coaching Competition Management Motivation Personal development Small Business The Slight Edge

If Tiger Woods takes advice on golf…


Some have told me that I “seem to enjoy giving out advice”. Yeah, I think that might be the case:)

But…What you don’t see is that I spend a lot of time and money taking it as well, from people, books and other sources.

Even Tiger Woods takes advice. Do you?

In 2006, Tiger Woods proved he was the best in the world 8 times. Yet, he hired a coach because he knew he could be better.

Tiger’s path to greatness is partly about never thinking he was “good enough”. He is always trying to improve his game, his conditioning, his mental toughness.

If you’ve read this blog for very long, you’ve noticed that from time to time I include short reviews for books that Ive read. You may notice that I rarely have anything bad to say about the books there. That is mostly because the books I review are referred to me the majority of the time.

One such book is called “The Simple Truths of Service” and is primarily about a young man with what used to be called Down’s Syndrome. His name is “Johnny the bagger”.

Another book by the same company is called “212, the extra degree”, which talks about that extra little bit of effort (like that which Tiger is looking for). It discusses a concept of the slight edge, which Ive discussed here before.

The point is that the slight edge is often the ONE thing (there’s that number again) that separates the champion from the rest of the field, whether its in sports or business.

Finding and using that slight edge, and repeating that process is what makes all the difference in the world in your success. This is why Tiger hired a coach.

Let me give you some examples from the book “212 – The Extra Degree” by Sam Parker and Mac Anderson (which you can get at ) :

#1: In four major golf tournaments (U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship and The Masters), the margin of victory for the last 25 years in all four majors combined was less than 3 strokes.

That’s 18 holes played over a four-day period (72 holes total in 25 years), the slight edge that produced victory was only 3. The winners took home 76% more in prize dollars than 2nd place!

#2: In the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, the margins of victory were razor-thin in some events, and pretty close in others.

  • Men’s 200 meter freestyle (swimming) 1.42 seconds
  • Women’s 200 meter freestyle (swimming) 0.59 seconds
  • Men’s 800 meter (running) 0.71 seconds
  • Women’s 800 meter (running) 0.13 seconds
  • Men’s long jump 28 centimeters (a little more than a foot)
  • Women’s long jump 11 centimeters (less than 6 inches).

#3: In horse racing, the Triple Crown (winner of Kentucky Derby, Preakness and the Belmont Stakes in the same racing season) is held by 11 horses in history. The slight edge that produced victory in races between 1998 and 2002 over each of the Triple Crown races combined (15 races in all) was less than 2.5 lengths. Six races were won by less than one horse length!

Quite often, not much separates the champion from 2nd place, and the better you get, the closer the margin becomes between you and your competition. Every edge is critical. Its why swimmers shave all the body hair before big meets (or wear full body suits, or both).

This is why the most successful people (in sports or in business) have a mentor, participate in a mastermind group, and hire a trusted adviser and coach (and some have all 3). They know the value of the slight edge.

What’s a slight edge worth to you? Think about it, and then take action.

Email marketing Marketing Small Business Technology

Have you lost a customer today?

Not long ago, I received this email from a vendor that I’ve done business with in the past:

Dear Friend:

It’s been awhile since your last order from As a valued customer, we would like to invite you to take advantage of this exclusive offer available only to select customers.

Save 10% on your next order on!

To activate your savings, just enter your promotional code at check out. is a great place for purchasing ink cartridges, approved media and many other Primera products.

Promotional Code: xxxxx

This discount is valid through March 28, 2008, and is offered only for billing and shipping addresses in the USA.

Best regards,

Primera Technology

Primera Technology, Inc.
Two Carlson Parkway North
Plymouth, Minnesota 55447 U.S.A.
Phone: 1-763-475-6676
FAX: 1-763-475-6677

They should be congratulated for noticing that I haven’t bought anything from them in a while, and of course, for going beyond that and making the effort to contact me and make an offer to get me to order again.

