business lessons from The Hells Angels

random thoughts

“The strength of a brand often reflects an organization’s cultural health. Inside-out, credo-driven brands surpass their outside-in, market-driven peers in category after category (see Apple and Google versus Microsoft; Southwest Airlines versus United Airlines). The brands that value employee culture create an obvious advantage: better people with bigger ideas and more initiative want to be part of those cultures. Brands with great cultures give employees a sense of identity, belonging and purpose. In fact, the most successful culture brands connect with employees in ways similar to gangs or the mafia.

Globally, one organization offers a vivid blueprint for growing a brand through an unrivaled dedication to culture, and it isn’t a company you’ll find in the Fortune 500. It’s the Hells Angels, the world’s most famous (or infamous, depending on perspective) outlaw motorcycle club.
Here are four of the organization’s practices that mainstream companies should borrow.

1_An all-in hiring process is the only way to go
Not everyone can be a Hells Angel. That might go without saying, but it’s that clarity —who we’re for, and who is for us— that’s missing from the culture of so many companies. More importantly, the process of joining the Hells Angels is so long and arduous that no one in the club has to suffer a lemon member. Every prospect demonstrates that he wants to be there, and every member vets prospects, weeding out those who do not align with the culture. Zappos uses this same culture-first, no-lemon approach to hiring. Following an immersive training program, new employees are offered a bonus to quit on the spot. The message is clear: go all-in with us, or hit the bricks.

2_Use symbols and artifacts wisely
At the heart of the Hells Angels’ brand is an amazing array of iconography. Compared to the corporate world’s dull logos, inane stock photography and other corporate ‘communications’, the Hells Angels have the signature ‘Death’s Head’ insignia, along with a complex set of patches and other symbols.
It would be easy to dismiss these artifacts as the typical trappings of a gang. But they are meaningful visual designations of belonging, commitment and member achievement. While most companies onboard new hires with slide presentations, Hells Angels prospects earn their ‘full patch’. This communicates that membership really matters and connects members with something larger than themselves in a way that is, at the same time, personal.

3_Appeal to outsiders as insiders
One of the paradoxes of employer-employee relationships is that people both seek a sense of belonging and want to maintain their identity. Too much belonging without any individuality is a cult. Too much individuality without any belonging is a band of mercenaries. The Hells Angels balance this by creating a club for outsiders. Archetypally, the Hells Angels is about as pure a portrait of the ‘outlaw’ or ‘rebel’ brand as you’ll find. Members are called to the brand as outsiders—where they then become insular and highly exclusive insiders. That might sound odd, but it’s what people want from a brand. It’s why we love music groups a lot more before they’re cool. The Hells Angels anti-establishment culture distinguishes its members from everyone else while also welcoming those members for who they are. Roaring down the highway, they are a band of outsiders—together.
Any mainstream company in the business of innovation —from startups challenging entrenched industries to big companies always on the hook to develop the next big thing— should take heed. Outsiders are a symbol of doing things differently. You cannot disrupt the status quo without them. But those outsiders and their wild ideas need support. They need a place to feel like an insider.

4_Ignore the critics
Law enforcement agencies haven’t wanted the Hells Angels around for decades. The club doesn’t care. It is expanding geographically and recruiting the next generation of members returning from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. The club is even expanding its revenue streams, creating licensing opportunities from its 18 trademarks and opening a retail store in Toronto in 2013. Despite rivals on both sides of the law, the club continues to thrive.

Timeless, adaptable and intensely resonant (positively or negatively), the Hells Angels club brand is the envy of brand managers worldwide, whether they’ll admit it or not. You don’t like them? They don’t care. So skip liking or disliking them, and start emulating inside your own organization the ways they’ve created one of the best culture brands in the world.”

Devin Liddell leads the brand strategy offer for design consultancy Teague


3 business lessons from Mexico’s Sinaloa Drug Cartel

random thoughts

“Blockbuster is gone. So are Lehman Brothers, Atari, Pan Am and countless others each year. Startups fail, too, with 80% going belly up within the first 18 months. But here’s something to consider in comparison: criminal syndicates don’t go out of business. The Chinese Triads have been around since the 17th century. For 25 years, Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel has outmaneuvered vicious competition at home as well as the United States’ $51 billion —annually— War on Drugs.

