Collaboration | The Brainzooming Group - Part 4 – page 4
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Vickie Howell is a broadcast personality, producer, author, designer, and instructor in the DIY world. Her online series, The Knit Show with Vickie Howell (YouTube) is the first studio produced, community funded, internationally accessible knitting and crochet streaming series. With the help of over 1200 individual and company backers, Vickie successfully raised $83k in 30 days on Kickstarter to fund the project. As of December 2017, The Knit Show has had over a quarter of a million views in at least 19 countries.

Photo: Harper Point Photography

For the sake of transparency, I note that Vickie also played bass in the imaginary band that she and I co-founded (I was the singer; the band was called Why Barbie’s Bad) as college theater students in the mid-90s, talking our way into (and out of) any number of ridiculous situations with our over-plucked brows, dark burgundy lipstick, and matching GIRLS KICK ASS t-shirts. Later, we worked for the same film and television production company while living in the same apartment building in West Los Angeles, and briefly had a side business selling light switches lovingly decoupaged by our own hands.

Those were, as Lou Reed sang, different times.

But some things remain constant. Vickie’s drive to strategize, revise, and improvise in the name of extreme creativity and productivity is as fierce and inspiring as ever, making her a natural choice for an interview on the Brainzooming blog.

Now Streaming: Extreme Creativity and Vickie Howell

Emma Alvarez Gibson (EAG): When your show was first available on YouTube, I told Mike about it, and I didn’t think he would watch it. Because he doesn’t watch anything, really. I’m always sending him videos and stuff and he’s like, Oh…yeah…I kind of clicked on it…

Vickie Howell (VH): I mean, but it’s knitting, soooo…

EAG: Exactly!

VH: Seems like it’s a given. Of course, he’s going to watch it. No? That’s not where you were going with this?

EAG: Well, two days later, he says, By the way, I watched most of the episode! I’m like, WHAT?! He says, It was really good! I was so impressed!

VH: Why? Why did he do that?

EAG: I think it’s the fact that when you saw that the market wasn’t doing what it had been doing, you took things into your own hands and found a way to do it anyway. Without getting too precious about it, those qualities in you really kind of embody what Brainzooming is about.

So, maybe tell me about how you got to where you are now and what your thoughts are about moving forward. There was a little period when there was a ton of DIY and craft shows on and that’s where you found your niche.

VH: Do you want a little background on why that went away?

EAG: Yeah.

VH: Ad dollars. There’s no money in crafts. And basically, Home Depot and Lowes are better ad buy-ins for [networks like DIY, the home of Vickie’s first show, Knitty Gritty]. We don’t have that kind of money in crafting, so it was a much more viable model to just move over to home improvement and home decorating.

DIY programming in social media has been easy. Anybody can post videos. People were getting their projects everywhere, all over the interwebs, and then they were getting the education on how to make their projects through sites like Craftsy and CreativeLive, and now Brit + Co., and Creativebug — there’s tons of them. So, the programming industry has had to completely hustle like the rest of us. Time is ticking. Cable stations are going to turn into streaming stations. So, everybody’s going big. They’re not going to go for the “there’s no ad dollars in it” show.

I was watching this all develop over the course of about eight years. I saw it happening again and again as I was working, as I was pitching, as I was trying different things. And I was still getting these messages almost daily saying that Knitty Gritty was still impactful, still had a space in people’s lives. I wanted to recreate that essence, but for now, meaning the digital aspect, which obviously wasn’t a thing back then, and the social media aspect, which was really the most exciting part for me. I started doing Facebook Live videos the first day they were available for verified users. And I noticed how many people were watching from different countries, like Turkey, Canada, Australia, Brazil–I didn’t expect that kind of community to be out there.

And for me, now, that’s the goal today. Your community is no longer in your own neighborhood, or your own state, or even your own country. As far as you can reach, and anybody can reach that far, from the comfort of their own homes — that reach is the limitation of your community, and community is the very base of marketing.

So, there were those two components, plus a third one. However you’re creative, whether it’s picking up a Fender Strat, or a paintbrush, or knitting needles, that is how you channel your creativity. And creativity is openness, and when you’re open, that allows you to see the world on a broader scope than what you would otherwise. I wanted to encapsulate that essence. It’s about people’s communities, it’s about connection of people, it’s about choosing it for stress reduction or for coping, or because you’re putting something beautiful out in the world, or for socialization, or whatever. So that was really important to me, and the only way that I could do that and make it look cool, without it being watered down heavily, was just to do it myself.

