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Get More Done by Working Together and Forgetting Who Gets the Credit

If someone asked you to pull down a house using only rope and accurate placement, could you do it?

By yourself, no. The job is too hard and would take too long even if you could do it.

But wIth over 100 eager participants, bringing down an entire house takes less then 5 seconds.

Pulling down that house was a privilege.  My small team of 21 volunteers joined over 100 others, grabbing the rope in our gloved hands and tugging on command, and watching an entire house come crashing down.

It was the culmination of a full day’s work in Moore, Oklahoma, where the cleanup continues long after the May 20th tornado that ripped through the Oklahoma City suburb, killing seven in the nearby Plaza Towers Elementary School and many more in the surrounding community. Together my team and many others worked all day to clear rubble from the neighborhood and place it in mounds suitable for city pick-up in August.

During those five days in Moore, Oklahoma, I never heard anyone on my team take credit for bringing down either of the houses we pulled to the ground. I don’t recall anyone fighting for a particular place of honor inside the shells that someone once called home as we formed work lines to pass debris and separate it from sentimental items that the owners might still want to have.

Shawnee Tent Community

As we wandered through the tent community in Steelman Estates outside of Shawnee, Oklahoma, that was hit the night before the Moore tornado, the local volunteers who had been there for two months claimed no glory for how they had set up a propane-powered laundromat, dehydration tent to recover from the blistering work, barrel-topped shower, supply tent, or the air conditioners installed in the igloo tents that peppered the sloping terrain.

Instead of reckless ambition and elbow-bruised victims of someone else’s ego, all I saw was community. I saw people working together to make things happen. I saw money come out of pockets and find its way into the hands of tearful and grateful victims who were trying to rebuild without insurance benefits. I watched a man who might otherwise appear on the cover of a self-made-man-magazine lean humbly on his shovel and fight back tears as he witnessed a swarm of volunteers surround him to listen to his story of survival and offer help in the rebuilding process.

The short drive back to Dallas was filled with talk of how much we were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time by simply working together and forgetting who got the credit for it. No one stood out as better or worse than the other. We all stood as one – in our accomplishments, in our experiences, and in our excitement at the thought of going back to help again.

Sometimes, in the middle of working to help a business grow, we forget about the real goal (the customer experience) and we focus on only ourselves. That attitude, or let’s be honest – a core value of self-centered greed – results in a less happy us, a less happy customer, and less being done in the end. But when we work together for the customer to have a positive experience, we all win in the end and much more gets done.

Thank you, Oklahoma, for reminding me what is important and how to get things done.



Brian Shipman is the CIO of Heritage Auctions – a fantastically unique place to work. Heritage’s mission is to help people successfully acquire or pass on rare and significant objects that have both monetary and soul-stirring value. His job is to create a quality customer experience using the red carpet of technology.

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The Indiana Jones Method of Engaging Customer Experience

IndieIf you want to create a worthy customer experience, you have to be driven by experience. Your core purpose cannot be making money, climbing a ladder, or becoming famous. It has to be creating and giving away an experience that you yourself have had. Enter Indian Jones.

At the tender age of 9 years, I remember having a moment alone in the house. My father was in his hardhat a few miles away at Dow Chemical Company. My mother was perhaps outside with my little sister. Driven by an investigative personality, I sat down at the base of the china cabinet and opened the small double-doors that that I had never before seen open. Little did I know how that act would set the course of my life.

After a few moments of rummaging, I came across a thick but unusually heavy piece of blue cardboard, tri-folded, labeled “Mercury” Head Dimes. Opening that first-fold was to me what finding the Ark of the Covenant was for Indiana Jones.

In the moments that followed, several key pieces of my psyche developed. The old coins that I could see and touch moved me toward a love of history. The mysterious empty socket where the 1916-D Mercury Dime should have been ignited my desire to collect – to search for and obtain the elusive pieces that would make the series complete.

And, as the days followed, that moment would also prove to be the source of a growing bond between my father and me. That Mercury Dime collection was something that he had started long ago and abandoned. My newfound curiosity stirred up his own. Over the years before I moved out of the house, my father and I collected coins together. We talked about the hard-to-find pieces. We purchased a metal-detector and searched all over historic Brazoria County where I grew up, digging up hundreds of old, silver coins. Every mini-archeological dig was exciting.

