even want to get to know them for who they are

2. To be efficient with your time, you can state that you have 30 minutes or whatever at the beginning.

3. Don’t talk too much about yourself unless people ask you questions. If you talk a lot, you’ll never be able to learn about the other person. You have to make the other person feel special that you are talking to.

A small recap on networking:

If you are starting out, you can do the following to ensure you progress every week.

  1. Start off by booking one event per day on your calendar
  2. Make a goal of how many zoom connect meetings you want to take. Maybe in the beginning, make a goal to meet 5 people per week and then scale up.
  3. If you meet someone and share common interest, offer to collaborate with them. You can collaborate by co hosting a happy hour with your joint network. This way you meet more people and so does your new friend.
  4. If you are able to host events, you become the go to person for that event. People will get to hear you. This way you expand your network at a faster pace.
  5. If you host great events, make sure to do it on a weekly bases. As you host more events, people will bring their own network.

3. Be vulnerable and share your journey

When I started, I used to take a selfie photo everyday of my Starbucks cup or wherever I was at in the world. I’d post most of the stories on Linkedin.

I wanted to show people what the journey was like. Overtime, I was able to build more followers because people liked hearing my story.

The reason for doing this is because it builds your digital brand. The more people know about you, the more they can potentially help you.

One networking tip here is to connect with people who like your post. Right away you have something in common.

4. Continue to learn

1*ZcQ_FmmTNr5CW5P2iQi10w

 

 

One of my favorite podcast to listen to is NPR how I built this by Guy Raz. It has stories from some of the great entrepreneurs in the world.

It’s nice to hear how someone started and made traction.

Read articles on medium.com especially the entrepreneurship articles

Stay active in the reddit entrepreneur community. A lot of people post insightful advice on there, and it’s an easy way to connect with a small group

5.) Tools/Sites you should know about

http://www.hemingwayapp.com : Spell checker you can use before you post or email someone

https://unsplash.com: Website with great stock images you can find

https://clipchamp.com/en/video-compressor/ : Compress large files

https://www.squarespace.com : Easy website builder. When you make your website make sure it’s optimized for mobile

https://hunter.io : Tool that lets you find emails from brands you are trying to reach

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/inshot-video-editor/id997362197 : App that lets you edit videos. You can put around a white border and text over your content

6. Outsourcing Talent

What does this mean? It means you are hiring someone remotely to complete the work for you. They can be from anywhere in the world!

Talent you can hire for: video editing, graphic design, app development, website, basically anything you can think of is on there.

As you expand, you are going to need help. Upwork is the best place to find remote talent.

If you want to save cost, I would highlight recommend looking for talent in Philippines, India, and Ukraine.

When you have your job list up, you can filter for people in those countries and invite them to your job.

I highly recommend upwork.com

Here are some tips to hiring talent:

When you make your job listing, you want to have the following:

-Catchy Header (study other people)

  • Clear instructions on exactly what you want and keeping it short and brief
  • Follow up questions that the applicant should respond to

Here are some I recommend:
What is your hourly rate

What is your working hours
Have you read the instruction? If so, how much and how long would it take to complete

Do you have a portfolio?

All the questions above help filter out who is a good candidate and who isn’t.

If you like their answers, you can give them a small paid tester. If they pass it, you can give them a larger project.

Always let people know if they do good work that you will have more projects for them.

When you find someone you like, you can add them to your roster.

If you master the ability to outsource, you can scale a creative agency. This means you can find clients who need a service. An example is if you had a bunch of designers you liked, you can market yourself as a creative agency who does graphics.

Add your creators work to your portfolio. Show people your work. Find clients who are willing to pay.

Once you find clients who are willing to pay, you give the work to the person you liked.

Recap for Agency via Outsourcing

  1. Find talent
  2. Test talent. If their good, add them to your roster
  3. Show case their work
  4. Find clients who are in need
  5. If client is in need, then they will pay you for the services.
  6. Give the project to the remote person. Make sure they meet your deadlines

7. Digital Marketing:

Learn how to run paid media ads on Facebook.