Net margins for criminal organizations shame their legal counterparts; while airlines earn 1.8% and oil companies average 8%, cocaine cartels earn a 93% net margin —for just wholesale. Profit per full-time employee ratios are also off the charts. Google’s profit per FTE is $270,000 and Apple’s is $460,000, both of which are impressive. But the Sinaloa Cartel’s profit per FTE is estimated at $20 million. The global reach of these organizations is also expanding; beyond North America, the Sinaloa Cartel is now active in Europe, Asia, and Australia.

All of this money and growth is happening despite the efforts of governments and law enforcement agencies to eradicate them. And yet criminal syndicates make immense profits mostly in competitive commodities businesses. So how do they do it?

In a word: culture. Criminal syndicates are far superior at creating successful cultures than the vast majority of the Fortune 500. All successful criminal syndicates, across cultures, geographies and endeavors, are primarily culture-driven brands. Despite their significant differences, these culture-driven brands have 3 key attributes in common.

The Japanese yakuza identify themselves as ‘chivalrous organizations’ and operate within strict codes of conduct that express very specific organizational values. The Sinaloa Cartel, unlike its competitors, actively cultivates a populist image and claims to adamantly oppose kidnapping and the murder of innocent civilians. These beliefs govern organizational behavior—who they are, what they do, and what they won’t do. And theses credos are far more actionable and authentic than the ‘values’ posters hung in corporate cafeterias. In place of employee handbooks and other corporate drivel, these organizations have distinctive rituals, symbols and artifacts to express their credos.

Corporations can over-index on ‘innovation’. But improvisation is a form of innovation, and just as important. As streaming technologies emerged, did Blockbuster improvise and move quickly to shift the way it did business? Not quickly enough. And that’s reflective of mainstream corporate cultures that tend to think of innovation as a ‘process’ rather than a behavior.
Criminal syndicates are different; they think of innovation as an organizational imperative. A drug smuggler who finds a new way across a border knows that customs agents will eventually discover the innovation, so he needs to always think of new ways. The Sinaloa Cartel was the first to design and construct a tunnel under the U.S.-Mexico border. The cartel also managed to have family members hired as border agents, and even used a catapult to counter a high-tech fence in Arizona. The yakuza benefit from highly diversified revenue streams, which they’ve systematically grown from traditional gambling and prostitution rackets to modern construction and transportation businesses. Where there is a threat or an opportunity, criminal syndicates improvise.

While too many corporations bury employees within organizational charts that are so big there’s specialized software for creating them, criminal syndicates stick to small teams. With just an estimated 150 members, the Sinaloa Cartel produces revenue equivalent to the GDP of Belize (a country with more than 330,000 people). And while the Yamaguchi-gumi is the largest yakuza organization with more than 20,000 active members, those members are spread across 2,500 different businesses and 500 sub-groups. The teams are small, but they can pull significant resources from the whole.
Just as importantly, the small team structure nurtures an entrepreneurial zeal and an emphasis on doing. With so much at risk, with everyone empowered, and with everyone aligned through shared values and a unifying sense of purpose, criminal syndicates use small teams to accomplish really big things.

There it is, the underworld model for success: small-but-big teams inside belief-driven cultures improvising continuously.”

Devin Liddell leads the brand strategy offer for design consultancy Teague

skill set of a brand curator

concepts & definitions

“Today’s brand managers must be outstanding curators of brand values and identity.

Here are imperatives that guide a consummate brand curator:

