This is a real question.
Asked by a real doctor.
No, he’s not a pervert. He has a real and definable interest in my health.
He caught my attention.
I am like most people—inured to the majority of what I hear, therefore not listening. When you hear the same-old same-old formulaic banter—fill out the form; step on the scale; need your insurance card; do you smoke?; have you ever had surgery?: how are you feeling: what brings you here today;—you typically reply in kind. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
This is what us spiritual peeps call being unconscious. Not listening. Not being present because not much is being said that requires our presence. Humans check out when we hear the same old stuff day after day after day.
If only things were presented in a way that piqued our interest?
LISTENING AND THEN TALKING FROM THE HEART ARE KEY TO JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING IN LIFE. THIS DOCTOR UNDERSTANDS THAT. LET ME TELL YOU WHY.
I come from an advertising background, where messages are subliminal and, if we are being honest, rarely on the up-and-up. Let’s face it: no amount of Dior anything is going to make anyone look like Charlize Theron, and buying that $2.5 million condo isn’t going to change the fact that you are overweight, pimply and lactose intolerant. But when someone comes at you with a disruptive (ad agency word coined by TBWA/CHIAT/DAY a decade or so ago) message, you listen because it shakes you out of your reverie.
Examples: That same condo, but now presented as a wise investment, a great location that makes you an early adopter, or a special gift for your foxy lady. Now you’re listening.
Any Publix Supermarket holiday commercial. They are masters of disruptive ads, not selling the turkey and the stuffing but selling the family.
Ditto for Folgers, who uses the warm and fuzzy big-brother-comes-home-from-college approach rather than the boring don’t-we-make-good-coffee approach.
Apple. Everything they do is disruptive.
Online: Has this not disrupted everything? Look how we are willing to bare our soul on Facebook to millions of strangers when the truth is if you actually met most of your “friends” in person, you’d probably not even say hello?
Most interesting is accountability, an utterly fantastic but rarely welcomed by-product of disruptively caused transparency. Always blaming someone else? How’s that working for you these days? This is disruption at its max. Just ask the perverse bankers, preachers, teachers, sports team owners and many other previously under-the-radar-slimeballs who got caught doing or saying something they should not have.
Yup, they’ve been disrupted. They are disruptees and their time has come (or rather, gone).
Disruptors reshape things. They understand humans are emotional. Reactive. Self-involved. Disruption excites us and reminds us of what is important.
OK. SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE DOCTOR ASKING IF HE CAN SMELL MY FEET?
I approach my work by thinking about people first, and then the project. This is one of my differentiators. Here’s how it works, using the good doctor as my example:
PEOPLE: This man changed my thinking.
PROJECT: HOW CAN I CHANGE THE THINKING OF MY CLIENTS SO THEY CAN INNOVATE?
PEOPLE: He reshaped my expectations.
PROJECT: HOW CAN MY CLIENTS RESHAPE THEIR CUSTOMERS’ EXPECTATIONS SO THEY CAN DELIVER ROCK-STAR SERVICE AND RESULTS?
PEOPLE: He was different.
PROJECT: WHAT MAKES MY CLIENTS UNIQUE IN THEIR MARKET?
PEOPLE: His approach was unexpected.
PROJECT: WHAT CAN MY CLIENTS DO OR CREATE THAT IS FRESH IN THEIR MARKET?
PEOPLE: His approach was interesting.
PROJECT: HOW CAN MY CLIENTS CREATE INTERESTING APPROACHES FOR THEIR CUSTOMERS THAT WILL REFLECT IN A POSITIVE BOTTOM LINE?
PEOPLE: He was personable.
PROJECT: WHAT CAN MY CLIENTS DO TO BE MEMORABLE TO CUSTOMERS, BECAUSE BUSINESS IS SO PERSONAL?
PEOPLE: He showed he cares. He’s also a fantastic doctor.
PROJECT: HOW CAN MY CLIENTS BE ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL TO THEIR CUSTOMERS’ WELLBEING?
