Friday, December 30, 2011

You Wanna Do WHAT in 2012???

Oh no, not another how-to-keep-your-new-year’s-resolution article. No (phew). This article will not dispense advice about how to keep your resolutions.

Because before you can figure out how to keep your resolutions, it’s even more important to determine how to make them in the first place.

According to a Marist poll (Time Magazine, 2010), only 65% of people who make a resolution keep it for at least part of the year and 35% never even get off the ground. This is not due solely to laziness or lack of motivation. It could also be the case because most people do not create the right resolutions for them in the first place, which herein will be referred to as “goals.”

We have learned the importance of setting ourselves up for success with SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Oriented, Time-Bound) goals, and that’s important but even more important is the sentiment behind them.

Before committing to a goal, ask yourself the following, and remember these are about you so there is no right answer.

Is this goal authentic to who I am? Are you pursuing the goal because you really desire the outcome or because you feel outside pressure? Maybe you want to get along better with your co-workers, always a noble cause. Ask yourself how this matches up to your core values. Are you seeking to create more harmony in the workplace, or to complete work faster through teaming? Or are you looking to advance your own career to earn a promotion or to avoid negative consequence after receiving feedback from others that you need to improve your interpersonal skills? How does this goal resonate with who you are? What does “getting along better” mean to you? Is this really what you need to accomplish or would you be better served to work on seeing others’ perspectives both inside and outside the office? Again, none of these are wrong as long as they resonate with your true self. Or maybe you want to spend more time with your children. Is the reason that you have been spending too much time doing something of lesser priority or that it isn’t about time at all but more about becoming more engaged in their lives?

What do I actually want? For example, suppose you’re debating with your significant other about what to do for the weekend. You want to got to the beach and relax with a good book and a margarita or two. S/he wants to go sightseeing. When you you look at the desired result instead of the activity, you see that you seek relaxation while s/he wants to experience a new adventure. Understanding this, you could select activities that accomplish both of your desires.

The Marist poll revealed that the #1 New Year’s goal is weight loss. And yet so many people fail at this goal year after year, or they go gangbusters at the gym, lose the weight, only to regain thereafter. Perhaps the weight loss itself shouldn't be their primary focus, but rather what they think achieving it will do--make them healthier; increase energy levels; improve mood, concentration, sexual performance, effectiveness at work, etc; make their jeans fit better, etc. If you start with the desired result, you can set your goal and a number of measurable objectives to accomplish that goal. 3x weekly cardio workouts, for example, is just one tactic. If you want your jeans to fit better, you may choose to track your progress by photographing yourself in those jeans monthly and adjusting your tactics as needed. But know what you really want to happen as a result of meeting your goal. You may decide you need to re-state the goal to align to your true desire.

What’s in it for me? As is the case when you contemplate any big purchase, new job, etc, you need to understand how you will benefit from achieving the goal. If your goal is to fit into a dress for your sister’s wedding, what will be your net gain? The feeling of confidence at the wedding? Conformity with others who will be in the photos? The start to a healthier you? Would your net benefit be greater if you maintain that size permanently? Could you get an even bigger bang-for-the-buck by combining this goal with another one? For example, if you also seek more social interaction, you could enroll in group fitness classes to accomplish both fitting into the dress size and meeting new people. Again, there are no wrong answers. Just be very clear on how you want to benefit and then ask yourself if the goal you’ve outlined will help you achieve this.

And never be afraid to iterate. Your goals and resolutions are for you so if your desires and feelings change, go with it. And be sure to write everything down, track your progress, and celebrate your success. Now that’s SMART.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Got Value?

Any marketer worth her salt is familiar with the concept of value-based selling. But where is value derived? Can customers be sub-segmented based on their core value drivers?

It depends on the customer and on the buying decision at hand. It is a pretty safe bet that some element of the experience is at play in just about every buying decision--whether that experiential element is the level of convenience in making a low touch purchase--i.e. pack of gum that is prominently placed at the grocery store checkout counter--or the amount of attention a customer receives from a service department after making a large-volume, high dollar IT purchase.

In general, the more risk that’s involved and the higher the touch in a buying decision, the larger a role an individual’s value system will play, relegating him or her to a segment of one.

And if you think about it, experiential elements stem from consumer values in all aspects of life. Recall the last time you bought a house or car, decided whether to commit to a personal relationship, or chose to take a new job. What was involved in that decision? If you’re like many people, you made a list of desirable attributes that became decision criteria.

