A non-obvious way to gain more power

My kid loved her 3rd grade teacher so much that she threatened to repeat 3rd grade.

When I informed her that, if she tanked the last bit of the year so she could repeat, there would be no way she would have the same teacher.

“They’ll assume he failed you, sweetie. Just don’t do it.”

Of course, she wasn’t serious…
…but she was completely serious about her love for her teacher.

A non-obvious way to gain more power

At her school, they get “tickets” for certain behavior and achievements. These tickets act like currency for certain prizes (pencil erasers and such) or experiences.
(I have mixed thoughts.)

My kid saved up her whole year’s worth of tickets so she could have a private lunch with the teacher.

I’m not going to lie, I would have done the same thing at her age!

When she cashed in on her lunch, she was allowed to invite two friends to dine with her. She invited one of her little besties and she also invited the newest girl in the class.

I teared up a little when she told me.

It was such a kind thing to do.

She had plenty of other friends she could have invited but she chose a girl she barely knew.

I can imagine that that girl will become one of my daughter’s close friends. She’ll be there for her when things get rough and she’ll cheer her on when she’s working toward a big goal (like becoming a mathematician—her current career aspiration).

This girl will also, no doubt, remember that kindness for a long while, possibly for the rest of her life.

Now, this isn’t a story about kindness on its own. It’s really a story about power.

Power, as Dacher Keltner defines it in his book The Power Paradox, is “our capacity to make a difference in the world.”

Sure, you can make a bad difference…

But I love how this definition of power puts us in the mind of doing good. We can rise to power—as leaders, business owners, change-makers—in order to make a positive in the world and the lives of the people in our networks.

My daughter gained a little power the day she decided to reach out to someone new. And I have a lot of confidence she’ll use that power for good.

Now what does this have to do with running your business?
Quite a bit.

Especially if you want to use your business to further your mission and improve people’s lives (and I know you do).

Every day is a new opportunity to gain power for yourself and your business by reaching out to others, share your experiences through stories, offering some help, or simply collaborating on a project.

But first, I have a new podcast episode that’s a great corollary to this idea. I interviewed Jordan Harbinger, host & co-founder of The Art of Charm, for Profit. Power. Pursuit. this week.

The Art of Charm is one of the top podcasts on all of iTunes.

I’ll admit: I was very, very nervous before this interview.

But Jordan put me at ease right away and assured me that he wanted to give me the best interview he could.

His take on the benefits of reaching out & developing new relationships?
“The only way to maximize your return on your networking is to help everyone you can without actually expecting anything in return.”

So if the idea of reaching out makes you nervous, or you’ve had bad experiences with networking in the past, or you just don’t even know what networking looks like beyond bad cocktail hours, this interview is for you.

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Why Marketing Campaigns Fail with CoCommercial Founder Tara Gentile and Media Strategist Brigitte Lyons

Why Marketing Campaigns Fail with CoCommercial Founder Tara Gentile and Media Strategist Brigitte Lyons

The Nitty Gritty:

  • What four big-picture reasons cause marketing campaigns to fail
  • Why it’s important to have a willingness to explore the reasons for failure
  • What are some of the common tactical points of failure

On this week’s episode on the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast I tackle the question, “Why Marketing Campaigns Fail” with Brigitte Lyons, founder of B, a marketing and PR agency that works primarily with small organizations to hone their marketing message and market positioning. We discuss some of the main challenges business owners in this new economy face every time they go out and market a new product or service. There are so many predictable reasons why marketing campaigns fail and we examine these roadblocks in this discussion so you can avoid them in the future.

Four Big-Picture Reasons that Cause Marketing Campaigns to Fail

The marketing should be baked into the product that you’ve developed and that requires you starting with your audience.

– Tara Gentile

So often, businesses only want to focus on their successes and never want to look at the reasons something fails. In our opinion, this is a missed opportunity. All the answers you need about your marketing tactics should be answered in your marketing strategy. Too often business owners question if they are posting on social media enough (or too much) or if they should amp up their content marketing. This focus on tactical efforts is always a clear signal that a business hasn’t thought through the strategy of a marketing campaign or really put a road map into place.

The most common reasons that Brigitte and I see for marketing campaigns to fail include:

  1. You put your needs ahead of the needs of your audience.
  2. You don’t set crystal-clear expectations around what success is and don’t run the numbers around what that will take.
  3. You save marketing for last (but it should be first).
  4. You don’t use your failures as an amazing learning opportunity.

Be Willing to Explore the Reasons for Failure

Sometimes it requires a little creative thinking to match your needs with theirs.

