Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

When we started looking at revising the logo a few months ago we had a couple of options as to how we would present our company name: PeopleSmarts.
The past logo was a bolded and capped PEOPLE with a regular capped SMARTS (in Helvetica Neue). Because I was looking for a refreshed logo, but we weren’t changing much about our core brand, I wanted to maintain some visual cues from the previous logo.

Here’s what we left the same:

  • The lower-case typeface is still Helvetica Neue
  • “People” is still slightly more bold than “Smarts”

We kept the typeface the same as an homage to the previous logo and to maintain the clean and simple look of the classic sans-serif font. People is still bold because we continue to put the emphasis on People (you know, “your company’s most valuable asset”).

Here are some things we changed:

  • The uppercase “P” and “S” are slightly different than Helvetica Neue. Do you know what typeface we used?
  • The kerning and tracking of the entire word “PeopleSmarts” was adjusted. It is not evenly adjusted, but used to optimize space and viewing aesthetics.
  • “eople” and “marts” was brought down to lower-case. Among other traits, this gives the logo a softer and more appealing flavor.

I could probably go on and on about the ins and outs of this logo, but suffice it to say, way more time and thought went into its development than anyone will probably ever spend looking at it.

That’s okay though. It’s my job and I like it.

This one is the new one.This one is the old one.


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The Marketing Plan

On my profile, I say that I am passionate about pithiness. Yet, it seems like I find myself talking and writing longer than is requisite. I don’t know why exactly. It probably extends from some kind of insecurity that if I’m not saying a lot, I mustn’t know what I am talking about.

It is quite a talent to be brief enough to be relevant but lengthy enough be be informative. I want to acquire this talent. What better place to practice it than here on this blog post. Here goes:

I am busy working on a marketing and sales plan for PeopleSmarts. But, it is difficult to balance the day-to-day responsibilities with the long-term planning. Both are vitally important.

Since both issues are pressing, both are being worked on at the same time. It is a good challenge to have, however. I look forward to seeing how it all plays out.

(How was that?)

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Sales & Vacuums

As I prepared for my first year of college I was offered a job to do sales for a vacuum company. I started by working all weekend showing the vacuum to my friends and family. When it came time to “close the deal” with my loved ones, the high pressure sales were unbearable for me and awkward for my friends. I quit Monday morning.

PeopleSmarts sales strategy is far different from the tactics employed by some others. We are certainly not high pressure, but rather, we work on building relationships first and selling second. By developing a relationship, we find that we are much more capable of solving problems for our partners.

And that’s precisely how we see sales, as partnerships. If a deal isn’t a win-win for both parties, we don’t pursue it. This is true across the board with our products, trainings and consulting. We make a conscious effort to make this part of our culture. While it is never easy to turn down money, we understand that it is far more valuable and sustainable to ensure that our clients’ and customers’ needs are taken care of before, during and after we make a deal.

I encourage you to look at your relationship with your customers and clients. If you can’t say that you are in a win-win partnership for both or all parties, perhaps you should rethink your strategies. For, those who have great customer service and ensure “win-winningness” will always have the upper hand over the competition.

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CULTURE seems to be one of those words. You know, the kind that everybody thinks they know the meaning of, but can’t really pin down a definition. Perhaps it is because we are engrained in culture in everything that we do. From our social circles, to religious practices, to professional engagements, we act according to the culture that we are in. By definition, culture is “the attitudes and behavior characteristics of a particular social group.”

Here at PeopleSmarts we have a fun and professional workplace culture of creating innovative training, coaching and consulting products and services. A part of that culture is valuing the importance of personal connection, so let me introduce myself. My name is Holland, and I get to do a lot of the marketing and communication stuff here at PeopleSmarts. One of the reasons I like working here is because of our company culture. We work hard to create an environment that makes it possible to do our very best work while having fun along the way. We like to say success is a “great ride plus great results.”

We mesh together as a team, not because we are all alike, but because we are all working together on a common goal. We know each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and we value our different styles. In our team, we actually use the same assessments we use with our customers to help us identify and assign tasks and responsibilities to those that are best equipped to successfully accomplish them. We believe in learning from the strengths of each other by going to our colleagues and asking for help. Individually, our number one job is to ensure the success of each of our coworkers.

We have taken some new steps to ensure our coworkers’ success by aligning the branding of PeopleSmarts with our company culture. We have spent significant time designing and implementing many changes because we want to communicate who we are in everything we do. We adopted a new logo and colors, have been revising our website and are we are updating our printed material. We’ve even touched up the look and name of this newsletter–have you noticed?

