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How To Be a Master Gardener of Your Business

My father was known as the Tomato King in our county – his garden was immense (11 dozen tomato plants) for our family of four – and that was just the first planting.  I still cringe whenever I hear the sound of a handle hitting the side of a bucket as it brings back memories of early mornings when he would bring in a hundred gallons of newly picked tomatoes for us to wash and can.  You would have thought I would have had enough tomatoes for a lifetime.  Truth be told, I did.

However, after years of eating pale, woody, tasteless tomatoes from the grocery, I longed for the taste of the juicy home-grown tomatoes I had eaten as a youth.  I had a little extra time on my hands, so I decided to grow my own.  After reading all I could on plant varieties and watching hours of YouTube videos on container gardening, I was ready to get started.  It is strange how a little gardening gives one perspective on other areas of life – even business.  Here are my 10 gardening tips that amazingly parallel ways to grow a successful organization:

  1. Choose a large enough container – think big – give the roots a place into which to expand.
  2. Select multiple varieties of plants – hire people with diverse capabilities and age ranges – choose new hybrids and heirlooms.
  3. Cage and stake the plants early – have processes and procedures in place so that there is structure – trying to fit a cage on a larger plant takes more effort and can damage the plant.
  4. Choose a sunny spot – create a positive environment – get 8 hours of sun a day.
  5. Water consistently – stay fresh and current – don’t let the roots go dry.
  6. Pinch off suckers – don’t get sidetracked from the main goal – keep the energy on the primary stalk.
  7. Flick the flowers – encourage skill development – stimulate pollination to develop the fruits.
  8. Rotate the containers – be strong in all areas of the business – develop every side of the plant.
  9. Watch for pests and disease – monitor and control the health of the business – be alert and treat issues promptly.
  10. Fertilize weekly after the fruit forms – don’t get comfortable with the first signs of success – extra nutrients are essential for a thriving plant.

The most successful organizations include all of these elements.  What other gardening tips do you have for growing a successful business?

Do It Yourself, But First Get Help!

I consider myself relatively independent.  I am not afraid to try something new, and if given the option, I prefer to do it myself: to learn about it on my own and try it out without somebody looking over my shoulder.

That kind of attitude certainly has its advantages, such as getting things done at your desired pace, not having to rely on anyone else, and best of all, avoiding the laughter or criticism of others when you trip and fall.

On the flip side, there is nobody there to pick you back up, encourage you, or help keep you from tripping in the first place.  Getting help at the start can mean avoiding common (and potentially costly) mistakes, and it can build trust and confidence that could make whatever you are working on better/faster/smoother/more successful.

More and more, your clients, your customers, or your members want to do it themselves, and they expect to be able to.  But they will likely need some help along the way.  Are you  providing the help they need to be a DIY’er success?

A couple of examples I personally experienced within the past week.

First, the DIY Fail.

My brother is coming across the country to visit next month, so we decided that for part of the visit we would all rent a condo at the beach together.  I’m very accustomed to booking travel online, so I started looking.  To my delight, there were several sites with beach condos for rent and the ability to book them online. I spent hours looking for the best location at the right size for an acceptable price.  Part of those hours were intentional, but part of them were caused by:

Problem #1: we only wanted 3 nights but most places wanted a week minimum.  This caused me grief in the search process because many places would appear to be available, but after spending the time to enter a lot of information, I would then get rejected because of that minimum.  That did not happen on every site, but on those it did, It was frustrating to say the least.

We finally found what we felt was a perfect setup, it claimed it was available for the desired 3 nights, and it had everything necessary to book it online myself, which I did with great satisfaction. I got the confirmation emails, and I let my brother know we were beach-bound in just over a month.  It was a learning experience, but I felt good about having found the best place I could, on my own, and booking it myself.  Until I got another email:

Problem #2: just a few minutes after celebrating the confirmation of our trip, I received another email from the vacation rental management company.

“Great choice! Only issue is we require a Saturday to Saturday minimum. Give us a call ASAP if you can make this work or if you are open to another option. Your card has not been processed.”