Steps I would suggest:

  1. Start to do a deep dive on free courses that they offer online

Free Resources that I like:

Tristan’s Facebook Ads Course: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_Ic8HZSPfIW9TES3jPgpCg

Once you learn one platform, you can figure out other platforms such as Snapchat etc..

A few advice:

Start small when you run Facebook ads campaigns. Learn how to track your ROI (return on investment)

At the end of the day, your goal should be to make profit.

Study your competitors advertisement through the Facebook tool. You can look up every single company and what ads they run.

8. Building your digital brand

I never envisioned myself as a live fitness coach, but I found a new passion.

1*eGZfvQS_Ex7ZfBcfCf5NeQ

 

What started out as an opportunity to learn turned into something that I look forward to every week.

I had no idea what it was like to coach. I wanted to change that. To build a great brand, I wanted to learn everything. The coaches are important. They are the ones leading the tribe for ~1 hour.

My first class had 4 people. My second class had 4 people.

Week 2: Started to get 10–15 people for my two class

Week 3: Averaged 30 people for my two classes. This time people are referring their friends and family to join.

I love this because it’s so fun to see people enjoying something that I teach and having them bring their friends.

Take a look at the Eventbrite photo. Eventbrite drove over 100 users to my listing.

Eventbrite drove over 100 email sign ups to my fitness class. Facebook drove ~30 and I spent about $150.

Here’s how you can build out your digital brand throughout this pandemic

List your events on the following platforms:

Meetup (Yes you have to pay $30 group fee, but you will gain users over time. Study other groups in your niche and optimize your group title)

List your events on all the builtin websites. They have cities in Austin, NYC, Chicago, etc. It’s FREE!

List your event on Facebook Events. Make a page. This is the group I made:

Facebook

Log into Facebook to start sharing and connecting with your friends, family, and people you know.

List your event on Linkedin Events. Invite all your network. Yes it’s tedious, but you have to hustle when you’re building something new.

DM people on Instagram. Find hashtags that relate to your target demo. In my case, it’d be #fitness #peloton #soulcycle #boxing

Find people commenting in fitness related post.

LIST ON EVENTBRITE. YES IT’S BOLDED FOR A REASON.

OPTIMIZE the keywords. They give you 10 for a reason. Think of words people would search if it was someone looking to attend your online class.

Leverage all the keywords in the main title

State the time, timezone, day, and date in the header

Find a clear stock photo that stands out. I use Unsplash.

Add questions they have to answer. In my eventbrite, I ask people where they come from. I also suggest they join my Facebook fitness community.

Facebook Groups are key! It reaches more people. If you post an event, you are able to invite every single member in the group.

Nurturing your audience:

Engage with people before class. Ask them where they are from

Throughout your class find a way to get users to engage. In my fitness class we do virtual high fives and fist bumps

Bring people together after the event. At my events, we take a group photo online

Reach out to people who attended your class and thank them. They’ll appreciate it

Remember people’s first name. Especially if they come back.

Livestream your events. This way more people have access.

Why you should build out a digital brand:

People can learn about you. If they like what you do, they will come back. If they continue to come back, they will bring friends to join them. Overtime, this is your fan base that supports you. It’s important that you are able to identify your super fans.

My hope is that this will give you the small push to get you started.

No matter what happens, be proud of what you do. Do things because you want to. Don’t do it because of someone else telling you what they want for you. It’s your journey. Make sure you can smile and have fun with your choice.

If you are looking for a good community to join, this is the one I created:

Sapphire Stories: A Community of Passionate Doers

Community of Doers who are pursuing their passion. Our goal is to connect and inspire you with your own journey. Follow…

If you’d like to stay connected with me, you can always reach out @boredwithtom on Instagram

 

 

10 Ways to Leverage Snapchat for Business

For sure we are in the very early days of “Snapchat for business.” I presented an award a few days ago at the Institute for Excellence in Sales annual awards program. I asked the audience of 250+ B2B and B2G (business to government) sales execs who was on Snapchat, and only 4–5 hands were raised.

