Sincere Questions That Cut Through Small Talk

One thing I know for sure about myself is this: I’m not great at small talk. I wasn’t born with the gift of gab. While I thrive on other people’s energy, I hate to come up with frivolous conversation starters. I’d much rather jump right into a meaningful dialogue than participate in idle chatter. This makes opportunities like networking events a bit intimidating. And I’m certain I’m not the only one with this aversion to small-talk.

Marcel Schwantes, principal and founder of Leadership From the Core, discovered that to be able to draw people in, he simply had to ask the right questions. Here, we’ll share some of Schwantes’ questions that drive interest and persuasion in a professional conversation. He points out that the first four questions are borrowed from business author David Burkus, which were shared in the Harvard Business Review.

1. What excites you right now? As Burkus explains, this question can go in many directions with a wide range of possible answers that may overlap into your personal life or work life, which will open the conversation further. And asking it allows for the other person to share something that he or she is passionate about.

2. What are you looking forward to? Like the last question, this one is more forward-looking, which, says Burkus, allows for the other person “to choose from a bigger set of possible answers.”

3. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this year? It’s the same technique as the previous two, but this one goes back in time for the other person to reflect on something pivotal that may have changed the course of his or her life. It also opens up a wealth of answers to choose from, which may overlap into some of your own areas of interest for further discussion.

4. What’s the most important thing I should know about you? Because it can come across as a little direct, this is certainly not your first question, and it may not even be your third or fourth, but it “gives the broadest possible range from which they can choose,” says Burkus. Use it in context, listen for clues and wait for the right timing.

5. What’s your story? This is open-ended enough to trigger an intriguing story—a journey to a foreign country, meeting a famous person, getting funded for a startup, a special talent used for making the world a better place, etc. It’s a question that immediately draws in the other person and lets him or her speak from the heart.

6. What is one of your defining moments? This question invites the speaker to share on a deeper level, which builds momentum and rapport more quickly. Obviously, asking a few casual questions before it helps set the mood for hearing about a profound moment or transition in that person’s life.

7. Why did you choose your profession? This assumes that, at some point, you dropped the mandatory “What do you do?” question. As a follow-up, it’s a question that will reveal multiple layers of someone’s journey. It speaks to people’s values, what motivates them and whether their work is their calling. It may also trigger a different, more thought-provoking response: some people aren’t happy in their jobs. By asking, you may be in the position to assist or mentor a person through a career or job transition.

8. What are you currently reading? You may have the same authors and subjects in common, which will deepen your conversation. Also, use this question to ask for book recommendations. You may find the conversation going down the path of exploring mutual book ideas to solve a workplace issue or implement a new business strategy.

9. How can I be most helpful to you right now? To really add the most value to a conversation, once a level of comfort has been established, ask the other person how you can be most helpful to him or her, whether personally or professionally. You’ll be amazed how pleasantly surprised people will be by that thoughtful gesture, and how responsive they are in their answer. Your genuine willingness, no strings attached, to make yourself useful to others leads to more interesting, engaging and real conversations that may lead to future opportunities.

Whatever question you decide to use, the important thing is to always ask open-ended questions and to avoid work-related questions or business questions until much, much later in the conversation. You’ll be surprised by how seamless the transition will be to business, conducting a sales pitch or exploring partnerships once both parties know each other.

Source: Marcel Schwantes is an expert in developing exceptional servant leadership work cultures where employees, managers, executives and their businesses thrive. He is an entrepreneur, executive coach and adviser, and keynote speaker.

Image courtesy of google image search.

Three Ways To Encourage Innovation

Where does innovation fit in your business? Regardless of size, innovation is important to enter new markets and grow the reach and market share of your business.

Innovation, however, can sound rather intimidating to some businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. According to workspace design company, Red Thread, there are simple things you can do today to encourage innovation among your employees.

