Impact is the measurable difference that we make in people’s lives as the direct result of contact with us, our teams, our message, our marketing, our products, and our services. When we put something into the world, the goal is ultimately making a difference for people, and that difference will be measurable. Impact strategy is how do we make that happen? How do we create the product? How do we innovate the product? How do we design a product not just for market fit but for market impact big time? Impact strategy queen Wendy Lipton-Dibner dives into the subject of product impact and impact strategies that get you the most opportunity for success.
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I am so excited to bring you one of my favorite people on Earth because she is a woman of complete substance. This is depth through and through. Wendy Lipton-Dibner, the Impact Strategy Queen. She is amazing at the amount of research and data she has in the advice and consulting that she does with her clients. It is astounding, Wendy. It had been astounding to me to watch you run your events and do all of the things that you do because there is so much data behind everything you do. That is a been there, done that again and again philosophy that I love to reward. That’s why you’re on the show.
Thank you. I’m so excited to be here with you finally. I love everything you guys do and I can’t wait to see you in action. I’m yours, just use me.
Let’s start with impact strategy. What does that mean? What’s impact? I want to start there and then we’ll dive back into your story because I love your story.
Let’s start with impact because everyone uses the word. It’s got to be as popular as the word love just about now. I am a fiend for making sure we’re talking about exactly what we need to be talking about. There’s a definition that we need to set out. We need to make sure that everybody gets what we’re talking about. Impact in my world is the measurable difference that we make in people’s lives as the direct result of contact with us, our teams, our message, our marketing, our products and our services. When we put something into the world, the goal is that it’s going to make a difference for people and that that difference will be measurable. The strategy is how do we make that happen? How do we create the product? How do we innovate the product? How do we design a product not just for market fit but for market impact, big time?
My audience knows we always talk about product market fit matters the most out of and gets you the most opportunity for success. It is the result of a mismatch in the product market, whether it’s the product not fitting the market or you having to find a market for your product. 56% of your opportunity for success lies in getting that right. If you can get that right, then you’re 56% there. Then you need capital and team. Other things matter, but they’re not as important as getting that right first. That’s impact and having an understanding of what that difference is. That’s where people don’t always get it. As inventors in the world, we want to make a difference so badly, but we sometimes don’t know how to measure that. Our friends and family go, “That’s wonderful. We like it,” but can we measure it with the market? That’s what matters. That’s what we’re talking about here.
The cool part of this is that inventors and innovators and entrepreneurs, we all want to do something that’s going to make a difference for someone, that’s going to make life easier or better or more fulfilling or less painful or healthier or whatever. At the end of the day, we are talking generalities. We say, “My product is designed for people who are looking to X, not for people who are looking to get X out of Y.” The more that we begin to nuance the real reason they need our product versus someone else, the real reason any of these products are in the world is what is going to change for them in their life as a result of using that product. The good news is that impact is the new global currency. The more that we talk impact, the more that we buy impact, we specifically tell people, “When you use this, this is how your life will be different.” What we’re doing now is not selling the product but the result, which is what sales is all about.
Not features but life-changing, impactful and measurable benefits. Your goal is to bring a lot more impact on the world and I want to talk about that. Let’s start back at your story. How did you come on this path of discovering that focusing on impact mattered so much? Tell us your story about how you came to focus on impact.
We all in some ways want to know that what we’re doing matters. I want to be Barbra Streisand. I want to sing and I wanted to affect people’s lives but instead, I ended up in grad school. What happened there was I published and I presented and I ended up getting recruited out to direct a major research study that was soft money. I was trained in social research to look for the things that make a difference, the things that matter in organizations, and how can we use those things to improve our organizations, to improve our impact, to improve ourselves. As I was working on this major study of an alcoholism project, it was an alcoholism treatment facility, it just so happened at that moment that the US Senate was putting together a committee to review all different diseases and which could be considered reimbursable. We talk about that every day but this was back in the early ‘80s. People were starting to talk about healthcare insurance, which problems should be reimbursed by healthcare and not. Alcoholism was a big question. Was it a disease? They came to us to find out what did our study say.
