Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year's Eve!!!

While the rest of the business world is writing "serious" blogs about 2008 predictions and such...

Here's to wishing you and your company the most prosperous year ever!!! (and all the pencils you could possibly want)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Eve!

Yes, we know from the media and retail reporters that this has been a "ho-hum" Christmas as far as spending goes. However, I just didn't see it.

All of my shopping experiences this year were friendly, helpful, quick, and pretty darn painless. And, with the three days prior to Christmas accounting for as much as 15 percent of holiday sales, there's a lot of business left on the table. While the day after Black Friday starts off the season, the most intense sales volume comes in the few days before Christmas.

Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas and a toast to all the shopping days AFTER the 25th!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Online Alignment Enlightenment

Positioning is not what you do to a product... it's what you do in the mind of a prospect. A McKinsey global survey of marketers shows that companies are using digital tools- from Web sites to wikis- most extensively for customer service, but also for online advertising, pricing, and product development.

Marketers have begun to turn to social networks for insights into what consumers want, yet is this information accurate? Whether the customer researches through their social channels or whether they use a search engine may depend on the number of friends they have. The information present in those real or virtual connections is becoming a part of a customer's purchase-related activity. But, is harnessing the collective consciousness relevant to your company's bottom line? Is this information affecting everyday transactions?

Aligning your business to maximize connections employing reputation, identity, and trust are increasingly like to produce hard sales. Take the time to participate in and explore social networks that are relevant to your customer base.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Out of the Mouth of...

... my partner, James Ballard,

"I've realized that I've become a big dude in a small space. I need to push myself into a bigger fish tank and swim like a Mother-F#(-%*r!"

Hmmm... not very eloquent, James, yet you're right on the money, honey.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Such an "Arrogant Bastard"

Having drinks with friends last night at the W and one of them ordered "Arrogant Bastard Ale" I immediately proceeded to fall in love with this product. Not because of the liquid contents (I can't stand beer... hard liquor gal), but because of the irreverent-ness of the branding. To quote the label:

Tagline-- "You're Not Worthy"
Story-- "This is an aggressive beer. You probably won't like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or the sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory... maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it's made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beer will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make a beer taste better. Perhaps you're mouthing your words as you read this."
Ingredients-- "Nothing but the finest Barley, most aggressive Hops, clearest Water, our proprietary Yeast strain, and abundant Arrogance."

This company GETS IT! Stand up, stand out, shoot your mouth off, be different, be daring, anything... just please don't be safe.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Frustrated Friday

Catching a little bit of FoxNews this morning just frustrated me with politicians...

The next time you hear a politician use the word 'BILLION' in a casual manner, think about whether you want the 'politicians' spending YOUR tax money. A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of its releases.

A. A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
B. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.
C. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
D. A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.
E. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate our government is spending it.

While this thought is still fresh in our brain, let's take a look at New Orleans. It's amazing what you can learn with some simple division. Louisiana Senator, Mary Landrieu (D), is presently asking Congress for $250 BILLION to rebuild New Orleans. Interesting number, what does it mean?

Well, if you are one of 484,674 residents of New Orleans (every man, woman, child), you each get $516,528. Or, if you have one of the 188,251 homes in New Orleans, your home gets $1,329,787. Or, if you are a family of four, your family gets $2,066,012.

Washington, D.C .. HELLO!!! ... Are all your calculators broken??
Tax his land; Tax his wage; Tax his bed in which he lays. Tax his tractor; Tax his mule; Teach him taxes is the rule. Tax his cow; Tax his goat; Tax his pants; Tax his coat. Tax his ties;Tax his shirts; Tax his work; Tax his dirt. Tax his smoke; Tax his drink; Tax him if he tries to think. Tax his booze; Tax his beers; If he cries, tax his tears. Tax his bills; Tax his gas; Tax his notes; Tax his cash. Tax him good and let him know, that after taxes, he has no dough. If he hollers, tax him more. Tax him until he's good and sore. Tax his coffin; Tax his grave; Tax the sod in which he lays. Put these words upon his tomb, 'Taxes drove me to my doom!' And when he's gone, we won't relax, we'll still be after the inheritance TAX!!