1. Give Your Employees A Reason To Care. Employees with an emotional investment in your company and their jobs are the ones who are going to put in the most effort and produce the best work. If your employees are only at the office for the paycheck, their willingness to participate and innovate is going to be much lower. Encourage innovation by giving them a reason to care. This motivation can come in many forms such as incentives, raises, promotions and feedback for a job well done. When employees feel like they matter, they are more likely to be invested in the company and innovate on new projects.

2. Include Social Spaces In Your Office. Give your employees a physical space to be creative and innovative. Creating social areas or lounge-type spaces in your office is a great invitation for employees to relax, mingle and get the creative juices flowing. Studies show that taking small breaks throughout the workday can boost workers’ productivity and motivation, too. When employees have a space to take a break from their hectic workday, they can recharge and come back to their desk full of fresh ideas.

3. Collaboration Is Key. When it comes to innovating and generating new ideas, the more heads in the room the better. Collaboration allows for employees to put their best ideas together and generate truly innovative solutions. In order for employees to collaborate successfully, they need the technology, space and resources to do so. Equip work spaces with collaboration technology like smart boards and wireless connection to encourage innovation. Make sure you incorporate areas where employees can individually focus as well as collaborate in groups.

Source: Red Thread helps organizations and their partners to create work environments that support productive, engaged employees. Through integrating furniture, architectural products and audiovisual technology, holistically designed spaces can dramatically impact your bottom line. Red Thread was established in 2012 when Office Environments of New England, BKM Total Office and Business Interiors joined forces as a regional enterprise. Red Thread serves as the authorized Steelcase dealer in New England.

Image courtesy of google image search.

Want Innovation? Learn From Ants

As is virtually always discussed, innovation plays an important role in any organization, both large and small, but there’s a significant difference in how innovation shows up in each type of organization.

Large companies usually have innovation teams focused on large-scale problems and large- scale production. Ron Ashkenas and Markus Spiegel, authors and contributors to HBR.org, note that these types of teams move in a specified direction at predictable speed.

On the other hand, innovation is not as organized and formal in small companies. It’s usually more spontaneous and nimble, driven by those wearing multiple hats.

Ashkenas and Spiegel have studied more than a dozen global organizations and their approaches to innovation—some successful and some not so much. Here, we share four of their findings on innovation.

1. It takes the mindset of an ant. Teams functioning like machines—blindly following highly defined processes and execution plans—were the least effective at achieving their goals and coming up with innovations. The most successful teams operated less like highly efficient machines and more like ant colonies, where they quickly adapted to changes in their environment. They had a set of simple rules and a clear goal, allowing them to be more flexible and able to learn along the way.

2. Centralize your mission; loosen your structure. As Ashkenas and Spiegel point out, ants have no central control, no single “master ant,” yet the entire colony works together as one community. They’re able to align their individual activities to the powerful common purpose that each ant shares—the survival of the nest. Thus, when the environment shifts, individual ants adapt their roles for the collective good.

Leaders of effective innovation teams communicate and centralize the mission of the team, but give the team members the freedom to do what’s needed to achieve their part. This allows the team to adapt when they hit dead ends. This is also why companies like Google align their people through yearly and quarterly goals, while giving them the ability to work toward these results in multiple ways.

3. Communication is key. Back to the ants. We’ve all seen long ant trails leading to a food source. If the source is particularly good, the trail intensifies and more ants follow it. It’s a time- and energy-saving way to communicate.

Rich, frequent and candid communication is also important for organizational teams to find innovations as quickly as possible. People need to bounce around ideas, share insights and challenge each other’s assumptions. Leaders need to make sure their teams have the time, space and tools to make this happen. Bring your team together often and create a comfortable atmosphere for dialog and brainstorming. Make it easy to share ideas through tools like instant messaging and file sharing.

4. Experiment with ideas. Always test new ideas and new ways of doing things. It’s at the heart of innovation. Ashkenas and Spiegel us the example of Intuit, who puts new product ideas on the internet before they are developed to test whether there is a market. If there’s interest, they proceed with development; if not, they modify the idea or quietly withdraw it.

Encourage your team to test ideas through action instead of just through studies and analyses. Of course, this requires both dollars and resources to build prototypes and mock-ups early in the discovery process and to engage directly with customers to get rapid feedback and test assumptions.

