Uniqueness Is Overrated: Authenticity vs Unique Overload

I remember the excitement of Krispey Kreme coming to my town a few years ago.  As a sales guy, I love to bring treats to my customers, and nothing sounded more “treaty” than a dozen of the finest warm donuts my corporate American Express card could by.  I was going to make a splash with my customers.  Pulling up to the drive through, waiting nearly 20 minutes for donuts, I could hardly contain myself.  As I finally picked up 8 dozen (one for each planned stop of the day), I was ready to deliver some tasty smiles to go along with my unique treat.  As the story goes, I wasn’t the only sales rep being unique that morning.  Several of my offices had piles of Krispey Kreme boxes stacked in a corner.
Unique

Unique (Photo credit: Goldmund100)

My “get unique quick” scheme didn’t work so well.
 Today. nothing has really changed.  A few years ago, someone began using the hashtag on twitter as a means to organize and monitor trends.  Facebook is following suit with hashtaging.  Everywhere you look online is hashtags. The problem is once hashtaging reaches a critical mass, it will cease to be useful.  Several hundred, maybe even several thousand references to Iphone 6 (#iphone6) can draw attention and add value to the reader, several million is just plain stupid.  If everyone is hashtaging, then no one is hashtaging.
Uniqueness has a tipping point where it becomes boring and no longer unique.

Where do we go from here?  Here’s a quick guide to help you stay authentic in an attempt to be unique (I argue that many times the attempt at uniqueness is enough if you are authentic).

1.  There are no shortcuts to being Unique.  Delivering Starbucks to the office is not unique.  There are 10 Starbucks within a few minute’s drive of my house.  Feel free to bring the coffee though.  It’s still nice.
2.  Unique is rare, don’t fuss over being unique 100% of the time.  A free Starbucks, while not unique, is still welcome.  As a nice gesture to a good customer,  a tool  to warm up a tough gatekeeper, or a pick-me-up on a rough day for your girlfriend. An authentic gesture is just as valuable as a unique one.
3.  Be infrequent in your uniqueness.  regular uniqueness is inauthentic and exhausting.
4.  Do your homework. You won’t hit a home run with every interaction you make.  Understand your audience, however, will vastly increase the impact of what your attempting.  Finding time to uncover a passion of a client, or sentiment for a girlfriend, will dramatically increase your odds for the “breathtaking” moment.
5.  Know WHY you are doing what you are doing.  Being authentic and having the appropriate motives is much more important than being “different” or unique.

Go be yourself.  You are unique in being yourself.  You are not the lightning thief, don’t worry about catching lightning in a bottle.

What is your unique “thing” you bring?
Rocco

How the Connection Economy Unlocks the Mystery of Sushi and the Kindle

Sushi is one of those things that draws people together.  Like the comraderie in the trenches of war, eating sushi with someone instantly builds rapport.  Sushi is a cultlike experience.  Maybe its the co-worker who is grossed out or the relative who calls it bait that makes it an experience rather than a meal.  Whatever it is, I love it.  My only problem with sushi is that I can’t order.  I’m not intimidated by the non-tranferable names such as the “santa-monica roll” or the “Vegas dynamite”, names which mean completely different things at Joe’s Sushi and Sushi on Fire.  The variety gets me.  Too many choices.  I’m the same way with Christmas presents.  I am convinced that you can choose something for me that I’ll enjoy much more than I can choose.  I’ll analyse my choices to death, agnogizing missing one joy by choosing another.

Solo dinner: Sushi & Kindle

Solo dinner: Sushi & Kindle (Photo credit: inju)

I am a typical, albeit neurotic, consumer.  I am over saturated, underwhelmed, and looking for assurance that I will make the right choices.

As marketers, how do we capture the hearts and loyalty of consumers paralyzed by too many choices?