Fail!  I started looking on my own again, but at my brother’s suggestion, I gave in and called the place.  I got an extremely knowledgeable and helpful rep named Luke.  From him I learned that they have a standard 6 night minimum (that I misunderstood in the Terms and Conditions) but that it can be flexible if it’s closer to the travel dates and the condo hasn’t been booked (hence the ability to book it for 3 nights with the online tool).  We were not close enough to our dates, so the owners still wanted to hold out for a 6 night reservation.  What to do?

Solution: while on the phone, Luke immediately went into finding mode.  Within 5 minutes I was looking at a new place I hadn’t seen during all my independent searching.  It was in nearly the same location, with similar accommodations, and best of all, with a lower price tag.  Plus, Luke provided expert information and advice helping me get the lower price and feel even more confident about the new reservation than the one I had booked myself.

LESSON:  This was a DIY fail on multiple levels, from my own lack of experience and reluctance to get help, to the failure of enabling software to actually enable me.  In the end, if I could have talked to Luke or someone like him at the beginning of the process, I could have saved myself a lot of time and wasted effort.  The experts in this case had a lot of help to offer, but I didn’t get it until the end.  In other words, do it yourself, but first get help!

Second, the DIY Success.

Recently we decided to put wood flooring in the main level of our home, and with that “I can do anything!” spirit, we set out to do it ourselves.  Ripping up the carpet was easy.  Taking up the tile was more involved, and when it was done, we found ourselves with an area of the concrete slab with some superficial damage that would need to be repaired in order to ensure the new flooring rested on a smooth and level surface.  What to do?  Hello Google!

Within 10 minutes I was aware of 3 different products that could do the job.  The company that made one of those had also made several step-by-step videos showing how to use their products.  Five minutes later, I had seen what tools were needed, how to prep the surface, and how to accomplish the task.

Fast forward a week and my slab is patched and ready for the wood flooring.  The product was available at the store, looked just like it did in the video, and worked exactly as described and shown.  Success!

LESSON: Expert advice up front made all the difference.  I could have gone to the store and purchased the patching material without that advice, but I would not have been confident about what I was doing.  I could have followed the instructions on the bucket, but it did not provide the same level of detail about surface preparation or tools to use, and it certainly did not show me how to do the job.  The finished job would have been sub-par at best.  The video I watched at the beginning gave me important knowledge as well as the confidence to move ahead and successfully complete the project.  In other words, do it yourself, but first get help!

Technology is enabling the independent DIY’er in all of us more than ever, from booking a beach condo to remodeling your home to managing your investment portfolio.  But it is that expertise and human touch that can make a world of difference.  If you are diving into something new, look for help at the outset.  If you provide services for others, look for opportunities to better provide the help they need up front.  You can do it yourself, but first get help!

Marketing Lessons from Bernie and The Donald

FDR used the radio to speak to a nation with his fireside chats.  John F. Kennedy took advantage of television to display his charm and good looks.  Barack Obama used the Internet to break down communication barriers and be accessible to minority groups and young voters often untouched by political campaigning.  Looking back, these strategies seem like no-brainers.  However, in their time, these approaches were questioned and even criticized.  The lesson – those who learn to embrace the media environment of the time WIN.  The trend continues … as we see both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders innovatively using social media and finding success in the 2016 Presidential Election campaign process.  Political ad spending is to reach an astonishing $11.5 billion.  Spending on social media is estimated to account for more than half of the $1 billion budget for digital media.

So – how does a reality TV star/billionaire businessman and a 74-year old anti-establishment Senator find themselves taking prominent positions in the 2016 race?  Simply put, they both learned how to connect with people … and using social media to do just that is a big part of their strategy.

If you logged onto Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram, you have probably seen Bernie’s #FeeltheBern campaign slogan.  According to Winnie Wong, digital strategist for the Sanders campaign, the goal was “to find something that would carry his name all across the Internet and be more than just a hashtag.”  Wong describes the Internet as a “way you can express yourself in a very democratic way” and describes the strategy to bring people together to discuss and promote Sanders policies, platform, and 40 years of dedicated service.  Many experts attribute Sanders’ social media success to his authenticity – noting that he often writes his own posts and tweets.  Bernie said of his own posts, “Usually, it’s in the shower where something pops into my head.”  With millions of online followers and over $96 million in campaign donations coming mostly in small amounts less than $200 per donation, his social media connection appears to be working and is in large part responsible for the success of Sander’s “political revolution.”

