I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned my Neo Moment with you, my blog readers, but I wanted to talk about it and perhaps you’ll have your own. The Neo Moment, to me, is this enlightenment and awakening of Neo, the protagonist in The Matrix. In the Matrix, there was a time when he was resurrected in the first movie, and he woke seeing the world for what it really was. At that moment, he stopped hoping and thinking he was The One, and just firmly knew he was The One. As he awakened to the world around him, he saw the Matrix in all its green numeric beauty.

My Neo Moment lasted a bit longer than a few seconds, but it was a moment where I started seeing the world much differently. It was when I started living life how I wanted to while also looking for ways to improve the world. To me, it was a moment where I started questioning normal, old-school conventions in favor of more… shall we say, “disruptive” ways of doing things. In many ways, it was my moment where I started coming up with ideas (potentially for different startups) in everyday things. I started just asking random people questions including flight attendants on Southwest on how to improve their provisioning, call center interactions with customers, etc.

I’m not the only one with a Neo Moment, of course. In fact, I’ve heard of a few Neo Moments recently that have and will continue to have a significant change in my friends’ lives.

  • GiveLiveExplore.com – Matt Trinetti is a friend from Georgia Tech who up and decided that he needed to take a break from the consulting life. He kept hearing this little voice in his head to quit — you can read a recent article he wrote about this in the Huffington Post. In fact, he ended up taking a 7-month sabbatical (spearheaded with a one-way ticket) from a cushy consulting gig to travel to Iceland. The things he learned and experienced taught him so much that he quit his job immediately after his sabbatical, and is now a traveler and writer. 
  • TheWhole-Hearted.com – My new friend from Starbucks Ayan ventured to Brazil as part of her MBA program. Exploring the favellas and watching how technology has proliferated even into these neighborhoods has brought incredible life and opportunity to its people. She’s also been hearing more about how companies need to find purpose and impact the world in a positive way to really thrive — lessons she’s learning in her MBA program. When I met her in December last year, she was confused and unsure of her direction. But since then with all these new experiences, she’s been more and more sure of her direction, and she’s thrilled to be paving the way to finding that intersection of business and purposeful spirituality. She aims to travel the world, and bring that intersection vis-a-vis corporate social responsibility and social enterprise.
  • TitinTech.com – Unsure if I can really say Patrick Whaley’s (CEO) Neo Moment was what really inspired him to push Titin Tech further, but I think it’s definitely lit a particular fire. Patrick had an idea to having weight compression clothing that would fit more naturally on athletes rather than bulky weighted vests. He had this idea early in his life and started working on it in 2006, I believe. In May of 2009, Patrick was mugged and shot and left for dead. He, luckily, survived, and utilized the very-near-death experience to work on his Titin Tech product that much harder, while also using his story to reach audiences as he used his product as part of his recovery. Today, the company is thriving, and he even posted a picture of Titin Tech at the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals practice facility yesterday. The World’s Only Weight Compression Gear. Patented. Boom.
  • My Neo Moment came during my time at Emory getting my MBA. After Georgia Tech, I was always traveling doing consulting. It wasn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, I absolutely loved it. However, I also knew that I wanted to build my own company. I just didn’t think it’d be so soon with Body Boss. I entered the MBA program to be better prepared for business obstacles in the future (a lesson taken from Scouting — “Be Prepared”). What I didn’t realize was the greatest take-away from the MBA program was the time I would get to focus on myself, focus on building Body Boss, workout and play soccer more consistently because I wasn’t traveling. 
Neo Moments happen all the time to people. They’re watershed events that spur sometimes drastic changes in approaches in life. Many people will have several Neo Moments in their lives. What’s common, I think, is some underlying voice as Matt Trinetti puts it in his article that starts creeping in and whispering to you that something else is calling. That voice eggs you on, and oftentimes, taking a leap into some foreign territory be it traveling, educational experiences, or some near-death experience, that’s where Neo Moments seem to crystallize for people. It’s where people get out of their comfort zones (sometimes unintentionally), and push themselves into places where that little inner voice encourages them.

