The following is a guest post by Mark Kinsley
Have you ever read an inspiring article where the author references Apple or Amazon as an example of how to be amazing? Our modern business culture is hyper-focused on big-name trailblazers. Understandably. However, I find myself questioning the applicable usefulness of these lessons. How many people work in those types of environments? And even if you are employed in a comparable company, are you in a position that allows you to implement Apple-esque changes that will take your organization from mediocre to amazing?
It made me think – what can normal, every day people do when their company isn’t that amazing?
“What if instead of trying to be amazing you just focused on being useful.” That’s what Jay Baer wrote in his book Youtulity. There’s the answer. If your company’s not inspiring the next Wired article, or producing products that make techies want to pitch a tent outside your store, you should focus on being useful. No matter what position you’re in, there are always ways to be helpful. It’s about finding what needs attention and devoting yourself to it.
If you’re in sales or marketing, being useful should be second nature. Take notes on the questions your customers ask and write responses. Publish that information on your website. Shoot videos that explain complicated topics (few people are doing this better than Jeff Scheuer). Create pamphlets that educate. Care. Be genuine. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “Somebody’s already written about this,” or “I’m no expert.” Those are excuses. Everything’s been written about, but not by you.
Think about this: In 2011, when customers were making a purchase they required an average of 10.4 information sources before pulling the trigger. That’s nearly double what they required a year earlier. Even if a topic’s been covered, shoppers are still looking for a second, third, and tenth opinion.
Do you think in 2014 they’ll be craving even more information to validate purchase decisions? You bet. Especially when it comes to buying a mattress, one of the most convoluted purchases on the planet. People are craving content that informs their buying decisions. You can be that useful provider, or sit on the sidelines making excuses.
Be bold and get going on your usefulness initiatives by starting small. Don’t try to do everything at once. Small success leads to big success. Give mattress shoppers something they want. Maybe it’s a guide they can take to other stores for apples-to-apples comparisons. Or if you’re an RSA or retail manager who has graduated from Geek University show customers your diploma and let them know you have knowledge about sleep environments that could help them get a better night’s rest. Take a topic and get creative by adding a unique spin and making it relatable. Trumpet what others fear to say. Give what you’d like to receive.
Usefulness isn’t all about customers. Does your delivery team need new ideas on how to exceed expectations during this final customer touch point? Talk to them. Find out what’s going on in their world. Be the facilitator that makes things happen, even if it’s something small. Go beyond the obvious. Do you sense your boss needs a sounding board, but is afraid to ask for help? Be that listener. If you’re struggling with how to be helpful, just look around you; being useful to co-workers is a great place to start and practice. Creating a culture of usefulness is contagious. People that receive it want to reciprocate it. If that pattern takes hold, I’d say your organization is going to be an awesome place to work because of your efforts and your good heart.
Let’s face it, not every company is amazing like Amazon, or innovative like Apple. But that doesn’t mean those are the only models for success. Think of the person who has helped you most in your life. There’s your model. Not some big company. Go and give. Be useful.