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.┬áThere 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…)

January 22, 2013 No Comments

When Small Business Fails to Grow – Part 2

Here’s more to the story about the small shop that had to close due to competition from “the big boys”. The shop in question sold exotic and “funky” furniture pieces, accents, and other decorative items. It had a good location in a heritage building on a main street, and an energetic, smart business owner who had experience in marketing in the fashion business. They were making good use of Facebook to post photos and other information about their products. They had received a number of excellent reviews via social media and had received some local publicity. They were listed in most of the local directories of shops and businesses. The business owner was committed to environmentally-responsible (sustainable) wood items, and he recognized the value of running the business “on the cheap”, without unnecessary expenditures. This is a great foundation for a thriving small business.

In fact, this business DID have a unique selling proposition. It carried one-of-a-kind, exotic, unique, different, and unusual furnishing items. Its location positioned it to cater to an upscale customer who had money to spend. While the business may have had to pay a fair bit to import these items, the customers wouldn’t have minded the necessary markup due to the uniqueness of the products. Also, there were ways the business could have lowered costs on those pieces. The neighborhood in which the store was located had undergone an urban revival, raising the demographic to people who had disposable income and who were looking for lifestyle enhancements. (more…)

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August 29, 2011 No Comments

Network to increase your Net Worth

Networking is one of the most powerful ways to develop profitable business relationships and increase the flow of prospects to your business. Business growth depends on continual marketing, so get out there and talk to people!

How to Network for Results

1. The power of a NAME: Make sure your name and contact information are on cards and brochures you can give to those you meet. If you wear a name tag, position it high on your chest and near your left shoulder. If it’s on a string or lanyard, adjust it to hang over your breastbone rather than close to your waist. There is nothing worse at a conference than sitting down to lunch with people whose name tags are now in their laps. People want to learn your name, and use it when they talk to you. Instead of forcing them to squint, bend, or stare at your navel to figure out your name, make it easy by placing your name close to your left shoulder. Also, take the initiative to mention your name clearly and audibly. Similarly, it’s important to correctly catch the other person’s name. If you cannot hear or understand it, ask for one repetition. Ask for their business card so you can reinforce the name you heard with what you see on the card.

2. Decide ahead of time how many people you want to meet at each event. You’re not going to be able to meet everyone. If you’re tired from traveling or sitting in many sessions, you may not feel as motivated to get out there and meet others. With a number in mind of how many contacts you want to make, however, you’ll be motivated to meet your target. This ensures that the networking opportunity is not wasted.

3. Make it your mission to help other people at the meeting feel comfortable. Help others network. Talking to strangers can be a scary activity for many people. If you help them by introducing them, by getting the conversation rolling, or just by being friendly, you make a favorable impression.

4. Network with the goal of giving, rather than getting. The purpose of networking is to develop relationships with people in your industry or others with whom you might do business. By offering to help others instead of trying to get business for yourself, you make a great impression on people. They are more likely to want to refer business to you because they are confident you will be generous to those new clients, and that will reflect well on them too.

5. Find out enough about the person you meet to be able to recommend them to a potential client. This means understanding their Unique Selling Proposition, and what kind of clients they are looking for. Make sure you know how they can help someone else in your network or anyone else you might meet.

6. Give out your business cards, and ask for three in return: one to keep, two to share. If you hold the intention of finding 2 opportunities to refer clients to your new contact, you will be reinforcing the idea of abundance, and the multiplier effect will work in your favor. Be sure to get rid of those extra two business cards within the week by giving each of them to someone who can potentially do business with your contact. When it starts to get known that you do this regularly, you will have plenty of people wanting to meet you!

7. Circulate. Spend just enough time with each new contact to establish the relationship and get it on a good footing. Some experts recommend a maximum of 10 minutes, but take the time you need to ensure you have gathered the basic information. Then move on. This also gives the other person a chance to continue meeting new contacts.

8. Get out of your comfort zone. At meetings and events, we often run into associates and friends, and want to spend time with them because it is more comfortable to do that than meet new people. While there’s nothing wrong with socializing with friends, you can lose a valuable opportunity to network if you don’t actually NETWORK.

9. Jot information on the back of the business cards people hand you. This helps you remember additional details about your new contact. It’s even okay to do this while you’re speaking with them. Have your pen ready, and say “Let me just make note of what I need to know to send you some business.” No one expects you to remember everything without making a note, especially when you’re meeting multiple people. And by making that effort to write it down, you demonstrate that you are serious about trying to assist them. Don’t make it the center of attention, though. Once you’ve got a preliminary note, turn your attention to the individual you have just met, and try to really understand what they can do for a client. Later, you can flesh out those notes with other details you remember. You might want to include a notation on where you met, as well. This is important for helping you follow-up with that contact. “Hi Marsha, you may remember we met at the Whitby Chamber of Commerce social last month…”

10. Follow up afterward. Seeds need tending and nurturing in order to grow. The seed you have planted with your new contact will only grow if you follow up with that person to maintain and strengthen the relationship. You don’t have to go to lunch with everyone. Is there a magazine article that might interest your new contact? Send it. Did you find a news item that relates to their business? Give them the link. It takes three solid contacts with someone to make them remember you. After the event, find opportunities to make those three genuine and sincere contacts. How soon should you follow up? Immediately if you have something worthwhile to give that contact. Otherwise, 1-2 weeks after the event is fine.

What should you do if you get home and find the business card from someone you don’t remember? Give them a call. Say, “We met a couple of weeks ago at Mac Expo in Toronto, and I just want to make sure I have the right details about your business so that I can recommend you to someone why who might need your services. Could you tell me again what kinds of clients you’re looking for?”.

Everyone you meet is a potential billboard for your business. Make sure you take every opportunity to create new relationships.

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June 24, 2011 No Comments

Technical Communicators as Knowledge Hubs

As a working technical communicator, I often found myself as one of the few people (and sometimes the only one!) in the company who knew exactly what products we were working on and where they fit into the company’s vision. To do my job of documenting the products and consulting on their usability (how a product helps users achieve their objectives with it), I spoke to every department in the company at one point or another.

I was mostly involved with the research and development departments, but I frequently spoke to or worked with marketing to understand the customer they were trying to reach, and to sales to find out what aspects of the product(s) buyers were most interested in. This information gave me a sense of who the end user would be and what their needs were for the product or service they were purchasing. In that way, I could orient my documentation more effectively toward the user’s tasks.