Then, there's: Accounts Receivable Tax / Building Permit Tax / CDL License Tax / Cigarette Tax / Corporate Income Tax / Dog License Tax / Federal Income Tax / Federal Unemployment Tax / Fishing License Tax / Food License Tax / Fuel Permit Tax / Gasoline Tax / Hunting License Tax / Inheritance Tax / Inventory Tax / IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax) / IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax) / Liquor Tax / Luxury Tax / Marriage License Tax / Medicare Tax / Property Tax / Real Estate Tax / Service charge taxes / Social Security Tax / Road Usage Tax (Truckers) / Sales Taxes / Recreational VehicleTax / School Tax / State Income Tax / State Unemployment Tax / Telephone Federal Excise Tax / Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax / Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax / Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax / Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax / Telephone State and Local Tax / Telephone Usage Charge Tax / Utility Tax / Vehicle License Registration Tax / Vehicle Sales Tax / Watercraft Registration Tax / Well Permit Tax / Workers Compensation Tax.

STILL THINK THIS IS FUNNY? Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids. What happened? Can you spell 'politicians!' And, I still have to 'press1' for English.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Uneasy Does It, Part 2

"The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore."
Vincent Van Gogh (1853--1890), Dutch painter

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Uneasy Does It

"I do everything I can to disrupt my comfort zone." Brian Grazer, film producer

My first entrepreneurial venture started in the fall of 1983. I was 14 years old, had just made my high school's freshman cheer squad, and I was asked by a "cheerleader mom" to coach her daughter for the following Spring's tryouts. I had never considered cheering as a job opportunity before, and at the time, I was thinking about trying to hostess at the local Bennigan's.

Was I good enough? Could I promise this woman's 10-year old that she would have a real shot at making her elementary school squad? Could I put my own personal reputation on the line? My father said, "I know how you're feeling. But if you want to be successful in life, you'll have to get used to this feeling. This is risk. And if you ever want to take big steps in your career, you'll have to get used to risk."

Some things to consider before you decide to leave corporate life:
1. You feel a need to fulfill an ambition to create and develop something of your own.
2. You've been frustrated and limited over the years, feeling forced into a hierarchical structure.
3. You want to grow into a new area.
4. You can subsist without a steady income.
5. You have a sugar-daddy client.
6. You have a sturdy stomach and can take the terror of an un-ringing phone.
7. You can leave your current situation without burning bridges.

Little did I know at 14 that earning $50 bucks an hour for the private coaching of one little girl would turn into almost a hundred girls by the time I left for college. All of their mothers happily paying me upwards of $80 an hour and all of the daughters making their squads. I guess that leads me to end with...

8. You can handle controlling your own destiny and all the money that flows to those who take the risk.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Database Dilemmas

Building databases are easy... especially in these times of viral marketing and incentives to share contact info; making money with your database can be challenging. What are some common mistakes that cause databases to fail?

1. Diving in without a marketing strategy: A successful strategy involves collecting data on your customer's purchases, building a database that permits analysis, and determining what motivates your customers

2. Focusing on price instead of service: Database marketing builds loyalty, discounts do not. Database marketing strategies provide dialogue, recognition, and service that overrides price points.

3. Failing to link the database to the Web: Personalization requires information such as purchase history, preferences, and contact information that your sales reps need when they work directly with your customers.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Coupon Concepts

Being the holiday season and with all the enticements to spend more than the wallet allows, just what exactly prompts a customer to redeem coupons? And, should your company even bother with this type of promotion?

Time and value are the two most imporant variables to consider when looking to predict coupon redemption. Value has been relatively stable in recent years with low inflation rates while the trend has been to cut expiration lengths creating a greater sense of urgency (always a good thing).

However, many false notions about a couponing strategy faily to acknowledge that the redemption is less immediate, due to people's busier lifestyles, more dual incomes, and expanded home inventories (due to more closet/garage/pantry space). The following are a few myths:

1. MYTH: Targeting the most loyal users of a competitor's product yields the best return on a coupon program. FACT: Light to moderately loyal competitive users are more likely to try a new product.

