Could your business be like an Apple Store?

August 3, 2010

Applestore_drewmclellan Walk into any mall in the world and I'm willing to bet that the most crowded store will always be the Apple Store. 

I snapped this photo a couple weeks ago.  It was around 6 in the evening.  But it doesn't matter.  The Apple Store looks like this morning, noon and night.

I've visited Apple Stores all over the US and it's always the same story.  Jam packed, people playing with iPads, iPods, iPhones…oh yeah, and their rockin' computers.

Who wouldn't want their customers to flock into their place of business and just want to hang out, trying new products, showing their friends and buying a ton of stuff.  (over 3 million iPads sold in the first 80 days).

So…what can we learn from Apple and how can we apply it to our business?

Let them touch the stuff:  The Apple Store is basically a huge demo room.  You can check out any item, you aren't rushed away when you're updating your Facebook status or creating a new tune on Garage Band.  They want you to get the feel of their wares.

Nothing sells like sampling.  If I can try it and like it… I can pretty quickly convince myself I need it. 

Don't hide behind the counter:  Look at the picture.  Do you see all the blue shirts?  Those are Apple employess…ready to show you how something works, answer your questions or just brag on the product. 

If you're sitting behind your desk, waiting for customers to come to you — get off your lazy rear and go to where the people are. 

Think about my convenience, not yours:  You don't stand in line to buy something in the Apple Store.  The blue shirt who was answering your questions can also ring up your order.  They have little scanner/credit card readers on their belt.  Voila…they can print or e-mail you the receipt.  Need a bag?  No worries, there are bag dispensers underneath the tables throughout the store.

What are you doing because it's how everyone else in the industry does it that way?  What if you looked at it from your customer's perspective.  How could you re-design it with them in mind?

Don't hire someone because they're breathing:  At the Apple Store, the employees LOVE what they sell.  They're aren't clerks or sales people.  They are zealots.  And that's infectious and effective. 

Hire zealots…and set them loose on your customers.

We all have the opportunity to create an Apple-like experience.  The question is — will you?

Other than Apple, where have you seen these techniques be employed?

Enhanced by Zemanta


What’s your north star?

June 22, 2010

Shutterstock_55358470 I heard this story several years ago…. and a discussion with a client yesterday reminded me of its importance.

A young sailor had been traveling for many days on the  open ocean.  He had the night watch so literally — for over two weeks, he saw nothing.

Finally, the vastness overwhelmed him and he asked his Captain, "how do you know where to head, when darkness is all around you?"

The wise Captain pointed his finger towards the sky and said “Fools watch the waves and make decisions according to ever-changing circumstances, but a wise captain charts his course by a star that does not move.

When your journey is long and the way before you is rough, never take your eyes off the North Star, son. Stay focused on the unwavering constant.”

We can twist ourselves into a knot if we react to everything our competitors do, or the ups and downs of the economy or any other outside factor that shifts and changes on a dime.  Or, we can have a clear understanding of our business' purpose and mission.  That's understanding your brand and living by it every day.

Are you making decisions based on where the waves toss you or have you charted your course according to your brand, your principals and your true north?

Photo courtesy of

Enhanced by Zemanta

A public service announcement for today

June 20, 2010

I get called many things…but there is no title that I cherish more than Dad.  On Father's Day, I wanted to share this public service announcement with all of you out there.

If you had a dad who let you dress him up, who played hoops with you on the driveway or who showed up at your games — be grateful.  There are so many kids who never knew what that felt like.

And if you are a dad…soak it up.  Soak it up with abandon.  I know I do.

Happy Father's Day to all of you sons, daughters and dads!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Dawn walks out their brand talk — thanks to BP Oil Spill

June 1, 2010

I am sure that everyone at Proctor & Gamble (parent company of Dawn liquid soap) wishes that the BP Oil spill never happened.  I'm sure they are just as concerned as the rest of us are about the short and long-term implications of this disaster.

However… they were also smart enough to recognize the incredible opportunity it presented to them.

