Give this away

30 05 2007

Right now I’d like you to copy, paste, print, and send the following quotation to everyone in your company.

Post it on the front door and in the break room.

Put it on every desk.

“Maybe the reason it seems that price is all your customers care about is…… that you haven’t given them anything else to care about.” Seth Godin Seth’s Blog: Price

Send it to all your suppliers.

Sure to start some discussions, finger pointing and overdue dialogue about the product or service you’re providing.

What do your customers think they are paying for why they buy your product?

What do you want your customers to CARE about, and pay for, when evaluating the purchase of your product?

What are you doing to make this happen?

Related Links

Seth Godin’s blog: Price

The power of something extra

The Easy Way





What does it mean to be a World Class business

5 12 2006

The CFE in Mexico (Federal Electricity Commission) has the slogan “Somos un empresa clase mundial” (We are a world class business) emblazoned on their vehicles.

What does “world class” mean in today’s global economy?

Why promote yourself with vague phrases and empty words?

Why participate in the game “I’ll tell you how great I am, and you pretend to believe me”?

“World class”, “leader”, “the world’s greatest”, “the best”, are examples of adjectives that no longer have marketing impact.

Self promotion and hype might even work negatively on the consumer.

Don’t tell people how great you are.

Tell them and teach them what you or your product can do.

Show them, surprise them and amaze them with your product or service.

Don’t pin the medals on yourself. Let your customers do it.

Related Links

The Easy Way

The “Lightning and Thunder” sales and marketing strategy

The Power of Something Extra





The power of something extra

5 10 2006

Here is a simple but powerful rule – always give people more that what they expect to get.” – Nelson Boswell

What defines an exceptional leader, a great manager, a super business, or remarkable experience? Something extra.

There are two words (one French and the other Spanish) that convey and represent the concept of something extra, lagniappe and pilon.

Lagniappe (hear it) is the word commonly used in Southern Louisiana and Mississippi. It’s defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as an extra or unexpected gift or benefit.

Pilon is the Spanish word used in the southern US and Mexico to describe a gratuity given by tradesmen to customers settling their accounts, it’s something extra, and not expected.

Incorporating something extra in our actions, results and as a business philosophy can be incredibly powerful.

Something extra:

  • forces creativity and innovation.
  • demands clear understanding what is expected of us by others.
  • focuses our attention of adding value, and not on cutting costs.
  • is positive.
  • is rewarded with good will and positive reactions.
  • will lead to continual improvement.
  • is fundamental to continued success.

Something extra is all about the little things and details.

Something extra is not just something “free”, it must arrive without anticipation, unexpectedly in order for it to be special and make an impact.

Something extra allows you to surprise the customer.

Something extra will make think about your results and expectations. It will make the difference between simple compliance and outstanding results.

Something extra will make you and your results different from all the others.

Embracing something extra and applying it on a daily basis, will make you great.

Giving something extra is not a difficult task. It’s all about applying small acts of innovation and creativity to your results, especially for routine and day-to-day tasks.

The power of something extra can change your life, your products, your processes and how others perceive you.

“If you want to be creative in your company, your career, your life, all it takes is one easy step… the extra one. When you encounter a familiar plan, you just ask one question: What ELSE could we do?” Dale Dauten

Related Links

Motivation – Heroic moments

What defines an exceptional leader





Cultural misunderstanding, it can happen to you.

15 09 2006

When we think of industry leaders in marketing and branding, Disney comes to mind. Geniuses in promoting their brand. Magnificent marketers. Leaders in the theme park industry. Universally recognized brand.

What could possibly go wrong with their expansion into Hong Kong and the Asian-Pacific market? Cultural misunderstanding.

Expansion into international markets and working with other cultures has created unforeseen headaches and problems for Disney once again. Disneyland struggles in Hong Kong

This is not the first time Disney has encountered cultural problems in international projects. EuroDisney also suffered from problems related to culture and customs that were not predicted or not taken seriously.

