Getting on the same wavelength!

Communication is one of the most important aspects of human interaction. It can bridge the gap between people who experience the world in different ways, but it can also be a great challenge.

Trying to communicate with someone who experiences the world in a different way can be difficult, especially when it comes to conveying abstract concepts like colors or subtleties of language and expression. It’s often said that trying to explain colors to someone who is colorblind is like trying to explain rainbows to a blind person. On the surface, it may seem impossible. Colors are an abstract concept, and it is difficult to convey how we experience them to someone who cannot.

Similarly, trying to explain the nuances of language and expression can be a challenge, especially when working with someone whose native tongue is not the same as our own.

At our office, we recently encountered this issue with our office cleaner, a cheerful guy who really wants to do a good job. He would do whatever he was asked, but he had a hard time noticing things that needed to be done that he hadn’t been told. For example, he would miss cobwebs in the corners or dust on the window sills.

Recently, I had an idea: instead of asking him to notice things that needed to be cleaned or minor repairs, each day he should hunt for five things that needed cleaning. By changing the task from noticing to hunting, it gave him a specific goal to focus on and helped him to actually find the things that needed attention. We also created a chart that listed the tasks he was supposed to do, and he was able to track his progress. This gave him a tangible reward system, and it seemed to motivate him more.

Now that we have gamified it, he is actually noticing what we wanted him to see in the first place. Although this was just a small example, it shows the importance of being able to communicate effectively with someone who experiences the world in a different way. Understanding the other person’s perspective can be difficult, but it is essential if we want to bridge the gap between us.

By being creative and finding ways to make the task more engaging, we can help those we are communicating with to better understand the concepts we are trying to convey.

Why do political votes seem to frequently be evenly split?

So a few years ago I started noticing that elections often seemed to be closer than I would have expected. Each major party could potentially win. And I wondered how it seems to happen in the the US and Israel and elsewhere. And I realized what I assume many people already knew – but no one ever said..

Simply stated, assuming liberals vs. conservatives for example, there are forces that push the left further left and conversely the right gets pushed further right – each to differentiate and attract people on their side of the aisle.

But in a two major party system – or a right vs. left scenario – you need to capture enough of the center to get to say 51% without pushing to far to the other side that you will anger your natural voters. So the battle ends up being how to be squarely in your own camp and also have policies and plans that will attract the middle – if both parties do it right they should overlap in the center – which leads to a close election.

I think this is obvious once you think about it – but in case it’s not…

Make your CV Stand out!

My company (Five Blocks) continues to grow and that means we are always looking for great people.

So far we have been incredibly fortunate to have attracted a really talented group who works very well together.

In the process I have seen a lot of CVs and some of the stand out more than others. Choosing a good design shouldn’t be rocket science – don’t reinvent the wheel. Look online and find an impressive looking template and adapt (copy!) – if you have to pay for the template – it’s probably worth it. A template will save you decisions and time.

Pro tip: if you put something unusual on your CV or in your cover letter it will probably catch the attention of the reader.

I recommend the following: do something to tell the reader how you are special.

What’s your superpower? If you feel you have one (and other people agree…) share that!

Examples could include:

  • Great at explaining complex ideas to clients.
  • Meticulous at note-taking
  • Excited by and rise to new challenges
  • Adept at leading programs

If you shine in a specific area definitely find a way of sharing that, otherwise we could miss it and miss out on hiring a great candidate!

If you want something – Give it to others!

This post says something that is either profound, obvious or possibly wrong 🙂 . It’s a thought I just had and it makes sense to me – so I thought I would share it!

In life we learn that the best way to achieve something is to go grab it! If you want another slice of pizza – go get it! You want a job – apply for it! A book looks interesting – go read it. All of this works well when you are interacting with the inanimate world, when you are following the rules of commerce, etc.

When you are interacting with people it often works the opposite way. When you want love – you give love. If you want compassion – be compassionate toward others. In business you are trying to create value – the way to do that is to create value for others!

This isn’t the only way to do business, but it is the way that focuses on your counterpoint rather than just yourself.

Our company has a service provider who wants us to pay more for the services he provides. Instead of focusing on the great value he is giving us – he spends his time explaining to us how he’s not making enough money. As much as I want him to make a good living – my primary concern is that I get value from him. When he spends all of his time explaining what he’s not getting – I wonder aloud why don’t you tell me how you are going all out for me and my team. If I feel you are of course I will want to make sure you are compensated well!

