The Combination Manifesto
Everything is a combination of other things. This applies to creativity, innovation, and your life. To create a new product, you use a combination of materials. To invent a new service, you harness a combination of resources. To create a life you rely on a combination of experiences. Simple concepts are often the most powerful. When you recognize and understand the power of combinations, it gives you an edge in your career, business, and life.
When you combine iron and carbon, you create steel. When you combine bleach and ammonia, a toxic gas emits, which can kill you. It is important to understand the combinations we create in our lives and business. We have a choice about how we shape our future with a combination of people, knowledge, and actions.
It is time to for you to take control, with the examination of your combinations.
I refer to this combination concept as the Combination Code. The power of the combination is nothing new. The concept is woven into our lives at such a basic level that it is often overlooked. Many great luminaries of the past and in our time share insight into the power of combinations. Most share powerful combinations, yet, don’t acknowledge the concept of combinations. Whether you read about business success strategies, new innovations, or creative ideas, it’s a combination of things that makes it work. Sir Joshua Reynolds is quoted as saying in the 18th century, that “Nothing can be made of nothing; he who has laid up no materials can produce no combinations.” Below are a few fun and informative quotes related to success combinations.
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” – Steve Jobs
“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.”
“The heart and soul of the company is creativity and innovation.” — Bob Iger
“Pilots are drawn to flying because it’s a perfect combination of science, romance and adventure.”
– Charles Lindbergh
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”
— Colin Powell
“The combination of a blazer over any T-shirt with a pair of jeans is foolproof.”
We create some combinations on purpose, while others are accidental. Alexander Fleming discovered the antibacterial properties of penicillin because he accidentally combined a sample of bacteria with mold, and contaminated his sample. Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanized rubber when a batch of rubber was accidentally combined with heat on his stove. Louis Daguerre invented the daguerreotype when he put a plate away in a cabinet filled with chemicals, and the fumes from a spilled jar of mercury combined with the plate to produce an image.
If you pay attention to the combinations around you, you can observe which combinations work, and those that do not. In some cases, there is a missing piece to balance your combination, or improve the outcome. You can review and make adjustments to your combinations for the better. A process is a combination of rules and actions; a team is a combination of people; and your wealth is a combination of income and assets. Your future is a combination of how you take action based on your knowledge and experiences.
My conscious discovery of this idea came during a series of speeches that I gave in 2011. I had the opportunity to talk with entrepreneurs, creatives, freelancers, and small business owners who were recovering from the recent Great Recession. Many people who were struggling had solid skills, yet most who found stability and growth had what I called the And.
Many of the people I consulted in 2011 were photographers. The photographers who combine another skill with their photography had an advantage. Not only because they had another income resource, but they separated themselves from the competition. As a photographer and writer, photographer and designer or photographer and videographer, they could offer more than those who did only photography. A combination offers less competition for the specialty, and adds value to the client. This, in turn, leads to higher rates, and loyal customers.
You might think that I’m suggesting that the purist is dead. When you consider that people can Google information on how to do anything. It makes sense that people who use the Combination Code earn business growth and command higher rates. However, some want to remain purist. Many try to combine basic or expected skills which is not enough to take them where they want to go. However, creatives and small business owners who actively work to create and combine a strong brand with their business, tend to have a better chance at remaining a purist in their field.
As it relates to the Combination Code, much of my focus has to do with business. However, there are many stories as to how you can use this concept to improve your life. I will reference key points. Yet, most of this Manifesto is designed to support entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small business owners to grow their business in our fast-pace, ever-changing world.
Big companies don’t want you on staff. The age of the 40 year career and a gold watch at the end is over. Some people dream of owning their own business, while others are forced into it. The second scenario is more likely in the future. Large companies will continue to pare down labor with robots, computers and artificial intelligence. If you want to work, you will need to create your own job and career.
The new world requires creativity and innovation. The Combination Code takes the mystery out of how to create something new. The past is only a memory. You only have now to take action. Creativity and innovation of the future is open to everyone moving forward. Who wins depends on who combines what first.
Not every combination is a winner. Toothpaste and orange juice doesn’t seem to work very well. I recommend you test your ideas on a small scale first, and then expand. There are many things you can test to improve your skills, inventions, products, and services. Technology, design, extremes or processes are all opportunities you can explore to improve or create something new. You can adapt concepts from other industries, artists, and innovators. Don’t feel guilty; just give credit where credit is due.
Jim Rohn famously stated You’re the average of five people you spend the most time with. The combinations around you affect your life, wealth and career. It is important to examine and take charge of the people combination around you.
This is a good place to start when you build a life, business and career. Examine the people around you. What do they bring to the table? Are they exactly like you? Or, do they offer skills which you don’t have, or which they can perform better? If you don’t have the right people around you, find them.
