Algorithm Changes and Your Web Experience

Rubik Cube


Last month Google announced a significant algorithm update.  They are calling it the Medic Update.  Here’s a link if you’re interested in learning about the implications that this update may have on your business’ website:

Analysis and Findings From The August 1, 2018 Google Algorithm Update – A Massive Core Ranking Update

Ostensibly these changes are targeting health and wellness sites as well as YMYL categories.  Nonetheless, Google is recommending that you continually strive to maintain a website that creates an enjoyable, engaging user experience.  The trades have typically struggled with this for a couple of reasons:

  1. We expect too much from template web sites with limited customization–resulting in parity among contractor websites.
  2. The site builder usually doesn’t know much about the trades and they look to you for content (or they just copy-paste from similar sites in the interest of saving time).  This misses the point: The audience’s perspective is the one that matters.

As a result it’s common to find HVAC or plumbing websites that look and feel very much the same: About Us, FAQ, Our Products, Our Services . . . (don’t get me wrong, these are important but it’s the perspective, creative capacity, and content quality that matter).

That being said, and given Google’s changes, here are a few things a business owner can do to improve her company’s site:

  1. Ask your web/SEO provider to ensure your short and long-tail keywords are up-to-date and unique to your market.
  2. Take a look at Google’s Keyword Tool ( to help focus your keywords.
  3. Talk to your web/SEO provider about Topic Clusters ( and the extent to which your site is using them well.
  4. Set up a blog or vlog and produce content on a regular basis.  Once a week is good.
  5. Stay current.  I like SEOmoz and Google’s blog for updates.
  6. Make sure you’re getting what you pay for.  SEO providers collect their monthly fee but are you getting monthly improvements or are you paying for general maintenance?

The thing that all of us need to constantly think about is the customer experience.  Anyone who shops on-line with regularity is having a trusted and engaging experience with a website.  Amazon, Patagonia, REI . . . they all get this and do it well.  What can you learn from their web experience?  Have you asked your customers what they like and dislike about your site, how it can be improved or made easier to navigate?  The Experience is the product these days.  The experience is a multi-verse and that includes our business websites.

Enjoy the the article in the link above.  Schedule a meeting with your SEO provider.  Consider your customer’s point-of-view.  How is your site more engaging that your competitors’?



A Better Way to Coach Salespeople

“To teach is to learn twice.”

The majority of B2B sales professionals that I work with have never sold their products to a  homeowner.  They have a limited understanding of how their products are sold, and that’s a liability.  In order to gain a complete understanding of their sales cycle I recommend that they accompany their customers on B2C sales calls.  It provides a better understanding of the entire sales cycle as well as the real-world challenges and opportunities their clients face on a regular basis.   Anyone interested in improving their sales performance benefits from credible coaching–IF the coaching is structured.

As of Monday there is a brand new coaching guide and template for outside sales professionals who want to add value to their client coaching/ride-along opportunities!

The guide and template are on the Premier Client Learning page on my website:

Thanks for your support and enjoy the new resources.  Also, look for new great content on a weekly basis.

Your friend,


Words are Deeds

“A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will never return.” — Jewish Proverb

Another terrible week.  A domestic terrorist killed 11 people while they were praying.  “Kill all the Jews!” he shouted as he opened fire.

In the same week a man killed two people in Louisville after failing to gain access to a predominantly black church.

In the same week a man attempted to assassinate individuals whom he’d targeted as “enemies of the state.”

In the same week the Department of Health and Human Services began dehumanizing members of the LGBQT community.

I remember when politics was Elephants vs. Donkeys, blue versus red. Simpler times.

Something has gone terribly wrong.  How we talk about it matters.

In society and in business, allowing hate speech to go unchecked makes is openly permissible. Far worse, it makes it tacitly normal.

Leaders who allow this to happen are not leaders.  They are perversions of leadership.

Elected leaders who allow this are not real leaders.  Business leaders who allow this are not real leaders.  Community leaders, church leaders, coaches, teachers, mothers, fathers.  You.  Me.  What we tolerate and the words that come out of our mouths say something about our character, maybe our souls.

