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Obama and Clinton: “We’re so glad it’s over”

The Democratic Presidential candidates (and for that matter, McCain) are so very glad that it’s finally over.

The pain of weekly battles on the television, in front of huge crowds and in living rooms all over the country is mercifully, finally over.

No, silly, not the Democratic primary elections. That’s still going on.

I’m talking about American Idol.

Wednesday night, David Cook was announced as the American Idol winner.

The 21st century Donny Osmond, David Archuleta, is the American Idol runner-up.

Clearly not the kinds of guys to ignore opportunity, Archuleta and Cook are now immortalized by new Guitar Hero commercials that educates a new generation about the classic Risky Business Tom Cruise Bob Seger underwear lip sync scene.

Archuleta’s Guitar Hero act:

Yet amid the red carpet celebrity love fest at the Nokia Theater, amazingly, there are lessons for the small business owner.

Several of them, in fact.

A lesson about the power of social media

Is 96 million American Idol votes cast in 24 hours social enough for you?

That’s only 4 million less than the total number of votes cast for the Bush vs. Kerry Presidential election in 2000, and it’s 9 million more than voted in the 1996 Clinton vs. Dole Presidential election.

A few more startling numbers:

  • More people voted for American Idol winner David Cook than voted for Bill Clinton in 1996.
  • More people voted for David Cook than voted for either George Bush *or* Al Gore in 2000.
  • More people voted for runner-up David Archuleta than voted for Bob Dole in 1996.

Social media is personal (note the title of the blog).

A lesson about involvement.

Find a way to involve your customers more deeply in your business.

Simon may get to chew up wanna-be American Idols and spit them out – but the voters with their text messages, toll-free calls and web votes are the ones who were brilliantly kept involved by the show’s marketing and structure/design.

Of course, there’s a lesson about the lack of vision of the music industry, except for 3 months on a TV show where customers get to make a choice about what to listen to next and where the show (business) goes next.

We’ve talked about iTunes rise to #1 in retail music sales (CD or online), and how they’ve knocked off Amazon, Best Buy and even Wal-Mart. A website and a music player software sells more music than 4000+ big box stores.

Same lesson. Involvement is personal.

American Idol works because of involvement. Choice. Interaction. And…The psychology behind making a superstar (or at least, a hero) out of a nobody/underdog.

Where’s the choice for your clients?

How are you providing your clientèle with choice, convenience, interaction and control over the experience they have when doing business with you? I don’t mean give them the keys, but you can give them a far more interactive experience without losing the control every small business owner wants.

Study the methods used by American Idol. Celebrity. Interaction. Technology. Choice. Convenience (3 ways to vote – at least).

96 million people, 1/3rd of the United States population just spent 3 months scheduling their evenings around 1 TV show, living and dying 2 nights a week (sometimes more) with American Idol. Can’t get much more personal than that.

How are you going to get their attention today?

On Thursday, American Idol will be the subject du jour at corporate water coolers, bars, blogs and elsewhere.

I’ll bet Barack and Hillary are really looking forward to Friday.

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Change that your business can believe in

In the midst of conversation about change (hard to avoid that word these days), the “kings” of business came to mind.

Names like Woolworth, Sears, Wal-Mart, Barnes and Noble. Technologies like fax, Palm Pilot, Walkman and Yahoo.

Barack Obama Nashua Rally 37
photo credit: No. Nein

No one could beat Woolworth … until Sears came along.

No one could possibly rival Sears … until K-Mart came along (and later…Wal-Mart).

No one could possibly rival Waldenbooks … until Barnes & Noble came along (and later, Amazon).

No one could break into the big three television networks and become the leader in their bread and butter – the news …until CNN came along (and later, Fox News and MSNBC).

Nothing could possibly rival the fax machine … until e-mail came along? And then RSS, Twitter and blogs.

Nothing could possibly rival the Palm Pilot … until Windows mobile Smartphones and the Blackberry came along.

Nothing could possibly rival the Walkman … until the iPod came along?

The music stores were indestructible, until Wal-Mart came along. Recently, iTunes replaced Wal-Mart at the top of retail music sales.

Yahoo, once the 500 lb gorilla in the internet world, is now garage sale material in the eyes of Microsoft and worse, Wall Street. One thing that is consistent about business is constant change. The power of the internet to force that change is even stronger.