– Brigitte Lyons

When you start feeling like you need to convince your customers or they are very excited about your message yet have a very big BUT that holds them back from purchasing, these are red flags that you have a problem. It might be a marketing, communication or messaging problem; perhaps you have a position, product or format problem. Whatever it is, you need to reach out to your customers, preferably in person or on the phone to uncover what they don’t like. It is important to get curious to explore what the underlying problem really is.

Common Tactical Points of Failure

Listen to the full podcast to learn the six common tactical points of failure for a marketing campaign that include relying on social media to sell your products or services and your follow-up (or not following up) and to hear all of our takeaways for why marketing campaigns fail and how you can avoid those issues.

Our discussion is a great intro to a class I will be doing on CreativeLive, “Create a Marketing Plan to Grow Your Standout Business.” If you tune in on August 1 and 2 you can watch and learn for free. RSVP today!

You can also find me {most} Mondays (and sometimes Brigitte joins in, too) on my CoCommercial Crowdcast channel where I talk about the ins and outs of growing a small company you love.

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Disrupting a Very Old Market with Cora Co-Founder Molly Hayward

Disrupting a Very Old Market with Cora Co-Founder Molly Hayward

The Nitty Gritty:

  • When there is a need and an opportunity for a better product, you should not be deterred by the magnitude of the industry you’re going up against
  • How to go about entering an old market with a new product
  • Why strong customer service, including a free trial program, and flexibility with the subscription system is crucial to Cora’s success

Molly Hayward, co-founder of Cora, a premium organic tampon company that provides a month’s supply of pads to women in need for every month’s supply of tampons purchased, is my guest this week on the Profit. Power. Pursuit podcast. During our inspiring conversation, we talk about the genesis of Cora, disrupting the traditional market of women’s period products and how exemplary customer service has been crucial to their success. There is so much value in this conversation, I hope you tune in!

Disrupting a Traditional Market

I was aware, but undeterred by the magnitude of the industry that was I was going up against.

— Molly Hayward

The concept of creating a premium organic tampon for women that would also help women in need around the world better manage their periods, first came to Molly when she was on a humanitarian trip to Kenya with a non-profit organization. On the trip, she noticed that some of the girls would go missing from school and when she inquired about their whereabouts she found out they stayed home when they had their periods because they didn’t have products to manage it in public. It was a lightbulb moment.

Molly starting thinking about other companies in other industries such as Toms or Warby Parker that were successful with the one-for-one model and felt there was an opportunity to connect the purchases women in America make every month and supply women in need at the same time. Sustainability and organic products were also important to Molly, but she realized that there was no one in this space that was offering products that met her standards. She set out to design a better-for-you and better-designed product than what was offered by the traditional companies in the industry who were fearful of change.

I was so convinced that there was an opportunity here and a need for a better product experience for both women here and women in developing countries so I forged ahead and started.

— Molly Hayward

What It Takes to Change a Longstanding Industry

And so as I began to dig into the industry and look at what it would take to offer a better product to women here.

— Molly Hayward

When Molly came back home, she started research. She began to dig into the industry to look at what it would take to offer a better product to women here. First, she realized there was not a brand that represented all the values of most modern women today. Once she determined that she wanted to offer an organic product, she had to find a manufacturing facility that could do what they wanted. That translated into more research time on Google and factory visits. Molly and her team floated the idea of the one-for-one model to a lot of different people and questioned if people would accept it or just roll their eyes. Had it been overdone? Would the market react to it?

Molly’s instinct was this product category, maybe more than any other type of product category, would hit a personal chord with women. We have all had the experience by our own error of not having a product when we needed it. And, it’s a crisis. Imagine going through that every single month and have it derail your life.

Customer Onboarding and Exemplary Customer Service

Giving women options and the ability to customize their orders was a big piece of what was integrated into our model within the subscription.

— Molly Hayward

Since most women have treated their periods reactively, the Cora team built flexibility into their subscription model so that women could alter the products they receive without any weird friction or penalties as they learn more about how much and what types of products they need or as their bodies change. They also implemented a free trial program that has been crucial for getting women comfortable with testing out a new product. Perhaps the most important element underlying it all is Cora’s exemplary customer service where customers can email, text or call in to get support.

Listen to the Full Episode

There is so much more to experience with the full episode, including the reasons why the design of the product and packaging was super important to the Cora team, how customers are responding favorably to Cora’s social mission and what’s next for the business.

I invite you to join me every week to hear the honest truth directly from entrepreneurs who are in the trenches building businesses. You learn the nitty-gritty details about HOW these entrepreneurs develop their business ideas, build teams, manage their time and more. By subscribing on iTunes  you will never miss a single episode.