Fast forward, as we were getting ready to present to the Senate, which was super exciting and super scary, my office was filled with attorneys that represented the hospital. They want to make sure that everything we brought to the Senate would make the hospital look in its best light. Nothing illegal was done. Nothing terrible was done. What I learned very quickly is there’s a big difference between legal and ethical and they don’t always match. Let’s not get political now but let’s focus on the product. What happened was we all went to Washington. By the time that we got there, the attorneys had changed a lot of the presentation that I had written. If you’ve never heard this saying, “If you torture the data enough, they’ll confess to anything.” They tortured that data. They added commas, periods, dashes and things that changed the nuance of truth and ethics. We were there and as I stood up to present the presentation, picture, all of the committee hearings that you see on TV now. I was the only woman there. When I went to read the study, it wasn’t what I had written. It was very nerve-wracking and I had my first panic attack. It was awful. I didn’t know what was happening to me. All I knew was I couldn’t read those words.
At that moment, a lot flashed through my head. What do you do at a moment of panic? What do you do when you want to make something happen that’s important, but you know that if you follow this path, you’re going to be walking down the path your boss wants you to walk down? If you walk down this path, you’re going to be walking down the path that feels right to you and you’re going to lose your job. For all of your audience who are inventing at 2:00 in the morning and then working the 9 to 5 shifts, this is a hard decision. At that moment standing in front of the senators, it seemed a bigger decision than every day. It was the Senate. The long and short of this story is that I couldn’t make myself read what they had written but nobody knew the data better than me. I just stood there holding the report and gave the truth, gave the data.Impact is the new global currency. Click To Tweet
As it happened, the Senate did vote to go ahead and move forward with the fact that alcoholism was, in fact, a disease. Since then, millions of people have received coverage, which is awesome. The right outcome happened but for me, it was also a right outcome later. At that moment, my boss and the attorneys were looking at me and I knew my job was done. I was okay with that. At 23 years old, I discovered what ethical means. I discovered that making a difference, making an impact on people’s lives was more important to me than anything. When you’re so focused on money, it’s easy to lose track of the impact that you want to make, that you are making and you lose track of that. I discovered that that day. I also discovered I can’t be an employee.
This is one of the things that fascinates me about you over time. When you decide you’re going to research something, you immerse yourself in it. It’s like you have this immersive research strategy, which I love. Would you tell everyone the stories of your beauty parlors? That to me is like diving in, learning on the job and figuring out how to make things better, how to improve things, how to make a difference every day.
I quit the university position which if I hadn’t, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have been helped. There I was with no job, no income, no idea what I was going to do. I did what every young woman my age did when you didn’t know what to do, I went to get my hair done. My friend was a hairdresser and she came to my apartment and she brought wine with her. I had given up drinking because I was studying alcoholism and it seemed a little weird. I had not had a drink in a long time. She brought this wine over and with one glass, I was already feeling a little tipsy, and by two or three I didn’t care what I was drinking. We went through two bottles and I said, “We should start our own beauty parlor.” It was a purely drunken statement.
The truth is she was miserable where she was working. We chatted about it and we laughed about it and then she went home. I took out the proverbial napkin and started to draw what would be a social laboratory. I got all excited and I was going to build a business that would have no mention of money whatsoever. It would prove that you could make more money focusing on making a difference in people’s lives than by focusing on the products you wanted to sell. I typed it up. I never slept that night. I went straight to the bank the next morning and told them my plan that I was focused on the impact, that I had done this thing with the US Senate, and now I wanted to prove that the place for impact was in business and would they sponsor this new business that I was going to open as a social laboratory. They were thrilled with it and they went ahead and wrote me a check for $50,000 right then and there. I walked out and I was so excited and I realized I had no idea what I’m doing.
This is part of my women entrepreneurs out there. You guys take too long to take action. Please take advice from Wendy’s confidence. Admire it and do something with it because you take too long to bring your product to market. You take too long to get out there. You don’t get the funding because you don’t ask. You’re probably way readier than you think you are.
Even if you’re not ready, the only thing you need to be 100% sure of is that you don’t know what you’re doing and that you will figure it out as you go. There are always people there who will help you on the path. There weren’t so much in those days though but now there are. What I can tell you is that when you are passionate about what you’re doing and you have a good idea, go for it. You’ll figure it out. You don’t have to have everything figured out. Here’s the thing, even if you do have figured it all out, it will mess with you. Something will change, something will happen and you won’t be able to do what you thought you were going to do anyway. Be open, have your idea and take one step at a time, which is what I did.
