Building Personal Relationships in Business

Building rapport is crucial in any business situation. It is especially important to get the chemistry right.  To do so you must understand the underlying differences in people. Of course people fall in-between and are a mixture of various behaviours in different contexts, so this is just seen as a general guideline.

In building the relationship and understanding the personality of the person you need to be like the African elephant with big ears and listen to the client’s motivations in order to tailor the solution to them. For the business-minded person this should be almost natural, and many parts of the world already have an informal relationship-based culture where they have an advantage to direct cultures where business comes first and relationships second. in an increasingly globalised world, the importance of personal relationship cannot be any less emphasised, despite technology and virtual meetings which are handy tools, the personal relationship becomes ever more important for long-term business sustainability.

Hence, you spot the motivation by looking at ways in how people express themselves; by their opinions, attitude, time, dress, environment. Determine what is important to them and tailor your behaviour towards that.

There are mainly three stereotypes. Some people desire influence, seeks status and are to certain extent controlling, where the concept of time is to their pace and meetings should be set according to their agenda. These have ‘power’ as a motivation. While other people seek achievement in everything they do – the ‘achievers’. Their time perception is fast, and you often have to cut to the chase. Also, the ‘affiliators’, that want to hear everyone’s opinion before making a decision. Hence, their reach is larger and they want broad involvement from the group of people around them. They put a high value in relations and try to see how ‘we’ can benefit. Their time perception is often slower than the achievers.

For example, when dealing with power-seeking individuals, you let them decide time and place and the meeting should largely be set be according to their terms. You need to understand this type rarely want to involve other people and in situations they try to determine what is in it for them. In the end, you want a win-win relationship, where both parties benefit.


Travel Dreams

We all have aspirations, dreams, and hopes in life. Tomorrow’s customers is the youth of today. The majority of which, with globalisation, probably have a life long wish to travel the world – to see new places and experience new cultures. Travel is trendy. The 1980 generation differs from the 1940’s, in that they are well informed and want to make meaningful purchases. In the travel industry it means planning, and this needs to be improved. As you plan a trip nowadays seaching for that ‘perfect’ trip to fit your needs – it may require search that many can’t afford in terms of time, as time has become a commodity.


Coffee at Starbucks

When you think about successful branding you may think of Starbucks, knowing that they did not rely on TV-ads for their marketing but mostly word-of-mouth. In recent years, Starbucks has branched out on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube; spreading e-word-of-mouth. How have they been able to create such an impression?

They have created a perception that their coffee is made of the best beans; that is, from Ethiopian farms. The focus is not on coffee beans per se, but more on the experience of drinking coffee; building upon the 16th century coffee experience in modern settings. We may have not have such luxury of time anymore, but it builds upon the nostalgia of that time; a lost Era of discussing politics or the weather with total strangers. They probably do not want to send a mixed message, so they focus on the experience instead; as there is greater resonance to this than ‘exploited’ farms in Africa. We are altruistic humans; however no one wants to feel bad while drinking our cup of coffee. We want to feel good. The nostalgia provides us just that.

When Starbucks also launched their coffee in packets, it was all about diversifying their product range and branching out to a greater audience – who may be something in-between the average take-away customer and sit-in customer; bringing the experience home. After all, coffee is also for sharing with friends and family. Also, it recently updated its logo to exclude the “coffee”, perhaps signalling this move, that they will move into other products ranges as well, or, embracing local tastes while expanding globally. For example, they faced challenges while launching in China that has a strongly ingrained tea-drinking culture by tradition. They counteracted this by embracing local tastes and adding tea to the menus. Interestingly, nowadays some Chinese have come to associate the commodity coffee with the name Starbucks. That must be called successful branding.

The Basics to Understanding your Brand Engagement

As internet has evolved and more content is being published, the need for quality or information according to our interests is needed. Many just want to search easily and find what they are looking for instantly. Instead they find a flood of outdated sources. Users don’t want to be flooded by irrelevant content. They want to choose what to watch, read. Easily and without hassle.

Problem is when we have too much – when quality is lost in the noise of too much content then becoming clutter. To separate out the quality we need platforms, like humans always have done, categorising the world to make it more manageable to understand. To form order out of chaos, like Nietzsche said. This applies to the web too.