My recent journey to choose the Kindle Paperwhite over Nook Simpletouch with  Glowlight was a snapshot of the connection economy at work. Like a hungry patron at Mika Sushi, I was looking for someone to tell me what and why to buy.  The old economy would have me going to a store asking a sales person about each model, then making a choice.  Typically the choice was dumb random luck; like the last store I happen to walk in to. Economy 2.0 had me comparing company websites and reading reviews.  Better, but still predictable.  Nook would champion Nook, and Kindle would champion…guess who.  The reviews usually point out terrible products well,  but comparison of multiple products beyond specs are rare from a website that just sold one particular product. The connection economy is different. It seeks advise from  and true compatriots.  I’ll trust you if you tell me the Miso soup tastes like rotten mushrooms if you are in the restaurant experiencing it with me.

 The connection economy  with tools like Facebook and Twitter is much like the Sushi place with countless mysteries on the menu.

Searching for clarity, I reached out to people I trusted would provide detailed considerations in chosing an e-reader. ultimately, my tribe pointed me to the Kindle.  Not so much endorsing the Kindle as superior, my tribe of writers, entrepreneurs, and leadership experts have more “experiences” on the Kindle.  Amazon has connected with its users by understanding why they use an e-reader.  At least in my tribe, the Kindle is a partner in delivering the fruits of many dreams of people I follow.  Rebels of publishing pushing out unconventional products on a mainstream device through the Kindle.  Amazon affiliate programs at the grass roots on blogs, an ultimately the fear that I would have a Nook and a desire to read a Kindle only book, forced my hand.  The connection economy is real and is growing leaps and bounds everyday.  Individuals, now more than ever, have the capability of building a tribe of trust and influencing customers. Will you be driving influence or watching from the sidelines?

Rocco De Leo

How the Road to Awesome Took a Detour to Jerk

As a busy dad of 5, including a newborn, I am pulled in multiple directions.  My time is no longer my own.  I am on the road driving from client to client during the day.  I read (audiobooks) and  keep up with my favorite podcasts in the car.  My purpose in life is to succeed at helping others succeed.  As Jon Acuff says,  my Awesome is to help others find their Awesome.  I do it at work as well as in writing. First things first however, I need to keep up with the latest articles and tweets on awesomeness.  Twitter is a great place to keep up to date on your favorite topics.  If you missed it, I wrote an article on how I use Twitter.  In my infinite wisdom, I recently found the 3 perfect opportunities to completely suck at being awesome while learning how to be awesome.

The Jerk

The Jerk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Elevators are not for twitter.  Seriously!  I was literally tripping over an old lady in a wheelchair the other day as we were both exiting the elevator at a doctor’s office. My excuse: I was reading an article on my iPhone about how to be nice.  You may have seen my Re-tweet.  Epic Fail!
2.  Feeding the baby is not twitter time:  If you have ever had a baby, you know when the biological stuff is happening.  My little girl makes quite the “splash” when her system is a-go.  Unfortunately, this usually happens as I’m deciding whether to RT a tweet or via@personwhotweeted regarding a great article about being a blogging dad or parenting advice.  Of course my 3 week old appreciates this so much that she’s willing to sit in her “splash zone” for 3 or 4 more tweets.
3. Red lights should be twitter-free zones.  I say red light to make it sound not so bad.  Actually, the red lights I am referring to are the red brake lights that startle me as I scroll through my twitter feed. I recently discovered Pocket, the “read later” app.  I’ve never been twitter-elite enough to read the articles while driving, but I can tell a perfect “pocket-able” article with re-tweet potential with the best of them. No bueno!
In my great effort to be awesome, I have become a jerk. All is not lost however.  Here is a list of  5 things to consider when recovering from an acute case of jerk-itis associated with hypocrisy.
1.  Remember that today is a new day.  Don’t be so hard yourself that you give up being awesome.  Besides God, no one loves you more than you.  Sometimes, that causes you to get caught up in yourself.  Recognize it, and push forward.
2.  Take a YOU holiday.  Spend one day hyper-focusing on others.  If this doesn’t come natural to you, give yourself notes as reminders.  Be interested in those you interact with on a normal basis, but step your game up a bit.  Ask the barista at Starbucks about her weekend.  Compliment the bank teller on his tie.  Thank the police officer pulling you over for texting and driving for keeping the streets safe.  Be intentional.
3.  Take a “self-help” break.  I may be mislabeling “self-help”.  Jon Acuffs book Start was phenomenal.  It’s more than simply self help.  Brene’ Brown’s Daring Greatly was life changing.  5-stars abound.  Maybe, as Jon Acuff shares, its time to go to your own Central Park.  A place to “chill-out”.  As a reader, a fun fiction book, can take me out of myself and the pressure to be Awesome.
4.  Pray and Trust in Lord: As a practicing Catholic, my relationship with Christ is key to my happiness.  It’s also key to my awesomeness.  I  find myself praying for guidance and grace on a Sunday morning, and trying to create it myself by Sunday night.  No can do! Pray and trust in the Lord.
5.  Find perspective:  It always amazes me to reflect upon where I’ve come from.  I recently went for a long 10-mile run with very disappointing results.  I felt sluggish and heavy.  I realized that I have gained 25 pounds in 6 months.  That’s how long I haven’t weighed myself.  It snuck up on me and I had no idea I had gained so much.  On the other hand, I look at positives in my life that sneak up on me.  My relationship with my kids since I became a full time full custody dad 5 years ago has grown. Reflecting upon the communication at bedtime or dinner from when I got custody to the normal and relative respect and efficiency I see now provides tremendous perspective on days I feel like screaming.