I didn’t really think anyone but my father understood these important experiences of mine until I saw Indiana Jones on the big screen for the first time as a teenager in Raiders of the Lost Ark. That movie illustrated my introspective feelings perfectly. Watching it was an experience I will never forget.

Indie taught me an important lesson: customers, like me, are often driven by the quest to find and obtain significant objects. The search, the discovery, and the final acquisition are real adventures. My job is to give Indie, er, the customer, the clues and the map to make the adventure worthwhile.

I have moved on from using the technology of metal detection to find coins hidden underground to leveraging emerging technologies to help everyone in the world discover coins and other collectibles approaching the auction block.

My job is to recreate my 9-year-old experience in others through mini-archeological digs powered by technology. I love leading a team of software developers and technology experts to unearth these precious objects and allow others to experience them the way I once did – and still do. In a way, I feel like I am directing thousands of sequels to the Indiana Jones movies, one customer at a time.


Brian Shipman is the CIO of Heritage Auctions – a fantastically unique place to work. Heritage’s mission is to help people successfully acquire or pass on rare and significant objects that have both monetary and soul-stirring value. His job is to create a quality customer experience using the red carpet of technology.

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This is How You Handle Failure

This is how you handle failure.

The takeaways…

It’s Not About You – It’s About the Customer You Are Serving
This young man appears to be in Middle School / Junior High. He could have been thinking what you would expect – “It’s all about me.” No one would have faulted him for walking away, sitting down with his head in his hands, or standing there and crying from embarrassment.

But he did none of those things that would have called attention to himself. Instead, he rediscovered his original purpose when his cymbals were working properly…

 I am here to honor my country and to inspire my viewers to do the same

If you cannot accomplish your purpose in the manner in which you intended, what do you do? You reinvent yourself. You turn and salute the flag. You call attention to it, not you. And in so doing, your core purpose is still fulfilled and your customer is still served.

Businesses who respond to crises the way that this young man responded to his will always be successful in the truest meaning of the word. However, remember, to respond this way you have to be this way. A crisis reveals who you are.

A Crisis Reveals Who You Are
We humans are prone to conceal the real us – especially when we know that our goals and purposes are less than admirable. Put a group of humans together in a business working together to accomplish a less than admirable purpose and what do you get? You get to watch transparency and honesty be replaced by marketing gimmicks and lies. You get to watch a blooming flower die before its time because it never took root in the earth.

There is only one admirable purpose for a business to adapt…

I am here to honor my customer and to inspire my coworkers to do the same

If that is your purpose, then when crisis strikes, you will still succeed. When all eyes are watching to see what you will do – when your customers are aghast at the crisis you face wondering how you will respond – you will still succeed because you will find another way. Your core purpose will survive. And your customers will love you all the more for it.

A vendor that provides my company with an important service went down for about a half hour. It was a critical outage, so I reached out quickly – by email to customer support and through social media on Twitter. I got an email from third-tier technical support admitting to the error and saying it would be resolved shortly. It was, but after the crisis was over, customer service responded via Twitter denying that there ever was an outage at all. This is a poor customer experience. Either I was lied to in order to save a public admission of knowledge or the outage (which would have affected hundreds of other companies) was not communicated to customer support. Both acts are equally poor because the demonstrate that the core purpose of the company is something other than to honor the customer and inspire others (like customer support) to to the same.

Contrast this with a recent experience with Sanebox. Sanebox lets you quickly set up your email inbox to stay clean from bulk email and email you want to read, but later so that your workflow is not interrupted. Once you get Sanebox running, you will know immediately if they have an outage because your normally peaceful inbox will flood with unwanted emails. They have only gone down once in my months of usage with them, but when they did it was paralyzing. I reached out again via email and Twitter. In both cases I received a very quick admission of the outage and a promise to get me back on my feet soon. They kept their promise. I had a consistent customer experience from all touchpoints that stayed true to the core values of “the customer comes first.”

What about your company? The crisis is coming, so be your best you now.

The Crisis is Coming, So Be Your Best You Now
You can’t fake who you are all the time. You can hide behind the gimmicks and the lies for only so long before a crisis comes along to rip away the veil and reveal just who you really are. It will happen to you as an individual, and it will happen to you as a company.

Andrew Pawelczyk, I salute you. You revealed your character to us when crisis struck and your cymbals failed you. Your love for your country and the symbol that represents it were so strong that you demonstrated that love in an even greater manner than you and your bandmates already were.

