Do you have a “United Airlines Disrespect” Lesson to learn?

Are you unaware of comparable disrespectful customer practices in your business?

“Never!,” you say.

Yet, United Airlines (UA) did not set out to deliberately disrespect and mistreat its customers. UA’s disrespectful behavior—on every level, including at the very top—just came naturally. Now, it is obvious the CEO and UA culture did not value and respect the very target customers whose spending drove UA profit.

Even in UA marketing, customers do not come first.

Before and after being shown up, UA marketing trumpets: “Every day, we help unite the world by connecting people to the moments that matter most. This shared purpose drives us to be the best airline for our employees, customers and everyone we serve.

The disrespectful practice of “voluntarily” taking customers off UA planes—by bribing them or physically confronting them—has continued for years as part of the UA culture. Does it matter how United Airlines justified the need to put their paying customers second to company needs? Wrong is wrong. Wrong thinking is not justification for anything.

Disrespect can be less brutal and yet just as powerfully negative an experience for customers and clients.

In your shared outrage at United Airlines’ barbaric treatment of its unwitting customer, have you stopped to wonder whether, inadvertently, disrespect has crept into your business and services?

Yes, the context and scale would be different, but could blatant customer disrespect materialize when employees are incentivized to fulfill company-centric mandates from their employer (you)?

What specifically are you and your employees doing that communicates respect for the time, money, and stress customers invest in you and your business?

If you have asked each customer and been told, “I feel very respected by you, your employees, the services, marketing, and every other element of your business” hurrah! That would make all of you very special and extraordinarily good at customer care and putting yourselves in customers’ shoes.

The following excerpt from my latest business book, What’s Your Point?: Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!”* emphasizes how important it is to make conscious decisions about the true priority assigned to customers and clients. Then, incorporate this into your Brand and keep communicating their priority for you with every action and word. Let customers and clients understand exactly where they stand.

Chapter 7: On Target: Hit The Mark!

7.3  Service Reality: How “First” Are My Clients?

The client always comes first” is one of the most commonly repeated promises in customer service, but it may also be the greatest lie.

Once “Who is my target client?” has been dealt with, the question to address is, “Who is my top priority?

Think of an example in your practice or organization when the client and their interests truly came ahead of management edicts, sales goals, new product roll-outs, supplier constraints, and a long list of permanent and temporary distractions in delivery of service. If you recall a genuine comes first example, was it a service rarity or is it the norm?

How first is a client in your world?

Experience taught you that, although “the client is number one” is the most widely-touted high standard, there are many others you must serve before relevant, error-free services and products are consistently available to your target clients.

  • Who lies between you and delivering customized services and/or products to your clients?
  • When you engage the client, which filters, values, and policies must that communication survive—online and off?
  • Whose acceptance must you earn over and above that of clients’?
  • Whose approval do you seek, consciously and unconsciously?
  • How do sales targets, bonuses, and awards influence what you offer prospects and clients and how you act on behalf of clients?

Reality Check:

  • List the high-priorities in your organization or industry that must be addressed or served, before your client can come first? How do they positively and negatively impact on what the client receives?
  • If you have the power to implement improvement, how many layers can be minimized or eliminated to enhance individual client results, working relationships, and your bottom line?

Pat on the Back: You want clients to know you put them first to earn deserved trust. Consciously and dramatically reduce—or eliminate entirely—the number of times you start sentences with “I” to demonstrate who comes first. Effective communication begins when you “put first things first” and start with “our clients” or “my customers.”

* To be published Fall 2017.

More posts on consistently earning trust:

Mobile-Friendly: Are You Responsive?

With more and more people relying on smartphones to search the net, the mobile-friendly quality of your net presence makes a vital statement.

What message do professionals deliver when their website or blog is not mobile-friendly?

Google-recommended Responsive Web Design is the most common method of achieving mobile-friendly web pages configured to look great on small smartphone screens and on those of other mobile devices. Responsive uses computer code that responds differently to different screen sizes, but ensures page displays remain similar and readable on any mobile device.

Sticking with a non mobile-friendly site undermines your message, value, and connection to your target users.