Dawn liquid soap is the only product approved for use with animals who have been oil-soaked.  So as people are paying more attention to the entire crisis — Dawn is playing a starring role.

And I'm not just talking about the news media shots of the adorable ducks getting a bath.  P&G has really thought about how they can differentiate themselves from the other liquid soaps. 

Let's face it — the fact that you can use Dawn to clean off an oil-soaked animal is not going to come in handy for most of us.  We're not going to rush out and buy Dawn now that we know. Our pets aren't likely to be dunked in oil.  But… we love a hero.  And Dawn's stepping up to that role by taking the lead in  not only caring for the animals affected by the spill but by becoming a voice of advocacy and information regarding the problem.

So, since we have to buy dish soap anyway…why not buy the hero brand that is stepping up to making a difference?

Let's look at the various ways they're claiming this leadership position.

The TV spot:

The bottles/the donation:


Notice the new bottle design.  See the cute (and clean) animals? What you can't really see is the little snip on the top of the label.  But on that snip, they tell you how, through the purchase of that bottle of liquid soap, you can donate $1 to save wildlife.  To activate your donation, they direct you to  (By the way…as of 5/31, they'd raised $413,475 thanks to their consumers — can you say that's a huge boost in soap sales?)

The website:

When you get to the website, they don't just let you donate, they engage you in the crisis.  They connect you to photos of animal rescues, encourage you to meet some wildlife champions and visit their Facebook page.

Screen shot 2010-05-31 at 11.40.36 PM

The Facebook page:

Screen shot 2010-05-30 at 12.56.58 PM

Here's where they really set the hook.  They use Facebook to tell us stories about the rescue, show us pictures and promote the organizations who are doing the hard and dirty work.  They don't hold themselves out as the heroes — they are the support behind the heroes.

In other words — they're writing about what they know we care about, not their soap.  They celebrate when the animals are released back into the wild, they teach us how we can protect and save animals in our own neighborhoods and they are the chief cheerleaders for the effort.


So… why does all of this work and where's the brand lesson for us:

  • Dawn understood their own product — and saw how they were genuinely different (self awareness)
  • Dawn was willing to share what they had/knew in a time of crisis (sincere generosity)
  • Dawn was willing to let the conversation be about more than their soap (be a part of something bigger)
  • Dawn put resources behind the bigger picture, knowing it was in alignment with their brand (they give, not just take)
  • Dawn found a way to let us connect (we can donate, we can follow the efforts on Facebook, etc)
  • Dawn found a way to sustain our interest and their effort — just watch what they do over the next few months, I am guessing!

Bravo P&G.  And thanks for helping save the animals!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sometimes, your baby is just ugly

March 24, 2010

Screen shot 2010-03-23 at 10.54.44 PM Thick skin. 

We had a lively discussion on that very topic at work this week. 

As marketing professionals, it's our job to come up with compelling ideas (writing, design, etc. etc.) that will trigger actions and reactions from the intended audiences.

To discover those ideas requires a great deal of collaborative thinking and working together to sift through, push, pull and generally heat test each of them to see if they can stand up.  That can be brutal if you've made the fatal flaw of falling in love with your own idea.

Brainstorming has this "warm and fuzzy" image.  Who wouldn't like to just sit around and think up ideas?  It sounds so wistful and charming.

But in the pragmatic world of marketing, you don't really have time to putter around in the ideation stage for too long.  You need to shift back and forth — generating ideas, evaluating ideas, building off each other's ideas and twisting and turning someone's ugly baby into something interesting and curious.

Sometimes to get to the truly genius idea — you have to pop the head off of someone's ugly baby.  There it is… the cruel truth about brainstorming. 

You might be the poor shlub who has to watch his idea get trampled in the quest for the really, really remarkable solution. 

I don't know about you, but when I'm trying to be creative — I have to go through a lot of horrific, trite, pun-like ideas before I get to the good ones.  And usually in the early stages, I sometimes come up with an idea or two that I think is just about as smart as anything could possibly be.

