Seeking Your Signature

writing on notebook

This is a guest post written by Rico Cruz, former operations manager of buqo turned freelance photographer. You can learn more about how he uses photography to reflect his passion and curiosity about people and events on his website.

At this point, I think marketers are more aware of the nature of Digital Marketing. It isn’t just banner ads anymore (whose efficacy is becoming more and more questionable), there’s Facebook, SEM, SEO, YouTube and email marketing too.

It can get very confusing, but most of what you need to know is readily available online, and when you get it, it’s easy to get caught up in the whole thing.

Before you know it, you’re quantifying everything and eking out efficiencies every chance you get. This can be a great thing, especially if your organization is on a tight budget.

However, it’s important not to lose sight of what you’re actually selling.

Having a very clear idea of your product or service, and what makes it different or valuable should be top of mind for everyone in the business organization, no matter what role you play in it.

I know many may balk, but I personally believe it should take precedent even over business goals. Product is everything. It’s corny and cliched, but only because it’s true.

(editor’s comment: Just take a look at Apple. Build the product right and people will come to you — no matter how high you charge them.)

Digital Marketing is great at amplifying whatever special quality your product or service has, or any of the other 7 P’s of marketing. So you play to your strengths.

Judging that can be more difficult than it sounds, and as much as you want to tell the whole world about your product, you have to spend the time to concretize it.

The Strategy That Will Solve All Your Business Problems: Focus


Focus is one of the essential strategies that is lacking in startups (and businesses) today. Grabbing every opportunity that comes along your way might lead to short-term gains, but it will eventually become your downfall.

Your business has a purpose. It stands for something. It has a vision. Written or not, regardless where that came from – your personal ambition that you turned into reality or it was handed down to you by your boss or the company you are working in right now – there is that objective the company wants to achieve.

(Look, if you do not know what it is, find out about it. If there really isn’t one, make one. If you do not care, sorry, you are not fit to be in that role right now if you do not see the value of having a vision.)

Focus separates the successful companies from those who are not. Companies that have a clear vision of where they are going, even if they do not know how, are on the right track.

The main idea behind the strategy of focus is the constraint on resources. Whether that is in the form of cash or capital, time, manpower or skills, you have limited resources. Without focus, you will grab every opportunity that presents itself. As mentioned above, that might lead to short-term gain because of its newness. That will eventually bring you down because you are confusing your customers and noncustomers. You are confusing your own team as to which direction you are heading.

Yes, there is such a thing as a pivot, but that is a major overhaul of the company’s strategies and operations, not simply trying out something because there is an opportunity to earn money from it.

So stop what you are doing right now and find out your purpose. Focus on opportunities and activities that contribute to that goal, and kill all other ideas that detract from it — no matter how shiny it is.

Know the Difference Between a Problem and a Constraint

A problem is an issue you can resolve while a constraint is an issue you cannot resolve. That is the simplest definition of these two terms.

You can also define it in terms of your control over the situation.

A problem is an issue where you have control over while a constraint is one where you do not have control over.

Determining which issues are considered problems and which are considered constraints is a very important topic.

That is the focus of this post. Below is a one-minute decision tree to consider where to categorize the issues you face and what to do with them.

Here’s a simple example before we get to the details. Not meeting a deadline is a problem. City traffic is a constraint.

The 1-Minute Life Hack on Determining Whether an Issue Is a Problem or a Constraint

We are all busy. Adding more steps to making a decision should not add more time nor take away from what you should be doing.

Click on the image to download a high-resolution file.

The Decision Tree

  1. Recognized an issue
  2. Can you find the solution now?
  3. Can your boss find the solution now?
  4. Can your direct reports find the solution now?
  5. Can your peers find the solution now?
  6. Treat it as a constraint
Problem or Constraint Decision Tree

Rationale Behind the Decision Tree

Some people just take so long to decide. They keep worrying about a lot of factors that are irrelevant to the issue at hand. The main reason behind the decision tree is to keep in mind the context at which the issue was presented — at work.

Again, regardless if it is your own business or you are working in a company, you have to remember that you are there for a purpose.

You are paid to produce results.

You are not paid to think, nor show up, nor do email all day, nor attend endless meetings.