Can you expect target users to trust that you are net-savvy enough to successfully tap the power of the internet for targets when your own net presence is stuck in the unresponsive “desktop dark ages?”

Smartphone internet use and mobile computing continue to dominate, so mobile-friendly design is essential. In April 2015, Google announced search changes that favor mobile devices. With this and subsequent edicts, responsive shifted from a target-driven alternative to a business essential.

The internet is increasingly defined by the rising mass of mobile computing devices. Mobile phones have replaced desktop and laptop computers on many levels. Websites and blogs that are not mobile-friendly are increasingly ignored unless they have unique, highly-valued content.

Websites designed and coded for larger screens do not automatically make a graceful transition to small screens.

Your beautiful desktop-designed non-responsive website can look hideous on a smartphone. Potential viewers must do so much pinching, scrolling, zooming, and squinting, they may give up and click on a competitor’s mobile-friendly website.

If you’re not sure if your website or blog (or the competition’s) is responsive, visit it on your smartphone or use Google’s handy Mobile-Friendly Test.

If the design is not responsive, a jumbled mess will appear on a phone screen. The responsive website page will remain readable on the full range of screen sizes.

The transition to responsive involves more that recoding.

Multi-column websites and blogs, originally designed for big desktop screens, will require an overhaul. For instance, a signup form prominently positioned at the top of the right-hand column may end up at the very end of the first column so few may see it and sign up.

  • Changes in content, layout, and overall design may be necessary for the best internet presence.
  • Simplification and content re-positioning may be required to maintain desired objectives.

The time, expertise, and expense involved in transition to responsive may be daunting for some site owners.

Here are strategies to consider:

  • Prioritize: Traffic, lead generation, and e-commerce are among the key reasons for investing time and money to go responsive. For example, suppose you have a blog and a website, and your blog draws significantly more target traffic. Start with the blog and overhaul the website later. Expanding the blog and phasing out the website may be another alternative.
  • Allocation of time and resources: Create an efficient sequence for continuous updating and modernizing. Responsive design may be the latest overhaul, but it will not be the last that technology and Google dictate.
  • Analyze Don’t Just Assume: Switching to mobile-friendly may not instantly create dramatic shifts in traffic or usage statistics since so many factors are involved. Reduced bounce rates may indicate phone users find it easier to stay and read, but relevant marketing and promotion are necessary to generate a flood of new business. Determine what your selected target markets expect from your online presence before you plunge into expensive, time-consuming redesign.
  • Relevant Content Rules: If content is not top-notch and video excellent, mobile-friendly design alone will not be enough to increase traffic and usage.

If you present yourself as a tech-savvy professional or a social-media natural intent on engaging target prospects and clients on their terms, transforming your website and blog into mobile-friendly territory is essential.

Take time to decide which redesign strategy is compatible with your short- and long-term goals:

  • Nowhere Fast: Those who find little or no business comes to them over the internet may decide there is no need to redesign. (There may be a very good business case for going responsive and optimizing the site to gain traffic, leads, and referrals, but that’s another article, for another time.)
  • Halfway There: Blogs are not automatically responsive. For instance, popular WordPress(WP) accounts for almost 25% of internet activity and powers many blogs. Earlier WP blog templates or themes were not responsive. Even now, new bloggers do not have to choose responsive themes. Transforming non-responsive WordPress blogs and websites may involve switching to a responsive theme.
  • All the Way: The process of transforming a website to responsive is not as simple as switching templates. Coding changes are just the beginning. Design—including layout, fonts, images, and site navigation—will need modification to optimize smaller reading “windows.” Although going responsive may be an opportune time for a full-site overhaul of content, navigation, SEO, and all related marketing elements, a phased-in re-do or scaled-down site are other alternatives. In some cases, recreating the site as a responsive WP site may be faster and less expensive. Google suggests other ways to optimize for mobile search.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Responsive design is one element in SEO which concentrates on continuous improvement of the site’s online presence. What is your SEO strategy?

If the website or blog drives your business, delaying the move to mobile-friendly may be expensive.