Your personal culture. This is a combination of where you come from, who you are now, and where you’re going. A personal culture is what makes you a unique individual. Ultimately, your personal culture is the binding force between you, and family, friends, co-workers, clients, and vendors, and it is this amalgam that results in your workplace.
Some business cultures are exciting and innovative, while others are negative and destructive. We can’t do anything about the past culture, but, we do have the opportunity now to examine the combination of elements which makes our current culture, and, if necessary, recreate it.
This often means letting go of things, ideas, philosophies, and, sometimes, people, who do not fit in your personal or business plans. This includes minimizing relations with certain family members, or firing a boss, or clients.
If you believe that you can create a culture for your business dramatically different from your personal culture, you’re wrong. You can’t. Start with changing your culture combination first.
Poor Business Combinations
I can’t tell you what your core business should be. A good combination incorporates a core skill, product, or service with something else to separate yourself from the competition. However, there are a few things you can consider which are not the best combination options.
Is your business one that offers a product or service that is perceived as a commodity? Because such an enterprises rely heavily on supply, demand, and current market prices, you are in a position in which you cannot dictate your value. However, if you understand the concept of combinations, you can separate yourself from the competition. When you separate yourself from the competition, in which there is still a market, you are then able to set your own price.
If the first word to your value proposition is affordable, you are playing the commodity game. If price is the core of your business plan, then you must rely on volume and scalability. Most creatives and professionals don’t fit this mold. Small businesses and entrepreneurs can scale if the business is not dependent on the founder.
Service is important to your business success. However, you can’t claim it as part of your business combination. At least, not publicly. Only your customers can talk about your great service. Your job is to create the environment, culture and processes which leads to great service. When you focus on your guarantee, warranty, how long you’ve been in business, or anything else not directly related to solving your customer’s problem, you have a poor business combination. There is nothing wrong with these support elements. However, they are not what makes you different.
Grow Your Business
This section is the meat of my focus as it relates to the Combination Code. My goal is to help your business grow. It’s a marketing plan. Of course, my marketing plan is a combination marketing plan. I’ve found through the years that my clients need to address one or all four of the following areas to grow their company. They are Awareness, Traffic, Conversion and Retention. However, before you start your campaigns, there are a few things you need to understand.
Who is your customer, and what is the problem that he wishes to solve? It is vital that you understand what problem your product or service fixes. Once you develop a persona of who your ultimate or target customer is, you can develop a message or story for your marketing. Your message and story must lead the viewer to the conclusion as to why they must select you.
Your target market is not anyone and everyone. Your best customer has a combination of traits, wants, and needs. It is this combination which makes your customer unique. Discover who these people are before you begin marketing. What is their demographic, job title, hobby, income? Do they really have a problem? There is a long list of factors you can consider.
I will not share tools in my Manifesto for each of the following marketing areas of concern. This is because the tools and strategies change with technology, personas, industries, products and services. The tools, strategies and ideas behind improving these metrics are a big part of my combination code mission. It is worth noting that social media is one digital marketing solution which addresses all four of the following marketing needs.
Awareness development is the branding portion of your plan. It’s important to soften the ground for future marketing efforts. Your future customers must see your name and hear your message a few times before they click or buy. First and foremost, people buy from companies they know and trust. If you create a strong awareness campaign, your company will earn the awareness and trust.
Driving the right traffic to your website or to the front door is an important part of marketing. There are various strategies you can use to get people to your website. It’s important to use at least three options. This way, if one begins to slow, you have time to find a new solution and increase resources to the other two traffic sources.
A conversion is anything you need it meet your objective. It can be a download, request for more information, or a sale. To improve conversions, it takes a combination of understanding what is happening with analytics, A/B testing ideas, ads, and landing pages. The acquisition of conversions is why you are in business.
This is one of the most forgotten areas of marketing: keeping your current clients. What are you doing to keep your hard-earned clients happy? Most of the time, it requires some combination of communication activities.
With the Combination Code comes combination marketing. When you combine two or more marketing techniques, they are more effective than one alone. For example, if you combine search engine optimization (SEO) with retargeting, you will have a more effective SEO campaign. If you combine an email campaign with Facebook Audiences, you will strengthen your message.
Consider everything which the customer comes in contact as part of marketing. This includes packaging, customer service, employees on their off-hours, public buildings, and social media. There is an infinite number of combinations that you can use to address the four marketing areas of concern.
Search engines and technology will continue to turn once well-paying careers into commodity jobs. My mission is to support the current and future independent freelancer, entrepreneur and small-business owner. I support these people with my combination of knowledge, experience and new discoveries. The core of my teaching is how to combine digital marketing, new technologies, business concepts, and ideas, to separate your business from the competition. Thus, helping your business grow and develop new markets.
My Combination Manifesto only scratches the surface as to how combinations impact our lives, career and business. It’s a simple concept. However, if you focus on your combinations with the goal to improve business creativity, innovation and culture, you can do great things. My job is to offer you the combination tools.
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