Without real leadership The things that we allow to be permissible can metastasize in to nightmares.

Real leaders find the best in people, urge them toward excellence, motivate them toward “the better angels” of their nature.

I am aware that this is a complicated problem.  The Klan has been around for a long time–it’s always been there.  I prefer it to remain marginalized.

We have to de-normalize it.  Society has to say: “You’re wrong.  Cut it out.”

Whether we allow racism, anti-semitism, or xenophobia to live in the open is an open judgement on our society.

New Podcast: Matthew Tyner on social, SEO, and expert media strategies for your business.

Matthew Tyner is the VP of Marketing for Valve + Meter.  His company creates expert SEO and digital strategies for the trades-based businesses.  More importantly, he’s about as down-to-earth a guy as you’ll find out there.  In this interview Matthew and I talk about social media, SEO, and how Valve + Meter helps customers win in the ever-evolving digital world.  Tons of expert insights and recommendations in this interview.  Hope you enjoy it!


Your 2019 sales strategy: Win business by focusing on your customers’ outcomes rather than your information.

“People don’t buy two-inch drill bits, they buy two-inch holes.” — Thomas Levitt

Insight selling is an adequate model but it runs the risk of parity.   In that setting a salesperson educates, collaborates, and then tries to persuade.  It also tends to result in organization-centric solutions (“My close ratio is too low.”  Solution: “Sign up for our training program.”).  As well as gaining valuable insights, high-performing sales people should put greater emphasis on the outcomes that his or her customer is striving to attain and why they choose to work with you, your products, your company.

I recently purchased an old school Nintendo with two specific outcomes in mind.  Friends were visiting for the weekend and their son loves old school games.  My reasons for the purchase included giving the young guy something to do and that he enjoys.  Also, I wanted to win a little more kid-free time for the adults.  Others might purchase the same gaming system out of  nostalgia.  Still others may purchase a Nintendo because of the price point.  In my case the product satisfied the specific outcomes.  When a salesperson understands the outcomes a customer wants when choosing who to work their ability to improve specific aspects of service or product performance increase.  A salesperson’s decisions become outcome based rather than information based.  

Creating an outcome based value proposition means salespeople need to understand why their customers do business with them (or as Clayton Christensen describes it, “Why they hire you”).  In lieu of habit or a revolutionary product innovations the reasons are most likely outcome driven.  A HVAC business owner may supply the information and insights that a salesperson is requesting.  The same owner may be intrigued by an idea or a collaborative process.  However, neither of those considerations may be the actual reason he opts for one supplier while rejecting or ignoring others.  An owner may select one supplier over another because his ideal outcome is improved operational efficiency–and that is his primary goal.  Regarding products, an owner may prefer one supplier over another because of better packaging and reliable inventory.   A third owner’s desired outcome may be positioning the business for a succession plan.  The variety of outcomes are as multi-faceted as a Starbucks coffee menu.   Ultimately, business owners buy progress over products–it is up to the salesperson to understand the unique outcomes that an owner defines as progress.  

This exciting sales model poses an obvious challenge: A business owner’s desired outcome may be outside of the sales person’s skill set.  Outside salespeople are going to have to build trusted talent networks in and outside of their organizations.  They must commit to continued learning or else they will fall far behind the middle of the bell curve.

I’m writing this from our local library.  I come here for some peace, wi-fi, and to wander the stacks.  There are a few moms, dads, and kids nearby.  They’re here to play and listen to a story.  There are three high school students sharing a table nearby.  I’d like to think they’re working on academics but they might also be skipping school and hiding out.  We’re all using the same product and services but with different outcomes in mind.  The library would increase the frequency of my visits if they promoted “Your office away from the office.”  The families might increase their visits with a published events newsletter than celebrated the reading and activity schedule.  The high schoolers?  Maybe the message is “Remember your favorite hide-out as a kid?”  All of us using the same product and services for with different outcomes in mind.