Disney is not alone. Virtually all organizations seeking to export and participate in international markets face steep learning curves about culture, customs and manners. Mistakes are made, at times very costly mistakes.

The lesson to be learned is to spend the time and money to understand your international markets and the culture where you will be doing business. It’s not enough to understand your brand and current customers. Never underestimate any cultural factor, and never assume that your model, project or way of life will be embraced fully and without reservations.

Related Links

Create great international business relationships

Stereotypes and global business





Reached our limits or just bored?

15 08 2006

Who or what is or will be the next NASA?

What organization today represents the maximum in scientific knowledge and cutting edge technology and goals?

Who is shooting for impossible goals, capturing our imagination, defining the limits of human achievement?

The companies are out there, we may even be working for them.  Why don’t we know about them?

Are the now too many of them, and our attention is distracted?

Or is it that we don’t care anymore?





How impersonal is your life and your world?

15 08 2006

We live in an impersonal world. I hear this constantly and wonder exactly what people mean when they say it. Is this a warning, an observation, a criticism, a declaration of failure in their ability to create and maintain relationships?

The world has always been impersonal, it’s just not possible that millions of human beings will relate to one another with familiarity. It’s an impossible scenario.

So why all the focus on how impersonal our lives are lately?

Is it a cry for help, a diagnosis and awareness that something is wrong or could be better?
It’s because we have isolated ourselves, by ourselves.

Impersonal is what YOU make it, it has to do with your interaction and participation with others. You are in control, you are not a victim.

Our access to wealth, communications and easy travel have allowed us to travel and move our residence often and meet thousands of people throughout the world during our lifetime. This was not possible 100 years ago.

We no longer live in Norman Rockwell’s Main street America, in a small town, where we know the neighbors, the teachers, the firemen, clerks and shop owners. We didn’t invest enough time in a safe stable environment in order to learn about others and become secure with ourselves and diversity.

In today’s world it’s so easy to walk away from ideas, behaviours and people who are not like us. We can now live by ourselves, in our own little world, designed by us and just for us. The only problem is, we are social creatures and we do want others in our lives. We have created a dilemma by isolating ourselves.

It’s just common sense that this exposure to so many people we don’t know, and who don’t know us, is bound to create a bit of tension or coldness in our initial contacts. Depending on how you respond and interact with others, these interactions can remain cold and impersonal, or might warm up and become pleasant and more personalized.

Simple acts that allow others to let their guard down are all that’s necessary. A smile, a hello or thank-you, a question or comment that initiates a conversation is sometimes all it takes to break the ice.

Relationships are made and created through trust and time. It’s about giving your time, showing interest, and learning. You cannot expect to become best friends with anyone in a week or month, be realistic. You cannot create a meaningful relationship by watching co-workers or neighbors through your window.

Proof of how easy it is to begin a relationship can be found with the Internet, social networks, chat-rooms, etc. All you have to do is throw out a comment or question and in a matter of minutes be involved in communication with a perfect stranger. Why then the complaints about an impersonal world? What’s different when you are not on-line, and are face to face with another human being?

If you think the world is cold and impersonal, take a look at your actions and behavior and determine if you are actively participating to open the door in your communications and relationships. Does your world revolve around you, your problems and your little internal universe? I’ll bet you think the world is impersonal.

Are you interested in giving, sharing, listening, learning and accepting others and their diversity? I’ll bet you think the world is a pretty fine place to be.

Related Links

Lonely and have no friends

What happens when we have no friends

Social networks, are they a part of your life?





International business travel, the end of an era?

11 08 2006

Once again the airline industry is about to have their security guidelines changed in order to accomodate new perceived threats by terrorists. The arrest of 24+ people in London involved in plotting terror attacks aboard airplanes is being heralded in the press and blog world as the end of business travel, the end of an era.