You learn so much in that business that you’ve applied. A lot of those things that you learn applied to product sales and product businesses and venture businesses. Would you give us some of the things you learn from that?
One of the most important things I learned is that people need help saying yes to letting themselves have what they want. Most people don’t know that what they want is way beyond what you think the benefits are. Whatever your product is, whatever your service may be, whatever you’re hoping to make happen in the world with your product, think beyond that. What will happen if someone gets the benefit that you want for them? How will their lives be different as a result not just of your product but of the benefits of your product? Things keep happening in a domino-like fashion. When we take time to think through the impact strategy, by that I mean what are all of the things that will happen in a ripple way that if this happens then this happens, then this happens and this happens for the people who use your products? Then the conversation changes to more than just when you buy my X, it will make your life easier. So what? If it makes it easier, then what will happen? The more you think it through, that’s when everybody will light up and not only want your product but use your product. When they use your product, that’s when the magic happens.
To me, the sign of a great product is one that gets used again and again and then raved about later.
The best is when you don’t even have to say anything because your friends start saying, “What are you on? Is it legal? Can I have some?” They just know you look great, you look alive, you’re excited, you’re happy. You’re not being all crabby in the middle of your dinner party and you’re like, “It’s because I have my new cutting gadget. My cutting gadget made all my time in the kitchen more fun. Do you want to try one?” The next thing you know, your friend is making the salad and you’re moving on doing something else.When you are passionate about what you're doing and you have a good idea, go for it. Click To Tweet
You have a big event coming up and I don’t want to miss talking about it. I went in 2017 and I have to tell you that most of your audience was at the stage of business to go, “That’s so brilliant.” There’s so much packed into it. I feel like you have to come again and again and I’m coming back again. It’s like layers. It’s like my business is ready for all of these things but next time, there will be a whole other set of things that I’m ready for. I love that about it. You don’t dumb it down. It’s not like, “I’m going to this simple thing,” you go for the whole thing, all the things people need to know. Tell us more about the event.
The event is Move People to Action. What it is is how ethical influence guided me to build ten different businesses, to create lots of different products and services, and to help my clients make hundreds of millions of dollars for their products and services. The deal is that I couldn’t pick one thing to teach because it isn’t just one thing. It’s wherever you are now, you need this thing. If you use this thing, then you’re going to need that thing. What if you already have that thing? Then you need this thing. Did you ever do this thing? If you had done this thing, that thing would be going better now. Let’s then do that and then at that. It’s way more organized than it sounds.
It’s totally organized because it’s organized in a roadmap. This is one thing. When we met for the first time, there was so much overlap. We do a microcosm of what you do because we’re working on only the product launch part of it. That’s a whole business launch plan. It’s the same process because the order matters and this is what I try to get across to product launchers all the time. If you do the right things in the right order with the right resources, you have a higher likelihood of success. That’s your acceleration plan. You are going to go. What do you call your map? I forgot.
There are two different maps. There’s the Focus on Impact map, which is a ten-step path to go from idea to new idea and all the way back again.
We have to have continual new ideas in our business. We have to have continual new products in our product line. That just has to happen.
Our brains are crazy enough to do it anyway, so we might as well make a path for it. That’s the business model. Within the business, the overall impact strategy business model comes step-by-step according to who do you need to do something, so you can do what you want? Who do you need to do this, so you can get what you want? The Move People to Action map is your missing link to more. It’s just a question of what do you want more of? More customers, more ideas, more speaking engagements, more product space, more shelf space. What do you want more of? The more that you think about that, you start to think about team and employees, “I want more vacations, I want more money.” Move away from that. Move to what are all the things that will get you that? Move People to Action is the map to make that happen.
One of the things that are occurring to me as we’re talking is that you also have a big mission and a lot of our product launches fall into this realm. There is no age limit to building a business. I love that this is such a part of it. You believe that the more gray hair is why you should be doing business. Talk a little bit about that.
