A hint: If you’re not sacrificing, you don’t care enough.
90% of what we do to help our clients succeed, you will never hear about. We do it because we care. We do it because we are obsessed with client success. We do it because it’s more fun and more inspiring to have successful friends.
There are things we do for which the client should get all the credit. They do. We have a few terrific clients for whom we do exceptional work, but whom we can’t talk about. We don’t.
Everything we do is a collaboration, and the success of the collaboration is the client’s success. A significant part of what we do, we do when the client is between jobs. There is no bill. There is no expectation of future gain. You’ll never hear a word about these services, unless you happen to be one of those clients.
I hear Nordstrom stories and Zappos stories and I think… if only people could hear our stories, they would be even more amazed… but discretion is one of the most important commitments we make to our clients.
Client success isn’t the same as “customer success.” It’s not just about being happy with our product. Client success is client success and fulfillment in career and life.
People talk a lot about KPI’s – Key Performance Indicators. They use various words to talk about them.
“What are your KPI’s?”
“What are your key metrics?”
“Do you have numbers you must hit?”
Merely accepting the first answer is a mistake. Remember, your aim at this point is to be a master appreciator. From great appreciation comes great inspiration.
Do not do what most people do. Do not merely accept the KPI’s, dutifully write them down to show you’re paying attention, and then move on to other things.
Instead, continue to drill in with questions in a Socratic attempt to appreciate why these are the KPIs.
When you understand why these are the KPIs, you will have built a mental model that allows you to think and imagine outcomes just as a CEO, board member or key investor in the company does.
If you understand why the KPIs are the KPIs, then you will be able to see change coming to those factors that affect success for the business. You will also be able to question the KPIs and help the client focus on the Performance Indicators that are truly Key.
For example, we worked for many years with an electronic broker. We asked the question, “What key measures drive the creation of value in the company? What key measures drive growth?”
After some discussion we got to three:
Increasing the total number of active clients. Increasing client trading activity Increasing the total number of assets in accounts. After some discussion, we decided that only the first two measures – the number of clients and their level of trading activity – were important drivers of value at that time. The reason for this was that interest rates were very low and therefore deposits were not a significant source of revenues, profits or business value.
Fortified with this appreciation of the drivers of growth in the value of this business, we were able to confidently move on to our next steps in generating that growth – asking and answering the question:
What key actions or behaviors drive those KPIs?
The KPI “increasing the number of total clients” was driven mostly by increases in the numbers of new funded accounts.
So, the behavior that would drive growth in this KPI was, “More customers opening new accounts and funding them.”
This was wonderfully focusing.
Increasing client trading activity was the second key driver of growth. Whereas in other categories, marketers are focused on increasing revenue per customer – for example, people who run shoe stores want to sell more pairs of shoes per customer and people who run e-commerce sites want to increase the average cart size – retail brokers had remained focused on acquiring new customers.
There were exceptions. We helped Tom Sosnoff, Lee Barba, Ainslee Simmonds and Lee McAdoo build thinkorswim (now part of TD Ameritrade) from a small and interesting digital options broker to a powerhouse with the industry’s most valuable customers.
Sosnoff, a savvy trader, was an even savvier entrepreneur, a born teacher and a natural movement leader. In short, he made options trading cool and never played down the risk or danger. This got thinkorswim to the summit base camp from which it would begin an even more rapid ascent.
Options traders trade a lot and pay well for their trades. When thinkorswim merged with Investools – a pioneer and leader in the online education space – they immediately had a way to dramatically scale the creation of new options traders.
People paid good money to Investools to teach them how to trade options. In exchange, Investools helped them to transform themselves into active options traders. Investools needed a platform for these student traders to trade on. It would have to offer simulated trading as well as real live trading.
Thinkorswim fit the bill perfectly.
Now, Investools students would learn to trade on the thinkorswim platform.
In addition, Investools substantial graduate list of tens of thousands of active options traders became available to thinkorswim for remarketing. Half of those former students became thinkorswim clients.
Next, thinkorswim began to integrate Investools training into its platform and customer service offerings. This increased trading volume and dramatically grew the value of the business.
The key insight here: new trading concepts and ideas lead to more trades.
We would mine this insight for our new client and take it even further, programming trade ideas into software apps that could also execute the trades.
Since our key driver of grow was increased trading volume, which we thought of as increased volume per client, the behavior that would drive this growth was defined as “one more trade per customer per month.”
This would make a real difference in the value of the business, and it was just a start. Just trading volume summit base camp, a milestone on our way to the top.
Since the behavior was “the client makes one more trade per month” we went to work to address the blocks to that behavior. Our clients were already more active than nearly all the other retail brokerage clients in the industry. But, what kept them from being even more active?
Remember that if you want to increase a behavior, you need to combine motivation and ease in the same moment – (MxE)Same Moment = Behavior.
