Friday, July 31, 2015

On Getting Chosen

Awards are given to the people who enter the award competitions.

The winners may not be the best of the best who currently exist anywhere on the planet. The winners are typically the best of the people who submitted.

If you want to win an award, you have to enter the competition. If you want to get more press, you have to submit more often. If you want to be chosen for something, you have to put yourself in a place where people can see you in order to choose you.

The Oscars were invented to both legitimize and market membership in the Academy. Most awards are marketing, pure and simple. Marketing isn't a dirty word and it certainly shouldn't be an afterthought — it's what sells your art and puts your employees' kids through college.

So if you don't win this time around, don't get the press feature you want, lose a really great job to a competitor — keep submitting. There will always be more awards and more opportunities, and they will always go to the people who show up to play.

Originally published January 2015

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Affluent Millennials and Luxury Guilt

If you sell luxury goods or services, it's important to understand how affluent millennials (born 1979-2000) relate to money and higher-end products. While Boomers are known for keeping up with the Joneses and Gen X is known as the “Me Generation,” millennials are actually less materialistic. Their desire for money is tied to a desire to spend time with the people they love, not on the objects they can buy. Appealing to a sense of “stuff” won’t be effective in marketing to this generation as the prestige of "having more" doesn't motivate millennials.

Millennials are generally good with money. 84% consider budgeting an important aspect of their lives, two-thirds have a financial plan for the future, 28% have enough saved to cover at least six months of living expenses, and 37% are already saving for retirement. While this generation spends $172 billion per year, they also save $39 billion per year. It's no surprise then that Groupon was founded by a millennial.

Even if a bride or groom's parents are paying for the wedding, the couple will usually be more cautious in how they spend than their parents will. Affluent Boomers tend to shop to impress, so they are more likely to give the okay for a budget increase or green light a more expensive wedding professional. Affluent millennials take more convincing.

Even though they're young, millennials already have a high earning power. Further, their mindset about wealth is different than previous generations. Most millennials who earn in the mid six-figures don't consider themselves wealthy and they describe themselves as staunchly middle class. Even the millennials who will admit they are affluent still describe themselves as having middle class values.

While millennials are close to outspending Boomers on luxury items (34% and 37%, respectively), this generation justifies luxury purchases as needs, not unnecessary splurges:

"I really need the Apple Watch because it is an investment in my health."

"I really need this expensive vacation because I've been working hard and I need to keep my stress levels balanced. It's not a frivolous splurge, it's an investment."

"I really need this piece of artwork for my house because I want to feel a certain way when I come home. It's an investment in my mental health."

"We really need these specific bridal professionals and items for our wedding because our friends and family mean so much to us and are flying all this way and we want to give them an experience they'll never forget."

If you work in the luxury wedding market, this is important: millennials do not relate to the word "luxury." Yes, they are spending on it, but to a millennial, the word luxury means "frivolous" and their wedding is anything but frivolous. It is a meaningful event and they expect it to be treated as such. Even though their budgets may fall into the high-end categories, marketing yourself as a "luxury wedding professional" does not connect with this age group as much as it did with Gen X. Furthermore, if your brand has the word luxury (or any variation of it: luxe, luxurious, etc) in your company name, you will not be connecting to this generation in a relevant, powerful way.

You may not have to change any part of your process in reaching the millennial generation, but the words you use do matter. De-luxing your language will make your marketing more relevant to this age group.

Originally published March 2012

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

People vs Strategy

The people you have in your company are more important than your strategy.

This isn't to say that strategy isn't important. It's merely a matter of not putting the cart before the horse. You can have a great strategy, but if you have a toxic company culture (which in some cases stems from toxic leadership) then all the strategy in the world will not help you.

Great strategy and the wrong people will set you up for a joyless ride. Make getting the right people on board a priority.

Originally published January 2013

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Playing Dumb

There's a current leadership trend I find disturbing: leaders downplaying their intelligence as though it's some sort of crutch rather than an asset. The disclaimers of, "Now, before you think I'm some sort of egg-head . . ." or the self-effacing, "Aw shucks, I'm no genius, I'm just one of you . . ." are becoming more common.

Well, I'm smart and I want people as smart as or smarter than I am to be leading me. So if you're going to call me dumb and then call yourself dumb, you're not someone I want to be learning from.

We can't expect perfection in people (it doesn't exist anyway) but we also shouldn't settle for false modesty. If you're smart, own it. If you're talented, own it.

There's a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but pretending to be someone or something you're not doesn't empower anyone, including yourself.

True humility doesn't hide its gifts.

PS: Being smarter doesn't mean better. Beware that ego trap.

Originally published February 2012

Monday, July 27, 2015

Organic vs Fast Food Results

Many companies and "gurus" make promises telling you they can help you grow your company with "less effort," "no sweat," or my favorite, "the 7 hidden keys no one wants you to know."

If there's any key to be found, it's to work smarter AND harder than your competitors. The best growth is organic. If you buy into fast food solutions, you're going to get fast food results.

Originally published March 2013