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Creating Luxury Brands with an Emphasis on Impact with Alicia Johnson

Creating Luxury Brands with an Emphasis on Impact with Alicia Johnson

The Nitty Gritty:

  • How big brands are changing to embrace the way their consumers are believing
  • What brands should do in response to these new “woke” consumers who use their purchasing power to make an impact
  • Why the need to change rather than just a desire to change is the true motivation for a brand to update their strategy

I had the privilege of talking to Alicia Johnson this week on the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast about the current shift by big brands to be more transparent about the values behind their company. She and her husband and business partner Hal, a media artist, have spent the last 20 years at the helm of Johnson + Wolverton, a brand boutique that focuses on brand turnarounds. They have completed projects for BBC America, Jaguar, Cadillac, Comedy Central and more.

Brands Communicate Their Core Values

I started to see that happening—a big brand changing to embrace the way their consumers are believing.

– Alicia Johnson

In her work with a number of luxury brands, Alicia has noticed a shift, especially in the last six months, with people coming together around what they believe in. Consumers started to literally define their impact through their purchases. In one example, brands such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus pulled their advertising from Fox News amid the charges of workplace sexual harassment by Bill O’Reilly. It wasn’t until consumers started pushing on the brands that advertised on the show that the network had to deal with it. People are using their money to support what they believe in and the brands that believe the way they do.

Brands and Business Leaders should be Genuine

You can’t put a face on something that isn’t real.

– Alicia Johnson

Business owners and leaders should be clear on what they value and confidently move that forward, just as several brands did in this year’s Super Bowl ads that were super aggressive positioning around values, ethics and choice.

The most important thing a brand or a person can do is be genuine, because “you can’t put a face on something that isn’t real.” However, Alicia counsels brands to be very conscious of whether or not they desire to live in a political space as a business. As a company, if you don’t believe that you want to be there, you need to take a step back and look at some decisions you are making.

“My recommendation to clients is that they’re more thoughtful and move more slowly,” said Alicia. Even for fast-moving brands, reaction time needs to be much more measured. You are better off just taking a breath. It’s when you step back and get into product development or long-term campaigning, that it’s important to look at the shifts in overt alliances to ethics.

Brand Strategy Shifts when there is a Need to Change

When I’m creating strategies, I’m creating an outline for a brand story.

– Alicia Johnson

Change is really hard on an organization, so Alicia and Hal are typically only brought in to help guide a new strategy for brands when something really is not working.

In looking at making a big change for a brand you need to look at WHY and WHAT do we have permission to do? Oftentimes, brands just like people, get lost. They forget about what’s really awesome about themselves and what got them going in the first place. Sometimes it’s just coming back to the core. But sometimes the business that was started doesn’t exist anymore. So, they have to reinvent themselves.

To hear the entire conversation I had with Alicia, tune in to the full episode. We delve further into this unique time we’re living in, how she and Hal learned to take time off and preserve time for personal projects and her own creative project, Positano, a multimedia novel.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast on iTunes to hear all the nitty-gritty details and conversations I have with my podcast guests about entrepreneurship.

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Making Your Business a Force for Good with The FruitGuys Founder Chris Mittelstaedt

Making Your Business a Force for Good with The FruitGuys Founder Chris Mittelstaedt

The Nitty Gritty:

  • How “necessity being the mother of invention” guided The FruitGuys into the B2B space and the subscription model
  • How to think about growth or look for opportunity even in times of crisis
  • Why you should think about the meaning you want to have in the world all the time and how you drive business to align with that meaning

My guest this week on the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast is Chris Mittelstaedt, founder, CEO and Chief Banana of The FruitGuys, America’s No. 1 and original office fruit provider.  He tells me about starting a biz in San Francisco during the heyday of the first dot-com wave and weathering the bust as a business owner, his learning experiences for how and when to expand business operations and how making a difference and being a force for good is at The FruitGuys’ core.

Necessity: Mother of Invention

It was a reality-driven strategy, and to be honest I often think those are the best strategies anyway.

— Chris Mittelstaedt

Although Chris moved to San Francisco in the 1990s because he wanted to be a poet, he was working in the business services department of the Fairmont Hotel as a temp in 1997 when he first contemplated the idea of delivering fruit to offices. He and his wife were expecting their first baby, and Chris needed to determine what he wanted to do with his life very quickly. He had a friend who had a coffee cart and mentioned that office workers would really like something healthy to eat. So, the idea of The FruitGuys was born. They opened in 1998, an incredible time in San Francisco, as a bootstrapped company among a venture capital, dot-com world.

Chris shares that although this B2B business was the only option at the time and some of his earliest business decisions such as to focus on the B2B space and to create a subscription model of business were born out of necessity, he grew to really understand the B2B space and over the 20 years in business so far they have developed a core competency for the higher service levels required for B2B work.

