Friday, May 23, 2008

YES, Looks Do Matter

Repeatedly, branding is a big topic here at Wendistry, but I'm always surprised by the fact that not everyone is aware of the power of creating a brand for oneself. Your personal brand is all-important, particularly when you run a business. Think Kate Spade, Martha Stewart, Oprah... these are all individuals who created entire businesses around their own successful self-branding. And they know that what they look like is key to conveying their company's success.

Yes, your business standards and ethics, your personality, and of course, your performance are all fundamental parts of your personal brand. You should have a clear understanding of who you are, what your values are and what you'd like to be known for to be able to develop a successful image. However, before you'll even have the chance to prove your outstanding performance and steadfast integrity, you have to make a first impression to get your foot in the door. And to do that, you're going to need to look the part (without trying too hard, of course).

With some knowledge that I've gained by working diligently with Ayo Fashola of Ice Cream Style to hone my own brand to accurately reflect everything that we're about here at Wendistry, here are her (and my) highest recommendations:

1. First impressions count. Clothes, hair, makeup, teeth......they're all a part of first impressions. Don't wait until you lose 20 pounds or land that next big client to start taking care of your image. Your client's first impression will be hard to shake if it's not a good one. If you are building a brand around yourself, keep in mind that whenever you leave the house, your brand goes with you. This doesn't mean that you can't run out for coffee in your sweatpants on occasion, but if there is an opportunity that you may meet a potential client, you'll want to present yourself accordingly.

2. Wear clothes that fit. If you remember only one thing from this article, please let it be these four words. Just remember the last woman you saw wearing a button-down shirt that was too tight or a skirt that was entirely too short for a professional environment and these images alone should be enough to convince you to wear clothes that fit.

3. Discover your signature look. Each one of us has unique features and style. What you perceive of as a flaw may in fact make you memorable. Think of someone like Jackie Kennedy: whether you liked her politics or not, she launched a thousand styles that were copied and are still considered classics... the pillbox hat, the big sunglasses. If you've been trying too hard to look a part, you'll end up looking like you're trying too hard. Instead, focus on those characteristics that make you unique and are truly you. Whether it's always wearing a particular accessory (think Bono with his sunglasses) or carrying off an unusual fashion choice (say, the ability to make mismatched clothes work well together), a unique signature to your style will make you memorable. Just be sure that the unique signature is authentically yours and represents what you want to say to the world.

4. Be consistent. Once you've established a style that works for you, stick with it. If you look like a carefree bohemian one day and a buttoned-up businessperson the next, potential clients may perceive you as inconsistent and therefore, unreliable. Because...

5. What you wear is a costume of sorts. What does your costume say about who you are? Since it can be hard to be objective about ourselves, ask for feedback from people who will tell you the truth. While you may think that your relaxed fit cotton casual pants say "approachable and low-key businessman," to someone else they may scream "hopelessly out-of-touch dork with pleats." I'm not saying that you won't be able to wear cotton, but you may have to shift to a pant style that is of this century.

6. Match your style to your business. (On a personal note, this is where I'm having the most difficulty adjusting... I just pulled 20 black suits from my closet. What am I? A professional funeral attender?? YIKES!) If you're a tax accountant, you'll probably find a suit and tie to be a more successful look than, say, grunge. There does need to be a certain correspondence between the nature of your look and your occupation. That's not to say that you can't be a flamboyant tax accountant, but chances are, you'll have more success in the entertainment industry than at a Fortune 500 company. (Again, I did spend 2.5 years in the financial services world, hence all the black, gray, navy suits. However, now I'm a marketing, strategy, and brand development consultant... creativity for clients is a key. So, creativity must be a part of my Brand Image and attire.)

7. Be authentic. Since every aspect of yourself contributes to your "brand," it helps to be authentic. If at heart you are a hillbilly, don't pretend to be part of the east coast elite. Though American society is relatively fluid compared to many other places in the world, pretending to be what you're not will not help you to achieve a personal brand. A personal brand is quintessential you. So, embrace those aspects of yourself that make you unique instead of denying them.

Finally, remember that no amount of branding on the outside will make up for a failure to deliver the goods. You'll need to know how to use your manners, collaborate and otherwise display the emotional intelligence and diplomacy that makes the world go 'round, while also delivering a quality product or service on time, no matter how good you look.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Strategic Planning: How-To

A strategic planning meeting should be held at least once a year and should include all executive managers as well as any key supervisors with front-line knowledge and experience. Bring a copy of your company’s business plan to the meeting so it can be referred to when needed. Keep in mind the purpose of the meeting, which is to evaluate past projects and goals and to develop new strategies based on opportunities discovered through market research and analysis.

The following list can help create a more effective strategic planning meeting:

1. The meeting should be held off-site in a casual setting so participants will feel relaxed but away from distractions.

2. Make sure everyone knows that each person will be treated as an equal and everyone will have an equal voice in terms of suggestions and criticisms.

3. To promote a more comfortable atmosphere, have everyone dress in casual clothing.

4. Encourage discussion of subjects mentioned in the meeting. This will not only encourage more brainstorming as the meeting progresses, but it will also serve to fully define the subject and determine its merits.

5. Don’t let the meeting digress into endless criticism. Point out areas that merit praise, and when discussing areas of weakness, explain how certain suggestions may not fit into the overall scope of the company’s strategy.

6. Don’t try to prioritize items brought up in the meeting. The strategic planning meeting is mainly a brainstorming session where ideas are explored in relation to their strategic impact on the business.

7. Don’t assume that everyone will come with a notepad and pen. Make sure you provide both.

8. Make sure you cover each topic thoroughly before progressing to the next. Keep in mind that you are exploring strategic solutions. When discussing each subject, apply timelines for specific actions after the meeting has been adjourned.

9. Write a summary of the meeting and circulate it to everyone who is part of the strategic planning team. Then, make sure you have follow-up meetings to review each person’s progress.

10. Wrap up the meeting with allowing everyone to share their biggest success over the last year and how that knowledge and experience will be utilized moving forward into the next.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Don't Ignore Your Best Performers




Sometimes CEOs are so busy trying to keep their business alive that they forget the people that got them there. Don't ignore your stars. If you ignore them and assume that they will just keep on giving above and beyond for too long, they will go elsewhere just to be appreciated. And, they'll even take less money for it.

Every business owner out there has experienced this scenario: an employee with key knowledge walks into your office and says, "I love you and I love working for you, but I have an offer I just can't refuse." Most of the time, the CEO finds extra money or whatever is necessary to keep the employee. My suggestion is to be proactive about keeping key people in the first place.

Pay increases and performance bonuses are more than extra money to an employee. It's your way of saying, "You are valuable around here and I appreciate you." Try giving that key employee 1/4th of the money you would have to give them in the "I'm quitting" scenario. See what kind of loyalty and morale you build then.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Doctor - Operation - Plan

I just acquired a new client... a world-famous surgeon who has retired and is focusing all his energy on his foundation. I am so excited about this project because this guy "gets it." He has always understood the need for accurate strategy, careful planning, and skillful execution... no deviations from the blueprint, or someone could wind up in very bad shape on his operating table.

His foundation, however, is a completely different story. Yes, there are some plans, but very little passion, execution, or sense of urgency.

Well over 90% of small business don't have an operations plan. Why is this? All the good businesses do. However, the real reason is that writing an operations plan is a real pain. It requires hard work, sacrifice, and understanding your business extremely well.

Perhaps it is this understanding of the business that scares people away? If you don't have a full understanding of your business and its systems, you will be unable to write a roadmap. Don't let fear hold you back. the point of an operations plan is that you most likely do NOT understand your business systems at the beginning of the process. However, you WILL understand them by the time you are done.

This is the reason you do the plan. It's not the plan itself that is of value, it is the process of doing it forcing you to refine your procedures, tighten your strategies, and point out any "holes."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Remember Everything

Cool new item I found over the weekend... courtesy of Cali Lewis and GeekBrief.TV.
With the tagline "Remember Everything," Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from anywhere.

So, what’s the point of Evernote? We are all constantly bombarded by information, much more than our brains can handle. So, we end up forgetting all sorts of things. With Evernote, you can start capturing all of those experiences, ideas, and memories, from both your real and digital life that would otherwise slip away.

I see this as a great tool for photographers, artists, and other visually creative types who store images rather than documents. No more "senior moments."

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Beauty of the Beating

"One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful." Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) Austrian psychoanalyst

I found this gem of a post from Danny Evans, author of Dad Gone Mad who expressed his joy at realizing his dream of writing books. Excerpt:

One night, about a year ago, I decided to quit dreaming.

