Archive for January, 2009

getting ideas to spread – an intro to Seth Godin

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Seth is someone you ought to listen to.

Here is an easy and fun to watch video as an intro to his ideas.

This video introduces you to:
– old companies sell average products to average people, and use a lot of TV advertising. Seth says this is dead
– we are in an economy of idea spreading, or idea diffusion. Make something remarkable, and get WOM (word of mouth) to spread the idea
– be remarkable. Good or very good isn’t enough – be remarkable

Seth is listed in the top 50 business thinkers, runs a blog, and authored a lot of books.

You will find Seth slowly moves you along in your ability to innovate.

He has a quality that slowly convinces you of news ways to think/look/understand Before you know it, you will be innovating too.

My Take

Idea Diffusion for me brings together a few concepts:
– Malcolm Gladwell’s tipping point – talks about different sorts of people – connector/maven/salesman. Whilst Seth doesn’t differentiate between these types of people, he still makes the point – ‘telling the right person, and hopefully that person will tell/convince their friends’.
– word of mouth (WOM) advertising is a cheap and effective marketing strategy – when done well. Seth says – be remarkable – you will get WOM.
– web 2.0 and social networking on the internet has changed a lot of people’s lives. This can be explained similarly to WOM and idea diffusion.

I like the juncture between remarkable, WOM marketing, web 2.0 communities, and an ecommerce site. If you can get this happening, then you have unlimited free marketing. You have also dramaticly reduce your costs, as you no longer pay for advertising, or sales or channel commissions. You effectively disintermediate all sales/marketing costs from your business, and have unlimited scaling of your marketing for free.

The Value Leap

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

You do good work for your clients.

You want growth and to do this, generally you need more clients.

You need marketing to find the new clients.

So OK – you know about being customer focused (you read my last post).

You understand your company, but don’t describe your company to new prospects, be customer focused. The customer doesn’t really care about your company, they care about what you can do for them.

Think back to the value you give to your existing clients.

Don’t just tell your prospects about what you do, tell them the value you can give them.

This is similar to describing features and benefits. Features being things you do, and benefits being what the customer receives.

Take the conversation to the next logical step. And tell them the value, don’t make them guess, or leave it for them to interpret.

Some examples:
‘Your new furniture is great quality and unique. You’ll be very happy with it, you’ll be proud of it. Its natural timbers will make it a talking point with your friends and family.’
‘Your project will be delivered on time, and on budget. This will make your job easier. You will look good in front of your boss.’
‘With your marketing on track – you’ll get the growth you are after. You’ll get the rewards from your company that you wanted. You will feel much better about yourself. You might be able to afford some new staff, to give you more time at home with your family.’

When you are more explicit about the value, and use customer focused language, you then getting much closer to your customer. You have a shared language, and a shared view point, and often shared goals.

So take your customer focused conversation to the next step – YOU take the ‘value leap’ so that your client doesn’t have to.

Customer focus – build it into your strategy

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Are you focused on your customer ?

You should think / write / experience everything from your customer’s perspective.

Don’t write on your website ‘We are an advertising agency’. That is focused on your self. Instead try ‘helping you to get more bang for your advertising dollar’.

Your customer focus needs to be right back at the roots of your company – in your mission /vision / brand.

This is a great post by Jay Ehret about a case study.

Here is the original focus in the case study  :

Mission: To provide our customers a great value with our lines of furniture and to provide tailored furniture and services to meet their needs, striving for 100% customer satisfaction.

Vision: To be the number one destination point for furniture in the region.

Brand Promise: To provide tailored (customized) furniture and services to meet your needs.

Can you recognize above – how its inward focused ? how it’s talking about you and your company ?

Does that sound like your own mission/vision statements ?

And here is the updated version – adapted from Jay’s work:

Mission: To deliver furniture that tells stories. To alter competition from price to experience.

Vision: delivering lifestyle to customers through furniture.

Brand Promise: Come home with pride.

We are now talking about customers and experience.

We’re taking the game from furniture to experience. Customer’s will enjoy the lifestyle benefits associated with our furniture. Customers will talk to other customers about the experience at our store.

Learn more about customer experience.

Imagine the word of mouth, from a proud owner of new ‘lifestyle furtiture’. When they next have guests over – you’ll be sure they mention your store.