Embrace these management concepts behind innovation and watch your “colony” flourish.

Source: Ron Ashkenas is partner emeritus at Shaffer Consulting, where he helped leading organizations achieve dramatic performance improvements and coached CEOs and senior executives on strengthening their leadership capacity. He’s also an avid author and contributor to publications such as Harvard Business Reviewon topics related to organizational change.

Markus Spiegel is partner at Schaffer Consulting where he helps organizations to master the challenges in complex environments. His experience includes working in the automotive and financial services industry, including key roles at the BMW Group. He is also a contributor to Harvard Business Review.

Four Ways To Combat Lukewarm Leadership

In the backdrop of uncertainty, a mere spark of ambiguity or apathy by leadership can ignite the pervading fuel of resistance among the masses. Today, we will share four ways to combat lukewarm leadership from business coach and author Brian Braudis.

1. Set the tone: Begin with the energy and gusto you want to see in others. What you do as a leader has tremendous influence on those throughout your team and even your stakeholders. People respond to what you initiate. Demonstrate how much you are willing to give and show that you are duty-bound early and often. Make your messages steadfast. When people see and feel your energy, enthusiasm and promise they will not only buy in, they will help spread your all-in message.

2. Communicate: Communication is a standard by which leaders guide, direct, motivate and inspire action. Clear, confident, resonant communication will engender trust and gain followers. Here’s how:

  • Get specific: Simple and concise is more effective than complicated and confusing. Hit the high points in your speeches and save the granular details for in-person communications.
  • Get face to face: Aim for dialog rather than monologue. Employees and team members know the demands on leaders and managers. They know the value of authentic live contact and informal dialog where they can see and feel that their message is being received.
  • Demonstrate beyond words: What you do supersedes what you say. The proven formula for personal communication is 55 percent body language, 38 percent tone and seven percent communication through words. Body language and tone will validate everything that you say. Sending protocol out in a memo is not nearly as effective as walking around and informally sharing your thoughts and expressing yourself on the need for procedures.

3. Be the Island of commitment in a sea of uncertainty: Increased global influence, more demanding customers and disruptive new players are challenges to be surmounted. But to your team members the new economy means uncertainty. Uncertainty leads to anxiety that makes people susceptible to stress, and being less productive and more vulnerable to conflict. During times of upheaval we need leaders who

are anchored in commitment. They bring a calming presence and a higher perspective to the context of uncertainty. There will always be some degree of uncertainty. But when leaders show resolute certainty in their commitment, team members take note and follow suit.

4. Show consistent enthusiasm: Leaders who show enthusiasm remove any hint of being lukewarm. People can visibly see and feel your passion, energy and commitment and they buy in. Your team wants to win and they want you to be successful. No one tries to be second best. Show consistent enthusiasm and your team reciprocate with buy in and enthusiasm of their own.

When savvy followers see and feel your energy, commitment and enthusiasm shining through the daily challenges and frustrations, there’s nothing lukewarm about that.

Source: Brian Braudis is a highly sought-after human potential expert, certified coach, speaker and author of High Impact Leadership: 10 Action Strategies for Your Ascent. He has also authored several audio programs from executive leadership development to stress management. Braudis believes “leadership” is a verb not a title. His passionate and inspiring presentations are based on the foundation that regardless of your position or role everyone is a leader.  Image courtesy of google image search.

Five Essential Principles For Growing Your Small Business

When it comes to succeeding in growing a small business, many people view success as luck. Some will succeed and some won’t. And it’s stories like John Mackey’s that inspire us to try. Mackey started a small vegetarian store in Austin, Texas, more than 30 years ago and this year sold his Whole Foods empireto Amazon at a price tag of $13.7 billon.

Business author Faisal Hoque points out in his recent Fast Company article that luck isn’t what it takes. Small business success comes from five essential elements, which we’ll share here.

