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KFC Potholes Fix: Another example of using the news

Springtime in Iowa

In colder climates, it’s pothole season.

As the weather warms, ice and snow thaws and “spring break up” begins. The ground creaks and ripples as some areas thaw faster than others, while others go through numerous freeze and thaw cycles until spring truly arrives.

It begins for the roads too, as thawing ice breaks up pavement and creates potholes (or exposes the ones frozen and smoothed over by ice all winter).

Earlier this week, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) parent Yum Foods offered $3000 to help the city of Louisville fix 350 potholes. In exchange, KFC gets to apply temporary chalk emblems to the repaired potholes saying “Re-freshed by KFC”.

Free publicity you say? (11,000+ results as of the morning of Mar 27 2009) (how many listeners to All Things Considered?)

What exactly to potholes and chicken have to do with one another?

Not a darned thing. And does it matter?


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Hugh’s advice for entrepreneurs

If you strongly prefer a G or PG post, this isn’t going to be your favorite guest post.

Or maybe it will.

Today’s guest post comes from Hugh MacLeod, and in fact, it’s part of his upcoming book (June 2009).

You may know him from his cartoons, which he pens under the name Gaping Void.

What I will tell you is that even if a few four letter words bother you, you’ll be better off reading and discarding them because quite frankly, this is a pretty important read to any entrepreneur or wanna-be entrepreneur.

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Fishing for ideas using IdeaCast

Today’s guest post is more than one read, instead it’s a series of over 100 podcasts from Harvard Business Review’s bi-weekly production called IdeaCast.

Click here to subscribe to HBR’s IdeaCast (Note: This link will take you to iTunes, which hosts the free podcast)

Each episode is about 20 minutes and they are audio-only, well worth syncing to your mp3 player and listening as you mosey about.

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The Dow fell, let’s go out to eat!

Sorry to interrupt your regularly scheduled Bokeh Wednesday, but it's time to return to the Apocalypse
Creative Commons License photo credit: nosha

After dropping my son off at school at 5:30am (he is heading to Great Falls for the state basketball tournament), I turned on NPR on the ride home and heard a story about a Seattle restaurant whose daily special is priced based on the closing level of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

For example, if the Dow closes at 7523, then the restaurant’s special that night is priced at $7.52.

If you listen to the story, you’ll find what you might expect: that people are buying the special (which is in limited quantities) because of the price.

What you might not have expected is that the same people who come in for the low price are also adding high-profit-margin items to their meal, like alcohol and desserts.

The owner sounds a little concerned about the price of the Dow, which is down 1000 points since he started the promotion, yet he continues the special. That tells me that the special is still profitable.

Not only did it not cost him large amounts of advertising money, but it turned a profit AND generated a ton of free publicity via National Public Radio.

So, how can you be creative and use the news today?

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Quincy Bioscience does it with Congress

Uses the news, that is.

We’ve talked about this here at BIP in the past. When things occur in the news, USE THEM.

Take advantage of events in the news, whether they are ironic/funny as Quincy’s is or not.

The CPSIA thing is a good example (again). Once your testing is complete and you have all of your GCCs in order, why not announce to your local press that you are CPSIA compliant. If nothing else, it raises awareness of the law AND sends a message that everyone else may not be.

Worst case, it puts the question into the minds of consumers – exactly where you want it.

In the case of Quincy Bioscience, they are clearly paying attention. It’s an easy connection to make, but they could have done nothing. Instead, they took advantage of the situation, the connection in the news to their business and took action.

Simply brilliant.

The press release provides you with a valuable lesson on getting viral PR for *nothing*, see below.

Excerpted from the Madison Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel:

Quincy Bioscience will provide free bottles of its flagship brain-enhancing supplement, Prevagen, to any member of Congress or the Obama administration who has forgotten to pay taxes during the last 10 years, the company said Tuesday.

“We’re confident that after 30 to 60 days of taking the supplement, most legislators and government officials will recall, without being reminded by aides or reporters, all tax periods for which they have forgotten to pay state or federal income taxes,” Quincy Bioscience President Mark Underwood said in a news release.

Prevagen is so effective it also should help most government officials recall when they failed to make Social Security and Medicare contributions for undocumented household workers, Underwood said.

Note: Here is an alternate link in case the story is archived.

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Thinking outside the box store


Several of my friends are in the artist community, both here in Montana and elsewhere.

Many of them are photographers like you’d suspect, but some paint.

I don’t really look at myself as an artist even though I’ve been a photographer in one form or another since I was a kid.

Recently, one of them told me that she was able to rent mall space for her photography studio due to an innovative program in the St. Louis area.

The economy has put a lot of pressure on malls across the nation. Vacancies are way up, and the situation is no different at this mall.

One mall thought differently

The mall’s management could have sat back and whined about their situation. They could have let the mall traffic dwindle and left those spaces vacant. That might have impacted them legally, depending on their contracts with anchor stores.

But they didn’t. Instead, they came up with an innovative program that helps their cash flow, helps the local art community (and the small business owners – the artists) as well as keeping traffic up in the mall.

You can review a TV station news video about the project here.

Think outside the box store.

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4 more ways get ideas for new products/services


Part 2 in our series, “What else can you use to generate ideas for new products and services?” hits the streets today. Slide over here if you need to see part 1.