Litmus Test – how does your brand stack up ?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Does your brand stack up ?

Michael Wagner has 2 compelling challenges for you:

– would your customers miss you if you went out of business ? more

– when your clients think about your company do they say ‘OMG – these people really understand me’ more

Are you delivering a service the same as the next guy ? If so, you need to make some changes.

NY Times review on tech

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

NY Times discuss smaller is better in a lot of cases (smaller PCs, smaller CPUs). This has some serious effects, which I’ll dig into later.

Virtualisation is also on the move :
The number of virtualized new servers has doubled over the last three years, which has driven the revenue of VMware, one of the leaders in this cost-saving technology, to an estimated $1.88 billion last year from $387 million in 2005.

Open source and linux seem also to be making in roads. If you are an innovator in the IT space, you can’t ignore these gems.

the article

The world is changed – are you ?

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Did you know much of the difference between the 3rd world and developing nations has closed ? Hans has a riverting presentation – showing health and income gaps closing. He even shows how the china’s income distribution is catching the US – ‘like a ghost’.

Everyone knows that the US no longer leads manufacturing, its all going to china.

I recently heard from Phil McKinney at killerinnovations – that the ‘knowledge economy’ is over. This can be quickly seen:
– most of IT projects get outsourced to India
– almost any job that can be taught an university can be outsource – legal/accounting/engineering

CK Prahalad also discusses outsourcing IT to India. But he draws upon the reduced costs of IT, and how it effects other close industries (see the podcast in my last post).

So if your organisation relies on:
– manufacturing
– knowledge or skills that can be learned

you are in HUGE trouble if you are fighting against this outsourcing.

You NEED to embrace these world changes – or you will be very soon out of business.

Most manufacturing should be through the first wave of changed competition. If they still have high cost IT, legal, accounting – then they need to take stock of the current wave of skills outsourcing.

If you are in a services industry now, you have to wonder how much longer you can survive.

The future is innovation – or an ‘ideas economy’ (Phil McKinney).

So we have progressed through industrial revolution to manufacturing in china, to services outsourcing to India, and now we need to compete globally in the ‘ideas economy’.

CK Prahalad talks a lot about the reduced cost of innovation.

So how long are you going to wait, given:
– more outsourcing pressure
– reduced cost of innovation
– the need to compete in a global ‘ideas economy’

Now how do we get on this ladder – top 50 thinkers

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

I know this link isn’t all the new – but I believe its revealing

top 50 thinkers

I have never heard of the the first guy – but they have a podcast listed for him – guess where I am heading 🙂

The business leader types are always in the press etc.

The top 12 – I either know a reasonable amount about, or have read their books, or studied them in my Masters of Management (MGSM crica 1998).

Even if you don’t agree with what they say, or the texts are dated, its still very important as manny people are still running on those older models.

I think everyone should understand what Michael Porter has to say, here is an overview. Not that I would start a business based on that – but lots of older companies are purely based on it, with MBA types running those companies. You can then use that knowledge to contrast ideas like ‘blue ocean strategy’ and Seth’s ‘purple cow’.

I might do some more work on:
– referencing which are old/new world thinkers
– which ones I don’t know enough about.

1. C. K. Prahalad Indian management guru
2. Bill Gates Geek-turned-philanthropist
3. Alan Greenspan Ex-Federal Reserve chairman
4. Michael Porter Competitive strategy author
5. Gary Hamel Business strategist
6. W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne INSEAD professors and authors of Blue Ocean Strategy
7. Tom Peters In Search of Excellence author
8. Jack Welch Former GE CEO-turned-columnist
9. Richard Branson Iconic British entrepreneur
10. Jim Collins Good to Great author

11. Philip Kotler Kellogg’s marketing guru
12. Robert Kaplan & David Norton The creators of the balanced scorecard
13. Kjell Nordstrom & Jonas Ridderstralle Funky Business duo from Sweden
14. Charles Handy The original portfolio worker
15. Stephen Covey The man with seven successful and highly effective habits
16. Henry Mintzberg Controverisal Canadian management expert
17. Thomas Stewart Editor of Harvard Business Review
18. Malcolm Gladwell Author of The Tipping Point and Blink
19. Lynda Gratton London Business School professor and author of Hot Spots
20. Donald Trump US Apprentice host