EAG: And from there, the wheels started turning and you started thinking, What would I need to start getting together so that I could produce this myself?

VH: Yeah. So, when I worked on a PBS show, I had co-executive produced it, and also produced it with my friend Karin Strom. We picked the guests, we picked the content, we figured it out. And so that experience gave me that final bit of confidence. And because I’d been in the entertainment industry, as you know, since I was 18 or 19, on and off, I knew a lot of it. But the actual nuts and bolts–that was sort of the final piece, just to see if I was a truly competent producer, and I found out that I was. And I loved it, and I still love it. It’s still one of my favorite things to do. That had been percolating for a couple of years. I worked for about a year’s time with Scripps [Scripps Networks Interactive], which owns the DIY Network, to license the Knitty Gritty name. It got pretty close, but we just couldn’t make it work, which was in hindsight a blessing, because I own The Knit Show, together with ProductionFor, outright. So, we don’t have to get approval for anything. It would have been nice to have that name recognition, but it’s so exciting, when I put on my marketing hat, that I don’t have the limitations that I would if I owed anything to anyone.

EAG: Absolutely.

Photo: Keith Trigaci

VH: I can work with people for sponsorships or partnerships in really interesting and innovative ways. Many companies don’t have the actual capital to invest, but they have the email newslists, or they have some kind of asset that is a viable barter, and so they get to put their name on what they think is a cool and innovative project, and we get whatever asset they have, whether it’s an e-newsblast to 250,000 people, which are eyes that we need, or it’s furniture for the set, or even wardrobe for me to wear to an appearance. And then what happens is that the backer page grows larger and larger and larger, so that when future investors look at it, they can see that a village built this. And there’s a village behind it.

So, I started building that, and then I went to my ex-husband Clint, because he owns a production company, ProductionFor. I went to him with the big piece that I didn’t know anything about, which was how to create a budget for a show. We went back and forth and I told him what amount I felt comfortable raising. As a side note, I’ve never felt comfortable asking for money. I sucked at selling Girl Scout Cookies. It’s just never been my wheelhouse. But because I could sort of see this as a service–people wanted this–I kind of worked it out. We found a number that we could at least try and raise together. We created a partnership with this company that normally produces interstitials, commercials, and the like, but really wanted to get into episodics. And I really needed a production company behind me for the technical side of it. So, we just sort of jumped in together. It was a huge learning curve, and there are a lot of lessons still being learned. But it was a pretty exciting adventure.

EAG: Once you got all the funding you needed, how quickly was the first season completed?

VH: I had my pitch meeting with ProductionFor in February. The Kickstarter began the third week in March and ended in April. I don’t know if you know this, but with Kickstarter, you get 30 days to raise all of it or you get none of it. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And then I had my content producer Karin on a plane within maybe two weeks, and we started planning the grid. So, we went right into it. The actual studio production was the first week of August, it was five days and we shot ten episodes.

EAG: Where are you now in the process? What do you have happening next? If I know you there’s a long, long, long-term strategy.

VH: There is. The great thing about having streaming content is that there’s no shelf life for it. So now, I’ll go back and on a granular level, dissect it and see what I can do as far as marketing goes for external pieces. I’ve just received all the transcripts needed to get every episode captioned. Since we have 19 countries’ worth of ownership, I’d like to start experimenting with subtitles. I’m going to start with German and then probably Spanish. What I’d also like to do is investigate: can we sell this to an airline? Are there ways that we can sell pieces of it without it having to be pulled down from YouTube? And I don’t know the answer to that. So that’s something that I really want to investigate right now. And then I’ll break down each individual piece for additional cross-promotional opportunities.

We chose to put the whole season up at once to compete with other binge-worthy series in the digital market. That choice, though, means working harder to keep word circulating so new viewers find us. If I can offer screenshots and direct video links to snippets of the show that give a glimpse of even the smallest of products or locations, then I’ll ask the respective companies to feature us on social. This project is made for and by the community–so I’ll continue to ask that community to pitch in to make it a success.

Photo: Keith Trigaci

EAG: Blue-sky, no-holds-barred, what do you see happening?