I did a retreat for a group that I called my Vintage Venturists. They are all over 70. They have a lifetime of experience, creativity and innovation already behind them. The question is what did they not invent that they missed because they were so busy building these other things? We pulled them all together and we were doing a three-day morning and night marathon to get their products to the next level. It was exciting. There were new ideas and new plans. Everything is moving. One or two of them came to me to write a book. Now we’re putting together what we anticipate will be $130 million app. One of them said to me, “At my age, what do I need $130 million for?” Whether you keep the money or give the money away or use it for tips, I don’t care. At the end of the day, your ultimate legacy is going out in product format and it’s going to be amazing. They tell me that every year that they’ve been working on these projects, they feel like they’ve lost another five to ten years of aging. They’re going on dates with their husbands. It’s amazing to watch.
I love it because this is the thing. Especially we see a lot of women and there are a lot of women in your group that I have met that have much more resume or CV than anyone I’ve ever met. They are way overqualified to be doing these things already. The fact that they have taken so long to do them is because they didn’t have the support system. They didn’t have the know-how that they could do this, that this was important.
Their family came first. Jobs came first. They didn’t see themselves as entrepreneurs. They played the game that everyone told them they were supposed to play. All of a sudden, all the kids and the grandkids have moved on. They’re not working anymore and they’re not ready to die. Now what?
“Now is the time for me, for my stuff, for my ideas.” I also think that it should be more investible. It should be easier for them to get money because they are so qualified. It’s harder, which is so wrong because the number one thing I hear from venture groups and Angel investors is that qualifications, capabilities and character matters. Who doesn’t have the most of that? They’ve got proven track records.
We’re working on that. At the end of the day, the founder is crucial in terms of giving credibility and making sure that this moves forward. As long as the founder is surrounded by a support system of people who are ready to help them get it out there, once the idea has been intellectualized and turned into something real, that’s what matters. I’m excited about this for them. I’m also excited for the twenty-year-olds, for the people who maybe don’t have credentials or experience or don’t even quite know what a CV is. What they know is they see a problem. If you see a problem and you’ve got an idea to fix it, that’s what you need. Everybody else around you can help you productize it. The idea is you’ve got to see the problem that nobody sees and the way of solving it in a way that no one has done and that’s it.
I even tell people all the time that you don’t have to have this giant disruptive idea because there are lots of market-making ideas. I gave a talk on this in Salt Lake City and the focus of it is that there are so much more chances of success in a market-making business. In other words, if Amazon is a market-making business, they didn’t disrupt retail. Retail did that on its own. They went along on the wave of it happening. Brian Smith of UGG was there and he was giving his talk and he was talking about how UGG struggled for twelve years. He would go to the bank every year and they would go, “We think it’s a fad. This is the last year. We’re not going to give you enough money to fund the orders that you’re sitting there holding in your hand.”
He was like, “I don’t understand it.” He’s pulling his hair out of this, “Why is this so hard to grow a business, to grow brand?” He was so frustrated by it. It was just a tipping point that a bunch of sheepskin products came on the market and UGG was the top of the list, the cream of the crop. They rode that wave and accelerated off and then everything got easy after that. Reebok’s that way, Nike is that way. They built for years and years before they got famous. Market-making ride the wave of other companies coming on. You don’t have to have something so disruptive and original. You have to have something that solves the problem better than anyone else on top of this market shift that’s happening.People need help saying yes to letting themselves have what they want. Click To Tweet
If I can add something to that, you have to know how to talk about it in a way that moves people to action, in a way that lights people up and say, “Why didn’t anybody ever think of it this way?” There are 47 different breakfast cereals on the shelf but the way you talked about yours in terms of the impact that it would make to family’s lives, all of a sudden they’re saying, “I never thought of it that way.” You’re absolutely right. The innovation, a lot of the time, is how we perceive our product will make a dent.
How it’s going to change everybody’s lives, how it’s going to improve them, what impact is it going to have? That is your message, Wendy, and it is why I’m such a fan. I’m a big reader so I read your book from cover to cover. I highly recommend it for tech people out there, the ones that are my engineers, those inventors. There are so many nuggets of stuff that will convince you that each one of these steps, the order of the matter. This thing that we learn when we’re developing products and when we’re developing code. For those of you who are out there doing tech products, having to go back to the beginning and redo because we learned something now that we have to go back to the beginning is the biggest cause of delay and the biggest reason products don’t make it to market fast enough. Wendy’s got the formula. She’s got the path. It works in all types of businesses too. This is what you’ve discovered as well, you research hard. Can you mention a little bit about the types of businesses that work then?
