On Hiring: How To Test For Real Skills

Lately we have been on the lookout to add more members to our team. With the number of marketing tools in the market, there are likely over 20 tools you can use for email marketing, another 30-40 to create content and post onto the many different social media platforms, and even more to manage follower engagement.

A lot of times when people hire, we first skim the various tool the prospective employee is comfortable with using. CHECK – great they are familiar with these key tools we use. (We should also keep in mind that a lot of times familiarity with various tools is inflated in a person’s resume.) During the interview, they then ask them questions about themselves to assess fit. CHECK – seems to fit in with culture.

The missing piece is actually interviewing for the marketing SOFT skills required to make use of the tools. Does the potential candidate show promise of a strategic mindset that can utilize these tools to improve your business? I suggest testing this out by throwing a few real life business scenarios at them and seeing what they approach is to solving these problems.

The rest of the questions we ask them people can usually BS through, but business scenario questions are a good way to gage how much they really know and can apply. So the next time you interview a candidate, try this out and I guarantee you will have more useful information to make a better hiring decision.


Entrepreneurship – Getting Past Yourself

Though I would not call myself a serial entrepreneur, I have often encountered the question: “How do you get started on a new business or project?” As a refresher, I have started 3+ businesses in the past in different industries (Finance, Fashion, Marketing) and rebranded, turned around, or built 3 non-profits as well (in the areas of adults with disabilities and female empowerment).

It is one of the most frequent questions I get at events, and honestly, you just starting DOING things and see what sticks. Debating over the best course of action is great, once you have developed say 2 – 3 options, and thought of the worse case scenario of what could happen if sh*t hit the fan, you just need to get out and start trying things.

I recently watched a Tony Robbins video clip where he reiterates the same concept, you just have to come up with and try as many approaches as possible until you find one that succeeds. Easier said than done because most people stop when they fail ONCE; they are so easily deterred I’m amazed that anything gets done in this world.

So here are my key steps to “getting started”:

  1. Note down all the brilliant ideas you have in a notebook
  2. Go talk about it with a few of your closest friends and get their opinion
  3. Go talk about it with a few prospective clients or users of your product/service and see what they say
  4. Take this feedback and strategize on what can be improved, what’s the minimum viable product you can throw out to the market to get some in-market feedback.
  5. Make sure you have a “testing fund” cap. For me it’s somewhere around $2000. If I can’t make anything happen with that amount, or even test for operations and logistics, then at least you tried. Don’t dump money into an idea that’s not showing any action after you exhaust your testing fund. If you do get any positive signs, it might be worth your while to keep testing – the decision is up to you.
  6. Produce the minimum viable product, launch it and observe the market reaction.
  7. Make changes based on the feedback and keep doing more rollouts.
  8. Repeat until you are successful.

Most people stop at step 2 or 3, because of what their friends or prospects tell them. Keep in mind the point is for you to gather information to see HOW you can make your idea work. Most of the time the market doesn’t know what it needs, or how much they are willing to pay for it, until the option to purchase the item is available.

So just get out there and start doing. Only once you get the ball rolling can you experience momentum, so crucial to giving you the good vibes of success to fuel your passion forward. If you fail, well, it’s time to pull out your notebook and try out another idea.

I challenge you to test out all the possibilities you’ve been thinking of.


Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

A sudden wash creativity some evenings ago had me pondering about store layout and design. We think of places and shops where the design intentionally initiates a quick turnaround of customers whilst others make the extra effort to keep the customer in store – the longer they stay, the more they spend. 


The perfect example of this would be IKEA. While there are emergency exit signs through the store, shall you dare to deviate from the planned route you are likely to stand confused and lost amongst the aisles. 

Therefore we trudge slowly along, following the yellow arrows, ooo-Ing and aaaahhhh-ing as we take in all the designed kitchen and bedroom showrooms, unconsciously picking up various items we “need”.

You always end up spending a slightly (or much more) unexpected amount, and this is where the design evidently assists in boosting sales. 


I see this most often in restaurants – think Ramen. 

Usually ramen shops are designed to be small and cozy; the chairs aren’t intended for comfort, the spacing between tables isn’t intended for privacy – sometimes you find yourself sharing a communal table with several other people or groups. If you want to stay longer and have a conversation with friends, this isn’t exactly the ambiance you are looking for. 

Usually there are two factors at play here: pricing and operations. A ramen meal would be considered at the lower end of the meal cost spectrum, leading to an incentive for the shop owner to turn as many tables as possible – at low(er) prices, you are banking on making money by doing volume. 

At a “high-end” restaurant where you are paying $150 per person for a meal, you usually feel like you can stay and chat over a 5-course meal, a few glasses of wine, a decadent dessert and a cup of tea or espresso to complete your meal. 

So when you dream up your next business, think of how your strategic elements will affect your relationships with your customers – should they stay or should they go? 

