The Business of Belief – Inside the Mind of International Best-selling Author Tom Asacker (Interview)

The Business of Belief – Inside the Mind of International Best-selling Author Tom Asacker (Interview)


For the last 20 years Tom Asacker has been teaching and inspiring organizations and entrepreneurs. World-class companies including Procter & Gamble, UPS, and G.E. have called on Tom to shake up their people, fill them with ideas and charge them with inspiration. After 5 acclaimed books, a George Land Innovator of the Year Award and lecturing on innovation, strategic communication, the customer experience, and marketplace trends to corporate, association, and university audiences around the world Tom is more sought after than ever.

Earlier this week I announced on social media land that we would have Tom on this blog and we had a ton of great questions from you guys so thanks! And, here’s the interview..

What are the three biggest mistakes that businesses/people make when branding themselves – and why is it critical to avoid them?

The biggest mistake is attempting to communicate and influence people without first having a visceral understanding of what those people—your audience—both believe and desire. Because how people perceive a brand, the feelings they experience and the personal meaning they make, is what determines their subsequent behavior and decisions.

The second biggest mistake, and closely related to the first, is to assume that people are rational decision-makers, that they’re persuaded by facts and data. They most definitely are not. People are driven by their desires, perceptions and feelings and they use information as a tool to rationalize those feelings.

Number three on my list of brand mistakes is to naïvely believe that people care about you and your brand. They don’t. What they care about is how you make them feel about themselves and their decisions in your presence. There’s a big, big difference.

Why is it critical to avoid these mistakes? Because if you don’t, you’ll be invisible. Or worse, irrelevant.

Why is making people ‘believe’ so important when promoting your business?

You can’t really “make” people believe, but you can create the conditions that allow them to form their own beliefs. And what is a brand, after all? It’s a personal belief. Some people believe in the iPhone, others in Android. Some people believe in Starbucks, while others identify with and value Dunkin Donuts.

The key to creating a believable and valuable business is to understand how people form those beliefs, as well as how and why they change them. And then use that knowledge to infuse your brand with highly focused and precise meaning and value, so that they are attracted to, believe in, and choose you.

What are the benefits of storytelling for businesses?

Stories are how people make meaning. The job of the conscious mind is to automatically produce a story to make sense out of our perceptions and reflections. Those stories—or mental models—are how we connect the abstract content of our minds into recognizable patterns.

The benefit of storytelling for businesses is that information received in story form is easier for people to process, remember and believe. And the easier it is for our minds to conjure a pattern—to connect the dots—the more confidence we have in that particular story. And, by association, in that brand.

How can business owners become better leaders?

Simple. Stop trying to control people’s behaviors and instead understand the design of the business—the process that drives success—a then come up with some simple measurements to monitor that process and let others—your employees and outside consultants—get creative and have control of their work. People crave meaning and control. If you give it to them, all kinds of wonderful things happen.

What is the most effective way to create an impact and stand out when your business operates in a very competitive marketplace?

The answer lies in your question. To stand out in a very competitive marketplace, you must create an impact. Do something different and daring that changes how people view you and your business. Something tangible that shows your audience that you are in business to make a difference in their lives, and not simply to make a buck for yourself. Be bold. Be impractical. Stop trying to make an image, and instead make a statement!

What do you consider the most powerful product launch you have ever been involved in – and what made it so powerful?

I’ve been involved, as an employee, owner or consultant, in dozens of product launches. Everything from semiconductors and medical devices to financial services and consumer products. Each had its own unique challenges, and all contributed mightily to the organization’s long-term success.

It’s really impossible for me to pick the one most powerful launch, since “powerful” is such a relative term. Was Apple’s iPhone launch more powerful than the successful launch of a niche medical device that saved the life of a little girl’s mother?

If you had a list of best kept resources (websites, books, coaches) for business success that you would only share with a friend (and our blog readers!) what would they be?

I wouldn’t share such a list with any of my friends. Instead, I’d advise them not to believe anything anyone says without fully examining it, trying it, testing it, and discovering its value directly, for themselves and for the people they are in business to serve.

Looking out over the next 3-5 years, what do you think will be the next big change in the marketing industry?

Okay, so there is a “marketing industry:” people and organizations who promote and sell “marketing;” e.g. advertising, branding, search and social media consulting, et al. I don’t think that’s what you’re asking me. You probably want insight into the future of marketing.

The great Danish physicist Niels Bohr wrote, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” But hell, I’ll give it a shot. I think the future of marketing is less marketing. I only say that because most people believe that marketing is synonymous with communication, with persuasion. Frankly, we’re living in an over-communicated world. One where people don’t really know who or what to believe. And so, the businesses that will succeed in the future are the ones who creatively, boldly, and uniquely add value to people’s lives. The ones who act as advocates for and trusted advisors to the people they serve. The ones who know how to create passionate belief. Period.

What is the one best piece of business advice you have ever been given?

That successful people know that they’ll never know enough, so they pay attention. They’re driven by the questions, by their desire to truly understand and to change things.

Tom’s latest book The Business of Belief – How the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers,Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us to Believe is available now.

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