And what of Donald Trump?  He has millions of followers on Twitter, Facebook, Vine, and Instagram.  He uses Periscope and YouTube. His own personal view is that he “understands social media maybe better than anybody else,” even calling himself “the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters.”  He often tweets personal things about himself and his family and frequently thanks his supporters.  He participates in gossip and popular culture.  The result – many feel like he is “one of them.”  They believe he is more in-touch with them than other politicians.  Just like Sanders, Trump has found success in connecting with people.

Is there a lesson here for financial institutions?  Can financial institutions build an emotional connection with customers and therefore build a relationship?  Experts say yes – but many believe there may need to be a “rediscovery of social media”.  Many financial institutions rushed to social media without having a well thought-out strategy – or any strategy at all.  The result – many financial institutions have abandoned twitter, Facebook, and other social media venues.  Banks and Credit Unions have always spent considerable time and money on print ad strategies, considering things like demographics, circulations, and costs.  A similar strategic approach must be taken with the digital field …  with care taken to leverage analytics, add elements such as video and social feeds, and give customers mobile options they crave.  It is simply another way to connect with people.  Your strategy and authentic approach can be your game-changer …. Just like it has been for Donald and Bernie.  And remember – those who learn to embrace the media environment of the time WIN.

How Social Are You, Anyway?

Seven Social Media Marketing Tips for Financial Institutions

1. Ignore social media at your peril

Here are some statistics that will either excite you or scare you:

  • There are now more than 2 billion active social media users worldwide and this is growing at an amazing annual pace of 25%
  • Nine out of ten U.S. companies are active on social media
    • Question: Are you one of them?
    • Question: Do you know what you are doing on social media?
    • Question: Are you reaping benefits?
    • Question: Or not?

My advice to you: get excited about the opportunity to engage and market using social media!

2. Customers and prospects

There is not a single demographic that is not active in social media.  Well, maybe babies and toddlers (except have you seen some of those little children glued to their parents’ tables or Smartphones?).

Facebook, the most popular social platform, boasts 72% of all American adults!

And to show the diverse demographics of the users, check this out:

  • 77% of women are users,
  • 82% of adults aged 18-29,
  • 79% of adults aged 30-49,
  • 64% of adults aged 50-64 and
  • An incredible 48% of adults over 65!

This is just a teaser for you. Have a look at some of the other demographics and social media trends.

Now, imagine this:  These people are your customers and your potential customers.

What a wasted opportunity if you are not investing heavily into getting to know them better.

3. Listen

One of the first activities on social media is to monitor what real people – your customers – are saying about you.

4.   Engage

The next, logical thing to do is to engage them in a conversation.  This could be one that they start or one that you start, it doesn’t really matter. The important aspect is to either take the initiative or be responsive (which can only happen if you are listening, in the first place).

5.   Connect

When you engage your customers, you connect with them at a level that is not possible with other types of traditional marketing. By listening, by responding and by having a conversation, you are taking the connection to a new, higher level. And the amazing part of this is that, today, you are able to make this close connection on a truly human-to-human level without ever having to have face-to-face encounter in a physical branch.  It really works!

6.   Stay Connected

The story doesn’t end there. Once you connect, don’t make the mistake about forgetting about that connection.  Figure out how to stay connected.  During the first engagement, you found out something about that individual.  Now, it’s important to use that information in a manner that makes sense – one that is appropriate, relevant and ongoing.  The conversation will evolve and change, but staying connected to your customers through these social media channels should not be an afterthought.  It should be part of your entire marketing strategy.

7.   Repeat

Now that you have the formula, repeat it.  Repeat it with each and every individual customer and contact that you are able to make. And repeat the formula on an ongoing basis with all of your connections. When you think about the sheer marketing opportunity this offers, how can you help but get excited? I know I can’t!