  • Know the DNA of the brand inside out and defend its essence.
  • Keep the brand authentic; steadfastly resist the temptation to compromise brand value in pursuit of short-term opportunity.
  • Know how the brand connects with its target market and the values that differentiate it as valuable (and welcome customers who customize the brand constructively).
  • Sense how the brand fulfills any customer’s constant desire for “good life moments” – moments to which we all feel entitled.
  • Constantly ‘dust’ the merchandise to let the brand sparkle fresh and keep re-focusing the spotlight to maintain the aura.
  • Ally yourself with the agendas of brand enthusiasts and evangelists in social networks (these are the brand ‘patrons’ who celebrate central brand values); their brand problems and challenges demand prompt resolution.
  • When the brand is licensed, regard licensing as an act of trust like a ‘loaned’ exhibit to a great museum; only entrust your brand to best-in-class licensing resources.
  • Immerse yourself in the brand experience of competitors to learn how they might excel where you merely dabble.
Thomas Hoving was a distinguished curator of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. In Making the Mummies Dance, Hoving wrote revealingly about two curator traits: 1) his curators were inexhaustibly passionate in what they did (“most couldn’t go to sleep without looking at yet one more photo of a work of art”); 2) they were broader gauged than expected (“[m]ost art curators possessed a surprising knowledge about other fields…”).
Passion breeds focused energy, and itelligent curiosity underpins breadth: a grasp of big-pictures context. Awesome curators have both.”

Simon Graj writes about maximizing brand development opportunities

más allá de la conciliación

random thoughts

“Al usar la palabra conciliación habitualmente se comete el error de reducirla a los términos de horarios y flexiblidad. Es una ida excesivamente simplista de un concepto muy amplio, ya que cuando hablamos de conciliación, lo hacemos de algo más global: nos referimos a equilibrio, a compromiso social, a calidad en el empleo, a igualdad de oportunidades, a desarrollo personal, a sentir que no estás sólo cuando tienes problemas en tu entorno, como el familiar.”

Miguel Angel Aller director de recursos humanos de Gas Natural Fenosa

queda mucho por hacer

random thoughts

“Cada vez es más reconocido que las marcas poderosas tienen un alto impacto en el negocio por su capacidad para potenciar el crecimiento, mejorar la rentabilidad y aumentar el valor de capitalización de las empresas. Pero paradójicamente, la gestión de la marca aún no cuenta con el estatus ni con el reconocimiento que debería de acuerdo a su importancia estratégica y aportación de valor.

El reciente estudio realizado por Aebrand en colaboración con el Esade Brand Institute, pone de relieve que si bien en general se considera que la marca es un activo estratégico, la mayoría de responsables de su gestión reconoce que sus empresas no le dedican la atención y los recursos que merece, y en muchos casos se trata como un aspecto meramente táctico.

Especialmente en los últimos años, hemos avanzado notablemente en el terreno de la concienciación acerca de la importancia de la marca, pero la realidad es que una gran mayoría de las empresas aún no actúa en consecuencia. La situación varía mucho según el tipo de empresa, sector y tamaño, pero en general:

  • No suele haber presupuestos asignados, recurrentes y adecuados para la gestión de la marca.
  • No suele haber equipos dedicados específicamente a esta tarea. Y si existen, a menudo no cuentan con las atribuciones, rango y visión necesarias.
  • Al ser la marca una realidad trasversal que no es responsabilidad de un área funcional concreta, suele haber numerosos vacíos y solapamientos.
  • La tendencia creciente en el número colaboradores externos especialistas en áreas específicas hace que sea más complicado mantener la coherencia y aumente el riesgo de dispersión en las expresiones de la marca.

En sucesivas ediciones del estudio profundizaremos en todo ello, pero a mi juicio, algunas de las causas que pueden influir en esta situación podrían ser las siguientes:

1_Muchos de los responsables empresariales provienen del ámbito financiero o de operaciones y para ellos la marca es un terreno abstracto en el que no se sienten cómodos. Hay que tener en cuenta que hasta hace relativamente poco las escuelas de negocio no incluían en su programas de alta dirección la gestión estratégica de la marca.

2_No hay todavía métodos de gestión suficientemente contrastados tanto a nivel académico como práctico. Las claves del éxito de una marca como Coca Cola difieren mucho de las que han convertido, por ejemplo, a Ikea, a Zara o a Apple, en referentes en sus sectores. Aunque es verdad que todas ellas tienen en común su capacidad para generar preferencia y en algunos casos admiración, su éxito como marcas se ha construido de manera muy diferente. De hecho, los métodos y claves en la gestión de una marca corporativa, difieren bastante de las de una marca comercial o de retail, pongamos por caso.

3_Aunque los rankings que publican distintas fuentes han contribuido a poner de relieve el valor financiero de las marcas frente a la Dirección, las significativas diferencias en las valoraciones según quien los lleva a cabo sorprenden y confunden. Es necesario avanzar en la definición de metodologías estándares para evitar estas dispersiones que restan credibilidad.