It’s true that business travellers will be the most affected group if new security regulations are put in place to limit carry-on luggage, liquids and electronic equipment. International business travellers will surely suffer most, 8 to 14 hour flights beg for a carry on bag crammed with items that may now be eliminated by new regulations.

The thought of making the trip from LA to Hong Kong, without my water bottle, my contact lens solution, saline spray, Ipod and reading material would make me seek an alternative. Perhaps I would pass the opportunity to meet face to face, and try to do the business via telephone, VOIP, or fax, accepting that fact that the outcome wouldn’t be the same. How many others would do the same?

I believe face to face meetings are an essential part of doing business, and more so for international relationships. But there comes a time when the trip itself is so painful and uncomfortable that we do seek alternatives that are easier and more pleasant, or we charge more in order to suffer the inconvenience.

Two thoughts come to mind:

1. How will global business be affected? How many of us will seek an supplier or customer that is closer to home? How will business change if international travel is severely affected? Will business travellers embrace communication technology in order to make things happen as they used to? Will international business travellers request more compensation, raising the cost of doing business?

2. What will the airlines do to adapt and make it safe and comfortable for their business travel customers? Will they provide, contact lens solution, creams, and bottled water for their customers as part of the standard service? How can they turn this gigantic lemon into lemonade?





Sales and marketing terrorism

10 08 2006

The recent media coverage of political terrorism throughout the world has me reflecting on terrorism and extreme sales and marketing tactics in the business world.

Every industry has individuals or organizations that use drastic, pointless, unethical or dangerous economic tactics in order to increase income or market share in the short term. This use of drastic and irresponsible actions can be called sales and marketing terrorism.

The goal of sales and marketing terrorism is to create immediate change, instill panic and chaos, or further the goals of one group who cannot or are not willing to work with the current system of rules, regulations and norms.

Many times the reaction to these isolated incidents will severely impact the industry, market or specific businesses. Reactions can result in increased government legislation, more government or industry intervention, increased costs of doing business, loss of revenue and reduced customer confidence in the organization or industry.

Some examples of “sales and marketing terrorism”:

A competitor who initiates a campaign of extreme discounts or low prices (dumping) in order to eliminate a competitor or increase market share.

A marketing campaign that uses lies and innuendo to reduce the reputation of a competitor or industry segment.

Products of extremely poor quality (below expected consumer beliefs or expectations) substituted for products known for their quality.

Don’t confuse sales and marketing terrorism with innovative ideas and paradigm shifts in how to do business. The difference is that a sales and marketing terrorist has no plan other than disruption.

Sales and marketing terrorism is a short term strategy or single event that has no regard for long term collateral consequences. They believe their actions will be justified because of short term increases in profit or market share. Rarely do they succeed, but often create chaos and disorder in the marketplace that have an impact on the industry and consumers that can last for a long time.





The “Lightning and Thunder ” sales and marketing strategy

7 08 2006

Thunder and lightning are impressive natural phenomenon that have the power to frighten, exhilarate, and inspire awe. We’ve seen severe lightning and thunderstorms hundreds of times, and yet can be continually surprised or shocked by the power and ferocity of the thunder and lightning.

Lightning is swift, if you blink you might miss it. It is always an unusual and unique form that appears in the sky. It is dazzling, it can light up the entire sky for an instant. We cannot predict where it will strike or what type of damage it may cause. It’s wild and uncontrollable. Unforgettable because it is unique, elusive and enormous.

Thunder always follows the lightning. You can’t miss it, whether it’s a sudden roaring clap or a booming rolling bass note. Thunder is often impressive, and one relates the sound of thunder to the power of the lightning bolt that precedes it. In fact thunder is all about power. It’s the announcement that lightning has passed through, and the thunder’s volume and duration represent an event that has passed away. People rarely forget a huge thunderclap.

Are you giving your customers thunder and lightning with your products, service, sales and marketing?

Do your customers see a brilliant “flash” from your organization, do they hear and feel the power of the thunder after the event?

