First though here’s the big problem and it’s made of 3 parts: -
- The world is full of things we would find useful but this is dwarfed by the colossal amounts of stuff we don’t need or want.
- Most people don’t have the time to wade through chaff to get to the wheat.
- These days, more than ever before, everybody must continually develop themselves just to stand still.
The worrying part is that almost everybody you engage in conversation on this very subject doesn’t even have the time to realise it applies to them. As if saying “I don’t have time to read, think and experiment and therefore improve myself” is OK in some way. Well it isn’t but if you don’t have time, you don’t have time……
Curation (that new word) – so just what is it?
Consider Google for a moment. To use it you enter a string of words (the selection criteria) and what it does is search this huge heaving mass of information to return you a list of pages it thinks you’ll be interested in and in many cases it works.
This is a form of curation: a set of selection criteria which helps the curator (Google in this case) to provide the data the user is looking for in a way that they can readily consume it.
How can you make use of curation?
In business development we are always looking for ways that we can differentiate ourselves and add value to our external stakeholders such as clients, prospects and intermediaries. Well curation can do this for you and here’s how: -
- During interactions with your stakeholder find out what they are really interested in. Business and personal interests both count but remember people can have an interest in lots of areas but are really interested in only a few and you need to find out what these are.
- Note them down on your CRM system. If you’ve gone to the trouble of finding out their interests you don’t want to forget them again.
- Periodically search the Internet for anything that matches the interests you discovered in stage 1.
- Present what you’ve found to your stakeholder through social media, email, the telephone or face to face if you can.
- Have an outlet for this which can be picked up by more people such as a blog or a newsletter.
Bingo! You have just fed a need that your stakeholder has which means that you will have just added some conversion juice to their enrichment and differentiation buckets inching you further ahead of your competitors.
What are the dangers attached to curation?
There are only 3 real dangers and here they are: -
- You fail to accurately identify your stakeholder’s real interests so you feed them things that don’t hit the spot for them and you actually become a bit of a nuisance. Make sure you have got a handle on their true interests.
- You invest all this time in the wrong stakeholders. There are a group of people out there who are just takers. They are happy to keep taking from you but as soon as you want something in return the shutters come down and the excuses come out to play. Two choices here: monitor how your relationship is developing and if you feel like it isn’t moving forward ask your stakeholder what they think. Second option is to ask for something and see what happens. Eliminate the takers!
- You get the frequency of enrichment wrong; bombard them with useful stuff but the volume actually causes them to switch off from you. Once every month or two is fine but if you detect a coolness in your stakeholder back off for a while.
Where can you find useful information from?
You might consider Google as the main tool in your curating activities but I would make it the last resort and here’s why: there are simply tons of great ideas, tools and techniques out there but if they aren’t written by Seth Godin or aren’t published on the BBC website then they’ll probably appear on page 11 of your Google search. You need to to do better than that.
These are our favourite curation tools although there are undoubtedly others: -
- Twitter: use of stored searches and hash tags plus following the right (but not necessarily famous) thought leaders is the quickest way to identify some useful but not overly well know material.
- TED: is just great. It’s like YouTube for grown-ups and is packed with really interesting stuff. A lot of people don’t really engage with video so you should make sure your stakeholder is not one of them before you send them a TED link. This is my favourite by Simon Sinek.
- YouTube: yes its enormous but the search engines are pretty good (owned by Google so they would be I suppose) and whatever you want to find will be on there somewhere.
- Slideshare.net: is a great website where people have deposited PowerPoint presentations on a range of subjects (try this one) as well as video clips. It is one of the great undiscovered treasures of the Internet in my humble opinion.
- Books: for thousands of years people have been recording the fruit of their life-experiences on paper (or sometimes papyrus) and making them available for us to consume in a few hours. Try Outliers by Malcom Gladwell and see what I mean!
- Blogs: subscribe to the right blogs (like this one of course!) and organise your Outlook so that it automatically directs new posts into the appropriate directory without hitting your inbox and you’re in business. If you find you have followed the wrong blog unsubscribe immediately.
- People: I’ve saved the best until last. Over the years I have managed to gather around me a number of interesting and free thinking people who enrich me every time I meet them. They always seem to have new ideas, tools and techniques that they can’t wait to share and I can’t wait to learn about. If you do nothing else I would do the same if I were you.
How can I move my curation into overdrive?
Going back to the start: people don’t have lots of spare time so sending them a link to a TED video or a copy of a great new book you’ve just read may not have the desired effect because they just don’t have the time to do anything about it.