21. Scott Adams Creator of Dilbert
22. Ram Charan Co-author of Execution
23. Vijay Govindarajan A Tuck professor and GE’s new chief innovation consultant
24. Warren Bennis Veteran on leadership
25. Clayton Christensen Innovation expert
26. Thomas Friedman Author of The World is Flat
27. Kenichi Ohmae Globalisation guru
28. Rosabeth Moss Kanter Renowned Harvard academic and author
29. Steve Jobs Apple’s iconic business leader
30. John Kotter Leadership and change guru

31. Jeff Immelt Jack Welch’s successor at GE
32. Rob Goffee & Gareth Jones Authentic leaders at London Business School
33. Adrian Slywotsky Heavyweight modern strategist
34. Marshall Goldsmith Coach to the top executives
35. Bill George Another fan of authentic leadership
36. Larry Bossidy Co-author of Execution with Charan (22)
37. Daniel Goleman The father of social and emotional intelligence
38. Marcus Buckingham Top self-help guru
39. Howard Gardner Harvard’s creator of the multiple intelligence concept
40. Edward de Bono Supreme lateral thinker
41. Al Gore
Climate change campaigner
42. David Ulrich Human resources expert
43. Seth Godin An insightful marketer
44. Costas Markides Charismatic strategist
45. Rakesh Khurana Harvard thinker
46. Richard D’Aveni Hyper-competition expert
47. Peter Senge Learning organisation guru
48. Chris Argyris The originator of the learning organisation concept
49. Jeffrey Pfeffer Stanford intellectual
50. Chris Zook Bain consultant-turned-author

Worst Ever Small Business

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Did you start a small business in a field where you have corporate experience ?

Did you start a small business on the back of a hobby ?

Where is your business plan, and more importantly business model ?

If you setup a small business that is similar to other competitors – you are dead !

How are you going to do signficantly better in order to compete ?

You need to be remarkable (Seth Godin on remarkable) , and Seth’s book (Free Prize Inside).

I see a few people advocating ‘learn your craft’ – and whilst being knowledgeable is good, I think its very DANGEROUS.
– Christopher says in 10 secrets for 10 years – but again – I think a lot of his thoughts take you perilously too close to competing head-to-head
– this is also echoed by Malcolm Gladwell
– the worst advice I have ever heard – is to be a ‘challenger brand’ – which means you are competing head-to-head

Don’t start a business the same as someone else ….. life is just too short to spend competing doing the same thing as someone else.

Do you have the worst ever small business ?

When Its Wrong to Innovate

Monday, January 26th, 2009

You need more profit, growth , and product changes. You know you need to differentiate , niche, position , brand and develop loyalty.

This is all innovation.

Seth Godin says you need to be remarkable. This helps reinforce – small changes, or bandaids, are generally not enough.

Surely you can’t make or review all these changes at once. You need a structure to help you reduce clutter and focus.

You can make innovation at several distrinct places in your company:
– business model
– marketing strategy
– branding innovation
– product changes
– pricing changes
– sales techniques
– customer service changes
– customer retention plans
– customer referral

Changes towards the top of the list generally cost more, requires more vision, and generally is a bigger risk.

The bigger changes (towards the top of the list) clearly require more buyin – from higher levels of management, the CEO, and even the board.

You will also have the potention to make much more profit from the innovative changes that are more aggressive. You can literally blow open a market, and make competitors irrelevant by business model changes.

Having said bigger is better, many innovations might be WRONG for you:
– you might like smaller changes – so you can manage the risk
– you might not have senior enough buyin
– you might not be able to find the right ideas
– you may not require big changes to meet your goals

As you get more comfortable with innovation, you will find the real value is innovation at more than one level at the same time, like:
– branding and pricing changes
– business model and changes in marketing channels

But again, starting with smaller changes, with one dimension is easier, and less risk to start with.

My suggestion would be for you to work out:
– what are your goals for the company
– do you need small incremental change, or do you need more significant change
– what sort of senior buyin do you have ?
– how much risk can you stomach ?

Targeting your effort to where innovation will best fit your organisation’s needs should now be the obvious answer.

So when you hear – “we need product or price changes” – ask yourself – is that the WRONG place to innovate ?