1. Timing is Everything. The timing of your product or service must be right in the marketplace. There must be a need or a pain point that your product or service solves in order to gain interest and traction. If the market isn’t ready, then your business will fail or you will need to wait to launch your product or adjust your product to the market needs. As Hoque points out, smaller businesses have the advantage of being able to make choices and implement changes without the exhaustive process and conflicting points of view that slow down major corporations.

2. Brand, Brand, Brand. You need to create a positive experience for your customers to stay competitive. And, if you want to create a scalable business, you must understand just how crucial it is to build brand equity. The emotional attachment that links customers to your product, as opposed to any other, translates into sustainable growth. Hoque shares these basic rules for brand-building:

Choose your target audience. The surest road to product failure is to try to be all things to all people.

Connect with the public. Your objective is to make your audience feel an emotional attachment to your brand.

Inspire and influence your audience. An inspirational brand message is far more influential than one that just highlights product feature functions.

Reinforce the brand image within your company. Make sure employees at every level of your organization work and behave in a way that reinforces your brand image.

3. Scale Your Sales. You also need repeatable sales processes to create a business that can easily grow. It is one thing to sign up a few customers; it is another thing entirely to identify, design and implement repeatable sales and customer delivery processes. According to Hoque, you know your business is scalable when:

You can add new hires at the same productivity level as yourself or your sales leader.

You can increase the sources of your customer leads on a consistent basis.

Your sales conversion rate and revenue can be consistently forecasted.

Your cost to acquire a new customer is significantly less than the amount you can earn from that customer over time.

Your customers get the right product in the right place at the right time.

4. Embrace Technology. Bottom line, it pays to embrace technology. If a small business can identify a genuine need, technology likely exists to fulfill that need both locally and globally. There are few barriers to entry in an age where anyone with wireless can cheaply and quickly access the enabling technologies needed to execute their business model. Put effort into mapping out a plan that ties technology into your operational and business needs.

5. De-Stress For Success. As Hoque points out, managing the success of a small business can be twice as stressful as maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse or partner, nearly three times as stressful as raising children, and more than four times as stressful as managing your own personal finances. In fact, a Bank of America survey pointed out that 38 percent of small business owners maintain full or part-time jobs while running their own business.

If you’re not happy, healthy and motivated, growing your business will be difficult. You also set the tone for everyone who works with you. So, take care of your mental and physical well-being so that you can provide the best of you to the business.

PCT returns tomorrow with more tips for success.

Source: Faisal Hoque is founder of SHADOKA and other companies. His newest book is “Survive to Thrive — 27 Practices of Resilient Entrepreneurs, Innovators, And Leaders” (Motivational Press, 2015). He is formerly of GE, and other global brands, business author and contributor to Fast CompanyBusiness Insider and the Huffington Post.

Five Smarter Ways To Manage Others

Today, many employers say they’re having trouble retaining their younger employees—specifically, Millennials. At 82 million strong, Millennials are the workforce of the future. Studies have shown they want to work where they can make a difference and contribute to something bigger than themselves.

It’s imperative to realize that the people in your organization—especially young people—are the fuel to your long-term success, and the one person who affects that outcome more than any other is the frontline manager.

Today,we’re sharing five defined pillars of success for managers from business coach Jan Makala.

1. Engage employees with a compelling vision of what is expected, and provide the mission to achieve that vision. People respond when they are doing or contributing to something bigger than themselves. When national crises such as earthquakes or hurricanes occur, people are driven to volunteer not because they have to, but because they want to. As a manager, you need to create and share the vision and the culture that gives employees a reason to care, to show up and to do their jobs with a sense of purpose and excellence. Let them know that without them doing what they do, you wouldn’t achieve the results that you desire.

2. Make decisions based on productivity. By keeping your eye on the goal and having your people similarly focused, everyone will understand why certain decisions are made and can buy in. If disagreements occur, these discussions and opinions are welcomed because they are relevant to achieving a better outcome toward the end objective.