In this blog, we’ve been talking about communicating your value and intentions using technology. “Responsive” means much more. In both the technical and relationship sense of the word, how you manage interfaces like websites—between what you offer and what target prospects and clients value and need—is a measure of your relevance and responsiveness to them.

Target Test: Ask mobile-addicted prospects and clients what they think of your website or blog. If you hear complaints about what a pain it is, the site is non-responsive or very badly designed.

“No complaints” may be worse since it may mean users have bounced off to visit competitors.

More on this topic…”Part 1: Are You Responsive?

Revised from article “Are You Responsive?” first published May 2016 on RealtyTimes.com

Stand Out: Get The Jump On Spring!

How can you make this spring different for your targets?

How can you help them take advantage of unexpected changes and rise above seemingly undermining influences?

Most industries have seasonal patterns that are followed and addressed in annual marketing campaigns:

  • Your goal should be to remain a step ahead of the predictable. Can you see opportunities for setting new standards or revealing new goals?
  • Can you attract increased market share by redefining client goals and expectations for this season and following seasons?
  • Redefine the negatives of this season with new products or niches that address shifts in target lifestyles, workplaces, or family structures. Can you see new opportunity and benefits for your prospects and clients?

Or, look ahead and get the jump on the following seasons or the whole year. There are new opportunities out there to discover before you’re in the middle of others jumping on them.

For instance, if Facebook has been a fav of your targets, explore the changes in this platform to uncover opportunities to communicate your value to targets.

Last spring, Facebook reported:

  • Daily active users (DAUs) numbered 1.09 billion on average for March 2016, an increase of 16% year-over-year. By year end, DAUs amounted to 1.23 billion on average for December 2016, an increase of 18% year-over-year.
  • Mobile DAUs averaged 989 million for March 2016, an increase of 24% year-over-year. By year end, Mobile DAUs increased to 1.15 billion.
  • Monthly active users (MAUs) counted 1.65 billion as of March 31, 2016, an increase of 15% year-over-year. By December, MAUs climbed to 1.86 billion, an increase of 17% year-over-year.
  • Mobile MAUs were 1.51 billion as of March 31, 2016, an increase of 21% year-over-year. Mobile MAUs increased to 1.74 billion by year end.

That’s just the change over one year! What’s next here or in any platform your target loves?

How was that reflected in your targets’ use of your Facebook contributions? What’s you’re involvement going to generate this year?

What could you help make happen this year for your targets?

If you don’t think ahead for prospects and clients who will? Wouldn’t you rather it were you?

For example, spring is traditionally accepted as the “big market” for real estate. In a blog I write for a client, my question was: “Are real estate buyers making a mistake when they wait for the ‘hot’ spring market with its price increases and multiple offers?”

This question and content has a double purpose:

    1. This query and the related content start the client’s clients—real estate and financial professionals—thinking differently about what they take for granted about this season and what they can do differently this year.

AND

    1. The question and content trigger fresh thinking and enhanced reception to new ideas in the professionals’ clients who could gain from thinking differently about their reactions to spring.

The ideas shared do not have to be “big” or outrageous. Sometimes, a gentle nudge is all that is needed to shift thinking into innovation mode.

FYI: The blog I write for this client deliberately builds on my work as a futurist, business strategist, and committed communicator to help real estate and related professionals and their prospects and clients think differently both about “Decisions & Communities.” This combined topic-title focuses on the real issues involved in real estate for professionals and their clients, not on rehashing the traditional.

Do spring and other seasons offer overlooked opportunities to cast new light on buying, selling, and user patterns for your industry, product, or services?

Can you see how to take a different perspective—drawn from a different profession, industry, or communication technique—to provide new insight, products, or services for helping target prospects and clients get the jump on spring and everything else?

FYI: If you’d like to be a buyer or seller, or a professional with a jump on the spring real estate market, visit “Decisions & Communities.”

The Catalyst's XBLURTS

Eliminate “Two-Faced” Customer Service Experiences

Two-faced customer service

Two-faced customer experiences must go!

Even the most reputable company can create “two-faced” customer service experiences.

