Why is Complex Problem Solving so Important?
Complex Problem Solving Defined
- Identify the problem. This is not always as easy as it sounds. The problem itself may be buried beneath a number of adverse effects showing up in a system.
- Identify the causes. These could be the task itself, or systems control issues, equipment, people, even personality clashes, or any combination of these factors.
- Look for solutions. Here is where human judgment comes in. You will evaluate possible outcomes and seek the one that produces the most desirable solution. Here you may wind up settling for the least bad outcome you can find.
- Make a decision and put it in place. Pick an answer and go for it.
- Evaluate feedback. Is your solution working? Or not? Use feedback to adjust your solution to achieve maximum results.
Here is the Opportunity
The first blog post in this series ( http://bit.ly/2v8mXJm ) I listed the top ten skills necessary if you are to triumph in the ongoing upheaval in the worldwide job market. Today, I want to discuss the #3 skill, Creativity.
Why is Creativity so Important?
There is one simple reason why creativity as a skill is so much in demand. Robots and software technology can’t do it. Here is one area where human beings can beat the bots. Every time.
Freelancers need this skill to solve problems with new programs and procedures. Clients and different departments implementing new programs and services will require new solutions to problems that arise.
I have a favorite saying I think sums up the need for creativity in the business world. It comes from General George Patton, the famous tank corps commander in World War II. “The best battle plan in the world isn’t worth a damn after the first shot is fired.”
General Dwight Eisenhower also weighed in on this subject when he said, “Plans are useless, but planning is essential.”
Freelancers know this. When it all goes to hell, you’re going to have to get creative and think your way out of it.
How Can You Define Creativity?
I admit this is hard. Creativity is one of those things that everyone knows when they see it, but find it difficult to define.
Let’s take a shot at it. Creativity is:
- The ability to think outside the box.
- Coming up with something that’s never been done before.
- Applying old methods in new ways.
- Perceiving the world in new ways.
There are more. Here is a link taking you to a Copyblogger Post with 21 different definitions of creativity ( http://bit.ly/2jEEKTH ). (Hint… the list starts about halfway through the post).
Can I learn to be more creative?
How many times have you heard it? “I’m just not a creative person.”
Wanna bet? Actually, we all start out being very creative, and then we unlearn it. In 1968, a man by the name of George Land devised a test to measure creativity ( http://bit.ly/2ykJSzE ). He then gave the test to 1600 children, age 3 to 5 years, enrolled in a Head Start Program. The results were amazing. The 5-year-old kids scored 98% on the creativity test. He retested the same kids 15 years later. Guess where they scored? 12%. Adults given the same test scored 2%.
This means our society is teaching us to unlearn creativity.
So it’s really not an issue of learning to be more creative. It’s remembering how to be as creative as we once were.
The common misconception is that creativity belongs to artists, writers, musicians, and maybe a few computer geeks. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are all creative. Like all skills, it is one where proficiency is gained by practice.
Remember the old joke? A kid carrying a violin case goes up to a cop in New York City and asks, “How can I get to Carnegie Hall?” The cop looks at the kid and says, “Practice, practice, practice.”
The best part is improving creativity is fun. A lot of fun.
I’m Sold. Where Can I go to Learn?
Online of course. Google “Learn to be Creative.” You’ll get more than a million results.
Now as for books? One of the best I have ever read on this subject is “The Artists Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” by Julia Cameron. I read this book when it first came out over 25 years ago when I wanted to begin developing my writing skills. I have reread at least 3 times since then. Don’t be put off by the title. This book is considered the seminal book on creativity. It’s for people in every walk of life seeking to enhance their creativity skills. There is also a great workbook that goes along with it I would recommend as well.
I have included links below if you would like to get these outstanding books. (Full disclosure, I am an Amazon Affiliate)
In the first blog in this series (http://bit.ly/2v8mXJm), I discussed the upheaval in the world job market. Many jobs will be lost, but many will be gained. Projections are that by 2020, a mere three years from now, 50% of the labor force will consist of Freelancers. Today in this countdown series I am discussing the number 9 skill Freelancers will need to fill these yet to be created jobs. Negotiation!