I was very surprised because Snapchat is currently the fastest growing mobile social media platform in the world, and has now become one of the largest. This favorite social media app of teens and millennials has over 200 million users, of whom 100 million are “active daily” users who are viewing 10 billion photos and videos from their smartphones every day. This past week, Snapchat surpassed Instagram and is now the number 2 app among US iPhone users behind Facebook, as ranked by time spent in the app: 

Screen Shot 2016 06 09 at 8.16.31 AM

Credit: App Annie and Business Insider

If you’re not thinking about how Snapchat can help your business, then you’re ignoring these stats at your peril. Yes, the demographic is young right now, but I remember when I joined Facebook 9 years ago, college students and recent grads were the vast majority of users. Eventually Facebook attracted older demos, which is inevitably what will happen with Snapchat.

Here are 10 ways you can use Snapchat for business:

  1. Sell. According to comScore, 60% of US 13–34 year old smartphone users are on Snapchat. If this is your target market, you have their attention right now, and properly crafted offers, discount coupons, contests, etc. can drive revenue. If your target market is older, you may as well get a head start on Snapchat now before older users join.
  2. Community building. With Snapchat “stories” (the killer app), you can now build and engage your audience in a unique way, by posting a series of 10-second snippets that aggregate into a “story.” This can be done with video and photos, and in creative and interesting ways. Stories only last 24 hours, so your community has a particular urgency in “tuning in” to your channel every day since the content is perishable.
  3. Business development. Snapchat also offers you 1 to 1 engagement opportunities because of its private chat capabilities, so you can reach out to prospects, potential partners, vendors, consultants, etc.
  4. PR and branding. Brands like T-Mobile, Taco Bell, and Acura are using a variety of techniques on Snapchat to brand their companies and products, through their own stories, partnering with “influencers,” offering coupons, buying custom filters, showing “sneak peaks” of new products, and other creative ways. Snapchat is an ideal B2C platform, but I am seeing successful B2B branding also being done.
  5. Personal branding. Celebs, social media stars, business leaders, and even politicians (Bernie Sanders and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser) are using the platform to brand themselves by giving fans a glimpse into their day to day lives. You can also cross promote other social media platforms and websites for greater visibility and discoverability overall.
  6. Customer service. Like you can on Twitter, you can have direct conversations with customers, and answer questions and concerns. You can incorporate announcements, new product offerings and features via stories, and sending group snaps. With Snapchat, you can also solicit feedback, conduct surveys, take polls, and play “games” with customers.
  7. Recruit talent. If you want to hire recent grads, you have to go where their attention is focused. Today, Snapchat is the perfect vehicle to convey to potential employees and contractors a feel for your company’s vibe and a behind the scenes look at your operations and team.
  8. Find opportunities. Justin Kan (follow him at justinkan), a partner at Y Combinator is using Snapchat to find new investment opportunities. Interested startups apply to be selected to take over his Snapchat account, which they would then use to pitch their ideas via his story.
  9. Learn. I’ve learned a ton about a variety of highly applicable and interesting things from people I follow, including Saba Sedighi (sabasedighi), Brian Park (brianbpark), Erica Blair (theericablair), and many others.
  10. Teach. Mark Suster (msuster), a VC at Upfront Ventures uses the platform to teach. His daily “snap storms” offer a wealth of great business and investment information. Likewise, Suzanne Nguyen (stringstory) does an excellent job teaching different aspects of technology and social media, and Justin Wu (hackapreneur) shares his vast knowledge about “growth hacking.” By the way, Suster has solved the 24-hour perishability problem by saving his stories and then reposting them onto a permanent website: snapstorms.com. Others repost their stories onto YouTube.

