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 7, 2013 2 Comments

When Small Business Fails to Grow – Part 3

Used FurnitureSo here’s the final word on what I think happened to this great little business. We’ve already established that the business owner was capable and knowledgeable, adept in most areas of running his store. The business was capitalizing on multiple marketing pillars and was taking advantage of many of its marketing assets such as owner expertise, location, publicity, unique product, and community relationships.

If so much was going right, what went wrong?

As I mentioned in Part 1, the owner felt that he was squeezed out because he could not compete with “the big boys”, notably Ikea.

Yes, the business could have had a more compelling USP (Unique Selling Proposition) but it was not far off. Most of the messaging about the store in some way captured how this shop was different from its competitors. It had a distinct advantage over competitors like impersonal big box furniture stores. When working with any small business client, our first step is to ensure they have a solid USP in place, because that is the foundation upon which all other aspects of the business can be built. (more…)

November 5, 2012 No Comments

All Businesses Need FOCUS

There are many aspects to creating and running a business. The one that needs the most attention, whether in startup phase or as the company grows, is sales. Without sales, i.e., without customers buying from you, you have no business.

It’s easy to get lost in the many details of getting your company set up and functioning smoothly. You need people, processes, infrastructure, stationery, a web site, marketing, fulfillment, and so on. And those things can consume a great deal of a business owner’s time. But all of that is unnecessary until you are making sales. Without sales, all of that is merely a drain on finances.

Instead, focus on the customer. The acronym FOCUS — Focus On Customer Until Sold — is a good way to remember that. You must know your customer inside and out. Who are they? Why will they buy from you? Why should they choose to buy from you and not your competitors? What do you need to do to reach those potential customers? What will convince them to buy now? What do you need to give them when they buy?

Once you have the customer-to-sold equation solidly in place, you have revenue as well as the luxury of time and capital to grow other parts of your business. Customers really don’t care if you have fancy stationery or a nice office. What they DO care about is what your product or service can do for them. Get that right, and growing your business is easy.

October 3, 2012 No Comments

Customer-Centric Business Model

To grow your business, you might need to adjust your business model. A business model is the structure, focus, and operational methodology of your business.

Business growth usually means paying more attention to customers. If you do not have a customer-centric business model that is tightly focused on attracting, delighting, and maintaining customers, you might want to make some changes so that it is. Depending on your industry, that concentration on meeting customers’ needs can result in exponential growth.

In software development, for example, a customer-centric business model means that no project is undertaken unless there is absolute certainty that there are customers clamoring for that software. Developing a software program just because it’s “cool” is not enough anymore. The market must clearly express a need or problem for which your product is the solution.

A Joint Application Development (JAD) model for software development involves every department of the company in the development process. There are regular cross-functional meetings where representatives from finance, HR, customer support, QA, marketing, sales, and development get together to plan, troubleshoot, and support the development of the product. In this way, each area of the company has a stake, and a vested interest, in the success of the project.

Also called an integrated business model, this way of working together to get, keep, and satisfy customers ensures strong customer loyalty and that there are no surprises for the company.

A customer-centric business model takes the focus off the product or service, and puts it squarely and continually on the customer. Remember, to build a better mouse trap, it’s not about making it better for the mouse, but making it much better for the customer who has a mouse problem.

April 4, 2012 No Comments

Technology Transfer

I’ve written lately about a new fusion reactor and how the scientific process should be applied to test it. Let me take those ideas a step further by saying that innovation is necessary in this complex world, but technology transfer is even more necessary.

Technology transfer is the passing of knowledge from one person or group to another. We can have the most innovative and useful technologies in the shop or the lab, but unless the word is spread about them they remain unknown. We often cannot count on the inventors to tell us about their creations. Their skills like in making the technology or the discovery, not in marketing or publicity. Besides, a publicity effort would take their valuable time away from further development of their ideas.

Economist Paul Zane Pilzer has written about the “technology gap”: a backlog of technologies in various stages of development that have not yet made it into widespread use. The technology gap exists because the public does not know about these inventions or discoveries. Another reason is because the need for them is not pressing enough; the problems they solve are not urgent problems. While many new products are interesting and even pretty cool, unless they meet a genuine need, they are likely to languish in the development stage. (more…)

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…)

December 5, 2011 No Comments

New Reactor Promises Clean Energy

Andrea Rossi has convincingly demonstrated his E-Cat reactor that produces more energy from a reaction than from a purely chemical process. Nickel plus hydrogen, 80 watts in, 15,000 watts out and no radioactive residue to get rid of afterward, only a little copper.

Strangely, the scientific press are remaining silent on this discovery. Perhaps having been burned by previous “cold fusion” claims that remained unproven, they are twice shy. However, when scientific heavyweights no less than Nobel prize winner for Physics Brian Josephson of Cambridge University talk about an invention, we need to pay attention. Rossi is clearly on to something. Given the size of the reaction chamber, it can’t be other than…fusion.

I am surprised that the scientific media are declining to cover this story. It is their responsibility to publicize science news so that the broader scientific community can become aware, then question, probe, investigate and even validate any claims. If something attracts the attention and support of respected scientists such as Josephson it deserves its moment in the spotlight.

According to NASA Chief Scientist Dennis M. Bushnell, reactors of the Rossi type are already in production and may be capable of “completely changing geo-economics, geo-politics, and solving climate and energy.”

Video on UCAM site with transcript.

October 7, 2011 No Comments

Development Model for the Connected Age

Endorsed Development, a new way of attracting a market for products we want to create.

Since the Stone Age, products have been developed based on need. They were meant to solve problems and assist us in completing tasks. To begin with, it was survival tasks, soon followed by transportation tasks, trading tasks, and leisure tasks. In design, form closely followed function.

As we developed greater technical skills, we began to innovate. We refined designs to be more usable and more attractive. Occasionally, because of cost and demand for the products, designs were adjusted based on ease of manufacture. When we had to get something to market quickly, we concentrated on making it work and shipping it as soon as we could.

Design-Driven Development

With automation and the assembly line, speed of manufacture was handled so we concentrated once more on making things attractive as well as functional. We were still tied to the products-as-solution imperative, but we could add features that we thought were fun. Features became selling points, even though marketers kept reminding us that it was benefits, not features, that sold products.

(more…)