Making More Spaghetti Stick To The Wall

Spaghetti

“Hi there! How’s it going? I just discovered your website and I have to say it’s really great. The content really shows that you’re the best in the industry. I’m sure you receive hundreds of emails like this but mine is the one to pay attention to because with the introductory SEO package I can offer you and your awesome sales team, you’ll be driving even more customers to your store and excellent products!”

Any guesses how long it took me to hit the “delete” key on this ground-floor opportunity?

For starters, I wasn’t personally addressed by name, nor was the name of the website referenced. Flattering to know the sender thinks I’m the best in the industry…and yet doesn’t identify what my particular industry is. And while it’s true indeed that I receive hundreds of emails making the same glowy promises of global exposure, where exactly is this store stuffed to the gills with trendy merchandise supposed to be? For that matter, who’s on my awesome sales team? I should take them to lunch.

Like many a salesperson on the hustle, it’s the old “Let’s just throw a big plate of spaghetti against the wall and see how much of it sticks.” While now and again an accidental noodle and some sauce might get someone’s attention, it’s more often than not an enormous waste of pasta (and probably broken plates). To make matters worse, they never even think of varying the recipe before they’re skipping off to the next wall, thus perpetuating a messy cycle of trial and error.

Let’s apply this for a moment to writers. A colleague of mine was recently lamenting her history of copious rejection letters. Her style, I learned, was the scattergun approach of ignoring submission rules and simply sending out the same manuscript to every magazine she could think of. While an impersonal “Dear Sir or Madam” photocopied letter should never be cause for tears, I asked what she did about the ones where an editor actually took the time to offer some constructive advice. “Oh, I just need to find the right editor,” she dismissively replied. In other words, “I like my spaghetti recipe exactly the way it is and I refuse to change it for anyone.”

In the arena of sales, how much do you really know about your customers’ interests, needs and wants? Do you really expect them to take seriously any mass-produced “Hi there! I’ve been thinking about you” letter that was stuffed without any thought into an envelope or distributed with even less thought via an electronic mailing list? Do you ever consider when you throw your spaghetti that some of your customers might be vegetarian? Or gluten-intolerant? Or on a tight budget and unable to afford artisanal marinara? Are you averse to switching up or swapping out ingredients just because “this is the way we’ve always done it”?

Takeaway lesson: Whatever you think you’re saving by doing generic, one-size-fits-all advertising may actually be costing you much more than you realize in terms of building customer trust and a belief that you sincerely care about what they’re really hungry for.

*****

Here’s my line-up of stellar guest bloggers this month:

Giving Back Made Easy – by Lee Romano Sequeira

How Your Name Is Your Most Important Brand – by Rainier Fuclan

Challenging The Disconnect Between What Science Shows And Business Does – by Linda Ray

5 Ways to Simplify Scheduling During a Busy Season – by Brett Duncan

Building a Culture of Health at Start-Up – by Jill Gambaro

 

Help Wanted

Blog Image

Back in the days when I worked in state government, I always viewed summer with a mixed sense of anticipation and dread. Summer was the season of interns, the season when the floodgates would open and spill forth dozens of cattle-call applicants in their late teens and early twenties. Although these positions were unpaid, it was management’s vision of a win/win scenario: the interns would get work experience to put on their resumes and the rest of us would get a cadre of malleable minions to do the filing, open mail, stock supplies, and run errands.

While now and again we’d delight in finding a true gem who had the skill sets, initiative, and leadership qualities that could one day translate to a full-time job with us, the majority of them were clearly not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Among them:

  • The one who threw out any mail that personally didn’t look interesting to her. (She asked me why we never got fashion magazines or People.)
  • The one who filed all the travel claims under “S” for “someone who took a trip.”
  • The one who took over an hour to deliver a file to an office located on the same floor. (If we had traced his footprints, they would have looked like Billy’s from a Family Circus)

As the saying goes, good help is hard to find. Bad help (which is worse than no help at all) can take years off your life, cause costly mistakes and jeopardize your reputation. While government agencies and nonprofits have no problem doing shout-outs for extra pairs of hands, a lot of sole proprietors I’ve known over the years are not as willing to admit they’re getting overwhelmed. A part of it, I think, is that they want to maintain the image they’re completely in control (albeit exhausted to the point of collapse). They’re also cognizant of the reality that in the length of time it takes to train a helper how to do something – or correct how the helper did it totally wrong – they could easily have just done it themselves.

Whether you’re looking to go the intern route for short-term projects or planning to one day expand your small business and put out the call for prospective employees, it’s critical to have a clear sense of what you want, how much supervision you want/need to provide, and what the participants can potentially gain from the experience of working with you. The more “ownership” they feel they have in the process and the outcome, the more pride they’ll take in paying attention and doing their assignments well.

These same elements apply to situations where you’re subcontracting with local vendors to provide services (i.e., catering) or outsourcing product-oriented tasks (i.e., assembling goods) to an off-site team an ocean away and with whom you have no physical interaction or quality control mechanism. While you may have the highest trust that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to, the bride whose flowers aren’t delivered on time or the client who receives 500 logo key chains with the company name misspelled isn’t going to mad at your helpers; they’re going to be mad at you for allowing that mistake to happen in the first place.

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Here’s the lineup of my guest contributors this month:

Take the Sting Out of Stress When Moving Offices – by Zachary Rook

And, Or, But – How to Handle Objections – by Julie Garland McLellan

How To Design a Marketable Signature System – by Ling Wong

Using Lists to Draw Web Traffic and Media Attention – by Mickie Kennedy