But…it sure isn’t very personal. Let’s look at where they could have personalized it a bit more:

1) They have my email address and ALL of my contact information. Yet they only chose to use the email address. Why not “Dear Mark” instead of “Dear Friend”.

The “friend” reference reminds me of all the sterile emails I get from my “How do the presidential candidates use their websites and email” project. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, McCain and others asked for my name and/or email during the “send me candidate news” signup process, yet they don’t bother to personalize the emails using my name or where I live (they can easily figure that out using common automated tools or services).

Only Ron Paul has sent personalized, location-specific emails – and even with his campaign, it isn’t done in every email.

2) They signed the email: “Primera Technology”. Not “Bob Smith, Northwest Sales Manager”, or “Mary Jones, Lost Customer Search Team” or anything along those lines. Whoever happens to be running this campaign should have included their name and contact info in case I have questions, problems etc. The email response address goes to their generic sales email address, and the other contact info provided is similar to that. Generic, generic, generic.

3) How is the success of this offer being tracked? Thankfully, they seem to be prepared for this by using the promotion code. Perhaps they are sending some of these emails out with personal names and from a specific person and they are testing the response to each option using the promotion codes.

I doubt it, but I hope I’m wrong.

Learn from every promotional piece you get. Analyze how you would have done it differently, as well as what was done wisely. Use them to make your promotions better.

And most of all, keep track of how long it has been since I last visited your store. Don’t let me get lost.

Motivation Personal development Small Business

Should a business owner “Punk Rock” their life? In this case, YES.

Brian Clark from over at Copyblogger has some more motivational green tea for you today regarding making things happen in your business life. This time, his work is a guest post at, where he talks about success and punk rocking your life.

Internet marketing Marketing Politics Small Business Technology

Political Marketing: Are Obama, Clinton and McCain asking to be blacklisted?

delivering the mail (is your email being delivered?)On Tuesday, DirectMag (a direct marketing publication) wrote about Barack Obama’s email marketing list being polluted with “anti-spam zealots”.

IE: people who get super angry and vindictive about every spam email that hits their inbox.

Someone subscribed the email addresses of a number of these “zealots” to Obama’s email list and even worse, used names with their email address that are almost guaranteed to tick them off.

It was the natural thing for (my guess) an opponent to do to them. But it was easy to avoid.

After my earlier examination of the email and internet marketing being done by the candidates, I neglected to mention that none of them had a double opt-in facility in place to prevent this sort of thing from happening.

This is one of the reasons I recommend the use of AWeber. The whole double opt-in process is part of their offering, at no extra cost.

The really pathetic thing about this issue was the Obama campaign geek’s response that double opt-in wasn’t necessary because “no one who wants our emails would sign up anyway”.

This, even AFTER the anti-spam zealot incident.

Don’t be this clueless with your email newsletter list. Some people will tell you that double opt-in is unnecessary. It is, if you don’t mind taking the time to switch email providers, deal with spam complaints and bogus signups, and other exciting things like that.

Spend your time on more important things.

Advertising Direct Mail Internet marketing Marketing Media Small Business systems

How to measure advertising response in any media

measuring advertising response (or in this case, a plane's tail)

Recently, I received a few questions about measuring advertising response so I thought I’d cover that a bit today.

The measurement and use of the results you record is one of the most important things to do when advertising – at least once the ad has been created for a particular target market.

Question: Why can’t all ads produce a response?

Very, very few ads pull nothing, but I have heard second hand of a business that mailed 20,000 direct mail pieces and gotten nothing for their trouble.

However, as I hear it, their mail piece was poorly done and was mailed to anyone with a heartbeat, so they sorta “deserved” that result.

In any audience, there is a percentage of people ready to buy (and thus, your timing is good), another percentage thinking about it, and the rest in various modes of not caring, not being interested, caring but not having a need or want at this time, etc. The key is motivating the 2nd and last groups to buy.

Question: How do you eliminate the process of testing ads and culling the non-performing ones?