VH: Here’s my pie in the sky: I didn’t produce this just to be a one-off. I want to continue producing the show and providing great content for the people in my community. That could be either on my own, through private investors, and just create my own thing, or it could be ultimately selling it to an Amazon or a Netflix or whatever–I think all networks are going to have streaming options soon. I have a feeling that NBC Universal will be one of the first, because they bought Craftsy, and they have Amy Poehler’s Handmade show. It could be any one of those, or it could be something I haven’t even thought of, because everything’s changing. Ultimately, I would like to produce DIY programming in all different craft realms so that I can help other designers and hosts rise. I would executive produce them. Quilting, jewelry, sewing, maybe baking, that type of thing. So that’s sort of the big picture.

EAG: A lot of people at any given point along this journey that you’ve just described would have gone, Well, I guess that’s it. What is it that keeps you pushing?

VH: I mean, but, when do you say that’s it? Like when you make your goal on Kickstarter? Or when you actually get the show produced? Or…?

EAG: I guess I’m talking more about the challenges, you know, the, Well, I have this great show, I was on this other show, but that didn’t

VH: Oh! Because I’m totally unhireable. That’s easy. Sorry, I misunderstood the question. No, I mean, what the hell else am I going to do? I’ve always, always sparkle-fingered my way through life, you know? I’ve always talked my way in and figured it out. And I guess the fear is just having to get a regular job, maybe. And also, I’ve had some really amazing experiences of people coming up to me and sharing really powerful stories involving one of my projects. And there’s something about that that helps propel you forward when you feel like pulling the covers over your head. Knowing that even if it’s just one person, or two people, or a handful of people, that you’re making a difference in someone’s life. And, you know, I’m not curing cancer. But if I can help a mom who’s sitting in a hospital room while her baby has leukemia–this woman just told me this story last week, so it’s fresh in my mind–and my projects, columns I’ve written, whatever, helped her get through something because it gave her purpose? That’s good enough for me, man. That’s good enough for me.

EAG: Thanks, Vickie! We can’t wait to see what you do next.  – Emma Alvarez Gibson

 

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and boost your creative thinking skills! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Who should you invite to participate in an innovation strategy workshop?

We’ve written about three important strategic perspectives (general management, functional expertise, and people with creative energy) and three types of voices (traditional, challenger, and emerging) to include in any type of strategy workshop.

Via Shutterstock

Working with a client to identify potential participants for an innovation strategy workshop, we identified five other participant profiles to expand the workshop diversity:

1. Unafraid People – Individuals that don’t care about what other people think, say, or do relative to their ideas.

2. The Voices of the Organization – People who will be able to share what the organization thinks – whether easy or challenging to hear. These are the individuals that everyone in the organization talks to about their aspirations and concerns.

3. Organizational Reactors – These are the people who, whenever an announcement is made or big news happens, everyone watches to see their expressions and the intensity of whatever emotions they display.

4. Entitled Owners – Individuals within the organization that only support implementation of their own idea and programs. You invite these individuals (in a reasonable numbers) so they feel as if the innovative ideas emerging are their own.

Adding individuals in each of these four groups, we grew the list of potential participants. We still hadn’t accounted for every department or tenure group that needed representation in the innovation strategy workshop. But they were out of people who would provide an innovative perspective.So, we added another potential group of participants:

5. People who won’t do any harm. These are individuals who might not contribute much to new thinking but won’t detract from the innovative thinking of others.

Identifying these five groups pushed us to the diversity we needed to move forward with the innovation strategy workshop.

Which leads to a question YOU will need to answer: Who is in your YOUR innovation strategy workshop?  – Mike Brown

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A potential client reached out to us. He was a client team member on a customer experience strategy engagement several years ago. He has moved to a new role leading marketing for an organization shifting from the B2C to B2B market. They need a compelling brand position, messaging, and a content marketing strategy that grows their volume of interested prospects and leads to strong growth to satisfy the global company that just acquired the brand.

We created a proposal for rapidly updating and developing its B2B brand strategy while leaving everything in place the founder and CEO loves about the brand and doesn’t want to tinker with right now. The focus was on getting the best, actionable brand strategy foundation elements in place ASAP so they can implement.

We exchanged emails right before the holiday that they are leaning toward going with a different outside partner that does both brand strategy and execution. We responded with a message on why a client-side Marketing VP should be very cautious of an outside partner or agency that rushes to promise both branding strategy AND execution.

