How to Make Your Message Contagious

Whether you're a salesperson, marketer, entrepreneur, or freelancer, you have to compete with all the other messages out there to get yours heard. Jonah Berger, in his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, teaches us the six things we can do to make our message heard.

STEPPS is the clever acronym Jonah uses to help us remember his findings:
  • Social currency—we share things that make us look good;
  • Triggers—we share things that are easily remembered;
  • Emotion—we share things when we care;
  • Public—we share things that we can see;
  • Practical value—we share things others can use;
  • Stories—we share things that are housed in a good story.
Jonah shares many interesting examples for each of these and gives us ways to apply them to our message. Although every principle won't be applicable to every message, chances are you can apply one or two. He even gives us a checklist to help apply them, which I've abbreviated below.
  • Social currency: How can talking about your product make people look good and/or feel like insiders? 
  • Triggers: What cues can remind people of your product/message and how can you make that come to mind more?
  • Emotion: Does talking about your product or idea generate emotion, and especially the type that inspires sharing?
  • Public: Does using your product advertise itself and can people see when it's being used?
  • Practical value: Does your product, idea, or message allow others to disseminate useful information, helping them help others?
  • Stories: Have you included your message in a valuable, broader narrative that people will want to share?
There are too many examples to share, but two that come to mind are how Kit Kat brilliantly increased sales by linking their chocolate to coffee, which is a useful trigger given how often we all drink or think of coffee. The other is how Google made search something more personal and memorable by linking it to the story of student falling in love in Paris. (If you're not familiar with this campaign, you can see the video here.) 

The book also explains various tactics retailers use to make us feel we're getting a better deal (e.g., whether a sale should be indicated as a percentage or dollar amount), which is good to know since we're all consumers.

If you think back at the last video, Facebook post, or article you had to share, which of the STEPPS were in play? Which can you apply to your message?

Little Things Add Up

The entire premise behind Darren Hardy's The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, and Your Success is that the little actions and choices we make today add up to huge differences over time.

Darren reminds us that success is not something bought for $39.99 or via magic pill, but something that we all have access to if we are willing to put in the effort and time and keep at it consistently. If we are willing to make one small change today, and keep making that small change forever, that change can be the difference between us being fit or fat, or wealthy or unemployed over time. He demonstrates this with various examples that are hard to ignore.

And since doing anything forever seems daunting, he suggests you start with 3 weeks, by when you're on the way to making it a habit and it is therefore easier to maintain. Darren gives us many other useful tips and tools to help us achieve these small changes and ultimate success.

It's also never too late to start. Even if you've made poor choices up until now, it's never too late to start making better choices. Anyone can start that right now and with patience and perseverance, reap those rewards. 

I enjoyed reading the book and needed the reminder that everything, regardless of how small, adds up. I also enjoyed reading Darren's productivity tips and morning ritual, which included a half hour of reading and then evaluating his most important priorities for the day.

So if there is no excuse not to start now, what small change for the better can you make this second?

What Leaders Are and Are Not

As someone who loves to read about inspiring leaders and aspires to be one herself, reading Jeffrey Pfeffer's Leadership BS was difficult.

His main premise is that despite all the books, courses, and coaches out there, leadership and workplaces are worst off because of all the "BS" that's espoused by the "leadership" industry.

Although I may not agree with everything he says, he did make some good points I'd like to share:
  1. measure what you want to enforce;
  2. the characteristics we want from leaders don't get them to the top;
  3. leaders being humble and authentic needs to be taken and used in context;
  4. leadership is not an all or nothing or an either/or thing;
  5. pay attention to a leader's actions rather than his/her words;
  6. and sometimes leaders have to do bad things to do the most good.
So for example, a humble leader is great but humble people are rarely assertive enough to make it to the top. And yes, being "authentic" is desirable, but what does that really mean? Who you are changes, so which "you" should you be true to? And what if being true to yourself is inappropriate or bad for your company? 

Reading the last example made me mentally snort. Obviously a professional would not do something inappropriate but that does not mean you can't be yourself. To me being authentic is figuring out your own flavor of leadership, which also allows you to be the most fulfilled and best version of yourself.

Which of the six things that I listed above do you think "leaders" need most work on and why?

Sell Yourself First

Grant Cardone, author of Sell or Be Sold: How to Get Your Way in Business and in Life, is what he calls a professional salesperson.

The reason many of us associate selling with slime, as per Grant, is due to the amateurs who have given the field a bad name. He explains that a professional salesperson is in it to help and truly believes it is a disservice to allow a potential customer to walk away unsold.

This of course requires that you be totally sold on your service or product first. If you do not believe it is the absolute best and own or use it yourself, you have little chance of selling others on it. And if it is the best, price is not an issue since it's well worth it.

Although Grant is a bit extreme in his approach to sales (he never eats meals with anyone he cannot sell to), I appreciated his advise about needing to sell yourself first. 

I also appreciated Grant emphasizing the listening and communication aspects of sales and reminding us that we all need to sell—whether a service, product, or our ideas. Therefore being a good salesperson, whether that is your title or not, is key to succeeding in life and work.

Are you a good salesperson? What do you think makes you one?