When You See Yourself as Others Do, You'll Make the Greatest Strides Imaginable
You can learn a lot from an artist.
I should know; I happen to be married to one. For instance, have you ever watched an artist look at his or her own piece of art? Part of the evaluation of that piece of art takes place by just looking hard at it, or walking by it. You might be very surprised to know what my wife considers her two favorite ways to evaluate her work.
One of the ways she evaluates what she’s working on is to go is to the biggest mirror we have in our house. She’ll hold her piece of art up for a long time, and if you watch her when she’s doing it, as she scrunches up her face, you’ll swear she’s seeing that piece of art for the first time. In fact, from the perspective that the mirror provides, she is. She sees the image in reverse, so she sees the composition in an entirely new way. It gives her objectivity and the ability to see the artwork with fresh eyes.
The second place she’ll often go is to her camera. She’ll shoot a few pictures of her artwork, and either print them out or look at the image on her camera. You’d think that a picture of a picture would not be of much value, but she swears she can see things that her existing perspective just doesn’t provide.
The challenge she is working through is a problem that many artists struggle with; it’s difficult for an artist to see his or her own work as others see it. The mirror and the camera are two classic ways to manage this situation. Those of us who aren’t artists also have to learn how to manage a similar situation; each one of us struggles with it and in order to evolve, we must come to grips with it:
Most people are unable to see themselves as others see them.
This is not just a minor blind spot; it can represent a challenge that can significantly impact our path to success. Without an alternate perspective, like an artist, it’s nearly impossible to see things that others see. When I conducted two–week training programs for Xerox, the trainees would be videotaped roleplaying sales calls every single day. The process each student would follow was detailed, and measurable. As an instructor, I would meticulously go over every process behavior modeled.
I made a point to make little to no comments about personal style issues such as appearance, gestures, and facial expressions. That was because each night, every student’s homework assignment was to evaluate his or her performance and provide written feedback in the morning. Watching those videos allowed them to gain a different perspective on how they looked and acted. It was feedback that was every bit as powerful as the feedback they were receiving from their professional trainers. To this day, is it any wonder that I use that tool when I’m working with smaller groups or coaching individuals? I bring out the iPad and I film the role-plays or presentations, and I make those videos immediately available to my students. I want them to see themselves as others see them; not just in the way they see themselves.
When you’re working with people and you’re helping them to see themselves as other do, it is critical to remember that this “evaluation” must be conducted in a balanced way. You must make sure that your feedback is not just stressing what someone is doing incorrectly. The piece that most are unable to see themselves can often represent something powerful and wonderful. It may be human nature to want to focus on negative feedback, but positive observations are critical as well. If someone is unaware of something powerful they are unable to see in themselves, but others see, that strength can easily be lost.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to see yourself as others do. The only way you can accomplish this is by stepping out of the box a bit. Maybe it’s a mirror, a picture, a video, or a trusted friend, but we cannot trust our personal instincts alone. When you truly see yourself as others see you, you can make some of the greatest strides imaginable. One of those amazing strides is to chip away at self-doubt which impacts one more challenge so many of us struggle with; the simple act of believing in ourselves.
Can Advertising Be Effective for Lead Generation?
There is no doubt you can advertise pretty much anything, anywhere, these days. Many of the methods and techniques are highly questionable now though in terms of effectiveness, or ROI.
The majority of advisers considering advertising are not terribly interested in creating a brand awareness campaign…they are interested in generating leads, or new client opportunities.
So how effective is advertising in generating leads for a professional services firm today?
There are several methods which are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Some because the ROI is so poor it is madness to use them, and some because they only attract the wrong sort of enquiries for most professionals.
In the category of “just damned expensive ways to get leads” you would have to include mass direct mailings, whether that is physical or digital. Equally, cold calling the phone book or a purchased list of suspects with little qualification is an increasingly appalling numbers game. Door-to-door (even where it is still legal!) is even less effective for most. My perception is that pure advertising (banners, sponsored adverts, etc) on social media networks are also very poor – though the incredibly low cost (generally speaking) might make them worth considering in the absence of any better ideas if you have high sales margins per customer.