Until someone starts knocking holes into it.  When I was young (both in age and professional maturity) I'd get upset and defensive.  It hurt. After all… that was MY idea and it was THE answer.  I clung to it, fighting off the enemy who wanted to attack my baby.  I was sure it was THE answer.

Of course… it wasn't THE answer.  And by putting it through its paces and criticizing it out loud, my co-workers were able to riff off my mediocre idea to get to something fresh and new. 

My ideas — the good ones, bad ones, off the wall ones — even the ugliest babies in the bunch are a part of the process.  And my job isn't to create "art" and defend it to the death.  Our clients can't afford for me to fall in love with the ugly babies just because they're mine.

How about you — do you make it okay for other people to tell you that your baby is ugly?

Photo thanks to MetsBallers

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

What’s your March Madness?

March 20, 2010

Basketball.drew_mclellan For two weeks every year, people ask questions like: 

Most of the people asking those questions could care less about college basketball.  Throughout the regular season, it's safe to say they've never watched a game. 

But March Madness comes along and everyone is filling out their brackets (even if it's with complete wild a** guesses), joining pools and talking college basketball!

The NCAA has taken their product — college basketball and for those two weeks, transformed it into something so spectacular and special that even their non-customers become rabid fans.  Even if it's just for the tournament.

What aspect of your business could you "march mad" up?  What could you do that would be so engaging and so big (probably so big you could only afford to do it once a year for a limited time) that it would draw in your non-customers?

What annual moment in time could you own?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Do you inspire customer service tales?

March 9, 2010

Everyone loves to tell a good story.  Stories teach, they inspire laughter and the bring about change.  As consumers, we love to tell stories about the people we buy from — good, bad or ugly. 

If I stopped 10 of your clients/customers today and asked them to tell me a story about your company's customer service — what story would they tell?

Would it be as compelling as this story about Frank? (E-mail and RSS feed subscribers, click here to watch the video)

If after watching the video, you had to honestly answer no — ask yourself this:  What could I do on a consistent basis that would get my customers to the point where they couldn't stop themselves from telling the story?

A big thanks to Laynie Kelly for telling me about this video!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Are you keeping an eye on your bucket?

March 2, 2010

Bucket No….not that bucket!

Many of us are burning the candle at both ends and in the middle.  Our companies have been “right-sized” which is a nice way of saying — same amount of work, fewer people to do it.

We’re trying to keep up on the trends and changes in our industry, use social media to create a personal brand (and grow our companies) and stay connected to our customers.

Then, there’s that little thing called new business.  We’re all trying to hold and grow our market share, our market presence and build the brand.

Oh right…don’t forget about the charity boards, volunteering at our kid’s school and just managing our personal lives.

And we’re on call 24/7.  Our devices makes sure of that.

Whew!  No wonder we feel like we’re running on empty much of the time.

So here’s my question for you.  How do you re-fill your bucket?  How do you make sure you have enough in the tank to keep going?  How do you stay physically, mentally and emotionally replenished?

Here are some of the things that work for me, but I’m looking forward to hearing your tips and tricks.

I serve others:  Part of the reason I volunteer my time and share my talents is because it fills me up to know that I am using my gifts the way I believe God wants me to — in service of others.  I only volunteer and sit on boards for organizations that I genuinely believe in — and care deeply about.  That way, I can take immense pride in the work they ultimately do and my small role in it.

I have professional support squads:  I learned a long time ago that I needed to bond and hang with other business owners who understood my worries, pains and joys.  Through the years, I have either created or joined a small handful of groups that serve as my sounding board, my safe place to vent and my think tank.

But…perhaps most of all — they are some of my biggest cheerleaders.  They believe in me and my abilities and when I am feeling like I can’t quite cross the finish line — their encouragement helps me push through.

I’m a dad:  First and foremost — at the core of my being, I am my daughter’s dad.  Having declared her as my absolute priority helps me find balance and give me permission to never miss a play, or pick her up after school and hang with her rather than schedule yet one more meeting that day.