Being competitive in the Experience Economy

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Just listened to podcast from Phil McKinney. He spoke about the ‘experience economy’. Roughly its like why is going to DisneyLand a premium over the local ride park. How does Harely generate such an emotional response ? You pay a premium to get an experience, as opposed just to a fun night out.

Obviously much of this is just strong branding over a long period of time.

It also occured to me, you need to understand where the experience is in your industry. Then you need to go and own that experience.

I’ll reference ‘Circ de Soleil’ and the book Blue Ocean Strategy. BlueOcean talked about Circ-de-Soleil beat out circuses, by making the acts faceless, and removing the expensive actors (both animals and invididual stars). BlueOcean was able to control costs, focus on a better paying market charging a premium price. Less costs and premium prices – now that’s profit.

Here I am saying Circ-de-Soleil owned the experience. Its like running an art gallery perhaps, you dont want to be at the beck-and-call of the art industry, as to who will show in your gallery.

You need to own the experience – not the artists. You need to still make the same money, if you change artists, someone else signs your star. This also stops a star leveraging their value for more pay.

Another good example is say – ‘Kaos Comedy Restaurants’. Having the waiters be funny, tell jokes, and be rude – all part of the night. They owned the experience, and not the artists.

RedBubble seems to be generating lots of attention, and recently won a cool-company award. They own the platform and the community in which the art is shown. RedBubble aren’t in trouble if a single artist goes. You dont go to redbubble to get to just one artist.

I guess this is ultimately what will put Hoyts out of business. They don’t own the movies. No-one is loyal to Hoyts – we’ll go where the movies (the art) goes. OK – they still have some experience going to the cinema.

Hoyts whole ‘only at the movies’ campaign is rediculous. For the life of me – I cant understand why Hoyts dont market ‘better at the movies’ – ‘or more fun at the movies’, or do lifestyle marketing. The only edge/value they have left is the experience – yet they market about the movie itself.

I can even see a time, when a huge star disintermediates the whole movie industry, and sells direct over the web, DRM protected movies. Like the next star wars movie – ‘only on the web’. But that’s another story.

Don’t let your company be the next circus or the next Hoyts.

Marketing activity = Danger Will Robinson !

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

How to know when your company is in danger from poor marketing planning.

“we need a new website, we need a CRM. Our last 3 web sites didn’t work – we need a better one.”

If you are thinking about marketing tactics – then that is the mistake.

If you don’t have a bigger vision, and an understanding of why you are investing in each marketing tactic, then you WILL fail.

If you can’t clearly and distrinctly describe the aims of your website, the branding it needs to promote, what interactions you want to promote. Then your screwed.

You need to take a step make, and to some marketing strategy, as opposed to planning/investing in marketing tactics.

Lots of small business owners want to see action, and don’t value sitting around talking, and strategizing. The only problem, that’s exactly what you need to be doing.

Now I know these sound contrite – but here is a starter of documents you need to consider.

Mission Statement
Vision Statement
Benefit Statement
Positioning Statement
Value Proposition
Unique Sales Proposition
Strategic Differentiation Statement
Brand Promise
Brand Identity

Now imagine you went to your web developer, or marketing planner, and said please read through these. We need your input on a new website that better supports our vision/brand/value to the market. We want to website to help us better interact with new prospects.

You and the website developer now have a shared understanding of what you are attempting to achieve. You can at least converse based on this understanding.

And when they do come up with website concepts, and ask you about the AI. All you have to do is judge it on how it meets your stated goals – not does it look cool.

So the next time someone is talking about redoing a website, or new brochures, or change the tele marketing tacticts. And the DONT give you some idea of the vision/branding/value – then DANGER WILL ROBINSON !

When Bundling Goes Wrong

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

OK – one of the most brilliant marketing strategies is bundling …. or ‘meal deals’.

Think about what they did for Macca’s. Instead of selling burgers for say $3, chips for $2, and drinks for $2 – they sell a ‘meal deal’ for $5.50. You essentially get chips OR the drink for nearly free.

Instead of sometimes only selling a burger($3), or sometimes a burger + drink ($5), they more often sell a ‘meal deal’ for $5.50. Macca’s ends up with a higher average sale price. On average they sell more to each customer.

So what if you have ‘bundled services’ or ‘bundled products’ in your company? Perhaps you’ll increase the average sale. GREAT – we are getting more profit.