For me, I’m thrilled to have found my calling and where I’m heading. It’s incredibly frustrating at times, and forces me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. However, I’m happy where it’s putting me, and the steps I’m taking.

What’s a Neo Moment you’ve had? Where/ how do you think your own Neo Moment is taking you?

You ever see someone who is just wildly successful at whatever YOU’RE trying to be, and then you want to just emulate everything that person does? However, you’re not able to keep up, or you aren’t able to make it work the way you were hoping? Yeah, so that happens to me, too. And so now, this brings me to Inc.com’s article by Geil Browning “The Brain-Based Secret to Getting More Done”.
I’ve been told I’m like a machine sometimes when I work, but I know others who are just absolute freaks when it comes to productivity. As much as I want to be as successful or more, I know that I have to carve my own path. I want to change the world, sure. But for me to be able to do something as simple as, say, blog everyday like I know David Cummings can do, I know it’s just not something I can (or will) keep up with. Just like working out, I’ve gotta find what’s sustainable for me.
Browning writes how there are four major ways people think that can shape and impact how they are productive:
  • Structural.As you can imagine, this is the person who formalizes a game plan. It’s got rigidity. It’s got form and structure.
  • Analytical.Every decision is scrutinized to find and implement the best ROI.
  • Social.This type of person is democratic in his/ her approach. This is especially great to create a sense of accountability to the table for everyone.
  • Conceptual.Stuff is just done. There’s a notion that things are WIP (work-in-progress), but productivity here is measured in completion.

Okay, now that I’m done summarizing the article by Browning, here are my personal thoughts:
  • Team play. In a startup team (or really any team), it’s best to have people with different thinking and different backgrounds. The natural yin-yang and complementing will help your startup find holes in products and strategies. It’s like a good trivia team… you want people who can answer questions for any subject thrown at you.
  • Sustainability.The article mentions New Year’s resolutions (8% actually follow through?!) especially with exercise. Reminds me of an article I read from a trainer who was asked what was the best exercise to lose weight? The trainer responded with, “whichever exercise you enjoy”. You’ve gotta find what works for you, and what you enjoy to really implement anything that will be sustainable.
  • Switch it up! The article (and this very awesome post) is all about finding your natural state of thinking for productivity and just general mind set. However, I think it’s also good to switch it up every once in a while, and spend a day (okay, a few) trying to put a little more structure to your day, if you’re more conceptual. Or perhaps being more social. Not looking for the sustainable part, but spending a little time on the other side of the walls can help you consider other alternatives that can make your process and thinking that much more holistic and perhaps even stronger.
  • Respect.To the point above about team play, this article readily highlights the differences in how others may think. It’s easy to try to push others to your style of thinking, and then getting mad when it doesn’t stick or isn’t considered. This is why those personality profile tests like Myers-Briggs, DISC Profile, etc. are so good for managers to see. It’s important to consider others as individuals and promote their own growth.
  • Consider yourself. The article, at its core, is about knowing yourself. In today’s high-speed, text-a-minute, Facebook-slap-in-the-face society, it’s easy to forget to consider who we are. I’m a big proponent of taking a few minutes every night before bed in reflecting on the day, and think about yourself. What you like, what didn’t you like, what you did well, what made you bored…

What are your thoughts about what makes you more or less productive than one of your friends or idols? How have you capitalized on one of your strengths to be more productive and effective?

