Pre-school children ask about 100 questions a day, but most kids have all but stopped asking questions by middle school. Many researchers believe that this decline in questioning is the result of a school system that rewards knowing the answers rather than asking good questions.
Things don’t get any better in the business world. Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School Professor, has observed that business leaders who are anxious to act often consider questions to be inefficient and something that impedes progress. Meanwhile, many employees believe that asking questions will make them seem uninformed
or even insubordinate.
Whether people realize it or not, today’s lack of questioning skills is a huge problem for business leaders who are trying to innovate. In his new book entitled A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, Warren Berger reveals that many of the most creative, successful business leaders are expert questioners who weren’t afraid to ask questions—starting with why, what if, and how.
Think about how you run your company, department, or workgroup. Who helps you challenge prevailing ideas about your industry or how you get your work done? Who makes you question your own assumptions? Do you encourage employees to ask, “Why do we do it this way? What if we tried a different way? How could we do things better?“
Quote of the Week: “The power to question is the basis of all human progress.” – Indira Gandhi
Collin Street Bakery produces and ships cookies, cakes, and pies to over 200 countries. Despite a strong re-order rate, the company still hungered for new customers. How do you convince people who’ve never tasted your desserts to give your signature fruitcake a try?
Direct mail and creative naming, that’s how! Direct Mail Consultant Greg Hennerberg started by renaming the fruitcake to a Texas Native Pecan Cake, eliminating any connection to the much-maligned holiday gift. After learning about the special nature and history of Texas pecans, Hennerberg created a powerful story to connect recipients to the state’s natively grown pecans.
Hennerberg used a smorgasbord of direct mail best practices to convince people to open the envelope, read the story inside, and place an order. The combination of strong color choices (red and black), a teaser calling all Pecan Lovers, a time-sensitive offer, and a money back guarantee drove a 60% lift in responses compared to previous campaigns.
If you find your business starved for higher response rates, maybe it’s time to rethink your recipe for success. A recent InfoTrends study found that adding direct mail to e-mail, social, or mobile only campaigns increased responses by at least 17%.
Quote of the Week: “No matter how much multi-channel/integrated marketing is a constant theme and reality, expect direct mail to be featured as the ‘tree’ of a campaign from which all the other branches extend.” Ethan Boldt, Who’s Mailing What!
One of Aesop’s Fables tells the story of a farmer who owned a goose that laid golden eggs. The farmer surmises that there must be a large supply of gold inside the goose, so he kills the goose to capture all the gold at once. Once the goose is dead, it stops laying eggs completely and the farmer learns a difficult lesson—in his eagerness to get rich quick, he has destroyed his chance to get rich at any pace.
Your top customers are the business equivalent of the goose. If you neglect them, you might make the same mistake as the farmer. Unfortunately, most firms don’t realize when they’re neglecting their best customers. Here are some ways that you could be unwittingly killing your goose right now:
Assuming that the customer won’t leave because they keep buying from you. Your lower-level contacts may not know what’s going on at the top of their organizations. Your contact might say that everything is fine, but a competitor that delivers innovative ideas to his bosses can create a completely new vision without you.
Forgetting to do what’s best for your customer. Business models change, so it might not make sense for your customer to continue buying the same quantities of the same products. If you never discuss the alternatives because you’re afraid of losing a bigger order, a competitor that tells the whole story could make you look bad.
Keep those golden eggs coming by helping your customers grow and be profitable. Forgetting to do that is one of the best ways to kill your goose.