Then there are the advertising options that work to a degree, though often with questionable ROI at the front end, which present a different problem: attracting the wrong sorts of clients. Yellow Pages advertising, or phone or online directories definitely fall into this category. They work best in a commoditized industry or service, where the “product” is fairly homogenous. As such they have a tendency to invite cost or price comparisons quickly, or sell on convenience factors. Both of these attributes undermine the real value of a professional, and almost inevitably the professional finds they are working with that most frustrating type of client: the price-sensitive, transactional, order-giver.
In a similar fashion, high pressure referral generation techniques and strategies or high pressure seminar selling tend to drive similar types of leads. Most of the leads generated from advertising or marketing this way will also be poor clients, or a poor return on investment.
Good effective advertising complements the rest of the marketing cycle, by addressing the necessary first step of simply getting attention. Having got attention – which really is the objective of the advertising itself – the rest of the marketing machine then swings into action, gradually qualifying prospective customers and moving them along the emotional buying cycle.
Great advertising today cuts through the clutter by being intriguing, or unique in style and approach, together with appealing to positive emotions: fun, interesting, entertaining, humorous, etc.
In today’s cluttered and noisy world great advertising is also dynamic: able to evolve and adapt rapidly, if not take on a life of its own. Static displays (billboards; yellow pages; print advertising; DLE brochures) are simply not dynamic enough. They are yesterdays news the day after you got them into the market.
In today’s challenging, volatile and dynamic world of professional services the effective advertising techniques are usually digitally based. More importantly they are understood to be only the first part of a longer engagement cycle. The patience and thoughtfulness that goes into creating such advertising, and then supporting it with a good engagement process, together with the high level of rapid adaptability is what makes such advertising effective for todays professional services firm.
Corporate Risk: At This Point There Is More Downside Than Upside
As we’ve stated in recent market notes and quarterly conference calls, we have grown somewhat cautious on corporate credit. It is best to anticipate a turn in the market and position ahead of widening spreads, but as we all know, the signs are not always obvious when it comes to calling an inflection point.
One caution sign we see this year is corporate spreads modestly widening from historically very tight levels. Some of this widening we attribute to technical factors. There is less buying support from foreign buyers as hedging costs rise in tandem with LIBOR spreads. There is also some selling pressure while corporate treasurers unload short-term bank bonds as part of their cash repatriation program.
But some of this widening, we believe, its attributable to investors acknowledging that corporate earnings are peaking, balance sheets are cyclically fully leveraged, and current tight spreads may not fully compensate for risks at this point in the cycle. Recently we have seen BBB’s start to widen vs A’s, and we believe this could be one of the early signs that all spreads may continue to drift wider as this long-lasting credit cycle starts to fade.
What makes calling the inflation point an art rather than a science is that not all signs are pointing in the same direction. For example, high yield spreads are, in some cases, holding in better than investment grade spreads. Perhaps in this yield starved environment greed still overcomes fear, or perhaps high yield default rates are still very low.
Heeding the above caution signs, we have peeled back some corporate risk in portfolios. At this point in the cycle there is more downside than upside, so it makes sense to act on these early signs and anticipate the turn.
You Pay More Taxes Than You Should
Taxes, are you paying more than you should? Are taxes creating a greater financial pressure in your life? Well, it might just be your outlook.
Today, John Smallwood emphasizes the importance of viewing future tax opportunities rather than being impatient. Opening up opportunities later down the road is much more rewarding. John also shares insight on the macro strategy, which he uses to help clients pay fewer taxes, gain a higher return, and with the least amount of risk.
Click below the image to listen in as John walks us through the importance of viewing future tax opportunities rather than being impatient .
What will you do to maximize your tax benefits?
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