Choose today to refocus, or, of necessary, reset your goals and your company goals on what matters most: the customer and her experience. Honor her. Inspire your coworkers to do the same. Be your best you now.

Customer Experience Extends Beyond Traditional Touchpoints

If you haven’t already heard, a picture is floating around today showing what appears to be a Taco Bell employee “taste testing” taco shells before the customers do.

It is very easy to focus our disdain on this particular act, or the employee, or the Taco Bell franchise. If indeed this is an employee making the conscious choice to create a poor customer experience (even if they don’t know it), we should indeed shudder and demand accountability. But we should also allow this to teach ourselves a lesson. Are we intentionally or even unknowingly providing the same poor customer experience behind the counter of our own business?

Customer experience extends beyond traditional touchpoints. It happens in the call center after the representative hangs up the phone and talks about the “idiot” on the other end of the line. It goes back in time before the customer signs for her package to when the shipping clerk in need of a bathroom break makes a choice to cut corners on an important quality process. It extends into the IT department that chooses to ignore valuable customer metrics in favor of a one-size-fits-all reception point on the web.

If the driving force behind every process is not customer experience, this picture is a reflection of what is happening in your organization right now. If every employee is not motivated by goals to create quality experiences for the customer, then the customer will taste the fruit of that demotivated labor in the form of a bad experience.

For example, I have had nothing but bad experiences with Zynga. I sense, based on my experiences, that Zynga’s goal is to part me from my money instead of to provide me with a pleasant social gaming experience. I have felt this way for two years now, and I have dropped games solely based on a degraded experience. Today, Zynga announces that it is laying off 20% of its workforce. There is a concrete connection between the core values of the company and its profitability.

Contrast this with Evernote, whose sole purpose seems to be an ongoing enhancement of features that enrich my experience. 

Take the opportunity now to ensure that your company’s vision and strategy flow from the wellspring of customer experience. Whether you do or not, your customers know. They can taste it in the final product.

5 Things I Learned About Content Marketing from Watching LOST

Lost-season1LOST revitalized storytelling by returning to classical methods and refusing to compromise on its underlying framework. The result was resonance. Audiences not only watched. We experienced. We engaged each other. We can learn a lot about content marketing from the storytelling principles of LOST.

I still remember the evening of September 22, 2004. It was the autumnal equinox, the transition from the hot summer of North Texas to my favorite season of the year. It was hump day, and the first weekend of Fall teased me with its possibilities. Everything about that day seemed positive, until I arrived home from work and one question slapped me in the face.

“Will you watch this new TV show with me that comes on tonight?” my beautiful wife asked.  “It’s called LOST. It’s about these people who crash on an island…”

I can’t tell you how many times I have given TV shows a try and just regretted it. “It won’t be any good,” I said. “It’s a glorified Gilligan’s island. It’s not believable. I have better things to do.” The excuses continued.

But her pleading eyes said, “Don’t be your usual cynical self. And besides, this is about us spending time together.”

Alas, how do you fight those eyes and such a sensible plea?

So I sat, with arms folded and a scowl on my face, ready to stockpile my reasons for why this TV show, like most others, was simply a waste of time.

I have never been so glad to admit to my wife that she was right and I was wrong. LOST kept me and millions of others spellbound by an incredible story. Here are the things I believe made LOST great, and how we can leverage those same techniques in content marketing.

If you’re not familiar with J.J. Abrams’ mystery box, stop reading right now and go watch the inspiring TED Talk on the role of mystery in storytelling. In short, the point of the TED talk in J.J.’s own words is that mystery is the catalyst for imagination and that, very often, mystery is more important than knowledge.

Mystery is not just “whodunnit.” Mystery is about leading someone to the edge of where you want her to go, but allowing her to survey the boundaries until she notices the bridge that will take her one step further along the journey.

One of the things that hooked me into watching LOST for the long haul was that the writers embedded clues into the story without even telling you there were clues. For example, when a man shows up among the survivors, there is a question as to whether he was really in the plane crash or is he a sinister impostor who was already on the island. The man’s name is Ethan Rom. “What a peculiar name,” I thought. I wrote down the name and played with the letters until I rearranged them to spell Other Man. This got my attention.