4_Una marca se construye desde todos los ámbitos de la empresa por lo que su gestión debe ser multi-departamental y multi-stakeholder, y esto es complicado porque no encaja en la organización funcional de las empresas.

5_La marca exige una perspectiva de medio plazo, que vaya más allá del presupuesto anual, lo cual también plantea dificultades a nivel de gestión. En este sentido, la profunda y prolongada crisis económica que aún persiste ha influido sin duda en que los presupuestos destinados a gestión de marca no estén a la altura de las circunstancias.

Mi opinión es que estamos en el buen camino, pero queda aún mucho por hacer. Hay que pasar de las palabras a los hechos, de las buenas intenciones a las actuaciones concretas, y eso es naturalmente lo más difícil. Y además hay que hacerlo ya, porque los profundos cambios económicos, sociales y tecnológicos que estamos viviendo, exigen respuestas ágiles y audaces a nivel de marca.”

Conrad Llorens president de Asociación Española de Empresas de Branding (Aebrand)

la nueva biblia de la economía


Si bien Picketty recuerda que no se han cumplido las peores previsiones de Karl Marx —que advertía del principio de acumulación infinita, de la tendencia inevitable del capital a acumularse y concentrarse sin límite—, eso ha sido, advierte, gracias a la difusión del conocimiento, la única que fuerza claramente disminuye las desigualdades, y a las circunstancias históricas, como las guerras mundiales y las políticas públicas aplicadas tras ellas, que pararon el brutal proceso de polarización de rentas que se dio en el capitalismo globalizado hasta 1941. Pero la intuición de Marx al respecto, dice Piketty, era correcta y muy útil para el siglo XXI.

El capital al segle XXI, de Thomas Piketty
RBA, Barcelona, 2014
970 pàgines, 25 €

6 bad habits holding you back from success

improve yourself

“We all have bad habits, but bringing your baggage along to the office can be the difference between soaring or stalling in your career. Below are six common workplace bad habits to break if you want to continue moving up the career ladder:

1_Being a lone wolf. Collaboration is the key to workplace success. You need to show you can play well with others. After all, managers and those in charge need to be able to lead a team.

2_Saying sorry. Are you apologizing too much in the office? Saying sorry about every little thing implies you are constantly making mistakes, and can undercut your position in the office and with managers.

3_Taking on every project. Do you get excited by new projects? Do you like jumping in with both feet and finding new challenges? These are great attributes to any employee, but it’s time to learn your limits. If you say yes to every single project, you might soon find yourself unhappy, burnt out, and badly overworked. The word “no” is a powerful thing. Be protective of your time and abilities, and know when one more task is just too many.

4_Being negative. Enthusiasm and passion are traits managers look for in superstar employees who get promotions and excel within the company. No one wants to promote someone who looks miserable to step into the office each day. Ask yourself what would make you wake up excited about your workday, and chase after your dreams.

5_Doing things the way they’ve always been done. Innovation is the lifeblood of any company, yet many workers just come into the office to punch their time cards and collect their paychecks. Lack of innovation in companies, it turns out, is a two-way street.

6_Being disorganized. Imagine how much of your work life is being frittered away every time you misplace a report under a pile of desktop debris. People walking past your cluttered workspace are judging you for your organizational chaos.

Your bad habits don’t have to hold you back from career success. If you tackle these habits head-on, you might just find yourself moving on up the ladder.”

Ilya Pozin serial entrepreneur, writer and investor

why you should listen, even if others don’t

improve yourself

“Listening is the single smartest thing you or I can possibly do. Here’s why:

1_Listening is the greatest compliment you can give someone. Imagine you are a recent college graduate in your second month of a new job, and the CEO not only takes time to talk with you, but also asks you a series of questions. Two weeks later, he sees you again and clearly remembers what you told him. How does that make you feel? Now you know how you can make someone feel, just by listening to him or her.

2_Listening makes people like you. The more interest you show in what another person has to say, the better they like you. Listening intently makes them think you are smart, warm and perceptive.

3_Listening makes you smarter. By listening to others, you learn more about them. You learn important pieces of information, and you learn who knows what. You learn who you can trust.