But it isn’t just about big monster Fortune 500 and Inc 500 businesses. It happens in small business too. The long-time leader in the studio software business when I entered it was a DOS program… as late as 1998! A few years later, our software and others in the market had that owner moving into real estate sales. I’m sure you can look around in your market and tell similar stories.

Break the mold
photo credit: paper by design

When Wal-Mart started up, you can bet that Sears thought “Who do those guys think they are???” even though they had made Woolworth feel that way only a few decades earlier.

Rain Man was right about K-Mart, but it still took Wal-Mart to put them in their rightful place.

Do you think ABC/NBC/CBS felt they were unbeatable? Palm? Sony and their Walkman?

Complacency is a great weapon for an upstart newcomer. Complacency is dangerous, often deadly. Kmart is the role model for the “totally complacent, dont get it, have no clue” business.

Are you the big cheese in your business niche? Getting complacent, not adjusting to change (in fact, not PURSUING change) and (here it comes), not pursuing the slight edge CONSTANTLY is what keeps you out of trouble and forces your competition to constantly play catch up.

Yesterday, I was talking with a programmer friend about some new mobile technology. He said “My clients never asked me for that stuff.”

I told him it was his job to show his clients why they need to use the technology – if it really does offer them an edge.

If they have to ask for the new tool, it’s likely because a competitor is already there. Someone else is teaching clients about new tools in that market. That’s the player you want to be.

Dont play catch up. Be the lead dog with constant change, constant improvement and pursuit of the slight edge.

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David Apple wastes no time, passes Goliath Wal-Mart in music sales

Just a few days ago, I was talking about iTunes passing Amazon and Best Buy in 2007 total music sales.

That’s all kinds – CD and downloaded music.

Didn’t take long for that to become old news. On Tuesday, a leaked Apple memo shows that January 2008 music industry numbers from NPD indicates that Apple has now passed Wal-Mart in total music sales (and remember, this includes’s music store).

Goliath has an Achilles heel. You simply have to look a little harder to find it.

Woolworth had one. Sears had one. K-Mart had one. Now, it’s become clear that Wal-Mart has one as well.

How closely have you looked for cracks in the armor of your market’s Goliath?

If YOU are the Goliath in your market – what would you attack, if you were David?

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Is your business ready for disruptive events?

No, I don’t mean the collapse of the global economy, oil prices over $150 a barrel, or even worse, Starbucks closing for three hours.

I mean truly disruptive things in your business. The easy example is fuel.

Increased fuel prices are similarly disruptive to a multitude of businesses, but that has been analyzed to death so I’ll leave it alone.

Instead, let’s look at apples.

A few years ago, McDonald’s started selling apple slices and some sort of caramel-like substance made of high fructose corn syrup and caramel coloring. And they started selling salads with apples in them. And a few other menu items have apples.

This all started at about the same time.

Almost overnight, McDonald’s became one of the largest, if not the largest, U.S. consumer of apples. Billions of apples are suddenly in play that were previously happily shipped to anyone who wanted them.

Disruptive, wouldn’t you say?

If you buy apples for your business, what just happened to your business model, much less your future?

If you sell apples, what just happened?

Now let’s look at Apple.

Late last month, the NPD Group announced that iTunes had passed Best Buy and had become the nation’s second largest retailer of music, only eight months after passing Amazon to become #3. That’s music in all forms, CD or otherwise. The only one selling more than iTunes is Wal-Mart, who has to be looking over their shoulder.

Wal-Mart looking over their shoulder. Bet you never thought you’d hear that. Course, neither did Woolworth or Sears.


Certainly, the music industry has been in turmoil for years because they have their head stuck up where the sun doesn’t shine, but despite all that, think about how disruptive – even to Wal-Mart, Amazon and Best Buy – the iTunes model and implementation has been.

Finally, let’s look at corn.

The ethanol craze has turned farmers to corn (despite the fact that most grains are way up in market price). Despite the fact that other plants have proven to be more productive for ethanol creation, and easier on the farmland than corn, corn is the industry shining star for ethanol production.

Until you realize that this same corn is no longer going overseas to feed third world countries.

Until you realize that other crops are being supplanted (no pun intended) to plant corn – and again, many of those items either go overseas or cause fewer crops of other kinds to be planted, ergo the higher prices for wheat, etc.


What kind of disruption could totally change your business? And perhaps more importantly, what kind of disruption can you be the architect of in your market?