Friday, August 31, 2007

Little Labor Friday

Happy Happy Friday before Labor Day! In honor of "doing very little," please note my new fee structure for today only:

1. Simple .50
2. Guesses $ 1.00
3. Intelligent $ 2.50
4. Honest $ 5.00

Dumb looks are still free

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Business advice from Van Halen

Dreams from their "5150" album produced in 1986--

"World turns black and white
Pictures in an empty room
Your love starts fallin' down
Better change your tune

"You reach for the golden ring
Reach for the sky
Baby, just spread your wings

"We'll get higher and higher
Straight up we'll climb
We'll get higher and higher
Leave it all behind

"Run, run, run away
Like a train runnin' off the track
Got the truth bein' left behind
Falls between the cracks
Standin' on broken dreams
Never losin' sight
Well just spread your wings

"We'll get higher and higher
Straight up we'll climb
We'll get higher and higher
Leave it all behind

"So baby, dry your eyes
Save all the tears you've cried

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Branding Boundaries

Understanding the boundaries of your brand. What you can or cannot do and what you should or should not do with your brand when it comes to launching second brands.

In my consulting practice, I work with big companies, small companies, old companies and new companies. While the actual laws of branding never change, what laws are most relevant for a particular client often do. What might work for one brand is not necessarily going to work for another.

The most frequent troubles occur with the law of the second brand. Launching a second brand is a powerful tool in expanding the power, success and growth of a company. However, companies often misunderstand when a second brand is necessary. Companies that should launch second brands often don’t and companies that shouldn’t launch second brands often do.

A company should launch a second brand when its initial brand is so strongly positioned in the mind that the new idea will undermine its meaning. But sometimes launching a second brand while strategically sound would undermine the focus of a company and overtax management’s time and attention.

Here are five brand attributes to analyze before your company launches a second brand:
1. SIZE- Bigger companies have more to gain from second brands. Smaller companies have more to lose from second brands.
2. AGE- Older companies need to launch second brands to enter new markets. Newer companies need to dominate an existing market before moving on to a new market.
3. COMPETITION- Companies with many focused competitors need second brands more than do companies with fewer line-extended competitors.
4. OPPORTUNITY- The bigger the opportunity, the more important it is to use a second brand. The less significant the opportunity, the more confusion a second brand will cause.
5. RESOURCES- The man who chases two rabbits catches neither. Unless he hires another man. Can your company afford the resources required to launch a second brand? Resources don’t just mean the money for a second marketing budget, but also the additional drain on management’s time and attention.

Coca-Cola would have been wise to make Diet Coke a new brand instead of a line-extension. While Snapple would have been foolish to give Diet Snapple a new brand name. (Big companies should generally launch second brands. Small companies should not.)

General Electric, a company over a century old, can survive with one brand because in most categories it does not faced focused competition. But GE got slaughtered in mainframe computers because it faced IBM and other focused competition. (Companies with focused competitors need second brands.)

Toyota needed a second brand to move up-market into luxury automobiles (Lexus) and a third brand to move down-market into cool, hip machines for the younger crowd (Scion.) Lexus smartly keeps its brand focused by using model numbers instead of new brand names for its sedans, SUVs and sports cars. (Both luxury cars and cool cars are big opportunities that deserved new brands.)
Understanding the world of branding is important, but knowing where your brand (and therefore your company) can go is even more important.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

In the effort to capture our WHOLE audience...

Brands (and companies) sometimes have to join forces.

(You've just gotta love Tom Fishburne.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Opportunity is Knocking...

... but sometimes I don't answer. The following is a monologue on the top three words/phrases I LOVE to hear.

"Thou strong seducer, Opportunity,"
says 17th century English poet and literary critic, John Dryden. And, I have to agree with him. How many times do you sit in meetings and attend conferences where someone is attempting to lure the audience with the siren song of OPPORTUNITY. Coincidentally, or maybe predictably, "opportunity" has the same number of syllables as "oh, $#!t, I screwed up."

My other favorite word (yes, I've already had a sarcastic sandwich this Monday morning) is PARTNER. People are always wanting me to partner on their projects. 99.999% of the time means me giving away all my intellectual property for a long period of time (like years) in hopes of successfully launching their company, and then I get to enjoy a smaller percentage of the profits. Well, it was their idea in the first place. I'm supposed to disregard the fact that they never could have gotten it off the ground without help. Ugh.