Finally, to help you on this social media marketing journey a number of resources are either available now or being introduced in the market every day.

This is but the tip of the iceberg and the beginning of a long and profitable journey for your financial institution.



Image Credits:

1.     By Ibrahim.ID [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

2.     By Intel Free Press [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Content Credits:

Fast Company – 5 Trends That Will Change How Companies Use Social Media in 2016

Pew Research Center – The Demographics of Social Media Users



5 Steps to Building a Better Organization with CLASS

- Because somebody has to. Show up. Be invested. Clean up after yourself. Clean up after someone else. Don’t settle. Act like it matters because it does (and if it doesn’t, move on to what does).

- The opportunities to improve yourself have never been greater, and the cost to do so has never been lower. Perhaps more importantly, the cost of not doing so is higher than ever. Good enough will not be good enough for long.

- Do something! Learning is worth little without application. Caring is worthless if you keep it to yourself. Give yourself permission to make a difference, then do it.

- Be generous. Teach, mentor, and invite others to do the same. You’ll never get more out of others than when you give of yourself.

Start again
- It is an exhausting process, but it is the most satisfying and sustainable way to build up an organization, a family, a friendship, or even an individual.

H/T Seth (thanks for the daily inspiration)

The Mobile Juggernaut

In Case You Had Any Doubts

Recent business headlines include one that is worth paying attention to:



How quickly things have changed for Facebook! As this write-up mentions, just a couple of years ago, this was a company that was struggling to transition its mobile presence.

Welcome to this pace of technological change – where change has been the fastest that we have ever witnessed.  So far.  Technological change itself is increasing at an astronomical pace. We have no concept yet what will be invented and what will be brand new in a very short time horizon of the future.

The Emergence of Mobile

But back to “mobile” – a word that is fraught with so many meanings and connotations today.  A truly mobile world is not inconceivable anymore. That vision has turned into reality.  It doesn’t matter what the industry is.  If leaders and managers are not thinking “mobile first”, they very well could be last. They could conceivably even be extinct before long. That’s how fast things are happening.

In today’s world, mobile devices outnumber people, and smartphones are spreading like wildfire. So, for any type or size of business, they better be asking themselves these questions – what is the impact of mobile usage to us? And how do we use this incredible adoption rate to our benefit?

Mobile Advertising

Let’s have a look at one avenue for businesses to evaluate, namely mobile advertising and connecting with your customers on their mobile devices.

A little history lesson from not so far back, this picture to the right shows you what used to be known as “mobile advertising”.

Joking aside, advertising expenditures, once driven by TV and print, are being funneled increasingly into our digital and our handhelds. And why not?

After all, mobile web traffic now surpasses that of all desktops globally and as a matter of fact, it did not even take that long to happen.
According to eMarketer, the mobile tipping point will occur this year when mobile ad spending exceeds desktop ad spending for the first time ever.

[You can and should read the full article here: Mobile Will Account for 72% of US Digital Ad Spend by 2019].

Then, when you see the kind of results that a company like Facebook reported, you know that this trend is very real.

Meanwhile, at Banks and Credit Unions

Financial institutions have been going through their own transformative times, just as technology has.  But wait, technology has something to do with this transformation!  Among the trends we are seeing:

  • A continued shift and priority to all things digital
  • More digital = more cybersecurity awareness and measures
  • Acknowledging that a digital omni-channel presence is key to customer connection and retention, and doing something about it
  • Using data analytics, cut and sliced in many ways, in order to personalize customer experiences while increasing customer loyalty, banking income and competitiveness.
  • Mobility!

Since the focus of this write-up is mobile, here’s a great statistic that shows the sheer opportunity available for financial institutions of all sizes to leverage:

 > 42% of all US adults who own a mobile device have never used it for mobile banking. <

[Note that this statistic is dynamic and a fast-moving target; it may very well be out of date soon].

