Little bites

I know a guy who is really, really good at what he does. He maintains a terrific big picture view while still understanding the details which can make or break the success of his projects. He’s a deep thinker, and when I ask him a question about his realm of influence, I know I’m going to get a thorough and thoughtful answer. Everyone needs a guy like this on her team.

Sometimes, though, this guy becomes his own biggest obstacle. When he has an idea, his mind is off and running. He has gone through steps J, K, and L before most people get beyond A, B, and C. He’s busy solving problems that haven’t yet occurred and probably won’t occur until somewhere down the timeline–by which point a lot of variables could change. He often hesitates to pull the trigger on a project until he can work out the answers to those problems.

Many times, that’s exactly the right approach–but many times it’s not.

Not every project is an all-or-nothing proposition. We don’t have to go from A to Z in a single step. We can launch our project or product and service before we get to Z if

  • The new solution is better than what came before it, i.e. it makes people happy.
  • Each step is a (fairly) natural progression, not a complete rework of the one before it.
  • Showing continued improvements or making updates signals progress/activity/forward motion.

Think of a website, for example. Little improvements over time can actually be a positive thing. It keeps your audience feeling as though your work is fresh, the content is dynamic, and there’s always a new reason to visit. That’s not a place where you want to publish a TA-DA! product and sit back. Yeah, I know, building the infrastructure requires a fairly specific vision for the future, but once the infrastructure is in place, you can always make improvements along the way. The trick is understanding when to forge ahead and when to wait.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

One for all

A couple of nights ago, I had dinner plans with my staff and a visiting colleague. The colleague and I arrived about 30 minutes early, so we ducked into the adjacent bar to have a glass of wine while we waited for the others to arrive.

Twenty minutes and two coworkers later, we decided it was time to move to our table. I signaled the server and told her that we were ready to settle our tab. Graciously, she asked whether I preferred to close out my tab with her or to transfer it to our dinner bill. She said she wanted to do whatever was easier for me.

Of course, paying a single bill instead of two was the obvious answer. However, I also knew that if I transferred the tab to the dinner side of the restaurant, she wouldn’t receive any of the tip, and I effectively told her that. I wanted to make sure she was fairly compensated. Her response? I want to do what is easiest for you. It’s only one round of drinks. It’s okay–really.

I love, love, love it when people embrace big picture outcomes, understanding the trade-offs between long- and short-term success. That server clearly grasped that doing what is best for the customer is what will keep that restaurant successful, even if it meant a short-term tweak to her tip jar. Two days later, I’m still ruminating on her considerate gesture.

One for all, and all for one.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we both got what we wanted. I transferred the tab to the restaurant, but I handed her a cash tip before I left the bar. She deserved it.

A SUPER experience

In case you’re wondering, I had a great SUPER time in Indianapolis on Super Bowl weekend. The city did a fantastic SUPER job with every detail that I could see, including replacing positive descriptors such as great, fantastic, nice with the word SUPER at every possible opportunity. “Have a SUPER day!” rang out at the close of every encounter, thanks to the 8000+ volunteers who had bought into the plan.

By all accounts, Indy’s Super Bowl production was a success. The week leading up to the big game impressed pretty much everyone, including me. What impressed me even more, however, was the year leading up to the event. I have learned many lessons from this planning/communicating/marketing success story.

Many, many months ago, I signed up for every mailing list the Super Bowl XLVI Host Committee offered. Even that early in the game (so to speak), the volunteer roster had already filled, so my intent was to at least follow along vicariously. It didn’t matter that I live in Fort Wayne and not Indy’s east side; I learned all about the First & Green effort. I have no intention of ever knitting a stitch, and the only purls I’ll touch are spelled P-E-A-R-L; I still followed the Super Scarves effort every stitch of the way. I eagerly awaited photos and progress updates on the Host Committee’s Facebook page. I devotedly read every weekly update published to my inbox (and thousands of others) by Alison Melangton, the Host Committee’s head. I soaked it all in.

Over the course of the year–and especially after the event went off in SUPER fashion–I learned and re-learned a lot of lessons. In no particular order, here they are:

  • Transparency matters. One of the things I appreciated most about all the planning and preparation was the regular updates on the state of affairs. By the time the big week rolled around, there were no unpleasant surprises.
  • Organize, organize, organize. The committee got started early and put together a capable staff.
  • Every detail counts. From the visible (scarves identifying volunteers, cookies and cards from schoolchildren for every hotel guest) to the unseen, the committee vigilantly addressed every possible detail. Seeing dozens of school buses lined up to shuttle people out of downtown to their respective parking lots on game day was just awesome.
  • Use all the tools at hand. The committee did a tremendous SUPER job using all forms of media to reach people. Aside from the traditional channels, social media played an integral role in getting the word out. One of my favorite examples is the use of Twitter during Super Bowl week, when concierges would tweet available restaurant seatings for those of us who weren’t able to get reservations. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, print, TV, radio, word of mouth…they all have their place and can bring terrific SUPER results when used effectively.
  • Bring your passion. It was very clear to me that all the people involved with this effort were truly passionate about it. Passion is what moves the lackluster to something special. It’s easy to see when it is present, but it is equally apparent when it is not. If you truly care about what you do, people will notice, and more often than not, you’ll find it’s contagious.

I loved every minute of my SUPER weekend in Indy. The experience itself was wonderful SUPER, but looking at it through a marketer’s eye was just as exciting for me. I just loved watching everything fall into place after months and months of careful, deliberate planning. I’m already finding ways to apply those lessons in my own endeavors.