Monthly Archive for July, 2009

Control and Value: Rules for the Age of Community

According to Brain Trust member and global marketing executive, Kirk Cheyfitz, we’re entering the post-advertising age. Now comes Brain Trust member and branding expert, Jonathan Baskin, who says we’re entering the post-marketing era. What’s the difference in these prophecies?

First, there really is no difference in what these two thought-leaders are saying because both mean that paradigms are shifting in the marketplace with regard to the relationship between a company and its customers. Second, there are two words that marketplace paradigms are shifting around: Control and Value. And both of these concepts create the rules for what now comes after post-advertising/marketing, which is building and serving communities.

In the 21st century, relationships between businesses and customers are moving from the marketing dimension – where businesses talk at customers about themselves, to the community dimension – where businesses and customers talk with each other about what customers want. In this new dimension, customers have control and businesses must define their values and then execute by delivering value.

For generations, companies had control of the relationship with customers because they were introducing new products and services, and doing so in such a way as to drive adoption and consumption with their marketing strategy. Now, in the 21st century, virtually everything we sell, including services, is a commodity. That means the only thing unique about what we offer customers is the experience they have with us when we do business.

Customers have always controlled how they feel about that experience, but now, with social media technology intersecting with generational shifts and technological innovations they have the tools and social acceptance to exert control by the ways they want to be reached and by the ability to publish their experiences so others can see, learn and evaluate.

In the Age of Community, the only way a business can influence its customer communities is by establishing and being true to its values and delivering value by doing more than is expected.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with Jonathan Baskin, author of Branding Is for Cattle, and Kirk Cheyfitz, president of Story Worldwide, about the post-advertising/marketing era and building communities. Take a few minutes to listen to my conversation with these thought-leaders. And, as always, be sure to leave your thoughts.

My interview with Jonathan Baskin:
My interview with Kirk Cheyfitz:

Steve Forbes passes the “Confucius test”

One of my favorite thoughts comes from the 4th century B.C. wisdom of Confucius who, legend has it, said, “The shortest and surest way to live with honor is to be in reality what you appear to be.”

In our popular culture, we have a tendency to deify those who have achieved some level of fame, based solely on the fact that they are on television, or the movies or some other big stage. Never mind that we know nothing about their character. If they’re a movie star, sports figure, rock star or just on TV a lot, we put them on a pedestal.

As I have met and gotten to know certain individuals who have achieved some combination of notoriety, fame, wealth and power, it’s been an interesting exercise to put them to what I call “the Confucius test”: Are they really what they appear to be? As you can imagine, the results of this exercise has delivered mixed results, which is why whenever some famous person passes the Confucius test, I like to report those results. My report this day is on Steve Forbes.

I’ve known Steve for over 10 years and have observed him in a number of settings where he has passed the Confucius test. Regardless of the circumstances, Steve Forbes is in reality what he appears to be. We all know him as a successful, global businessman and political influencer. He is clearly a highly intelligent and knowledgeable person. But he is also in private the affable and approachable person he appears to be when you see him on television, hear him on radio or read his words. This is not hearsay; it’s my personal experience.

Over the years, Steve has been a regular guest on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. His continued appearances, I would like to think, are due to our friendship. But I also know he feels a strong connection with small business owners and has a stronger desire to maintain and serve his relationship with the small business community. Confucius would have liked Steve Forbes.

Recently, Steve ( on my show again discussing, among other things, his latest book, which he co-authored with John Prevas. Power Ambition Glory compares historical and present-day leaders and provides numerous valuable lessons on leadership for small business owners, regardless of the size or age of their operation. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear what Steve has to say. And, of course, be sure to leave your own thoughts.

We began with freedom and entrepreneurship was born

The first Plantagenet king of England, Henry II, is important to contemporary small business owners because he’s considered the founder of a legal system to which entrepreneurs owe their freedom to be.

Ambitious and highly intelligent, Henry’s attempts to consolidate all of the 12th century British Isles under his rule created the need for order. And while the subsequent reforms were intended more for his own political expediency than to empower the people, they actually gave birth to the English Common Law, which replaced elements of the feudal system that included such enlightened practices as trial by ordeal.

