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Forest fire communication can burn you

Now that the Reynolds Creek fire is 65% contained, there are two myths to squash:

The fire is almost out.

Not true. Ask anyone close to the fire teams and they’ll likely tell you that only a season-ending snow will likely knock it out completely. Even so, if you let this cancel your 2015 Glacier National Park visit, you’re probably making a mistake.

There’s not much to see with the fire burning.

Not true. As I noted online numerous times over the last several weeks, the park’s still open, the Going-to-the-Sun road is mostly open, 99.97% of the park is not burning and it remains more than capable of wowing (and challenging) your mind and body. Thankfully, news organizations, Inciweb, GNP, various tourism groups and others are communicating this message so that visitors don’t cancel their plans.

Allowing these two perceptions to percolate in our guests’ minds without updates is dangerous not only for this year’s success, but for future years as well.

What else gets burned in a forest fire?

Forests aren’t the only thing that are burned by forest fires. Profitability, traffic, cash flow and our well-laid plans can also go up in smoke.

When we have a fire, it’s all but certain to hurt tourism – particularly if you depend on someone else to set your visitors at ease.

I know you’re busy. It’s peak season, or should be. Even so, the Reynolds Creek fire should have you thinking about a few things:

  • How does your business react when red flag conditions are present?
  • How does your business react when that first fire of the season hits the news?
  • How does your business react when the first wave of cancellations comes in?
  • Are those reactions planned? Have they been rehearsed / tested?
  • If you’re away from the property (perhaps your parent is sick), will these plans be executed as you wish with the type of messages you want delivered?
  • Do you have all of the steps in place to communicate with your visitors in order to minimize the damage to your business?

Yes, this is all about communication.

The first thing you might ask is “Which visitors do we communicate with?“, but don’t forget that what you say is as important as who you say it to.

Which guest needs which information?

My suggestion would be “All of them“, but that’s an incomplete answer.

When a fire (or similar event) happens, there are several groups of guests impacted – and their decisions will affect you and your business. The better prepared you are to keep them up to date with calm, consumable information, the better they will be able to make well-considered decisions. The last thing you want to do is (intentionally or otherwise) convince them to continue their trip only to have them deal with circumstances that cause them to never return to your area.

Sidebar: You are doing your best to get them back on a recurring basis, right? Sorry, I digress.

These groups of guests include:

  • Guests currently at your property
  • Guests in transit to your property
  • Guests with reservations in the next couple of weeks
  • Guests with reservations a month out or longer
  • Guests pondering making reservations for next year
  • Guests whose reservations must be cancelled because of an evacuation order
  • Guests wondering if they can get into your place due to cancellations

I’ll bet you can think of a few other groups of tourists, guests, visitors – whatever you call them.

Each group to make a decision about their visit, but the message each group requires is not the same. If you’re communicating with all guests with the same information, it’s likely that you are not helping them make the best decision for them and in turn, it’s costing you business.

Rules of the road

I suspect you have the ability to communicate with these groups easily using email. Please don’t send one generic email to 746 visitors. Many of them will not receive it and the “tech savvy” ones will find it aggravating.

You should also have their cell number so you can catch them in-transit or in the area.

You should be able to get a personal message to each person in each of these groups without a lot of hassle.

By now, you may be wondering why I left a lot unsaid. That’s why we have next time.

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How to segment your customer list

Have you heard that you should “segment” your customers before marketing to them?

Ever wondered what that means, much less how you’d do that?

We’re going to talk about that today in simple terms, but before we do that, you might be wondering …

Why should I segment my customers?

Good question.

You want to segment your marketing is to achieve something called “Message-to-market match“.

Let me explain with an example. Let’s say your company sells women’s underwear.

Would you advertise the same underwear in the same way with the same photos and the same messaging to each of these groups?

  • Single women
  • Pregnant women
  • Newlyweds
  • Moms of girls approaching puberty
  • Dads of girls approaching puberty
  • 50-plus women
  • 80-plus women
  • Women under 5′ 6″ tall
  • “Plus sized” women
  • “Tiny” women
  • Very curvy women
  • Not-so-curvy women
  • Women who have survived breast cancer
  • Significant others

I’ll assume you answered “No”.