1 Big Reason Why You Don’t Want Brand Strategy and Execution from the Same Partner

Are you familiar with the pitfalls of picking one partner to both develop brand strategy and execute the strategy? Here, from experience we’ve had on the client side, are the pitfalls we spelled out for this client side marketer:

Dear Potential Client,

Thanks for your email. I appreciate your candor, and want to be just as candid in my response. 

First and foremost, it was clear from our discussions that you need something that is on target strategically and not just interesting creatively.

The pitfall of picking someone who’s going to do strategy and tactics and slam it together right away is that they recommend a strategy that best fits what they do, and not what’s right for the client. I saw that time and time again as a corporate marketing VP. That’s why The Brainzooming Group comes at it in a very aggressive way to tailor the strategy for your organization and needs, independent of looking for opportunities to sell-in additional services.

As it seems everyone in your senior management team recognizes, your brand and messaging is tailored currently to a narrower audience. The messaging and audience strategy must change and be immediately on target to make rapid headway in the broad B2B market you are beginning to target. 

If there’s an organization that can come to the table and do strategy and tactics with previous experience in your industry, and do it all for the same price, that’s great. They’d be the smart choice over us.

It’s worth making sure, however, that they understand–both strategically and from a content standpoint–what you need to be successful, and not simply what fits their business model. If they’re pitching you on their ability to help you on the B2B side, look at their website and see that they’re using those same ideas themselves to target B2B decision makers. If not, as a client, I’d be suspect of how they make it work for others in a B2B market, but not for themselves.

Short story, on the client side, I found that getting the right strategy consistently led to getting the creative right. Our approach and experience will deliver solid strategy. Plus, we integrate well and collaborate openly with organizations that do focus on implementation.

If you’re open to it, we’re eager to make sure you get the on-target strategy you need, collaborate with your other partner, and make the process fast and economical for you. We’ll make sure they’re getting everything these need to quickly implement the strategy that’s going to yield business results for you.

Again, I appreciate your candor and your time. We’d love to work with you. Feel free to reach out for any clarification or to get us moving on next steps.

Thanks,

Mike

Are you facing the same question about brand strategy and execution?

We’ll see what the potential client does. My suspicion is they’ll go with the other partner, and get a seamless plan that the outside partner positions as solid brand strategy. The problem is the brand strategy will look like a page from the partner’s capabilities page. So, the seamless strategy will work well for the outside provider – at least until it is implemented – but fall short for the end client.

Are you facing the same type of decision about developing your brand strategy?

Contact us, and let’s develop the best strategy for YOU. Then get the right partners to implement it. Because the promise to do everything will get you almost nothing that works. – Mike Brown

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  • Zero in on the right spots along the social sales continuum to weave your brand messages and offers into your content

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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7 Free Gifts that People Won’t Return or Forget by Late January

Finished your holiday shopping? With a long holiday shopping season, you would think that by now all the buying would be behind us.

Yet, advertisements, emails, and online remarketing campaigns demand that we keep shopping throughout the weekend if we are truly going to have positive impacts on our relationships with friends, loved ones, and co-workers. You would think that, without last-minute gifts, everyone will miss out on their hopes and dreams and face a miserable year ahead.

Going a Different Direction

Amid all the signals to buy more, let’s focus on very different gift ideas.

These seven are appropriate for business settings, and you can start (although maybe not fully accomplish) them before January. All are free gifts, which makes them ideal for sharing with others throughout the year.

Cheerleading someone toward bolder aspirations than they have imagined.

We have all been around people with strong talents, solid knowledge, and great attitudes who nevertheless sell themselves short. They face self-doubts or struggle with imagining themselves taking on bigger, higher-impact roles. They are not limited in their abilities, simply in their personal horizons.

If you know someone like this, give them the gift of sharing the potential you see in them. Share how you imagine them displaying their talents on a bigger stage or accomplishing objectives they could never envision for themselves. If this person reports to you, go further; nudge them into bigger opportunities than they would ever personally seek.

Connecting with a person when you suspect he or she might need it most.

You will see media discussions focused on how the holidays are a difficult time for many. As a friend who was undergoing Job-like challenges once put it, “You may never know the private hell someone else is living through.”

People experience challenges beyond the holidays. Even if you regularly and actively do so, listen with your ears, eyes, and (as tough as it may be in the social media world) keyboard. You never know who is living with potentially life-crushing challenges you’d never imagine without listening. If you suspect someone around you is struggling, go out of your way to give them an opening to address or unload about what they are facing.