The key isn’t to eliminate it, but to always test what you’re doing so that you can make decisions based on information rather than gut feel.

If we mail 1000 pieces, we might mail 333 people one letter, 333 people another letter and 334 people another one. Next time we mail, we’ll know which is the best producer. After that, we might mail 500 of the winner and 500 of a new challenger. You should always be trying to beat the current best performing ad you have in each media for a particular type of prospect.

If we place 20 radio spots, we’d alternate 2 or 3 spots in each time slot we select so we know which one works in that time slot (ie: different audiences, assuming they should all be “target rich” audiences). As each day goes on, we might adjust the spots that play in a slot based on the response we’re getting.

Question: Isn’t ad testing a very expensive process?

Depends on how you do it. If you try to contact everyone with a heartbeat instead of focusing on a personal, contextually important message for that prospect group, it can be very expensive, not to mention seriously unproductive.

For example, you wouldn’t likely send the same mail piece to opera lovers that you would NASCAR fans, for obvious reasons. Sure, there will be some exceptions (people who like both NASCAR and opera), but you aren’t worried about the crossovers. You’re worried about completely missing the boat with your message to one group or another.

Question: So how do I measure response on a mailer, newspaper/magazine ad, radio ad, email or website?

I could go on for pages about the details of this, but the bottom line is to do at least one of two things so you can tell exactly which ad they are responding to:

  • Create an offer that is specific to the ad.
    Ever notice how TV ads ask you to ask for a specific operator, department or send you to a website that has what seems like random numbers in it? That’s why they do this” so they know which ad you are responding to. They want to know which time slot works and which ad works, among other things. A particular price, quantity or product name can also indicate which offer you chose (and thus, which marketing effort you responded to).
  • Create a mechanism for contacting you that is unique.
    A different phone number (800 numbers are easy to use for this, because they forward to another number). A different fax number. A different web address. Google Analytics codes on your URLs (in emails, for example). A different email address. A special page on your website. A department number, or a contact name, ie: “Ask for Harry”. You can give them some sort of reference that gives them access to a discount or bonus, such as “Tell em Tiger Woods sent you”.
Leadership Management ONE Small Business Strategy

Would one “minor glitch” bring down your company?

Florida power outage

Last October, we discussed the single slip-up that doomed a beef company. Not just doomed it, but in fact, put it completely out of business. A single stumble kills a decades-old business.

Today, a “minor glitch” (according to MSN) caused South Florida’s power grid to puke, and the resulting chain reaction caused two Florida nuclear reactors at Turkey Point to shut down.

While those shutdowns can be explained as safety precautions driven by automated monitoring systems, this was just a minor glitch, right? A minor glitch that cut off power to as many as 3 million people.

Look at your business. What sort of “minor glitch” could shut down your business for a day? A week? Permanently?

Some examples: Internet failure. Frozen merchant account. Boiler failure. Strike. Supplier failure. Power loss. Refrigeration loss. Cash flow. Vehicle problems.

What precautions can you take and processes can you put in place to prevent these glitches from causing serious damage to your business?

Be Prepared.

Management Marketing Small Business Software Technology

After The Coding: 12 things I wish I had known before I started my software company

Is the light at the end of the tunnel an oncoming train?Thanks to, I’ll be speaking at Software University on March 6 with Charles Mills of Strategic Due Diligence (Charles is the former CEO of Firesign Software, which was later acquired by Allen Systems Group)

Charles and I will cover the “12 things I wish I had known before I started my software company”, a webinar and question/answer session about a list of things a new software entrepreneur needs to think about before entering the software business – or if you’re already there, things to consider before getting really serious about it.

Among other things, Charles is an expert on the minute but important details of pulling off a software company acquisition regardless of which side of the table you’re on.

Lurking in the shadows on that page is a special opportunity to obtain the new Rescue Marketing Software Business Self-Examination, and to have me review and comment on it. Normally that puppy costs real money, so take advantage of it while you can.