As a salesperson, if you want to lever simple insights then look past the conversations about education and collaboration (“teach-tailor-take control”) in language of The Challenger Sale.  Instead, combine them with an understand as to why people prefer your company, why they “hire” you, and most importantly: the outcomes that your customers are looking for.  Then improve your efforts accordingly.

Announcing: 2 Major Training Improvements for My Company




“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training your employees and having them stay.” — Henry Ford

When it comes to my company I’m not usually one to beat my own drum unless there’s something happening that is really helps my friends and customers.  To that end, I’ve recently finished two new projects and I’m proud of the results.  I’d like to tell you about them.

The Premier Client Learning Center!

I am a research junkie.  I’ve always believed that worthwhile coaching is only as good as the data, delivery, and deliverables that compose a class.

There are always questions following a training class: “Where do I start?” or “Where can I find that form that you referenced?” or “Can I get a copy of X?”  Beginning this fall the Premier Client Learning Center is the “go to” location for the forms, templates, articles, and research that are source and support material for my coaching.  The first two uploads included a call planner and a territory business plan template for outside sales professionals.  The next phase of uploads include comprehensive prospecting materials.  Visit my website to check it out.

For B2B professionals, your results will improve and you’ll be able to build a credible selling story by sharing expert opinion.  You’ll also be able to organize your calls and structure your territory more effectively.  It’ll make it easier to do your job.

CSR Livestream!

Smart companies invest in their people.  For some reason, however, outside sales teams receive the majority of training while inside/csr/branch managers are rarely given the coaching needed to improve.  Ironically, amazing branch service is proven to improve sales and customer loyalty.

Beginning in 2019 I’m offering 10 well produced, information rich, and expertly supported Customer Service Representative coaching sessions in a streaming format or a completely recorded format.  Here are the benefits:

  • Companies with hundreds of CSR reps over multiple locations can train their team at scale.
  • Medium and smaller sized companies that cannot take their teams out of the branches can still provide sales and customer service training at their convenience.
  • Accessibility improves when training functions across all devices and platforms.
  • Companies will save money on expenses:  travel, lodging, time away from their branches, as well as the cost of lost opportunity.
  • CSR Livestream training modules are efficiently planned at 20-30 minutes–easily attended during a morning team meeting or at lunch.
  • Companies have two viewing choices: live-streaming allows the attendees to interact, ask questions, and engage their colleagues; recorded content allows them to view the content when it’s most convenient for their teams.
  • Each of the 10 training modules includes a support workbooks that will downloaded from my website.
  • Finally, and I think this matters, the production and set quality are cool.  It’s not like watching someone read a power point from an office.  That’s a turn off.  We emphasized design in order to increase engagement.

CSR Livestream is one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on and I’m very excited to offer it you for 2019.

So that’s what’s happening with my company.  The website is now a learning center and the CSR Livestream product includes a ton of benefits that I hope you’ll enjoy.

As always, Arrow & Fletching doesn’t exist without my friends’ and clients’ support.  I hope you’ll like my new approach to customer support and coaching.  Thank you.



A Job Description is not a Job Posting

Human Resources Bribe

In as much as I frequently listen to concerns about “not being able to find good people” and in as much as I largely support trades-based education, the industry is learning to look inward critically and ask ourselves: do we clearly communicate a career path that includes specific performance benchmarks that move an employee forward?  Do we have defined company cultures that are inclusive, cause-based, and well-communicated?  Pertaining to the recruiting process: Are we failing to attract the right candidates because we don’t understand the difference between a job description and a job posting?

Job descriptions and job postings may sound similar but they perform distinctly different functions.  Here’s an example of a job description:

job description

Common stuff.  The problem is that things like Duties & Responsibilities in and of themselves aren’t really selling the job–making it attractive or encouraging the right people with the right attitudes to apply for the job.  Job descriptions:

  • Are internal
  • Outline the duties and the responsibilities required to complete the job
  • Clarify management accountability
  • The salary or compensation plan

In contrast, job postings are designed to sell the position to the right candidates while simultaneously weeding out poor fit candidates.  Here’s a sample job posting:

job posting

It’s catchy, narrative, fun.  The job posting includes a cultural snap-shot as well as a broad overview of the role and the type of person who will win in this role.  By way of comparison a job posting:

  • Is external, a candidate facing document
  • Is designed to engage the reader
  • Is designed to capture the interest of the right candidate through specific content inclusions
  • Offers a glimpse in to the company culture
  • Written in a way that it stands out from other “help wanted” postings

The distinction between job descriptions and job postings are subtly obvious and important to the outcome.  Finding people is one thing.  Finding the right people is altogether another.  And when labor is hard to come by and the cost of training is high (and the cost of replacing an employee is even higher), something as seemingly simple as a well written job posting may help find the best talent and screen out the wrong candidates.

