Connecting and traveling 9000 kilometres at 25km p/h

When Telana called me last week about Ruan a cyclist who aimed to explore South Africa for 60 days. I thought it was an interesting story to follow and bring to you, along with the lessons it would come with.

Little did I know that the lessons would start sooner than he’d leave. I then had a meeting with the guys from Hotel Formula1, who later expressed some interest on following Ruan’s story. Before the week was over we had negotiated sponsorship for free accommodation for 10 days in 7 cities around South Africa.

Some lessons I got during the 5 days:

  • Connect people who want to meet.
  • Follow-through on an opportunity.
  • Help someone without expecting anything in return; it gives you a great feeling.
  • Build your reputation as a person of value.
  • Have genuine interest in other people than you want them to have in you.
  • A connection goes farther than a sale.

On Friday the 13th, without even realizing it was Friday the 13th, we met with the senior management team of Hotel Formula1. They all wanted to participate in the handover and you could see the genuine interest in them as well.

Ummm, what does that have to do with anything?

Under normal circumstances I would have been to a series of meetings offering a product and much later got a moment with the CEO, if ever.

Being a connector and finding opportunities to do it places you in a different position. You are no longer a company that is selling to a possible client, but a friend giving your client an opportunity further themselves.

Ruan will be travelling approximately 8 600 kilometers at 25 kilometers per hour over next 54 days. He’ll meet interesting people and along the way and there’ll surely be some more lessons over the next few days. I will be documenting some of the developments for you in the next few days.

Photo by: Ruan on Picassa

The postman delivered Linchpin

Ishita Gupta – Head Of Hoopla for Seth Godin sent a reply to an email I had sent about interviewing Seth Godin. To my astonishment, she requested me to send them my mailing address. “But I thought post died long before the archaic dialup connection, I mean this is Seth we’re talking about. He doesn’t write letters.” At least that’s the first thing I said to one of the guys at the office.

The mailman to much delight; delivered Seth Godin’s latest hardcover. And glossy offering called Linchpin – Are You Indespensable? It became a New York Times bestseller within it’s first 10 days of release.

We had an exclusive interview with him some weeks ago, where he spoke about the fundamental change in work and what the world has become. Basically, he writes about the choice to be indispensable at what you do. A choice to contribute where you are, to create art that is a gift to others in itself.

So every other appointment has been put hold, well sort of been slightly deferred, till I have completed this much coveted read.

Aside; there’s already a long queue of people waiting to lend it once I’m done. But they’ve been referred here, since it shouldn’t leave my sight. Not for a split second!

Thanks to Ishita Gupta and Seth Godin.

The novelty factor

Since the South African Tobacco Products Control Act in 1993, that was amended till 2009, prohibiting all advertising and sponsorship by tobacco companies. The cigarette companies have to be even more innovative than everyone else to make a sale.

Over the December holidays at the normal price, you could buy Camels in a steel box that fits your pack inside.

The novelty of a steel box makes the smoker want to show it off to their friends. And ensuring only a few of these boxes were available they kept more people hooked for longer.  What are the chances of you having your last smoke the same day you get this pack? This got me thinking of how packaging can be used to increased sales.
If you went to the same store a week before or after this package was available your friend would have started a conversation about it. The same product you offer can be packaged in a way that makes it more special and coveted by customers.
Short of advertising and marketing this company makes themselves worth talking and remembering.  Are you?

Mongezi Mtati is the founder at NetWeb Event, a vodcaster and an opinionated geek on a bad hair day. Follow me on twitter.

Starting a clan: Redefining what you sell

Image by: Isayx3 on Flickr

Image by: Isayx3 on Flickr

When the Wu Tang Clan first released their debut album ‘Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers)’ everyone was talking about them. They set out to build a trend with their music, which wasn’t difficult being the only group who had the sound of killer bees and Kung Fu skits.

Most of us developing new products, marketing ourselves and even branding our companies tend to overlook what we truly sell. Developing a clan and creating a culture are some of the many things that worked for the Wu Tang, with some lessons that can be adapted.

What you sell

More often than not, we sell the product without realizing what it is linked with. Many companies instead of selling a lifestyle, experience or hope, they sell a pair of jeans or a computer.

I went to the D.O.P.E Store in the Johannesburg CBD recently, a clothing store,  part of whose concept includes a basement where they host parties. Their venue is mostly booked by people who would wear clothing that is sold in the shop. It gives them greater access to their market and gets people talking within a context that surrounds them by reference.

Organize a culture

The Wu Tang Clan found people already listening to Hip Hop music, but separated their audience from the norm. Their debut reinvented the possibility of what can go into an album and directed the masses to listen in a certain way thereafter.

Clans make closed exclusive communities that everyone else wants to belong to. Distinguishing yourselves by how you sell your product alone doesn’t get your message out distinctively and make you memorable.

What is your Kung Fu Skit?

The Kung Fu skits made it obvious whose song was about to play and the everyone sang along. If a song was new we all listened  and tried to find out what it was.

Find the distinct things about your service that can make you a market leader, things can become your own Kung Fu skit. Your killer bee sound. That one thing that turns conversation around when you are mentioned.

How can you reorganize your target audience and direct the course of things from where you began?

Fast is not quick

When you call a metered taxi to fetch you from a talk, the last thing you expect is to learn a lesson from the driver. The company gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse and a commitment not to pay them if their price went above the quote.

Fast is not quick, quick is not fast

When we drove out of the hotel the driver chose to go through town instead of taking the highway. Thinking this would take longer I asked why he didn’t take the highway, below was his answer:

Fast is not quick and quick is not fast – The closest route between points is a straight a line and that often means going through the stop lights.

When building our marketing and the hype behind our products, we tend to think that the fastest way to get there is getting many people to talk about us. What I have learnt is that recovering quickly from your hurdles grows your community more than having large budget would.

Listen more

He asked me about my visit to the hotel, to which I said I was hosting a business event. Immediately afterward he then asked me what I think of the “Spider Web Doctrine” which made sense as being from Capitalist Nigger.

  1. Get your community talking – We tend to talk more at our possible clients  instead of getting them to engage in conversation about our products and services.
  2. Listen to what they have to say – Once people speak and voice their opinion on something they feel strongly about it lets you know how to intergrate it into product offering.

Respect me

When I got into the car and apologised for keeping him waiting, calmly he said: “No problem”. At first it was normal but after the third time, I looked in his direction and told him to “call me by name instead”.

The community you are building are a group of smart people and if you respect them they’ll spread the spread the word about you.

We tend to focus on numbers instead of the value we give the people in our current community and end up losing them while chasing after the masses. The final price went above the one quoted earlier, which I happily paid. With a tip.

How do you spread your word-of-mouth?