Telling someone you have not talked to for a long time that you miss them.

A former co-worker once left me a message after a job change, saying she was going through “withdrawal pains” from talking regularly. I saved that message for years and listened to it when I needed a boost.

What is a sincere, upbeat message you could share with someone close to you who has been far away for an extended period? Why do you miss them? What are your hopes for them? Call, and if they answer, you’ve gotten over the hurdle of reconnecting. If you get voice mail, have something already planned that you want to share with them that you suspect will brighten their days for years to come.

Letting someone who’s struggling know they are on the right track.

It is easy for individuals to beat themselves up, particularly at year end, over failing to accomplish goals, progressing as they expected in their careers, or having the family lives they would prefer to enjoy. As an objective observer, you can both acknowledge their frustrations AND see the clear positives in their lives. Can you see and share personal growth or career progress they are making, but are too close or inside their own heads to recognize?

Even if you’re not in a formal mentorship role, reach out to someone in this situation and provide the perspectives to let them know (and then reinforce) where you can see they are moving forward in a positive, beneficial way.

Respecting someone you fundamentally disagree with, even on serious issues.

Discord surrounds us. News channels are filled with argument-based programs. Too many on social media hurl invective and insults as comments on others’ posts. And we are all likely apprehensive about the potential for harsh political conversations at family gatherings this holiday.

Approach holiday events looking for points of agreement with each person. Focus on where you see things comparably, no matter how minor the points where you see eye-to-eye may seem. Concentrate your conversations there, avoiding the acrimony that might otherwise ensue.

Refraining from sharing all your successes when someone needs to hear about your challenges.

Holiday letters are loaded with incredible personal and family accomplishments. Some people reserve that type of success onslaught for an annual letter; others bask in a litany of personal accomplishments whenever you encounter them. Consumed with themselves, they are exhausting for others.

While it’s often easier to report good news, it could be more important with someone not experiencing current success to hear about your challenges. What hasn’t gone well? What aspirations did you surrender and subsequently on from? What survival strategies worked when disaster struck? While success lessons are nice, tips for coping, survival, and rebounding are valuable. Make yourself vulnerable and share those stories.

Deferring a great personal opportunity to someone who is less of a fit, but would benefit more.

The beginning of the year is a time for promotions and new opportunities emerging. As a leader in your company, you may be under consideration for a disproportionate number of these opportunities to contribute, grow, and develop.

If you’ve been richly blessed with these opportunities, look to see who in your organization is deserving or has tremendous potential, yet has been overlooked for comparable assignments. How can you impact these individuals receiving an opportunity earmarked for you that will benefit them dramatically more?

Have a Wonderful Holiday!

Any of these free gifts would be a great way to give something that won’t be forgotten by the end of January! – via Inside the Executive Suite

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Extreme Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and boost your creative thinking skills! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Contact us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Many experienced people, including marketers (who should know better), are ill-equipped to succeed at job networking for new opportunities. It’s scary. And it’s a frequent enough situation that it is easy to list these seven proven ways to screw up job networking calls, along with corresponding tips to improve your performance.

7 Proven Ways to Screw Up Networking Calls

Photo via Shutterstock

Screw up #1: Refusing to be conversational

I may call initially based on someone else’s description of what you’re seeking. After taking the initiative to call, introduce myself, and state that so-and-so asked me to contact you, it would be nice if you were prepared to say “thank you,” exchange a pleasantry, and share your call objective. Too many individuals act as if they’re being disturbed or don’t understand why I’m on the phone. It’s taken three attempts on some occasions to turn it into a two-way conversation. Work with me people!

Job Networking Tip: Be ready to talk!

Screw up #2: An inability to quickly set the stage

Have an elevator speech – describe your background, aspirations, and goals in two paragraphs. I’ll spend time with someone I am familiar with to probe and seek more clarity about their options. With a stranger, that’s more difficult. It would be nice if you’ve done it in advance.

Job Networking Tip: Know your interests and prepare to share them!

Screw up #3: Adopting an overly casual attitude toward the call

It’s amazing how casual people are on the phone with total strangers.  A woman once recounted her intense interest in transportation, the industry in which I was working. To make her point, she said a fully-loaded rail car was like “pornography” to her. Huh? Instantly, she went from a potential referral to a curiosity – wondering what other inappropriate things she might say.  Even if I’m not hiring, you want an introduction to someone who might be. That means it’s an interview. Act like it!