Gradually, as media has turned social with comments spinning on articles to micro-blogging platforms like Twitter taking the conversation a step further, marketers wonder how to get the most out of this. When we refer to the term social media we may directly associate to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms. It is just like when the web started and you associated browsers with Netscape, Internet Explorer, or search functions with AltaVista or Askjeeves… Just as these are platforms that allow other business services to flourish and once panned the way to Google and Yahoo, they have evolved to become mega-brands in the internet space – consolidating and acquring smaller companies as a growth strategy and to expand their reach.

Conversations surround hashtags or “trending topics”, where you can follow anything from amateurs to experts around your area of interest. While it has potential for growing your brand to create a specific audience, many stumble on the new challenge that lies in how to monetise social media, while focus should be on how to create influence for your brand by creating opportunities for followers to engage in it. This is the new opportunity for growth.

As user bases grow into communities around brands, they try to find way to use these platforms like Facebook to create more conversation or ‘buzz’ around their brand on websites. After all, word-of-mouth has throughout times been the best way to attract and retain long-time customers. Now e-word-of mouth does the complimentary job for your brand, if you engage.

It is your job as a brand manager or marketing consultant to make the most on this opportunity by knowing what users want. They want simplicity. An easy way to communicate with their favourite brands. It is a two-way process, as you get invaluable feedback and a way to engage as well – to give a voice to your brand , as opposed to broadcasting your message. Remember, Brand is your personality and social media is your voice. If branding is focused on niche marketing, it stands out better in the noise.

Goodbye information overload. Welcome simplicity.

Corporate Storytelling

We are living in a world which is crowded with information, so it is easy as a consumer to get overloaded with marketing messages from time to time. Companies often feel they need to go to extremes in order to get their message out, but the result can become messy or “too much”, and humour can often get out of hand.

So, how can firms enhance their sales by storytelling? By using branding and knowledge of colour and cultural associations, it can get you further. Think about the recent commercials or advertisements that have stayed with you. For example, Coca Cola with their “Christmas carol” connecting to a tradition while embedding their values by the slogan “Always Coca Cola”. Or cleverly like L’Oréal by “Because you’re worth it” – connecting values of beauty to self-worth –transmitting to makeup and personal grooming.

The good advertisements are not usually about the product per se, but centred around it. What kind of feeling should it leave on the customer? Remember, the purpose is to get on top of consumer’s minds and that is done by creating a story to your brand. The brand is your personality and the slogan your voice.

But sometimes companies may get things wrong. This is what French Connection did in the UK. Maybe this was also the reason to the fallout in sales. In retail, stores may spam you on your emails or even on your mobile phones. But the good companies would know the difference of being annoying and “in your face” to being convenient and “what we want”. Niche marketing is the way to go.

Making Successful Presentations

In the corporate world, people are used to attending presentations. Presentations are to convey a message, persuade or take a point forward.

Today, PowerPoint is the industry standard for presenting slides across the board and people who are not familiar with this tool are at disadvantage.

However, I often find many speakers with great presentations, missing a small detail, that it is just an aid for the audience to grasp the message the speaker wants to convey. Don’t have too many words on the slides, instead try to speak about it in a free manner.

Listening requires effort and powerpoints are guidelines where to focus your attention and help the viewer to follow through. Not to have pages of slides filled with information only meant for the speaker. Additional information can be distributed in a brief for those interested and be directed to the website or blog.

Of course presentations can be nerve-racking for some, but like everything it requires good planning and preparation – that means not to simply reading off the slides. It bores the audience and totally misses the point of having one in the first place.
Attention is what you want – not boredom.

A few pointers in making a successful presentation:

  • Plan ahead. How long time is dedicated? The usual attention span we have as humans is about 20 minutes, if the presentation is longer, try having a 3-5 minute break.
  • Know your audience – what kind of people are attending.
  • Only list Key Points and speak freely around them.
  • Be ahead of time, and make sure equipment works.
  • Don’t forget to breathe and make enough pauses. Speaking at three words per seconds is usually a good benchmark.
  • Present effortlessly.

Good Luck.