Finally, "I'D LOVE TO PICK YOUR BRAIN" about my idea/ my business/ my whatever. I know that attorneys, accountants, psychiatrists, and other professionals whose work IS their brain experience this onslaught almost everyday. I know that most people don't mean any harm. They aren't trying to actually steal from my livelihood; they just need a little enlightenment. So, my response is, "I'd love to sit with you and learn more about your idea so that I can give you some ideas to assist in your project. That's why I created my 'Power Hour.' Just email me a few times this week that are convenient for you. I'll send you an invoice for the $250 consulting fee and we'll nail down a time and location. Sound good?"

... My, my, my. Yes, I DO love it when I hear the knock at the door.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Favorite ad-copy Friday!

As a marketer, I'm always on the lookout for companies with print ads that REALLY grab you. Maybe it's their images, maybe it's their creativity. Most of the time, for me, it's their wordsmithing. Here's just a few of my favs...

"Being boring is a choice. Those mild salsas and pleated khakis don't buy themselves."

"Confidence doesn't whisper. It grabs a bullhorn."

"Dear Ketel One Drinker-- If aliens ever land here, chances are, you'll be one of the people they want to talk to."

"Life is a banquet, and most dumb bastards are starving to death. Get thee to the table... your seat is waiting."

"Look behind you... that's the pecking order."

"Prefers now to never. Always plays hard to forget."

"Live vicariously through no one."

Have a great weekend!!

Coming at you from all sides

As a business owner, is this how you feel sometimes? At a crossroads?? Not sure where the market is taking you next???
With all the uncertainty in the stock market lately, and the implied questionability of U.S. current economic strength, entrepreneurs need to have a strong backbone (and stomach) for sticking to their Unique Value Proposition.
Therefore, I give you "the 10 Ds" in launching and succeeding in business:
1. Dream
2. Decision
3. Do
4. Determination
5. Dedication
6. Devotion
7. Details
8. Destiny
9. Dollars
10. Distribute

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Image Adjustment? Market Shift? Redefining the Strategic Core

Yes, it is vitally important to stay true to your company's strategic core. However, with technology innovations and globalization changing the business environment at lightening speeds, fundamental redefinition is sometimes a necessity rather than a distraction.

Revamping your core strategy is one of the greatest challenges a CXO can face, and with all the pressure and marketplace uncertainty, it can be tempting to reach for something entirely out of the box — leap into a new market, attempt major acquisitions, or push for massive corporate innovation.

Yet, why not take a calm inventory of your company’s existing strengths and capabilities. Most likely your company has hidden assets that can be tapped to get you through even the most fundamental business changes. These assets generally fall into three categories:
1. undervalued business platforms
2. untapped customer insights
3. underexploited capabilities

Prime example: Apple. When the company’s computer sales flagged, it used its underexploited capability to produce “cool” user interfaces to develop the iPod (and now the iPhone). These new devises now account for 50% of the company’s revenues.

So, if your current growth strategy is no longer working and you're facing the need for a strategic overhaul , before you go flying off into the wild blue yonder, stop a moment to consider if your company has hidden, underutilized assets closer to home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Life Flies By and Dreams Wave Back

Thoughts from Mark Stephens, CEO of MSCO. I can't agree with him more...

"Everyone has a dream. Martin Luther King's was a Mother of a dream. Yours may appear petty in comparison…to everyone but you. It is yours, and it is magnificent, sweeping, and grand. But the question is, will it ever make the cosmic transition from dream to reality? The truth is, life races by and the dreams wave back. And you keep promising that you will turn the dream into reality, but you don't.

"You blame it on the gods and circumstances and religion and tradition and other people, but it’s you that builds the wall you refuse to pass through. Just you.

"I walk into countless meetings and hear of dreams. I fly in planes and hear of dreams. I attend conferences and hear of dreams. And, I love dreamers beause they have the electricity of life. But, so often it remains static electricity. 'My career would be what I really want it to be, but...', 'My company would break new ground in our industry and achieve truly dramatic breakthroughs, however...'

"Dreams are like snowflakes. They dance from the sky and powder the world with possibilities, and in most every case, they melt and disappear, leaving nothing but what might have been.

"Rosa Parks dreamed of sitting in the front of a bus. And, with the threat of death all around her, that is precisely what she did. At this moment, in companies and firms and homes around the world, billions of dreams are out there, in holding patterns, waiting to take flight. Will yours?