If face-to-face service creates a customer experience vastly different from the online shopping or call-center customer experience, customers can be left with a “two-faced” impression of the business.

  • One face, the pleasant, inviting marketing brand we have all seen
  • The other face, a negative reality which may appear as disinterest, dishonesty or deception.

“Two faced” may seem an overly-strong adjective since it smacks of deceit, but it’s not. Personal and emotional customer reactions are involved when services and products are bought and delivered, so customer perceptions define reality. Inconsistencies in service delivery may leave the perception of disinterest in customers or of dishonesty or deception.

Example: My Starbucks “two-faced” customer experience could have undermined years of “Grande decaf” loyalty.

Starbucks provides a globally-consistent example of extremely-responsive face-to-face service excellence. However, even this can be undermined by online or call center experiences that contradict the branded customer-centric experience of good-natured coffee delivery.

When you walk into a Starbucks or text ahead, you know exactly what to expect. The attentive all-about-you staff seem happy to see everyone who wanders in. This is such a predictable reaction that I often give Starbucks gift cards as thank-yous: A positive experience in exchange for the positives I received.

Then in one afternoon, I discovered this reliable positive brand could be undermined in this customer’s mind by a disagreeable online experience followed by a more frustrating, dismissive call-center conversation. Years of positive impressions dissolved into experiences of being dismissed and of not being valued. I felt fooled into thinking the frontline experience penetrated right through the corporate body, so that everyone I encountered would perpetuate Starbucks customer excellence.

My attempt at “just takes a few minutes” online registration of my card turned into a frustrating experience that took more than an hour. Since loss of my time ranks as a number one crime against this customer, I was beyond disappointed.

No preamble diminished the sense of intrusion brought on by the depth of personal details required by this impersonal online registration form. Finally, an account was created.

A few minutes later, I decided to log into my new Starbucks account. The login told me firmly I had no account. Wasted time sucked as much as not being valued.

Finding Starbucks humans to talk to seemed to be the solution. Finally dug out a phone number and connected with a Starbucks voice. I explained what had happened. My questions?

  • Where did my personal information go?
  • What happened to the account I created?

Now, I’m into hour two on this “just takes a few minutes” project.

The Starbucks phone voice told me to be patient. Curt and unsympathetic, the voice said it would take care of everything. More information required. Long wait on hold. I was informed there was no account on record. No answer was given to my queries regarding the information I input or how this could happen. The offered solution: Go back to the Starbucks store and get my money back. No apologies for inconvenience. No alternatives. No warm Starbucks fuzzies there.

An indifferent or bad online experience followed by a worse call-center experience may be enough to overshadow even the best face-to-face experience.

Returning to my local Starbucks #16896 reminded me how pleasant picking up my favorite coffee is.

  • When I handed in the gift card and asked for my money back, the cashier was puzzled, but immediately obliging.
  • The manager, ever watchful of workplace flow, noticed our exchange. He offered a new card which I declined saying only that the negative experience had turned me off and I’d had enough of that. He offered to make my current order complimentary to ensure today’s experience was a pleasant one.
  • Seamlessly, pleasantly, and without debate, he and the staff set about deliberately counteracting my negative Starbucks experience.

Act on Your Brand Definition to Achieve Extreme Service Excellence.

Are your main service delivery methods consistently strong enough to overcome negative experiences with your other service delivery methods?
Question: If I were a customer or client, displeased with any two of your company’s online, call-center, or face-to-face experiences, would the third delivery method be consistently terrific enough to erase the bad feeling generated by the two negative experiences?

Answer: If you say “Yes,” how sure are you? Assumptions are dangerous.