If there’s an industry around the business, that’s what it works in. What I have discovered, not by design originally, was that there is no industry from technology to trucking. Telephones, we started a long time ago when people were talking about telephones in terms of the systems that offices would buy. How could they innovate those systems? The next thing we knew, they were walking around carrying this enormous box and telling us this was a new thing. It was called cellular telephones and you needed a cart to carry this stuff in your car, but you had to make room for it. I was there with the phone company working as their consultant when they were first coming out with this. One of the things that I was amazed by was that the strategies that I had used to move people to action in the salons, and in the brokerage houses and in the service-driven companies were now suddenly even stronger to the product-driven companies. For laundry detergents, for telephones, for trucking, for shipping, for telephones of every size and utility, for gas companies, for the actual pipes that were being created for the gas companies.
You’ve done a lot in health and wellness.
I ended up by default, not by design, helping doctors in their practices and helping them to innovate medical instruments and products that would make a bigger difference, new protocols for ways of providing services for patients. The more that we look at people in terms of what did they got that they’re not using, that’s the first step to innovation because in my mind you saw that they bought it in the first place. Clearly, they were looking for something. Why didn’t they use it? I’d love to see people do an entire research study. What are the products that are out there that people aren’t using and why?
There are a couple of new companies and Parachut is one of them where you can send all your camera video equipment that you keep in the garage and you’ve never used it. There are companies out there doing a repurposing of those things. At least that will get to an audience that uses it, but why don’t you? I always think that studying misuse is also the other thing, which ties into the one major thing we always try to hit on this show, which is the hazards of not doing the right things, in the right order, with the right resources. I would love you to give me some of the top things that you think go wrong for entrepreneurs especially product ones.
The first thing you do wrong is you go out of order. The sequence is everything. When you go out of order, what does that mean? What should the order be? Before you pick up a pencil or a tablet to design an idea, the first thing you’ve got to decide from my perspective is what is the measurable difference this idea will have? As soon as you figure out what is the measurable difference you want it to have, by that I mean the impact, you start thinking of it differently in your design. If the ultimate difference is X and you know that, then you will design it to make that happen. That’s different than, “I want to design a new light bulb.” What is the ultimate difference you want that light bulb to make in people’s lives? What will they be doing differently? What will they get differently? What will they have differently? What will they be different as a result of using your new light bulb? The question is did you do that first? If you didn’t do that first, it’s not too late. Now is the time to go back and do the redo. Go back and look at why are you doing this? What is it designed to do and what do you wish you had designed it to do because it’s not too late and it’s not put it out yet?
The thing that I love about the way you describe it too is that it also gives you what I call the key criteria. You don’t lose sight of what’s important because the design process, the development process and the engineering process are really technical. All of a sudden, you find you design something out or you chose to let it out because the cost was too high. You don’t have anything to measure against of, “Am I succeeding in getting where I want to go?” If you don’t establish key criteria from the beginning, what is the most important thing that I need to accomplish with that? Keep your eye on that. A lot of people go to what they call minimum viable product. That’s a hated term here. We don’t like that. The maximum valuable product, it is still an MVP but different MVP.
Don’t do it in terms of cost. I know that sounds crazy but you’ve got to forget about money and focus on impact. I’m not saying this as a woo-woo. I’m saying this as the result of a research of a thousand plus of my clients, Fortune healthcare, nonprofits, small business, solopreneur products. What we looked at was when I found the client, what were they focusing on. How could we make it that they would make more money because they got me in because they wanted to make more money? Let’s get clear about that. That was their number one goal. When we look at what they were focusing on in order to make more money, they were focusing on money. In other words, what are we spending on our X? Whatever that is, team, products, manufacturing, distribution, you name it.
What are we spending on consultants? “Wendy, what are we paying you?” All of these different things that they were so focused on. What we discovered in this study were the companies that spent the most time focusing on money were spending more money than the companies that didn’t. What were they spending the money on? On making up the mistakes they made because they were so focused on money. It makes sense, by definition business is about making money, but if all of your focus is on money and you forgot about the most important piece, which is will people use what you’re creating? What is the impact it will create and how will it happen? It will happen by people using it.