Many of the value-driven attributes on our lists reflect our desire not only to benefit from the positive, but to avoid negative experiences we’ve had in the past. For example, a person who felt lonely in a past relationship may seek affection in the next one; the car buyer whose last vehicle broke down unexpectedly on the highway may prioritize reliability in his auto purchase; and the legal assistant who felt unappreciated in her last job may seek a new role with a firm that has a formal recognition program.

I admit to using such lists to organize my thoughts for all of those big decisions, and that they all stem from my values and desired experiences. I value safety in a vehicle over comfort; attentiveness and fidelity in a relationship over financial abundance; creative freedom in a job over title and bonus incentives. For these, I could be listed among sub-segments of people who share similar values. However, other elements I seek separate me from these segments. For example, growing up in small spaces amidst a large family, I developed an affinity for storage space. For me, sharing a closet is a stronger indicator of commitment in a relationship than a ring. When evaluating vendors and contractors for work, past experiences with a few who required extensive amounts of management time lead me to look for people who are resourceful problem-solvers.

So the next time you are considering your segmentation models for your marketing efforts, look through the wider lens of desired experiences stemming from individual values.

Oh, and stay out of my closet!

Photo Credit:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What Your Facebook Behavior Says About You

With over 500 million active users and the average user having 130 friends*, we’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to online behavior and personas. The premise of the site makes it easy to create new impressions by showing other sides of yourself. Shy people may find confidence behind the keyboard to share aspects of their lives that they wouldn’t in a face-to-face setting, and others love having the ability to share elements of their daily lives with many people at once.

Whatever your reasons for engaging with Facebook, your online behavior can reveal certain elements of your personality, perhaps ones you didn’t intend. Here are just a few.

If You: Update several times per day with every little detail of your life
Then You: May have a circle of Facebook friends who are truly interested in what you had for breakfast or your child’s potty-training progress. There is likely a larger group who doesn’t care. Professional contacts may question your judgment.

If You: Judge people who update several times per day with every little detail of their lives
Then You: Share an opinion with many others. However, keep in mind that people have different reasons for interacting with online social communities. If it isn’t hurting anyone, why worry about it?

If You: Friend your personal and professional contacts on the same page (not a fan page) and proceed to broadcast and sell all the livelong day
Then You: Need to look up the definition of “online community,” and pay particular attention to the word “community.”

If You: Unfriend. Then refriend. Then unfriend. Then refriend.
Then You: Really need to grow up. Sadly, this doesn’t apply solely to teens. It has been the case where grown adults become irritated with others and unfriend them to make a point, only to refriend them after patching things up - a passive-aggressive move since many have several Facebook friends and don’t usually realize they’ve been unfriended (oh, the horror).

If You: Frequently stop in your tracks to update your Facebook status, i.e. while marching in a parade, while standing at the altar during your nephew’s baptism, during a first date, or right in the middle of a fitness instructor training (just sayin’)....
Then You: May have a serious problem and could be missing out on the fullness of each experience.

If You: Enjoy posting to your status cryptic updates or inside jokes that only one or two people will understand
Then You: Risk alienating everyone else. Then again, annoying as it may be, if you aren’t hurting anyone, who really cares?

*Source: statistics
Photo Credit:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Not-So-Unlikely Marketer

When Liana Veda was growing up, she knew she was destined for a career that involved music. Inspired by her parents, music and dance were a given in Liana’s life, including multiple cultures and genres. To say that Liana’s professional career has variety would be an understatement. She is a dancer, choreographer, make-up artist, ZIN (Zumba Instructor Network) Jammer, international recording artist, instructor, ......and marketer.

Yes, that’s right, marketer.

And I am pretty sure that when she was a child bouncing around the house with a microphone and belting out bilingual song lyrics, Liana did not tell her parents that she aspired to become an event and product marketer, but that is exactly what happened.

Liana is a living example of the true value marketing brings to a fitness event. After all, we can create the world’s best products and services, but if nobody knows about them and, more importantly, if nobody demands them, they never see the light of day.

Liana has the shrewd business sense that makes her an artist who is also a pragmatist. She focuses on the creative elements, and pays close attention to the people who will enjoy and appreciate them, addressing their main drivers and product requirements. That’s marketing.

When she set out to spread the word about the 3rd Annual New England Master Zumba Class (which became better known as “Zumbafest”) on March 20, 2011 to benefit the Autism Speaks Organization, Liana identified her target market. starting with a group of loyal enthusiasts- on whom she could rely to make the message viral. Yours truly was in this group. That’s marketing.