Message-to-market match” means your message is refined for a specific group of recipients so that it’s welcome and in-context, rather than annoying and out of left field.

A lack of message-to-market match is why people tune out ads and pitch so much mail – the message isn’t truly for them. If it happens enough times, everything you send them is ignored. Ouch.

Like the recycling bin

When recycling different materials, the processes required to break down cardboard (shredding, pulping, etc) will differ from the process that prepares glass, plastic or animal manure for reuse.

Think of your messages in the same way. If the message a customer receives doesn’t make any sense because it’s out of context, it’s like recycling something with the wrong process. The money, time and energy invested in creating and delivering the wrong message will be wasted. Worse yet, the wrong message can alienate your customer and/or make your business look clueless.

Ever received an offer “for new customers only” from a business that you’ve worked with for months or years? How does that make you feel?

You might think a generic piece of news is received the same way by everyone – when in fact that news might excite some customers and annoy the rest. The time spent considering this and segmenting your announcement can save a lot of pain.

Your First Oil Change

Look at the groups listed for the underwear business. That’s customer segmentation.

If you sent “The Single Dad’s guide to helping your daughter pick out her first bra” to the entire customer list, how many would think “This is exactly what I need”? Only the single dads group. Most others would hit delete, unsubscribe, click the “Spam” button or just think you’re not too swift.

The smart folks sending the “first bra” piece would break it down further by sending a different guide to the moms than they send to the dads.

Need a simpler version? Chevy vs. Ford vs. Dodge. Harley vs. every other bike. You shouldn’t have the same conversation with these groups, even if you sell something common to all of them, like motor oil.

Think that list is broken down too much? Don’t. I just scratched the surface.

Why people think they can’t segment

– They don’t have or “get” technology.

Whether you use a yellow pad or a fancy customer relationship management (CRM) system, you can make this work. If not, consider a better way to keep track of things.

Long before computers, savvy business people would sort customers into the “blue pile, red pile, yellow pile” before putting together a marketing piece. No technology is no excuse.

– Their media doesn’t offer segmenting.

What if your chosen media doesn’t provide a way to target a specific segment? They don’t deliver special Yellow Page books to single people, retired people, CPAs or car dealers – so how do you segment your message?

You can segment those media buys by message since many vendors are unable to deliver a different book, newspaper, magazine or radio/TV ad to different types of customer – which should also improve ad ROI.

You might be getting pressure from internet-savvy staff (or vendors) to drop old-school media. If it works now (do you know?), dropping them makes no sense.

– They don’t have a customer list

Start creating one today, even if it’s on a yellow pad. Figure out what differences are important to you and record them.

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The Amazon Prime Directive

Moving away from the light....and into the darkness of night
Creative Commons License photo credit: mendhak

What did you learn from – and change in your business – after Amazon launched Amazon Prime?

If you aren’t aware, Amazon Prime is a membership-based service that provides access to Amazon video-on-demand and free Kindle books from the Kindle lending library – but more importantly, it upgrades all purchases to from regular ground shipping to free two-day shipping.

The question remains – what did you take away for your business from the launch and subsequent success of Prime? Did it provoke you to change anything about your business and how you work with customers?

Even if you don’t do retail, there are lessons to be learned from what Amazon is doing.

The Fresh Prime of Bel-Air

Plenty has been written about the success of Prime and what it’s done for customer loyalty.

One quote from the Small Business Trends piece (linked above) that might get your attention – a comment from a Morningstar analyst who researched Prime:

What we found is that, generally speaking, last year Prime members spent about twice as much as non Prime members. (emphasis mine) They spent about $1,200 dollars compared to $600 for non Prime members. What’s also interesting is that the average person shopping online last year spent approximately $1,000. What that says to us it that Prime members generate more incremental revenue per than non Prime shoppers. They are doing most of their online shopping on Amazon as opposed to going to other sites. Prime members generate more income.

Recently, Amazon took the service a step further with the introduction in Los Angeles of Amazon PrimeFresh, which expands upon their Seattle-based test program.

