April 15, 2013 No Comments

Risk Management and Business Growth

I recently came across this blurb by one of the executives who was involved in the release of New Coke on April 23, 1985. Sergio Zyman says that “he knew New Coke was going to be a disaster almost from the day of its launch”. In a summary of the fiasco at snopes.com the thinking seems to be that this was a genuine mistake on the part of Coca-Cola executives.¬†There are no analyses that I could find where the risky decision to implement New Coke was put under a microscope from a business perspective, but Coca-Cola’s own description of the event shows that they were surprised by consumer reaction.

Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, my marketing mind says the whole thing was brilliant. They couldn’t lose! And in fact, they didn’t. Classic Coke was reintroduced and came back stronger than ever, subsequently leading to immense growth in the Coca-Cola company. (more…)

February 14, 2013 No Comments

Eliminate Barriers to Small Business Growth

In my analysis of the exotic furniture shop that felt it couldn’t compete with “the big boys”, I mentioned the concept of an “anti-USP”. This is any factor that works against your Unique Selling Proposition. Your USP is one of the most valuable aspects of your business. It clearly states why customers should choose to do business with you instead of your competitors, and it emphasizes the value you offer your customers.

When you have any anti-USPs, however, all the good work you do in your business can be negated by one or more simple things. For the exotic furniture store, the used look of their furniture negated the value of these high-priced pieces.

Sometimes even the business name can be an anti-USP, as in the case of a former client who had the word “Kwik” in his business name. That particular spelling of the word “quick” indicates a low-priced, lower value service so sets up a customer expectation that yes, they’ll get something fast, but it is going to be inexpensive. Sadly, that business owner’s services were not inexpensive at all. Potential customers who invited him to give them a quote got immediate sticker shock as the price far exceeded what they were expecting to pay. His business suffered accordingly. (more…)

January 20, 2013 1 Comment

Systematize your Business Growth

When I speak with clients about the Core Four marketing steps that every business should undertake when looking for growth, part of my job is to help them understand that making marketing part of their business systems is vital to make their business a going concern.

Crafting a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), integrating that USP into all your marketing activities, setting up processes for customer relationship management (CRM), and establishing processes for joint ventures and alliances all contribute to making a marketing system that is repeatable, measurable, and effective.

If you do not have systems in place in your business, you are at risk. Here’s why. If your sales processes depend upon the knowledge of the business owner or the top sales person, you need those individuals in order to make a sale. Customers may buy because they like you, or because you have a business relationship with them. But if those people are not available, no sale can be made. By writing down the USP and ensuring it is communicated during every customer contact, you take the sales process out of the head of the business owner and the top sales person and make it into a system that anyone can use. (more…)

August 11, 2012 No Comments

System or Infrastructure?

Do you have systems in place in your business, or only an infrastructure?

To permit a business to grow, it needs more than just a framework. Manageable, repeatable systems, which can operate independently of the business owner, are necessary before a business can reach its potential.

While infrastructure is important, and is often a first step in establishing a strong business model, you will need a working operation that goes beyond who sits where and who’s responsible for what.

Infrastructure, or company organization and plans, is animated by systems that embody policies, procedures, methodologies, and expected outcomes. A system is dynamic, subject to change as efficiencies are discovered. It is portable, and does not rely upon the charisma or skill of the business owner, a shop foreman, or a key staff member.

Infrastructure: sales dept, marketing dept, customer support dept, etc.
System: marketing generates leads which sales turns into customers, who are serviced by customer support. (more…)

January 23, 2012 No Comments

Three States of Living Matter

Here’s a post I wrote in January, 2007. It’s worth bringing it around again for your consideration.
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At the beginning of a new year, many of us like to review the past 12 months, and revisit our plans for the coming 12 months. If we are forward thinking, we probably have a look at the 5-year and 10-year plans we may have made, as well.

It is always said of business plans that they are dynamic documents which should be regularly read, revised, republished, and consulted. I agree. I also like to extend that thought to any plan.

A plan is one approach to getting from point A to point B, whether in time or space. It is the approach you’ve chosen. It may not be the most correct way to accomplish your goal, but it is the one you’ve researched, analyzed, scoped. specified, funded, and are now implementing. You’ve made a commitment to that plan and those particular tactics over other possible ways to get the job done.

However, life happens. Sometimes the universe changes the variables with which we are working. We encounter obstacles that were different from what we had anticipated. Our actions have different consequences that what we had predicted. We are confronted with new information that we didn’t have when we first formulated our plan. Consequently, we need to adjust. We need to rethink the plan.

Smart people understand that reworking a plan is a natural part of project management. Any time the conditions, variables, resources, or outcomes change in a project, it is advisable to take another look at the project plan and make adjustments accordingly. It may mean increasing funding, pushing out a deadline, reassigning personnel, reducing requirements, or changing other aspects of the plan. Dynamic plans live and breathe. They grow.

There are only three states of living matter in the universe. Anything live is either growing, stagnant (in stasis), or decaying.

When looking at plans for your business this year, it is valuable to ask:

  • Where are we now?
  • Are we growing, stagnant, or decaying?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • What do we need to change, to get the growth we want to have?

You want your business to thrive, to grow, to be a living entity. Re-evaluation of your current state can help you decide what to do next.

January 20, 2012 No Comments

The Professional Gadfly

I often tell my students that as technical communicators, we are professional gadflies. It is our job to buzz persistently, and bite when necessary, to get certain things done. We cannot move forward with documentation on a product that is languishing, so we interact with the developers to see how things are going. We ask for prototypes and working versions. We query them about deadlines, especially “When’s code freeze?”.

We often become de facto project managers on the projects to which we’re assigned. In managing our documentation projects, we encourage, inspire, assist, and even require others to meet their production and development deadlines so we can take that deliverable and add its information to our documentation. Another rule of our craft is that a product never, never, never is delayed for release because of documentation. When that product is ready to go, so is the documentation, and often it’s that the docs are done and just waiting on the final touches to the product. (Cleanup, not changes.)¬† (more…)