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This past weekend, the Body Boss team and I attended the Glazier Football Clinic in Atlanta. Last year, over 1,800 coaches – primarily high school and from the southeast – congregated to attend some great speakers (including Georgia Tech’s Director of Player Development John Sisk) and check out some of the latest “toys” vis-à-vis vendors like us. Oh, and like all conferences, it’s also a bit of a high school reunion for these coaches to see old friends again on an annual basis. I wrote about the experience in the post “Spreadsheets SUCK! No, really, see what Coaches wrote…
Last year, we attended this clinic and a few others, and we admittedly didn’t have some important features in Body Boss. We heard it over and over again from coaches asking us, “Do you have an app?” (We had a mobile web app.) “Can you still printout group workouts?” (No, just individuals.) “I have younger players so we don’t strength train.” (Well, you can sorta do body weight tracking…)
This year, we were able to answer just about every question. Body Boss had evolved so much since we first launched and the 2013 Glazier Clinic and the subsequent Clinics. We heard from coaches and over and over again about specific features, and we built out those features that the most anti-Body Boss customers wanted/ needed. So imagine now our excitement in being able to sell a product that the coaches actually ASKED FOR!
  • “Do you have an app?” Absolutely. We have native iPhone, iPad, and Android apps (for smartphones and tablets).
  • “Can you still printout group workouts?” Yes, we still give you the ability to print out personalized workout cards for all your players or select groups.
  • “What if I have younger players?” Well, players of most ages should train. Younger ages shouldn’t necessarily strength train with weight, but they can still exercise. With Body Boss, you can create Workout programs that are specific for kids and including video tutorials on how to do them. You can engage the younger players while actually coaching them on how to perform drills, and you can even upload video tutorials so parents know what to do and how to motivate their kids.

Yeah… that’s how that went. But we also had a greater time at this clinic because of the way we engaged coaches and focused in on not necessarily the benefits right off the bat, but instead, we opened around pain points. See, the old-school way of doing things was always to either write down a workout on a whiteboard or use Excel to printout workouts, and then have the time and energy to enter all that data for the team back into a spreadsheet. Clearly, you can see the annoying and time-consuming efforts in that. We challenge the old-school way of doing things by introducing technology into an otherwise low-tech world with Coaches.

We started off the Clinic with a blank whiteboard simply asking coaches to write reasons as to why the old-school way, spreadsheets, SUCKED. Our wording was chosen carefully to illicit an emotion and really capture coaches’ attentions. When you have someone tell you something “SUCKS”, you tend to perk your ears. What we got at the end of the Clinic was a number of fantastic reasons why the old-school way is a real PAIN.

We started with…

And ended with…

Our new marketing strategy hit on a number of cool things, sometimes not intended, including:
  • Pain and annoying things evoke such a great emotion from prospects – it’s easy to understand
  • Having a board where our customers could share a voice created a way to coalesce their emotions in sometimes succinct messages, and thus, rally any passersby and fellow colleagues throughout the Clinic
  • Hand-writing the reasons also showcased the variability of handwriting legibility/ readability which in the old-school way of printout and submit, was an evil coaches had to deal with
  • Made for an easier way to pull in passersby into our booth. Coaches could be pulled in not just by our handsome faces and siren-esque voices, but also by our visuals including a big TV monitor that looped through video tutorials, our app on multiple devices, and of course, our Spreadsheets SUCK whiteboard
  • Can be used to re-engage with the leads generated and be a great talking point with future prospects
  • Showcased the pain points of the old-school “it’s always been that way” methodology
  • Definitely left an impression with coaches with a standout, memorable booth
So in the end, we got 70+ contacts… several which are very warm leads, and several who have already signed up for the free trial. Of course, the hardwork comes really after the Clinic as we engage with the contacts to convert into trials which then we must try to convert into sales. But our initial momentum has yielded 3X the leads and contacts, and we didn’t even have our wonderful fitness models from last year!
And as for the whiteboard, it was a great idea that we used, and one that came out of nowhere. It reminds me of one of the great lessons my Entrepreneurship professor, Charles Goetz, taught me while I was at Emory, and that was the difference between latent vs. active needs. Approaching an industry and individuals where technology hasn’t been a big deal until recently (unless you’re in a research lab or something), a lot of the old-school methods can be dubbed “latent needs” where users don’t know about the pain and don’t need to address till they come to that bridge. What bringing the pain-points of old-school front and center, we might have just recategorized the old-school methods as ACTIVE needs. This, now allows us to address those needs directly with Body Boss.
So what are your thoughts about your experiences at conferences and how your messaging and products get tweaked? How would you shift customers’ latent needs to become active needs?