3. Motivate every team member to take action. People are more likely to take action if they know what is expected of them. When expectations are clearly defined, employees are less likely to disappoint their manager or their peers. Employees will work together without your direction or approval when they all know their roles and have bought into achieving the desired results. If your people don’t know what is expected, don’t be surprised by what you get

4. Have the assertiveness to drive outcomes. Are you more concerned with the process or the outcome? Managers are in place to strive for positive results. Employees may find ways to produce an outcome that the manager never thought of. Give employees the freedom to experiment and try new ways of doing things. Keep your team apprised of progress to keep them motivated If you neglect to provide appropriate feedback on your employees’ progress, you’ll immediate notice a decline in the contributions of team members. Remember, feedback is the breakfast of champions—be generous with your thoughts and expectations.

5. Create a culture that you want. Culture impacts every aspect of how you get things done, from hiring and developing the talents of the employees to customer service. Define your desired culture and then take it from words to actions. If you don’t like the culture you currently have or the results that you are currently obtaining, you are the only person who can change it. Your actions have to mirror what you desire. Do you allow negative behavior to go unchallenged? Realize negative behavior brings everyone down. Your employees are watching, and if they see you doing nothing, your lack of action will send a powerful message.

When employees believe that their manager truly cares about them as individuals, they will walk through fire for that manager. This connection gets to the heart of employee engagement.

Create an environment where people want to come to work, and your business will reap the rewards.

Source: Jan Makela is an executive coach, highly-sought after speaker, and best-selling author of Cracking the Code to Success and Be the Manager People Won’t Leave. Makela has a long and successful history of working with companies to ensure quality hiring and training practices. His specialty revolves around strength-based leadership development, with a particular focus on working with senior and mid-level executives, business owners and professionals.

Collaboration Is A Tool, Not An End Goal

How often have you heard a statement in your work environment that sounded like this: “The objective of this program is to foster more effective collaboration.”

As business author and blogger Andrew Pope points out, collaboration is often mistaken for the end goal, rather than the means to get there. And in fact, we see companies putting a lot of time, dollars and resources into collaboration tools like Sharepoint without having real goals for the collaboration.

Here are some of Pope’s recommendations on the role of collaboration and its best use in meeting your organization’s goals.

Collaborate With Purpose. The role of collaboration is anything you want it to be, but you have to take the effort to define the purpose. For example, you don’t go and buy a lawnmower then take it home and figure out what to do with it. Instead, you invest time, money and effort in things that have a clear and distinct purpose.

Pope suggests beginning by looking at your team or organizational goals. What do you do for your customers or your stakeholders? How can you leverage trends to do better?

Next, work back from these goals to your teams. How can you better utilize the knowledge, experience and problem-solving potential that you have to meet these goals? Collaboration will be the force to make it happen.

Give Permission To Collaborate.
Once we have a purpose for our collaboration tool, the other essential need is the missing set of instructions. We spend time providing guidance on how to use the individual tools, yet rarely do we provide guidance on how to collaborate.

Where and how should you initiate and join conversations that drive collaboration? Do we give our teammates permission to collaborate or do we create a culture where employees feel constrained by expectations of management that we shouldn’t be spending time talking among ourselves unless it’s to do with a specific task?

Allow for a collaborative culture by giving people the permission, time and resources to collaborate.

Goals And Guidance Direct The Way.
Finally, what are we collaborating towards? How do we collaborate? How can we encourage people away from the safety of their desks working like robots on individual tasks? We must answer these questions before we can expect the buzz of collaborative teams in an open environment.

Once we are ready to cultivate collaboration and have the goals in place which collaboration supports, then we can create a physical collaborative space. Some companies designate collaboration rooms or brainstorming rooms. Many companies such as Trello, Yammer or Microsoft Office 365, put digital tools in place. No matter the structure you create, be sure you provide both the tools and instruction for collaboration.

Remember, the software won’t give you collaboration. It will only support it. Identify the goals, create some instructions and empower your team to collaborate. It’s a powerful way to solve problems and support your goals.