What can you take away from this and implement at your business? Do it for them. Deliver it for them. Automate it for them, as appropriate. All with more personal touch than Amazon can afford to do *in your community* and *in your market* with *your customers*. Yes, automation *can* result in more personal touch.

The key is the emphasis on your community, your market, your customers. I’m not suggesting that you try to clone Amazon.

Behavioral shifts

There’s much more to this than automation allowing you to buy produce via your web browser. Customer behavior is central to what Amazon does.

When Amazon saw that Prime members behaved differently, then they could work differently with them. Simply by buying a membership in Prime, a buyer is telling Amazon “I am going to buy more, more often.”

If your customers could send you a signal in advance like that, how would you use it to improve what you do for them? How do you care for your best customers? How do you encourage new customers to take advantage of what you offer like your best customers do? How do you make buying friction-free and easy?

Now reverse that. If you look at customers who buy more and more often from your business, what are you doing to take care of them? What if you did those things for more of your customers – would it turn some of them into Prime-like customers?

Amazon, WalMart, You

We’ve talked repeatedly about “When Wal-Mart comes to town“. Amazon’s taken WalMart’s game and made it more convenient and logistically efficient.

Take from them what makes sense for your business and implement it a step at a time, even if your implementation looks completely different. The lesson is doing what matters for your customers, rather than blindly cloning what Amazon or WalMart do.

For example, let’s say you sell high quality, organic meats that your area’s chain grocer doesn’t carry.

Do your customers forget to stop by your place? When they’re at the grocery, do they grab something there because it’s in front of them? That convenience can cost you a $25 sale. How many can you afford to lose each week?

While you probably can’t afford to provide same-day delivery like Amazon does in Los Angeles, you can serve your neighborhood or small town in a similarly convenient way. Maybe you deliver on Thursday evenings so people have their weekend meat supply for campouts and family gatherings in advance of their weekend grocery shopping. A part-time employee could deliver their pre-paid orders.

You don’t have to cover the whole state 24 hours a day, just your market area (or part of it) as convenient.

Make quality, local buying easy. That’s the local Prime Directive.

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What are your customers doing online?

I mentioned the Meeker internet / technology trends report last week on Facebook, but I thought I should summarize a few important nuggets from it for small businesses, particularly small software businesses.

  • 30 percent growth in mobile users in the last year.
  • 50% growth in bandwidth use by mobile devices. Specifically, 15% of all internet bandwidth use is mobile, up from 10% last year.
  • Tablet use continues to expand quickly. Apple sold more iPads (140k) than iPhones (60k) last year.
  • More tablets shipped in the last quarter of 2012 than desktops, despite being on the market only 3 years.
  • Photo sharing is on pace to double since last year. Last year, about 375MM photos were shared per day. This year, users have already shared more than 500MM photos per day on average.
  • Wearable device usage is doubling every month so far this year.
  • More people access the internet via mobile device in China than via desktop – in a population of over 560 million internet users.
  • 45% of Groupon transactions are now online. 2 years ago that number was 15%.

I recommend you check out the whole slideshow, even if you aren’t in the technology business. This stuff affects almost everyone in almost every business.

KPCB Internet Trends 2013 from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
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Tell your fish story, Mr. Limpet


During a recent trip to Oregon, our journey took us to a dockside seafood restaurant in Newport.

As you can see from my photo, this restaurant offers fresh local seafood in addition to meals made with the local catch.

Take a close look at the sign used to describe this salmon.

We know that the fish was caught locally by a real person who had to reel it in, on fishing vessel (“F/V”) that employs local people. The sign tells us it wasn’t farmed, pitched into a freezer with 30,000 other fish, much less frozen and shipped in by truck or rail from 2,000 miles away.

The sign’s details drive home that this slab of salmon is fresher and thus (probably) better than salmon in the chain grocery down the street that has a sign saying “fresh salmon”. You know details about this particular fish’s path to the refrigerated case that you rarely know in an ordinary grocery store that doesn’t really specialize in seafood.

I’ll bet that if I had asked the lady behind the counter about Two Sisters, she could have told me about them.