Alright, so it’s 2014! Happy New Year! Okay, we’re a little belated…

Into Year 2 now for Body Boss (since launch), and it’s Go Big or Go Home time.  Since we launched last year, we found conferences and clinics are really great platforms for us to market and sell Body Boss.  Especially for our target audience, the big clinics occur in the late winter months into the early part of summer. In fact, we’ve got a big Coach’s clinic this weekend for mostly high school football coaches throughout the southeast for the Glazier Football Clinic.

Preparation can really set yourself apart and really be a great marketing and sales diving board if done well.  So here are some tips and pointers for you as you think about heading to a conference either as an exhibitor or just an attendee…

  • Conferences are rarely where dollars are exchanged.  Yup.  If you’re looking to close a lot of deals, they’re not going to be at those exhibitor booths.  Instead, they may happen at a dinner or meeting room nearby, or more likely, later.  Conferences are more about making the connections.
  • Have some standout materials to give out.  When I say materials, I mean like content materials — one-page slicks, business cards, and otherwise.  I can’t tell you how many great leads and compliments we get from some of our materials. We don’t spend much money on the actual materials, but we make sure what we give out is designed well to leave an impression with the call to action (CTA).  Look into Moo.com for business cards, and Vista Print for some one-pagers.
  • Get out from behind the table.  I’ve seen some vendors sit behind a table waiting for people to talk to them.  This is HORRIBLE.  People aren’t going to just walk up because you have a table and a sign.  If anything, you look cold, and no one wants to work with someone who’s cold and uninviting.  Get out, and think about being proactive in pulling people in.  You’ve probably spent money to be at the conference, so spend a little effort to bring them in, too.
  • Give them a reason to talk to you.  First, your product or service should offer some value to the target audience or this whole post goes to the can.  Beyond, you have to captivate the audience to stop by.  One way to do this is with a good looking banner.  Let’s call this a minimum requirement because everyone else will at least have SOME banner.  If you rely on one the conference gives you, it’ll probably be terrible, and it’ll entice no one.  If you’ve got power at the booth, think about hooking up a TV or other display that alternates images or videos so wandering eyes will be quickly drawn to your booth.
  • Your booth is like a website.  If you’ve got the right signage, your product on display, or even someone demo’ing, you’ve done your inbound marketing.  Next, it doesn’t hurt to also have a little outbound marketing, too.  In conjunction with the “get out from behind the table” point above, say something interesting to grab people’s attentions as they walk by.  Heck, we’ve even dared or joked with coaches who walk by our booth, and just because we’ve got some personality and passion for our business, they want to come over to talk to us.
  • Hire models with brains (if you must).  With the whole “grab attention”, I think this is an important point.  I’ve seen some pretty cheesy booths in the past who hired models to help bring people in.  But what’s funny is that when these models bring in prospects, the prospects ask questions and the models have no idea what to say.  We’ve actually brought two great models in the past to a Clinic.  They were fantastic.  Outside of being models, they knew the business and they knew fitness.  When it came to coaches asking about the product or talking shop, the models were on point, and ended up getting several coaches to sign up for trials by themselves — a great asset, too, when the rest of us are handling other prospects.

Presentation is half the battle, especially, I think, at conferences where you’re really trying to lure people in. Then again, the best strategy is to have a strong following via word-of-mouth which could end up funneling potential customers TO you rather than you pulling others in. And while you’re talking to the masses, you’ll no doubt intrigue others to stop in and hear what you’re all about. Kind of sounds like a quality street show, not that I say it…

What are your thoughts on conferences?  What might I have missed?