By Lisa Boonstoppel-Pot
Thanks to Toni Newman, who calls herself a professional catalyst, many Ontario farm women will not be able to order parmesan cheese on their salad without thinking of sexy Stefan.
The ebullient Newman, a woman who perches on top of a red ladder to make her point, had a story to share about how to make the everyday extraordinary and it involved a waiter named Stefan. It went something like this:
One night Newman had a craving for pasta at a restaurant she knew well. The atmosphere was good, the food great and on this particular evening, there was a new waiter ... a handsome one! His name, which Newman says in a smoky voice, arms in the air with dramatic flair, was Stefan. Looks, however, were not his most appealing attribute.
It seems that Stefan had a way with words for when Newman’s plate of pasta was set before her, Stefan came over with his cheese grinder. He could have just asked if she wanted any parmesan on her pasta. Instead, he said “would you like your cheese like the snow in Denver? Or would you like your cheese like snow in Paris?”
Newman paused. This was different. This was exceptional! He was making her parmesan cheese an experience, an event, a moment.
“Stefan wasn’t so much a better waiter as he was a different waiter,” explains Newman. “He owned my parmesan cheese moment in my pasta eating journey. To this day when I go out and order pasta and a waiter asks if I want cheese, who am I thinking about? I’m thinking about Stefan.”
This is what every person who is selling something should be creating – a moment.
“If you are selling tomatoes and they are the best in the world, it is not enough. People want a story. They want a moment,” says Newman.
Her Stefan experience and story is something Newman has been sharing for over a decade as she travels the continent speaking about marketing in her self-described role as professional catalyst. She was the last of many dynamic speakers challenging and encouraging farm women to be all they could be at Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) Women in Ag Summit held March 10 in Kitchener.
“Everyone has great ideas in them,” said Newman. “What you need is a crazy person to help you access those ideas, a person who helps you see things differently.”
It’s about adding drama to your ideas and making them an experience.
“An experience is what happens to you that changes how you feel about something,” she added. “You need to create a story that people feel compelled to share. People do not share better ... they share different.”
So how can a business owner or product maker differentiate themselves? It starts with courage to take the leap and is enhanced by using Newman’s 5S Strategy.
1. Surprising: “We have to get our customer’s attention,” she said. Showing a picture of a tow truck featuring a giant, pink toe, Newman said this is an example of being different and noticeable. “If that business offers bad service, it won’t last long but that toe means people will take a picture and share it.”
Newman also cited the Nestle KitKat campaign that offered a free “no wifi” zone to play on its “take a break” slogan. “Do unexpected things in unexpected places. I am not suggesting be gimmicky. I suggest bring value.”
2. Strategic: Businesses need to make strategic decisions based on what works for them and their customers. Newman used the example of a mom and pop pizza store that was struggling with the encroachment of chain pizza stores. The owners discerned that the most painful part of ordering pizza was phoning the order in. They designed a magnet that came in the middle of the pizza alerting customers to a website where they could register their favourite pizza. All the customer had to do was press a button, their pizza was ordered and delivered. No calling required! The pizza store’s deliveries increased by 500 per cent and the business received 12,000 mentions on social media. “People don’t share better, they share different,” Newman said again, in a mantra she repeated several times during her presentation.
3. Seductive: “Once you have a customer’s attention and told them what to do, then you need to convince them to do it. Play the emotions card,” suggests Newman. Australia Post had a campaign reminding people that sending a handwritten note is like giving someone a hug. It was an effective way to boost the use of traditional postal services.
4. Sustainable: “Ideas start to smell even when they are good ideas,” said Newman. “When you implement an idea, the first week is great but by the third month, no one sees it anymore.”
Shreddies launched a hugely successful campaign marketing Shreddies not as squares, but as diamonds. “Square – Boring. Diamond – Exciting.” Plus, Post sold the boxes as a “combo pack” with both square and diamond shreddies. They were, of course, the exact same thing but the campaign was so successful that when Post pulled it 18 months later, empty boxes of diamond shreddies were selling for hundreds of dollars on EBay.
5. Simple: Simple always works when it is direct. A divorce lawyer created business cards with a perforated line down the middle. Simple but powerful.
Newman says when you wrap the 5Ss with a dose of courage, all that is needed next is a leap of faith.
Newman used this example from her own life. A few drinks in a movie theatre led to the need to pee. Newman found her way to the bathroom but didn’t realize she was in the men’s bathroom until she heard men’s voices from outside her stall.
“So I talked to myself. I said, ‘Newman, you can keep the door closed and sit here or you can go out in a blaze of glory.’ I opened my stall door, said ‘good evening gentleman’ and left 10 men wondering if they were in the right place.”