Everything Doc does has a quantifiable business goal and is definably strategic for his small business. He does not subscribe to the sameness of practicing traditional medicine. He reaches further into the person (not the patient) to look for clues that are not on a blood test, an MRI or an Xray. He is challenging the accepted paradigm. He’s gutsy. He knows that often what one is looking for is hiding in plain sight.
SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL HAVE TO DO WITH YOUR BUSINESS? YOUR LIFE?
Everything. Apply everything I am saying to YOUR business. YOUR clients. YOUR life. Humans love the safety of sameness but crave—and respond to—the different.
Are you fantastic-same at what you do, or are you fantastic-different?
Think about it. Most qualifiers are typical:
- Great Price
- Great Product
- Great Service
- Great Location
- . . . and so on . . .
This is nothing you have not heard repeatedly, and it brings us back to our unconscious state. (I’ll bet most of you have glazed eyes as you read this list. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz again.
So what makes us choose one person or company over the other?
THE DIFFERENTIATORS. IT ALWAYS COMES DOWN TO THE DIFFERENTIATORS.
Yes, qualifiers being equal, you will ultimately choose the one who asks to smell your feet.
Advertising folks call these differentiators USPs (unique selling points). One of my favorite ad/marketing gurus, Marty Neumeier, calls the compilation of this yourOnliness Statement, wherein you exhibit not just qualified but different. You’d better have one.
My doctor’s differentiators came down to this:
- He took a special interest in me as a human being;
- He took the time to explain things to me;
- He is willing to step out of a prescribed methodology that is often nothing more than habit;
- He is cutting-edge;
- He has formed a relationship with me;
- He follows up;
- He has parallel interests that jive with mine;
- He is willing to break me of my ingrained thinking;
- He is showing me a new and refreshing experience;·
- He has an overall peaceful and nurturing attitude;
- He surprises me!
- He challenges me!
- He educates me!
- He makes me laugh!
All of this is excellent business strategy.
And look what else he has done, simply by being different: Today, healthcare is one of our most challenging, controversial, corrupt, costly, confusing, callous, wasteful and stressful parts of life. Doc turned that on its ear, didn’t try to sell me stuff I didn’t need and looked for simple clues rather than recommending expensive and wasteful testing. He did not waste my time, did not put fear into me, didn’t send me off to call the insurance company and took the time to LISTEN intently to the words that came out of my mouth. I have no doubt that had he found it necessary to go further, we would have. But there was no need. A few simple adjustments to my nutrition fixed my problem. And he knew that from smelling my beautiful toxin-and-fungus-free feet.
The only loser in this deal was the insurance company. 🙂
While I send thanks and loving thoughts to my pedicurist for helping me look good in this unexpected and odd situation, I ask you this:
- Is your company in the winners circle, or are you losing out too?
- What makes you different?
- Why should anyone choose you?
- Are you cruising along in sameness or have you grown a set and a kick- ass vision to accompany all that book learning?
- What are you disrupting?
- Are you doing the single most important thing, which is LISTENING?
Only by listening can you learn, explore, experiment, understand, touch someone, understand their needs, create a relationship and serve others.
The best listen. Think about that. In your life, go back to those who have made themselves memorable. It could be that waiter at Morton’s who knows just how you like your steak and saves that special red for you. Or the hairdresser who really listens when you say, ”Don’t take off more than an inch or I will kill you.” Maybe it’s the adored spouse/partner you chose simply because he/she listened to you. Threats notwithstanding—and to paraphrase Maya Angelou—people will tell you what they want. All you need to do is listen.
ONE LAST THING.
I know you’ve figured out by now that you’ve been disrupted. Intentionally and with love.
I wanted to pique your interest so I could share things that I believe have value.
Like it or not, the title of this piece is what made you read it. I’m sure that “10 Steps to Business Success” would not have done the trick.
Hopefully you have received value from my words. My intention is to always “smell the feet” of anyone I work with, interact with or share my experiences with.
Yes, I know I ended that last sentence with a preposition. In its own small way, the sentence is also disruptive. You will remember it because it’s different. No point in being forgettable.
There’s no real value in that.