Competition Management Marketing

Can you really “own” a word in your industry?

A few days ago, I was having a conversation with some friends in the non-profit industry when the word “friendraising” came up. While I have a fair amount of non-profit experience as a volunteer and a board member, I don’t play in the circles where these folks go. Most of them are nationally-known experts whom I met on a board and I’m lucky to call them friends.

The conversation started in discussion after I found a reference to the term “friendraising” in a blog.

I mentioned it to someone on this list because it’s the title of a fundraising book she’d written, partly because of the word / reference and partly because in my mind, my friend “owns” that word by virtue of her reputation in the fundraising world – and of course, the book title.

I kept that part to myself, partly to see what reaction I would get. Later, several folks piped up and said the term has been used forever in the NGO world, which doesn’t surprise me.

Regardless of the historical facts, the term “friendraising” first came to me from Hildy. In fact, the blog post that I sent to her is the only other place I’ve seen it used.

In my mind, she “owns” that word. I don’t mean literally. It simply means that when someone says “friendraising”, I think of Hildy.

Of course, Hildy doesn’t really own the use of that word. The ownership isn’t real, it’s in my mind. Think about that for a moment. Consider all the businesses that “own” (figuratively speaking) a word that is important or indicative of a business niche.

Let’s try a few:

“hamburgers”     -    like it or not, you probably think McDonald’s.

“pizza”                 -    you probably think Domino’s or Pizza Hut.

“great comebacks in football” -    maybe you think of Staubach, Griese, Montana or Elway.

“oil changes”       -   you probably think of Jiffy Lube.

“video stores”    -    you probably think of Blockbuster.

When I say an important word or phrase that applies to the business that you’re in, who do people think of first?

If it isn’t you, start putting some thought into why that is, what you can do about it, and who the first person is in your mind (for ideas).

“Own” your industry by being the one they think of first.

One way smart businesses do that is via regular non-sales-related contact, such as customer newsletters. How will you do it?

Entrepreneurs Management Marketing Montana The Slight Edge

How to become an overnight business success

2007 Montana forest fires - how they apply to your businessTo anyone outside of Montana who is reading the news, youâ??d think the entire state was one big forest fire.

The photo at right was taken looking west at Glacier International Airport, about 8pm on Aug 11. Yep, that’s smoke masking the sun.

Thankfully, we got 3 days of on and off rain and nice dark clouds (vs smoke) and things have calmed down considerably.

While there are lots of fires (and smoke, some of which is from Idaho), there are also lots of places that arenâ??t on fire. Interestingly enough, visitation at Glacier Park is up 11% this year, despite a very late opening of the Going to the Sun road, and of course, despite the smoke that annoys all of us.

That 11% increase isnâ??t an accident, and neither are the fires.

Unless youâ??re one of my Montana readers, you may not realize it, but forest fires donâ??t just happen overnight. A number of things have to happen first.

Brush grows up and thickens over the years. Layers of evergreen tree needles cover the ground and insulate previous yearsâ?? needle layers from the snowâ??s moisture. Snow melts as the days get warmer. The brush, downfall and needles on the ground dry as the weather warms and May/June rains finally stop.

Summer humidity levels that drop to single digits pull the moisture out of everything. Every day that it is hot or windy steadily prepares the forest so that itâ??s just a little bit easier to ignite. In the evening after a hot day, a thunderstorm forms in the mountains. Lightning strikes in the forest, igniting needles.

At summerâ??s low moisture levels, it isnâ??t long before the brush and downfall are burning. As soon as the fire finds taller and taller â??ladder fuelsâ? that allow it to climb to the tops of the biggest trees, the fire is off and running. The fire generates winds, which accelerate the fire even more. Perhaps a storm or a late evening wind pushes it. The next thing you know, thereâ??s a plume of smoke rising thousands of feet into the air, and we have a raging forest fire.

So why do I mention it and what does it have to do with your business? Lots.

Your business is no different than the forest. The forest requires a specific set of actions and sustained momentum of those actions to get itself to a point where it can not only burn, but become an unstoppable firestorm.

Your business needs exactly the same thing.

You hear people lament the â??overnight successâ? of some business people as if they didnâ??t â??deserve itâ?, not realizing that they slaved away in their garage or basement for years during their free time, working while others were fishing, golfing, watching American Idol, etc. â??Suddenlyâ?, that personâ??s â??business forestâ? catches fire. Itâ??s seldom an accident.

The steady drip-drip-drip of measurable, focused activity, steady improvement, one more product, one more service, one more customer, over the long term works just like a river created the Grand Canyon.

If you only get 1 new customer a week, by the end of the year, youâ??ll have 50 new customers. Whatâ??s that worth to you? Itâ??s your overnight success. Itâ??s why you spent all that time in the basement, or got up early and stayed up late. Somewhere down the road, your businessâ?? momentum would finally build to the point where the business catches fire. Whammo, youâ??re an â??overnight successâ?.