2. MYTH: The presence of a sample is a requisite for driving high redemption rates. FACT: Other factors are much more likely to drive redemptions like expiration date, value, current versus competitive user, and frequent versus infrequent coupon user.

3. MYTH: Current and competitive product users need the same coupon value to be motivated. FACT: In any product sector, current users typically require a much less offer value to drive them to purchase.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Almost Famous

So, last night, I'm at the launch party for a new restaurant, Scene , in a just opened residential high-rise... an intimate gathering of 3,000 of Dallas' finest. Which got me to thinking (as a friend and I are having our behinds felt up as the crowds brush by), do you have to "engage" the poser masses to find the niche you really want?

And then here's another thought... In this age of microcelebrity, are ALL these people necessary to make Scene be the place to be seen on the scene? (geesh... mouthful) Seriously, you can't feed 3,000 people anything. Tiny plates with 10 appetizers on it were devoured by one guy. Most of the alcohol was gone by 9pm, and then, in true $30,000-Millionaire form, the crowds disperse. Off into the night to find the next scene.

So, would the owners have been better off inviting a select 400 movers-and-shakers to really get a tour of the restaurant, hear the Executive Chef speak about what inspires his creations, have the wine steward share his most special selections? With a truly grand and unique experience (where you can actually SEE how the restaurant is designed), these 400 become advocates.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Who's the Boss???

So, yeah, you're the Idea Ingenue, the Wheeler Dealer, the Startup Czar. Now what? What do you do when you're no longer a startup, you have a couple dozen employees and things aren't as nimble (or easy) as they used to be? What happens when the collective lack of experience but oodles of enthusiasm starts to be a detriment rather than an asset?

Doug Tatum, a management consultant and author of No Man's Land: What to Do When Your Company Is Too Big to Be Small but Too Small to Be Big (, 8/1/07) says many companies encounter similar problems when they grow to around 20 employees. That's when companies typically are forced to make the transition from the high-performance/cheap-labor model that worked in the startup phase of the business and start paying the real costs of labor and productivity.

Facing the reality that the Founder is probably not the "big-time" leader to take a company to $50 / $100 / $200 million is a real gut-check.
Bottom line question: What's more important to you, Top-Dog, your ego or your income?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Smart Start-Ups Know...

1. Failure IS an option-- without experimentation there is no growth.

2. Bravery is contagious-- the only way to find real success is for the entire team to challenge the status quo.

3. Rule books are dispensable-- throw out "the rules" you've lived with at large firms... what's the worst that could happen?

4. Lose the slackers-- you've got to have hypersmart, motivated people in this cutthroat environment.

5. Test for "too many of us are drinking our own Kool-Aid"-- if you start believing your own hype, it's all over very quickly. Keep it real.

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's in the Cards...

'Tis the season of the ubiquitous Christmas card so I must comment this morning on the lack of creativity and the utter lack of memorable-ness of most business cards. Note to small business owners-- this one tiny part of your company is the most important investment you can make... especially in the beginning.

Your business card represents your company; its brand, its voice, its quality, its character. Don't blow your one chance to make an amazing first impression with cheap card stock, uninteresting colors, text logos (unless you're a legal firm), and an overall lack of design with your total company brand in mind.

Or, you can try something completely different like Jeffrey Gitomer
"In 1988, I had only two employees. One day, I decide to give my pet cat, Lito, a business card. I gave her a title, "Corporate Mascot." She played a vital role in my office productivity. Whever I needed an important paper, Lito was lying on it.

"The minute I started to give Lito's card out, word in the Charlotte business community spread like wildfire. Everywhere I went, people would ask if I had one of my cat's business cards with me. I always did. I wrote an article about it. Hundreds of requests came in for one of Lito's cards.

"I was at a networking event in Charlotte when a Fast 50 corporate president ran over ot me saying, 'Hey, Gitomer, show this guy your cat's card.' 'Have one,' I said, 'and have one of mine in case the cat isn't in. I usually handle her calls.'"

Be different... be memorable... the card pays you back.