Exactly What is Negotiation?
When we think of negotiating, what comes to mind? Haggling over a used car or a piece of real estate? Beating the other guy down so you get a fantastic deal?
The popular view of negotiating is that it is a win-lose deal. If you win, the other guy loses and vice-versa
The truth is good negotiating is about achieving a win-win for everyone involved. We all engage in negotiations almost every day whether we realize it or not. Anytime people seek to agree on a task or a concept or a subject there is negotiating involved. Negotiation is simply the process of achieving agreement on issues that leaves all parties satisfied with the results.
Why is Negotiating so Important?
As a Freelancer, good negotiation skills are crucial to your success. The first place you will use this skill is negotiating your fees with your new clients. Freelancers are typically very well paid, and you want to be able to negotiate top dollar for your services.
Then think about having to negotiate between departments inside your corporate client to achieve the goals you were hired to produce.
How about negotiating to bring your client together with other companies to install a new process or system.
Where Can I Learn to Negotiate?
Lots of places. And…it’s not as hard as you think. All it takes, in the beginning, is some thought and preplanning. You will find as you practice the process it becomes almost second nature to you.
There are lots of books. One I just read is “Never Split the Difference.” (See the link below). This is an excellent book written by Chris Voss, an FBI profiler. He starts every chapter with a real life negotiating experience from his long FBI career. This is a very readable book, with basic negotiating techniques clearly explained. This book is only one of many on the subject.
There are many online courses offered by colleges and universities. A quick search will find them for you.
Google is also an excellent source. Google “Learning Negotiation” and you get more than 6 million results to choose from.
When Should I Start?
Now! Even if you think you are a good negotiator, you can always learn more. This job upheaval is already well under way and will only continue to accelerate. Freelancing is the job of the future. Start now to acquire these 10 skills needed to fill jobs not yet invented. If you do, you will be ready to launch your career as a well-paid Freelancer.
Here is the link to Never Split the Difference. Full disclosure, I am an Amazon Affiliate.
Why are Social styles important?
In my previous posts on Social Styles, I have stressed the importance of understanding these styles. Your ability to communicate with these different styles of people will make a huge difference in the profits at your bottom line.
Today, I want to discuss the last of the 4 Social Styles, the Amiable.
What is the Amiable Social Style?
Amiable are, well…amiable. They are very people and question oriented. They are easy to get along with. They are friendly listeners who enjoy personal contact. They place a high priority on getting along with others.
Amiable have soft, pleasant voices. Their speech is slow. They have open and eager facial expressions.
They take time to establish relationships. They believe progress comes from people working together. They like to make progress at a slow, steady pace.
Their natural tendencies are coaching and counseling.
Their motivators are seeking approval, being included as part of a group or team, and having a positive impact on others.
Amiables have much in common with Analyticals and Expressives, but are diametrically opposed to Drivers.
What does the dialogue of an Amiable sound like?
Remember that Amiables are ask directed. This means you will need to ask a lot of questions. You have to be patient. Amiables want to build relationships first. They may not seem concerned with the time spent or deadlines.
Here are some other things you can expect:
- They want you to show them personal support.
- Give plenty of verbal and non-verbal feedback.
- They are interested in questions relating to long-term goals.
- They may suggest you talk to others. If they do, follow up. Not doing so may kill the relationship
- They want assurance as to who you are and what you believe
- You are expected to be open and honest
- You will need to sell yourself to an Amiable before they make any decision
How do you approach an Amiable?
The good news here is Amiables are easy to approach. They are very open and friendly.
Here are several ways to approach an Amiable:
- Be relaxed and patient
- Make small talk
- Ask questions about their personal goals.
- Keep a slow, steady pace. Remember people come first.
- Don’t try to promote your agenda as revolutionary. Amiables like things with a proven foundation.
- Don’t rush your close. Let them come to their own conclusion.