  • When was the last time you made a mystery visit, call or email to test out the actual customer experience for each of your delivery methods?
  • Are the nice service delivery people in your company counting on nice customers who will forgive them for making mistakes at the customer’s expense?
  • If redesigning your service model is practical and essential, where is the best place to start on the evolution to Extreme Service Excellence?
  1. How will you create a process that innovatively aligns with your style, brand, and the challenges your business considers top priority?
  2. Experiment with key variables for your industry and related industries since client needs rarely fall in one industry to the exclusion of all others. Overlaps between industries and niches can offer more opportunities since these may be areas ineffectively covered by everyone.
  3. Whether this is a creative thinking exercise or a practical evaluation, experiment before you finalize your process and begin making widespread changes.
  4. Don’t rush this process or turn it into a marathon. Work through a few ideas and then let things percolate. Haven’t you found that your subconscious keeps processing, even while you’re working on something else?

Whisper in the Ear: Experiment with service variations. Involve target clients in evaluation and valuation of new services and products rather than assuming you understand everything.

  • How will you monitor effectiveness?
  • How will you let participating clients know how much you value their insight and suggestions?

P. S. My Starbucks experience has left me less likely to give Starbucks gift cards as gifts to people whom I really want to thank. The possibility that they could have a “two-faced” experience similar to mine, has me hesitating. Still a great fan of the brand and I remain hooked on my Grande Decaf coffee, so I’ll keep showing up for more.

More on earning trust…”Clients Demand: Pay Attention to Earn Trust

The Catalyst's XBLURTS

Outsourcing: Knowledge Attracts Knowledge

Professionals know what’s next

Professionals who employ their depth of knowledge to service clients, appreciate genuine expertise in others.

In delivering consistently high-quality services, professionals often have to outsource some or all of the work.

The challenge lies in locating complimentary services and products sold by professionals who also possess deep commitment to honing their expertise.

Tradeshows and conventions are terrific environments for discovering outstanding skills, products, and expertise without the hollow ring of “showing off” that marketing and advertising content can introduce.

For example, the annual IDS—Interior Design Show—is a professional-on-professional trade show that also invites end users to enjoy the mix of innovation and sustainability. If you’d like to observe professional communication in action, this is a great place to start.

Ask IDS Exhibitor Michael Pourvakil of Weavers Art about his business creating “the world’s most beautiful rugs” and it’s not long before he is extolling the value of professional interior designers.

Pourvakil explained, “The best products and best services are shown to advantage by interior designer expertise.”

The value of Weavers Art products and services is embodied in the “rugaholics”—Pourvakil and his staff—who curate the extensive and continually changing, internationally-sourced inventory.

They know that their expertise is amplified by the expertise of interior designers. At Weavers Art, they understand that this dictates their job is doing all they can to ensure working with Weavers Art is the best decision each designer makes.

Pourvakil stressed they do not sell on price since handmade rugs do not come down in price in a world where labor costs are increasing. The focus is peace of mind for all concerned which makes clear, accurate communication essential in every stage from design and creation to installation of the finished custom rug.

  • Does the process of servicing your clients involve the exacting delivery of products or service by other professionals? If so, how do you identify genuine talent and commitment when outsourcing? Or is price/cost the main focus?
  • How do you ensure you understand the specific value—from your point of view and your clients’—of outsourced professional expertise?
  • What steps do you take to guarantee respect for expertise—therefore, communication—works both ways and always benefits your clients?

More ideas… “3 Missed Opportunities

The Catalyst's XBLURTS

Make Faces Top Priority Not Screens

face-to-face not screen

What does face-to-face reveal?

How many face-to-face conversations do you have each day? Each week?

Before our current obsession with screens, business questions like these would not be necessary.

Face-to-face meetings were where significant decisions were made, relationships cemented, and deals done. Big business stills revolves around face-to-face meetings, but small business owners and professionals, swept up in technology’s apparent access have shifted business to screens.

Are most of your 1-on-1s with people you know well—friends, family, co-workers?

Much as you love them, does it make good business sense that the majority of your face-to-face time goes to those whose trust you have already earned, in meetings that do not generate revenue?

How do you engage new clients?

Email and phone contact play important roles in connecting with target prospects for many professionals. For you, are face-to-face meetings—either initial or to close a deal—essential to transition target prospects to client status?

Earning trust is what you’re doing when prospects willingly become clients. The skills and time involved in earning trust through email or over the phone can be considerably more challenging, than earning trust face-to-face.

Everyone is too busy for meetings, you say.