As Five Blocks has matured we have learned that the best way to get is to give. and not in a tit for tat way. We spend lots of time with potential clients and old partners – helping them with digital advice, pinch-hitting issues that arise in the online profiles of their company or their clients’ companies. We do audits and fixes for nothing. And it’s smart. It rarely turns into a paid engagement. But we have built something more important – a relationship based on kindness, trust and proving value. And that ultimately leads us to be a better company and grow our business!

So my advice is if you want to succeed – help others succeed. And think bigger than this month or even this year. Make sure you are playing this game of life with the long-term in mind!

Want to reduce client churn? Here’s how we do it!

My firm Five Blocks offers digital reputation management services and often our clients engage us as one would an exterminator or a locksmith – to help them solve a very specific measurable problem.

In order to retain our clients far beyond the original reason they hired us we employ the following tactics.

1) HOLISTIC APPROACH: We reframe the issue as a symptom rather than a cause. Meaning that while we can provide some relief for your immediate need, you need a more complete long term solution to address the underlying causes. This same strategy could make sense for other businesses where you can both address a short-term need but also help the client adopt a “lifestyle change” in their business around your area of expertise.

2) PROVIDE UNIQUE ADDICTIVE DELIVERABLES :  For example, unique insightful analysis that is easily understood and helps communicate successes within their own organization. One of our clients is a large bank and we have created a colorful weekly report of their online reputation that is then distributed widely within relevant parts of the organization. If the company moved to another vendor they would lose this popular report which highlights the work our contacts are accomplishing for their firm.

3) EDUCATE YOUR CLIENT: Our field, like many others, is constantly evolving and there are new opportunities and threats emerging all the time. We use a portion of our regular calls and reports for education: to share the latest opportunities, trends, and threats related to our work. When we have asked our clients for feedback they tell us that this part of our report is consistently insightful – and we feel this is an additional reason that clients stick with us for so long.

4) DEVELOP GREAT RELATIONSHIPS: We encourage our account team to develop friendly relationships and to support our clients even in areas that are beyond the scope of our agreements. When we do decide to move an account director off of an account we usually do so by introducing someone new and leaving the original account team in the loop and copied on emails for several months. In this way we ensure very smooth handoffs.

“The most expensive keyword on Google”

In 2003 I began a journey that would lead me from SEM (paid advertising), SEO (Organic Search), and eventually Digital Reputation Management. It started when I found out about the emergence of a really viable VOIP solution for home phones (Vonage). When I decided to try to sell that online I discovered Yahoo’s Overture and Google’s Adwords – platforms that enabled me to do effective advertising to get people to sign up and buy. I was able to sell VOIP as an affiliate through the Israeli Vonage reseller Ameriphone, as well as California-based Packet8.

Soon after I decided that if I could attract customers to VOIP offers, I should try other products and services. I had always loved the idea of long distance communication and cell phones were becoming ubiquitous, so I jumped into affiliate sales of cell phones with plans by T-mobile, Verizon, Cingular (AT&T), Nextel, and Sprint. I continued to use paid advertising, landing pages that converted really well, and a 24/6 (Vonage) phone line that prospects could call to place orders and ask questions.

At some point in mid-2004 I did a Google search to find out the most expensive keyword on the internet and found out it was Mesothelioma – a terrible life-threatening cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. At that time I believe that the cost of a click was $60+ each! This discovery introduced me to the value of generating leads for lucrative services – in this case law firms. Together with a friend I decided to create a tool that would generate misspellings of that keyword and others because at that point online advertising platforms did not automatically place ads if the keyword was misspelled. The tool was called keywordsfinder and we managed to sell 30-40 copies as about $50 each, if I recall correctly.

I used that tool to test my theory and found I could get tens of clicks/day at a fraction of the $60 price tag. So I set out to find lawyers who needed those clicks. I was fortunate enough to find one and the work that we were able to do with his firm over the following 5-6 years was instrumental in getting us from being an e-commerce operation, to one focused on consulting to other companies.

All this came to mind today when a colleague shared with me Kantar’s recent study of the most expensive keywords on Google.

Once more Kantar Media has returned to this subject, this time analyzing the most expensive keywords on Google over the last four years, from August 2014 through August 2018. During this time we found mesothelioma terms accounted for 67 of the 100 most expensive keywords on U.S. Google, including all of the Top 10:

It was interesting to me that after so many years, Mesothelioma is still the most expensive keyword you can buy on Google!

Why I love hotel rooms

Don’t get me wrong, I love being home! My bed is comfortable Everything is just how I like it.