OK, so how can you get started?

Step 1: Download the Snapchat app onto your smartphone and sign up.

Step 2: Add friends. From the app itself, plus you can find other friends and people to follow by downloading and using GhostCodes, a discovery app for finding Snappers with mutual interests. Because Snapchat has limited native discovery functionality, Snappers create profiles on GhostCodes, listing their short bios, areas of interest, and links to other social media accounts including LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Step 3: Jump in by following stories, creating stories, snapping your friends, experimenting and having fun with it.

Step 4: Get some Snapchat hacks from your or your friends’ Gen Z and millennial kids, as well as by watching YouTube tutorials and videos.

Step 5: Figure out the best way to leverage the platform for your business, and execute!

So there you have it: 10 ways to boost your business using Snapchat, and 5 easy steps to get started. Please follow me on Snapchat at stienwong or via the Snapcode below, and let’s snap about how your business is benefitting from Snapchat.

Tien Snapcode

Thanks for reading. If you found this post helpful, please subscribe to this Blog and share with folks who may also like it. I’d greatly appreciate it.  Thanks!

Note: this piece was adapted from an article I wrote entitled “You should be on Snapchat. No, really” which was published on June 3, 2016 in the Washington Business Journal.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

“You don’t know what you don’t know.”  That’s one of my favorite sayings, and a true maxim in life and in business.  Having a “know it all” mentality can lead to disastrous decision making.  I’ve learned this the hard way, and if I had a dime for every time I have said “you don’t know what you don’t know” to one of my teammates or colleagues, I’d be very rich!

The beautiful hand painted wooden Russian Nesting Dolls from the city of Penza (above and below) illustrate this point very well.  The dolls descend in size and fit inside one another.  You open the largest one and keep going until you finally come to the impossibly tiny little doll at the end.

Ever had a problem you think you solved until another related issue popped up? Something completely unexpected.  Then you thought you solved it again but then another surprise came up?  And so on and so on until you finally got the correct answer?  Finding the right solution is just like opening up a set of these nesting dolls one by one.

Problems can be solved faster by knowing the simple fact that “you don’t know what you don’t know.”  So here are some simple ideas to keep in mind.

1.  Don’t Assume Anything – You’ve heard bosses and mentors say, “If you A-S-S-U-M-E, you make an A-S-S out of U and ME,” right?  I have to agree that, while extremely difficult NOT to do, assuming things can be very costly, especially when communicating with others.  Of course, you have to assume or guess at some things, but try and get as many facts, background info, etc. ahead of time.

2.  Be Prepared – For anything.  Expect surprises, and just take the issue as it comes and think things through carefully.

3.  Have a “Beginner’s Mind,” or “Shosin” as the Zen Buddhists like to call it.  By being open and devoid of preconceptions, you bring a level of humility and desire for learning to the challenge at hand.

4.  Get Help – Ask experts or experienced people and advisers who can help you.  And do your homework independently, as well.

5.  Test and Iterate – If you have the luxury of time, take baby steps and test your ideas. Whether it’s a new product or a new target audience, or whatever, put it out there on a test basis first, then evaluate feedback and results….and then adjust accordingly.

We at Lore Systems have put in place these practices and have benefitted immeasurably in making better decisions in everything we do.

Good luck, and thank you very much for reading.  Please feel free to comment and sign up for my Blog!

Steve Jobs, Customer Experience Obsessor (CEO)

A few days before Steve Jobs announced that he was stepping down as CEO of Apple, my family and I paid a visit to Apple’s corporate headquarters at One Infinite Loop in Cupertino, CA.  My daughter Caroline, a huge fan of all products Apple, was the driving force behind our pilgrimage to this tech “mecca.”

We were able to walk around the lobby, which had a display case of the company’s 3 Emmy Awards.  Interestingly, these were the ONLY awards showcased in the lobby.  We talked to a few Apple employees and asked them questions about Steve Jobs.  His office is on the 4th floor (top floor) and he is known to walk around a lot and talk to employees.