Yes, but I say, target prospects have interests that they prefer to pursue in person. Knowing how they spend this hands-on time is part of learning how to engage your target market.

For instance, if your service focus is B2B:

  • Do you know if many target prospects would favor business events introducing new products or systems?
  • Would they prefer professional-development conferences or out-reach campaigns promoted by professional organizations?
  • Perhaps, their line of work would lead them to favor restaurant openings…family charitable events…sports in any format…or meetings about shared interests in anything from WordPress or Buffer to wine tastings or photography.

I’m not suggesting you become a business predator, tracking target prospects down in their off-time and pouncing on them.

However, to effectively develop and deliver products and service that attract and engage your preferred target group, you must understand them. Not as statistics and marketing projections, but as individuals and as contributing members of groups, organizations, and communities that matter to them.

You love what you do and believe in your ability to contribute benefits to target clients. Take that deep commitment and share a some of it with the individuals you are intent on serving.

Each week, get out there. Meet target prospects face-to-face, so you can flesh-out the profiles your research frames. Enjoy yourself in the process. These experiences will assist you with naturally and confidently arranging the face-to-face opportunities that drive your business and client success.

Face-to-Face Question: Your online venture may be designed without face-to-face client contact, but would your prospects be receptive to a get-together that would simultaneously give your client base and your revenues a big boost?

More to think about… “5 Foresight Strategies for Avoiding Hindsight Remorse

The Catalyst's XBLURTS

The Ideal Length Of Everything

Ideal length of everything

Who determines length?

It’s not about the length you want to write or how short you tweet, but what your ideal target client believes is an ideal length—enough, but not too much.

Journalists and copywriters are trained to write length “to count”—to fill the exact space available in print context, like column inches or above the fold in newspapers. Online lengths are measured in bytes and bandwidth. Digitally, “above the fold” continues to set limits, but it now means before the need to scroll. Publishers limit nonfiction authors “to count” in tens of thousands of words, especially when creating a print book which has size and weigh limitations for a lot of practical reasons. Yet these decisions may be flawed.

Don’t think about the length—number of words, number of lines, number of pages, amount of scrolling required—when you write or send messages to engage your target prospects and clients. Instead, carefully consider time—theirs.

Time is the precious and limiting resource for all of us and no less for your targets.

Make sure you consider length by determining exactly how much of their time your communication will use up. How long will it take prospects and clients to read, watch, or listen to content you’ve created, or had created, to promote you and your offerings? Be sure that you aren’t wasting their valued commodity:

  • Wasting time, because you are not on point, that is, clearly sharing valuable knowledge that targets can easily use to their own benefit.
  • Wasting time, because you’re not reaching them when it’s convenient for them to receive your information and ideas and to act.
  • Wasting time, because the result is not more revenue, more work, and more trust for you and your business or practice, but possibly less of all three.

Search the net and you’ll find lists of the ideal length for almost any communication product or service. Averages and generalities are ball-park figures. Unless these lengths were generated by or for your specific target, they may distract you from your target’s ideals.

Start by deciding how much time target prospects and clients might invest in a specific written, audio, and/or video message because they value your expertise. Remember, miss the point and deliver little targets consider relevant, and hard-won trust is eroded regardless of the length.

More on targets… “Social Media As Defined By Your Target”

The Catalyst's XBLURTS

Social Media As Defined By Your Target

target WHO

Who’s your target WHO?

The social media that drove your business and defined your target through start-up, may not be the social media that fosters equally amazing future growth.

That’s a reality to consider before you assume it’s full steam ahead with the social media platform you built the business around. Or before something happens to the platform—it’s snapped up by a giant, algorithms are changed, or your defined target market is swept on to the next new thing.

You may be comfortable moving forward along the same social media path that has gotten you this far, but prolonged status quo rarely works in any aspect of business. For instance, the skills and knowledge that enabled you to grow your businesses through start up, are not the abilities and capabilities that facilitate mature business growth.