We’ve also recently introduced the idea of EQnomics, which is our solution to help organizations stop losing up to 12% of labor costs every day by getting a positive ROI from their employees. We practice the principles of EQnomics ourselves. Like any close-knit group, we know how to have fun together, but we also pay close attention to the realities of our business. Not only do we focus on bringing the best services to our customers, but we strive for ways to increase our own productivity and accountability for results.

One of our goals at PeopleSmarts is to impact as many lives in a positive way as we can each day. We do this by starting with our own EQ development and work toward building a company culture that communicates this and inspires others to follow suit. We do our best to work “above the line”; we practice “checking our frames”; we “honor the absent”; and we communicate “you matter” to each other every day. We are passionate about EQ, and believe wholeheartedly that it is the key to developing our full potential as a company.

We are happy and excited about our changes and culture. And, we want to know what you think, so please drop us a line or give us a call. We are here to help you successfully build your workplace culture of success, too.


Holland Newton
VP Marketing & Sales

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I’m in the office recounting my recent river trip on Cataract Canyon. Nothing like the roar of 16 foot waves and an accidental swim to get the blood pumping and to focus the mind. Have you ever planned a course of action, only to discover midway through that life and the elements were taking you in a different direction? Sometimes you need to stick to your guns and push through along the path you planned, and sometimes you need to switch gears and make a new plan. Knowing which time is before you is the great challenge of life.

I was at that crossroads in the rapid named Big Drop 1. I scouted the rapid from shore and plotted my course before shoving off to run the first of a series of three extremely gnarly rapids. I steered the boat through the first waves and set up to avoid a large hole at the bottom of the rapid. En route, I discovered that my boat was too water ladened and the river too swift to execute our escape. Consequently, we were headed straight for the center of a large and ugly looking wave.  In a panic, I shouted out loud, “Holy s__t; mother of god; this is going to be bad!” This, of course, did not inspire confidence from my four friends in the boat. As we crashed into the hole our boat was twisted sidewise and the wave swept me off my seat and into the water. This left the boat upright, but captainless. One of my co-adventurers grabbed me and plopped me back in the boat. Isearched the horizon for where we were headed next and spied “little niagra”, the most dangerous feature at the top of Big Drop 2. Normally, you pull the boat over to scout the next two rapids, but a heavy boat and the loss of time from hanging out in the water made this option impossible. The river was taking us through the next rapid!

Picture 1

I pulled with all my might, but the boat was not budging from its collision course with “little niagra”. I begged Ferryn (the one who plucked me from the water) to jump on the oars and help me maneuver the boat to a safer course. Together, we pulled the boat across the river where I had to make a decision: should we keep pulling to get us to the left side of the “marker” rock (the traditional and most used route) or straighten the boat and take a right run (a non- traditional and more dangerous route)? In a couple of seconds Ihad to make a decision that would significantly impact the safety of my friends and myself. In Big Drop 1 I had stayed on course and nearly flipped my raft. This time I decided to abandon my initial plan and change course. Fellow rafters have since exclaimed, “nobody takes a right run at Big Drop 2!” (see youtube video below). I’ll never know if I had the strength to safely pull our boat to the more traditional path down the rapid.

Business managers and supervisors are constantly plotting courses forward into their future. We face challenging decisions such as when to keep going with a software program that needs configuration and when to scrap it and purchase a new program, or when to keep going with a marketing strategy that isn’t generating the results we want and when to create a new marketing plan. We can use hind sight to evaluate how we performed, but not to determine if another option would have worked out. We all come to crossroads in our lives and face the challenging decision of staying the course or plotting a new one.

The most important thing to do when you come to this point in business, or in your life, is to MAKE A DECISION. Choose a course and allow the consequences to guide your hind-sight evaluation. We regret a “default decision” far more than a conscious decision. When we go into default mode, we tend to bemoan the fact that “I should have done something.” When we make a decision that didn’t work out the way we planned, we tend to exclaim, “I’ll never do that again.” We made it successfully through the rapid, barely kissing the edge of “little niagra”. More importantly, my four friends are still friends.

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GuitarsEver wonder the effect your customer’s experience has on your brand identity and the public opinion?

In March 2008 musician Dave Carroll flew from Halifax to Omaha, transferring planes in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Apparently baggage handlers in Chicago caused damage to Carroll’s guitar http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-biz-united-breaks-guitars-video-ual-july8,0,4414385.story and after a year of trying to negotiate and work with United’s customer service department to no avail, Carroll decided to take things into his own hands, and has created a very popular YouTUBE music video / anti-United campaign calling the airline out for their failure to take care of his perceived customer service issue. His music video has had over 3 million views on YOUTUBE.