Fresh and local is a particularly critical for fish and produce, but the effort to describe whatever you do in rich, honest detail is critical – particularly if you’re selling against commoditized products and services that tend to be compared solely by price. The goal isn’t to be flowery and cover up what you do with fancy wallpaper – it’s to help someone who cares understand why your stuff is what they really want.

Your why is just one more thing that makes you stand out because it resonates with what’s deeply important to discerning buyers.

What about what I do?

Emphasizing the upside of using local food should be an obvious win, but this sort of thing is no different for those who sell furniture, vacuum cleaners or whatever it is that you sell.

If I talk to your staff or visit your website, am I going to get why you sell what you sell, vs just selling any old thing? Do I get a feel for what’s important to YOU when you choose (or manufacture) a product, or deliver a service? Do I know what drove you to offer these services and why it might be more important to you than to me that you “fix” whatever issue my life, business or vehicle has?

I spent about 20 minutes listening to a vacuum guy compare different units for me the other day. I’m bad about listening to salespeople whether I plan to buy that day or not, because I want to hear and assess their pitch.

I got good info about the results, lifespan and repair expectations I could expect when choosing between different types / brands / quality levels of vacuums (all important stuff). I didn’t get much about why it was important to him that I make the right choice. Oddly enough, I got exactly that from someone about 30-40 years his junior – his son.


You all know an enthusiast, and you probably are one about something. Enthusiasts will explain why you might value certain things or experiences as much as they do, either to bring you into the fold or just to explain why they care.

Coffee people will explain why a burr is superior to a grinder. People who are into furniture will ask if it is built using eight way hand tied springs. Skiers and snowboarders will wax on about tuning and wax.

Those things matter to enthusiasts who don’t want their beans scorched, crave holding an edge in the steep and deep, and want a repairable couch that will sit as nicely in 25 years as it does today. That’s why the link above explains the furniture manufacturer’s construction methods as well as WHY they use them.

The story behind what you do and how you do it is often as important as the products and services you offer.

It’s particularly critical if you’re in a high quality, high value market. If you can’t explain why you care and why your customer should, the next comparison that people will tend to make is price.

Unless you’re the box store, you’re likely to lose that comparison.

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Talk is cheap, conversation is priceless

How we talk, write, stand, sit or hold our hands and arms plays a huge part in how effective we are in helping others understand what we have to say, much less keep their attention long enough to finish the message.

If they don’t get it all, at best you may as well have said nothing. Worst case, the other person could misinterpret your message and think or react the opposite of what you want.

Imagine that you make a trip to an Eastern European country.

You arrive by boat and step onto the dock with your bags in your hands.

A young Lithuanian man standing on the dock looks at your feet and says something to his friend. By the way his voice rises at the end, you’re sure he either asked a question or made a joke about your legs. Too bad he isn’t speaking your language. If he was, you would know that he was telling his friend that a camera fell out of the unzipped side pocket of your bag.

If you don’t understand the man, you might keep walking without paying attention. Once the man realized you didn’t understand, he would take another step to let you know what he was saying. He might make eye contact with you, repeat his comment and point at the camera.

As with the Lithuanian man, your business communications – from marketing messages and press releases to ads to fill staff openings – will be ineffective if they don’t use the right language and the right context, much less speak to the right person.

What is the right language?

The man’s effort to make eye contact and point is no different than speaking in a language you understand. By establishing eye contact and pointing, he brings context to the conversation – a context you care about.

The language and context you bring to conversations with your prospects and customers is equally important. The right language provokes your audience to think, act, react, remain attentive, follow your instructions (or advice) and believe in your message.

Or not.

Robert Collier famously suggested that writers “join the conversation already going on in the prospect’s mind”. Collier wasn’t encouraging you to be creepy and spy on your prospects and customers. He’s encouraging you to get to know and understand them, including their needs, desires and fears.

The right language…like the empathy that the video gets across so well… requires listening, paying attention and understanding what’s going on behind the face they put on.

Until you make the effort to learn, listen and observe these things, how can you begin to join their conversation? How can you engage with them in a conversation they care about? How can you understand what they lose sleep over? How else can what you say begin to address what’s critical to their decision-making process?