The choice of which social media to build services and products around should probably not have been yours in the first place. Ideally, you began by identifying the target or preferred client group or groups that would would place the highest value on what you offer, whether it is a product, software, skill training, or any other B2B or B2C product or service. Target social media preferences and usage patterns dictated yours and defined your social media.

(If you were first drawn to a new or emerging platform and then to key groups using it, you’ll still find, over time, user tastes and needs shift and changes to the platform may not favor your business.)

Which of the two classic client service patterns represents your high priority target clients?

1. “Temporary” Clients/Niche Specific:
Your product or service is valued at a specific stage, for an identifiable niche, or for short-term use. Your business is designed to continually cultivate new “waves” of clients at that same high-usage stage. Acquiring new clients is high priority. For instance, clients may only need your products or services during start-up mode for businesses or during university years for individuals. These clients remain loyal during this time and then their need or interest in the product or service ends and they move on.

2. “Permanent” Clients/Across Niches:
Your product or service is valued over each client’s lifetime or for long-term use. Your business is designed to “permanently” retain and maintain existing clients over years or decades, if not forever. Retaining existing clients is high priority. For instance, your business takes clients through a lifetime or all the growth stages of a business. Clients remain loyal “forever.”

The social media used by “temporary” client types may be different from that which attracts “permanent” client types. At least, how they use and engage will differ even within the same platform. The difference may also lie in which combinations of social media and technology targets use.

Would your prime target client group be considered “temporary” or “permanent?”
How does their social media usage reflect this pattern?
What’s next for your clients?

Defining your target client includes knowing how to anticipate their social media needs.

The Catalyst's XBLURTS

Panel How-tos: Chronic Pain Forum

Panel discussion whole greater

Panel discussion = whole greater than sum

With panel discussions, the whole is not always greater than the sum of the parts.

An amazing group of expert panelists needs an amazing communicator and analyst as the moderator and more time than the event is usually assigned. The most important ingredient for an amazing panel discussion is a clearly-stated topic which has the breadth to showcase panelist expertise and allow them to drill down into the subject for inspired insight. If the panel topic tries to cover “everything you every wanted to know about…” the discussion can be superficial or just ordinary.

My work and research make me a frequent and enthusiastic conference and meeting attendee. I admit that I am drawn to panel discussions because communication and the lack of it are what fascinates me. Panel-fan that I am, many panels leave me wondering more about what wasn’t said than what was.

The Best Advice for Panel Design

When you plan a panel discussion for your conference, client-appreciation event, or professional-development meeting, my advice as a panel-fan is to always apply the best advice for successful travel. Why “travel”? When panels catch fire and generate transporting edu-tainment (education combined with entertainment) for their specific audience, the experience is “mind travel” to a new exciting, even surprising place.

My advice for a transporting panel discussion is the same I give for travel: Take half as many clothes and twice as much money.

  • For your panel discussion, the “half as many clothes” will be half as many topics, subjects, and perspectives. Just as novice travelers don’t travel light, panel planners can get carried away with the brain power at their disposal and pack in every subject possible. Ready for all occurrences, just in case, can mean missing the point of the panel discussion in the conference’s context.
  • The panel discussion’s “twice as much money” does not refer to paying panelists more (usually there is little or no payment for these experts). Instead, the “money” refers to how the panel’s value—knowledge, experience, humor, and insight—materializes for the audience. When designing a panel discussion, ramp up the value to audiences. “Twice as much” is just the beginning. At business events, audiences expect to make money from what they learn and who they meet during the conference or meeting. Concentrate on how audience members can take their exposure to the panel discussion “to the bank.”

Example: Chronic Pain Forum

This Panel Discussion, presented by The Forum at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, jointly with The Huffington Post, is deliberately tackling a big subject head-on to ramp-up attention to The Chronic Pain Epidemic—attention that is long overdue.

The expertise of Forum meeting planners, panelists, and audiences will make this event matter. I’m suggesting you take a look at this event to see how subsequent panel discussions within this umbrella topic could “take half as many clothes and twice as much money” to further ramp-up attention to the issues here.
(The Epidemic’s impact on business is a topic for another post.)