Imagine United’s annual budget for advertising and marketing. They spend millions to create their brand identity and position it strategically within the marketplace. Simultaneously they spend millions of dollars on direct labor, millions on training and development of new and existing employees. As a result of this issue, I am thinking today about the effectiveness of both.

A customer service decision, caused by an apparent operations problem in one facility is creating a media stir at a fraction of United’s budget and achieving a much less than desirable result for the company. Independent of whether or not the baggage handlers actually were negligent in their behavior, due of the increasing popularity and power of social media, United will certainly experience a negative consequence as a result of whatever happened on the ground in Chicago. The company had an opportunity to address the musician’s concern when he originally made his claim, but did not so we have to consider the actions of the customer service team responsible for addressing damaged baggage claims. Are these teams trained to empathetically address customer concerns? Are they calloused by the myriad of complaints they deal with every day and each new case becomes just another in the long list of problems they address? Do these service representatives have the Emotional Intelligence Skills necessary to perform their job functions? Is the culture at this customer service center one with an emphasis on delivering a positive customer experience?

I don’t know the answers to those questions about United’s culture and policy but am truly amazed at the implications and consequences of United’s handling of this customer’s issue, and the power of the media for one person to stand up, and tell their service story to over 3 million (and counting as you read this…) United spends millions of dollars each year to create their brand, but the real brand – the brand that people buy, trust and are loyal to is not created by the marketing department, but by the way the company treats every customer and responds to customer issues.

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Ever have great, remarkable, “Wow!” customer service? How about poor, rotten,  abysmal customer service?  Big difference. As customers we usually reward good customer service with our repeat business and really great customer service with positive word of mouth to our friends, family and colleagues. The consequence of poor customer service is that the company loses our business and often earns the resultant bad word of mouth.

In our free market that’s pretty standard practice. It’s a natural system of checks and balances that weeds out the weak businesses and promotes the stronger ones—well, much of the time at least. It’s a good system, but could it be better? We think so.

One practice we’re instituting at PeopleSmarts to encourage great customer service in the marketplace is what I started to call “Appreciation Marketing” after one particular “Wow!” experience at a Checker Auto Parts store.  What we do is we highlight businesses whose frontline workforce excel at demonstrating high EQ (emotional intelligence) by going “Above the Line” (ATL) in their service to the customer (ATL is one of the core practices we teach in developing a WorkSmart Culture). These employees and the business then get an “Above the Line” Award that details the particular circumstance that warranted the award.

How do we select businesses to award? Just simply by the normal, random experience of daily participation in the marketplace. When any of us on the PeopleSmarts’ team personally experiences “Wow!” customer service we immediately take note of who, what, when and where. We then contact the person’s supervisor and/or CEO and personally let them know that someone in their organization is doing something way right.

We then ask the employee why they served us like they did. Is it because he/she is just a great person or is it also part of a their workplace culture? We then ask the employer the same question. Such questioning, besides allowing the person and company a moment to shine, allows the company to identify star performers who can be used to infect the rest of the team with similar star qualities.

The employee, with their team and employer present, gets an award to display in the workplace that tells every customer who comes in what service is like there: “Above the Line.” Each award is uniquely personalized with a narrative description of the specific ATL service the PeopleSmarts team member received from that employee. No generic “atta-boy” award here. Customers get to be impressed with what the individual did in the name of the company.

As you can imagine, employees and employers both love this kind of feedback
, which, unfortunately, they rarely get. Too often they are hearing about what’s wrong. This is a chance for them to hear what’s right and to encourage more of the same behavior from their team.

It’s a simple, and powerful, win all around.
The star performer gets unexpected and well-deserved recognition, praise and appreciation. The boss gets to feel rightfully proud for leading such an individual and for encouraging such a WorkSmart Culture.

The good news is that there are great people every day giving great customer service.
They deserve to be appreciated. We as customers need them to be appreciated—the more they are recognized the more they become held up as the standard of excellence which means the more we as customers will get even more great customer service which we all so desperately want. The more workers are appreciated the better they naturally want to perform. It goes round and round and round in an escalating spiral of what Waid Blanton here at PeopleSmarts calls getting, “Wow-a-sized!”.

The ATL Awards, “Appreciation Marketing”, and WorkSmart Cultures all leverage one of the simplest and most powerful motivators for human change—sincere and specific appreciation.

Whether you give them a formal award or not we encourage you to take the time to let those who serve you well, and their supervisors, know how much it meant for you to be treated right. They daily hear complaints of what was wrong. Let’s start flooding the market, for once, with encouragement for all of those who are going Above the Line on a daily basis.

Rock on,

Jonathan Sherman
Director of Training & Development

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