If your time is not spent on activities that contribute to results that your organization cares about, then you are wasting corporate resources. That is inefficiency at its best.

Don’t Forget Your Job

This is the most important part of this post. Don’t forget your job in this whole process.

Look, if your job is to bring in sales and meet quotas and after using the decision tree above you realized that the product you are selling is not really good (a constraint because you, your boss and your peers cannot do anything about it now), you cannot argue that the reason why you did not reach your quota is because the product is not good.

Your job is to bring in sales and meet your quotas. Period.

Stop blaming things that are out of your control. You’d only look like someone who whines and complains. Or worse, someone who cannot get the job done.

Let’s take an example from math. Back in primary school, you were introduced to algebra and the famous “solve for X” problems.

How the problem works is that you are given some assumptions to work with. For example,

Solve for X
Let Y = 3

X + Y = 15

What do you do next? You factor in the given (Y) and substitute the value (3) then transpose it to the other side. Perform the subtraction (15-3) and you get X = 12.

To solve the problem, you work with the given to arrive at the end goal. The variable Y is the constraint. You work around it to reach your end goal — meet your quota.

If it is a problem, then this should not be an issue because if you indeed classified it as a problem, then you can work at finding the solution until it does not become a problem anymore. It is simply removed from the equation.

Let’s make life easy.

Apply this simple life-hack and you will find yourself working and worrying less about things you cannot control and more time working on those you can so you bring in the results required from you.

Why The Under Promise Over Deliver Mindset Should Go Away

People’s advice when it comes to account management or sales (and general business activities) is to apply the mindset of under-promise and over-deliver. This has got to be the biggest mistake one can make when dealing with your customers (or your boss or your colleague).

Why is it a huge mistake? Apart from it being a lie (telling you can only do X then you do Y), there are a lot of reasons. Allow me to explain a couple of them in light of the two parties involved – the provider and the customer.

From the Provider’s Side

1. It leaves a lot of room for complacency

Saying you can deliver a project within 30 days when you know you can do it in 15 days is terrible. It allows the provider to procrastinate. It delays the project. It is a waste of corporate resources. It locks up resources when they can be allocated elsewhere. Sure, that is okay if you have unlimited funds. But last I checked, even Apple and Google have limited resources.

2. Too many variables making it unmeasurable

We learned from Peter Drucker that what we cannot measure, we cannot manage. We also know from science that when we change something, we only change one variable at a time. That is the concept of ceteris paribus – all things being equal.

Going back to the example above, you were asked by your boss if you can handle another project with the same budget and scope? How will you know if your team is productive or not? How would you know if the resources you spent are the same or already over budget? Because you allotted 30 days for 4 people to work on a project, they will spend the whole 30 days working on it.

Again, the phrase “you know” was used because if you are any good at all, “you know” if your team is productive or not – whether that is from industry standards, previous projects or experiences. By limiting your deadline to 15 days, you now have one less variable to work on. If your team meets it consistently in 15 days and you did not meet it this time or you went over budget, you can pinpoint it better than you finishing the project on different deadlines, say, 20 days, 29 days, 14 days. You will have a hard time figuring out where you went right or wrong.

3. Shows no standards

Turnaround times are given for a purpose. They are deadlines which communicate the commitment of the company to perform work at high quality standards no matter the situation they are in at the moment. Saying different deadlines for the same project across multiple customers is misleading, is inefficient and show how management is not doing their jobs properly. Managers are there to ensure that the high standards (hopefully high and there actually are standards) of the company are maintained all the time.

From the Customer’s Side

1. Customer experience varies

Companies should place the customer first. Continuously pushing your products to them turns them off. That same principle is exhibited here. If you do not consider what the customer experiences when they engage with you, it sends a subtle signal to them that you do not know what you are doing. A good experience may not be repeated again; thus, leaving doubt to your customer as to whether you can fulfill their expectations.