Source: From environmental science beginnings to project management, knowledge management and innovation management, Andrew Pope always appreciated how mature collaboration is critical to the success of any project. Advising global investment banking and professional services sectors, Pope worked on some wonderful knowledge and collaboration projects. His biggest challenge was being asked to help a global engineering firm be more innovative. The experiences of all of this motivated him to co-establish Innosis, helping organizations focus collaboration towards innovation and continuous reinvention.

A Simple But Powerful Formula For Success

The Master of Business Administration designation—or MBA—was born at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business more than 115 years ago with just four students. Now the MBA is the most popular post graduate degree program in the U.S., with more than one million students currently enrolled and 156,250 graduating each year. What was once a point of distinction in the business world is now a necessity in many fields. In a marketplace crowded with qualified individuals, it’s tougher than ever to stand out.

Today, we reveal the most critical formula you need to know to differentiate you from others on the same career path, according to sales coach Dave Martin.

In summary, he says to stand out, you need “integrity plus hard-working tenacity.” Whether you are an exceptional leader or outstanding employee, these factors will help to distinguish you from thousands of others in your field.

Martin explains that half of this blueprint for success is based on who you are—your integrity. The other half is based on what you do—learning the importance of and mastering the practices of persistence and perseverance.

Persistence means you continue with an opinion or course of action in spite of the difficulty or opposition that you face. In the working world, persistence is the act of making calls over and over. Persistence is directing your team again and again until excellence becomes ingrained. Persistence is working your plan even when you don’t see immediate results. Persistence is consistent effort, maintained daily. Persistence is not giving up, or giving in, or giving way. Although processes and systems should be continually evaluated for improvements and for effectiveness, persistence is not reorganizing your structures every three months when you see someone else’s success and think you should emulate them.

The other key trait—perseverance—is doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Perseverance is continued persistence. Martin explains persistence and perseverance like this: Persistence is the athlete, working out each morning in the gym. He continues to get up, get to the gym and work his routine, even when he is tired, even when his friends are still sleeping, even when his schedule is interrupted. Perseverance is the lifestyle of working out week after week, month after month, year after year. In short, persistence speaks to continuing in a course of action even against opposition, and perseverance connotes longevity in that persistence.

Do you have these traits of persistence and perseverance in your professional life? In some areas you most likely do. What specific discipline have you consistently performed week after week, month after month, year after year? Perhaps you make a point to turn in your reports a day early. Or, you are mentoring less experienced salespeople. What standards have you set to make you stand out? Are you meeting these standards with both persistence and perseverance?

This formula is applicable not only for those starting out in their careers but for anyone who wants to set himself or herself apart from his competition and peers. Give it a try!

Source: Dave Martin, Your Success Coach, is a world-renowned speaker and the international best-selling author of 12 Traits of the Greats and Another Shot. For over 25 years, Martin has been a mentor, inspirational speaker, coach and business leader sharing timeless truths wrapped in humor and delivered with passion, and teaching people how to pursue and possess a life of success.

How To Give Negative Feedback In A Positive Way

Feedback can be a powerful tool. Of course, positive feedback can make you feel like king of the world. “Your report looks great.” “You are exceeding the expectations of your team.” “You’re an effective leader.”

But negative feedback can set you back, make you depressed and rattle your confidence. “Why can’t your numbers look like Joe’s?” “Why are you always late with your report?” “You really need to manage that customer better.”

Get the picture?

Today, instead of talking about negative feedback, we are focusing on “constructive feedback” —identifying and promoting change in behaviors that detract from high performance with these tips from published author and business executive, John Reh.

1. Be calm. When giving constructive feedback to improve an individual’s behavior, you want to be calm in your approach. If it’s an emotional issue, let your emotions subside before addressing the person, even if it means waiting a day before providing the feedback.

2. Never deliver negative feedback in front of team members. Being respectful to the individual is very important if your goal is to improve behavior and build confidence. Find a private place, like your office or a private conference room, to have the discussion and make sure the setting is professional and business focused. For example, a loud public setting like a Starbucks is not the best option. And do not address anything in front of colleagues or discuss it with colleagues. Keep the discussion private.