4_Listening makes you shut up, inside and out. When you actually listen to another, you quiet that voice in your head that almost never shuts up. Plus, you actually stop talking… and most of us would do well to talk a bit less, especially when we are trying to learn.”

Bruce Kasanoff ghostwriter for entrepreneurs and executives

7 claves para impulsar nuestro nivel de felicidad

improve yourself

“La verdad es que una gran parte de la sensación de felicidad viene controlada por nuestros genes, que determinan cómo funciona nuestro cerebro y qué concentración de hormonas hay en nuestra sangre. Pero hay un montón de cosas que tú y yo podemos hacer para ser más felices.

1_Gratitud. Es la forma más poderosa de potenciar nuestra felicidad. La gratitud nos hace ser más felices, mejora nuestras relaciones, nos hace mejores personas.

2_Pasa tu tiempo con personas a las que quieres. Las personas más felices son aquéllas con lazos sociales fuertes. Compartir con las personas a las que queremos las cosas grandes y pequeñas de la vida es esencial para ser felices.

3_Se generoso. Echar una mano a otros es la forma más egoísta de ser desinteresado. Dar nos hace más felices que recibir.

4_Céntrate en el aquí y ahora. La mejor forma de disfrutar el presente es evitando que nuestra mente viaje del pasado (recuerdos) al futuro (preocupaciones).

5_Sé ambicioso. A menudo hacemos lo que es más fácil, en vez de lo que es más importante. Piensa en grande y ponte objetivos ambiciosos que te desafían a salir fuera de tu zona de confort. Mira la vida como un proceso de aprendizaje y crecimiento; céntrate en crecer y disfrutar el camino.

6_Sé optimista. La gente que tiene una mentalidad positiva se siente más libre, más satisfecha y tienen menos problemas. El optimismo también mejora la productividad.

7_Evita dar prioridad a lo que es menos importante. Hemos de analizar cuáles son nuestras prioridades y cuáles son sólo decisiones que tomamos ‘obligados’ por las circunstancias.

Y por último, recuerda que muchas cosas pequeñas son más importantes que unas pocas gordas.”

Isabel Anthony Torres se ese uno

una característica común de las empresas de éxito

random thoughts

“El éxito de las empresas se da generalmente cuando coinciden dos figuras: la del empresario promotor y la del gestor; el emprendedor, que tiene la visión del negocio, que asume el riesgo y define la estrategia y los valores de la organización, y el gestor, que implementa esta estrategia, que dirige el día a día. La combinación y la coordinación de este tándem es una característica común de las empresas de éxito.”

Jaume Llopis professor del IESE, Universidad de Navarra


personal thoughts

L’altre dia vaig descobrir que un club de judo per a joves i un centre de pilates del meu antic barri, que disten menys de 50 metres entre si, han coordinat horaris pensant en els pares i mares que a la tarden deixen els seus fills al club, perquè així puguin aprofitar aquella estona fent esport (pilates) ells també. Desconeixo de qui ha sigut la inciativa, però em sembla molt innovadora. Bravo!

los 6 retos de las empresas españolas

work smarter

“Hay un potencial enorme de crecimiento si las empresas son capaces de asumir y afrontar con éxito los seis retos básicos de la globalización y la internacionalización:

1_Tecnología e I+D. La innovación es el motor del desarrollo de toda empresa. El frenético desarrollo de todos los mercados exige innovar constantemente. Es fundamental que en la empresa exista una inquietud y una cultura proactiva hacia la innovación.

2_Productividad total. La mejora constante de la productividad en todos los estamentos de la empresa es vital. Todos los que integramos la empresa tenemos que mejorar la calidad de nuestro trabajo constantemente. Se consigue enfocando la empresa a resultados e implantando un sencillo plan de dirección por objetivos.

3_Internacionalización. Nuestro mercado es el mundo. Las oportunidades existen, sólo hay que buscarlas.

4_Profesionalización. La complejidad creciente del mundo de los negocios obliga a que las empresas estén dirigidas por profesionales de la gestión, por directivos que tengan la formación necesaria y la experiencia para dirigir empresas en entornos cambiantes y muy competitivos. Ello exige una formación constante.