"Will life softly fly by? Will your dreams wave back? Like snowflakes of the mind..."

Monday, August 20, 2007

How to Validate an Idea

Here's the scenario: I have a new client who is working on "tightening up" their business idea. At this time, they need validation from people related to their industry. So far, they haven't been unable to connect to the right people for validation, and they've reached a stage where they think they can't go ahead with the idea. It's like a dead-end - wanting to launch an idea but can't validate it and yet don't want to proceed without validating it. Advice?

My proposal to them:
1) Organize a focus group. For each of the criteria described in the paper, ask the following questions : a) do you personaly consider this criteria important b) do you think our idea fulfils this criteria c) do you think our idea fulfils more this criteria than some other competiting ideas that you're aware of.
Marks would go as follows : strongly disagree = 0.25 / partially disagree 0.5 / half agree & half disagree = 1 / partially agree = 2 / strongly agree = 4

2) For each respondent multiply all the answers to get a global mark. Calculate the average global mark on all respondents and the root mean square. The average will tell you if the idea can work : the higher above one, the best chances. The root mean square will show you if it will work on all the targeted population or if you will only reach a sub segment of it.

3) By finding the commonalities between those who'll adopt the idea, you may be well inspired to take note of the demographic details (age, gender and all kind of details that you may find relevant) that will help in refining the idea.

4) Share the idea with members of an industry professional association and garner their feedback. Identify who is to benefit from this idea. Then, identify who among this segment will be open to play a part in validating it.

Throughout this process, it is important to let go of any selfish interest and agree to part with a little ownership or credit to the validating party as well. Keep the emphasis on the benefit that this idea will bring to the validating party as well.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: If you are unable to identify people who might benefit from the idea, then maybe you reall don't have an idea at all.

Friday, August 17, 2007

What Jack Knew

From Seth Godin's EXCELLENT new book, "The Dip"--

"When Jack Welch remade GE, the most fabled decision he made was this: If we can't be #1 or #2 in an industry, we must get out.

"Why sell a billion-dollar division that's making a profit quite happily while ranking #4 in market share? Easy. Because it distracts management attention. Because it sucks resources and capital and focus and energy. And most of all, because it teaches the people in the organization that it's okay not to be the best in the world.

"Jack quit the dead ends. By doing so, he freed resources to get his other businesses through the Dip.

"If I could offer just one piece of inspiration, it's this: THE DIP IS THE REASON YOU'RE HERE.
Whether you're lifting weights or negotiating a sale or applying for a job or launching a new business, you've made a huge investment. You've invested time and money and and effort to get to this moment. You've acquired the equipment and the education and the reputation... all so you can confront this Dip, right now.

"It's not enough to survive your way through this Dip. You only get what your deserve when you embrace the Dip and treat it like the opportunity that it really is."

And, again, the people say... AMEN

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New Role for CMOs

From where I sit, I see that many CMOs have narrowly defined roles that only emphasize advertising, brand management, and market research. Which is fine, but a truly effective CMO has a broader leadership role in planning critical business strategy, managing public profiles, and identifying new capabilities (products/services).

Marketing is the result of everything a company says and does. It's how they provide consumers with a consistent, personalized experience across the many available channels of communication. For companies to keep customers, they have to be able to interact with them on all the channels customers use. Nothing about marketing is simple anymore and it requires a broader and deeper set of skills and roles to successfully lead a company.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Treadmill Tuesday???

"I am not a hamster, and life is not a wheel."

Say... breathe... repeat.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Change is Good

Ideas taken from The McKinsey Quarterly interview with "the strategy's strategist," Richard Rumelt:

Most corporate plans have little to do with strategy. They are simply three-year or five-year rolling resource budgets and some sort of market share projection. This process should be separate from strategy work. Real strategy work starts with identifying changes.

For example, right now, the advent of 3G cellular technology makes it possible to deliver streaming video over mobile phones. Cell phone makers, cellular carriers, and media companies all need to develop strategies for exploiting this change. Even though these changes have long-term consequences, companies need to take a position now... invest in resources that will be made more valuable by the changes that are happening.

Now, you definitely need to have a "fasten your seatbelt" mentality. Speculative "what if" judgments are the essence of strategic thinking, and they can be the starting points for taking a position. Can you predict clearly enough which positions will pay off? Not easily.

Strategic thinking is essentially a substitute for having clear connections between the positions we take and the economic outcomes. You can't get rid of ambiguity and uncertainty-- they are the flip side of opportunity (and company success).