The main take away from this brief outline of the 4 social styles is the need for you to learn to be flexible. Remember Stephen Covey. “First seek to understand, then be understood.” Seek to understand the way your prospect communicates with the world. You will then open the door to show your prospect how you can fulfill his needs.
What I have presented in these posts has been the barest of outlines of these Social Styles. To learn much, much more, I strongly urge you to click on the link below to buy Larry Wilson’s terrific book.
(Full disclosure. I am a Powell’s Affiliate)
It seems counter-intuitive, but narrow target marketing means more sales. Here’s a great post by Tim Donnelly explaining why.
How to Narrow Your Target Market
Companies that try to be all things to all customers are sure to fail. Here’s a business guide from Inc.com on how to focus on your target market.
Huge, profitable companies like Walmart and Amazon didn’t start as the all-encompassing retailers we know today. Each debuted with a very specific focus that helped them find and nurture a strong customer base. Walmart originally catered to shoppers in rural areas where there was a dearth of options for low-cost goods; Amazon famously limited itself to just books for years before expanding into selling everything from DVDs to motorcycle gear.
The process of finding a target market and narrowing your company’s focus to appeal to it directly often trips up new businesses, who find it difficult to turn down business opportunities when they arise. But trying to be all things to all people is a sure way to fail in the marketplace. Business experts offer up these tips to narrowing your target market:
The Dangers of Being Unfocused
Whatever market you’re in, you’ve likely got a lot of competition and static standing between you and the consumer. Narrowing your focus to one specific demographic or slice of the marketplace gives potential customers a reason to notice you in the rest of the fray.
“If you’re not differentiating yourself in the marketplace, what happens is the consumer looks at price as being the motivator,” says Susan Friedmann, author of the books Riches in Niches and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Target Marketing. “And they look at the cheapest.”
If you don’t know specifically which customers you are speaking to, you are actually speaking to no one, says Tammy Lenski, a business mediation expert (https://lenski.com/) who has advised clients about successful business through target marketing.
“The big danger is that without a target market, it’s like standing in a park shouting in the wind,” she says. “When you have a target market, its like standing in a park and talking to a specific group of people.”
That means you can’t be afraid to exclude certain types of consumer from your marketing or to target your advertising at small groups. Some customers will feel left out, but those are the sacrifices necessary for a successful business, says Greg Head, founder and CEO of New Avenue, a strategic marketing firm.
“Focus requires exclusion,” he says. “If you’re selling everything, you actually mean nothing in the marketplace. Exclusion is fundamental to target markets.”‘
Dig Deeper: Why a Clear Focus is Essential to Success
Become an Expert in one Area
One way to hone in on a specific sector is to become an established resource in one area. Starbucks, for example, is able to charge premium prices for its coffee even though it also sells pastries, tea, and accessories, because it has positioned the company as an authority on good coffee.
“If you’re an expert in your field, people will pay the price tag on whatever product and service you offer,” Friedmann says.
You can build up credibility by offering information for free through your company’s website or blog: things like tips, industry information, or niche data that will help consumers think of you as a reliable expert in that area, she says.
“Your credibility comes with giving away information,” she says. “If this is the value I’m getting for free, what will I get if I pay for it?”
Entrepreneurs who do this successfully often start by following their passion, Friedmann says. She recalled a massage therapist who loved cycling and found a successful practice traveling with bike tours.
“If you can marry your passion with your profession, that’s a really strong niche market,” she says.
Dig Deeper: Taking a Niche Brand Mainstream
Do the Market Research
Experts give several methods for whittling down the vast expanse of the market to find your ideal target.
John Jantsch, creator of the Duct Tape Marketing System and Duct Tape Marketing Consulting Network, which trains and licenses small business marketing consultants, recommends a simple formula to identify who makes an ideal client: he ranks customers by profitability.
“In that step alone, they start identifying work they have taken or would take that they shouldn’t be taking,” Jantsch says.
Then he looks for clients that are already referring more business your way.
