And I thought September was a great month that combined bouncing from coast to coast, but also having a few consecutive days in Dallas to get some internal Creative Ventures projects moving as well as getting a chance to help my Dallas metroplex-based clients.

  • VIDEO: Completed 18 new videos (with the help of my fantastic video team) that highlight the key principles of my latest strategic platform, DAZZLING BLUE. Thanks, Bob!

  • CREATIVE VENTURES WEBSITE: All the content is done and the look and feel of a simplified internet home for Creative Ventures are done. Next is the selection of graphics and images that support the content. If all goes well we should have a launch of the new site, including a completely restructured blog, before Thanksgiving. Thanks, John!

  • CREATIVE VENTURES PODCAST: We are getting ready to launch our first podcast series built around the Dazzling Blue platform. This will initiate our podcast platform, which will be available in the newsletter, on iTunes, and on the new web site. Thanks, Colin!

  • REPEATABLE SUCCESSFUL ACTS: The RSA platform continues to dominate the work I get to do with sales forces. In September I had the opportunity to introduce the platform to three new offices of an existing client as we continue a national rollout of the platform.

  • DAZZLING BLUE: September gave me a fantastic opportunity to present to three clients this great new idea showing the small distance between ordinary and extraordinary. I had the challenge of customizing each presentation, which allowed me to create very specific versions of this strategy.

  • ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING:Perhaps nothing is more important than having the best- educated company possible. Management, support staff, and sales professionals all have a strong need for continuing learning opportunities, and implementing this one strategic aspect can be a strong differentiator in your market. I have two educational projects in play, one an amazing project designed around building the best support staff in the industry, and one to provide a simpler and visually impacting teaching method for sales professionals.

October will kick off a great fourth quarter with some really exciting projects and a fair amount of travel. The challenge of five different industries and three different strategies keeps things interesting!

At the beginning, there is a great story.

Stories are the creative conversations of life itself turned into a more powerful, cleaner, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.

-Robert McKee

One of the strategies that have emerged from the Repeatable Successful Acts platform is the ONE LEVEL ABOVE (OLA) concept. In a nutshell, this strategy deals with raising client expectations in your client experience model just ONE level above the current level, and holding that new part of the client experience until it IS the new level of performance. This issue is so critical to creating separation and differentiation in the market that you get only ONE step at a time in the process.

In September I had the honor of working on a number of OLA projects for clients. One of the key areas of focus is on the STORY that forms the foundation of the client experience. Do you have a story that lifts your clients' experience? Think of yourself as the builder of the map of your story. It may not surprise you, but the lack of focus on story is a huge barrier to creating a strong, consistent, and differentiating client interaction. Since the story is the genesis point for all introduction marketing and even conversations, here is a little simple exercise to see how your story currently resonates with your team.

In the Creative Ventures model, stories are built around (you guessed it) three foundational parts:

  • What do you do? This is the genesis of the story. Can you simply, creatively, and compellingly tell someone what you do?

  • What value do you bring? Can you define "value" in what you do? Value comes from the Latin word valere, to be strong, to be well, and to be worthy. Value should be defined in two core areas:

    • Internal Value: The value to your team. You cannot hope to bring value to your clients if you don't first create value for your team.

    • External Value: The defined field of value your clients derive from doing business with you. This is where the role of you customers fits into the story.

  • How are you separated and differentiated in your market place? What makes you unique? What makes you extraordinary? Why would I choose you over everyone else who does the same thing?

EXERCISE: The idea here is to get your team to share what they think your story is. Provide your team with this simple story template. Give them a day or two to fill out the three parts of story. They should use simple statements (that's why the form is small). Next call a meeting and ask each team member to share their pieces of the story. You will be shocked as to the various perceptions of each key area. Keep in mind, these variances are being heard by your clients every day.

The next challenge is to start to craft a simple story that incorporates the best part of your team's answers with your vision of your team and their message to the buying public. At the end you have the foundation for a story that can carry continuity to your team and your client base.

From LL Bean's incredible service model to Pixar's total commitment to a story, from the mountain lodge feel of Caribou Coffee stores to the design and simple use of Apple products, everything begins with a story, a story crafted out of a participatory strategy, a strategy that takes their clients to levels so far above their expectations that they sing their praises to everyone within earshot.

In 1994 Disney released its epic animated feature, The Lion King. It rapidly became the highest grossing animated film of all time, taking in over $783 million, and it today remains the highest grossing hand- drawn film of all time. In 1997 The Lion King debuted on Broadway and won 6 Tony Awards. Just re-released in 3D, The Lion King has once again topped the box office for two consecutive weeks. That's the power of a great story!

In Doris Kearns Goodwin's marvelous book Team of Rivals she describes the power of storytelling when she shares these observations of Abraham Lincoln: "Lincoln was invariably the center of attention. No one could equal his never-ending stream of stories, nor his ability to reproduce them with such mirth. Everywhere he went he won devoted followers, friendships that later emboldened his quest for office." Lincoln used stories to set his identity, to develop a position in the "political" market place. It was a deliberate strategy, a strategy based around the power of story.

A strong story is the BEGINNING of the client experience and worthy of your strategic time and resources.

Discover your story by being its cartographer.

2011 Web Sites of the Year: Ever wonder what makes a web site great? I mean, you look at them all the time; heck, you even have one. What is it that professionals, users, and the companies themselves find useful, fun, interactive, and full of key information? Web sites are key parts of any organization's identity, and the more you know, the better you can be at crafting the best web site possible. Well, .netAwards is ready to let you vote for the best web site out of their ten finalists. Take a visit and cast your vote.
Good-bye, RELATIVITY: Yeah, I know it's science, but it's really important. The physicists at the CERN labs in Switzerland are about to change our understanding of the universe... hell, our understanding of EVERYTHING. It appears (though they "might" need a little more data) they found a subatomic particle (neutrino) that moves faster than the speed of light. Yep, faster than what we thought was the ABSOLUTE maximum speed possible. Though "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," it looks to be true according to commentators. Good old Albert Einstein would be thrilled at the potential this discovery presents. Can you say, "Hello, time travel?"
How to Ruin a Really Good Thing: Hey, Netflix, nice move! Netflix leadership decided to split their core services into two separate businesses (nice touch of complexity to what was a devilishly simple entertainment service), one for streaming video, still called Netflix and one for DVD rental, now called Quikster. Members need to join each site separately and then will be faced with two separate billing systems. Couple this move with the big bump in pricing (for both services) that hit this summer, and you have the perfect makings of a customer and shareholder revolt... and that's just what happened. Members have been leaving in droves, not only the result of these changes but for everything from the quality of the DVD's shipped to the lack of a competitive selection and Netflix's share price is down a whopping 50% from its 2011 high. OUCH!

Interested in these ideas?


You can contact Steve at steve@creativeventures.com or give him a call at 972-490-7717.
See more at creativeventures.com and stephenharvill.com

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