All of these things help you use the right language and the right message, whether you’re on the phone, writing an email or composing text for a billboard.

You wouldn’t walk up to a few people who are actively chatting at a gathering, interrupt them and start talking loudly about something they don’t care about – yet that’s exactly what most marketing does.

It helps me to imagine that I’m speaking directly with a single person who is exactly the type of person whose needs, desires and fears my message will resonate with in the strongest possible way. Notice that I didn’t say “the group of people my message targets”, or that I said “speaking with” rather than to.

Think about how important the positioning and context of your message must be in order to move from broadcasting like someone yelling at passersby on a random big city street corner, to that of a personal conversation with a trusted advisor.

Hippity Hop

If you overheard just a nibble of a conversation about hops, you might guess that someone was talking about the communications via the internet, frog jumping competitions or rabbits.

On the other hand, they could be talking about craft beers or microbrews. You’d have to listen to more than just one word (hops) to figure out the topic – and that’s the key.

Listen. Observe. Develop empathy and understanding. Join the conversation.

Disclaimer: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit

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Monkey See, Monkey Don’t?

Do you watch other business owners or mentors use techniques, technologies, strategies or tactics successfully – and then not try them in your business?

This isn’t just the domain of new, first time business owners who might be leery of trying something else, much less being swamped enough as it is.

Not long ago, I was sitting in a room with about 250 very successful business owners. Most of them had purchased the right to attend the seminar during a phone seminar or webinar.

While discussing entrepreneurs’ tendency not to stretch themselves (in particular regarding their sales/marketing), one of the speakers asked this question: “Everyone here bought access to this seminar during a phone seminar or webinar, so you know this selling mechanism works. Given that, how many of you use these types of seminars to sell your products?

No more than 20% of the people in the room raised their hand.

Remember, these are not new business owners. Most of them are running seven figure businesses. Yet most of them were not modeling the successful strategies that were working right in front of them – and in this case, strategies that had worked to sell them something.

What’s working right in front of you that you aren’t using?


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Black. Small Business. Cyber.

Waiting for weekend (TGIF) 244/366
Creative Commons License photo credit: Skley

Black Friday is behind us.

Small Business Saturday is behind us.

Cyber Monday is behind us.

So now what?

While these three events are primarily focused on retail, they expose an underlying weakness that most small businesses need to deal with.

Having a PLAN.

Maybe this seems obvious. It should, but the last small business owner survey I saw indicated that 74% of small businesses didn’t have a marketing plan, even though 89% of those same people felt marketing was their first or second most important task (they’re right).

Obvious or not, more businesses need to take it seriously.


Oh, I know. You’ve heard it before. And maybe you’ve tried it before.

Maybe you bought some software that regurgitates a fill-in-the-blanks marketing plan. Those things tend to come out like a slice of generic vegetable oil based “pasteurized process cheese food”. Not so appetizing.

That fill-in-the-blanks plan is probably not something you wanted to use, but if you did, maybe it didn’t work so well. Once one doesn’t work, it’s easy to assume that none will.

A recent survey of small business owners indicated that only 14% of business owners got the results they would like from their marketing plan. If you’re not in that 14%, that might be why you’re in the “marketing plans don’t work” mindset.

You’re half right. Bad fill-in-the-blank ones don’t. While sometimes the good ones don’t work, most of them do.

What’s your strategy?

But no plan at all is a recipe for (at the least) dependency on the price-driven chaos of Black Friday and events like Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. If you use Black Friday the wrong way, what impression does this leave about your store? Does it make people want to come back?

There’s nothing wrong with those three days, particularly if you’re smart about how you use them. But they’re only three days.

What’s your strategy for the other 362 days?

Is it low price? If that’s your only strategy and someone else’s prices are lower tomorrow, the stampede moves to their store. “Lowest prices ever” is only a valid marketing plan if you have the capital, clout and systems to profitably sustain it (eg: WalMart).


You might have started your business because you love what you do or what you sell, but somewhere in there, most small business owners also wanted more time, more money, more freedom and more control.

So why give it up by not managing your own marketing?

In most communities, November and December see an uptick in retail shopping on Black Friday, but depending on/waiting for that to occur and (per the mythical definition) bring you into the black is below you.