The hyper-curator will summarise and repackage. Read a book, summarise the key ideas in a one-page mind map or a few bullet points and send the book and the summary to your stakeholder. Meet somebody and summarise a new TED video you’ve watched or blog post you have read. Write a blog which is mainly bullet points and can be read in less than 3 minutes and send through the link. Summarise and repackage.
So there you have it: want to stand out from your competitors and become a valuable person in somebody’s life? Become a hyper-curator.
Image courtesy of sixninepixels / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This is a true story given to me by Les Philips of Index Wealth Management. Thank you Les, much appreciated.
A few years ago Les had two Italian brothers as clients who lived in St Helens, Lancashire and were owner-managers of a very small carpet shop. In the town there were the usual ”big boys” offering discounts and ultimately trying to drive the independents out.
These two brothers had a very loyal customer base, got most of their business through recommendations, received a good deal of repeat business and were easily able to resist the onslaught of their more powerful competitors. In short: they did extremely well for themselves.
Les enquired as to how they had achieved such success in a highly competitive area and their answer was amazing. It turned out they had a very simple way of differentiating themselves from the competition which was also a highly effective and yet very low-cost marketing engine.
Every time they supplied and fitted a carpet, and without additional cost, they would remove all the doors adjoining the carpet, shave the appropriate amount off the door’s, re-hang them and then vacuum up. Then they would return to their shop and handwrite a thank you letter to the customer, thanking them for their business and hoping that they were satisfied with the care, product and service.
They also explained that as a small business they valued their custom very much and stated that referrals were their lifeblood, and if satisfied would they mind telling other people.
There is an old saying that as an entrepreneur you must expect nothing until you’ve created value for others. These guys lived a fantastic life by doing just that!
We once stayed at the Forte Hotel in Florence. A great hotel in every way: service, position and overall quality were all excellent and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. As usual I had taken a book to read, as I recall it was on the Medici family who ruled Florence for many generations – now they really knew how to run a business!
Anyhow, I started to read it on the first night but was very tired and only managed a few pages before folding over the corner of the page (hope my mother never reads this – shame on me) to mark my position.
We spent the next day trudging round the sights of that most beautiful and majestic city before returning to the hotel thoroughly exhausted. When we entered the room the maid had clearly been in and the place was perfect but something struck me as odd about my book. Upon closer inspection I noticed that she had folded the page back and instead marked my position with a beautiful leather Forte Hotels book mark.
A small thing really but what message does it convey about Forte Hotels?: thoughtful, observant, proactive, attentive, well trained and customer focused. Powerful stuff when you come to think about it.
Sometimes the small things can communicate much more about you and your organisation than the big things and in many cases, just like the book mark, at a negligible cost.
Quite often I am asked by young lawyers or accountants or other professionals how they can stand out from their competitors for business development purposes. They seem to think it is next to impossible to achieve this but I take a different view.
Let me introduce you to Ben who works for my company. He is a good analyst programmer but then we employ lots of good analyst programmers. He specialises in CRM but he isn’t the only one who has a niche subject in our firm. If you meet him he is a very friendly and normal person but what makes Ben stand out is he writes a blog on CRM which gets over 200 hits a day. Within his world is very well known and respected. Behold the power of blogging!
When I mention blogs as a way of standing out from the crowd and making business development easier I tend to get the same two objections: no time and not enough material. I hold no truck with either answer I’m afraid.
Time: This blog entry was triggered by an email I received from Ben on Friday. On the way home I began to think about what his blog had done for him and by the time I arrived home this entry had pretty much formed itself. It then took me about 20 minutes to write it down and another 10 minutes to knock up the graphics. Done!
To start with if you committed half an hour a week to produce one blog entry and dispensed with any graphics and pictures you could officially claim to be an active blogger. Welcome to the frontier world of social media.
Subject matter: I think when you enter into the spirit of blogging the problem is that you will find too many subjects to write about not too few. Take a look at the diagram below.
Starting with your area of specialisation – tons of material there. What developments and news are taking place in your sector; what books and papers could you review; what new ideas (some of which can be yours) are beginning to emerge. Really the list is endless so don’t give me the old “I’m not sure what I’d write about” excuse.
For a small investment of time every month you can raise your profile and become a recognised voice in your particular niche. Not only that but Blogging is a very useful aid in business development. No better way to establish your credentials than by pointing a prospect towards one of your blog entries on a subject that they have shown interest.
So come on. Build your brand and strengthen your business development armoury: start blogging today. You know it makes sense!