Six centuries after Henry’s death, the tide of personal freedoms and property rights that evolved from his reforms were washing up on the other side of the Atlantic. In the colonies, a group of malcontents, now called America’s Founders, envisioned, created and fought for a new interpretation of Henry’s legacy, which is to say, sans kings.

In “The Fortune of the Republic,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “We began with freedom. America was opened after the feudal mischief was spent. No inquisitions here, no kings, no dominant church.”

In “Origins Of The Bill Of Rights,” Leonard W. Levy wrote, “Freedom was mainly a product of New World conditions.” Those conditions, as Thomas Jefferson so artfully wrote in the Declaration of Independence, were, “…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

These were 18th century words for freedom and embryonic conditions for which the 56 signers of Jefferson’s document put their lives and liberties at risk on July 4, 1776. But America’s founding documents weren’t perfected until they perpetuated rights that were, as John Dickinson declared a decade earlier in 1766, “…born with us, exists with us and cannot be taken from us by any human power without taking our lives.”

By definition entrepreneurs take risks. But only freedom to enjoy success can make those risks acceptable. Thank you, Henry II.

Research shows that there is a direct connection between the rate of new business start-ups and economic growth. And the American experiment has demonstrated that a healthy entrepreneurial environment fosters national economic well-being. Thank you, Founders.

Without their vision, courage, passion and sacrifice, it’s doubtful that entrepreneurship as we know it would exist today. And if capitalism is the economic lever of democracy, entrepreneurship is the force that renews the strength and reliability of that lever for each generation.

We began with freedom: freedom to dream and to try; to succeed and to fail; to own and to enjoy; to accumulate and to pass on to the next generation. We began with freedom, and entrepreneurship was born. We began with freedom and capitalism was made to flourish. We began with freedom, and the world is the better for it.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked first about the formation of liberty and entrepreneurship as we celebrate Independence Day in America. Then I recounted the journey the Declaration of Independence took before it manifested in the Constitution. Take a few minutes to listen and be sure to leave your own thoughts.

Don’t wish your life away, even in the middle of a recession

At the beginning of 2008, I predicted that with regard to economics and politics, we would live the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” As a result of events since then, the impact of which is enduring through 2009, millions of individuals have experienced professional setbacks and millions of families have felt financial pain.

In times like these, when challenges are great, the natural human tendency is to look forward to the future when things will be better. “I can’t wait for 2009 to be over.” Or, “I’ll be glad when my life can get back to normal.” This reaction can be a productive way to cope; but it can also create a situation that is not a good thing: wishing your life away.

When it comes to country music, you could call me a discerning fan; I’m picky about what I listen to and pickier about what I recommend. Trace Adkins is known primarily for his honky-tonk songs, but recently he recorded something different, at least for him. This ballad is about not wishing your life away. Here are the first two lines of the chorus (songwriters Gorley, Ashley, Miller & Lee).

“You’re gonna miss this; You’re gonna want this back.”

Allow me to explain why I think these are simple words that are appropriate for these complicated times and a powerful sentiment for any time.

There are no perfect years. The only difference between one year and another is the relationship between the challenges and the opportunities. To paraphrase an old John Denver song: some years a diamond; some years a stone. Recently, we’ve had our share of stones.

If your business is still in business, even if the struggle is great, that’s something to celebrate. If you’ve become one of the professional casualties of this recession, you may have to look a little harder to find something good about this year, but you can do it. I know, from past experience. So when I’ve been at my lowest point financially and professionally, I would check on my children. If they were okay, I didn’t allow my challenges – which I always took seriously – to prevent me from finding happiness that day or that year.

As we work through 2009 getting ready for whatever comes next, let’s make sure that we don’t let the “I can’t wait for this to be over” thing cause us to wish our lives away. While we’re dealing with the setbacks of any year, life goes on and good memories do happen. I like the advice the late singer/songwriter/heretic, Warren Zevon, once gave us about this short life, “Enjoy every sandwich.”

Before you wish your life away, consider the possibility that - you’re gonna miss this… you’re gonna want this back.

Do yourself a favor; click on the first link below and watch the video performed by Trace Adkins. Then click on the second link and read the lyrics. Then go back and listen to the song again. And as always, please leave your thoughts with me and our community.

Trace Adkins Video “You’re gonna miss this”
Lyrics to “You’re Gonna Miss This”

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