Every day, every night, for 20 years, the dream was exactly the same – same props, same characters, same outcome. I could picture all of it with vivid clarity, but the fantasy never survived the transition from sleep to the real here and now. It burned up on re-entry. It lived only in the ether of my mind.


In the dream, I was an author. I wrote books. I spent my days on safari in my own imagination. I was satisfied. I was doing what I loved for a living, and that contentment permeated every hard, dark corner of my existence. Then suddenly I was awake again, and the reality that I was NOT the person in my dream washed over me like rain cloud.

So one night, about a year ago, I decided to quit dreaming. I sat down at my keyboard and began to write. I began to create the trappings of my dream in real life.

It has been the hardest year of my writing life. Rejection has reigned. Every small victory has been countered by enormous disappointment and despair. I have neglected friendships, responsibilities, family obligations. Phone calls and emails have gone unreturned. I have opened my soul to criticism, and I have convinced myself that this is my last best chance to accomplish something for myself – to escape the rut of cubicle jobs, financial desperation and career aimlessness.

Thursday morning, my agent called from New York. “You have a book deal,” she said.
And, just like that, the dream became real.


Whether it's authoring books or founding the next big technology "thing," behold the beauty of your entrepreneurial dream. Weather the storm; Take the beating; STAND. Your vision is worth it and your journey will become a legend.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How to Keep Your Brand Fresh

Conduct a "brand audit" once a year. Look at how your product or service is marketed and branded (i.e. what messages you're sending), and analyze your brand position by asking your customers what they think of your company. Then, compare the two sets of data and see how well they connect.

A coffee-house owner, for example, might think she serves great coffee, while convenience or ambience may be a bigger selling point from the customer's perspective. Realize that it is the customers' perspective that is most important to your success. And, don't fight it. I watch so many entrepreneurs get wrapped up in the fact that they "built the best widget," yet their customers love them mainly for their speed of service, or their friendly staff, or their whatever it may be.

The point is: WHO CARES?!? If you have a loyal following for particular reasons, focus on those reasons and continuously reinforce those messages. However, realize that those reasons may (and probably will) change over time. Market forces shift. New competitors come into play. New products are invented that create new desires which shifts attention away from old habits. Make sure your company stays fresh and in the middle of the conversation.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

SEO Like a Pro

Spiders love links... search engine spiders, that is. So, don't just optimize your web site for keywords and rest on your laurels.

To climb to the top of search results- for free- get links. Not all links are created equal, though. To engage in ethical search engine optimization, think quality before quantity. Find quality blogs, magazines, and sites where your content will be relevant.

Next, submit a helpful comment or article. If it's accepted, you'll get a link (what I like to call "link love"). Here's the essential step: Link your most important keyword phrase to your site. You'll improve your rankings because spiders will follow the links from authority sites to yours... and so will future customers and clients.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ayn Rand, Where Are You?

On Monday, May 5, the Wall Street Journal's Erin White ranked the top most influential business thinkers: Gary Hamel, No. 1. This article follows up a recent story in USA Today talking about rich entrepreneurs.

Who's missing from both groups? Women.

Not a single one popped up in the Journal's Top 20 list. Rankings were based on Google hits, media mentions and academic citations. But, I say where there's weakness, there's opportunity.

I would love to hear about more female speakers. (Better still, I'd love to BECOME one!) Yet, most of today's wealthy women are still making their money through inheritance or divorce. So, why aren't there more influential women business thinkers on these lists? How can this change? If you're a man, would you be motivated to hear a female speaker? If no, why not? If yes, who?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Friday, May 9, 2008

Education from the Blogosphere

Some words found in the social media space lately... time to re-educate your-CEO-self!

Socialprise: social tools + enterprise; one of the biggest shifts in business today.

TLO (Twitter Liberation Organization): concept proposed by Techcrunch and others suggesting that Twitter is "too important" and must be open-sourced so that the platform won't crash when usage spikes.

Distributed Polling: we are better at solving problems collectively. Fred Wilson posted a poll on YHOO stock price which was picked up and published on a number of leading blogs.

ReadBurner: the socializing of Google Reader so that friends can see what you've saved.

TwitPitch: Stowe Boyd, suggests a new way of "pitching"... limited to 140 characters. Now THAT'S the future with no time wasted.

This last word, TwitPitch, is my favorite! 140 characters forces you to distill your business concept down to image words/ phrases that nail exactly what you're doing and where you're heading... Fantastic!!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Checklist for Selecting an Outsourced Marketing Consulting Firm

- Can the firm's capabilities deliver on your actual expectation?
- Do you like and trust them?
- What is their turnover like?
- Have former clients ever sued them?
- How long have they been in business?
- Do they have established outside vendor relationships?
- Does a big customer dominate them? What happens if that client goes away?
- Do you understand how the firm makes money?
- Have you examined the systems that the firm has in place?
- Is it understood what other services you might need in the future or not this firm can provide those services?

Obviously, this is not a comprehensive or nearly complete list. However, one ingredient that often is overlooked in finding the right marketing consulting firm is corporate culture. Understanding the tremendous impact corporate culture has on the success or failure of outsourcing can help facility executives avoid the pitfalls associated with a bad arrangement.

We're really not that far removed from the sandbox of childhood... you play with those you like and who you mesh with. Like my grandmother used to say, "There's a sock for every ole' shoe."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Time + Practice = Expertise




From http://headrush.typepad.com/about.html

Most of us want to practice the things we're already good at, and avoid the things we suck at. We stay average or intermediate amateurs forever. Jump in to new waters... what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Dangerous Games Startups Play

taken from "Leveraging Ideas", Feedblitz:

Do entrepreneurs now live in a new age where the lowered costs for development and marketing (theoretically) mean that a company can be launched without having to take traditional venture capital financing?!? Let's discuss...

For entrepreneurs this idea seems great because they can keep more of the company, rather than needing to sacrifice a big hunk of equity in exchange for a million bucks. However, this also means that many startups have begun to play dangerous games. In particular, many a young startup is seeking an angel(s) to provide a seed round, more akin to a bridge loan, that will see them to a Series A. The idea being that during a Series A, the valuation with have doubled or tripled and the amount of equity that will be given up will be at a considerably better valuation than if the same amount of money had been taken during at the seed round.

However, please consider a few things:
1. The Economy. This ability for startups to acquire a bridge loan getting them to a Series A is most effective during a strong economy. If you only raise $300,000 and the economy caters you’re in double trouble. You’re stuck with a minimal amount of money and the prospect of a) a tougher/longer lag time needed to close the next round and b) face prospect of having to accept a lower than expected valuation.

2. Competitive Landscape. A startup hoping to get ‘just enough’ money to bridge them to a Series A also runs the risk that the competitive landscape might change during that time. I’ve been told that the minimum amount of time need to close a Series A is 120 days. Three months. More likely thought it will take a company six months. If during that time a better funded, or higher profile competitor launches a similar product, what will that mean for the Series A? It means it’s going to take a lot longer, which means more money will be needed.

3. Whacky Valuation Principle. Although it is a dangerous game for the reasons suggested above (due to the economy and competitive landscape threats) risk-taking startups do stand to benefit from the "whacky valuation principle" (I’m making this term up). Whacky valuation principle is the idea that raising a small amount of money, or taking a small amount of money from ‘smart money’ will double or triple a startup’s valuation for really no good reason. Yes, raising even a small amount of capital is business model justification, but really it changes nothing intrinsically. Bottom line, why raise $1M on a valuation of $2M when by raising $250,000 your valuation is likely to jump to $5M overnight?

4. Level of Involvement. If a VC does decide to do the type of deal mentioned above, it’s important that entrepreneurs understand that the VC’s involvement will be limited. A VC can’t afford to spend time with a company that it has so little invested in. This is a good reason why taking money from an Angel (who might only have a couple of investments and to whom $300k likely means a lot more since it’s personal money) might in fact be better than a VC. In theory having the VC be hands-off is good, but in reality, the more time they spend with (or at least thinking of you), the better.

5. Credibility/Distribution. On the plus side for VC firms, getting in with the right high-profile company can be instant credibility in the eyes of the PR and Blogger Illuminati. How do you find them? Try TheFunded for starters. Such credibility goes a long way since possible the biggest concern for any new startup is in fact not funding, but distribution.