Are you offering products or services that dazzle and amaze, that light up the customers sky for a moment?

Do they see the lightning and hear the thunder from your efforts?

If your organization is only creating cloudy skies or drizzle for your clients, it’s time to change and create something to make them sit up and take notice. Make some lightning and thunder.





Lonely and have no friends

7 08 2006

Once again we are reminded that America is becoming a lonely place to live.

More and more people are leading single lives. Moving frequently, working harder, and making fewer lasting and deep personal relationships. It is touching all ages, affecting the way we work, interact, live and even die.

It’s easier to not get involved with other people, are we losing friends and not making new one because we’re just lazy?
What’s behind this failure to make friend?

Is our work schedule so demanding that it leaves no time to develop relationships?

Are we too individualistic, and not willing to tolerate and accept others that might differ or interfere with our idea of how to live?

Shall we blame society, divorce, dysfunctional families and politics?

Perhaps it’s time to think about what friendships are and what can offer over the course of a lifetime.

What does it take to initiate, cultivate and maintain a friend and friendships?

Related

CNN: Lonely Nation

What happens when we have NO friends?

Do you have a destination in mind?





First jobs and “front line” workers – are we willing to accept mediocrity?

27 07 2006

Everyone starts out with a job at or near the “bottom rung” of the career ladder; initial positions are often low paying, low level of decision-making required, repetitive and/or part-time positions.

These first jobs are often “front line” jobs and require the following skills and abilities in order to do the job well:

Retail – Discipline and punctuality, attention to detail, active listening, power of persuasion, work under pressure, time-management, knowledge of products, knowledge of the corporate culture, problem solving, enthusiasm.

Restaurant, Food and Beverage – Discipline and punctuality, attention to detail, active listening, work under pressure, knowledge of products, knowledge of the corporate culture, communication skills, and enthusiasm.

Manufacturing, Assembly Line – Discipline and punctuality, consistency, attention to quality, communication skills.

Services – Discipline and punctuality, consistency, communication skills, power of persuasion, knowledge of products, knowledge of the corporate culture, problem solving abilities, enthusiasm.

It appears that the skills and abilities required for these positions are important and sought after for ANY position in the company no matter the title or salary level.

There is a massive difference in the quality of your experience when you interact with a superior retail employee, a motivated trained restaurant worker, or diligent member of a manufacturing company.  We all know this, so why are there more bad or neutral experiences as compared to the good or great ones?

Why doesn’t your organization spend more time on training, motivating and compensating these critical “front line” employees?  They are critical to the company’s image, sales and quality and eventual success or failure in the marketplace.

The argument used by many employers is that it doesn’t pay to train this level of employee.   Upper management is content and satisfied with paying low salaries, avoiding training costs, and live with high employee turnover…. and by logical association are willing to accept mediocrity and sub-standard performance in their organizations.

Perhaps the problem is not with the employer, but lies with the educational system.  Are we teaching and reinforcing the skills and abilities required for life and career success?  What is the role of our schools, to “baby-sit” for 12 years or prepare the minds and develop the skills required for success in the future?

Is it all about money? 

Are consumers and employers willing to accept mediocrity and poor service as a trade off for low costs?  

Is this as good as we want it?

Related 

First impressions, what can you do to change yours? 

Leadership is not about watching the competition 





First impressions, what can you do to change yours?

15 07 2006

First impressions do matter.

Seth Godin writes about his recent experience with a receptionist (Link), and has some observations on how this first contact could be made memorable, interesting and important.

I had two immediate thoughts after reading the piece. The first related to the Japanese custom of placing greeters at the front door of the department store….what message are they providing to customers by this action?
Second thought, what happens when everyone has a greeter, and the experience is no longer “special” but accepted as normal business procedure? You would notice if it was not there, and you would notice if it evolved and changed into something different.

Today everyone has a receptionist, it’s part of the normal business procedure, and as Seth points out, it is considered a necessary but usually low paying, low creativity position.

