Marketing That Pays Off

This was the topic of a recent article in the Wall Street Journal which probably embodies what many startups think.

We assume that you’ve got a product or service that is perceptually distinct from the competition as defined by your target market.

Even if you meet the big differentiation test, we, as is our custom, we have a few things to add:

1. Spend money on a classy web site. Don’t go for the bargain brands. Remember that the site is your window to the world. A blog is about the cheapest form of self promotion you can do (which is why we started this one), but have something to say in your industry and make it read and sound well.

2, We agree with not spending wasteful money on advertising. Really focus on what influences your target market the buy your product. Our blog is now second only to as a source of business wisdom. in three years.

3. Even in view of number 2 above, remember that spending marketing dollars is an interative process, and you’ll waste some money.

4. Figure out the maximum you can spend on marketing, because, unless you’re spinning of from a previous employer in a field where you’re well known, not many will know your name.

5. Be patient: it takes the search engines as long as two months to get your search terms and your site indexed.

6, Free publicity, from media press releases, does have some benefits, but they’re becoming less and less, in our humble opinion. Print space is increasingly valuable, so expect that at least you’ll get an online mention.

8. Sprending money on marketing doesn’t make a lot of sense if you can’t close the prospects. Talk to my friend Mike DiCarlo about that.

7. And lastly, be prepared to spend your own time doing publicity. Perfect those elevator pitches. Don’t take more than five or ten minutes for your formal presentation. Focus on lines that make potential investor say ‘tell me more’.

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4 Keys to Finding Hidden Leaders in Your Organization

This article appeared in Leadership now about a month ago, and we used it in Solutions Foorum, but I think it deserves wider dissemination. Besides, one of my private clients just acted on it an promoted a female inside sales person who showed signs of leadership to his production manager. So far, a month in, she’s justifying his faith in her.

But, here are some more signposts (ranked in Leading Blog’s order):

1. Demonstrated integrity. Does he/she display a strong ethical code? This one surprises me, and doesn’t say much about the ethics of other workers.

2. Lead Through Relationships. No surprise here: does he/she form and lead teams, sort of naturally? Strong interactive skills.

3. Focus on Results. What does it take to get the job done? My client was impressed that his inside person followed orders that might be difficult through production and smoothed out potential problems.

4. Remains Customer Focused. Duh. I would think this should be number one, but we’ve done lots of blogs about it. It’s a big picture focus.

So, there you have them. Now go put them to work on Monday.

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If it’s not on the agenda, we don’t talk about it

This article appeared in Fast Company, and is in support of organized meetings, rather than disorganized blabfests.

Meetings are one of the unfortunate byproducts of corporate life, but we’ve normally gotta have ‘em. The trick is to keep them short as possible and to the point of the meeting.

It’s probably more appropriate for larger companies, but agendizing is a good idea. When we run Solutions Forum group meetings, we do it off of both an agenda and a time limit for each member, so that each one’s issues can get discussed.

Further, someone in the group should take notes and distribute them to all the other participants, so they have a record of what  was committed to.

This all sounds rather structured and stifling, but it’s not. The key is the person who called the meeting moving it along.

Feedback on this one would be appreciated: any other items that are used out there to make meetings better.

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Make Time For Yourself

There was an article in Fast Company recently that struck a nerve: Bobbi Brown, the founder of the cosmetics line of the same name, did an article on how she gets away from running her business: exercise, going to the grocery store. Even reading about non-business topics.

I like vacations, doing something that you don’t normally do. For example, every two years, I treat myself to a long weekend at Ford Racing Experience. I have a couple of clients who go hunting. Another goes to dog shows. When my kids were little, once a year, I would gather them up and we’d go to a bunch of theme parks in California. My wife actually relished the time away from the kids, and I relished the time alone with them.

The idea is to get away from your business: believe it or not, if you have good people, you CAN be gone for a week or so. You’re not indispensable.

So, all you loyal readers out there, what do you do to get away?

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Here’s a Market Researcher

One of the persistent themes of this blog has been the need to do market research before you launch a new product with your existing customers, or the new customers that you hope to have.

Well, a guy named Richard Decker called me last night, as he does about once a quarter to catch up, and I thought it would be a good idea to publicize his background in the blog, because it reaches a far wider audience than just our clients here in Arizona and elsewhere.

Richard is a quant jock as we used to call them, which means he’s data driven to his conclusions. He will design the questionnaires that will get objective answers (possibly not the answers you want to hear) and are essential to moving forward with product or service decisions. He has done both B2C and B2B research. They can also do international research. His background is on his website, www.globalfieldresearch.

Richard’s email is rdecker@globalfieldresearch, and his phone number is 801-224-3994.

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View From The Top

The Wall Street Journal recently devoted an entire section, called C-Suite Strategies, to what leaders of corporations were thinking.

Frankly, it was a little underwhelming.

I expected to see great thoughts on gaining market share, pricing philosophy or people strategy and other worthy topics that bedevil CEOs, but that wasn’t present.