Have a good one!

Omne Trium Est Perfectum


“Every set of three is complete” (translation)

“When the facts change, I change my mind.” — John Keynes

Occasionally someone in a training class will ask me: “How many sales columns should I use on my presentation menu–three or four?”  I useed to answer “four” and explain my opinion.  I’d usually reference Sheena Iyengar’s “Jam Study” as support.  Her book The Art of Choosing  (pub. 2010) illustrates the tipping point at which the number of consumer choices help or harm sales.

If you were to ask me the same question today I’d give you a new answer: three.  I’d recommend that you pare your selling menu back to three columns, have three value building points for your company, three benefit statements for your products, three follow-up calls to customers, a three-ring phone policy, and three ways to pay for products.  I’d start looking for “three” opportunities wherever I could find them.   The facts have changed.

In 2014 two Stanford researchers, Suzanne Shu and Kurt Carlson, published a research paper entitled “When Three Charms but Four Alarms: Identifying the Optimal Number of Claims in Persuasion Settings.”  Here’s the link:

Four years after Iyengar’s work Shu and Carlson presented a slightly more refined conclusion by emphasizing that context–especially persuasive contexts–impact the number of choices that are optimal for consumer decisions.  Shu and Carlson argue that:

“in settings where consumers know that the message source has a persuasion motive, the optimal number of positive claims is three. More claims are better until the fourth claim, at which time consumers’ persuasion knowledge causes them to see all the claims with skepticism.”

Additional contextual considerations include price signals, message framing, message sequencing, and message content.  In other words there is a LOT that can be done to make a persuasive message that delivers a punch!

Nobody wants skeptical customers.  if a company is using a four product menu that is overloaded with benefits then their tactic may be inadvertently working against them:

“As such, there is tendency to want to present as many compelling claims as exist. However, there is a danger that at some level of claims consumer awareness of persuasive intent will convert into skepticism, causing the consumer to discount all the claims.  Motive is the key to leveraging “the charm of three.”  When a customer understands that the source of the interaction is persuasive then three is the perfect number.” 

The number of columns on a sales menu is just the beginning.  The research also pertains to product benefit claims.  Something as simple as a motor or a thermostat.  Salespeople tend to talk at length about these features (especially a thermostat, still basking in the fading glow of “shiny new toy syndrome”).  A salesperson can unknowingly sell him or herself out of a deal by over sharing.  According to Shu and Carlson:

“based on work showing that people can draw inference about an object after seeing three data points, we propose that consumers will see three positive claims as sufficient to draw an inference about a product or service. Since three claims is sufficient for this inference, additional claims will trigger skepticism and message coping processes that will undermine the entire message. In practical terms, this means that three positive claims will produce the most positive impression, and four positive claims will produce an impression that is less positive than the impression created by a three claim message.”

Additional claims generate a coping mechanism in the consumer’s mind resulting in skepticism and distaste.

1 is the loneliest number.  And 7 ate 9.  Then there’s 3.  3 is a whole number.  The biblical number (omniscience, omnipresent, omnipotent).  It is also an effective number in persuasive settings.  Three column menus.  Three benefit points for each product (or component if you want).  Three methods of payment.  Three follow-up calls.

As long as the context is persuasive then three claims are better than four.