Conclusion: In my opinion, the best situation for a startup right now is to find at least one well-known angel and supplement him/her with either a convertible note loan, or money from dumb angels. Having at least one smart money person is key to making introductions and for the person’s experience hopefully in the space. Yes, dumb money supplemented by having a smart advisory board, but it’s not the same. You want your most influential supporters hugely incentivized to help you succeed. Also based on the concerns of folks I’ve talked to in the Valley and here in New York, looking for a minimum of $500k bridge money seems like the safe bet in these ominous economic times.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Abdicating

I'm currently dealing with a prospect who wants to hire me. Problem is... (are you ready for this?) she has no clue where her startup stands financially. She is a 51% owner and has a 49% investor (she refers to him as a Partner). At the same time, she has no idea how much money has been spent so far and if she needs to invest in anything, she has to go to this guy with her hand out to get anything done.

Enormous CEO mistake: ABDICATING
When CEOs aren't adept at delegating to the proper people with the proper boundaries of responsibilities, or if they don't have the knowledge to communicate about those issues, they tend to abdicate. Abdication is washing your hands of the situation because you don't know how (or want) to deal with the subject. It's the "I've had it up to here; you do it" reaction. Abdication has no follow-up component and no feedback component.

Then, when the abdication fails, CEOs either fall into the trap of "They can't help. I have to do everything myself." or the quicksand of "I need to throw more money at this problem and hopefully save my business." Now, you're either stuck doing all the lower-level work that will never drive the business forward or you're out of business. Either case is a disaster that could have been avoided.

You must break free of your mental traps such as: "I don't want to know about the financial (technology / legal / sales /etc.) stuff." "It's too difficult." or "The work will not be as good." This is head trash. These are YOUR issues. Know your business, and start by knowing yourself and what your weaknesses are. Hire those with those skills as strengths and watch your business soar.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Randomness vs. Perfectionism


PERFECTIONISM:
When you start a business, you want everything to be perfect. Perfect offices. Perfect people. Perfect processes. Perfect services.

As it turns out, having that perfectionist attitude only leads to one thing: procrastination. When you're trying to perfect everything, your mind stalls you from doing anything of substance. It's as if you're waiting for your "perfect time" to do your "perfect thing." This = bad.

Perfectionism is impossible to attain... and a waste of time to try. Instead, it's a guiding star for any CEO/entrepreneur to try to attain, but again, remember "ready, fire, aim" from two days ago. See faults and flaws as good things. They help you start things quicker knowing you'll be okay if/when you hit bumps along the road. Those bumps help you steer toward the right direction; they are your best guideposts.

RANDOMNESS:
Some of the most productive business minds rely on a periodic self-administered dose of randomness to stay stimulated. Stimulation is not only necessary when developing new ideas, but is also critical when refining solutions to a particular problem. Every brain benefits from new angles that often escape your traditional point of view.

Consider a few strategies for building randomness into everyday work and life:
1. Take advantage of mistakes. When you do make an error, allow yourself to briefly continue down the same path. If only for an alternative perspective (which is sometimes difficult to get), use every mistake as a lens to see things differently.

2. Travel without a map. When we venture beyond our comfort zone, we often over-compensate with extensive planning, maps, and itineraries. Instead, consider traveling somewhere without plans. Many prolific entrepreneurs cite that getting lost as the best way to find new solutions.

3. Explore projects in unfamiliar creative fields. I love the Behance Network. It purposely features a cross-section of work from different fields. The featured gallery always includes an eclectic set of striking projects from different industries and organizations. And if you’re brave, you can take a daily stroll through the most recent gallery that contains unfiltered brand new projects published by creatives around the world. Other sites that offer great random stimulation include NOTCOT and the great websites featured daily on designer site QBN.

So, what does the picture above have to do with this post? Looking at every day objects in a different way. Finding the creative and possible new angle in the ordinary. Realizing the nicks in the rocks, the flaws in the cork, the kookiness of the monkey (I want to pinch his butt). Embracing imperfection is a vital ingredient to your success.
(Some excerpts taken from Scott Belsky, Behance Team)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Benevolent Dictatorship

Business is not a democracy. Buy-in is nice, but if you cannot get it easily, what do you do?

Even though I'm not one, managing employees is a lot like parenting. "The kids" may not like what you do, but you have to do it anyway. Why? Because it's in their best interest as employees (and salary-taking members) of the company. And, "because you said so!" (Okay, not really... I just had to throw that in there in honor of Mother's Day coming in less than 2 weeks!!) ;-)

Many CEOs are afraid to be authoritarian. If I were an employee, I would take authoritarian over democratic any day of the week. That way I'd always know exactly where I stand in the state of the union. Not knowing is the worst.

Now, just because you are authoritarian does not mena you cannot be nice. Remember, it's your name on the door. As CEO, your job is not to be like. It's great if you are, but you MUST command your business. And, business is not place for democracy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Presentation Skills



Presentations should inspire... not just deliver information and facts. Here's 10 quick tips:

1. Plan it on paper first: not the PowerPoint software

2. Set the theme: a catch headline, title

3. Show enthusiasm: inject your personality into the talk

4. Provide a roadmap: number items verbally to tell your audience where you're going

5. Make the numbers meaningful: a 12 GB chip has enough transitors that if each transitor was an ant laid end-to-end, they would circle the entire Earth twice.

6. Deliver a Spielberg moment: a visual "wow"... an emotional connection to the audience

7. Keep slides simple: highly visual, yet only 1 image per slide and very little text

8. Sell the benefit: answer the WIIFM question for the audience (What's In It For Me?)

9. Rehearse the presentation: practice, practice, practice... out loud, standing up

10. Don't sweat the small stuff: relax, have fun, and enjoy the attention

Monday, April 28, 2008

BREAKING NEWS!!!

Reference back to my post last Thursday!

http://boston.bizjournals.com/boston/stories/2008/04/28/story6.html?f=et148&b=1209355200^1625031&ana=e_vert

Field of Dreams

"If you build it, they will come" works well for big business. Big business is not nimble enough to start small and adjust quickly. Plus, they already have a large following of loyal customers... hence, the reason why they are a big business. So, unless it's a major screw-up of a product, a large company can crank out anything new and almost be guaranteed to at least cover expenses and create a positive ROI.

Small business, however, should do the opposite: conceive it, create basic marketing materials, sell it, and THEN scramble to build it and tweak it to perfection. Example: A former technology executive, now small mobile business CEO, spends $5000 on a Gartner Research report on the growth predictions for the segment. He spends tens of thousands of dollars attending trade shows to learn more about the industry leaders. Most amazingly, he recruits a rising star from GE to head up the technical side of the business... even to the point of giving this guy 25% of the company stock.

I'm sure you can guess the rest. Sales never happened. The industry grew at 10% annually, not the 125% predicted. Not only was all this money spent on non-productive (i.e. non-bottom line enhancing) items, but I have a strong suspicion that it helped the CEO lose himself in the "busy-ness" of his business, rather than taking a hard look at reality.

Being well-prepared is important, but just remember my favorite quote from Tom Peters, "Ready, Fire, Aim."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Primal Branding... When Nobody Gives a Crap

For decades marketing types have talked about how some brands have a soul, a voice, a personality. They rant long and hard about how Apple brand has a cult, Nike has a tribe, Coke has enthusiasts, and other beloved products and services have brand loyalists, advocates, zealots and vigilantes.

But how do you create your own posse? Looking at brands as belief systems is a long leap toward creating brand communities, tribes, and ardent evangelists. Why? B ecause when you design a belief system, you attract others who want to share your beliefs.

It's the bond created between Lego enthusiasts, iPod and Blackberry owners, MiniCooper drivers, Starbucks drinkers, Rolling Stones fans and Whole Foods and WalMart shoppers that creates the buzz, the vibe, the community. It's a primal connection that has a scientific basis. Makes you want to pay attention to who your demographic is, doesn't it?

I've discovered readings about seven components that go into the creation of a belief system called the pieces of primal code. The code itself is seven elements: creation story, creed, icons, ritual, sacred words, nonbelievers, and leader. Once all seven pieces of code are in place, people are attracted to your brand in ways never thought possible, but it takes all seven to create a relevant, vibrant community.

The creation STORY is the beginning of your brand saga. It's how (and probably why) you got started. Dell was started in a dorm room. EBay was started in a spare bedroom. Hawaiian Tropic started in the garage (as did Apple and Hewlett-Packard).

CREED. Once we know where you're from, we want to know what you're about. Are you a good guy, or a bad guy? If you believe in capitalism, world peace, free markets, life after death, or Just Do It®, the consumers' brain then compartmentalizes and categories you in a way where they know what to think about you. The creed is not your lengthy corporate mission statement. It's what you want people to take away and associate with you in an instant.