Friday, August 10, 2007

Thought-for-the-Day Friday

"The first and greatest commandment is: Never let them scare you."

A bold move will always stand out compared to the usual treatment afforded by the "timid husband," the "timid lover," the "hesistant suitor." That is how you want it. If everyone were bold, boldness would quickly lose its allure. Luckily for you (and me!) hardly anyone is anymore.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Art of Bootstrapping

A friend of mine who does financial/angel/VC consulting brought an interesting idea to me last week. Actually, it's not the idea that's so interesting as the circumstances.

A former CFO of a major company here in Dallas decided she had had enough corporate life. She's taken a few months off and is now ready to embark on a new adventure... founding her own non-profit. Now, this woman has 20+ years of "big company" all over her resume . I'm not saying she doesn't have a great idea and I'm certainly not saying that she can't pull it off. It's just that anyone who's thinking of making such a radical leap in business culture really needs to know what they're getting in to. Which got me thinking...

From Guy Kawasaki's blog:
"Someone once told me that the probability of an entrepreneur getting venture capital is the same as getting struck by lightning while standing at the bottom of a swimming pool on a sunny day. This may be too optimistic.

"Let's say that you can't raise money for whatever reason: You're not a 'proven' team with 'proven' technology in a 'proven' market. Or, your company may simply not be a 'VC deal'--that is, something that will go public or be acquired for a zillion dollars. Finally, your organization may be a not-for-product with a cause like the ministry or the environment. Does this mean you should give up? Not at all.

"With that in mind, I give you THE ART OF BOOTSTRAPPING
1. Focus on cash flow, not profitability. The theory is that profits are the key to survival.
2. Forecast from the bottom up. Most entrepreneurs do a top-down forecast
3. Ship, then test. I can feel the comments coming in already: How can you recommend shipping stuff that isn't perfect? Blah blah blah. ”Perfect“ is the enemy of ”good enough.“
4. Forget the ”proven“ team. Proven teams are over-rated--especially when most people define proven teams as people who worked for a billion dollar company for the past ten years.
5. Start as a service business.
6. Focus on function, not form. Mea culpa: I love good ”form.“ MacBooks. Audis. Graf skates. Bauer sticks. Breitling watches. You name it.
7. Pick your battles. Bootstrappers pick their battles. They don't fight on all fronts because they cannot afford to fight on all fronts.
8. Understaff. Many entrepreneurs staff up for what could happen, best case. ”Our conservative (albeit top-down) forecast for first year satellite radio sales is 1.5 million units. We'd better create a 24 x 7 customer support center to handle this. Guess what? You sell no where near 1.5 million units, but you do have 200 people hired, trained, and sitting in a 50,000 square foot telemarketing center.
9. Go direct. The optimal number of mouths (or hands) between a bootstrapper and her customer is zero. If you don't create demand, all the distribution in the world will get you bupkis.
10. Position against the leader. Don't have the money to explain your story starting from scratch? Then don't try. Instead position against the leader.
BONUS #11. Take the “red pill.”This refers to the choice that Neo made in The Matrix. The red pill led to learning the whole truth. The blue pill meant waking up wondering if you had a bad dream. Bootstrappers don't have the luxury to take the blue pill. They take the red pill--everyday--to find out how deep the rabbit hole really is."


Monday, August 6, 2007

Campaign Trail Women vs. CEO Women

I read the following excerpts from Peggy Noonan's Wall Street Journal column, "Declarations," this weekend, and I just had to share... my commentary in italics.

"It's gotten catty out there. Jeri Thompson is a trophy wife, as is Cindy McCain. Michelle Obama is too offhand and irreverant when speaking of her husband, and Judith Giuliani is a puppy-stapling princess.

"Why these stories? Because it's August and no one wants to think. Because the campaign is too long and reporters have to write about something. Because cable news has an insatiable need for guests, and if you write a story cable producers can easily find tape for, you get to go on Olbermann or O'Reilly and seem to publicize your paper/magazine/e-zine/blog/whatever which will please media bosses.

"None of these stories above have come from blogs, but from Pulitzer Prize winners at major newspapers and veteran journalists at magazines. For all their hrrumphing about the crucial role they play in democracy (and it is crucial), the mainstream media is full of the cattiest humans in history.

