We sure do know how to spot something that bugs us in business.
“Can you believe that hokey pitch from the stage? Blech!”
“OMG, I am so tired of seeing this affiliate promotion go around again!”
“I am so sick of seeing the same faces plastered on every “most creative people in business” list!”
“That networking event was so boring!”
“Their customer service was terrible! It took them 3 days to get back to me! I am so frustrated!”
“I cannot believe that they are promising people 6 figures in 3 months. That is so irresponsible and unrealistic!
There are a lot of bad practices out there
It is easy to be outraged or disappointed by bad business practices.
They are pervasive.
But underlying bad practices are business owners who have legitimate business objectives. They want to get more clients. They want to host events that provide value to their participants. They want to see people take action and attain massive success.
What would you do differently?
Here is where it becomes interesting.
If you can’t stand to see certain practices, what would you do differently?
In particular, what would you do that still meets the intent and purpose of the business practice you don’t like?
It is admittedly easier to identify what you don’t like rather than come up with an alternative that you can stand behind.
These alternatives, born out of annoyance, can become your strongest business practices.
Scenario 1: Hokey pitch from the stage
Intent: Encourage an audience to stay connected to you after your talk and do future business with you.
Alternative: What could be an alternative way to encourage the audience to continue the relationship with you as a speaker?
Could you give away a valuable piece of free information that they can access if they text to a certain number (allowing you to capture their email)? Host a dinner or networking event later that evening? Encourage them to take a picture of your slide that has your contact info on it and answer a question you pose in your talk?
Scenario 2: Predictable affiliate promotion
Intent: Use the power of networks to spread the word about your new program or product.
Alternative: What is a way you can collaborate with your network to spread the word about your product or program without sounding canned or rote?
Could you use diverse and interesting ways to connect with new networks all year, seeding your own mailing list? Could you develop joint ventures to offer symbiotic product promotions? (Like a web design offer partnered with an About Page writing offer) Could you extend your partnerships to different networks so that people in one ecosystem don’t see ten of the same promotions coming through at once?
Scenario 3: Echo chamber of expert lists that do not reflect the true talent in the community
Intent: Introduce people to smart and creative voices in the industry.
Alternative: What is a way you can showcase new people who are just as talented and creative as those mentioned, but rarely get covered?
Could you start your own feature or list? Could you compile a list of wonderful and creative people and share it with the list makers? Could you host an event with fresh and interesting talent, and use social media to amplify and extend the voices?
Scenario 4: Old, tired networking events
Intent: Provide a forum for business professionals to meet each other and discover mutual benefit.
Alternative: Could you create a fun and interesting type of event, like a networking hike? Could you choose a physical space that is filled with a creative and interesting vibe? Could you design a non-hokey networking exercise to provoke true connection and conversation?
Scenario 5: Poor customer service
Intent: Provide follow up to customers, in an environment of limited resources.
Alternative: Could you have an automated email that has answers to FAQs that goes out immediately after a customer submits a question? Could you set expectations about customer service when someone signs up for your service or buys your product? Could you collaborate with another business owner to hire some customer service support and split the cost? Could you divert some of your staff (or your) energy each day to quickly respond to customer issues, to ensure your good reputation?
Scenario 6: Overblown promises to get instant success
Intent: Encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to take action and see results
Alternative: Could you provide case studies all year of what it really takes to achieve results to set realistic expectations for your customers? Can you find other ways to convey value in your programs besides instant riches? Could you look for examples of excellent marketers in your space who do not prey on the insecurities of their customers to make a quick buck?
It is not as easy as it looks
When you begin to develop alternative business practices, you will see it is not a simple thing. You will wrestle with your need to get results with your need to live according to your personal and business values. You will see the trade off between using the best of practices that work with innovating and evolving new practices.
You will try a lot of things that fail, and discover some cool things that work much better than you expected.
Make your alternatives your signature
Through time, your operational, sales and marketing practices will become uniquely your own. You will be known as much for how you do business as what you sell.
Don’t get stuck in the trap of complaining about what you don’t like. That will do nothing for your own progress.
Turn annoyance into innovation. It will benefit us all!
I would love to hear your ideas about alternatives to practices that bug you. Leave your ideas in the comments!
Linda Lopeke says
Loved this post, Pam! I’m with you 100%. We’ve made alternatives our signature and it has worked well. Here are some examples (since you asked). And I can’t wait to read what others are doing!
No Hokey Pitches —
No pitching from stages here. We invite attendees to a virtual party we put on just for them a few days later. Each party is different (geared to specific audience) but features great music, fun edutainment and the occasional surprise guest.
An “experience” speaks louder than anything I might say about our programs.
No Affiliate Promotions —
I believe in promoting the great work of others (for free) and our community members do the same as it’s one our norms. We do it to share our love of great work.
Expert Lists —
We have our “wall of fame” and share the names of great talent with list makers regularly but haven’t found anyone interested in “other than the usual names” yet which is sad. Many lesser known people I’ve met are more talented and innovative than those with name recognition.
No Tired Networking Events —
We’ve held virtual scavenger hunts and contests to help our members network and learn more about each other and excellent outside resources too (such as yourself, Liz Ryan and others I think they should get to know).
Live networking events have included: hikes, food contests, craft parties, and off-the-wall activities to give folks a chance to promote themselves/their work. Our “make a reindeer from gallon-size windshield washer jugs” and guess the artist from the pic was a huge hit. People still talk about it!
No Poor Customer Service —
We’ve had <10 customer service issues in 15 years. I get on the phone and deal with these myself (which always surprises people). I also do welcome and random check-in calls too. I don't use a CRM to fake-wow my people with facts. I know what they're doing out there because I pay attention to them. That way I can connect them to others they should know and work with.
No Overblown Promises —
These are doing real harm. I’ve always been honest about what it takes to build a business. It’s not a popular stance but helps attract the right folks to work with. Possibly our growth is slower because of it. But our retention rates are off the charts.
Please keep on encouraging people to dare to be different and to try things, Pam. It doesn’t matter if they don’t work out. Many of my ideas for SMARTSTART haven’t. But I learned a lot so it’s still a big win. You just have to keep coming up with more daringly different ideas to try!
We need more people chasing excellence! Not perfection. Not money. Not fame. The market for great work is infinite but supply is (sadly) lower than it could be. We can change that. 🙂