Or how about the middle name of one random character named Charlie Pace, a musician in a band? In one episode, we get a fleeting glimpse of his unusual middle name: Hieronymus. Why go to all the trouble of telling us this is his middle name unless there is a reason? My own research reveals that Hieronymus Cardanus, a sixteenth-century mathemetician, invented the drive shaft. Driveshaft is the name of Charlie’s band. Solving that little mystery only leads to this one: what is so important about Hieronymus Cardanus or the drive shaft?

These are just a few of the simplest of thousands of mysterious clues. Perhaps the greatest is the meaning behind the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. These numbers play a tremendous role throughout the series, but like Abrams’ mystery box, he never once opens the box to explain the real meaning of the numbers. That mystery was left for the viewers to solve for themselves. Has one viewer solved that mystery?

Content marketing needs more mystery – more stimulation of the imagination. The most important thing you could ever do in your content marketing is to…

See what I mean? Where does your imagination take you with that question?

Spoon-feed your audience and they may open their mouths. Give your audience the smell of bacon coming from another room where they must get up to follow the scent and you will have them coming to you.

The characters in LOST have depth. They are very real people with heart-wrenching back stories that instill you to fight for their redemption – even when they are murderers, con men, torturers, drunks, addicts, and otherwise insignificant and forgotten by society. Their on and off-island stories are revealed slowly, leveraging mystery, so that you find yourself conflicted about how to feel. One week you think a character is unredeemable. The next, you find yourself in tears over what drove that same character to his villainous lifestyle.

Rather than focus on one particular hero, the writers wanted to focus in depth on many. Damon Lindelof, one of the primary writers of LOST from the very beginning, had this to say about the original intention behind the development of LOST’s characters.

Instead of saying “This is Luke Skywalker’s Journey” maybe we could do it with 16 heroes.

Content marketing needs characters – real people – with which your audience can identify. If you are writing a corporate blog, be sure that your stories are always character-centric. I had the privilege of having lunch with one of Southwest Airline’s content marketing experts, and he was driven by one thing: people-centered stories. A scan of Southwest Airlines’ most recent blog posts reveals the names and stories of scores of employees and passengers engaged in activities loosely centered on the flight experience and tightly woven around interesting and meaningful characters.

Content marketing without intriguing characters is like a cheeseburger without the cheese – it’s missing the most expected ingredient.

Watching Jack fight his demons internally while trying to save the world externally is an experience. As a doctor, he is driven to save lives, but he is faced with more than he can handle. The opening scene of LOST illustrates this vividly as, in the aftermath of the crash, he runs at a full sprint from injury to injury trying to do everything all by himself, all while fighting the voice of his father in his head saying, “You don’t have what it takes.” It is only episodes later that he realizes that he and his newfound friends must “live together or die alone” and that he must lead them despite his father’s debilitating criticism.

If you’re selling a product or service and want attention from your clients and prospects, the temptation is to forget experience and go for the flat, distilled marketing spin that everyone else uses. “Our service is great! Call now!” That’s not an experience. That’s an invitation to an experience. Show, don’t tell.

A customer’s journey is bigger than your product or service and includes an overall experience. Why not engage the customer at all points possible along that journey – before, during, and after doing business with you? For example, at Heritage Auctions, our clients are searching for ways to buy or sell rare and significant objects. We earn our money when the client uses us to buy or sell. But we also realize that this is not the only part of the journey. One of the biggest first steps for anyone who wants to sell a unique and valuable item or complete collection is to have a firm idea of what it is worth. To that end, Heritage provides free access to its auction archives of over 2,000,000 rarities with pictures, video, the price and date sold as well as third-party estimates of value from multiple sources. In addition, you can catalog your entire collection for free, upload your own images, and request a free valuation. This customized software that we provide free of charge is a necessary part of the customer experience – even for those who may never transact real dollars with us. Being a collector myself, I understand the experience of putting a collection together and making sure you know what it is worth.

In one episode in LOST‘s first season, we get to witness Charlie attempt to overcome his addiction to heroin. Overcoming addiction is a common story, but rarely is it or any other story told poetically. Charlie’s addiction is quietly symbolized by a black boar on the island. The first time Charlie tries to take a hit of heroin, a black boar is chasing him through the jungle – symbolizing Charlie’s attempts to escape his addiction. The second time, the boar is dead and being skinned by another character. The third time, the boar is roasting over a fire for dinner. As the once dangerous animal now becomes food, Charlie seizes his stash of heroin and throws it into the fire beneath the boar. Overhead, a moth that has just emerged from a cocoon flies away.

