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Business Books – The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership By Richard Branson
While building the Virgin Group over forty years, Richard Branson has never shied away from seemingly outlandish challenges that others (including his own colleagues on several occasions) considered sheer lunacy. He has taken on giants like British Airways and won, and monsters like Coca-Cola and lost.
Now Branson gives an inside look at his strikingly different swashbuckling style of leadership. Learn how fun, family, passion, and the dying art of listening are key components to what his extended family of employees around the world have always dubbed (with a wink) the Virgin Way.”
This unique perspective comes from a man who dropped out of school at sixteen, suffers from dyslexia, and has never worked for anyone but himself. He may be famous for thinking outside the box, an expression he despises, but Branson asserts that you’ll never have to think outside the box if you refuse to let anyone build one around you.
This is a unique book on leadership from someone who readily admits he has never read a book on leadership in his life. So expect the unexpected.
Business Ideas – How to Sell Something Like P.T. Barnum by Evan Carmichael
Evan Carmichael discusses how you can sell, promote, and showcase your business like America’s greatest showman, P.T. Barnum.
“Without promotion something terrible happens… nothing!” — P.T. Barnum
Phineas Taylor Barnum (July 5, 1810 — April 7, 1891) was an American showman, businessman, and entertainer. Above all else, P.T. Barnum was a salesman and promoter who knew how to get people talking. Today, the legacy of his work lives on in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, still billed as ‘The Greatest Show on Earth.’
When P.T. Barnum first launched his business, there was heavy competition as many entrepreneurs had set up their own traveling road shows. He knew that in order for his circus to succeed he needed to get people excited about it by being extremely different from everyone else.
Action Item #1: Sell Something Unique
How do you really stack up against your competitors? Are you honestly that different? If you are an average company with an average product selling at an average price then guess what you get? Average results.
To be successful you need to have a point (or points) of differentiation. It has to be something that is noticeable to people who don’t understand your industry. In the circus business you have to get good performers and P.T. Barnum went out of his way to find the best. From the Fiji Mermaid to Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker to General Tom Thumb the Midget P.T. Barnum had a unique product that none of his competitors could match.
Think about if a potential customer found your website and five of your competitors’ websites. Would they get the feeling that you are very different from the others? Be honest with yourself and if the answer is “not really” then it’s time to get to work on creating an offering that is truly unique in your industry,
Action Item #2: Promote, Promote, Promote
You can have the greatest product or service in the world but if nobody knows about it, your business won’t last very long. Whatever market you’re selling to is likely full of competitors. Even if you have a better quality product or service, your competition can get more business than you if they promote themselves properly. To be a successful entrepreneur you need to both provide an outstanding offering (Action Item #1) and promote it so everybody knows about it.
One of my favourite quotes from P.T. Barnum is “Without promotion something terrible happens… nothing!” If you’re not out promoting and selling your product then your competitors are taking your customers from you even if you can provide them with a better option. If you’re not out promoting then you lose and your customers lose.
Promoting your business doesn’t have to be expensive and you don’t have to be a great people-person. You just have to do something unique to stand out. According to the New York Times the average person in a city sees 5,000 ads per day. Unless you’re very very unique and different with your promotion people are going to ignore you. They’re not trying to be mean, we are all just trained to filter things out unless we have a reason to pay attention. Give them that reason and with your next promotion ask yourself: “What would P.T. Barnum do?”
Action Item #3: Showcase Yourself
People like to buy from people, not from companies. Think about your own buying experiences. Would you buy from someone who you can see their picture, learn about their story, and relate to their experiences? Or would you rather buy from ABC company who uses the same stock photography and boring mission statements as everyone else?
P.T. Barnum did a great job of not only promoting his business but himself as a part of it. He was the creative founder who everyone was talking about and wanted to learn more about.
You don’t have to be a daredevil like Richard Branson and balloon around the world (although P.T. Barnum would be proud!) — but it can really help your business if you showcase yourself so that your prospective customers feel like they’re buying from a real human being. Put your picture on your website and in your marketing materials. Tell a brief story as to why you started your business and the problems you’ve been able to help solve for customers. Explain why you’re so proud of your business and what makes you different. It will have a tremendous and long lasting impact on your company’s growth.