I travel:  My job affords me the opportunity to get on a plane and go somewhere at least once a month.  I know for some people, traveling is a huge hassle but I like it. I’m rarely gone for more than 3 days — but in those few days, I am gloriously alone.  It is more than a rare treat.  It is absolutely replenishing.

I create an oasis where I can: I know I’m not going to get big blocks of “me” time.  I’m not going to sit and watch an entire baseball game without multi-tasking or just do nothing for a couple hours.  My life isn’t structured that way.

So I take little mini-breaks where I can get them.  Music is healing for me, so I will often turn off my phone’s ringer, really crank up my car stereo and just let the music fill me.  I’ll take the dog for a walk just to breathe in the fresh air and get some think time in.  Or I’ll watch some ridiculous show on VH1 to laugh with my daughter.

It’s hardly perfect.  And it’s probably not enough.  But those are some of the ways I stay sane and re-fuel myself so I can keep at it.  How about you — how do you make sure that your bucket is full?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

5 ways to building a committed team

February 26, 2010

96784066-1 If you want a powerful, profitable company — create a powerful team.  If you want to create love affairs with your customers — create a passionate team.  If you want to leave a legacy — create a committed team.

Your team.  Nothing reflects on a business owner/leader more than the team they build around them.

So in this world of disposable everything — how do you, with genuine intention, bring that mythical team to life?

Let them have a voice:  There are few things more frustrating than having no control over your environment.  Whether it's how to handle summer hours, what charities your company will support or how a customer service policy should be amended — ask them.  Ask them and listen.

At MMG, 90% of the company decisions are made collectively.  I toss the problem/opportunity on the table and we talk about it.  When we think we've covered all the bases, we find consensus and move forward.  About 10% of the time, it's a decision I feel I have to ultimately make — but I want the team's input first.  So I ask.  And listen. 

Don't be afraid to use the "L" word: My friend Steve Farber teaches us in his brilliant book Radical Leap that the word and the emotion love belong in business.  That there's nothing wrong with loving your team, your clients and your work. In fact, I'd worry if you don't.

Make it mean something:  I don't care what you do — it has a higher purpose.  Jim Collins calls it a big, hairy audacious goal. A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.  If you don't have one….your team needs you to create one.

Celebrate the big and little wins: This doesn't have to be "send the sales force to Vegas" sort of celebrations although there's nothing wrong with those either.  It can be as simple as gathering everyone together for a quick high five.  At MMG, we have a drum that when someone has big news (new client, big project successfully completed etc.) — we bang the drum and everyone comes to the conference room to hear what's up.  It's about taking the moment.  (And we're not always good at it either, so cut yourself some slack…but make it part of your culture!)

Thank them in surprising ways: Again — this doesn't have to be a grand gesture.  Part of the fun of it is the surprise element.  One of the goofier ones that I've done is this simple.  Go buy gift cards for various places (iTunes, restaurants, your local grocery store etc.).  Get enough so you have one for each person on your team.  Then go buy the same number of Pringle's cans of chips.  On the bottom of each Pringle's can — write a number 1- how many ever you bought.   Spread the gift cards all over the conference room table and put all the Pringle's cans in the middle of the table, so no one can read the numbers.

Call in your team and tell them (with love) how proud you are of them or congratulate them on some client accomplishment or whatever.  But…set the mood and tell them why you're doing this.  Then, let each person randomly pick a Pringle's can.  Whoever got the #1 can gets to pick among the gift cards first, etc.

It will take you 10 minutes, but they'll remember it for much longer than that.

Bottom line — building a rock solid team doesn't happen by accident.  It is borne from love, gratitude and sharing a vision that matters.  The good news is — it costs very little and the rewards for you, your team and your clients — is huge!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Have you built a rock solid foundation for your personal brand?

February 5, 2010

95341781 Whether you work for someone else, are a serial entrepreneur or anything in between — in today's world, you can't afford to ignore the idea of personal branding.