Awesomeness isn’t easy.  If it were, it wouldn’t be so awesome.  Try too hard or try too little, you will make mistakes.  Try just enough, well you’ll still make mistakes.  Keep on keeping on is the key.  Share some of your irony  on your own road to awesome.  I would love to hear from you.

Rocco De Leo

What’s the Deal With this Twitter Thing?

So what’s all the buzz about this Twitter thing anyway?  After all, it’s just the shortened Sit-Com version of Facebook.  Just another place to comment on the spinach fritatta you want your friends to think you ate for breakfast when in fact you had a stack of pancakes, sausage, and a blueberry muffin.  Forget sharing the truth, this is the Internet! Truth is so Analog!  Ok, so really, what is the point of Twitter?  I have been active on Twitter for an entire month, and I am a quick study.  While I am not prepared to tell the HOW of Twitter today, I am going to tell you the WHAT and the WHY.

Washington DC: Smithsonian Castle - Pile of Loot

Washington DC: Smithsonian Castle – Pile of Loot (Photo credit: wallyg)

You must be on and active on Twitter.  Whenever I meet a high level executive or have interviewed for jobs, I always ask what the person reads.  This says a lot about the person.  Do they read?  What type of material do they read that influences their thinking? In a Pre-Twitter world, knowing what they are reading at that particular time was all I could capture.  It’s important to read what people you wish to emulate and/or learn from are reading.  It simply makes sense.  Twitter gives you that option.  I love to read and hope to be a published author in the near future. Surprise, surprise, a blogger hoping to publish a book! Guy Kawasaki is extremely active sharing what he reads on Twitter. He’s not sharing other twitter feeds like “he look my neighbor planted roses last weekend”.  He’s reading piles of articles a day.  He filters out the ones he deems valuable to share, and shares them.  Simple.  Multiply that by however many people you follow.  I am always impressed by Rush Limbaugh‘s “stack of stuff” he refers to everyday on his show.  I attempted to compile a “stack of stuff” once.  I spilled coffee on 10 articles that would never have been read and was over that. I am not Rush Limbaugh or Guy Kawasaki.  I can, however, participate in the what goes into their minds.  Before Twitter, I would have had to go through Rush’s garbage to see what magazines he was reading.  Guy Kawasaki has 2 big and hungry dogs, so I was never able to go through his trash.  I can “follow” authors like Dave Ramsey, Mark Sanborn and Glen Beck.  These are people  I enjoy and from whom I have a lot to learn.
Ok, now you ask, what’s this cost me?  It costs you what you want to get out of it.  I know that sounds dangerously like that guy who wanted you to sell life insurance in the 90s.  The new cost of entry in the twitersphere is “engagement”.  This is what we as bloggers (I’m yet to have much) are seeking.  Followers are nice, but people who stick around and engage through comments are the high value targets.  They make this twitter thing fun, and can also support those providing monetized value (i.e., books, seminars, etc). I share this blog 2-4 times a week on Twitter.  I also re-tweet or share tweets several times per day.  Most of the tweets I enjoy are links to well written articles read by people I follow reading authors I NEVER would have found on my own.  In essence, Twitter provides me a FREE knowledge staff.  Twitter is my think tank. Thanks Twitter!
Share with me your favorite Twitter personalities. You can admit if it’s Kim Kardashian.  I’ll laugh, but I’ll probably follow you on twitter.