Not only is there a great opportunity for financial institutions to increase penetration of mobile banking with existing customers, but there is significant untapped potential for “native” advertising (like Facebook does) where a financial institution can use personalized and targeted advertising to really connect with customers wherever they are banking – at a branch, online, or mobile when they are on the go.

According to one industry analyst, financial institutions have already seen the peak of spending occur on compliance and regulatory matters. Now, they see a refocus on winning back customers and increasing their business footprint with them by making investments in digital channels, mobile and branch transformation.  So, in case you had any doubts, it’s still not too late to think mobile, think mobility first!

Tell Your Company’s Story!

So what does storytelling have to do with your business? Everything! As a company in this social media age, you have an opportunity to draw devoted customers by rethinking the way you express your company’s core value. If you can’t properly convey a story then your products are not going to appeal to your audience. Research shows with all the advertising messages overwhelming us all that a story can cut through the noise. Your story needs to have a message that is a clear takeaway for your listeners. You want those that are reading the story to become emotionally invested in the story and to leave them longing for more. If you give too many details readers/customers get lost in the details and don’t find the emotional tie to the story.

As a business owner or marketer you need to have many stories in your toolkit. Stories about your leaders and their values. You need stories that bring your vision to life. Stories that pack the most punch are personal ones. Your real value is about what you believe in, what you’re trying to do in the world and how you make others’ lives better. These stories ring true! Use language that speaks from the heart. You can’t engage your customers using industry slang. Also post these stories/video’s on your “About Us” page on your website. This is an ideal place to start telling your story. Stories grab our attention, change minds and attitudes and inspire us. Well told stories make you trustworthy and encourage others to want to collaborate with you. Your delivery may not be perfect but no one is looking for perfection. Your customers are looking to be engaged, inspired and to be entertained. With that being said, what’s your story?


The Parable of the Pot Roast: A Cooking Lesson

As the Holiday Season begins, memories of family, friends, and long-standing traditions capture our thoughts.  Growing up in the South, cooking has always been a big part of any celebration. I am reminded of a story I once heard about a young mother teaching her daughter how to prepare a “Sunday roast.”  After chopping vegetables and seasoning the roast perfectly, the mother chopped the top third off the roast and discarded it.  The curious young daughter ask her mom the reason and she paused and responded, “I’m not sure.  Nana always did that – so I do too.”  Still not satisfied, the young girl went to Nana who offered the same response, “That is the way my mom (your Great-Grand) always did it.”  Still curious and determined to understand why anyone would waste a perfectly good part of the roast, the girl went to see Great-Grand for a “final answer.”  Great-Grand, now ninety-six, threw her head back and laughed, saying, “Are they really doing that?  I only did that because we had one roasting pan and the entire roast would not fit!”  This makes me think about how many times we repeat the same processes, behaviors, attitudes, or thoughts – without question – because that is the way things have always been done.

A couple of weeks ago, Amazon introduced a sweeping collection of new cloud computing services that lets you manage tremendous amounts of data without setting up your own expensive and expansive infrastructure.  While Amazon Web Services is less than ten years old, Deutsche Bank estimates its worth at $160 billion, more valuable than Intel!  Amazon did not get there by doing what has always been done – by cutting the end off of the roast.  They could have followed suit and bought infrastructure hardware, networking equipment, storage, processing power, data analytic tools, databases, etc. from the likes of Dell, EMC, Cisco, HP, and others.  However, Amazon, like other Internet giants Google and Facebook, had simply grown to such a large size … so it was simply too expensive.  So – what did they do?  They built their own solution – their own servers, their own storage, their own databases, and other software for managing information across all the hardware.  And then they did a truly remarkable thing … they shared it by offering the world’s largest cloud computing operation to many businesses to run their software and store their data.

They could have certainly kept “cutting the end off of the roast” – but instead, Amazon chose the more innovative and curious approach, asking “why not” and “why can’t we?”  As a result of this type of thinking, their stock has doubled in value in 2015, when the overall market – including technical companies – have been … well … flat.

So, as you develop your forward-looking strategies that will launch you into a new year and a promising future, be challenged to think beyond the typical and the “way it has always been done.”  Be innovative and don’t simply “cut the end off of the roast!”