ICONS. The Sydney opera house. The Statue of Liberty. The Eiffel Tower. The Forbidden City. All of these icons identify the civic communities in which they stand. Brand communities have icons, too. The swoosh. The polo player. The Coke bottle silhouette. The iPod. The Rolex. The Hummer. Icons establish a visual tag that extends beyond the song catalog, and helps members of the community identify one another. Think memes ("Stand Up & Stand Out" ppt; Slide 4)

RITUAL. Communities have things they like to do together. Run marathons. Chat over coffee. Beer fests. Knitting circles. Spring rites. Rituals are the patterns of our lives; the web of daily activities that bind communities together.

SACRED WORDS. Every group has a specialized vocabulary that identifies those who belong within the community and those who do not. Whether you're a doctor, lawyer, computer geek, football fan, music freak, patriot, marketing director, or bricklayer, to belong to that community you have to know the words. In fact, how well you know the language establishes where you fit in the community hierarchy.

NONBELIEVERS. For every trend there is a countertrend. Hawks and doves. Guzzlers and Green. The sacred and the profane. Target marketing helps us narrowcast who our customers are, but there are always those people who do not want to be one of us; instead they'd rather be one of them... gotta love 'em. There is pain in realizing some people do not want to be just like us, but there is also great opportunity: if we can identify a group of people who do not want sugar in their diet, we can create sugar-free. If we single out a group who does not want caffeine, we can invent decaf.

THE LEADER. This is the individual who set out against all odds and the world at large to recreate the world according to their own point of view. These are the Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Oprah Winfreys and other front cover personalities at the macro level. They are the "Brand Setters."

Marketers everywhere want to number their consumers in the millions. The way to accomplish this effectively, and to keep them hanging around, is to design vibrant communities where they can live, play, and buy. For whatever reason, we are hard-wired as human beings to respond when all seven pieces of primal code exist. What brought us out of the caves thousands of years ago, also drags us into the shopping mall today.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Twittering and Tweeting... What's all the noise?

Is Twitter actually useful for business owners? Can it be a successful platform for branding and marketing strategies? Do you even know what Twitter is? Some initial reactions on my part...

1. Twitter may be useful in understanding your clients or competitors. You could "follow" your customers' thoughts and actions. This benefit may be incredibly useful for the Technical Support, R&D, and Marketing departments.

2. Twitter may be a useful way to track the people who set trends that you may decide to follow in the future. These can be experts in their field, imaginative thinkers etc. People like Seth Godin, Jim Collins, or Tim Ferriss.

3. Twitter may generate more heat than light. Does receiving a thousand Twitter updates to your mobile device every hour constitute real "work" on your company or business development strategies?!? That's not effective OR cost-effective to grow an enterprise-- it's a time-waster and information overload.

So, in reality, I'm not completely convinced. Twitter could be useful in a business context as a way of understanding users. It is certainly something to investigate and watch.

P. S. I do have a Twitter account... just in case I finally figure out how to monetize the situation! ;-) Wendi

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Quote-of-the-Day Wednesday

"No one thinks it will work, do they?" asks Diane Court.
"You've just described every great success story." says Lloyd Dobler.

From Cameron Crowe's 1989 movie hit, SAY ANYTHING

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Recession? Saving? Spending?

If you have not analyzed your business expenses in the past quarter, there is a maximum of 10% savings in your expenditures. This is not bad money, but it's definitely not enough to make you rich. The REAL money is in the top line.

You'd think most CEOs would know this, but I'm constantly surprised by the variety of attempts made to "save your way to success." It doesn't happen, and it's the ultimate in laziness. Trimming expenses is step one in a two-step process and will only solve 1/2 the problem. Increasing the top line is the second, and most vital, step.

From Robert Scoble's blog, Scobleizer, January 26, 2008: "Most people here believe we’re in the midst of a recession, which technically is two quarters of negative growth. There’s certainly many here who are gloomy about the future, but there is definitely lots of positivity too. I spoke with Steve Forbes last night (yes, that Steve Forbes) and he thinks that the doom and gloomers shouldn’t be listened to. He sees one quarter of bad news and then sees the economy coming back in the second quarter.

That second quarter is NOW. Again, people, we haven't yet had one quarter of negative growth... let alone two. I think the only recession we’re heading into is a media contrived one. So, spend lavishly on strategic investments. Invest in sales and marketing. Be wise... spend on any/all business development activities now like picking up those excellent sales and marketing people that your competitor stupidly fired. Yes, monitor and keep tabs on your expenses, but profitable topline growth will always trump expense cutting.

Monday, April 21, 2008

How to Get a VC's Attention

Trying to get money for your great idea can feel a lot like trying to penetrate the “popular crowd” in high school. The fawning, the preening, the right clothing labels, wittily delivering the just-so-perfect cutting remark at exactly the right time. It’s exhausting. How do you “become cool,” bridge the social/economic gap and actually get inside the inner circle where the money is? Here is shortlist of tips to get the venture capitalist’s attention via Guy Kawasaki:

1. Get an introduction by a partner-level lawyer: He/she should work at a firm that does a lot of VC financing work. Best-case email/voicemail says: “This is the most interesting company I’ve seen in my 20 years of legal work for startups.” VCs dream about calls like this. Side note: this is why you should pay top dollar and use a well-known corporate finance attorney instead of Uncle Joe the quicky divorce lawyer. You’re paying for connections, not just expertise.

2. If you’re in tech, get an introduction by a professor of engineering: Best-case email/voicemail: “This team is the smartest one I’ve seen in 20 years of teaching computer science. Larry and Sergie would have carried their backpacks for them.”

3. Get an introduction by the founder of a company in the VC’s portfolio: Best-case email/voicemail: “My buddies are starting a new company, and I think it’s really worth a look.” It helps if the person making the call is from a successful company in the VC’s portfolio. Tap into your LinkedIn network to find acquaintances in the VC’s portfolio. (Maybe it’s just me, but it bugs me when a connection of a connection of a connection wants me to connect them to someone who will look at a deal. LinkedIn enables you to just make direct contact, and that’s my advice… IF you can show success *see tip No. 4*. If you can’t show success, the connection of a connection of a connection is useless anyway.

4. Show success: If you can’t get any of the above types of introductions, the most compelling email/voicemail you can make is: “My buddy and I have been working in our garage, taking no pay,a nd we built a site that is doubling in traffic every month. Right now, we’re at 250,000 page view a day after 30 days.” With these two sentences you’ve proved to investors that you can make a little bit of money (none) go far, your architecture looks scalable so far, and—most important—the dogs are already eating the food.

5. Make sure your company is in the right space: No matter how you get to the venture capitalist, make sure he/she is the right one for you. After all, there’s no use pitching to someone who can’t help you. If have the cure for cancer, contacting a firm’s enterprise software guru isn’t much help, so do your homework.

6. Send a short email: The ideal length is three or paragraphs, and make sure it covers these points—
a. What the company does
b. What problem you are solving
c. What’s special about your technology/ marketing/ expertise/ connections
d. Who you are

These methods can help you become a part of the moneyed in-crowd with their exclusive entourage… what happens next is up to you.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Thought for the Day Friday

"There is no difference between a pessimist who says,
'Oh, it's hopeless, so don't bother doing anything,' and an optimist who says,
'Don't bother doing anything, it's going to turn out fine anyway.'
Either way... nothing happens."

Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia

Go grab your weekend!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What's the Future of Marketing?

The future of marketing will be based on building authentic customer relationships more than the development of new products. And, customers will continue to gain control of the relationship... molding it and driving it forward, or ceasing it altogether. Online chats, blogs, and Internet-based social communities increasingly put control of the brand image into the hands of customers. On the customer service side, one bad experience can have a huge impact on a company's reputation since customers share their stories.

Marketers have already begun to focus less on gaining short-term advantage and more on working to win and maintain customer trust. Historically, the goals of marketing was to promote sales. This shift in mindset suggests that marketers are more fully recognizing that a message can't influence customer behavior if the message isn't trusted. So, the future looks bright with significant improvement in the ability of organizations to capture and share information, understand customer needs, calculate customer lifetime value, improve the customer experience, and provide customers with relevant messaging in their preferred channel.

The future isn't completely bright, however. Most marketers agree that there are "clouds on the one-to-one horizon" such as governmental regulations that impact privacy, the deluge of solicitations and messaging across so many channels, and the fact that customers' attention spans are in short supply and under increasing pressure.

So, how do you do make a solid one-to-one strategy work? The first step is putting one-to-one marketing into the day-to-day operation of the organization to improve the customer experience. Even on the campaign level, a little customer focus goes a long way.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sharpen the Saw

Everyone knows that business is changing rapidly. Are you ramping up your skills just as quickly? I doubt it. Most CEOs are sucked into working on the tactical aspects of the business. All the big money is in the strategic. Big strategic progress comes from new knowledge, information, and the guts to work on applying it.

