Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Best. Quote. Ever

DemGen.com is a leading provider of virtual business, marketing, sales and support services for small businesses and entrepreneurs. They send out a daily motivational quote that is often quite thought-provoking.

Today's quote, which was contributed by DemGen's chief  growth ffficer, Gary Evans, sent a shiver down my spine.
"The obstacle is the path."

For me, this Zen proverb perfectly captures the route to success in a crowded marketplace. You will stand out and succeed to the extent that you confront your customers' biggest problems.

By choosing to go where the obstacles are, you will stake out a unique value proposition and make a name for yourself. Like Timothy Eaton with his fixed-price department store in the 19th century, or Apple with its "computer for the rest of us" (or iTunes, for that matter), or FedEx for conquering overnight package delivery.

The mantra for entrepreneurs is to look for problems no one else has solved - and solve them.

The obstacle is the path.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Pretty Good Joke

I used to print the occasional business joke on this site. Here, following that grand tradition, is the epic story of Accountants vs Engineers.This joke liberated from Bean Counter's site: http://www.dwmbeancounter.com/

Three accountants and three engineers are traveling by train to a conference. At the station, the three engineers each buy tickets and watch as the three accountants buy only a single ticket.
"How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?" asks an engineer.
"Watch and you'll see," answers an accountant.

They all board the train. The engineers take their respective seats but all three accountants cram into a rest room and close the door behind them. Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the rest room door and says, "Ticket, please."
The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on.
The engineers saw this and agreed it was quite a clever idea.

So after the conference, the engineers decide to copy the accountants on the return trip and save some money (knowing that accountants are clever with money) . When they get to the station, they buy a single ticket for the return trip.
To their astonishment, the accountants don't buy a ticket at all. 
"How are you going to travel without a ticket?" says one perplexed engineer.
"Watch and you'll see," answers an accountant.

When they board the train, the three accountants cram into a rest room and the three engineers cram into another one nearby.
The train departs. Shortly afterward, one of the accountants leaves his rest room and walks over to the rest room where the engineers are hiding.
He knocks on the door and says, "Ticket, please."

If you like that joke, click here and scroll down one screen to read "Accountant Story Two."
It's pretty good, too.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The secret of great customer service

The secret of great customer service is not to eliminate mistakes, but to train your staff to make the best of things when bad stuff happens.
At our sister blog, New Management Welcome, you can read a case study of airline ineptitude submitted by blogger Michael Arrington. Despite the ordeal he went through, however, one thing is clear: had the airline's staff acknowledged and commiserated with his problems, they could still have made things right.

Proof once again that it's not what happens to you that matters, but how you handle it.

Read the article here:  http://newmgt.blogspot.com/2012/01/orchestrated-indignities-of-air-travel.html

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Avengers fighting X-Men? Why you should care

Looking for new marketing ideas? Here’s are some ideas you could derive from Marvel Comics and its upcoming superhero, “Avengers vs. X-Men.”

In a recent blogpost for the National Post, I wrote about how Marvel is preparing to cash in on its blockbuster movie release in April, The Avengers. Comics are big business, and their marketing has become very sophisticated.

Coolest of all, Marvel is asking retailers to become personally involved. By declaring support for either the Avengers or the X-Men, retailers will receive appropriate promotional materials for decorating their stores based on the team they choose.

Here are a few of the promotional ideas you might consider based on Marvel's mighty marketing:

* Plan a special promotional “event” that highlights the best features of your family of products. (How can you combine your most popular products or services, or even pit them against each other, to create excitement or market tension?);

* Prepare well in advance;

* Develop more eye-catching promotional materials that appeals to customers’ passions as well as their basic needs;

* Offer product samples and previews to selected audiences to create market buzz;

* Encourage retailer or distributors to take sides with your products: how could you include them in your launch and related events? How could your promotion help them develop tighter relationships with their customers?

You can read the full story here:

How to make your company more intrapreneurial

Thirty years ago this year, companies started talking seriously about adopting more entrepreneurial traits in order to promote innovation and flexibility. Few succeeded.

But now I'm perceiving growing interest in intrapreneurship. In my latest column in the National Post, I ponder what this means, and offer a few tactics (from a recent book on the subject) for those interested in making their organizations more nimble, creative and successful.
Here's an excerpt: "When putting together entrepreneurial teams, make sure they have the right leadership; if necessary, bring in experienced outsiders or advisors. Understand that a promising initiative may require special recruitment and compensation practices, even if it drives the HR department crazy."

Bonus Reading: Here's an article I just found that offers insightful advice on preventing your company from becoming too rigid as it grows: Claudio Feser on "7 Secrets of Serial Innovators." You can read it at http://www.cnbc.com/id/45817288/7_Secrets_of_Serial_Innovators

Thursday, January 05, 2012

How to Hire "A Players"

You're trying to grow your business, but you know you need more help than the local labour market can provide. Face it – you need a superstar. Maybe even an American.
But how do you do it? Can you really lure an A player out of the land of the free into the Great White North.?

My column in this week’s National Post looks at how one Vancouver company hired two U.S. hotshots to grow its technical capability and U.S. marketing presence beyond what local talent could do.

The company is Coastal.com, the online eyeglass/contact lens retailer. My article includes interviews with CEO Roger Hardy to explore why Coastal felt it needed U.S. expertise, and with Coastal’s two recent all-star recruits to find out what it took to lure them to B.C. from the U.S.

Excerpt: “Aaron Magness says moving to Canada fulfilled his ambition to work in a more international context; in the United States, he notes, “you can get by very well only looking at the U.S. market.” At first, he says, he wasn’t “overly enthusiastic” about Coastal’s offer, but “as I saw the size of the marketplace and where it could go, I found it very exciting.”

You can read the full story here: http://business.financialpost.com/2012/01/03/recruiting-talent-from-the-valley/

Bonus read:
My NatPost blogpost about how to think more creatively. To get better results, says author and innocation expert Michael Michalko, stop focussing on the problem itself, and approach it from an outside-the-park point of view.

Excerpt: “Creative thinkers form more novel combinations because they routinely conceptually blend objects, concepts and ideas from two different context or categories that logical thinkers conventionally consider separate,” writes Michalko.

It’s a quick read at: http://business.financialpost.com/2012/01/04/breaking-through-your-creative-blocks/

Your Secret Weapon: Clarity

"Duct Tape Marketing" guru John Jantsch has posted a powerful article on his blog about the importance of "clarity" in business.

Clarity, he says, "is that strong and unwavering sense that our daily choices are grounded in an authentic sense of purpose... Without clarity everything we do is either an attempt to gain it or a stab at the hope that we are moving in the right direction."

Jantsch says every business, including his own, struggles to define clarity and execute on that perfect vision. "Until we are really clear and inspired by why we do what we do, whom we do it for and how to do it with complete and utter honesty – little else matters."

Clarity helps you focus on your core capabilities and passions, and squash nagging essentials that don't maximize your experience and resources. It makes leadership easier and helps clients buy.

Ironically, Jantsch stugles to define exactly what he means by clarity. But here are some of his examples of how it looks in action:
  • Clarity is turning purpose to profit
  • Clarity is leading with stories
  • Clarity is meeting the whole person
  • Clarity is amplifying without hype
  • Clarity is doing more with less
  • Clarity is anticipating needs
  • Clarity is measuring one perfect thing
  • Clarity is a potent brand promise
Read the full article (and the many enlightening comments that follow) at http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog/2012/01/02/the-single-greatest-factor-of-success-in-business/

I particularly like the comment that addresses just how hard clarity is to achieve. As the commenter writes: "The 'fog of war' has nothing on the 'fog of business'."