Poetry matters. It encapsulates the story in imagery, metaphor, and sequence that you can easily recall to meditate on the story later. It is a time capsule for the message. And what business does not want its content marketing to become the meditation of its audience?

I don’t always eat cookies, but when I do, I reach for Oreos. I am fascinated by the poetry in Oreo’s content marketing.  I will never forget how they created a cookie with Mars-red stuffing and created a content marketing campaign showing the tracks of the latest Mars rover running across the stuffing itself. It instantly made me a fan. Every time I think of Oreos, I smile. I have a good feeling about that brand.

Poetry takes work, but it is work that pays off. If you have a product or service and you want your audience to know it, show them your inner poet.

In Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories that ResonateBrian McDonald describes a story’s armature as the underlying message of your story on which every scene must hang. Anything extraneous distracts from the message and should be cut. 

LOST is full of invisible ink. It’s armature is The Hero’s Journey. In the episode White Rabbit, Jack is trying to avoid being the hero, but the call to become one is all around him. The specific armature in this episode is the point in the Hero’s journey known as the refusal of the call. At each point that Jack refuses, the scene uses the symbol of water to reaffirm the message poetically. At a key point in the episode, Jack slips over the edge of a cliff and hangs over a dry riverbed – symbolizing what his life will be like if he refuses the call. After being rescued, he discovers fresh water in the valley and returns to others with new hope for survival and his willingness to be a hero.

You need to plan and understand your armature and then develop a story that hangs on that armature throughout that piece of content marketing. Keep in mind, the armature can’t be about you. It’s about the customer.

Think for a moment about all of the content marketing you have digested recently. Which among all those pieces has a consistent message – an underlying armature that stands out?  Tough, isn’t it?

What comes to my mind is Evernote. What I have seen of Evernote’s blog and other content marketing is not about the product itself. It is about my need to stay organized so that I can accomplish my goals. Everything I see from them stays on this theme. I get tips, tricks, suggested apps, and promoted offline projects that all stay centered on helping me. As a result, I am a huge Evernote fan.

The LOST Art of Content Marketing
If you want your content marketing to stand out in today’s sea of sameness, these examples mined from the storytelling techniques of LOST should help give you direction. Create a sense of positive mystery to make your audience want to know more. Tell your story through fictional or real-life characters that stand out. Demonstrate (show, don’t tell) an engging experience and pull your audience into it. Use a poetic style to make it easy to remember and reinforce the meaning. Hang everything you say off your armature.

Do these things, and you just may develop a following that rivals LOST‘s.


Brian Shipman is the CIO of Heritage Auctions – a fantastically unique place to work. Heritage’s mission is to help people successfully acquire or pass on rare and significant objects that have both monetary and soul-stirring value. His job is to create a quality customer experience using the red carpet of technology.

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Why I Delete Your Marketing Emails


Dear B2B Marketer,

I wanted to tell you why I never read your emails beyond the subject line and first sentence. And why your email probably never makes it to my inbox again. And then, if you can believe it, I’m going to share what it would take to keep me reading.

  1. You address me by name, but you clearly know nothing about me.
    You found my name in a database and cleverly placed it into the body of the email, thinking that calling me by name would get my attention. But the rest of your email is clearly a generic blast.With so many people clamoring for my attention all day long, if it is clear that you don’t know me, I have no reason to know you.


  2. The first thing you say is “I” or “We”.
    “I wanted to see if you were interested…”
    “We have qualified candidates…”
    “When we first launched…”
    “I wanted to see if I could have five minutes of your time….”

    It isn’t all about you, as much as you might think it is. It’s about both of us and the potential relationship that might be worthwhile to us. Notice how in “B2B”, both Bs are the same size. That should be apparent in your email.


  3. You express dismay that I haven’t responded to previous emails/calls.
    “I sent you an email last week…”
    “I was wondering if you had a chance to review my earlier emails…”
    “I’ve left you 3 voicemails and sent 2 emails and tried to tweet you directly.”

    The guilt-trip approach doesn’t work.It reminds me of the paper mailings where printed on the envelope were the words “The favor of a reply is requested.”