3. Focus on the observed behavior, not the person. As Reh points out, the purpose of constructive feedback is to eliminate behaviors that detract from high performance. If the individual perceives he or she is being attacked personally, the person will quickly turn defensive and the opportunity for a meaningful discussion will be lost. It’s important to not make it about the person’s character but about the action itself.

4. Be specific. In order for someone to change behavior, you have to be very specific about what change needs to take place and why it needs to change. Explain the impact to the business. Simply stating that “You need to do better” or “You screwed up” is certainly not effective.

5. Be timely. According to Reh, the best time to give constructive feedback is as soon as the action has taken place so that it’s fresh in that person’s mind. Also, you can focus on something tangible that the person can change right away. Feedback of all types should be given as soon as possible after the event.

6. Reaffirm your faith in the person. Most important, remind the person why they are on your team. Reinforce the good qualities that they bring to the table and why you have faith in their abilities. End on a positive know and give them the confidence and energy they need to make a change.

Feedback is a key component to growing as an individual. View constructive feedback as a positive action that can help someone, and be compassionate in your approach.

Source: John Reh is a senior business executive whose broad management experience encompasses managing projects up to $125 million and business units including up to 200-plus people. A published author, most recently as a contributing author to Business: The Ultimate Resource, Reh has set aside time throughout his career to mentor newer managers, often women and minorities, in the art and science of management-a skill that can be taught and learned.

What You Can Learn From The Latest Craze

Pokémon Go is so big, actually, that it’s already catching up with some of the largest social networks out there. There is little doubt by now that Pokémon Go is becoming the most successful mobile app of all time, at least as far as launch-week performance is concerned. It took only 13 hours to hit the top of the U.S. sales charts in its first week. And it hit a 10.81-percent daily user penetration level only four days after its U.S. debut. And did I mention that Nintendo’s valuation increased an estimated $7.5 billion thanks to this game?

It’s a marketer’s dream! In fact, Forbes contributor and blogger Jayson DeMers shares these marketing principles we can take from this global phenomenon.

1. Good branding can sell just about anything. Pokémon Go is actually loosely based on a system that already existed for another location-based mobile game, Ingress. Have you ever heard of Ingress? Possibly, but it didn’t achieve breakout success because its brand never became well-recognized. Pokémon, on the other hand, is a brand that’s been consistently developing itself for more than 20 years. Its character design, game quality and tone as a video game series (and anime) has become so powerful, that its presence alone helped sell the game to multiple generations of Pokémon fans. The game itself is good, but without the branding, it never would have taken off.

2. Timing is really important. Pokémon launched just after the start of summer, when kids are out of school, festivals are kicking up, and people are looking for any excuse to go outside and walk around. Can you imagine what it would be like if the game launched in the dead of winter? During a blizzard? The launch date is no coincidence. It’s also good timing in a broader perspective; Pokémon is 20 years old now, and fans who were children when the series first launched are now 20-something adults with significant buying power.

3. Social proof is everything these days. Thanks to our immediately connected, highly communicative, social media-integrated world, social proof is everything in the modern era. We won’t buy a product unless someone else has reviewed it first. We won’t notice a business unless we hear someone else talking about it. With Pokémon Go, social proof is visible—when you see people having fun with the same mobile game almost everywhere you turn, it’s almost impossible not to want to get involved.

4. A sense of identity leads to loyalty. There are a handful of identity factors that make Pokémon Go such an addictive hit, all of which give users a sense of belonging and loyalty. Thefirst is a layer of nostalgia; 20-somethings all over the country grew up with Pokémon, and this is a way for them to hearken back to the original feelings they had playing the game in the late 1990s. The second is a division of loyalty; in the game, you must choose between three rival teams, and being able to identify with one gets people more invested, similar to the way sports fans become so invested in their teams.

Whether you are looking to launch a new product or rebrand an existing one, take these lessons to heart.

Source: Jayson DeMers is an author who founded AudienceBloom in April 2010. He is also a columnist for Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch and Huffington Post. His personal blog is located at AudienceBloom.com/blog.