A solid quote from Jay Levinson's Guerrilla Marketing - “If you can talk to them about themselves, you'll have their full attention.”
Tomorrow I will be attending The Festival Of Marketing at the Tobacco Dock, an event set up by the Marketing Week Magazine.
No doubt, throughout this event I will have lots of conversations with many like minded people, which I thoroughly enjoy. However, what I have noticed in this kind of events and through other moments in my life is that there is a still a common misconception of how 'networking' works. For example, I will probably go home with about 20 different business cards tomorrow, all of which by the end of the day, will end up in my bin.
Business cards to me are built upon the premise that networking is a matter of meeting someone, exchanging names, speaking about how you could do maybe do business with each other 'one day' before swapping business cards to give yourself the self gratification that you just made one extra connection. Please ask yourself how many times you have followed up with someone when the conversation has gone like that?
I can only of course speak for myself here but I see networking as making friends, as opposed to making connections. We're all humans beings, we all want awkward free conversations that we enjoy so why when we are networking do we treat conversation any differently to when we are in the pub talking to blokes about football? Yes there is a need for professionalism but it is no hidden secret that you remember how someone has made you feel rather than what they have said.
How to network effectively? Don't network, make friends.
Despite the constant reminders, there are still thousands of businesses that I believe have failed to adapt to this simple concept.
When you enter a PC World store and see that their own internal systems used for selling their products are lagging and out dated, that’s marketing.
When you enter a care home and see that the current residents have poor living conditions, that’s marketing.
When you are flying with Easy Jet and find out that their staff prefer to argue with their customers as opposed to solving problems for them, that’s marketing.
Businesses can invest millions of pounds in innovation and communication until the cows come home, but they should never disregard the importance of everyday positive customer interactions.
If the only topic of conversation surrounding your product is that it is too expensive, you simply have not given your customers anything else to talk about yet.
We can not alter where or how we started off in this world. We do not have the power to do everything we want to do and all the choices we make bring consequences.
The choices that we make - the food we consume, the way we allocate our time, the way we treat other people...this is what defines us.
It's a word that we are all guilty for over using and it's one that is pretty useless. We all talk about how busy we are and how we couldn't do x because we were too busy. This can come across as two things - a) you haven't yet found a way to manage your workload, or b) you don't have the confidence to tell whoever you have been avoiding that what they are chasing hasn't been a priority for you.
Try and notice all the times you use busy in a day and you will realise how boring/frustrating it feels to hear it as an excuse all the time.
The price you pay, the service you receive or even the answer you're given should not always be taken as final. It is there to be challenged. If you take everything you see as correct and factual then how can you expect innovation to occur?
The founders of Uber identified the annoyance of having to hail a taxi in busy cities and it was there curiosity which allowed them to underpin serious flaws in this archaic procedure. They then offered a modern mobile solution which taxi firms should have been thinking about for years.
I'd rather be that annoying kid asking 'why, but why, but why?' than someone who lets life pass them by without challenging the status quo.
Stay Curious, ask why.
It all started about 15 months ago when my friend and I attended a beginners Vedic meditation course in the heart of Soho.
There we were being lectured by a man who you felt spell bound by, at the time it crossed my mind he was a salesman as I immediately wanted to part my cash with him. We waited till the end of the speech and met both Will & Jess and signed up for a weekend Vedic meditation course.
The course started a few weeks later, one Friday after work, my friend & I were to visit Will & Jess's flat in Pimlico. Will & Jess had a rather unique request for us before hand, we were to bring with us 8 flowers. Of course my friend & I only remembered our task as we arrived in Pimlico & we rushed to the nearest corner shop we could find.
I have to admit that my friend was slightly under the influence which just made matters even more awkward. Anyway, we arrived at Will & Jess's place, flowers in hand, waiting to be brought into the world of meditation
We handed over our flowers, Jess cut these up and prepared them nicely into a vase which we were told was our gift to the Vedic meditation god to show are gratitude. We then had a short ceremony which we rather unfortunately found quite amusing...you know those times in school where you cannot stop laughing with your friend despite your teacher losing her rag. You stop for a moment until you hear your friend laughing and the whole cycle triggers again. Well it was exactly like that.
During our ceremony we were both taken into the next room to be assigned our own personal mantra which you are to repeat over and over in your head when you begin your medi. To this day I have not told anyone what my mantra is as I have respected the practice guidelines.
After the ceremony, Will, my friend & I did our first 20 minute meditation together and we were off on our way. It's fair to say that when we left that evening, we felt like we had maybe been ripped off a little as we felt no immediate impact of meditation but of course, Rome isn't built in a day.
We came back for the all day Saturday session and joined the rest of our group members who had also had the ceremony the day before. There were around 6 of us in the room in total including Will the teacher. It was a bit awkward at first but Will just began speaking for what must of seemed like 2-3 hours. Not once did anybody get bored of what Will was talking about. It was fascinating to hear Will's journey into meditation and he shared with us some real deep insights into the causes of anxiety & how to relieve it.
I do not want to go into much more detail about Will's practice as that is not fair to him, but all I can say is that he is a fantastic teacher and any doubts I had were immediately eradicated, I very much bought into Meditation and the benefits it has in reducing anxiety and I could think of nobody better to teach it than him.
Now, to the title of this post. What Is Meditation?