How can music explain targeted marketing?

Targeting or understanding differences in your audience can help your FI in many ways. It helps you keep up with their ever changing life cycles, life stages, needs, socioeconomics, spending habits of your customers and so on. That, in turn, gives you insight into how to communicate, build relationships, aid in retention, meet their expectations and yes even how to market to them.

If you were a musician (and I’m a keyboard player and composer), you tailor your music and performance to your audience. You even pay attention to the order of the songs in a show, for the best response, which is known as the elusive “Set List”. That can even change based on audience reactions throughout the performance.

The best way to demonstrate this theory is as follows. Some people listen to country music, some to classical, some R & B, Blues, Rock, you name it…but you get the picture. It’s a diverse world. So as an entertainer, I always try to play the style they like. Hence, I’m targeting via their musical tastes. And if I didn’t, they won’t enjoy the show or come back again. That’s when my audience retention would go down and they would look for other talent. There you have it…proof of the importance and potency of targeting your message, services and of course your music.

Keeping this in mind, you can now focus on how to make messages relevant to your diverse base of account holders and to follow their changes over time. It also enlightens you on how to make your follow-up and touch points more relevant. Listen to your customer and utilize that information in your message, communications and delivery. Also, keep an eye on reactions to your message as your customer changes.

I actually do speaking engagements called “Keynote Concerts” for the Financial Industry making this point via my piano playing. So, you might want to consider that for your next conference. It can apply to management, customer service, selling and more. It’s not your typical session…Just saying! Contact me at desi@deeptarget.com for more info.

I Never Thought About It Until I Was Mugged!

I recently heard the term “frictionless” used to describe an experience that is simply integrated into a person’s daily life, one that we don’t have to plan for, train for, or go too far out of our way to use.  I associate frictionless experiences with worry-free, easy things to do.  As technology advances, online and mobile experiences are becoming more and more “frictionless” – but are they really free from worry?  We may think so – until we have reason to believe otherwise.  I mean, I never worried about using an ATM at night until that one time when, as a college student, I left the ATM only to have a scary dude stretch out his hand for my $20.  You better believe that I paid much more attention to my surroundings from that point forward!

It occurred to me that this is precisely what banks and credit unions are seeking:  a superior (frictionless) user experience that integrates with my daily life and is both secure and private. No scary dudes!  For the first time ever, mobile banking volume surpassed online banking in 2014.  Bank of America recently reported a 24% increase in weekly mobile check depositing over 2014 numbers.  And, Bloomberg Business reports that 52% of all consumers have accessed some form of mobile banking in the past 6 months.

Credit Unions and Banks will not compromise when it comes to security for their mobile and online banking – and they continue to make my environments safer with technologies like touch identification, fraud analytics, enhanced authentication practices, and future biometric-based security practices.  However, there are things that a responsible mobile banker can do to further ensure protection.  Just like I learned that it was not a good idea to go to an ATM at night and alone, there are things that we can learn to keep ourselves safe in the digital world.  Here are a few:

  1. Make sure your mobile device automatically locks after a short period of inactivity – and requires a password to unlock.
  2. Install a phone tracking app like Apple’s “Find My iPhone” or Google’s “Device Manager.”
  3. Don’t store your passwords on your phone.  Memorize them!  Always logout of your mobile banking applications and do not have your browser remember passwords.
  4. Secure your smartphone with anti-malware and ensure you keep the software current.  This is kind of like taking a friend to the ATM.
  5. Secure your connection on public hotspots.  Make sure the network is the actual one you intend to hop on.  It is easy to “name” a network.  Is Marriott_wifi or Hotel_wifi_guest the one supplied by your trusted hotel?   One could really be a “scary dude.”  Make sure you turn off sharing and protect your passwords and private information.
  6. Still review your bank statements – looking for any evidence of fraud.

While our banks and credit unions will continue to be uncompromising and trustworthy, it is also my responsibility to be smart in a digital world that contains some of the same lurking hazards as in my physical world.  With a little extra precaution, we can avoid those “scary dudes.”