You never hear anyone refer to farmers as â??overnight successesâ?, yet they cut and bale thousands of rounds of hay in a few weeks in the summer or fall and suddenly have barns full of hay. They only get to do that because months earlier, they researched a specific seed line. During the previous spring, they turned over the soil and patiently let it sit all year while they earned nothing from it. Finally, they planted. They irrigated on a daily basis, monitored the seedlings, pulled weeds, fertilized, fought off pests, broke the soil up along the rows of plants and finally, the surviving hay matured so that it could be cut, let dry, and baled.

Overnight success, just like a forest fire. It isnâ??t an accident. Itâ??s the result of momentum. Do at least one thing every day to get, or keep, a client â?? and youâ??ll get some.

Competition Corporate America Employees Management Marketing

San Diego recruited for performance AND character. So should your business.

CNN is reporting a deal between Federal prosecutors and Michael Vick’s legal team regarding the dog fighting related charges filed against him, which include the use of cruel methods of execution of his dogs. Vick’s troubles are another in a seemingly endless list of athletes whose millions, homes, cars, companions and business interests aren’t enough to entertain them.

Ever wonder when or if professional sports (much less college sports) will figure out that the hiring and subsequent glorification of drugs, thugs and “gangstas” is not only stupid, but bad for business?

Corporate America Entrepreneurs Management The Slight Edge

Cull the herd, cultivate the mentor

Last week’s Boston Business Journal talks about the increasing issues with mandatory retirement ages in law firms.

I suppose they are understandable given the reasons stated in the article, but I wonder why they would run off a quality lawyer who isn’t interested in retiring?

Obviously, they are going to let the less-capable, or even the “average” retire according to their legal agreement and call it good.

But what about the superstar, the brilliant legal mind?

Why not keep that lawyer around as a mentor to the newbie lawyers? Sure, we all know that the new college grads know everything, but we also know that they understand the concept of precedent. Mentors with “40 years of precedent” behind them just might be what the doctor (lawyer?) ordered.

What do you do when your long-time experts need a change, or “age out”?

Run em off? Or let them share with the “young whippersnappers”, the newbies who are full of energy and ready to blossom with a little subtle mentoring?

Don’t waste an asset like the experience and expertise of an older staffer who wants to stay in the game, even on a part-time basis.

Tiger Woods can still learn a few things from Jack and Arnold. So can your Tigers.

Corporate America Customer service Employees Management

This old man, he’s got Dish.

Well, he sorta has Dish. He has a bill every month anyhow.

Dish Networks is simply amazing.

I haven’t done business with them in years. Their customer service 8 years ago was mildly annoying but nothing unusual for a public “utility” of that nature. We expect them to be bad, or at least, barely better than AT&T.

This story about an older guy and his account with Dish Networks are a great example of what not to do, how not to do something as ugly as that, and perhaps most importantly, why “it’s our policy” is a great way to create horrific referrals and PR that you won’t be proud of.

The money is bad enough, but the way this call was handled – even if the description isn’t 100% accurate – is astoundingly ugly – even for a big, dumb corporation.

How much is it worth to have your company used as a bad example of customer service? Is it worth the $150 they got?

Training your staff to handle things like this is one of the most valuable things you’ll do for the long term health of your business. If nothing else, training them to be at least marginally human, vs robots that say “It’s our policy” over and over again will get you higher up the food chain past AT&T.

You can, and should, do better.

Good Examples Management Mark Riffey Marketing The Slight Edge Uncategorized

X-Ray glasses and other fundamental secret weapons

When I’m working with people, it’s not unusual to get a fair number of questions from people asking me about tools, techniques and ‘where I got or learned about <whatever>’.

5 things/people jump out at me, in no particular order:

Mindmapping (I use MindManager from MindJet.)
Great for organizing a wide range of seemingly unrelated information, and more importantly, for brainstorming during the design phases of a project.

I listen to Jim Rohn’s advice.
Don’t be fooled by the “Man, he’s old. He could be John McCain’s brother” thing. Rohn calls himself “America’s Business Philosopher” (and he is), and is in the same league with Zig Ziglar. It’s not just about business or sales with Jim. It’s about all aspects of your life, including your business. His One Year plan is a great framework for getting your act together, 360 degrees-wise.

I listen to Dan Kennedy’s advice.
Absorbing Dan’s stuff is like getting a pair of X-Ray Business Goggles. So much of the crap that you’ve been taught, or that you might have learned the wrong way, gets fixed with a pair of Planet Dan X-Ray glasses. I know, sounds kinda stupid, maybe even pegs your hype-o-meter. When it comes to direct mail, direct response marketing, strategic thinking and seeing what others aren’t seeing, Dan has a unique way of getting inside your head.

I listen to KenMcCarthy’s advice. 
Who listens to an older (than me<g>) balding guy about business on the internet? I do. Success leaves clues, as Dan says. If you are a newbie at doing business on the internet (Its ok if you are) and don’t know the techno stuff – Ken’s Smart Beginners program is really well done. No assumptions about what you do and don’t know. Even if you don’t want to be the geek, Smart Beginners teaches you enough to be coherent when you to go get help from a contract programmer or webmaster. Few people can pull off a “101” class, but Ken does. If you’re more advanced, there’s plenty more. Ever heard of Yanik Silver or Perry Marshall? Both of them started off as Ken’s students, and those are just 2 examples.