What could you do to change the receptionist and the first impression of your business into something special, different or unusual for the customer to remember?

Why aren’t you doing it?





Airlines – smokers only – what’s next

28 06 2006

Boing Boing has alerted us to what a first seems like a crazy idea….an airline for smokers. Smintair is announcing a smokers flight from Germany to Japan.

While this will ruffle the feathers of the anti-smokers worldwide, is there anything wrong with identifying a potential niche in the marketplace and offering a service to that specific group?

I think people are willing to pay more for air travel (especially international and long haul flights) if they can feel more comfortable.

I know my last international flights left me in physical (and mental) pain due to lack of seat and leg room, and seat companions. The situation is getting worse, and I’m not the only voice that says so.

Airlines could implement and offer any of the following ideas (and charge for it) to make international and long haul travel more pleasant.

1. A separate kids and family section (to the great relief of millions of business travellers). Before you start your complaining….I’ve got children and travelled a lot with them….trust me when I say this is a great idea.

2. A section on the plane dedicated to large (overweight) and tall travellers. It’s horrifying to the overweight or tall traveller and to seat companions when they have to squeeze into a tourist class seat for 8 to 12 hours.

3. An entire plane filled with only business and first class seats to top business destinations

When you see it happen, remember you saw it here first.

Related Links.
BBC News
Boing Boing
Smintair
Upgrade: Travel Better





The clients I don’t want

26 06 2006

In business the key is to find, promote and satisfy a specific customer for your specific product or service. Not every customer is desirable for your image or brand (see When your brand gets accepted by the wrong consumers

In consultancy the very same principal applies, and should be rigorously applied in the evaluation of a potential customer. If the customer is not happy with my intervention and actual results they will not recommend me to others, and far more important, may actively campaign against me.

Sell your service to those who can use it, or are willing to try it. Do not take on a customer who shows the following “red flags”. Openly discuss these concerns before signing the contact and accepting the job.

You should be 100% convinced that you understand the company’s goals and their resources dedicated to solving the problem. You should be 100% convinced that you can meet or provide the information required in order for them to meet their goal and objectives. You should be convinced that the organization understands exactly what you are offering them and the time required.

5 Reasons for a Business Consultant to say NO to a Potential Client

  1. An organization that hires a consultant to tell them they are doing everything correctly. This type of company would like to use a professional “outsider” to validate their behavior, methods and results.
  2. A company that is going through the motions, but not interested or involved in implementing your ideas. Discuss this with potential clients before hiring. Ask if there is money and time budgeted for implementing new ideas and procedures. Suggest hypothetical situations and ask how the company would react and why. What resources (time, personnel, money) are they willing to dedicate in order to solve the problem?

  3. A business that is in obvious imminent danger of bankruptcy, closure or elimination from the marketplace. These types of organizations are seeking any type of life preserver and willing to accept any help, but often times it’s too late. They are often desperate, broke, pressed for time, faced with massive problems that cannot be solved quickly, many times the internal atmosphere is corrupted by power struggles, bad attitudes, and low morale. This type of business is a challenge to a consultant, but my questions are always, why didn’t they ask for help and advice when the problem took on serious proportions, why did they wait? How will it reflect on you as a consultant if you take the job and cannot turn the situation around? Do they have the mental, emotional and financial resources to follow and implement your ideas?
  4. An organization that is in an obvious leadership battle, they want to use you and your ideas to “overpower” their internal adversaries and strengthen their own powerbase. Who is hiring you? What position do they have in the company? What are their reasons for hiring a consultant? Who is supporting the idea to bring in a consultant and who is against it? Why?
  5. A company that does not have a clear reason or objective for hiring a consultant. There are great reasons to bring in a consultant; to hear new ideas, to solve a specific problem, to provide motivation and education, to identify potential problems or opportunities, to get an professional opinion from outside of the corporate structure just to name a few. If the potential client cannot clearly explain what they want or what they expect you to do, watch out.