Like most students of business, I have been mesmerized by Steve’s approach to business, as well as his personal and corporate success.  In many ways, he is the most accomplished business leader in the last century, having almost singlehandedly invented the PC industry and revolutionized 5 other industries:  cell phones, consumer electronics, film, music, and retail, while influencing virtually every other industry.  His roles at Apple: co-founder, marketer, entrepreneur, inventor, CEO, creative genius, designer, architect, etc.

The most important role Steve plays, however, is also the least discussed, and that is his role as Apple’s Customer Experience Obsessor, a different kind of “CEO.”  (OK, I know that the word “obsessor” does not exist according to Merriam-Webster, but you know what I mean!)   Steve’s obsessive focus on customer experience is the prime reason for Apple’s immense success.

Here are 6 Customer Experience Obsessions that are core to Apple (please pardon the pun).

1.  Customers must fall in love at first sight – For Steve, the customer experience begins with the physical beauty and elegance of Apple’s products. Striking, amazing, revolutionary, simple, and most importantly, COOL!  Apple stuff looks great, they sound great, and they FEEL great.  They touch all the senses, and this is how customers get hooked on them.

2.  A child must be able to use it! – With Apple products, more than any other, product and user become one.  User interfaces, when introduced, have all been VASTLY superior to the competition’s far clunkier interfaces. For example, the original Macintosh desktop computer was truly revolutionary.  It had a unique “windows” GUI interface, and users interacted with the computer via a brand new device called a “mouse.”  And how about the original iPod, with its click wheel, the iPhone with its dynamic touch screen, and the iPad – they were so easy that young children could use them.

3. NO user manuals –  Who doesn’t hate user manuals?  All Apple devices come out of the box ready to use and in working condition, with NO setup or configuration required. This has become a hallmark of the Apple brand.  Peripherals are all “plug and play.” There is no need for user manuals because Steve knows that customers don’t want to deal with complexity.  They want their new toys to work right away with no brain damage, so he made sure his industrial designers delivered on this brand promise.

4. Make the buying experience easy, and customers will buy more –  Whether it’s downloading videos and music from iTunes, or buying a laptop from an Apple Store, the experience is easy, friendly, and even fun!  We all know how super easy it is to preview and buy media on iTunes.  And what happens when you go to an Apple store?  They are clean, well organized, and have lots of demos you can try.  Their salespeople are friendly, incredibly knowledgeable, and PASSIONATE.  And when you’re ready to buy, you don’t go to a counter.  Your salesperson uses an iPod touch POS device with credit card scanner, and the process is about the easiest retail experience you’ll ever have.

5. The products MUST BE RELIABLE – People often criticize Apple for having closed or proprietary technologies, and for overly controlling application development partners (iPhone and iPad apps).  While Apple surely makes more money and keeps competitors at bay this way, Steve’s real reason for this is QUALITY CONTROL.  Apple products work BETTER and are less buggy and less susceptible to viruses because of the seamless integration of hardware and software, their tight control over partnerships, and their use of higher quality components and awesome design.  And with reliable products come customer satisfaction and evangelism, which brings us to Steve’s 6th customer experience concept:

6. The Best Customer Service is NO Customer Service – Steve clearly understands this customer service adage.  The theory is that if you do a great job acquiring and delivering for your customer, you won’t have the need for customer service.  Of course, every company has customer service issues, but those that have the fewest issues are the companies who do a great job making their customers happy, and therefore have the highest customer satisfaction.  And Apple’s customer service is very good, especially for a consumer products company.

At the end of the day, satisfied customers are repeat customers, and they evangelize on Apple’s behalf.  Steve knows this and that’s why he focused on the entire customer experience:  the fun and low-friction buying experience, each product’s “WOW” factor, the user interface, product reliability, and good customer service.

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think!  Please also sign up for my Blog on my Home Page!