A generation ago, employees often stayed with one employer for the lion's share of their career.  Today, most professionals will not work for several companies — but they will most likely change their entire profession.

And even in the unlikely case that you do find the employer of your dreams right off the bat — you still want to distinguish yourself by standing out from the crowd.

Enter personal branding.  

By the way, I don't think personal branding came about thanks to the internet.  It's been around for generations.  Abe Lincoln certainly created a personal brand.  So did Hitler.  But, the internet certainly makes it easier for an average joe or jane to create a credible, spreadable personal brand.

But to do it right,  I believe it takes intention.

When I speak to college classes, I warn them.  What you put out into the world via Facebook, blogs, Twitter, MySpace, FourSquare and whatever comes next — stays out there.  And it's incredibly findable.

Two relevant facts:

  1. No matter what we want to know, we Google it.  (So imagine what the next generation of managers, business owners and reporters will do).
  2. Google never forgets anything.

So given those facts…how do you intentionally build your personal brand?

Decide what you're all about.  

Note I did not say…create your brand.  Just like with a company — a brand comes from your heart and soul.  So dig deep and figure out who you are — that is relevant to the world.  (We're many things, some private and some for public consumption — your brand is the world's view). 

There are lots of ways to figure it out.  Write your own obit, do Strength Finders, Myers Briggs or put together your own little brand task force who knows you well and loves you enough to be honest.

Determine what your personal brand looks like — off-line:  

No matter who you are or what you do, odds are that you spend more time off the computer than on.  So be sure that you can live the brand in your daily life, 24/7.  How does it come to life (remember, this is from other's perspective).  

If your brand is that you're a developer of others — how would a developer behave?  Think of all the touchpoints you have with other people —  meetings, networking, on the phone, in an employee review, etc.  How does the developer brand come to life?

Evaluate your existing on-line presence:  

Google yourself.  Does your brand show up?  Is it the most prevalent message?  Scan through your old Facebook updates.  Is your brand there?  Are the other themes complimentary to your brand or do they feel off?  What types of things are you retweeting?  What do your recommendations say on LinkedIn?

Don't just look at the subject matter.  Look at language, tone, replies to others, what you do and don't talk about, play, share with others and the online/social media tools you do and don't frequent.

Step back and be as objective as you can.  If a stranger Googled you — what would they think and know about you?  Does it align with your brand?

And don't forget your traditional old website.  It may be the most content rich place for your brand to live. Do you own your own domain  (like  If not — grab it quick if it's still available.

Decide where you need to be online:  

Depending on your brand, your presence  might be expected on a certain social media tool.  Should you be writing guest blog posts for a specific site?  Is tweeting resources a part of who you are/want to be perceived to be?   If you're the developer of others…how does LinkedIn figure into your plans?

Don't overdo this. Most people do not have the time or patience to establish  a deep presence on every social media site, so don't try.  Be active where you want to invest the time and where it makes sense.  

Live it:

Off line, on line.  Be your brand.   Think about your choices.  If your brand is about being the consummate, buttoned-up professional, should you be playing mafia wars or farming on a Facebook account that links you to your customers?  

If your brand is about being very intellectual and deliberate — should you be firing off emotional responses to negative comments on your blog?

If your brand is about being gregarious and generous, should you be the wallflower at the networking event?

Like most things, if you did the prep work — it shouldn't be difficult to live your brand, once you've gotten in the habit of keeping it top of mind.  If you find that you can't live your brand consistently or it feels fake — you probably have to go back to the drawing board and dig deeper.

Be consistent and be patient:

This isn't going to happen overnight.  The more consistent you are, the quicker your brand will not only rise to the surface but stick. But it takes time to influence opinion and influence Google.  Remember…we're living in the age of cynics.  Don't try to be something you're not.  Don't try to force it.  

Your genuine brand will come from within.  All we're trying to do is make sure that brand stays in the spotlight so you can do and be all that you're capable of.  

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]