5_Capital intelectual. La entrada en el siglo XXI supuso la consolidación plena de la era de la información y del sector terciario como principal motor de la economía en los países desarrollados. Con una economía basada en los servicios, los intangibles cobran mayor importancia: el conocimiento, las habilidades, los valores y las actitudes de las personas en detrimento de la maquinaria, las instalaciones o los stocks. Pero tenemos estructuras demasiado jerárquicas, no dejamos que las personas piensen, el culto al presupuesto es el corsé que no deja desarrollar la creatividad, no se tolera el error y se coarta la iniciativa de las personas.

6_La voluntad de cambio. Por último, el reto fundamental estriba en la voluntad de cambio del empresario. La incapacidad para inventar el futuro se debe a que no se optimizan los recursos y los sistemas de gestión de la empresa, por la vulnerabilidad frente a las nuevas normas del mercado, por no cambiar políticas profundamente arraigadas, por la falta de espíritu emprendedor y por el fracaso en la redefinición de las nuevas estrategias.”

Jaume Llopis professor del IESE, Universidad de Navarra

7 factores clave para la empleabilidad

improve yourself

“Jordi Serrano y Santiago García definen qué cualidades genéricas se valorarán más en los colaboradores.

1_Adaptabilidad. Dispuesto a cambiar, pero profundiza en la especialización propia.

2_Flexibilidad. Preparado a cambiar de papel, de empresa o de tecnología.

3_Creatividad. Es de lo poco que no podemos enviar a China para que lo hagan. Muere la definición del puesto de trabajo. Se da una idea y debe desarrollarse. Todos y cada uno en la organización deben crear.

4_Habilidad social. Fuerte capacidad de interaccionar con la gente y capacidad de influir. Vender, hasta el freelance debe saber venderse.

5_Competencia digital. Capacidad de armar el propio entorno de aprendizaje digital, orientarse, comunicarse y cuidar su reputación —y la de la organización— en la red.

6_Iniciativa y pasión. La figura más clara es la del intraemprendedor. Colaborar con generosidad. Es una de las claves de la diferenciación competitiva.

7_Liderazgo. Se precisan líderes servidores, que den un paso atrás y sean capaces de construir contextos que apoyen la aparición de intraemprendedores.

>Jordi Serrano y Santiago García son autores del libro ‘El ocaso del empleo’ (Libros de Cabecera, 2013), exdirectivos de recursos humanos y miembros fundadores de Future4Work, una comunidad de consultores especializados en ayudar a las organizaciones a adaptar sus prácticas de gestión de personas a estos cambios de entorno.”

Article de Jordi Goula al suplement Diners de La Vanguardia (5 octubre 2014)



el coste de los paraísos fiscales


¿Cuánto nos cuestan los paraísos fiscales? Cada año suponen una pérdida de 130.000 millones de euros en impuestos para los estados del mundo entero. Porque, según cálculos de Gabriel Zucman, profesor de la London School of Economics, el 8% del patrimonio financiero mundial de las familias está en paraísos fiscales: 5,8 billones de euros. La buena noticia es que hay soluciones y no son utópicas, dice Zucman. Pero antes de proponerlas, repasa el nacimiento de los paraíses fiscales y, sobre todo, el papel preponderante que sigue teniendo Suiza entre ellos.

La riqueza oculta de las naciones, de Gabriel Zucman
Pasado y Presente, Barcelona, 2014
168 páginas, 19 €

5 hábitos responsables de la mediocridad

improve yourself

“Aquí tienes las 5 razones por las que las personas nunca alcanzan su máximo potencial:

1_Porque evitan el riesgo. Equivocarse duele, pero los errores nos permiten aprender y corregir nuestro curso en el futuro.

2_Porque temen lo que otros dirán. Muchas veces pensamos que tenemos que adaptarnos, encajar. Que ser diferente no es bueno. Tememos que el éxito nos haga ser envidiados, odiados o rechazados.

3_Porque creen que son más listos de lo que realmente son. Seguir invirtiendo en tu educación con tu tiempo y con tu dinero es fundamental para mantener tu mente alerta y preparada para los cambios que hay en tu entorno, tanto si los ves a tiempo como si sólo los sufres.