Job Networking Tip:  Conduct yourself as if it’s a job interview!

Screw up #4: Thinking this is a one-sided conversation

I go into calls expecting to offer information, ideas, or referrals that might be of assistance. It would be great if you shared that attitude. Even if you think your near-term need for opportunities is greater, I also appreciate information, ideas, and suggestions for people to meet. A two-way exchange will earn you follow-up conversations.

Job Networking Tip: Offer something of value to the other person!

Screw up #5: Expect the other person to do your heavy (and light) lifting

I received an email from someone unknown to me seeking senior marketing candidates. After forwarding the email to Clarence (not his real name) who I’d met for a networking lunch, he responded in a stern tone that the employer’s email address was wrong, asking me to get the right one. All this, even though I had to use the same resources available to him (ever heard of The Google?) to track it down. Clarence also asked me to send him direct phone numbers for other people rather than calling himself to get them. Remind me – who is looking for work here?

Job Networking Tip: Do some work yourself!

Screw up #6: Make dealing with you as cumbersome as possible

An unsolicited email arrived from someone (call him “Clarence #2”) who had been referred by a business acquaintance I hardly know. The email included two separate Word documents. Having to open both (shortening review time), I quickly closed them since a mild virus was attached (eliminating all review time).  When Clarence #2 called, he presumed I’d fully read the resume and asked what questions I had about him, followed by silence (precluding meaningful dialogue).  Important tip – presume I haven’t given a complete stranger’s resume a lot of time; help refresh me.  When later referring him to associates, I created a single PDF of his documents (he couldn’t create PDFs) to spare them the virus (robbing time from pre-selling him).  Clarence #2 could have gotten more valuable help if he’d saved me all this wasted time.

Job Networking Tip: Find EVERY way to make it easy for someone else to help you!

Screw up #7: Answering someone’s help by going silent

Maybe there’s a reason you’re looking for a job since follow-up is also typically spotty. Remember:

  • If I send information or make referrals, let me know if they’re beneficial.
  • If we set an appointment, do everything to keep it. When you cancel multiple times, don’t expect much future energy from me on getting together.
  • If I invite you into LinkedIn and offer to make connections, include a message for the ultimate target that explains why you want to network. Don’t expect me to compose a message explaining why they should spend time with you.

Job Networking Tip: Follow-up with someone that helps you!

These are basics any senior person (especially marketers) should know. Invariably, people trip on several of them.

If you’re intent on screwing up your career strategy while networking, I’ll try to help stop you, but don’t expect me to take a bullet for you while trying to wrestle your own gun from your hands! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Looking ahead to transitioning from planning to doing and wanting to maximize success?

Try these 5 implementation strategy steps for launching a big initiative properly so the initial implementation leads to outstanding results later.

1. Make Sure You Have the Right Team

The big first implementation strategy step is assembling the right team with the skills, experience, and perspectives to make a big initiative happen. This begins with envisioning the initiative’s scope and reach. For those who’ve been blessed with skills as visual thinkers, this may be an easy step. These types of people can simply “watch” an initiative play out in their minds, almost as if it were a movie. They see the scenes and think about what happens and all the people that need to be in place.

For those less visually-inclined, it helps to get a couple of people you know will be on the team, the starting project timeline, and a white board. List the key steps for implementing the initiative. Then, for each step, list who is best prepared to implement it, whose work they will depend on before theirs so they can implement, and who will work with what they produce in the initiative. By exploring those three areas for each step, you’ll have a much more robust list of potential project team participants. With this expanded list, you can start to make sure you have all the types of people and necessary skills accounted for among your project team.

2. Share the Expected Impact and Experience from a Successful Initiative

Even if there is a stated objective or SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time-bound) goal created for the initiative upfront, it’s helpful to envision in a broader way what the initiative is supposed to deliver. You can frame the initiative’s expected impact in several concrete ways:

  • What will the team do to implement the initiative?
  • How will the initiative’s audiences react as it is implemented? How will they benefit from it?
  • What will be the business results from the initiative’s success?

Articulating this envisioned impact provides a more complete perspective of the experience and look of success at every step of the initiative’s implementation. This prepares a team to help you, as a leader, monitor and adjust to keep the initiative on track for its timely completion.