WRONG. What if the customer say doesn’t want or doesn’t respect part of your bundle.
– at best you will have increased your cost to deliver that sale (lowering your profit).
– at worst, they wont buy from you, as there is part of the offer they are not interested in
– overtime, you have increased your costs, and will disincent customers to buy from you …. not good

‘Blue Ocean Strategy’  clearly says you can attack a market by ripping out unloved features, and reducing costs. (I’ll write up a full review of Blue Ocean Strategy at some stage).

A simple solution would be to offer the components of your service seperately. And be proud of each component, talk highly of each of them. And ask the customer what components THEY want.

Its easy for sales people to think ‘if I put MORE value into the deal’ the customer might be more likely to buy.

Don’t sell them anything they dont want, or dont value. It will just end up a cost to you, and disincenting your customers.

Eventually bad deals, with too much cost, will destroy your company.

If you were smart, and to push the envelope, you have a bundle on offer, that is MORE than the some of the parts.

Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

This was a fantastic book.

You should read this if you :

– are launching a new product

– are reviewing your marketing of a product – especially on a crowded industry

The basics are:

– differentiation through marketing alone is not enough

– your product must genuinely be different to your competitors. And it needs to STAND OUT

– brainstorming is rubbish – its all about edge thinking

– you need to champion your ideas – although this is less relevant if you own your own business

The book details an innovation system about edges

– take your thinking and product to the extreme edge

– make it invisible, or outrageous, or obscene, or quiet. It has a very useful list of starting ideas.

CEO Institute presentation

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

I heard from a range of speakers today.

Charles Kovess provided an inspirational speech on passion. He started provocatively :
“I am a laxative for thinking”

He was larger than life – used an interesting term:
“are you SI or SH ”
– SH being SHitty … you get out of bed … “what do I have to do today?”
– SI being Steve Irwin …. “crikey, who can I help today!”

Focus on helping others invigorates us. For sales people, think of ‘who can we help today’ instead of ‘who can we take money from’.

He discussed a balance of work/fitness/spirit.

I was lucky enough to get his 2 books signed as a souvenir for the day:
“passionate people produce – rekindle your passion and creativity – a blueprint for business people” (possibly the longest title I have seen)
“passionate performance – your key to mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing in business”
When I read them – I’ll let you know what i think.

Peter Switzer – a journalist of note – and runs his own business.

Also publish a book ‘350 ways to improve your business’ – it a review of lots of successful business – and he distills it down to 350 things to do in business (seems odd, why couldnt get it down to a manageable size).

He seems to have interviewed lots of interesting folk.

Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

He is Australia’s best-selling business author of Software For Your Brain, NewSell and his new
book The X10 Memeplex: Multiply Your Business By Ten! He is the Founder of the School of
Thinking with Edward De Bono in New York in 1979. School of Thinking lessons are exported to
over 40 countries every day and have already reached over 50 million people worldwide since

I am definately going after these books.

He pushed ‘ CVS to BVS’
– for every Current View of the Situation, there is a Better View of the Situation.
– CVS is about how we perceive what is now – through our past learning, influences, truths
– BVS is about breaking down the past, and seeing a better future

I read it as redefining the now, not through your old well worn comfortable safe frame, but through a different frame that allows interest/challenge/change/risk.

Your Take Out

New ideas are from reframing the current and mundane, and allowing in risk and change.

Instead of seeing a glass half empty – you see a glass that could be altered, contents that could be replaced, or simply a nice drink.

My mum always said I preferred to alter the rules … here Michael is giving me permission to bend the glass. (the Matrix anybody?)

Start here

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

You will make more profit from your business through knowledge, ideas and discovery.

You will find inspiration, gather learning, and derive more profit for your company.

Armed with knowledge you will have killer weapons to deliver innovation and change for your business.

You will learn to turn the mundane into success.

You will see opportunity instead of obstacles.

See through my eyes – the experiences of my small business’s.

You’ll learn from snipets of my own reading. I read lots of management and marketing, books/magazines/blogs. You’ll get an abridged version, and references to read more.

I hope to setup a forum service, that will allow to post details about your business, and allow me and others to colloborate on your business.

You’ll either already own your own business, or thinking about starting out. You’ll find references and material for both