Instead, we get Joe Ripp, CEO of Time Magazine saying that People magazine allowed competitors to get a digital foothold, meaning somebody screwed up. No mention of what he’s going to do to fix it.

Or we have Susan Cameron CEO of Reynolds American saying a decade from now, people could be ‘vaping’ or smoking e-cigarettes. News flash Susan: they already are. What’s your plan beyond ecigs?

One we have someone named Melissa Ben-Ishay talking about how she apparently turned down venture capital to keep her bakery ‘true to itself’. Maybe the wrong v.c.’s were talking to her, maybe she’s afraid of growth. Either way, it looks odd. Why not have a smaller part of something much larger.

So, at least WSJ is covering some business strategy; the bad news is that they’re not probing very deeply, and the CEOs come off as looking rather shallow.

And, they missed a few topics: customer service is a major omission. How are they using social media, if they are?

Time for a follow-on article, guys. Let’s get a more positive outlook on things, not just how we screwed up.

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4 Keys to Finding Hidden Leaders in Your Organization

This is an excellent article in the Leadership Blog that rather had the punch line of the title buried in the body of the article.

My experience has been that leaders will assert themselves in meetings or in how they manage their groups, but the article makes the case that there are hidden leaders in your organization that you might not be aware of.

The point of the article was that hidden leaders demonstrate leadership through four key attributes:

1. They lead through relationships. They get along with others and value others, interacting well with others.

2. Focus on results. The hidden leader maintains a wide perspective and acts with independent initiative. They use the end to define the means, which can mean working outside strict procedures and processes to get results. Unorthodox comes to mind.

3. Remains Customer Purposed. This is different than customer service; it is an awareness of how an action in a specific job affects the customer.

4. Demonstrate Integrity. This was actually the first one listed, but you can see from the others that hidden leaders would act with integrity. They will be focused on the welfare of everyone, not just themselves and/or their team.

The article goes on to say that flatter organizations are more likely to have hidden leaders, but I should think, based on my own experience and that of our larger clients, that larger organizations are more likely to have them, but recognition might be more problematic.

So, here’s a little thinking for you over the weekend or this afternoon: who in your organization fits these characteristics.

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Mind the Mindfulness

Harvard Business Review had an article last week about how leaders should be mindful, which in their parlance meant that they should be aware of more things, rather than just the growth of their business, but to our way of thinking, they’re a little shortshighted. We thought there could be more facets to mindfulness.

1. Owners should be mindful of customers and what they’re telling you about your product or service, your staff or anything else. This is especially important as you grow, because you and maybe some associates birthed this puppy, and you’re inclined to think you know best. As you grow, you and your other founders may NOT know best.

2. Not knowing what’s best is where leadership comes in. You have to marshall efforts among your staff, customers and everyone else to figure out what is best for the business. Maybe new products, maybe new services on existing products.

3. If anything, you should become more mindful, at least in the dictionary definition, as you grow, because you’ll have more external and internal influences, and you have to be aware of all of them.

So, I think the point of the article was really that you should curb your own impulses to think everything you do or want to do is right, and go solicit opinions from anyone who might have some input on the matter before you.


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R.I.P. Radio Shack

If all the people mourning the death of Radio Shack had started a year or two ago, maybe management might have awakened from its slumber.

First of all, RS is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which means that someone could acquire them for next to nothing. I’ve seen numbers of $65 million for 7,000 stores. That’s dirt cheap.

But, RS seems to have a problem with what to put in the stores. They haven’t moved into the digital age, which is sad, because there was some Marketing Myopia going on. I can remember buying a TRS-80 for my kids to play on, which they loved, and later upgraded to a Mac. This should have been a clue to roll with the digital age. RS would have been a natural haven for software and digital geeks to congregate, an early precurson of Apple stores.

But, that was then; what about now? There are rumors that Google might buy them, and create a store concept to rival Apple stores; a rebranding as ‘Google Store’ is in order. The RS name is a little past its prime.

Radio Shack also has a cadre of about 1,000 hardcore franchisees, and they should be listened to; franchisees, because their money is at stake, usually have good ideas.

There’s another company here in Phoenix called MicroAge which could buy RS (which a little creative financing); the name is right, and the MicroAge stores have been a success. McKeever, give me a call.

Bottom line, it seems to me that a lot of non-techies would like to go into a physical storefront and touch what they’re buying. I think that’s the central concept behind Apple Stores, and it works.

So, maybe Radio Shack will live on.

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No War Words in the Workplace

Smart Brief on Leadership published an interesting article from the Sydney Morning Herald about the language of leaders (or anyone else for that matter) being too warlike.

It may be that since both countries are involved in wars, that language in the workplace suffers (open to questions on that one).

‘Killing it’ is to my mind the most often used, and most ridiculous. OK, so you’re doing well; no harm in just saying so, but it might strike some as boastful. I think younger workers are more guilty, as are those hot young entrepreneurs who just raised millions of dollars in the venture capital market.

It could also be that there’s just a surfeit of good words that people are used to using in public, so they fall back on war words.

So, think about your language and that of your employees.

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