4_Porque no hacen las suficientes preguntas. Seguir cuestionando tus opiniones y creencias es la única forma de verdaderamente crecer.

5_Porque no apuntan lo suficientemente alto. Mucha gente tiene resultados mediocres porque no se plantean objetivos de ningún tipo, porque sus objetivos son puramente razonables o porque sus objetivos NO les preparan para GANAR, solo les preparan para NO PERDER.

(hay quién añadiría un sexto punto: Porque no siguen ninguna metodología).”

Isabel Anthony Torres se ese uno

does your website’s homepage answer these 4 important questions?

random thoughts

“It’s critical that your website’s homepage can quickly and easily answer the following four questions:

1_What do you do?
If a visitor can’t define exactly what it is that you do within the first minute on your website, you’re basically asking them to hit the back button.

2_How are you different?
Whether it’s cost, a one-of-a-kind service, or a unique technology, it’s important that you identify what makes your product or service different, and make it known to visitors.

3_Are you trustworthy?
When it comes to making a decision on whether or not to do business with you, visitors don’t want to feel like a guinea pig. Including testimonials, case studies, and social proof on your website’s homepage will help you to convey a sense of credibility and trustworthiness.

4_How can I reach you?
If a website visitor is seeking your contact information, it’s primarily a good sign. If they’re having trouble easily locating it on your website’s homepage, that’s probably not a good sign.

Your website, if done correctly, should be one of the strongest pieces of persuasive material that you have for your business.”

Carly Stec content marketing manager at IMPACT

never stop learning: how self-education creates a bullet-proof career

improve yourself

“Here are some ways to ignite and sustain a passion for learning:

1_Start with heroes from the past
Having heroes (dead or alive) gives you something to live up to, a higher standard. You can pick someone in your field and always point toward them.

2_Take advantage of free educational resources
Technology has transformed us into excellent gatherers of information. From books, podcasts, blogs, online courses, and tools that provide access to whomever youre trying to connect with, you can study any subject.

3_Explore unrelated subjects
Say youre a graphic designer; why not study something like Greek architecture or fashion? Or lets say youre a fitness coach; why not study public speakers or read biographies on famous sports coaches?

4_Make learning a habit
A desire to learn is a fruitful asset that will fuel you throughout your life. Without this unquenchable desire to grow our understanding of ourselves and the world around us, we stagnate.

Learning is the lifeblood of a fruitful career. And it’s available to you right now.”

Paul Jun writer and author

3 ways to earn more money from client work

work smarter

“Mainly, the thing working against us is fear. We’re afraid that if we charge too much, it’ll backfire and we’ll lose clients. We’re afraid that we’re not as good as we think we are. Or worse, that others will see right through us and realize we’re frauds.

The other obstacle is that we only want to focus on the work. Raising rates and negotiating pricing? That’s for sleazy salespeople. But counter intuitively, pricing has everything to do with the work. You pour your time and energy into work that you can be proud of — work that can make a difference. So it is in service to your talents and the work that you maximize the value you receive.

Never forget: Clients are looking for someone to help them solve a business problem and they’re more than happy to pay top dollar when you help them solve that problem. Not to mention that charging a fair price teaches them to value you and your work.

Ok, so how do we get there?

1_Master the art of up-selling

Up-selling lets you make more money by providing clients with additional services. It creates a win-win situation, but only if you’re willing to take the initiative and ask. Up-sell only natural extensions to your service, not unnecessary add-on products. A lot of people try to up-sell unrelated services, which make their proposals longer and clients hesitant. Smart up-sells —like a logo redesign to complement a homepage redesign— point out needs clients hadn’t even anticipated themselves.

Don’t present your clients with too many options. Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia University, conducted a study at Draeger’s Supermarket on two consecutive Saturdays. On the first Saturday, she set up a tasting booth offering 24 choices of jam. Only 3 percent of the shoppers who tasted jam made a purchase. On the following Saturday, Iyengar set up a booth with only six choices. This time, 30 percent of the shoppers who tried the jam made a purchase.

The same goes for up-selling. We recently conducted research of over 25,000 estimates and proposals. That research revealed that up-selling with just one or two options converted the best. Additional options decreased conversion rates.