In small business, there are two aspects to sharpening the saw: knowledge acquisition and thought process challenge. Big business does a better job at both. Training is a staple in a large corporate environment, but establishing a sounding board, at least, can be a huge improvement in a small company. Without a sounding board, you are a boat without a sail.

How to sharpen your saw?
- Attend seminars and workshops
- Join an industry group
- Benchmark
- Read one business book per month
- Form a board of directors (this board must be paid or this process will fail)
- Join a CEO peer group

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Buying the Help at Kmart

Everyone knows you get what you pay for, but few operate that way. More often than not when I'm asked for a marketing strategy / business plan proposal from a new entrepreneur, I can almost hear the loss of breath for a moment once they get to the "fees" area.

Here's the reason why great people cost money. Great companies know that "the systems run the business, the people run the systems." Yet, without good systems (i.e. in a startup situation), even better people are required.

You cannot expect superstars to work for below average wages. However, because many CEOs have occasionally gotten a bargin on an excellent employee, they make their pay strategy a "lowest bidder" competition. You simply cannot recruit and retain good people for low-dough. I add the word retain because it costs even more to keep replacing people, retraining for the position, your lost time and energy, etc.

If you do not pay market rate for good people, you will only get the bad ones. If you fill your business up with mediocre performers, good performers will not want to work for you. Winners attract winners. Period.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Yabut

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Scott's mother and stepfather this past weekend and his mother, Deb, was telling me all about her marketing and fund raising position at the LakeView RecPlex in Kenosha, WI. Now, Miss Deb comes from a corporate career and most of the rest of the staff is career civil servant. This makes for very interesting environments when she creates new strategies to market the facilities and garner more underwriting from both corporate sponsors and individual donors. Hence, the title of today's entry...

Yabut= "yeah, but..." It's so much easier to criticize someone else's work than to create something from scratch. Stop finding (or allowing others to find) all the reason an idea won't work and get busy making it happen. This is far more complex than just being positive vs. being negative. Yabut people always see why something cannot be done. Successful CEOs see the obstacles (YABUTs), and see the options to make an idea work, but they also see the options that will make it work in spite of these people.

In addition, it is extremely important not to allow your people to YABUT. If you allow your people to start this habit, you are allowing a culture of non-performance. Successful organizations perform... they perform well.

First, recognize that you, the CEO, are YABUTing. Once you see that you and your people are doing it, you have half the problem solved. Then, don't be afraid to take projects or items off your list. It is okay to say "no." Saying that your are not going to tackle a project or strategy at this time is much better than allowing it to fail because of YABUTs.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Business in the Fast Lane... Whoosh!

Just picked up a new book, even though published in 2001, Whoosh, by Tom McGehee. Superior advice for new entrepreneurs because most business founders are control freaks (yours truly included).

Excerpt:
"We all know that new ideas are the lifeblood of any business. But in chasing that elusive 'new new thing' in an effort to dazzle customers and shareholders, many companies lose sight of the real essence of innovation-- achieving quantum results. These results are not accomplished through technology, overblown mission statements, or 'best practice' metrics based on past performance, but by unleasing the creative spirit of your people.

Any company can generate the excitement, energy, confidence, and audacity of the 'whoosh,' by subscribing to three fundamental principles:
- a leadership style that emphasizes freedom, not control
- understanding that success means creating the new, not replicating the old
- a corporate culture that values individual expression and collaborative work

Whoosh will help you ensure that the sound you hear is your own company racing headlong into the future-- and not your competition speeding past you."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mobile Marketing Medium

Marketers, industry pundits, media buyers, and vendors all agree that we are in the midst of great uncertainty and change across all media channels. Since the experts are trying to figure out how to leverage emerging forms of media (social networking, online video, viral marketing, blogging, and mobile), obviously spending on these various forms of new media advertising will continue to grow while traditional media (print, newspaper, TV commercial, radio ad) will diminish.

Consumers now want to interact with media when they want, where they want, and how they want. Marketers and advertisers will never be able to go back to the days of pushing messages to the consumer (with the exception of the SuperBowl annual commercial-fest).

With this in mind, I have a brand new company here in Dallas that offers mobile marketing solutions at incredibly affordable rates for companies of all sizes: Mobile Marketing Solutions, LLC. Yes, they are a client of mine... yes, this is blatant promotion. Don't care. They're a friendly and reliable team of professionals that can help you get your company directly in to the palm of your customers' hands.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Money, Management, and Ego

OR: "Just because you gave me the $$$..."

I had a meeting yesterday with a VERY exciting prospect, Tanya Carpenter, founder of DStat, the first hair product ever created specifically to eliminate static electricity, instantly taming frizzy and flyaway hair. Brilliant!

However, Ms. Carpenter is in the process of forming her advisory board and management team and I'm concerned about what she might feel is an "obligation" to those who have made financial contributions to her dream. Here's my message to all budding entrepreneurs who have been fortunate enough to convince others to invest money in their vision... so what?!?!

You owe these people NOTHING more than to build a successful company and give them the largest return on their dollars. You don't owe them management roles, or Board seats, or any "say" whatsoever in your vision. As the founder/entrepreneur, it is your responsibility to guard your vision from outside distractions and alterations at all costs.

I cannot recommend highly enough that you get yourself involved in a CEO-network as quickly as possible. Let me know if I can guide you through this process or at least be a non-biased ear.

Monday, April 7, 2008

7 Keys to an Authentic Blog/ Web Site Relationship

Courtesy of Liz Strauss:

1. Show up whole and human
2. Talk in your authentic voice
3. Tell your own truth
4. Have room for folks to tell theirs too
5. Don't tryto tie ideas up in a bow
6. Half the show is in the comments
7. Be helpful, not hypeful...

Let the conversations begin!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hello? Is there anybody in there??

"Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in art, in music, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man."
John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Entrepreneurs have often felt lonely – believing that no one else shares their vision or their passion for building a business. But, we are not alone (pun intended) in that feeling. With today's growing workforce of soloists, telecommuters, work-at-home parents, independent salespeople, and virtual teams, loneliness is a feeling that millions of business owners are fighting.

During the ups and downs of completing a project, or finding new customers, the feeling of loneliness can set in and limit our vision and our productivity. It can be discouraging and be a wallop to that old self-esteem. And, with the gadgets we tote around, we unknowingly make it worse. Technology that's supposed to connect us – email, voicemail, and PDAs – often fuels our loneliness, enabling us to do a better job of isolating ourselves. For some reason we don't treat every email or voicemail like a real person is behind it. Why acknowledge it?

We're also intentionally distracted. We're plugged into our new I-Pods, or tapping our PDA screen playing a game. How about using technology to interact with real people once in a while?

There's no need anymore to pretend that you're too busy dealing with important people and projects. I know the truth. As a small business owner, I am one of you, and it's vitally important that we connect and help each other's ventures grow.

Yes, it was your idea in the first place, as John Steinbeck says, but greatness was never created in a vacuum.

Monday, March 24, 2008

MOOFING Monday

MOOFING v. Derived from the acronym for "Mobile, Out Of Office."
MOOFERS (n.) abandon the workplace between meetings, taking laptop and BlackBerry to the local Starbucks or anyplace else where they can escape interruption by talkative coworkers.

Okay... is it just me, or is it absolutely pathetic that you have to LEAVE the office to get work done?!?!! Is this the state that corporate america has sunk to? If your company has this kind of culture, maybe you should consider (I'd highly recommend!) changing the atmosphere.

Is the office of the future no office and just a headquarters in cyberspace? 42% of IBM's 350,000 employees rarely, if ever, come to an office. IBM says it save $100 million a year in real estate costs because it doesn't need the offices. The work force at Accenture management consulting firm is so mobile no even the CEO has an office with his name on the door.

In the future, more companies with scattered work forces and clients may do what the marketing firm Crayon is doing: making its headquarters in cyberspace. Especially, if yours is a "knowledge-based" asset company.

Crayon's workers rarely meet in the physical world — some are in Boston, others are in Nutley, N.J. — but their online alter egos in the virtual world gather once a week. "Our belief is if we bring like minds together no matter where they are in the world we can actually create that connectedness as if we're actually at the same place at the same time," said Joseph Jaffe, Crayon's CEO.

And, there it is... real productivity vs. time wasted.

Friday, March 21, 2008

"Thoughts for the Day" Friday

Some things to ponder as we move into a holiday weekend...