  4. You start out “In a world…”
    “In today’s economy, IT managers are increasingly…”
    “To meet the rising demands of today’s open cloud solutions…”
    “Annual performance reviews are the corporate equivalent of a root canal…”

    Unless your email is read to me by that cool movie-preview-voiceover guy along with a nice trailer, I’m out.


  5. You Attempt to Mislead Me in Your Subject Line
    “Follow Up”
    “I visited your website today”
    “Quick Email before I Call”
    “RE: Connecting this Week”

    Don’t try and pretend you are already in the middle of a conversation with me when you’re not. You’ve just revealed your deceptive nature to me.


Once your email falls into one of the five categories above, in one smooth motion I slide your email into a bulk email folder. From that point forward, any emails from you bypass my inbox and go straight to the bulk email folder. I’ll probably never see one again.

If you want to get through to me – if you want to stand out head and shoulders above everyone who uses all these tired methods above – try the following…

  1. Know Thy Prospect
    If you want to get my attention, show me that you know me. My public profile is everywhere. And don’t say you can’t get to know me without talking to me first. If you want to initiate a conversation, do your homework. In fact, let me make it easy for you.

    Do that and I’m still reading.

  2. Hit Me Where I Live
    If you’ve done #1, it shouldn’t take much work to get to #2. If you know me, then you’ll know if I am really a prospect. And if I am a prospect, you’ll know where my needs and interests are.

    Do that and I’m still reading.

  3. Come Across as a Single, Unique Human Being
    The handful of B2B marketing emails that I have responded to are personable. The sender clearly seems to be a unique human being talking to me personally about something of interest.

    Subject: Heritage Auctions is Amazing

    Hi, Brian. Your auction platform caught my eye – so many unique collectibles and significant objects! If only I had the money to buy that Nobel Prize you guys are selling. I’ll bet you have an army of great software engineers that make everything work together for all your consignors and buyers out there. If you ever have a need to find more people for your team, I can probably help – and I’d love to work with such an interesting company.The combination of knowing me and being personal makes it hard to resist engagement.

    I’m still reading.

  4. Tell Stories
    It’s hard to resist a good story – it’s my native language. And I’ll bet it is the native language of the rest of your prospects.

    Subject: The Software Launch Disaster that got Michael Promoted

    When Michael authorized the launch of a major software upgrade on Monday morning, he didn’t know that decision would change his life. At go-live time, the entire system failed. The rollback process failed. They were down. While the rest of the team frantically tried to isolate the problem, Michael’s phone rang. It was the CEO. He winced, picked up the phone, and heard these words…

    Okay, I have to know how this story ends now. How does a launch disaster get you promoted?How does Michael get out of this jam? What did the CEO say?

    I’m still reading.

  5. Be Transparent
    Don’t hide behind deceptive gimmicks, freebies, exclamation points, guilt trips, deadlines, and boilerplate. Just be honest, open, and up front about the goal of your email – a goal that works for both of us.

    Subject: The Software Launch Disaster that got Michael Promoted

    When Michael authorized the launch of a major software upgrade on Monday morning, he didn’t know that decision would change his life. At go-live time, the entire system failed. The rollback process failed. They were down. While the rest of the team frantically tried to isolate the problem, Michael’s phone rang. It was the CEO. He winced, picked up the phone, and heard these words……

    …Michael’s escape from the clutches of disaster is what we live for. We aren’t miracle workers, but we understand the software development life cycle – especially in an environment like yours. And all we want to do is help you make your launches smoother.

    I’m still reading.

These are just common-sense approaches to improving response rates to B2B marketing emails. Remember, ultimately marketing emails are about two people talking together as human beings. If you sound like one, I just might listen like one.

Psst… Your Core Values are Showing

Open Secret

The core values of your business are the wellspring of every employee action and every customer experience. Not the core values you think you have, but the core values you actually hold. Your customers know what your core values are, even if you don’t. They see them. They experience them. And they tell their friends about them. And if your customers believe in your core values, they will believe in you.

My family and I visited Norfolk, Virginia, a few years ago. We stopped in a Subway Sandwich shop for lunch. After paying for my meal and sitting down, I noticed that we were overcharged. We didn’t get the specials discount advertised in the window. When I explained to the cashier, the store manager appeared and said, “You don’t get the specials price because you didn’t tell me you wanted the specials price. Too late.

Those were his exact words, and he refused to budge despite my pleas for him to honor his own advertising.