The School of Hard Knocks.
Master’s degree, working on my Doctorate 🙂 The prior 2 links have made that road substantially shorter, but you still have to take it to some extent. Don’t take the long road, it’s got ruts.

How this might apply to you
One thought about the names I noted above. Jim, Dan and Ken are a powerful combination, and yeah, they aren’t 20 something. Don’t underestimate them. Jim’s an older guy. Dan’s style isn’t for everyone. Ken’s a bit soft spoken. 20-somethings may not be able to relate to Jim – though I think that’s a pre-conceived blindness issue. Dan can come off as a bit abrasive or edgy or something. Ken is so soft-spoken and so different than most “internet experts” that some might dismiss him. That’d be a mistake.

Your names might be different and that’s ok. Finding the ones that make sense for you is what is important,  but not as important as implementing instead of sitting around on your hands fretting about “What if”.

Competition Corporate America Customer service Employees Management The Slight Edge

If you pay your people minimum wage, you are an idiot.

Earlier today, I got an urgent email warning me about the recent minimum wage hike.

The Fair Labor Standards Act increased the federal minimum wage in three steps:

  • July 24, 2007, $5.85 per hour
  • July 24, 2008, $6.55 per hour
  • July 24, 2009, $7.25 per hour

If you have employees in your store making minimum wage, you MUST increase their pay rate immediately! If you have already paid them for time worked after July 24 you must calculate the difference between their old rate and the new rate and give them a paycheck to make up the difference!

Heads up – You should only have to do this if you are an idiot.

Corporate America Management Marketing

How to lose millions of dollars in sales, quickly

Scouting sure is providing a lot of marketing lessons these days. Today’s lesson is about how a company wasted a multi-million dollar global opportunity.

With a tent.

Corporate America Management The Slight Edge

Trust the process, whether you’re flippin’ burgers or selling jets

Ever wonder why McDonald’s manages to run their restaurants in a profitable and generally successful manner with a bunch of teenagers who might otherwise have to be threatened with losing the car keys just to get them to take out the trash?

It’s the system, not the Special Sauce.

You don’t get half-cooked fries because everyone knows not to remove them till the beeper goes off.

You don’t get raw burgers for the same reason.

Corporate America Customer service Management Marketing

They know where you live. But do they care?

I was having lunch with a friend from Rotary a while back and he told me about an interesting encounter he’d had with a new bank that came to the area.

He said that this bank was new in town, but not new to banking. In fact, he’s had an account there for over forty years.

He contacted them after they had been open for a little while, primarily because they hadn’t contacted him. He found it a little odd that they hadn’t gotten in touch, especially given that he’d been a client since the 1960s. Like a lot of other banks, this bank has been bought and sold many times, but the original account is still there and he still gets statements in the mail here in the valley.

My friend tells me that he called the bank and mentions that he has had an account at a Minneapolis branch of the same bank for over 40 years. He tells the person who answers that he expected a call or a card in the mail to advise him of the opening of the new bank, but received nothing, thus the call.

After fishing for the response he expected (visit the bank, ask for his name, etc) and getting nowhere, he gets this reply to one of his questions: “Well, maybe you should open an account here. Bye.

He wasn’t asked about the account, much less how to reach him or if he wanted to transfer the account to the local branch. He wasn’t asked if he had specific questions.

They didn’t even bother to get his name.

So what should have happened?

This customer is a businessperson and has experience with mailing lists, customer databases and the like. He knew that he should have been contacted and why.

  • Why wouldn’t the bank run their database to find all the customers in this part of the state? It’s an ideal time to send them a series of mailings (a postcard, a card, a letter inviting him to a customer-only grand opening, etc) in order to get an existing customer onboard with your new staff, location, etc.
  • Why wouldn’t they invite the ones within an hour’s drive to come in to a special reception to introduce these customers to their personal banker? After all, they are used to dealing with the bank by phone and US mail from several states away.
  • Why wouldn’t they take the opportunity to make a personal appointment in order to open up a better relationship with an existing customer- in this case, a customer who despite being more than 1000 miles from their bank – still does business there after 40 years?

A friend of mine who used to run a bank here didn’t have an answer for me. I told him my story about never being contacted by my bank for over 5 years. I asked him why banks wouldn’t want to work harder to be better partners to business owners by actively working with them.

I suspect that the majority of business owners out there would respond positively to a note or a voice message like this: “Hey Joe, every 6 months or so we review the accounts of our best commercial clients just to make sure there isn’t some way we can help them with the financial aspects of their business. Do you have 15 minutes to meet over coffee so we can chat about a few things? I’ll meet you at your place, or wherever you like and we can go over a few things that might help you. I’m not trying to sell you anything, we simply like to make sure our business clients are as strong as we can help them become.

Someone is paying attention to your customers. Is it you?