“They’re referring business to you because they’re having a great experience,” he says. “They’re happy, they’re beyond satisfied and that’s why they’re referring business.”
Friedmann says recommends looking for growth markets to identify burgeoning new areas that may not be claimed by existing businesses.
Lenski says some clients find their niche first by focusing on the areas in which they already have a strong interest, or by looking at markets that already know about you and your services. Then, look for areas of the marketplace where a gaping need exists that you can fill with your company’s services.
Dig Deeper: How to Use Internet Market Research Tools
Tweak your Marketing
As simple as it sounds, the name of your company is crucial when narrowing your market.
“I believe your name should say what you do,” Friedmann says. “Using your own personal name, unless you’re like Madonna, isn’t going to cut it. It doesn’t mean anything to anybody.”
Words such as “branding coach” or “entertainment law” in your official business title help consumers quickly understand what you’re all about.
Friedmann even created a new word to describe her focus: “nichepreneur.”
You may have to change your branding strategy or marketing efforts to clarify your mission. Once you find your target, you’ll definitely want to alter your advertising efforts to go after the places and media you use to generate new business.
“It’s not just an advertisement that you do. It actually has to become part of everything you do,” Head says.
Your marketing needs to highlight the specialization, which improves credibility, Head says.
“You’ve got to be perceived as the best at something,” he says.
Then, once you’ve identified that base, use it to improve the business through things like social media and interactive marketing to find out more about what the customers are looking for, Lenski says.
“You’ve got to essentially engage that market. It’s a two-way conversation,” she says. “That’s really where having a target market pays off.”
Dig Deeper: 10 Marketing Musts
If you’d like to see more from Tammy Lenski, who is quoted above, to go to her website at https://lenski.com/. She has some great blog entries worth reading.
As small business owners we hear a lot about things like blogging and social media. Our first reaction usually is “I don’t have time for that.” I encourage you to think again. Here’s a great post explaining why blogging is very important for small business.
September 30, 2015 // 8:00 AM
Why Blog? The Benefits of Blogging for Business and Marketing
I had a co-worker email me the other day asking for a blog post about the benefits of business blogging.
“It’s for a friend,” she said.
Sure it was.
I told her I’d shoot over one of our up-to-date blog posts about why businesses should blog and … I couldn’t find one. Whoops. Quite the meta mistake.
Download our free guide to business blogging here for even more reasons why you should blog, and how to get started.
So I’m doing it now. If you’re trying to explain one of the core tenets of inbound — business blogging — to your boss, a coworker, your mom at Thanksgiving, whomever, then send them this post. I hope it helps.
The Benefits of Business Blogs for Marketing
First, if you don’t know what a business blog is, this post, “What Is Business Blogging? [FAQs]” should get you up-to-date.
On the same page? Cool. Let’s move on to why you should use blogging as a marketing tactic.
1) It helps drive traffic to your website.
Raise your hand if you want more website visitors. Yeah, me too.
Now think about the ways people find your website:
- They could type your name right in to their browser, but that’s an audience you already have. They know who you are, you’re on their radar, and that doesn’t help you get more traffic on top of what you’re already getting.
- You could pay for traffic by buying an email list (don’t you dare!), blasting them, and hoping some people open and click through on the emails. But that’s expensive and, you know, illegal.
- You could pay for traffic by placing tons of paid ads, which isn’t illegal, but still quite expensive. And the second you run out of money, your traffic stops coming, too.
Think about how many pages there are on your website. Probably not a ton, right? And think about how often you update those pages. Probably not that often, right? (How often can you really update your About Us page, you know?)
Well, blogging helps solve both of those problems.
Every time you write a blog post, it’s one more indexed page on your website, which means it’s one more opportunity for you to show up in search engines and drive traffic to your website in organic search. We’ll get into more of the benefits of blogging on your SEO a bit later, but it’s also one more cue to Google and other search engines that your website is active and they should be checking in frequently to see what new content to surface.