I love Subway, and my experiences there are normally great. In this case, however, the core values of this manager at this Subway were plain…

  1. I want money.
  2. I do not believe in truth-in-advertising.
  3. I do not care about my customer’s experience.

Customer experiences are the direct result of a business’s core values. And customers will, like I did, easily spot those core values. Many company’s have the values of this rogue Subway manager, and sometimes they get away with it for a short season. But the seasons are shorter in this new era.

Let’s walk through a positive experience. My wife pointed out to me that our washing machine wasn’t draining properly. I am all thumbs with all things mechanical, and I dreaded the time and expense of calling a repair service. So I hopped onto Google and entered “Whirlpool Duet Drain.” The first hit was a YouTube video from Murf’s Appliance Repair in Boise, Idaho. The video was quick, to-the-point, and, most importantly, produced so that I could easily understand it and do the job myself in about 15 minutes. After removing coins, debris, and gook from the drain filter according to the video, our washer was like new.

What does this tell me about Murf’s core values? I think I can safely assume the following based on the video alone…

  1. Murf is not all about money.
    The video by its very nature could reduce the number of clients calling in for on-site service. In addition, when I told his receptionist that I wanted to send in $25 for saving me so much time and money, she said, “He’ll call you back just to talk to you but I doubt he’ll accept your money.” He did call. And he did try hard to refuse the money. But he can’t stop me.
  2. Murf’s advertising is in line with reality.
    On his home page he states “Murf’s… is your solution for immediate professional help if you are experiencing problems with your major appliances.” This was my exact experience from thousands of miles away without ever meeting or calling Murf.
  3. Murf believes in putting in the effort to create great customer experiences.
    The video was short, sweet, and to the point. But still took time, effort, and production to create.

Your core values show, even if you don’t think they do. They are an open secret. And your prospects and clients will respond to you based on your core values. People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.

Every single person on the planet knows what they do.
Some know how they do it.
Very few people or organizations know why they do what they do.
People don’t buy what you do – they buy what you believe.
Simon Sinek

Here are some takeaways…

Adapt the Right Core Values

  1. Be about the customer and not the money. The customer experience must come first. The money comes because the customer values the experience that you prioritized over and above your own needs.
  2. Be transparent. Let people see who you are, what you do, and why you do it.
  3. Have integrity. Own your mistakes and compensate the customer for them. Give away what can be given away, like Murf did and like the Subway manager didn’t. Be honest in your advertising. Be honest in everything you do.
  4. Do what you say. Don’t bait with promises and hook with disappointment.
  5. Do what you do well. Don’t cut corners. Hire experts. Pay them fairly.
  6. Love what you do.
  7. Be social.
  8. Be innovative.
  9. Have a strong follow-through.
  10. Remember that simplicity always out-performs complexity.

Comunicate the Core Values

You can’t expect your workforce to understand, adapt, and live your core values if you don’t communicate them. Here are just a few ideas…

  1. HR can communicate them when hiring, on-boarding, and evaluating.
  2. The board should share them regularly in all of its communications to the staff.
  3. Company newsletters, videos, and meetings should feature success stories of how core values led to customer acquisition and retention. Keep these customer testimonials close to heart.
  4. Blogs and social media channels could feature behind-the-scenes people and processes living out core values.
  5. Post the core values in an easy-to-digest format in physical and digital employee touch points (the mail room, break room, intranet home page, etc.)
  6. Demonstrate the core values in everything you do, communicating the core values through action.

Align Internal Processes and Customer Touch Points with Core Values

Every process should be aligned under one or more core values. It’s not really a core value if it doesn’t drive what you do.

  1. Accounts Payable should issue payments on time and accurately as part of the core value of integrity.
  2. Customer Service departments should assess customer experiences in measurable terms and communicate weaknesses to management so they can improve.
  3. Software development projects must understand the core values driving a project and should build them with that core value in mind.
  4. Marketing channels should be designed for transparency, integrity, and positive customer experience.
  5. IT Departments should transform themselves from siloed and sluggish cost centers to innovative and collaborative champions of customer experience.

The core values of a company are like the heart of an individual. We do what we do for interior, unseen motives. Our actions then reveal the sentiment behind those motives. They reveal our values.  Shared values beget long-term relationships. Values that are not shared, regardless of the product or service, break relationships.

Your core values are showing. If something isn’t working, maybe its time to reevaluate from the core outward.