How do we move them to use it, not how do we move them to buy it? The more that you start thinking about that, you start realizing “They’re not going to use this because I didn’t do this.” Let’s re-look at this because if this thing weighs twenty pounds and it has to be used by a child, what are the odds that the child is going to use it? At the end of this whole thing, it’s all about who will use it and what would move them to use it excitedly so that they would get all of the results that you wanted them to get in the first place? When we looked at that, when we focus on those companies and refocus everything internally and externally, everything from how they think to the marketing they use and all of the design in between, they increased revenues by minimally 200% and typically in less than 30 days.
I know I have some businesses out there, especially some of these brand builders that are on our platform, who are going to want to reach out to you. We’ve got a coupon and discount for you if you want to attend this event. I can tell you, your event was my favorite. I learned the most and I go to events all the time because I speak and occasionally, I get my nuggets of information and everything. I had a whole notebook full. When I can learn something, this means that you guys can learn something you’ve not heard before and that is very valuable. I invite you to connect with Wendy in any way, shape or form that you would like.
Can I do the same in reverse? Here’s the thing. First of all, Tracy is coming to this event. If you’re coming, let Tracy know and maybe you guys could do a dinner together or something.
I would love to have a mentorship dinner while we’re there. Thank you for offering that on my behalf. I would love to. I’ve been thinking more and more that I have to do that because I was in Hong Kong. There were all these people who are like, “I listen to your show.” I was like, “I should have said I’m coming so that people would know to connect with me.” I’m going to do better next year.
It’s a great way to start the year. One of the things that I personally want you to know is that Tracy is the only one I send my clients to now who are productizing ideas. I have a lot of choices of people that I met through the years that I can use and I only refer them to Tracy. There’s a reason for that because I’ve had Tracy sitting in my office, on my couch and we have spent time together, and we have broken bread together. What we’ve discovered is that Tracy will talk to you very strongly about, “Do this and do this.” She comes across as this amazingly powerfully competent woman. What you need to know is her heart is in the right place. Ethics are my thing and I trust you. I trust you with my friendship but more importantly for the purpose of this. I trust you with the people who I take in my hands. I trust you with their impact and I’m so grateful that you are on this planet, Tracy, you have no idea.
Thank you so much. I am so blessed to know you and Hal. Hal Dibner is her husband. When you get to meet him, you’re going to love him just as much as you love Wendy because he is a charmer. He truly is. I love that he comes to your events and supports you in the way that he does and support all the people there. That is also special so this is the thing why I adore working with Wendy and Hal because this is a couple and you’re co-creating together and Tom and I co-create together, and that means a lot to us as well. Thank you so much for saying that and I appreciate that. This is the thing that I believe in and this is what Product Launch Hazzards is all about. We’re about creating a collaborative community that provides all of the bases you need to cover. When you’re this big brand builder, then Wendy is the first person I’m going to send you to because I want to make sure you had the opportunity to maximize what you’re doing. When I see it in that world, I go, “We’ve got to send you someplace where you’re going to have the right view of where you need to go from the beginning.” That is so critically important too. Thank you so much for being on the show, Wendy, I appreciate it. It’s been so much fun to catch up with you.
Thank you and thank you for doing this show. I love everything you guys do. Thank you for the impact you bring the world, Tracy.
Thanks so much, Product Launchers. This has been Tracy and Wendy.
About the Authors
WENDY LIPTON-DIBNER, M.A. is a 5-time bestselling author and internationally-recognized authority on business acceleration. Founder of the Move People To Action System for Impact and Influence, Wendy has presented at the U.S. Senate and produced thousands of business growth programs for corporate, healthcare and non-profit organizations. She is President and CEO of Professional Impact, Inc. and serves as a trusted advisor to top influencers, executives, and entrepreneurs worldwide. Forbes called Wendy’s strategies, “The secret to success in business,” and Tracy wrote about her map for Inc., calling it, “Your path to profitable success.”
Get your copy of Wendy’s newest bestselling book at FocusOnImpact.com and receive 6 gifts to accelerate and amplify your results.