Blogging also helps you get discovered via social media. Every time you write a blog post, you’re creating content that people can share on social networks — Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest — which helps expose your business to a new audience that may not know you yet.
Blog content also helps keep your social media presence going — instead of asking your social media manager to come up with brand new original content for social media (or creating that content yourself), your blog can serve as that repository of content. You’re strengthening your social reach with blog content and driving new website visitors to your blog via your social channels. Quite a symbiotic relationship, if I do say so myself.
So, the first benefit of blogging? It helps drive new traffic to your website and works closely with search engines and social media to do that.
2) It helps convert that traffic into leads.
Now that you have traffic coming to your website through your blog, you have an opportunity to convert that traffic into leads.
Just like every blog post you write is another indexed page, each post is a new opportunity to generate new leads. The way this works is really simple: Just add a lead-generating call-to-action to every blog post.
Often, these calls-to-action lead to things like free ebooks, free whitepapers, free fact sheets, free webinars, free trials … basically, any content asset for which someone would be willing to exchange their information. To be super clear for anyone unfamiliar with how traffic-to-lead conversions work, it’s as simple as this:
- Visitor comes to website
- Visitor sees call-to-action for a free offer
- Visitor clicks call-to-action and gets to a landing page, which contains a form for them to fill in with their information
- Visitor fills out form, submits information, and receives the free offer
If you scroll down in this blog post, you’ll see a call-to-action button. In fact, 99.9% of the blog posts we publish have call-to-action buttons … and yours should, too. That is how you turn that traffic coming to your blog into leads for your sales team.
Note: Not every reader of your blog will become a lead. That’s okay. No one converts 100% of the people who read their blog into leads. Just get blogging, put calls-to-action on every blog post, set a visitor-to-lead conversion rate benchmark for yourself, and strive to improve that each month.
3) It helps establish authority.
The best business blogs answer common questions their leads and customers have. If you’re consistently creating content that’s helpful for your target customer, it’ll help establish you as an authority in their eyes. This is a particularly handy tool for Sales and Service professionals.
Can you imagine the impact of sending an educational blog post you wrote to clear things up for a confused customer? Or how many more deals a salesperson could close if their leads discovered blog content written by their salesperson?
“Establishing authority” is a fluffy metric — certainly not as concrete as traffic and leads, but it’s pretty powerful stuff. And if you need to tie the impact of blogging to a less fluffy metric, consider measuring it the same way you measure sales enablement. Because at the end of the day, that’s what many of your blog posts are. Think about the sales enablement opportunities blogging presents:
- If prospects find answers to their common questions via blog posts written by people at your company, they’re much more likely to come into the sales process trusting what you have to say because you’ve helped them in the past — even before they were interested in purchasing anything from you.
- Prospects that have been reading your blog posts will typically enter the sales process more educated on your place in the market, your industry, and what you have to offer. That makes for a far more productive sales conversation than one held between two relative strangers.
- Salespeople who encounter specific questions that require in-depth explanation or a documented answer can pull from an archive of blog posts. Not only do these blog posts help move the sales process along more swiftly than if a sales rep had to create the assets from scratch, but the salesperson is further positioned as a helpful resource to their prospect.
4) It drives long-term results.
You know what would be cool? If any of the following things helped you drive site traffic and generate new leads:
- Trip to Hawaii
- Going to the gym
Good news, though! That’s what blogging does — largely through search engines. Here’s what I mean:
Let’s say you sit down for an hour and write and publish a blog post today. Let’s say that blog post gets you 100 views and 10 leads. You get another 50 views and 5 leads tomorrow as a few more people find it on social media and some of your subscribers get caught up on their email and RSS. But after a couple days, most of the fanfare from that post dies down and you’ve netted 150 views and 15 leads.
It’s not done.
That blog post is now ranking in search engines. That means for days, weeks, months, and years to come, you can continue to get traffic and leads from that blog post. So while it may feel like day one or bust, in reality, blogging acts more like this:
So while you’re hitting your snooze alarm, surfing in Hawaii, and pumping iron, you’re also driving traffic and leads. The effort you put in yesterday can turn into hundreds of thousands of views and leads in the future.