Customer service Small Business

Wedding and a funeral create a customer service mashup

Miss me? Between a wedding, an unexpected funeral (is there any other kind?), the joy of Greyhound-esque air travel, no time to post and no access to the net, the blog’s been bit dark since late last week.

I’ve been in various parts of Missouri since Thursday, but I did bring you something: some fine and not-so-fine examples of customer service and related lessons.

Train your people to think creatively

We start on Thursday afternoon, where I board a SkyWest aka United Express flight from Kalispell to Denver. The flight attendant tells us that the potable water on the plane (a Canadair CRJ 200 regional jet) thus coffee will be unavailable and no water will be available in the restroom.

Meanwhile, a couple of cases of bottled water are on this same partially-full flight. I don’t think the flight attendant was dumb, I just think that SkyWest is probably not training their people to be inventive when the situation calls for it. No coffee was a minor thing on an afternoon flight, but it struck me odd that no water was available as a cart full of water rolled past my seat. The overhead light didn’t work. Details, folks. Pay attention to the details.

United Denver customer service

No one, except perhaps myself, expects good customer service from the major airlines these days. Air travel seems to have been reduced to a odd combination of a crowded suburban mall, a Greyhound bus stations, and a parking garage with a dash of McCarthyism. Or something like that.

Upon arriving in Denver, I find out about the date/time of the funeral, and determine that an extra day in Missouri will be necessary. So I read the electronic sign that says customer service stations for United are available at various gates at DIA (IIRC, the sign was backed up by an audio message). Never fear, I head for the one closest to our next gate.

Naturally, it is unstaffed like the overwhelming majority of the United gates at DIA, so I turn around and walk back 20 or so gates to the next one. While standing in line for an amazing 45 minutes despite having only 6 people in front of me, I witness an interesting contrast of service levels from the customer service desk agents:

One agent lies to the next guy in line, telling him her computer is broken (Reality: she was due to go on break). Thing is, it’s the same computer that she’s been using for the last 30 minutes – and we’ve all been watching the whole time. Just a moment after she leaves, another agent sits down and uses the same computer, and a few minutes later helps the same guy who previously couldn’t be helped because of that computer. It’s really OK if you have to go on a 5 minute break, just be honest, folks.

The agent next to the “broken” computer is next up when I’m at the front of the line. I step up and he tells me that he is due to go on break. I’m fine with that, as I’m sure they need a few minutes to decompress after dealing with frustrated travelers all day. A couple minutes later, the guy next to him frees up, so I step up. He tells me he needs a minute or 2 to complete the previous guy’s transaction so I might watch for other agents becoming available.

He completes the transaction for the previous traveler (who has been sent to his gate). I step up and he – at no cost – changes our 5 flights from Sunday evening to Monday. During this process, my flight to KCI starts boarding so he gets the must-do stuff done and sends me to my gate, telling me he will complete the transaction like he did the previous guy’s.

Upon arrival in Kansas City (2 hours late), I head for the rental car shuttle bus while the rest of the gang fetches luggage. I make a mental note that the KCI passenger area reminds me of a parking garage. Dim fluorescent lights, concrete everywhere, and very spartan. Almost seemed like something out of a sci-fi novel. When I arrive at the shuttle bus stop, another shuttle driver offers me a seat in his warm van. It’s almost 20 degrees colder in Kansas City than it was in Kalispell.

The shuttle bus hauls me to the car rental complex and I’m greeted at midnight by a friendly young agent for Enterprise. He makes small talk asking about my trip to KC and we reflect on our grandfathers while he completes the paperwork. When we walk outside, he decides to upgrade me on the spot because a nicer, large-enough car is at the sidewalk. It’s cold, windy, snowy, we’re over two hours behind and he thinks that the Dodge Magnum will work for 5 people and luggage vs walking across the slick, windy parking lot.

And because he took the time to make conversation while getting my paperwork ready, he knows every minute counts because of the 4 hour drive that awaits us. It was a long 4 hours on freezing rain covered roads, and his prompt, friendly handling of the checkout process was appreciated after 9+ hours of airports and airplanes.