3. Provide a Broad Starting View to Your Team Members

Typically, an initiative’s leader has greater exposure to the plan based on the length of time you’ve been involved, your experience, and/or where you sit in the organization. If this is the case, it behooves you to share as much of what you know as possible with newly-involved initiative team members. To launch the team most successfully, the leader should bring together all the relevant information – including highlighting what isn’t known – to make team members as uniformly smart as possible on the initiative.

Offering this overview even before the team meets the first time provides an immediate confidence boost. It sends a clear message that the work is important (since you’ve taken time to prepare), strategic (through providing valuable context on how the initiative supports business objectives), and action-oriented (because you anticipated the initiative’s timeline and impact).

4. Set Boundaries for Change

While it might strike some people as odd to discuss setting ‘boundaries for change,’ this is an important element in a big initiative’s success. This implies letting your team know where they have more and less latitude for introducing new, creative, and untried solutions that can turn the initiative into reality.

Team members can determine where to best invest their time, ideas, and diligence most effectively when they know whether an initiative is viewed as needing to deliver incremental vs. transformative change. If the organization isn’t looking for major changes from an initiative, understanding that upfront helps team members develop more realistic strategies and timelines.

When, however, an organization expects significant transformation resulting from an initiative, team members can set targets appropriately. They can better identify how much personal and organizational creativity to bring to the implementation steps.

5. Embrace Moving Back and Forth between Strategy and Details

Think about implementing a major initiative implementation as an event. Using an event framework is helpful because successful event planners must move continually back and forth between a strategic perspective and tactical implementation. This implies, in practice, both identifying implementation steps that support overall strategy and being comfortable (while implementing) testing each step against how it supports the overall initiative strategy.

This ongoing back and forth movement between strategy and detail is integral to implementing a big initiative. It’s neither all about the thinking, nor all about the doing. Additionally, there aren’t necessarily exclusive times for separate thinking and doing. A great initiative leader has to be adept at moving back and forth between the two, while helping team members do the same.”

5 Implementation Strategy Steps and Future Success

We are firm believers that delivering a successful initiative is highly dependent on it starting properly rather than having to make major adjustments later when a poorly-planned launch creates performance gaps. Following these five implementation strategy steps sets the stage to launch a major initiative with the right team members having clear expectations on what they are expected to deliver and the change impact the organization needs.

If you’d like a valuable resource to help you ask the right questions as you launch new initiatives, download our FREE eBook, 10 Questions for Successfully Launching New Programs (or 10? as we call it). These questions will help your team perform better and lead to stronger results! – Mike Brown

Download 10 Questions for Successfully Launching

 

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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We were set to work with a client team exploring the customer experience strategy they’d introduce to their internal customers. As we thought about how many of them there were (about twenty), the two of us from The Brainzooming Group, and the value of having an inner circle of informal facilitators, we hit upon an idea: create roles for a small group of clients to play during our two-day branding workshop.

Each of the four roles were intended to help push the group’s thinking on its customer experience strategy in varied ways.

4 Roles to Push Bold Customer Experience Strategy Thinking

We met with them the afternoon before the branding workshop started to provide background information and answer questions. Rather than tromping on others’ ideas, we asked them to look for ways to build on and expand ideas the group was sharing in positive ways. We provided strategic thinking questions of their own to use, including:

  • “That’s great and how can we do that _____________?”
  • “What if that were ________________?”
  • “Oooh, can we enhance that by ______________?”
  • “What would it look like if we also _____________?”

We assigned four roles to shape the customer experience strategy thinking:

On the second day of the branding workshop, we added another role: The Queen of Intrigue. That role went to the group’s senior executive to focus us on transformative ideas during a strategic thinking exercise involving imagining Chick-fil-A designing their customer experience strategy. Maybe you had to be there to appreciate that one!

We asked the group to pick the roles they wanted to play without telling other participants or us.

Now, for two admissions:

  1. All the while as we were creating this, I was thinking of Chuck Dymer letting me know these roles were accounted for in Six Thinking Hats (affiliate link). That’s the problem of me never having taken one of Chuck’s Six Thinking Hats workshops. My mistake, definitely!
  2. Emma Alvarez Gibson and I consciously tried to forget who we talked to about the roles. We didn’t want to interact with them differently or rely on them unduly as we facilitated the small groups. The result? We can’t tell you definitively whether the role playing created greater success or not.

If nothing else, the customer experience strategy roles provided a handful of participants more to think about and something extra to do to make our branding workshop the success it was! – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

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