"An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field." NIELS BOHR, Danish physicist and Nobel Prize winner

"Once you say you're going to settle for second, that's what happens to you in life." JOHN F. KENNEDY, thirty-fifth President of the United States

"Named must your fear be before banish it you can." YODA, from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

"I can't give you a surefire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time." HERBERT BAYARD SWOPE, American editor and journalist; first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize


Happy Easter everyone!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Buyer's Journey

Together Sales and Marketing must find ways to move their buyers through their whole buying journey, end-to-end. This means choosing tactics for every stage. Forget about what you want to do to your buyers, and think instead about what decisions they face, and how you can help them make each small step.

1. Untroubled and unaware
2. Acknowledge pain
3. Define need
4. Receive offers
5. Rationalize options
6. Select first choice
7. Engage

If you hold Marketing accountable for brand awareness, you get a market that knows who you are (but doesn't necessarily buy). If you hold Marketing accountable for leads (only), you'll get leads (but not necessarily customers). If you hold Marketing accountable for setting meetings, you'll get leads that convert into "shoppers" (but, again, not necessarily decision-makers). However, if you hold Marketing accountable for creating buying decisions, you'll get leads that convert to sales.

TOTALLY UNRELATED... just to get us through the rest of the week, you REALLY should click the link below:
scott is my name: Free Hugs#links#links

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Marketing Methodology

Your business in 7 integrated and sequential phases... the process--

PHASE 1: Where is the opportunity?
Market data, competitive landscape, entry costs

PHASE 2: What is the market landscape?
Market size, customer needs, market trends, adoption incentives and barriers

PHASE 3: What solutions are required?
Features, tangibles/intangibles, implementation, training, support

PHASE 4: How do we position and differentiate?
Integrated messaging, value proposition, pricing, education

PHASE 5: How do we go to market?
Marketing plan, target accounts, market influencers, analysts, channels

PHASE 6: How and when do we launch?
The event, testimonials, press releases, articles, alpha customers, case histories

PHASE 7: How are we doing?
Customer satisfaction, new needs and problems, market growth/decline, re-positioning

Monday, March 17, 2008

FutureWorld and FutureMarketing at Disney

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone, and I promise this is my last entry about Disney.

Last Friday, I was facinated by the pact that ties Disney World and the global technology company, Siemens AG, with the kind of multifaceted partnership that illustrates how Disney sells itself not just as a theme park, bus also as a marketing venue for all sorts of companies.

Siemens is a German company that generated about 68.6 billion euros (about $102 billion in today's U.S. currency) in sales last year making medical-device, power-grid, information-communication, transportation and automation and control systems, and has more than 6,000 employees in Florida, including those at the company's power headquarters on Alafaya Trail.

Though the company makes almost nothing that the average Disney World visitor might want to buy, Siemens' $100 million, 12-year agreement with Disney World in 2005 gives it naming sponsorship of Epcot's most iconic structure and ride, along with various other business arrangements. Under a new sign reading, "Spaceship Earth Presented by Siemens," the ride and its post-show gauntlet of games are a must-see attraction for kids of all ages.

On the Spaceship Earth ride, visitors might notice just a few new show scenes, lighting, costumes and set decorations and a new narrator, Academy Award-winning actress Judi Dench. The ride vehicle includes an interactive feature that quizzes visitors on such things as their hometown. (BRILLIANT market research forum! How many people come through this ride every single day?!?!? Unreal.) At the end of the ride, visitors are asked "What kind of future is most important to you" Your options are: Work, Play, Family, and something else that I can't remember.

After selecting "Work," Scott and I are asked if we'd rather work in an office, or from home. From home. Do we want to control our own time or have a set schedule? We go through and answer about 8 questions that give Siemens more and more intimate profile information on our work life preferences. At the end, Siemens shows us a 30 second "demo" of how the Scott-and-Wendi world would look... Jetsons-like cartoon characters complete with computer screen glasses that create virtual desktops on which we can wave and point commands and drive applications. Just like "Minority Report."

Once they get off the ride, visitors encounter Siemens' real show, which begins as they enter a high-ceilinged parlor and watch as their pictures (taken on the ride... Now, Siemens' has a visual picture to go with the demographic info which shows race, sex, and general age range) appear on a large globe in the center, then slide over the globe to their hometowns, where they shrink into pinpoints of light that tally who came from where on any given day. The post show also features several areas of educational high-tech games highlighting some of Siemens' technologies, including Inner Vision for medical technologies; Power City, for energy distribution; and Super Driver for transportation.

Along the way, visitors also encounter a few displays showing off some of Siemens' other programs, including its "Generation 21" science-education awards. Disney planners were impressed enough with the games that they took the unusual step of opening entrances directly into the post-show area, so that visitors can skip the ride and get right into the techno-games, if they prefer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Disney Down-time

I am leaving on a 6am flight tomorrow morning for sunny Florida and DisneyWorld. Which got me thinking about the Disney company.

This past year, Disney began taking out multi-page ads in magazines like Vanity Fair, Town & Country, and Vogue to promote its "Year of a Million Dreams." With all the photographs by Annie Leibovitz, the images are stunningly beautiful and star big name celebrities, sports figures, models, and actors. Disney is definitely encouraging all adults to take some down-time and become a kid again.

Here I come!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Risk vs. Reward

A question posed to me this past weekend, "when you recommend or employ an innovative marketing solution for a client, how do you temper the risks of the unknown?"

Answer: Mindset... your's (the consultant) and the organization's (the client) is the critical factor. Readiness to change is a prerequisite for implementation. If you're in a company that is uncomfortable with you (the consultant) coming in and changing the way they (the client) do business, innovation will not happen. However, if change is the expectation, then there is an understanding that you will have to try a lot of things.

Ultimately, if you're ready for risk, set your expectations that 20% are going to be awful, 70% will be not as good as you hoped, and 10% will surprise you. That 10% is what you build a business around.

Friday, March 7, 2008

"Yes, I'm BACK IN BLACK!"

Okay, forgive the harkening back to one of the most awesome AC/DC songs ever, but I just got my new Dell today and she is BEAUTIFUL!!! Solid black and faster than any computer I've ever had before... like a Jaguar. Hmmm... sexy.

Next week, the normal blogs and actual business thoughts will return with gusto!
Everyone have a great weekend ;-)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Tune That Name" part 1

Not only must your company name reflect your brand and be memorable, the right name can make your business the talk of the town and the wrong one can doom it to obscurity. Given all the considerations that go into a good company name, shouldn't you consult an expert, especially if you're in a field in which your company will be visible and may influence the success of your business? And, isn't it easier to enlist the help of a naming professional? Just a thought...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Thought-for-the-Day Wednesday

Day 5, no computer: I feel eerily calm today after a fitfull night of sleep (or no sleep as the case was).

A colleague referred me to an article by Katsukok Shimizu and Michael A. Hitt, two distinguished professorst at Texas A&M University.

"Companies want to grow... so they implement A LOT of structure. But the extreme
structure causes us to be less smart, less creative, less flexible."

Use structure, step out and be flexible, then step back into some structure. Be able
to shift in and out easily. There is a definite sweet spot.



Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Perfectionists are Losers!

Okay, so I'm getting my car washed at Park Place Lexus today, and that's how I'm blogging. (No computer, Day 4... STILL "jones-ing)

Read this yesterday, so I just had to pass it on.
From Pamela Slim at EscapeFromCubicleNation...

"So I asked Ramit Sethi a question that I have heard from many young people who want to work for themselves:
"What if people won't want to hire me because I am too young?"
"Give me a break," he said. "Perfectionists are losers."
I laughed out-loud at his bluntness, but immediately got what he was saying."

If you have a tendency to let perfectionism overrun your world, check out how to overcome it.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Computers: They Love Me... They Love Me Not

I'm violating my "working on Sunday" rule and posting today because I've suffered a major loss in my life this weekend. Yes, I'm wearing all black and I'm prone to fits of crying because the screen (or the graphics chip... whatever, don't care) on my loyal laptop died on Saturday morning.

All of my files, data, emails... basically my life is trapped on this now worthless piece of metal and plastic. Ugh. The pain of it all. And yet, (sunshine emerges... birds singing) goody goody gumdrops, the joy of shopping for a new machine.

As a nod to my absolutely wonderful Creative Director, James, I seriously seriously seriously gave thought to and deeply investigated converting to a Mac. I really wanted to switch, but it doesn't support two of my "I've gotta have 'em" applications... OneNote and MindManager. (Actually, Mac does support MindManager, but I'd have to buy the software all over again.) Can't break the addiction.