We spent thousands of hours watching traders trade. We got to know their multi-screen set-ups and the joys – and sometimes intimacy avoidance – of their basement trading lairs. We interviewed scores of them and the interviews were so compelling that we edited several of the audio recordings and paired them with animation to create authentic and effective tv commercials and digital videos.
The motivation was there. They wanted to trade more. In front of their screen was the moment. They only lacked the ideas, they told us.
All the time that wasn’t spent trading was spent trolling for ideas. They loved the trading. The trolling for ideas was the hard work that made the trading possible.
More ideas, delivered in the moment they are in front of their screens, made as easy as possible to understand and execute, would unlock the behavior we were looking for.
Trading ideas, programmed and ready to download and execute like apps on a mobile device, did the trick.
Traders reported being more satisfied and improved their performance. We got our one more trade per client per month and that was just the beginning of the growth in trading volume.
As a master change agent, you’ll bring the much-needed clarity to each situation. You’ll walk into rooms where everything seems important and the list of things to be solved is as long a Vaynerchuk’s YouTube feed.
And you’ll go right to the essentials.
What measures most affect growth? What behaviors drive those measures? With those questions asked and answered, you’ll get down to work.
How do we make those behaviors motivating and easy (in the same moment)? You are well on your way to building your Theory of Change. The next steps help you prioritize and focus still further.
Elephants, like humans, have wonderful memories. This is both a strength and a weakness. A superpower and kryptonite.
Look at this picture of an adult elephant tied to a small bar, with a lightweight rope. A grown elephant can easily bend that bar or break that rope.
But, sadly, they don’t.
The trainers start tying them when they are little. They learn that they can’t break the rope and as they grow they never again test that theory. To them, it’s not a theory at all – it’s just the truth.
“We tried that before and it didn’t work.”
But it’s worse than that. Bring the human equivalent of adult elephants together to envision possibilities and not one of them will even suggest tugging at that rope. It just won’t come up. They will focus on solving the problem of how to achieve their goals within the range that the rope allows them. The rope length will define their limits. I’ve watched it happen hundreds of times. I’ve been part of it hundreds of times.
There is a difference between an epiphany and a habit. Talking about possibility and feasibility together is a habit. In most places, it’s just the way things are done. There is a strong taboo against separating the two. Someone may suggest something foolish! Unprofessional! Incorrect! Impossible! Embarrassing!
But, breakthroughs don’t come from doing the right things. Breakthroughs come from doing brave, incorrect, inspiring things.
Twenty-five years ago, I developed a process that has driven my career and life ever since. It’s a process I built off of all I had learned in my career to that point, comparing successful projects to less successful projects, and a system for realizing possibilities that I learned from the pioneering executive coach, Trisha Scudder.
I had seen her breakthrough process shift the culture and results of a team from ordinary to extraordinary in just a few days. And, while Trisha taught many powerful concepts and processes, one stood out to me as the most powerful of all.
The brilliant sales and marketing consultant and author, Mark S. A. Smith says that, “We are in the epiphany business.”
Trisha’s most powerful idea struck me as an epiphany, and that epiphany has fueled my career ever since.
Here it is:
Discuss Possibility and Feasibility separately. Start with possibility.
Perhaps this doesn’t seem like very much to you. It didn’t strike me as Earth-shattering either when I first heard it. Trisha made it fun, so I was engaged. The results of the process she led us through, starting with Possibility, then moving on to Feasibility, led to some surprising breakthroughs. This stimulated my curiosity, always curled up like a cat ready to pounce. I committed to playing with this process and to keeping my eyes wide open.
Here’s what I noticed. People come into conversations about the future weighed down by the past and the present.
We’ve all heard the classic, “We tried that before and it doesn’t work.”
We’ve all seen that little chestnut over-applied.
“Are you sure it was THIS that you tried?”
“Are you sure we are proposing testing exactly the same thing in the same way?”
We’ve all witnessed this idea-killing malpractice. But, what I noticed is that most possibility killing is much more subtle. It’s the ideas that people don’t even bring up in the first place. It’s the invisible limits that people bring to these conversations.
By insisting that the first phase of the conversation be entirely focused on Possibility, while reassuring everyone that the next phase will focus on Feasibility, you will find you develop breakthrough results.
While possibility is all about what might be, feasibility is about, “What can we really get done.” Feasibility is important. Hell, it’s essential. But don’t let it get all mixed up in your discussion of the possible. Don’t let it cloud your vision.
Looking back, I see that this principle is so powerful when practiced that it has played a part in every breakthrough I’ve seen in my career. And, though I built my agency’s process around this epiphany, it is like a brain of which I’ve only used about 10%.
There is a difference between an epiphany and a habit, between having a process and using it. I see the possibility of using this process ALL of the time. I see that I can do so much more good if you use it too.
Let me know how it goes! I’m happy to help. You know where to reach me.