Nope. You read it right. It’s not a mistake.
Everywhere I go these days, whether I’m reading an online business article or a report about business in a magazine, the one word that crops up more than most is ‘DISRUPT’.
Now, I’m not entirely sure what their specific definition is as the interpretation seems to vary, but for me, and more importantly my business, it means not doing things the same old way. Not choosing the path most trodden. Not ploughing the same old furrow. Not being obvious or lazy.
In essence, looking at the way you drive your business and asking yourself if you’re adopting the same approach as everyone else and in so doing, you become someone shouting in a room full of other people shouting.
I recently attended a talk by a very successful entrepreneur who had worked closely with Richard Branson at Virgin. It absolutely confirmed my suspicions. I heard all about the frankly outlandish, silly and stupid ideas that they’d come up with to promote Virgin Airlines. I found them not only to be immensely creative and fun, but they’d proven to be very, very effective.
It’s easy to see why Richard Branson would look at different ways to promote his business. Some of which were bordering on dangerous, but nonetheless, having, and acting on these [some might say] stupid ideas, absolutely kept him ahead of the curve and head and shoulders above the rest.
Now, I’m not saying that in my business I have the impact or budget of a colossus like Virgin, but in my own small way, I do try to adopt a ‘try something stupid and different’ policy.
For example, I am rather proud of the fact that I have no bad payers. Not one. All my invoices are always paid on time [often early] and without any fuss.
The reason for that?
On the one and only occasion I had a late payer, rather than yell or offer threats to the Financial Director, I found out who the person in the finance department was who actually had the job of pushing ‘send’. I sent her a very nice and friendly e-mail explaining that, as a small business, it would be very helpful for my cash-flow and for yours too if the invoices could be squared away on time and I’d be very grateful as a result. In fact, if you could do that for me as a kindness, there’s a bag of Haribo in it for you. *smiley face* Because Haribo is like currency right?…
She replied in the most friendly terms and I indeed, posted off a large bag of Haribo with a thank you card in a big jiffy bag.
When she received them, she was happy to report that they had arrived safely and that the entire staff of the finance department were tucking in as we speak.
She expects my invoices every month and since then, they have been paid without fuss, on time or even early.
Note – Hand written ‘Thank You’ cards not only spread a nice feeling among your clients, but are known to raise brand awareness and recognition by up to 38%.
Recently, I was tendering for business from a prospective client in Bristol. I was one of many in the frame for this important prospective new client. I had met with the MD and he had told me that since sending a request on Linked In for help with sales training, he had been bombarded by sales trainers nationwide. All insistent they were the right ones for the job. Anyway, every other trainer it seems had been dropping prices, making outlandish offers and insisting that the prospect HAD to sign right now. It was clear that the prospect had been exasperated by this feeding frenzy. I decided to ease the pressure a little. ‘Look’, I said. ‘There’s no rush. It’s very clear that you’re very busy right now and although you will do this at some point, right now, more pressing business needs your attention. I shan’t become a pest. Let’s talk again when you’re ready. A month okay?’. We booked a time to talk and in the interim, it was clear from what I’d heard that he was insanely busy with that season’s rush. I decided to send him coffee and cake with a friendly note saying ‘when you get a minute to catch your breath, have this coffee and slab of cake on us. Have a nice day. From Monkey’s Paw.’
Two days later he signed with us. Ten quid for coffee and cake. A friendly gesture. We were the only ones that never hounded him. And ironically, that’s what won us the business.
Another client was having a tough week. Getting very stressed with internal staff issues. The person in question is a long-term client and a very good friend of mine. I understood the problems she was experiencing.
We sent her an audio file of Bill Withers singing ‘Lovely Day’.
For no reason other than a desire to cheer her up. She loved it.
When I had a large sales team and we had instruction from on high to have a cold calling day to book as many appointments as we could, we were tasked with trying to make them fun. Not easy. They are high pressure days and frankly, no one enjoys them much. I needed to find a way to incentivize and to rally the troops.
Rather than have a bell or a horn for whenever a meeting was booked (the object of the day), we filled 20 balloons with helium and left them bobbing against the office ceiling. Every balloon contained a prize. A £50 note, a voucher for dinner for two at a nice restaurant, Theatre tickets, etc. Every time a meeting was booked, you popped a balloon. It worked like a charm. Everyone saw the fun side and worked blisteringly hard. A record 20 appointments were booked that day and everyone got a prize.
All I’m saying really is that following the same path as everyone else rarely gets you anywhere. Following the path of least resistance might be easiest, but it is rarely the most productive. Don’t copy others. Don’t copy me. But be inspired to do silly things that make the difference. They don’t have to be lavish or expensive. They just need to be creative. Do they always work? Of course not. When they do work are they remembered? Certainly. Work is hard enough. Let’s be creative, let’s have fun, let’s be successful.
Keep it simple? Yes of course. But keep it stupid too!