A good example we all notice here in the Philippines is Starbucks. Without fail, when you come in the store, no matter how busy they are or how long the line is, you will hear a greeting. Regardless whether it is personal or warm, there is still that greeting. You can expect that no matter which store you go to. That is not an accident. These is the experience they want you to have each time you enter. Going back to their roots, Starbucks’ vision

2. Users don’t know what to expect

We all know that repeat purchases are where business profits really lie. People go back to you because they experienced something good. In their subconscious, people go back to you because they want to experience that same thing before (whether that was a satisfaction with the taste of your food, the clean bathroom, or that warm smile from your cashier). Whatever that utility was, they want to experience it again. That us the reason they go back. If the next time your customers come back, and they experienced the exact opposite of their first visit, you will lose your credibility already. Sure, they might give it another go just to make sure that bad experience was just a fluke. But if you have no standards , chances are, that third experience will be bad again. Now, you lose a customer for life.

Humans are creatures of habit. We love doing the same thing over and over. We wake up the same time each morning. The go through our morning routine the same everyday. Take a bath, have breakfast, brush your teeth, etc. We get irritated when changes happen to our normal routine, like waking up late. You get flustered. Rush through everything. You forget stuff. You worry. That has the same effect when your brand does not have any standards. It ruins your brands image. It disrupts the good that you have going. It sucks.

3. Experiences a lack of professionalism

Customers know what they want from you – the very best. While that may be qualitative, but that is a universal truth. If you promise something, then you deliver “more,” then they will think of you as making yourself look good. You understate something so that when the time comes to deliver, you would have exceeded expectations. Well, guess what, your customers already know what you can or cannot do. So stop lying to them and to yourself. Simply state what you can accomplish and accomplish it exactly when and how you stated it. It makes you look good. It makes you know what you are doing. It separates your from the rest. It makes you look professional.

Quick Check: How to Know if Your Digital Marketing is Effective


Determine whether your digital marketing efforts are effective with this one simple question — does my website (blog and other online assets) have an answer to my customers’ frequently asked questions (FAQs)?

If your answer is yes, you are on the right track. Providing answers even before questions are asked makes you look good from your customers’ eyes. It makes you proactive. It makes you appear in control. It makes you know what you are doing.

On the other hand, if your answer is no, that should be a wakeup call for you. Digital marketing is all about being helpful. If you already know what the FAQs are, publish them on a blog post already. Do not wait until issues come up before doing so.

Just think how your audience will think of you when you write a post AFTER a big issue? You would be seen as reactive. You got surprised with what happened. You will look as if you are not in control. You will lose your credibility.

Digital marketing is not about you posting your products and services online and continuously promote it. Yes, you place them there so others can know more about you. But there is more to digital marketing than just that. People are thirsty for knowledge that can help them achieve their goals. People conduct research online, look at reviews and make decisions then and there regarding your brand. If they do not find anything useful for them (trust me, your product or service is not that useful for them; it may be useful and so innovative for you, but not your audience), they will quickly lose interest. Worse? They will leave negative reviews about you and share it with their friends. No amount of promotions nor celebrity endorsements can convince that person (and the people he shared it with) to trust your brand again.

Stop focusing on yourself. Focus on your customers. Compile all FAQs from your team. Start with sales. Ask accounting. Ask marketing. Create individual posts for each of these questions and create another one that will serve as a table of content / summary of all the questions then link them. Update this once a quarter and you will see less complains, less “work” for your team because your customers already know the answers and won’t have to ask them anymore.

You Are Not Entitled to Anything


One of the mistakes people have early in their career is having a false sense of entitlement. This is more prevalent to those starting out their careers, but is also observed even among those well advanced in their career.

Let me make one thing clear: You are not entitled to anything.

Despite coming from top schools, having an MBA, worked at large companies before you are not entitled to anything.

This false sense of entitlement makes you look stupid and do stupid things in your career. Just because you are two years at the company doesn’t mean you are entitled for a promotion. Just because you have the longest tenure you can slack off. Just because you are the eldest mean you can boss people around.

Just because you graduated with honors from the top schools in the Philippines (or even abroad) doesn’t mean you are entitled to a higher salary. Just because you have an MBA degree doesn’t mean you can lord it over other people to make them feel inferior.

You are not part of the royal family. This is not your business as well. You are an employee of the company, the same as other employees in the company.

You have to earn something. Yes, your dad works in the company. Your mom knows the owner of the company. Your uncle is the senior vice-president of the company. It doesn’t matter.

Takeaway from this post? Work smart. Achieve results. Build relationships.