It’s hard to walk away from a customer with money, but it’s even worse to take the job when you can’t deliver the expected results.





What happens when we have NO friends?

23 06 2006

A sociological study of changes in American's personal networks and close friends, provides some very interesting food for thought.   I don't think the results of the study are earthshaking news, we are all aware that our lifestyles and mobility prevent us from forming close personal ties, and our present personal and social networks are very different from our past. 

The study provides the evidence, now I'd like you to think about the future.

What will these mean for the US society in the next 20-40 years if it continues?  What happens in a society when these relationships are no longer available?  What are the "new scenarios"  and what changes in behaviour do they provoke?

How will this affect our work, lifestyle, health, politics and consumer habits?  What opportunities or challenges are created for workers and businesses now and into the future? 

Is this an international phenomenon or limited only to the US?  

How is this affecting you and your family?  Is it noticeable?  Is it only nostalgic to think about being part of a larger social network or are there "real" consequences when it becomes smaller? 

A short quote from the article in the ASA News, June 16, 2006 says:

"AMERICANS' CIRCLE OF FRIENDS IS SHRINKING
Washington, DC —Americans’ circle of close confidants has shrunk dramatically in the past two decades and the number of people who say they have no one with whom to discuss important matters has more than doubled, according to a new study by sociologists at Duke University and the University of Arizona.

“The evidence shows that Americans have fewer confidants and those ties are also more family-based than they used to be,” said Lynn Smith-Lovin, Robert L. Wilson Professor of Sociology at Duke University and one of the study’s authors.

“This change indicates something that’s not good for our society. Ties with a close network of people create a safety net. These ties also lead to civic engagement and local political action,” she said." America's Circle of Friends is Shrinking, American Sociological Association

Other Mentions on the Net:

American Sociological Association

Study, America's Social Contacts Slipping





When your brand gets accepted by the wrong consumers

16 06 2006

Here is an interesting dilemma. Frederic Rouzaud, managing director of Louis Roederer, apparently made some comments regarding the use and promotion of their premium champagne, Cristal, by rappers. This has offended the rap community, and Jay-Z is now leading a boycott of the product within the community.

CNN has the article: Jay-Z leads Cristal boycott


It appears that Louis Roederer believes that the rappers may be harming the elite, sofisticated image that Cristal has created.

Forget for a minute that champagne, rappers and different cultures and languages are involved. What happens when your product becomes tied to a group of consumers that does not fit into your marketing and product image?
Do you push them away or create a new image to include them?

Is the publicity and possible controversy good or bad for your brand?

Does this strengthen your brand in the eyes of your target customers, or weaken it?





Proof that “offer less and sell more” works

15 06 2006

I knew it. For years I thought I was the only one who suffered from anxiety, stress and indecision when faced with hundreds of choices when I went to the store. I never felt great about my decision, always wondering if I made an error….should I have bought the other one(s)?

Barry Schwartz, in the June 2006 issue of the Harvard Business Review has an article that finally verifies that I am not alone.

More Isn't Always Better, Harvard Business Review June 2006, Barry Schwartz

A quotation from Barry's article "Marketers assume that the more choices they offer, the more likely customers will be able to find just the right thing. They assume, for instance, that offering 50 styles of jeans instead of two increases the chances that shoppers will find a pair they really like. Nevertheless, research now shows that there can be too much choice; when there is, consumers are less likely to buy anything at all, and if they do buy, they are less satisfied with their selection."
If this is true (and I have no reason to doubt it), what impact would it have on your product development and your marketing efforts?

How modern and insightful the established Sears Roebuck idea of "Good – Better – Best" marketing. Limiting product choices to three clearly distinct products, differentiated by price and quality. Simple, effective, retro-revolutionary.
Is it time to focus on creating sharp distinctions between your products or services, reducing choices and making it easier for the customer to buy and feel good about the purchase?