So, ordered a Dell and it should be here Wednesday afternoon. Meanwhile, my posts will be hit or miss this next week, so please be patient with me as my access to PCs has now resorted to wandering around like a homeless person with a portable hard drive begging for a screen. "Buddy, can ya spare a display?"

Friday, February 29, 2008

Where Are We? Part 2...

... OR, "Who Should I Talk To?"

The questions posted yesterday should be posed to:

- INSIDE THE COMPANY
Key influencers
Decision makers
Beyond the obvious C-level people
VP of Customer Service
Customer Service reps
IT People
R&D People

- SALESPEOPLE
Not just yours... Salespeopole in any business bridge the "inside" and the "outside" every day. They are the closest thing to interviewing real customers and prospects. In fact, they're sometimes better because people in sales make their livelihood by listening and responding to real customers' comments and complaints almost every day, and they have firsthand insight into potential solutions.

Salespeople also spend their time trying to outdo the competition which makes them knowledgeable about competitors' specialties. As a group, salespeople are often the most practical thinkers in the organization because results are the only thing they're compensated for. And, results come consistently from what works, not from what works in theory.

- OUTSIDE THE COMPANY
Current customers
Past customers (i.e. those who've left for greener pastures)
Prospects you've pitched to and lost
Your target audience (unpitched)
Competitors (job recruits, ex-employees, current employees)
Industry observers (analysts, press, newsletter writers, bloggers, government regulators, industry attorney, investors, venture capitalists)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Where Are We?

Before your company can go anywhere, you've got to know exactly where you are today from both your own perspective, your employees' perspectives, your customers' perspectives, AND the general marketplace's perspective. So, as "A CEO's GPS," my first order of business is to encourage you to collect and catalog your company's reality by listening to the key stakeholders inside and outside the company in their own unscripted words.

You're listening for patterns, themes, and intelligence that tell an unvarnished truth about your business, its specialty, your competition, the market opportunity, and your unique capacities that can coalesce into a real selling brand.

- How does my company articulate its specialty now?
- Where does it rank in sales, product quality, and leadership status in its specialty?
- What's most important to customers when they buy? Removal of pain? Improvement of what aspect? What attributes? What end benefit?
- Where's the SWEET SPOT for the specialty's attributes... the dividing line between meaningful, measurable differentiation and ungraspable gobbledy-gook in the customer's mind?
- What sets your company apart? What does it do that nobody else does, and how important is that to the market?
- What are your company's values?
- What are its most serious weaknesses?
- Who's the competition? What are they famous for?
- What does the competition do better? Does the market know it?
- What's the biggest thing customers wish they had more of that they don't get now from any company?
- What will make your company #1 in its specialty?
- What will the industry look like in three years? Who will dominate and why?
- Where will your company be in three years?
- What should the market know about your company that it doesn't know today?

Coming tomorrow.... WHO to ask these questions!!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pharmer's Market-ing


DZX Medical is my first client in the healthcare/medical technology industry. And, as I begin working on the content they need for their marketing slicks/pdfs and media strategy, I'm realizing that my verbage is beginning to sound like every other bad drug commercial.
So, a resource I've found for you if your company is in this space... GREAT blog to follow: Pharma Marketing Blog

On a somewhat related note, if you're in the Dallas Area and would like to join Scott and me, we'll be at WordCamp Dallas 2008 the weekend of 3/29. Drop me a note and let me know to look out for you. The founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, will be just one of the great speakers "prescribed."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Another Product RAVE!!!

FreshBooks -- "The fastest way to track time and invoice your clients. Send, track, and collect payments quickly"

FreshBooks is an online invoicing and time tracking service that saves you time and makes you look professional... Fortune 500 professional. Easily create, send, and manage invoices; Track time (yours and your staff); Send invoices by snail mail or email; Accept payment with PayPal, Authorize.Net, and more; Automatically send invoices and late payment notices; Create robust reports and import/export your data; Free account or 30-day money back guarantee.

What else could you ask for?!?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Moving Stage NEXT

Resources for startups are all over the place, but small companies need help stabilizing and managing their expansion, too. What should be No. 1 and 2 on their priority list? Make a "stop doing" list and a "process" list.

"CEOs in growing companies have to think about creating innovative systems that allow them to have control, but they don't have to be the one looking over the shoulder" of employees, says Dino Signore, who runs leadership programs at the Edward Lowe Foundation, a Michigan nonprofit dedicated to helping second-stage entrepreneurs, which it defines as those who head up companies with about $1 million in annual revenue that are beyond startup stage but not fully mature.

Business owners must understand that they have to start working ON their business instead of IN their business. That means both a "stop doing" list (i.e. doing some of their employees' jobs for them) and a "process" list (ex: repeatable and duplicatable procedures for every aspect of the organization to maximize productivity no matter who is performing the job).

The stakes are high. Companies beyond the startup stage thrive or fail based on their organization, according to Eric Flamholtz, a management consultant and co-author of Growing Pains: Transitioning from an Entrepreneurship to a Professionally Managed Firm.
"You ultimately win with infrastructure," says Flamholtz. "Most people think you win with markets and products. You're looking in the wrong place." He says there are some key signals that should tell companies they need to change: when many workers don't know what others are doing, for example, or when sales rise but profits stay flat.

Of course, business owners seeking organization can overdose on new systems and lose the agility that made their startup successful. You need the right balance of internal processes. On that note, be watching for new products and systems in the Ideas to Go section here... we have LOTS of tools-you-can-use coming soon!

The core lesson is that CEOs should create entities that don't depend on them. You want your business to be a legacy... to thrive and grow far past your day-to-day involvement. After all, that's why you went into business on your own in the first place.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Success = Power + Responsibility

From Indexed...



Why do we have "C-level" executives in companies? Why are we so enamored with the word "Chief?" The Chief has greater work to do, yet the Chief only has two hands just like all of us. Similarly, he/she is limited to 24 hours in the day... as is every human on the planet.

With greater power comes greater responsibility and the key to a successful business is delegation. When employees feel they're being given an opportunity to learn new skills, they gain more knowledge and feel more connected to the organization. If you manage your people well, your people will manage the rest well and your company will prosper with both financial rewards and productivity increases.

According to John Adams, society's demand for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases. A similar tenet holds that the more you are willing to accept responsibility for your actions, the more credibility you will have with others.

You are always responsible for what you do, what you don't do, what you say, and how you say it. In the end, power is about the ability to make choices, and that reponsibility requires a benevolent "Chief" to consider the impact of decisions on all those involved.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Glass is Half FULL!!!

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." Helen Keller (1880-1968) American humanitarian and advocate for the deaf and blind

The business will grow. Clients will come. Customers will buy. And, if you think I'm wrong, maybe you should think differently.

Optimism's relationship with entrepreneurship is deep and personal. It's what goads the initial concept out of your brain and launches it into reality. Now, there's loads of research proving optimism contributes significantly to business success along with the revelation that such tendencies can be learned... a blessing for those of you whose dreams are threatened by a skeptical nature.

"Optimism is solely a habit," explains Michael Mercer, a business psychologist and co-author of Spontaneous Optimism. "It's not genetic and it's not something you breathe in the air."

How does optimism play into the life of an entrepreneur and CEO? "If you think something won't work for your business, you need to automatically focus on the solution," Mercer says. "Optimistic business owners lay out clear goals for how they want their businesses to succeed, make realistic timetables and spend 50% or more of their time focused on achieving those goals."

Keep in mind, however, that a touch of REALISM must be tempered with all this OPTIMISM. The true goal? To be realistic... to be optimistic to an extent, but to face the facts about your business and your products/services.

Then again, it's hard to tell which comes first: the attitude or the reality. If you think you can, you can. And, if you think you can't, you're right, too.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Target Practice

Being a Texas girl (Dallas native born and raised), I've spent a good share of time around guns and firing ranges. The key to hitting a good clean shot in the "heart" of the silhouette is to get calm and steady and just gently, but firmly squeeze the trigger (in other words, focus then commit).

The process of finding and studying potential customers for your venture doesn’t have to be complex or expensive, but it is extremely important. In a nutshell, it requires you to find out everything you can about the customers whom you intend to pursue. Once you have that information, you’ll have a much better chance of capturing those customers for your business.

The facts you need to know about your target market fall into these three categories:

1. DEMOGRAPHICS:
Begin your research by checking the demographics of the region that you plan to target. You’ll want to know the population’s make-up in terms of age, gender, income level, occupation, education, and family circumstances — married, single, retired, and so on. But to be truly effective, dive deeper.