Dare to Explore

Resting on a long weekend Monday for me means letting my mind explore.

A business idea has been brewing in my mind for a few months now and so far I have prototyped it, did some initial interviews with vested parties (groups that would use the service) and gotten back some great questions, feedback and support. Of course there are opinions from the consumer end as well, and not all were approving.

Some comments:

  • This isn’t for me
  • This isn’t for the XYZ market
  • I could see value for this for ABC market, but not the mass market
  • How long will this last, the market won’t be hot forever

All these points are well taken, but here’s the positive spin on it.

  • Great – it means it’s not for you but for somebody else.
  • Great – not for XYZ market means it could be for ABC market – a product/service should have its lovers and haters or else you would be sadly, nothing.
  • Great – as long as there is a way to make the service profitable for a niche market, it’s still a win.
  • Sure – but when is it hot forever? I can apply this comment to every single business out there but hey, we’re all still working every day right? Might as well work to earn all that we can so that when the market isn’t hot anymore we can feel safe from all that we have saved, earned from NOW until then.

So – if you have an idea, at least explore it. Talk to parties about it, do your research, and commit to a small investment that would tell you whether the market would respond to your proposed product/service. A small pilot would do, but it still takes time and effort. The point is, don’t stop at the first negative comments that are thrown at you, get the service out there and see what the market says to a tangible product/service.

If they hate it – move on. If they love it – keep at it. You might have hit something big!

Who’s Going to Stop YOU? 

The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.

There are many things that once seemed impossible until you did it. Yes – YOU did it. 

A 6-hour hike, a promotion, negotiating a raise, lose 10 pounds, start and grow a company…whatever it is, the only thing stopping you from getting it done is you. 


Sales Success Tip: Pitch Outside The Box


There are always standard ways to do things in any industry, so when you take it one step further, people notice.

Case in point, my agency was asked to quote for a website redesign project. I knew my relatively small website design portfolio would be my weakness. My specialty is in social media marketing and brand building, so what could I do to show the client we are the best choice?

Let’s take it one step back and consider the standard quoting practices. It’s usually a short summary of what the client is looking for (project scope) and then a bunch of numbers (the budget) to tell the client what they have to pay for deliverables.

I like showing my client prospects what we can do for THEM, something relevant to them and not a portfolio of our other works – because who cares? It’s not relevant to their profitability or brand. So I created a mock up design of the landing page I envisioned for the client’s website redesign and provided a brief competitive analysis illustrating why I chose that specific branding direction for the client.

Usually mock ups are not provided until after contract signing, but who cares about the standard way of doing things? I care about how I can make the client remember us and notice that we work harder and take their project more seriously than our competitors. It worked and we left a positive impression with the clients.

Key takeaway? Do more than what’s required, go further than needed, and show people you truly care – it will make a difference in your success in the long-term.

Does Your Company Host “Sincere” Sales?

Do you host sincere sales or fake sales that don't even cover the cost of tax?

Do you host sincere sales or fake sales that don’t even cover the cost of tax?

Does your company host “sincere” sales?

What do we mean by this? How many times have you walked by a storefront lured in by the sign that says everything including the cash register is on sale and you walk in to find hilarious savings of…10%? I have been on both sides of the fence buying and selling so there is no bias here. When I propose a 10% discount off on retail customers say it doesn’t even save the tax – and I agree with them.

Don’t treat your customers like idiots.

Let’s take the most recent Black Friday Sales as an example. For those who frequent the mall once a month, you would notice that some stores continually have sales like 40% off your first item, Friends and Family sale 40% off, 30% off your entire purchase throughout the month of October and November. Come Black Friday, which is THE major shopping day for the US (and now apparently Canada), when your sale signs are $20 off $200, $30 off $300… of better yet, 30% off select items…if your store is one of these then don’t expect people to stroll in and open their wallets on Black Friday.

Don’t complain about slow sales on THE shopping day of the year if you can’t offer sincere sales. Remember! YOU HAVE COMPETITION! If customers see that you have sales every week, or even every month that are roughly the same as your Black Friday offer, then don’t expect us to waste time shopping your store on the big sale date, because other stores who don’t usually have sales, are making us a better offer.

Here’s an example. ZARA never has sales. This past Black Friday ZARA was 30% off the entire store. Where did a lot of people go to spend their money? ZARA. TOPSHOP rarely has large discounts. They had 50% off outerwear and sweaters on Black Friday.

The point is, YOU condition your customers. if you have sales every week, NO ONE will ever buy your items at full price (and they won’t believe your products carry the full-priced value). If you never have a sale and you have a decent offer (this means 30%+ off) then you can expect heavy sales traffic. I know this all depends on “policies” from headquarters, but if you are an independent store who has control over when to have your sales and what sales to offer your customers, please show your customers some sort of sales planning so we are happier when you do throw a sale and are more willing to shop with you.