Tree Fartistry: Disengaged employees harm their company brands.

tree fartistry

If you were to assess Tree Artistry, a local company in my town, by their website or their vehicles you’d conclude that they are professional, customer-centric, and proud.  My daughter and I were puttering around last week and noticed their crew trimming trees near our home.  The crew placed this sign near the job site.  Did the crew modify the sign (it IS sort of funny)?  Did a neighborhood kid do it?  Is doesn’t matter all that much.  There it was: front and center for any passerby to see.  The company isn’t as professional as they’d like us to think.  The dissonance between the marketed image and the modified sign tells us something about the things that happen when disengaged employees manage their employer’s brand.  From a business owner’s perspective it begs the questions:

“What do my teams tell others about my company?”

“How do my teams manage my company brand through their appearance, actions, conversations, and interactions with other team members, customers, friends?”

“Is  my belief about our culture actually enhanced by my team or are there detractors that have become tolerated fixtures?  At what cost?”

From an employee’s perspective it begs another set of questions;

“Do I actually know what my company culture is?”

“Even if I know what my company is do I care about it?”

“Do I feel a sense of ownership regarding this culture and brand”

“Have I ever behaved in a manner that is contrary to what the company stands for?”

“Have I ever tolerated disparaging behaviors from my colleagues?”

“How engaged am I in living the company brand and culture every day?”

Gallup’s recent “State of the American Workforce” provides disheartening evidence: More than one-third of American employees described themselves as “actively disengaged” while more than half of American employees say they are “actively looking for a new job.”  This, despite the well-inteded team-building efforts that employers pay for on a regular basis.  Breakfast for installers, birthday recognitions, after-work paint-balling . . . they don’t improve employee engagement.  Disengaged employees will manage their company brand as disengaged individuals manage anything: lackluster, unenthusiastic, occasionally negative.  But if the 50th employee appreciation potluck doesn’t work then what does?

First, research indicates that people want to do a job that they’re best at.  Asking a person who doesn’t like working with people to perform customer service functions is a recipe for disaster (and irresponsible hiring).  The employee may put his best foot forward at first but when the halo period wears off then the disengagement begins (and becomes an example for others as to what they can get away with).  Asking a person who loves data to generate reports, however, will likely extract the very best from the individual.  Engaging employees (and keeping them engaged) starts with hiring and training people for positions that they’re good at or one in which they have a natural aptitude or interest.

Second, employees want a greater work-life balance or to work for a company that improves their personal well-being.  That may include flexible scheduling, working remotely, sponsored health and wellness programs.  Lunch walks, morning yoga, anti-smoking incentives, and things along these lines help engaged employees feel that their employer cares about them beyond their vocational abilities.  Bear in mind, this isn’t about open office concepts or ping-pong tables in the break room.  Silicon valley learned the hard way on that one.  Rather, it’s about demonstrating a holistic commitment to the employees life in and out of the office.

Stability matters to engaged employees.  When another month of crummy sales results rolls out people get nervous.  When the boss says that he’s going to be evaluting the necessity of all the positions in his company people feel scared (and in some cases that might be ok).  Engaged employees increase their level of engagement when they feel stability and security.  It’s probably human nature as much as anything else–we all want to feel safe.

Fourth, employees look for a significant increase in income.  “Significant” is relative.  For some it might be a few more dollars an hour.  Others may look for much larger increases.  Gallup reports that even engaged employees are looking for significant wage increases.  In blunt terms: if an employee feels underpaid then she’ll disengage fairly quickly.

People take pride in who they work for IF the company that they work for has a great brand and reputation.  People love to tell you that they work for Google.  Or Tesla.  Or Apple.  Engaged employees want to work for a company that is respected and has a respected brand. That’s a cultural outcome that leadership is responsible for generating and living.  It can’t be outsourced.

I wonder how the owner of Tree Artistry would feel if he knew (and I hope he does by now) that his crews were making fun of his company and were eroding the brand.  How would he feel if he went “Undercover Boss” out there?  Embarrassed?  Disappointed?  His crew probably doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong, and that’s the problem.  They cash their checks every other week while  biting the hand that feeds them.

I hear it all the time:  “I can’t find good people” or “People get hired and then they quit” or “You can’t find anyone with a work ethic that doesn’t want X per hour.”  These complaints may be true.  But they may also indicate that the employer needs to ask him or herself: Am I running a company built for long-term engagement?