"However, it is also true that the press is paying attention to prospective first ladies because in an age in which presidents are always in your face, first ladies are often in your face. It actually matters if people like them, and it can hurt, on the margins, if they don't. These days wins are marginal."

Which got me to thinking... Do we judge "women-in-charge" (i.e. CEOs and Chairmen) by the same standards we desire from "women-behind-the-man-in-charge" (i.e. political candidates)? Is this fair?

"Americans would prefer a first lady who doesn't seem like she ever hungered for it. They don't want someone who needs the job, they want someone who puts up with it with grace. We'd rather elevate someone who's making a sacrifice, not someonw ho's grabbing a rung. " Wow... grace... sacrifice. Is THAT what Carly Fiorina was missing? Hmmm

"Detached good nature goes far. Mrs. Bush should be studied. She never attacked, rarely defended, and only carefully shared." Suze Orman... take notes.

"They do not want your drama. They do not want your mess. They don't want unneeded temperament, high jinks, vanity, or acting out. If you can't be normal, imitate normal." Martha Stewart coming to mind? Anyone... anyone?? I think not.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

10 Questions to Ask a Consultant BEFORE You Hire Them

Finding one isn't that difficult, however, finding one that fits you and your company is another story...

One of the reasons the task can be so difficult is the diversity of consultants' backgrounds and their methods. Just some of the areas in which consultants can differ are educational background, number of years experience, types of industries served, information provided to you and its timing, costs for fees and travel expenses, and personality.

While all the above are important, I list personality for a reason. No matter how qualified a consultant's glorious resume appears, if you cannot work closely with them, and feel comfortable relying upon their advice, you won't receive the benefits of seeking outside advice in the first place.

Before you decide to hire a consultant, prepare your list of questions to learn as much as possible about your potential hire before taking the plunge. This list will vary depending on your specific needs and goals, however, the following is a guide that can be used until you have developed your own questions.

1. Does your web site cover your background and methods?
2. What makes your firm ideally suited for this project?
3. What differs in your approach from your competition?
4. How will you keep me informed and keep yourself on target?
5. If selected, when could you begin? When will you complete the project?
6. How much will it cost in fees? Travel expenses?
7. What results can I expect?
8. What kind of support do you provide after the the project is completed? How long?
9. Do you offer a guarantee or warranty of your services?
10. Specifically, who will be involved in the project? May I see their resumes? Who will supervise them?

In addition, there are questions you should be asking yourself.
1. Does this firm's values match those of my company?
2. Do I feel comfortable accepting advice from this person?
3. Does this consultant really listen?
4. How will my staff react to this person?
5. Were the verbal answer I received in line with their web site presentation?

So, what is the key to finding the right firm for you? Their web site is a good place to start since often the site's appearance is a reflection of the firm's personality, professionalism, and approach to a client's needs. Just look for the firm and the person with whom you are the most comfortable.

Friday, August 3, 2007

All the Marketing in the World Can't Fix...

The longer I am in business the more I realize the relationship between corporate environment and human performance is critical.

In fact, my experience has been that out of any ten-person team normally assembled you're lucky to get one star solid performer, three decent ones, and a lot of folks who are just waiting for the 5 o'clock whistle. Further, everybody seems to be in denial about it.

Bob Sutton, over at his blog, has covered his new book "The No A$$hole Rule" and triggered an avalanched of heartfelt outpourings on bad treatment. Some of the stories of a$$holes run amok and bad people policy are....what? Startling, heartrending, make you shake your head?

Bottom line:
1. Bad people policy makes no rational sense and damages corporate performance in the short- and long-runs.
2. Bad people policy has a measurable impact on both enterprise value and internal efficiency and effectiveness. It is NOT judgmental though judgment as to consequences is required.

In other words, the costs and benefits of strategic investment in investing in people can be thought of in the same way as we do other strategic choices. We all know that we don't like working in bad environments, and our collective tribal knowledge is that it's bad for us, for the company and for the stock.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

It's all just a little bit of history repeating

The power of relationships. Especially the relationships that are formed when we are young.

Today, I had lunch with my mother, my best friend from high school, and her mother. We haven't all seen each other together in 20 years. Amazing how you can just pick up right where you left off and slide right back into those comfortable topics and familiar patterns of speech when you've shared common history.

Which makes me wonder... just how powerful is nostalgia in a marketing strategy? Do we still care about back-stories? Will consumers always remain loyal or is the landscape shifting to the "new" and unique?