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


Reference back to my post last Thursday!^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


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).

"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!