Yes, I'm a 35-40 year old, single, white female living in Dallas who graduated from UT Austin and works full-time, but so are probably 200,000 other women. Is your messaging REALLY talking to me? I'm allergic to cats; I love music from country to rap to symphony; I'll gladly pay $1200 for a designer handbag, but won't spend more than $50 on a belt. I drive a 2008 Lexus IS350, but I cringe when I spend $4.50 at Starbuck's for a Chai Tea Latte. I love Neiman Marcus... I also love Target. What do these things say about me? Does your company know me?


2. GEOGRAPHIC / LIFESTYLE FACTORS:
Give some thought to where and how your target customers live. Are they Southerners or Yankees; urbanites, suburban soccer moms, or country folk? Are they risk-takers or conservative, athletes or couch potatoes, spenders or savers? The answers will help determine what you can sell to them, how you should sell it, and at what price.

Again, I live in Uptown and rent my apartment. However, I could afford a $400,000 home. Why don't I choose to own? I spend almost $150 a week on groceries, yet I live alone. Whole Foods organic products all the way, baby. What does this say about me? How do these facts relate to your company?

3. CUSTOMER NEEDS:
Consider all of the reasons why people might purchase your product or service. For example, if you’re opening a string of health clubs, will your customers come to meet other people, to take exercise classes, or to play racquet sports with their friends? Find out by talking to people in the local fitness industry and by quizzing friends or acquaintances who go to health clubs. Then you can design and market your club accordingly.

I work between 30 and 60 hours a week depending on the state of current clients' projects and how well I've scheduled my time and my team's time. Some weeks, I can take all of Friday off. Some weeks, I'm lucky to get the dishes out of the sink and into the dishwasher. It's chaotic. I really need a personal assistant / concierge service. I need a maid. I need a personal shopper. I want people who organize interesting lectures and organizations to reach out to me so I'll get out from behind this stinking computer. Is your company aiming for me?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

When the Brand Specialist Can't Stay "On Brand"

So, I get a phone call yesterday from a woman who has been referred to me by a very close friend, confidante, and advisor. She proceeds to tell me that she's heard that I have a wonderful personality, that I'm easy to work with, that I have lots of influence in Dallas, etc., and that she has been told that I am the perfect person that she needs to have on her team to expand her company.

"Great!," I say, "When would you have time to meet next week so that I can learn what your marketing needs are?" "Oh...," she says. "I have marketing covered... I need a sales executive to close deals on online banner advertising for my firm." HUH?!?

Okay, I ask you, dear reader, am I not doing my job in correctly communicating EXACTLY what it is that I do and how I can help startup and small companies move to the next level? Even as the years go by, I still find myself having to "fight" to maintain a strict focus on my mission statement and set of solutions... without deviating or wandering over into the sales arena (there's good money to be made there!)... or the finance arena (I have a degree in Economics, though)... or HR-land (but, I have great people skills!).

No! Stay on task with your core competency. Yes, smart marketers evolve their brands over time to keep them relevant (no more buggy whips!), so if you are determined to make a change, I offer the following 10 all-too-common mistakes to avoid:

1. Navigating without a plan.
2. Not trying on your customer's shoes.
3. Not planning ahead for implementation and adaptation time.
4. Not calling the call center.
5. Forgetting that people don't do what they say... they do what they do.
6. Basing a rebrand on advertising.
7. Strategy by committee.
8. Believing you're too small to rebrand.
9. Not leveraging existing brand equity and goodwill.
10. Refusing to hire a branding consultant without industry experience.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Business of Blogging

Blogging offers some compelling advantages for business. Every day more and more companies have blogs and here are some of the benefits:

1. Attracts new customers from new demographics. People who read blogs generally spend more money online than people who don't. Helps you answer the question: "Where are my next generation of customer coming from?"

2. Provides your existing customers with a new window through which to see you... and through which you can see them, via visitor statistics and/or comments.

3. Lets you bypass traditional news media. Alongside more traditional marketing methods, like press releases, you can speak in your own voice directly to your audience.

4. Increases your company's presence and placement in search results. Blogs constantly churn out new content full of keywords your potential customers will use to search online for products and services related to your company.

5. Puts a human face on an abstract entity such as your company.

6. Your blog is your company's best crisis communication channel available.

7. It's less expensive. And it's more effective than traditional methods of marketing and public relations.

By this time, the benefits of having a website are undeniable. As a supplement to websites, blogs magnify those benefits tremendously and deliver on them better than a non-blog website can.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Decisions... Decisions... oh, What to Do

In light of a major decision I made (and acted upon!) yesterday, I offer the following FRIDAY FUNNY:



Thursday, February 14, 2008

Recession-Proof Your Business

1. Don't be caught off guard if the slowdown hits your company. Prepare a worst-case, 12-month cash flow scenario and identify what changes you would make the when. Improve your management reporting to identify the leading indicators for your business.

2. Set and measure inventory targets and keep in daily communication with your sales and operations staffs. Contrary to what you would think, this is now the time to weed out unprofitable customers. Every company has them... they cost more than they add to your bottom line. Either evaluate how to make them more profitable or politely refer them to your competition.

3. To prevent attrition, keep in close touch with your customers. Show them that you care about them. Think about how their business is being affected because lasting relationships are built in hard times. Recognize that when the business climate changes, customer needs will change as well. That means that new markets may open up for you.

4. Develop strategies to land more customers. That means spending MORE on marketing... not slashing it to pieces. The successful small business is going to have to win a bigger share of the shrinking pie. The way to do that, especially for retailers, is to create a positive experience. Another strategy is to reach out to new residents in your community. They're going to choose someplace to buy their pizza, gym membership, and shoes. You want an active campaign that greets them and bonds with them.

5. Spend on hiring. Again, contrary to first glance, most economic downturns are short-lived and it's easier to invest in training time for new hires during slower growth periods. Employees that are fired during recession will have to be re-hired... which costs companies a lot more in the long run. Another strategy is to look around for people who have been laid off from competitors and pick up some valuable talent. This is a great time to find top performers (possibly for less!) who will help bring your company to the next level.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fun & NAMES

A great, descriptive, memorable name for your company is the AH-HA moment worthy of champagne toast and rounds of slaps on backs. The name is a work of art... give your brand the gift that leads to immortality.

Great names are:
1. descriptive, evocative, or colorful in some way
2. ownable by you
3. easy or pleasing to say

Some of my favorite brands have their distinct selling idea built right in! Like: DieHard Batteries, EZ Pass, Egg Beaters, Rainex, Honey Baked Ham, SuperBowl, Chain Link Fence, Head & Shoulders Shampoo, Hefty Trash Bags, Ziploc Sandwich Bags... you get the picture.

Even made-up or tech-y names can be inspirational when they "sound" right. Example: Compaq starts with computer but implies the friendliness of a pact between you and your machine. Drug companies make up amazing names that always hint at their descriptive purpose. Example: Viagra has virile and aggressive in it.

Rule of thumb: name only what is truly proprietary and pivotal to your overall brand. That usually means your company itself, a key product or service, and one or two specialty attributes, properties, or ingredients.

Lastly, watch out for the nicknames that your company brand can turn in to. After a while, no one wanted to say International Business Machines any more and IBM was born. This isn't a bad thing, once your brand is firmly established after years of dominance. Don't name your company Richard if you prefer not to be called Dick. And don't name your insurance division "P"remier "I"nsurance "G"roup, either.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Marketing Road Map

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose." says Dr. Seuss in Oh, the Places You'll Go! An effective marketing road map will help your company find it's way and stand out in the crowd.

1. Helps You Sell: An effective map accomplishes the sole purpose of marketing... to generate leads and assist the salesforce in closing a deal faster and more accurately.

2. Keeps Your Prospect Pipeline at a Consistent Level: Unless you market continuously, leads can vanish forcing you to scramble at cyclical times of the year. When an effective road map is an integral part of your business, you'll always know the status of your marketing efforts and you will always be pushed to be proactive and consistently.

3. Uses the Power of Focus: Great road maps aim squarely at targeted clients. Targeting your potentials with frequent and compelling content grabs their attention, and if your message is on point, you will get through.

4. Creates Confidence: Using an assortment of marketing tactics in a continuous pattern helps prospects develop confidence that your business is successful, profitable, has a compelling brand, and can meet their wants and needs.

5. Builds Your Brand: Although the first objective of marketing is to use your activities to generate leads, building your corporate reputation and image will also draw new customers to your business. Outstanding client service, effective marketing strategies, consistent identity, and compelling messages will elevate your brand recognition several levels.

Enjoy the journey... and drop me a line and let me know how the trail looks!