Finally, resist the temptation to up-sell in your initial conversations with clients. Up-selling at the point of decision – when you present your services and price within a proposal – is ideal. Up-selling in your proposal doesn’t pressure clients like up-selling right away does, and it gives them complete control to accept or reject your recommendations.

2_Make your competitors’ prices irrelevant

When you go shoe shopping, you have a general idea of what you expect to pay. Unless you’re shopping somewhere like Gucci, seeing “$795” on a price tag would probably make you run for the exits.

Your potential clients do this too. Dan Ariely calls it “arbitrary coherence”. Making past purchases (or seriously considering purchases) influences how similar decisions will be made going forward. Understanding how this works is the first step to avoid getting lumped together with bargain-basement competitors in your potential clients’ minds.

“Similar” is the key word here. Arbitrary coherence only kicks in when the decisions are close enough in the prospect’s mind to trigger the previous price point. Starbucks customers don’t use Dunkin’ Donuts prices as anchors to consider how much coffee should cost at Starbucks. Why not? Both sell coffee, but each business creates a completely different experience. Dunkin’ Donuts is a blue collar, hurry to work place. Starbucks is a nice environment to lounge and relax.

Crafting a unique experience for your clients can make your competitors’ prices irrelevant. When you start out, you may be tempted to emulate the language of more established players, but check their price point. Do everything you can to create a distinct experience from people charging less than you.

One of my favorite examples is the proposal process. Take a close look at what lower priced competitors do when someone asks for an estimate. What does that experience look like?

Maybe, you see that it’s something like this:

  1. Client submits web form asking for a price estimate
  2. There’s a brief email exchange nailing down project requirements
  3. A quick price estimate is given through email

Compare that to higher-end competitors:

  1. Client submits web form asking for a price estimate
  2. A brief client questionnaire is sent back and minimum budget expectations are set
  3. Email exchange and/or phone call to nail down business objectives and project requirements
  4. A professional looking proposal is sent for approval

For high paying clients, the proposal process of higher-end companies is more inline with what they expect.

Look at everything from messaging on websites and emails, to the way they position their services.  You’ll avoid preconceived notions of what your price should be and make clients more receptive to paying what you’re worth.

3_Use persuasive words to command higher rates

One tiny word can make the difference between winning and losing a client. In a Carnegie Mellon University study, Professors Scott Rick and George Loewenstein tested phrases to describe a fee associated with shipping a DVD box set by overnight delivery. Here are the two variations they tested:

  • “A $5 fee”
  • “A small $5 fee”

Just by adding “small,” the second phrase improved the response rate by 20 percent. Pay attention to how you word your estimates and proposals. Using words like “small,” “minor,” and “low” might not seem like a big deal to you, but they matter enough to clients to justify higher rates.

If your proposal offers “Design Services” and a simple price quote, you aren’t separating yourself from your competitors. You blend into the pack, which increases the likelihood of clients relying on price anchors set by lower-priced competitors and rejecting your bid.

Reframing your services as solutions to clients’ problems helps them focus on the value you can deliver instead of the price. “Increasing Customers Through a Redesign” is more persuasive than “Design Services”, and is more likely to justify higher rates.

“Rebranding for Company” doesn’t demand top dollar like “Rebranding to Enter Billion Dollar Market” does. Or if their goal is to double online leads and they want a new design to help accomplish that; instead of “Website Design for Company” you’ll be a better match if you say, “Doubling Online Leads with a Website Design”.

You’ll also want to make sure you use the most persuasive words you can. What are the most persuasive words a client can read? Their own words.

Use the client’s own language when describing what you’ll do for them. This can be a very powerful technique if you’re using words that have a lot of energy behind them.

You can do that by asking the following two questions:

  1. “What’s the biggest concern you have with this project?”
  2. “What’s most important to you about the person/company that you hire?”

Listen to their answers and pick up on the words that they use. For example, a client may answer: “We’re looking for a reliable company. We had a terrible experience with another company. They kept missing deadlines and our project kept being delayed”.

From that answer, you’ll get a better idea of what they’re looking for, and you’ll have several persuasive words you can use in your estimate or proposal (reliable, deadlines, and delayed).”

Ruben Gamez founder of Bidsketch (a web app that helps freelancers create professional looking proposals in minutes)