She made these early adopters part of her promotional team and identified additional market requirements (in this case, requests for certain Zumba Education Specialists (ZESs) and Jammers to be included) from others in their classes and networks. That’s marketing.

Liana created informational brochures (marketing collateral) and made ample use of her own broad social networks, which included people from all professions--current and former clients, friends, colleagues, students, etc-- and kept the excitement alive through frequent interactions on fan pages. Her constituents fueled this energy by conversing among themselves through the same forums and inviting their friends, clients, etc. to participate. That’s marketing.

As producer for the event, Liana created content and an outreach plan that highlighted the ZESs and Jammers for their unique qualities (in other words, product features and benefits) and communicated with contagious enthusiasm. Liana understands that her product is not a ticket, but that she is instead selling an experience that would be tested and evaluated subjectively in the market. Her personal brand is so powerful that she is able to sell out charity events and create an affinity of followers. That’s marketing.

And finally, once the sold-out event had concluded, she sent a special note of thanks to her supporters, keeping them engaged and continuing the conversation through additional touch points after the event ended. That’s marketing.

In closing, it is also considered marketing when an independent blogger plugs your product in an opinion piece. So if you like latin rhythms, be sure to check out Liana Veda’s premiere self-titled album, Liana, on iTunes. Oh, and Zumbafest was a blast. Spread the word.

Photo credit: Liana Veda

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner - or My Client in a Box

Patrick Swayze made the line, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” famous when he stood up for his girlfriend as her parents tried to suppress her individuality in the famous coming of age film, Dirty Dancing.

And now, in a much smaller venue, I take the same stand for personal training clients everywhere. While most trainers today tend to agree about the “personal” element of personal training and that we need to customize programs to each client individually, many still subscribe to the school of thought that clients with common goals can follow the same diet and exercise regimen and that their bodies will respond the same way.

If it were that simple, I would look like a supermodel by now.

It’s not uncommon to find personal trainers becoming frustrated with their clients when their bodies don’t tighten, slim down, or achieve the desired muscle tone as a result of a trainer-prescribed diet and workout routine, especially when that diet and routine proved successful for others who had similar goals. Some even become frustrated, thinking their clients aren’t committed to the result. After all, one of our common pet peeves is realized when we are committed to clients who are not committed to themselves.

However, it can also be the case that a client is simply constructed differently from others. Differences can be seen in many places-- from metabolism to hormones to heredity. This doesn’t mean the client is precluded from achieving the desired result, however it could take more time and different programming to make it happen.

As trainers, it is part of our responsibility to check in frequently with our clients to determine level of motivation, which can fluctuate. Even clients with the best of intentions and the highest level dedication can be temporarily thwarted by that pesky thing we call life. Anything can cause a temporary negative impact on the training effect-- from a job change to difficulties in the home, the marriage, or with children, to caring for an elderly relative, a death in the family, or even pressures from unsupportive families and friends. Our personal training certification courses teach that although transactionally our relationships with clients are professional, part of our roles as trainers is to have our fingers on the pulse of what is going on in their lives so that we can tailor their diets and workouts accordingly(1).

And how do we come to find out what is going on? Simply put, we earn their trust by proving ourselves trustworthy. We check in frequently with our clients and always always always treat them with empathy and respect, realizing that like us, they are not perfect, and working to understand the root causes of anything that could be impacting their success. Since most of us are not psychologists or medical doctors, we can operate within our locus of control by treating our clients with understanding and by proactively changing their routines to help motivate around whatever is throwing them off-course.

As a new trainer, I continue to grow my own skills in this field, and am learning a great deal from each client. While they all have separate goals and objectives and distinct training plans, they share the common thread of being first and foremost human, thereby dealing with many similar human struggles. By acknowledging and working with their circumstances, and by remaining consistently--albeit realistically--positive, respectful, and understanding as well as dedicated, honest, and direct, we can reap the benefits of clients who look forward to their workouts and who stick to their workouts and diets and who enjoy the process itself. Achieving the desired result is just icing on the cake.

Thanks to Patrick Swayze and Dirty Dancing for reinforcing an important lesson about the human condition. Oh, and in reference to another line made famous by the mass media, I’m not only a personal trainer. I’m also a client.

(1) Note that a Nutrition Specialist or similar certification is recommended before providing nutrition advice to a healthy client while a medical degree or dietician registration is required in most states to prescribe nutrition for medical problems.

Photo credit: Hephaestus Audio
Research Credits: Thanks to my many personal training colleagues and clients who contributed their candid thoughts and insights to this article.