Little things make a difference and make people talk about your business

Fast forward to Friday night’s rehearsal dinner. We’re in the private dining room at the Metropolitan Grille in Springfield MO, an upscale restaurant on the city’s East side. I walk into the nicely appointed men’s room and there is a flat screen TV attached to the wall next to the urinals. It’s showing Gladiator. When I return to the dining room, I hear a couple of ladies talking about the ladies room and it’s heated toilet seats. All the guys are talking about the flat screen TV in the men’s room. Yeah, the food was good, but the other little touches are what make people talk about you.

The limo driver

Good service is to be expected from a limo driver, but sometimes they take an extra little step. This one stood at the back of the chapel during the wedding, and was sharp enough to comment to the bride’s mother that he felt it was a very special, touching ceremony (it was) and that he was pleased to have the privilege of seeing it. The bride’s mother was talking about him the next day and made sure the wedding coordinator knew about his comments. I wonder who she and her friends will use the next time they need a limo?

Customers like small town treatment
As we rolled into grandpa’s hometown on Sunday evening for visitation, we stopped at the Piggly Wiggly (that’s a grocery store) for a card. The grocery had been kind enough to put funeral announcements up at the cash register. A nice touch that I hadn’t seen before. I also had a nice conversation with a very savvy funeral director who paid very close attention to details. Sharp guy, 3rd generation director in his family’s business. I’ve seen cold ones and I’ve seen warm ones. This guy was good, but not slick, a fine line in his business.

After visitation, a stop at the Crazy Cone in Higginsville MO proved that teenagers can deliver small town service, even without the McDonald’s playbook. Even though it’s just a little ice cream and sandwich shop that could typically get away with non-descript service, they’ve taken steps to make sure the food and service keep people coming back. Bonus: historical photos of community members and sports teams dating back to the early 1900’s. Oddity of the day: the Crazy Cone shares a building with a tire and auto repair shop, the space between them is open.

The other United Airlines
While checking in at KCI, I found the other United Airlines. Not only did Debbie prove very helpful at check-in (more flight changes), but a young man in a United shirt (unfortunately without a name tag) stepped up to help a crowd at the self check-in kiosks and showed impressive customer service savvy with his patient, caring manner. He wasn’t a skycap, just a young dude in a United polo shirt with a security badge that I couldn’t see. Someone needs to promote that guy, or hire him away. He and Debbie could teach the rest of airline industry a thing or two. Is there something that your “mail room” employees could teach the rest of your staff? Look around.

KCI – parking garage suspicions confirmed

Don’t ever schedule long layovers in Kansas City International. It really is like spending time in a chair sitting in a dimly lit parking garage. Gate areas are small, there are no airport lounges or vendors of any substance in the tiny gate-specific secure area. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be stranded there in bad weather or due to delays. They do have free wireless internet in the terminal, but email ports are blocked, and there’s a grand total of 2 electrical sockets for the 50+ seats at our end of the secure area. Not impressed. I’d be less than inclined to have a national-scale business convention or trade show in Kansas City solely because I wouldn’t want my attendees to be subjected to a substandard airport experience and possibly associate it with my show/convention.

Finally, back to Denver

Before our final Denver to Kalispell leg, we’re sitting in a crowded DIA B terminal stuffed full of travelers dealing with weather delays. Once again the internet appears to be free. Alas, it doesn’t work, but it is free. Whether a service is free or not, people expect it to work.

You can’t teach nice

We arrive after midnight in Kalispell and as we leave the secure area, a smiling airport security officer stands at the security area exit welcoming each traveler to Montana and wishes them a safe ride home. You can’t really teach someone to be nice. You have to hire and then train nice people to do a specific job. For people who have been traveling all day, sitting in a cramped plane or a noisy terminal, he made the end of the day a little bit more pleasant. How does your business do that?