In fact, about 70% of the traffic each month on this very blog comes from posts that weren’t published in the current month. They come from old posts. Same goes for the leads generated in a current month — about 90% of the leads we generate every month come from blog posts that were published in previous months. Sometimes years ago.
We call these types of blog posts “compounding” posts. Not every blog post will fit into this category, but the more evergreen blog posts you write, the more likely it is that you’ll land on one of those compounding blog posts. In our own research, we’ve found that about 1 in every 10 blog posts end up being compounding blog posts.
To me (and hopefully to you), this demonstrates the scalability of business blogging. While you might not see immediate results, over time, you’ll be able to count on a predictable amount of traffic and leads for your business without any additional resource investment — the work to generate that traffic and those leads is already done.
If you’d like to learn more about the long-term impact of blogging and how to reap even more benefits from the blog posts that are ranking in organic search for your business, check out this blog post, “The Blogging Tactic No One Is Talking About: Optimizing the Past”.
Secondary Benefits of Business Blogging
There are other reasons businesses might want to blog, but I think they’re smaller and stray from the core benefits of blogging.
For instance, I love to use our blog to test out big campaigns on the cheap — before we invest a lot of money and time into their creation. I also love to use our blog to help understand our persona better. And while this shouldn’t be their primary use, blogs also become great outlets through with marketers can communicate other PR-type important information — things like product releases or event information. It’s certainly easier to get attention for more company-focused initiatives if you’ve built up your own audience on your own property, as opposed to pitching your story to journalists and hoping one of them bites.
These are all great side effects or uses of a business blog, but they’re secondary benefits to me.
If you’re looking to start a business blog or get more investment for one you’ve already started, the reasons above are a great place to start arguing your case.
Are you already well underway when it comes to business blogging? Just starting out? Share your thoughts on business blogging below and what you’re looking to get out of it.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
The first basic truth of marketing is people buy from people they know and trust. People want to hear your story so they can know you better.
Many of us find telling our story is hard. It doesn’t have to be.
Here is an excellent post giving you 5 great tips on telling your story
5 TIPS FOR SELLING MORE OF YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE USING STORIES
Here is the ugly truth. Whether we like it or not, as small business owners we are in the marketing business. People will not beat down your doors. If you want sales, you have to find a way to motivate potential customers.
One way to do this is to tell your story. However, there is a difference between story telling and story building. Attached is a great post from Duct Tape Marketing telling us how to build a great story by asking some great questions.
Help me out here. I am a small business owner trying to take my business to the next level just like you. After you read the post, please pick one of the questions and post your answer in the reply section.
By doing this, I can learn what interests you the most. Then I can build informative posts on things that matter to you.
Thank you in advance for your help.
I admit it. I am becoming obsessed by the challenge of creating “High Touch” in a world dominated by “High Tech”.
Here’s what we know. People buy from people they know and trust.
You can use the internet to attract people. Then it’s up to you to get to know them.
Here’s a short post with 5 great questions you must know the answers to if you are win loyal, repeat clients and customers.
Delivering Happiness Takes High Touch, Not High Tech
Happiness is more than just a state of mind and Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is on a mission to prove it. I had the privilege of seeing Tony speak for The American Marketing Association and after two pages of notes I examined his philosophy and realized why the businesses he’s managed have been so abundantly successful.
Even if I wasn’t quite sure about this “happiness speak” (which I am, of course, being the happy, cheesy person that I am) Tony would have received my full attention if for no other reason than the fact that he sold a business to Microsoft at the age of 24 for $265 million.
In our high-tech world we are trained to shift further and further away from live, in person interaction but doing so hurts us in the end. We have email, text messaging, social media, videos, assistants, project managers and on and on, each removing us from the core customer experience. Tony spoke about their customer call center, and how there are no “time limits” for each order, and that the record for their longest customer service call was 7 hours!