Grow Smart in Times of Crisis

Risk aversion is actually something I think about all the time. I NEVER want to be a deer in the headlights and do nothing. I always want to be in fight or flight.

— Chris Mittelstaedt

After an early learning experience of expanding that left the business with a significant loan to pay off during a downturn in the economy, all of The FruitGuys’ subsequent expansion has been variable cost expansion not fixed cost expansion. That’s allowed them to think about growth and about how they expand or look for opportunities in times of crisis in a really creative way so they don’t put themselves in more debt or more at risk.

A Force for Good

Business owners need to be empowered to talk about the positive value of business, what it gives back rather than something that can potentially harm.

— Chris Mittelstaedt

From day one, The FruitGuys has been an organization that has always thought about its impact on the community and the world. Even in their earliest days, when they had leftover fruit, they would go around and hand it out to people on the street. Today, they operate The FruitGuys GoodWorks Program, that supports the small sustainable farms that grow their food and aims to reduce food waste and give excess fruit to those who are hungry. In every way, Chris wants his business to be a positive influence.

There’s much more to learn and be inspired by in the full episode, including more details about growing a business in San Francisco among tech giants, a specific example of how The FruitGuys expanded in a safe, variable-cost way and you certainly don’t want to miss out on hearing about Chris’ passion project to write Harry Potter meets the anti-Ayn Rand.

Every week, I speak with inspiring entrepreneurs about how they started and grew their businesses. Please join us and subscribe on iTunes today!

Pursuing an Adventurous Life with Uncaged Life founder Rebecca Tracey

Pursuing an Adventurous Life with Uncaged Life founder Rebecca Tracey

The Nitty Gritty:

  • How conscious scheduling allows Tracey to time gaps to be “out” of her business and travel
  • Why careful cash flow management is imperative when you sell fewer products or services
  • How experimentation was key to helping her business evolve

This week on the Profit. Power. Pursuit podcast I talk to Uncaged Life founder Rebecca Tracey, and the insights she has for building a business that allows her to pursue her personal adventures in rock climbing and traveling the world are incredible. Rebecca helps solopreneurs, life and health coaches, virtual assistants and more who are just starting out build an online business they can run from anywhere in the world.

Conscious Scheduling

I take a lot of time off. To the point people ask, ‘Do you work at all?’

– Rebecca Tracey

Even though Rebecca first started her business while living in a van while on an 8-month rock climbing trip (something she doesn’t recommend by the way), she soon realized that for her to live the life she wanted it would be important to not have client time during the climbing season. She has created a business model that allows her to run one main program that launches twice a year that are strategically scheduled for right before or after climbing season. When she’s traveling, she doesn’t have anything in her business that consistently needs her time, although she admits it did take some time to experiment and figure out what would work.

Careful Cash Flow Management

My lifestyle is adventurous and awesome, but also pretty cheap.

– Rebecca Tracey

Rebecca used to run her program six times per year, but has gone down to two times. It’s her second year trying out her streamlined business model and she’s still getting used to it. It’s definitely a bit scary and a little stressful being reliant on only two launches a year to make the money she needs. To ease that stress, she has a financial buffer in savings to cover her personal and business expenses if one of her launches doesn’t hit the numbers, but so far, things are working out well. Her operating expenses are also quite low.

Evolution of a Business

As her business model evolved Rebecca wasn’t afraid to experiment. The program that she runs is really fine-tuned and gets results, and it’s the thing she loves doing most in her business. She decided that her program was going to be the thing she would sell, and she stopped messing around with trying to create new things all the time. She decided to just give it a go at her program being her main thing. It was working and feeling pretty good, so she decided, why not just go for it.

When she realized that running the program six times a year wasn’t very “uncaged” of her or good for her sanity, she experimented with reducing the frequency. As a result, even though at first she didn’t want to increase her group size and it was a little scary to do so, she had to if she was going down in frequency. So, she doubled the group size and when everything seemed to run smoothly, she doubled the group size again. She did have to make changes to the program to accommodate more people and she’s still adjusting her marketing efforts to be sure she gets the number of participants she needs for each launch. She knows that she will continue to evolve her business model in the future, as the program she runs will eventually expire.

Be sure to tune into the full episode where you can learn more specifics about Rebecca’s adventurous life and her formula for success at juggling her business and her personal passions.

I invite you to subscribe to the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast on iTunes to join our community of like-minded entrepreneurs and learn my guests who share the nitty-gritty details of forging the life and business you want.

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Tara Gentile is on a mission to turn the small business owners of today into the economic powerhouses of tomorrow. She's the creator of Quiet Power Strategy®, a business design system and entrepreneurial family. She's also the host of Profit. Power. Pursuit., which Entrepreneur named one of the 24 top woman-hosted business podcasts.