The reason I am questioning this is because whilst I practice Meditation for 20 minutes twice a day and whilst it undoubtedly has reduced my anxiety a tenfold, I can't help but think there is an bizarre stigma attached to meditation. I don't even think this stigma is helped by those who teach meditation and link it to ancient religions as that can help make it feel too exclusive to be a part of.
Often when I tell people that I meditate, the responses I have always seem to be that I'm a bit weird which is frustrating. I don't blame people for thinking meditating is weird, I just think it is one of those things that for some reason has unfortunately been pigeon holed as something only hippy's do.
If I brake down exactly what meditation is for me I can help debunk the myth that it is for hippy's. Twice a day I find 20 minutes (normally during my commute) where I sit completely still with my back and head straight. I turn all electronic devices off or put them out of sight, music included (it's cool to zone out in even the most crowded of places).
I sit for twenty minutes and repeat my mantra, only because that is how I have been told, you do not even need to do this. I have tried sitting still for 20 minutes and not repeating my mantra and it can be equally as effective.
What you find when you sit still with your eyes closed is that all of your thoughts (even the most deepest thoughts from your sub conscious) start filling your mind. You will be amazed at the randomness that occurs. When these thoughts come to mind you can start seeing how pointless these are and you can start filing them in your head as worthless & not important. This is especially handy for those thoughts that have been stressing you out.
After normally around 18 minutes you feel as if there is a whole space of nothingness as you have nothing left to think about. It is the most surreal and welcomed feeling you could imagine.
Putting this into perspective, the days that I don't meditate, I then am taking all of these thoughts to bed with me & I am sure I am not speaking for myself here when I say how extremely difficult it is to shut off your thoughts when you're trying to sleep. Especially when you are an active thinker like myself.
Anyway, taking a step back again here, if we decide for one second to change the name of 'meditation' to 'allowing yourself to think and control your thoughts' of course it would be slightly less exciting but wouldn't it be far more practical? Okay, I am of course not saying to do this, but you get my point.
I'm going to finish with an example of 'allowing yourself to think and control your thoughts' that a good friend of mine uses as his 'meditation'. He used to live a busy city life but found himself rather stressed and in a spot of bother. He found that he always felt most happy and with himself when he would engage with the country side, exploring natures true beauty. He decided to move with his now wife to the lovely Lake District and he is far more relaxed and fulfilled than he ever used to be living in London.
I asked him what he has done on a personal level to control his stress levels and he told me that every day he commits to a 40 minute walk through the Lake District as it allows him to collect his thoughts and control his emotions and feelings toward said thoughts. This in turn allows him to think clearly and respond to those every day annoyances rationally where as before he would most likely lose his temper or hide away from his issues.
For me and for him at least, meditation is not this hippy way of life, it doesn't even have to be sitting still for 20 minutes with your eyes closed. It is simply giving yourself the necessary time to think clearly and control what is bothering you.
How do you think clearly and control your thoughts?
If you are interested in learning more about meditation or anxiety, I can only personally think of one place that I can recommend. That is of course Will Williams Meditation, the guy is a genius.
You're in the car with your family driving to the Air BNB rental in the countryside you've booked for the weekend. You smile with excitement once you pass a field of cows, you know, the black and white cows that you used to see drawings of when you were a kid.
You and your family are even more excited about your trip than ever & you then pass another field of cows, and another, until finally they quickly become boring and forgotten. You then spot a purple cow in the field of black & white cows and then that is soon amazing, but of course, you then see hundreds more purple cows & that is no longer news.
This is an analogy used by Seth Godin in his fantastic book "Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable" & it is one I referred to in a recent presentation I delivered to Advertising & Marketing students at Bournemouth University (where I got my Marketing degree).
The idea I was selling to the students is that whilst they are all very clever people (most of them 'cleverer' than me I'm sure) at this moment they are all beautiful black and white cows. They will get their degrees I am sure, but so will thousands of other great students in the country & thus employers will be receiving thousands of applications from all of these great students in the near future. Getting your degree in my opinion is not enough nowadays.
Case in point 3 years ago to when I attended the same event (that I presented at last week) as a student, one of the presenters told us a story about his friend who landed a job at Warner Bros by sending his CV in a birthday cake to one of the directors there...this story really landed with me. At that point in time I was sending out tons of applications to employers to no avail (I was trying to land a 12 month industrial placement as part of my course).
I took home with me the idea of having to stand out to employers & at the time I was looking for a role focussed in Digital & realised that, whilst it's very good telling prospective employers this, it would be far more effective to prove this to them. I went home, set up a blog, wrote a few lines about my ambitions, discussed a few of my favourite advertisements & then linked this to a QR code which I put at the top of my CV. The same evening I sent off a few applications to some household companies such as Disney & Sky, within a few days I have assessment centres & interviews coming out my ears.
It must be said, I was awful at interview prep back then & was a bit too shy to really be the purple cow within the assessment centres but I was happy to have at least had the chance to meet the employers.
If I take this idea of being the purple cow back to my most recent interview situation when I secured my last job, I had participated in a friends focus group on the very company I was applying for & thus had some good background knowledge as well as a view point to bring to the table. I built this argument and very view point into my cover letter to the employer & thus I was again the purple cow.
I'm not sure how well I landed this point to the students, but it was the slide I was most looking forward to presenting, I hope it didn't come across as patronising when I literally challenged the students to themselves, be the purple cow.