Forum advance notices state:

Panelists are open to exploring relevant pain care policies, including prescription monitoring program regulations, drug development, funding for research, and a variety of pain management options, including marijuana and mindfulness meditation.

With only one hour for the panel and diverse audiences invited, how will this talented panel rise to create value for audiences?

The Dr. Lawrence H. and Roberta Cohn Forums

THE CHRONIC PAIN EPIDEMIC: What’s to Be Done?

Presented by The Forum at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health jointly with The Huffington Post

Thursday, November 10, 2016
11am ET — a brief pre-event Q&A with panelist Vaughan Rees and moderator David Freeman. Post your questions during the Q&A on Facebook.
12:30-1:30pm ET — During the one-hour panel discussion, panelists will examine how clinicians can best serve their patients, highlighting the recommendations of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recent National Pain Strategy.

  • Watch the webcast: ForumHSPH.org
    You do not need to register to watch Forum webcasts online.
  • In association with Harvard Health Publications
    You can also watch the live stream on Facebook Live https://www.facebook.com/Forumhsph/
  • The Forum video will be on demand after the event.
  • Join the live chat on The Forum’s Chronic Pain Epidemic web page.
  • Tweet @ForumHSPH #chronicpain

The Panel of Experts

Josephine Briggs, Director, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH

Anne Louise Oaklander, Associate Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, and an attending neurologist, Massachusetts General Hospital

Vaughan Rees, addiction specialist and Lecturer on Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Cindy Steinberg, National Director of Policy and Advocacy, U.S. Pain Foundation; Member, Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee, NIH; and Policy Council Chair, Massachusetts Pain Initiative

Moderator David Freeman is the managing editor of Impact & Innovation at The Huffington Post. He is also host of the weekly NPR radio program Science Insider.

Ideas from a Global Conference: “Expansion Demands Preparation

The Catalyst's XBLURTS

Clients Demand: Pay Attention To Earn TRUST

Pay attention duck legs unseen

Pay attention: What’s below the surface with clients?

To engage and hold the attention of a prospect or client, professionals must first PAY ATTENTION.

The media and marketing are committed to distraction, interruption, and redirection to achieve their goals, not your client’s. The more information, phone time, and social media noise distracting a prospect or client, the less of their attention there is to apply to the client problem you expect to solve. Ignore this attention-diverting context, and you won’t be prepared for success with clients who are distracted from making decisions and commitments.

To ramp up your “attention paying” and attention receiving:

1. Tailor to Earn Trust: Your approach, delivery, and service design may have worked before smartphones took over. Now, changes may be necessary to counterbalance the level of information overload your client is operating under or coping with each day. For instance, you may prefer one phone call or meeting to cover everything that you need said, concluding with the client signing on-the-dotted-line and buying your product or service. What’s the client’s preference? Today, many clients need more time and different methods of information delivery to become confident enough to buy. Others may want to take themselves through the sales process online with opportunity to search out details, alternatives, and reviews as they go. What learning tools do your target clients prefer: video, audio, experiential?

2. Concentrate to Earn Trust: It’s not only paying attention to your client that matters, but demonstrating that you’re concentrating. Reduce your level of distraction to elevate concentration. Put down your phone. Eye contact matters. Ask for details; listen constructively to client answers by taking notes; think about the points they make; analyze what’s missing; ask for details to clarify needs and gaps that your product or service is designed to fill. Every time the client has to repeat something to you or remind you that their earlier answer dictates their response to subsequent questions, you’re not earning trust and you may be losing accumulated trust.

3. Prepare to Earn Trust: Take-away content in print, audio, video, digital, or email form may give the prospect or client confidence in your sincerity. During a meeting, give them time alone to review the details and decisions involved. This focused attention may be all they need to sign up. Prepare a client-centric sales or consulting process that incorporates follow up, product/service customizing, client satisfaction, and above-average results for the client. This may mean tweeking your pre-smartphone sales or consulting system or completely overhauling your existing process so it’s smartphone-friendly.

The smartphone changed everything. How have you changed the way you do business to accommodate this communication revolution?

Pay attention: What’s below the water with clients?

The Catalyst's XBLURTS