You need a better plan.

Just plan it

I’m not here to sell you a marketing plan. Sure, I could work with you on one, but that isn’t the point. The point is that you need one – a good one, no matter how/where you get it.

Whether you do it yourself or get some help, there are some questions you’ll need to answer.

Questions about your customers, for example. Visualize each type. What are they like? No matter what “store” means to your business, what gets them off the couch and brings them into the store? What results do they want?

For example, you sell animal supplies. Your customers might be large animal owners (ie: horses), ranchers, and people who like feeding migratory birds. Each group requires a different message.

Another question is “How do the needs of those groups change over time?” Are their needs different in October than in March? How should that change your message? That animal supply store knows that winter feed needs are different from summer feed needs and that mature animals eat differently than newborns. Different messages are necessary.

Simple, obvious stuff, but these questions need to be the basis of the plan you put together. There’s a lot of mechanical work to the how and what of delivering your message to just the right people, but you need to have the message and customer parts figured out first or the mechanics mean nothing.

Having a plan isn’t enough

Executing your plan and adjusting it based on your results is just as critical.

It’s a constant effort for those other 362 days, but your freedom is worth it.

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Sometimes, normal is the last thing you need

Creative Commons License photo credit: K_Dafalias

When things are going really well, we think we’re really something.

We describe it as being in a groove, smooth and steady, in a rhythm or “working like a well-oiled machine”.

In electrical engineering, steady state describes the “normalcy” of a current or signal after it settles down shortly after being powered up.

Sometimes, normal is the last thing you need and a groove is really a rut.

A Normal Example

An easy to understand example is how NBC’s coverage of the London Olympics and Paralympics is made available to the public. It’s been such a mess that a Google search of NBCFail brings up more than you want to know.

They’ve got covering the Olympics down to an art. Unfortunately, they’re wasting a huge opportunity because they’re mired in trying to protect what was rather than take advantage of what is.

With millions of iOS and Android mobile devices sold and in action around the U.S. (and many more outside the U.S.), you’d think that high quality coverage would be more accessible than ever and available for purchase on your mobile device and/or computer.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Fact is, U.S. viewers can see events live via only if you have a cable or dish subscription. The Apple iPad app also has this limitation and has no purchase options.

The thought process seems to be “How can we limit access to coverage and protect our business so it never has to change?” when it should be “How can we get coverage to as many people as possible and grow our business like crazy by reaching more eyeballs for our advertisers?

Abnormal isn’t the opposite of normal

Requiring a wannabe viewer to have cable or dish coverage ignores the economics, scale and current markets/platforms for content delivery. It reminds me of the state of the music industry, which ignored the modern world until the modern world ignored them back because there were better solutions for music lovers.

It ‘s why Def Leppard recently re-recorded all their classics. Their record label is too mired the now-dead vinyl era to work with Def Leppard to get their music on iTunes and sell a few million copies of Pour Some Sugar On Me or Rock of Ages.

Why iTunes, you ask? Because they’ve been the number one retailer of music since 2008. Yes, that’s PAID not pirated. And yes, bigger than Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon or Target. Paid music is today’s normal for the post-Napster world because it’s easy to buy and use on your various music devices.

Just like the Olympics should be.


That’s “What would Apple do?” if they had the rights to sell access to Olympic coverage. This isn’t just about Apple. Someone with an Android-targeted distribution system could also play the game, but let’s stick with Apple for now because it’s familiar.

My guess is that Apple would sell Olympic coverage via app or the iTunes store’s Newsstand, but they’d be wise to offer browser-based support as well.

We might have access to the following:

  • A raw feed with no commentary, just one big stream of coverage in chronological order from start to finish.
  • A raw feed with commentary from a selected country
  • A raw feed with commentary from the host country’s announcers.
  • All the above in whatever the top three or five languages are in iTunes land.
  • An option that features nothing but Bob Costas all the time.
  • Dual-labeled NBC/Apple coverage just like you’d see it on U.S. cable TV.
  • Dual-labeled NBC/Apple U.S. cable TV events-only coverage, without profiles and Bob Costas color pieces.