Necessary fallacy, ignorance, and ineptitude: Why failures happen in your business.

“I can’t get everybody on the same page.”  “She started out strong but then her performance just fell off a cliff.”  “He’s a big help around the office but he’s not actually making management decisions.”  All common problems I’ve heard from my clients.  It’s not easy to implement initiatives  with 100% buy-in–especially across large organizations. Even with aptitude tests it’s impossible to know precisely what an employee’s long-term capabilities will be.  Not everyone is cut out to lead people.  Furthermore there are costs associated with lackluster performance, turnover, and additional trainings.  So when failures happen, many business owners assume ownership of the problem, try a slightly new approach, or settle for less-than-optimal results until such a time that a given problem is exacerbated beyond repair.  Unfortunately, many business owners and managers are not addressing the real issue as to why failure happens in the first place.

In 1975 Samuel Gorovitz and Alasdair MacIntyre published an article entitled “Toward a Theory of Medical Fallibility.”  The philosophers intended to isolate the deeper causes of medical error in an effort to understand why brilliant surgeons and teams of surgeons frequently failed, lost lives.  There are, they determined, three reasons why catastrophic failures happen: Necessary Fallacy, ignorance, and ineptitude.

Necessary Fallacy causes failure.  I’d like to surf like Kelly Slater, play chess like Magnus Carlsen, and golf like Good Tiger.  I don’t live near a coast line, I’m not a prodigy, and I started playing golf in my 40’s.  Still, I try hard at each and fail at each on a regular basis.  Necessary Fallacy: failure happens because I try to do something that’s beyond my given capabilities.  I wasn’t born a natural athlete or a genius.  Jim Collins described this as having the right people in the right seats on the bus.  Just because a person wants to be/do function X does not mean that he is capable of excelling in that role.  I’ve seen a lot of outstanding installers become average salesmen and I’ve seen too many people with inherently average communication skills become average customer service representatives.

Ignorance causes failure.  Not knowing how to perform a function or a service–legitimately not knowing–is ignorance.  It’s not a bad thing, it’s an opportunity.  As Gorovitz and MacIntyre point out:

“And since ignorance is a precondition of progress, where there is the possibility of progress there is the possibility of error.  The ignorance of what is not yet known is a permanent state of science . . .”

In other words, failure and mistakes happen because a person or team may simply not know the entire scope of information, skills, etc. necessary to succeed.  Failure due to ignorance can be expected–even tolerated.  Businesses are often overwhelmed with change and the rate and quality of disseminated information may at times be inconsistent.  Additional training may be required.  Improved process management can help.  It is the company’s responsibility to identify ignorance-related errors and to repair information or skills-related gaps that cause failure.

Ineptitude causes failure.  When a person or team willfully and knowingly disregards management directives, cuts corners, skips procedural steps then that person or that team has become inept.  A business owner or manager should forgive ignorance so long as corrective actions are taken.  But as Atul Gawande writes, “If the knowledge exists and is not applied correctly it is difficult not to be infuriated.”  Ineptitude-related failures happen when individuals or teams ignore proven-protocol because of their experience or pride.  Ineptitude happens out of laziness.  Ineptitude is a choice that person makes and it should be managed in to compliance.  Gorovitz and MacIntyre write:

“Willfulness and negligence will arise when those motives which are to be restrained by the external norms of natural science–ambition, impatience, competitiveness, a great anxiety to do good–are allowed to override the internal norms.”

In the United States, roughly 250,000 people die from surgery-related complications every year.  An intense focus on error-reduction has improved this number year over year and death statistics are trending downward around the world.  In so much as surgeons are hyper-specialized experts dedicated to saving lives they’re not perfect.  By understandng the causes of surgery-related failures the medical community has significantly improved.  Business owners want perfectly functioning organizations.  Managers want perfectly performing teams.  But that rarely happens.  Owners and managers that isolate and identify the causes of their failures: Necessary Fallacy, ignorance, and ineptitude–can take smarter corrective action.fallibility