Buffet’s Wisdom

The other day I listened to the world’s best investor, Warren Buffet. Many people probably want to know what his secret to success is. In investing, it is down to some simple principles. Generally, the stock market is in an upward trend. So, when investing you should think long-term. Therefore, it is even more important that you do your research by looking at companies that you understand, whose management is good, and where the main product(s) is going to sell. For example, do you think Coca Cola is going to last in the next 10 years? You would think this was common sense, but the recent financial ‘crisis’ just showed how short-term investors think, which is so contagious to other investors and it shows how much fear is underpinning markets. Investing is down to simple logic, that anyone can understand and learn.

Fossil Duel

Consumers of cars have not had a choice with car tanks. We must still fill our cars with petrols, as that is what is built into it and what is supplied most readily (with the  exception of electric/hybrid cars). The cars built today are still with technology that encompass the same-old thinking of fossil fuels, even though mankind have come to the realisation that our CO2-emissions harms not only the environment, but corporations long term. Consumers want convenience. Think about it. Why would any innovative company of today invest in ‘old’ technology if it wants to remain competitive. They should, like Nissan, focus on R&D, and develop new technologies that fit the new Era of a low-carbon economy, because it makes business sense. This should be in co-operation with policy-makers who can create incentives – for example, petrol pumps can be modernised.

Inventors out there should create a device that would allow our existing cars to handle gas, diesel, or whatever substitute. We need business to co-operate together with governments. It is preposterous that fossil fuel is still subsidised by governments in some parts of the world (USA, Australia), which gives out the wrong signals to the industry. If companies want to go beyond the CSR-initiatives they should be given incentives to develop such solutions.

Creative Food Shopping

The harsh weather conditions of Sweden got me thinking about old people and their everyday life. A large proportion of the population is old and when it has been snowing – with fluctuating temperatures of plus and minus, the condition creates slippery roads. So this group of people must find it difficult to manage everyday life like going for food shopping, even as they live close to shops in cities. Meaning, that people on the countryside must be even more vulnerable.

There should be a service for these people besides the state-run Hemtjänsten (Home Services). Local businesses could make home deliveries to these people, and if they can’t do it by themselves they could partner with local people by offering incentives. Most old people has access to a phone and could use this to place their orders. The world is changing quickly, and for these people it may be going all too fast to be able to place orders online. But the model could cater for that as an alternative. Hopefully something like this is already in place.

Indian Traffic

Waiting for the red light to turn green, I imagined how everyday life is for the average Indian driver, with frustrations over congestion expressed in blow-horns. This, even in a place like Delhi where blow-horns are forbidden and explicitly shown in traffic signs. In future, even more so, India is going to have a major problem with road traffic, especially as the low-cost Tata Nano car is released over the country.

The traffic got me thinking that there are big differences in brands that prevail this market as compared to Europe. Take cars. The market seems to still be dominated by Asian brands. Mahindra, Tata, Mauruti-Suzuki, Hyundai, Honda,  even if you can see Fiat Puntos in the street as well as Chevrolets. My uncle, interested in cars, had to import his BMW by air, as it is such a rarity. One of the reasons may be that consumer choice is indirectly regulated as foreign ownership is limited and firms enter by means of joint-ventures, like Fiat did with Tata motors, or Suzuki with Mauruti; making it difficult for foreign car makers to enter the market. In a country where the public transport system may need further improvement, a car, whether it is in China or India is a status symbol. While a BMW in Sweden may mean that you are a trendy person conscious about style, in India it means exclusivity. It is interesting that different brands have different meanings in different countries. Meaning, branding must also be different considering different cultural values. So companies in their market research need to look into the grass-root levels of a society and know what kind of associations exist in the consumer mindset, what is the top-of-mind car to them.

During my short stay, I noticed almost every vehicle from cars to trucks having buckles. Safer trucks could be a business opportunity, but more importantly, the underlying problem is that many truck drivers drink and drive. There need to be a change in attitudes so ordinary civilians don’t suffer the consequences as much as they do today. From an outside perspective, even the professional drivers, act like beyond ant traffic rules, they have to – given the traffic all seems to be a competition – reflecting the general atmosphere of the nation.