But there is something about sleeping at a hotel (provided its clean and comfortable).

I think I know what it is.

I think its the fact that hotel rooms are totally uncluttered. The night table doesn’t have stacks of books I am reading, and a package of tissues, and charger cables, and pens…

For me, there is something very calming about being in a place with no extra unnecessary clutter. It’s like I don’t have to worry about anything because I only have the things that I need.

It lets me think more clearly.

OK it’s possible that not having any kids around or 15 hamsters squeaking just outside our bedroom, those things could also be possible pluses. But I have to say that both the experience of being in a place where no one will bother me and having no stuff to bother me is very refreshing, and even when I have to travel for business and be alone I think I really get a lot out of being somewhere that is not cluttered.

A Lesson from the Mighty Zambezi River

This summer we had the opportunity to travel to Zimbabwe (by way of Zambia) and spend a few days in Victoria Falls with 7/8 of our children. The falls are incredible – with seemingly endless amounts of water!

Interestingly, being on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, each country owns part of the falls. Zambia owns 75% while Zimbabwe only owns 25%.

This would seem to be an advantage for Zambia – owning 3X as much as their neighbor…

But it’s actually not. Because to enjoy the falls you need to gaze across and see them! So Zimbabwe is actually more fortunate – able to see 3X as much of the falls as Zambia.

I have often found that the best way to appreciate a delicious chocolate bar is to share it with someone else – and I am certain that I get more enjoyment from their loving it than I would if I ate it all myself!


Learn to Sail Without a Rudder

When I was in 8th grade we lived in Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. At the time, there was outfit called Community Boating that held classes for kids and taught them to be sailors on their summer vacation. Kids would show up in the morning and sign up for a class and after some lessons and a test they would reach various levels of certification – with an official card. My brother and I went every day, of course.

A sailboat on the beach in Tel Aviv in 2007. We got bumped from our flight and got a day at the beach courtesy of the airline!

Within a few weeks I was able to take out a Cape Cod Mercury  (seats 4 or 5?) on a green flag day, but not on a red flag (windier) day. Over the summer we did additional classes and learned to sail larger keel boats and smaller lasers. We learned how to work the jib – the smaller sail that sits over the bow of the boat – and the more serious students (not me or my brother) learned to work a spinnaker –   the bigger billows sail that also sits at the front of the boat.

The most interesting training I did was something called ‘sailing without a rudder’ – a little like driving your car without a steering wheel. If you really want to be good sailor you need to understand how everything works so well that  you can manage when you are limited, you don’t have all of your tools, or something goes wrong.

It turns out that by re-positioning the weight in the boat (for example by moving your passengers to the back right corner) and by working the sail and the jib (say, by pulling them very tight), you can cause the boat to change direction, without using the rudder.

In my business I have often found myself challenged in similar ways. Helping shape online reputation may involve projecting your brand’s voice, creating and curating content, interacting with the media, etc. But many of our clients are banks, hedge funds, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies – highly regulated businesses that may not be allowed to deploy content because of legal and compliance issues.

Rather that concluding that we can’t work without our tools, we are constantly forced to develop new tools and methods – making us smarter and more capable than if we had not been challenged. In many cases these challenges force us to work much harder if we want to succeed. We are so used to being thrown curve balls that we try to anticipate them from the start.

And we keep sailing, with or without a rudder!

Knowing the rules of the road is not enough!

This year Hanukkah coincided exactly with Christmas vacation! This meant that not only could I get away with my family – I would be a fool not to!
We decided, very last minute, to spend the week in Seychelles! My wife and I had both wanted to go there sometime and the airline gods arranged that tickets would be available. It was a great getaway – absolutely gorgeous and probably because everything in Seychelles is a bit pricey – you hardly see any tourists. They are all in the their fancy resorts or on classy excursions, I guess. We stayed at a more modest hotel and probably were the only family of vacationers on the island who brought 7 kids – our eldest is in the Israeli Army and couldn’t get away…

Whenever we travel to far-flung place it always helps to learn the ropes – whats the best way to see the place? What should we avoid? etc. Sometimes you can do this in advance – like when we found out that the driving would be a bit challenging.

But sometimes you need to learn from experience – like when we fund out that even the biggest supermarket in the country has a very small selection of food!

To master a situation and make good decisions you need to know the rules, but you also need experience. I find that my most intelligent clients are the ones who know some of the rules, but know that this does not make them an expert. They may have some experience, but when presented with the facts – they choose to leave the driving to an expert!