We always have the choice: we can stay quiet as a mouse and sneak out or we can take option two and go out in a blaze of glory.
“The only thing standing between you and your success today is the courage to let go of where you have already been,” concluded Newman.
Remember to Walk Each Other Home
We are all just here to walk each other home. But the more disconnected we get, the less we are walking together.
These comments were borrowed from Ram Dass and made by Dr. Jody Carrington, a child psychologist, speaker and author who believes disconnection is the biggest problem we face today.
Speaking to farm women at the Women in Ag Summit hosted by Farm Credit Canada (FCC) on March 10 in Kitchener, Carrington couldn’t have known that disconnection would take on a whole new meaning with the arrival of COVID-19. Her advice to farm women and her ideas on connection seems even more relevant today.
The coronavirus was just extending its reach when Carrington, who was funny, irreverent and inherently compassionate, offered this advice: “If you don’t want to get the corona, wash your hands like you wash a Charolais heifer on show day.”
She had women laughing and crying as she talked about raising kids, connecting with neighbours, using women’s superpowers and leading with greatness.
“The heart of it all is relationship,
said Carrington. “And we (women) are better at that than any person with a penis on the planet. This is not about bashing men ... I own two sons and I love my husband ... but women are just better at relationship and connection.”
One of the keys to that is learning-to regulate emotion.
“We all say we want our children to be happy. Well, I want my children to be happy, make friends, contribute and have a good life. You cannot do any of that without emotional regulation,” said the mother of three, including a set of twins. She and her husband raise their children on a beef cattle farm in Alberta and Carrington runs a practice in Olds, Alberta with four counsellors on staff.
It starts when we have our babies. We take them home, they start to cry and you feel like you are losing your mind but you know to put the baby on your shoulder and start bobbing around. “You are helping that crying baby regulate,” said Carrington.
The thing is, she said, you cannot tell someone to regulate. You have to show them. “You cannot tell a kid how to be kind or how to mourn or how not to be racist. You have to show them. So many things on our planet cannot be regulated ... they have to happen face to face.”
One of the ways to do this is proximity and it may be one of the biggest lacks in modern society.
Showing an old black and white photo of aged parents standing in front of a tiny cabin, Carrington pointed out that this couple raised four kids in that tiny home.
“Our fathers may not have been good at emotional discussion but in the old days, they had proximity. If someone in that house was having a bad day, everybody knew about it. Everybody,” said Carrington.
Today, everyone can disappear into their own rooms with their own devices and it could be weeks before someone notices someone else is suffering.
“Heck, we have a king-sized bed and there are some nights I don’t know where the hell my husband is!” she exclaimed. “And I swore we would never get television in our room but then we got the Netflix. There we are, both looking at our screens and I think it may be the biggest demise of relationships because face to face connection is becoming the hardest thing we do on this planet.”
She was challenged to just sit with her husband and look at each other for four minutes.
“I’d rather pull a calf,” Carrington exclaimed. “When I did this with my own personal husband, we only lasted 37 seconds and then we went back to the Netflix!”
It takes effort but the good news is that, generally, women are good at this. Women know how to push past the lack of proximity and make the face-to-face contact.
“Listen to me carefully,” she told the women at the ag summit. “I want you to go home tonight and cross your door and light up when you see that man you associate with. Look at him with delight and tell him, ‘I don’t know if I tell you this enough but you matter to me.’ He might ask if you are loaded but do it.”
Then do it with your kids. Then other people’s kids.
“When you go to a cattle sale or the hockey rink, you say “How are you? I saw your son. He’s such a great kid. You must be doing something right.’ ”
Be brave. Ask questions. Seek first to understand before being understood. “You should see how fast I can connect with a kid when I know and ask about their dog.”
It’s about lighting up your own self to light up others. A great result is that the more you give, the more you get back.
Having the energy to connect with our spouses and kids often comes with being passionate. “We are drawn to people who have passion because purpose rides shotgun to passion,” said Carrington.
It also comes from believing and knowing we are wired to do hard things. Quoting Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, “I had to believe there was a purpose for the pain. I had to believe there was a reason and what I was going to do with it.” Women are designed to do hard things but sometimes, when hard things happen, women harden up. They disconnect. However, it’s in connection that we find the purpose to withstand the hard things.
Comparison is another way women disconnect. If they look on Facebook and Instagram and judge their worthiness by the women who seem to have perfected marriage, parenting and careers, then some women disconnect by believing they are not worthy.
“Comparison is the thief of all joy,” said Carrington.
Choose differently. Be grateful for the people around you. Be joyful. Choose to push past the disconnect and use connection as the superpower that makes you want to walk each other home, concluded Carrington. ◊