3 Ways to Separate Yourself

separate-yourselfEach summer I attend my sons’ youth soccer games. Little kids’ games are extremely entertaining. They play what I call “the huddled masses” soccer, where a herd of children swarms the ball tripping over each other in the process. It’s wildly fun to watch.

Parents shout at their child to “kick harder” and “run faster”, hoping their kid can separate the ball and themselves from the pack. Any time a kid accomplishes this feat he or she generally is seen racing toward an open net and for an easy GOOOOAAAALLLLLL!

Businesses face a similar frenzy, getting lost in the masses while attempting to claw, kick and scream to be recognized. Having a good product or quality service isn’t enough; you must find distinct ways to separate yourself from the pack.

Here are 3 ways to separate yourself:

Understand the Business You’re In

Years ago I worked for a minor-league sports team. We started with the misconception that we were in the football business. We were wrong. As a sports team, we competed against movie theaters, concerts, amusements parks, miniature golf and other sporting events. We were in the entertainment business.

We needed to convince customers to spend their money attending our games over other forms of entertainment. Once we understood the business we were in, our marketing improved, each game became an event, and eventually ticket sales increased.

Be Known for Something

What do you want to be known for? What makes people think of you first?

When I want sushi, I think of Simply Sushi in Salt Lake City. To me, they are the best value for good sushi. There are cheaper sushi restaurants. There are higher quality ones too. Simply Sushi decided they would be known as the best value. This definition often wins my lunch money.

McDonald’s is known for the Big Mac. Burger King is Home of the Whopper. They offer other menu options, but they’re known for one main thing.

Trying to be all things to all people may result in not being known at all.

Be Social

Many professionals and businesses still struggle to know what to do with Social Media. It’s okay to start simple and build your strategy from there. Social Media should be used to entertain, educate and engage.

Think of social media as another communication channel. Yes, it requires an investment in time, resources, and creativity. Your investment will be part of what separates you from your competition. Find ways to be different. Be interactive. Be memorable.

 

What other ways have you found to separate yourself?

– DJ

Work Hard, Play Hard

Today’s business environment is challenging. It requires hard work and determination to be successful. The argument of whether it’s better to work smart or work hard has raged on for years. Hard work will always be required to be successful, but what if the new “work smart” is actually “play”?

Over the past few years a major change has occurred as Generation “Y” (or the Millennial Generation) become more prevalent in the workforce. The sales and operation team I work with today is far different from the teams I worked with just 5 years ago. Employees still work hard, but motivators and drivers are vastly different. Many articles indicate this is a generational thing. I believe it is social thing.

Society rewards activities as much as it rewards actual results. If you play a half game of baseball as a kid, you still get a whole snow cone (as comedian Brian Regan so humorously explains). Trophies and awards are given for participating and not just for winning. It goes beyond kids though. Trophies, awards, stickers and badges are earned by adults through a variety of apps, websites and games. People like to be recognized and rewarded – it’s fun.

Smart phones, mobile apps and social media are increasing the ways people get rewarded or recognized and allowing us to communicate recognitions on a wider scale. These mediums also allow others to interact with us through dialog or “likes” about the award or activity that sparked it. On the app GetGlue you can get stickers for “check-ins” when watching movies or TV shows. The sticker in itself isn’t anything special, but sharing it with friends on Facebook has value.

The same concepts that motivate people in their personal or social lives can be transferred to their work lives. This is where play comes in. Taking game elements and building them into a business, concept or system is becoming known as gamification. This doesn’t mean employees are playing games all day, but certain aspects of gaming can be built into daily work activities. Gamification recognizes employees for completing daily, weekly or monthly assignments. Game elements include leader boards (to see who is wining and by how much), awards (in the form of virtual stickers, badgers, or trophies) and achievement levels (helping people feel they are advancing and accomplishing something).

This is about more than just games though. This is about tapping into a core psychological and sociological need. The awards and recognitions are nice, but the need to share and be heard is crucial. Creating gaming elements within your business can be powerful.

The term gamification may be new, but this has been going on in business for a long time. Sales managers, HR Directors, Directors of Organizations Development and others who are in charge of sales results, employee engagement and employee retention work on this every day. Contests, team activities, goal charts, leader boards and scoreboards all have game elements in them. Sales Managers spend countless hours each month creating contests to drive sales and encourage the right business results.

It might appear to be a lot of work. Several companies sell programs to create gamification elements for you. However, any business owner or manager can create ways to:

  • Award activities
  • Recognize results
  • Taught accomplishments
  • Reward behavior

The key to success is creating opportunities that allow employees to share their accomplishments. The more they are able to share with coworkers, friends and family, the more valuable the recognition becomes.

Embrace the idea of play; use it as a positive motivator. By including gaming elements at work and making it fun, employees will feel more valued. When people enjoy their job it translates into increased productivity and more importantly better customer interactions. We’re in a tough economy, but if we work hard and play hard, it won’t be so hard.