Rocco De Leo

Be Different, Sincere, and Succeed: A 10 step guide on how to be an all around nice guy…or gal

We are living in a crowded age.  Busy is normal, and attention is hard to capture and keep.  You want to be noticed and MEMORABLE.  Are you doing enough? Unless you’re satisfied with a “me too” existence, you probably aren’t doing enough but are eager to learn.  Afterall, That’s the reason you’re reading this post.  Don’t worry, you can get better. You will get better. I just finished reading Michael Hyatt‘s book, Platform: Get noticed in a noisy world.  In it, he gives a detailed “how-to” on building your social media  platform and how to utilize it appropriately, intentionally  and authentically. Platform is the BIG PICTURE, 30,000 foot approach to strategically building your personal brand.   You must read it. What about the SMALLER PICTURE, the 10,000 foot level, tactical approach to getting noticed and DIFFERENTIATING yourself?  This is a simple list of things you should already be doing.  They are so simple, you won’t believe everyone else isn’t doing them.

1. Hand written thank you cards are better than emails.
2. Pick up the phone and call (not all the time, have a voice, not just Facebook)
3. Proactive Networking: Birthdays are nice, in fact they are crucial, however saying high on a random day without asking for something is the icing on the cake. This used to be called Networking.  Today it’s called–well, Networking.
4.  Under promise and over deliver: Surprise people with fabulous results beyond there expectations. Don’t set that bar too low as to be insincere, but give yourself some room to excel.
5.  Names, names, names. Don’t forget names. Use  names early and often.
6.  Showing SINCERE interest in people’s kids is more important than their hobbies.
7. Follow up and follow through on your commitments to people. Unfortunately, people are used to empty promises. Surprise them with delivery.
8. Stay positive. Misery loves company but we still like to have happiness delivered our way. A smile will go a long way.
9. Make aggressive mistakes.  You are going to mess up.  Make sure you mess up because you tried to be kind rather because you tried to avoid trouble.
10.Give more than you ask.  In fact, give way more than you ask.
Bonus:  Pray for people when you tell them you will pray for them.  Offer to pray for people. This will bless you more than you can imagine.

Successful people do the BIG things very well.  They do the SMALL things even better and more often.  Don’t feel as though you must master this list.  Use it as a guideline and learn from it.  Change your mindset to focus on the little things while keeping your eye on the big picture.  The most important thing to remember is that sincerity goes a long way.  You may find yourself in situations where you can’t sincerely execute these steps.  A tough client may not seem appropriate to engage in a conversation regarding his daughters ballet recital.  Don’t go there if you aren’t sincere.  Make these steps a part of your mantra.
Share with me a time a sincere attempt at a nicety went wrong.  How did you resolve it?  Did it affect you in the future?
Rocco De Leo

Act Courageous and offend people

20130418-074835.jpgThere is so much to say and so much to share in today’s hyper connected world. Those of you who utliize some or all of the tools for consuming (and ultimately sharing) information are part of an ever growing intelligence the world has never seen.

Reflecting on an article about Guy Kawasaki auto tweeting during the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing made me think of the wisdoms of Greg Gutfeld’s book The Joy of Hate. He basically states that too many people are whiners and walk around spouting phony outrage. This phony outrage has us discussing the “discussion” rather than what we should be discussing. Make sense? The unintended consequence of over thinking is that we loose our focus on what really matters. What really matters is what you and I have to say. We must walk through our days mindful of our fellow man, yet understanding that he needs (not just wants) to hear what you have to say.

I want to hear from you. Share with me a time where you had something profound to say but feared offending someone and said nothing.
Rocco De Leo