In addition, maybe you could purchase/subscribe to:

  • Coverage of a particular sport (ie, selections that included swimming, gymnastics, sh0oting sports, track and field, team sports, individual sports, etc)
  • Coverage of a particular athlete
  • Coverage of a particular country’s athletes
  • Coverage of a particular state’s/province’s athletes
  • Premium-priced commercial-free coverage

And of course, live alerts based on your chosen criteria – like the ESPN app has had for years.

Forget the Olympics, how about my small business?

For you, the point is to brainstorm what your customers could buy based not just on “what was”, but to consider “what is”. What’s possible when you aren’t trying to preserve what market forces are going to dismantle anyway? It’s always better to reinvent your business on your terms and timeframe rather than have someone else do it to you.

Update: Proof that the old school media still doesn’t get the real meaning of #NBCFail. Money is being left on the table and customers are going to go elsewhere. “Where else can you get the Olympics?” you might ask – Nowhere. Yes, that is an option that people will exercise as cable subscribers drop and alternative platforms continue to grow. Again, the issue is the same with your business.

Meanwhile, a writer at Target Marketing mag sees the opportunity as well and notes a fine example that’s here *today*: the methods CBS/NCAA used for their highly-regarded Final 4 coverage.

Buy Local Customer relationships customer retention Customer service Improvement marketing to the affluent Marketing to women Small Business Word of mouth marketing

What if you could email a hug?

Email is sometimes looked upon as an impersonal evil, but it seems impersonal because of the way most people use it.

I hope this discussion gives you an idea to improve your business’ email.

Not long ago, I sent a live plant to a memorial service over 2000 miles away.

I spoke with a very friendly and helpful lady on the phone when I placed my order. She made suggestions about what fit my needs based on what I told her and what they had in stock. Before it was all done, I’d ordered just what I wanted and I knew that the person on the other end would take care of sending just the right plant.

How’d that happen?

I never use a toll-free national floral delivery number. Instead, I look for the closest florists to the destination address and then check out their reviews until I find one that stands out. Once I’ve chosen a florist, I call them directly. As a result, I get the same local service I’d get if I walked in the front door and the local florist doesn’t have to pay a commission.

Last time I used this technique, I reached a florist at 12:30pm on a Saturday. On Saturday, they close at 2pm. Despite a 30 minute drive to the destination, they still made a great arrangement and got it delivered that day. Without complaint, without an extra charge, and the entire process was handled with classic Southern charm and courtesy.


Email can seem impersonal perhaps because we get a little lazy, or maybe just because we don’t think about it with the same care that we do other things. Even if we do it right…is it possible to make it a bit more personal?


Here’s a redacted copy of the delivery notification email I received:

I have no complaints about it. In fact, I rarely receive notification emails from local florists, so this is a nice plus to add to the service I received while on the phone.

But…it could have been better. So how to we make it more personal?


How about this?

Dear Mark,

After looking closely at the blooming plants we have in stock, I’ve selected
a fresh (plant common name) and arranged it in a nice basket that complements it.

I took a photo of your (plant common name) and the card before packing them for delivery:

Here’s the card:

Chuck, our afternoon driver, just sent me a message to say he has personally delivered your plant. He also delivered a small envelope of our custom-blended plant food with a card explaining the care and feeding of the (plant common name).

If you’d like to discuss your order or the plant I selected, please call toll-free at 800.yyy.xxxx and ask for me (Dorothy). If you prefer email, just click reply. Both our customer service department and I will receive your email. I will answer your email unless your question or comment is related to your payment.

I hope you’re pleased with the plant I selected and that you’ll keep us in mind the next time you’d like to brighten someone’s day here in (city). If you like, you’re welcome to request that I select your next floral arrangement or plant.

Thank you for supporting my family,

Dorothy Lastname
Certified Floral Artist since 1982
(florist business)
(store phone)
(store URL)

PS: Your order number is 0387xxxx and was delivered at 1:56 p.m.

Please fill out our quick online survey by following
this link and be entered to win a $50 gift card.
(survey url)


What would you change?

Does it make sense for your business to email a hug?