Marketing Public Relations Small Business Starbucks

Marketing opportunities: As perishable as lettuce.

roasted_coffee_beans.jpgI’ve always admired how Stew Leonard promoted and ran his grocery store, but this morning, I’m given another reason to give him the nod. He is clearly paying attention.

Starbucks is going to be re-training their baristas next week. You know, teaching them how to do little things like how to make coffee, a skill they’ve apparently not needed with all the automated equipment they use these days. Locally owned coffee shops have to be loving this.

To make this training happen, Starbucks is closing their stores for 3 hours in the middle of the business day.

Ever the opportunist, Stew Leonard’s issued a press release to not only announce that they will give away free fresh-roasted coffee during Starbucks’ lights-out period, but it also brilliantly educates the client about how serious Stew Leonard is about coffee. The release discusses the importance of coffee freshness, how fragile the freshness really is, how many beans they roast each day, how many varieties they roast, and so on.

The release strikes right at the heart of the coffee aficionado (or snob, whatever) who might think that “grocery store coffee sucks”, by showing how serious they are about it. After reading the story, it’s difficult for the coffee lover to avoid thinking that Stew’s takes their coffee seriously.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

NORWALK, Conn., Feb. 19 /PRNewswire/ — Starbucks recently publicized that all 7,100 company-owned stores will close between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. local time on February 26 to retrain more than 135,000 employees in an effort to create “a renewed focus on espresso standards.”

Stew Leonard’s, which roasts its 20 varieties of coffee fresh in-house and brews more than 2,000 pounds of beans every day, today announced that during those same hours on February 26th, all four of its store locations will offer free cups of coffee, cappuccino or espresso.

“We know what it’s like when you need your java jolt, so while Starbucks is turning customers away, we’ll be welcoming them with open arms and a free cup,” said Stew Leonard, Jr. “We actually got this idea from Mike Perry, owner of Coffee Klatch Roasting in southern California, who was visiting our stores the other day. His coffee shops have been recognized as serving the ‘Best Espresso in the World’ at the 2007 World Barista Championship in Tokyo, Japan.”

Note the language used throughout the release. Not only does Stew Leonard’s use the release to educate people about coffee, but they use common knowledge to do so, saying “coffee is as perishable as lettuce”. They also use the right lingo about coffee and make the discussion emotional, “we know what it’s like”, etc.

How many opportunities like this are presented to you each year? How many do you take advantage of? As I’ve suggested before, use the news in your marketing. You don’t have to be in the coffee business to take advantage of this opportunity, although you do just about have to be nuts not to use this opportunity if you ARE in the coffee business.

Marketing Small Business

If Michael Jordan is ok with failing, isn’t it ok for you?

carnegie playground basketball from the library of congressInteresting how those who succeed the most also happen to have failed the most.

Most sports superstars have failed at something many, many times. The best batters in baseball only have a 40% success rate. Do you let one failure trip you up, sidetrack an entire day or prevent you from trying something else?

Iâ??ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. Iâ??ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, Iâ??ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. Iâ??ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. – Michael Jordan

This past weekend, I took the troop up near the Canadian border for a weekend of cross-country skiing. Several of the boys had never been on skis before. One of the guys is not very athletic and he struggled all day Saturday. I would not let him quit, even though doing so is what he is often allowed to do.

Late in the afternoon when he was getting tired, he fell down for what was probably the 30th time or so and he looked up at me, clearly disgusted with his success. He was waiting for me to give him an excuse to quit.

I told him to get up and tossed a cliche at him that he clearly hadn’t heard: “It isn’t how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get up.”

He said “Yeah!” and crawled to his feet one more time.

Before we made it back to camp, he fell several more times, but on the last 150-200 yards, something clicked and he got his glide going. Suddenly a kid who couldn’t wait to get back to camp and get off those skis spent the next few hours paddling around on them, and did so again the next day.

It was good enough for Michael Jordan, and it was good enough for this boy too. As you might imagine, it’s good enough for you and your business as well. In fact, fail faster and you’ll succeed faster.