Last time, we talked about listening to feedback from your customers (rather obvious, but if everyone did it, I wouldn’t have to say it), and we talked about ways to learn about new trends / methods / products / services in your niche as well as how to borrow ideas from other niches.

Today, I’d like to give you four ways to come up with even more ideas. It’s especially timely for the CPSIA-impacted businesses who might be losing a revenue stream (such as 12-under kids clothing).

You might think that these are oriented solely toward service businesses, but they really apply to both products and services.

Think about your ideal customer’s day. 

Walk through it in your mind, step by step. If you aren’t sure about their day, do you really know enough about your customer’s business? 

Look back at each step. What can you do to smooth their day, take away the roadblocks and annoyances? How can you turn that into not only a one sale, but a repetitive one? 

Think about how your business can help them improve their efficiency, safety and profitability

For example, if your products/services involve safety risks to the employees who use them, how can you help them reduce or eliminate accidents and injuries? Training? Improved products? Their insurance firm might reduce their premium if they see documented steps to reduce risk. 

Direct marketing expert Dan Kennedy has a saying: “If I wake up at 2 am thinking about you, you’re in trouble.”

What has the customers in your market tossing and turning at night in today’s economy?

Is that different than what costs them sleep in a middle of the road economy? Maybe so, maybe not â?? but that’s the sort of thing you need to consider when coming up with ideas. 

If something is keeping your customers awake at night, it would be in your interest to find out what it is and do something about it. 

What are the top three things that frustrate your customers every single day?

How can you take those things off the table? If you can’t do that for some reason, keep going down the list of frustrations until you can. 

Take at least 5 minutes today (preferably more than that) to mull over at least one of these things. Do a different one tomorrow. Keep a list. DON’T DISCARD ANY IDEA. Prioritize them, perhaps, but don’t discard them. You never know when the seed planted by a “bad” idea grows into something spectacular.

Jim Rohn talks about harvesting in the fall because you planted in the spring and cultivated in the summer. It’s time to start planting, even though there’s snow on the ground (at least up here, anyhow).

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Where to get ideas for new products and services

I love the idea..
Creative Commons License photo credit: apesara

One of the questions I hear with regularity is “Where do I get ideas for new products and services?” Of course, the most obvious place would be “Your customers”.

It isn’t that easy though. If every business waited for their customers to ask for that next amazing new product, a lot of great new products and services wouldn’t come to market nearly as soon. Some might not ever come to market.

Did one of Apple’s customers ask them for the iPod? Not likely. 

What’s the biggest problem your customers have that you aren’t doing anything to solve?

Sometimes you need to be ahead of your customers’ thought process.

If you’ve positioned your business well, you are the authority in your market (and if you aren’t, you should be working on that).

You are the one that everyone looks to for the newest information in your market. You are the one that everyone looks to for the newest products that help them with problems they didn’t realize they even had.

But how do you do that?

Staying on top of your market means reading about trends and new discoveries in your industry’s publications. It doesn’t matter if that means a trade paper, a blog, a podcast, a video or a monthly conference call, you simply have to not only keep up but stay ahead of the “also rans”.

What more business owners should do is spend time reading about trends and new discoveries in complementary business niches. The really aggressive folks should be looking at these things in niches that appear to have nothing to do with their business.

For example, if you sell bicycles in a specialty retail shop, what would be the point of reading about the newest strategies used by those who retail kayaks or rent high-end digital SLRs, telescopes or ice climbing gear?

Simple â?? the customers who spend money in those markets are also inclined to spend money in your specialty bike shop.

Looking at ideas that worked in non-complementary markets has value as well. What can you take from successes in a completely unrelated niche, bring to your business, massage a little and make your own?

Plenty, if you put a little thought into it.

How many businesses have drive-up windows these days?

Do you think coffee shops, libraries or dry cleaners were the first? Nope. Oddly enough, the first drive up window appears to have been at a bank in 1928.

20 years later in 1948, In-and-Out Burger claims they opened the first drive-up window at a restaurant. Why it took the restaurant business 20 years to pick up on that is anyone’s guess.

Sometimes, you might be replacing a product line instead of simply adding a new one to widen your reach. In extreme cases, it might be about survivability.

For example, if you’re one of the many businesses that is threatened by the CPSIA, you’re looking at eliminating product lines for kids under 12. Presumably, you have items for kids over 12, but that isn’t always the case.

What else can you use to generate ideas for new products and services? We’ll talk about other ways shortly.

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The folks at Axe Body Spray think like a guerrilla. Can you?

are you  tough enough ?
Creative Commons License photo credit: piotrek plecke

You’ve likely seen the catchy commercials for Axe products for men.

Here’s an example of how they are always looking for the right opportunity.

They could have staged the run. That would have cost thousands.

This cost them a tshirt and a few moments with a camcorder. My guess is that the guy doing the stunt was one of many volunteers, and possibly an Axe employee having some fun.

A little creative thought goes a long way, even if your product isn’t quite like Axe’s.

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Did you have that idea…AGAIN?

Jeff Pulver’s guest post today briefly explores where that feeling in the pit of your stomach comes from when that great idea floats into your head one more time…