Posts Tagged ‘Business Growth Consultant’
- 49% of total traffic is human
- 51% is bots (software that runs without human intervention) of which
- 20% is “legitimate” search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc)
- 31% is “harmful,” broken down as:
* 19% spyware
* 5% hacking tools
* 5% scrapers (pull information from one site and move to another)
* 2% content spammers (posting malware and malicious content)
With recent attacks that brought down servers at Bank of America and PNC Bank, you can reasonably conclude that if some of our most sophisticated critical infrastructure companies are vulnerable, YOUR business is as well.
Protecting your business as much as you can is smart Risk Management.
3 Action Items:
- Assess your risk – an estimate of damage and the probability of attack
- Determine your vulnerabilities and the cost of minimizing them – you may need expert outsiders to assist with this
- Prioritize and execute actions according to potential damage, probability and your ability to spend
Dirty rotten cyber scoundrels are inhuman!
JACOBY provides expert Business Planning & Guidance to small businesses who aspire to become successful niche leaders.
I was cleaning our cappuccino maker with a kitchen cookware cleaner named Bar Keepers Friend, which has been around since 1882, and found that it performed really well bringing out a big shine without having to apply very much elbow grease. When my wife returned from shopping I asked her about it and she confirmed that she absolutely loves the product and uses it in the kitchen and in the bathroom all the time.
On the back of the bottle, right at the top it states “Once Tried, Always Used” and it struck me that they could say it because they can back it up. I’m hooked on this product!
I’m sure that you have better things to do then read a cleaning product review so let’s get to the BUSINESS POINT: can you say the same thing about your business, that, if someone uses your product or service they will be absolutely hooked?
If so, congratulations! Next cup of coffee is on me. If not, WHAT do you need to do to improve your performance? Is the problem with the product/service itself or the customer experience within which it is delivered?
If it’s the product/service, what are the 2-3 most critical improvements to be made and how would you prioritize them?
If the problem is a customer service issue, same thing, what needs to improve and what’s the right order to tackle it.
Once Tried, May Be Used Again is not a recipe for greatness. Thank you to Bar Keepers Friend for shining a light on this problem.
JACOBY provides expert Business Planning & Guidance to small businesses who aspire to become successful niche leaders.
Do you roll your eyes when someone tells you that their business is better than their competitors because they provide “better service”? Even when the speaker believes it and has passion about what they do, it’s hard to swallow. We’ve become jaded because everyone says it and few deliver.
So how can you talk about your value in an effective and compelling manner and not cause whiplash of the eyeballs? Here’s how:
1. Since value is in the eye of the beholder, specialize in a niche which has a common set of opportunities and needs that you can serve especially well. The more you’ve worked in the niche they see themselves in, the greater your value
2. Research them in advance and interview them to deeply understand their very specific needs and wants, the value they place on them and their desired timing
3. Craft one sentence answers to these questions using this format to help you think through and be prepared to communicate in a way that connects benefits with features
“We want you to (experience this benefit) so we (do this – the feature)”
A. What are your service objectives?
B. What are your service processes?
C. What are your service Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?
D. What service training do you provide your employees?
E. How do you manage service on an ongoing basis?
4. Using answers to the previous questions, craft a sentence that encapsulates what is so special about the service you provide. It may be that one thing you do is very special or a combination of things.
Discover it and spell it out… and go gentle on everyone’s eyes!
Art Jacoby provides practical, insightful guidance to small businesses to become credible niche leaders & achieve profitable growth.
I had a cup of coffee with a delightful young entrepreneur who wanted some ideas on how to grow his business. He kept interrupting me because he was so excited to share more information about his company. I gently asked for a little breathing room and he calmed down for a bit.
I offered to go on a sales call with him because there just happened to be an appropriate target Customer business a couple of blocks away. We walked in and he started trying to sell to the woman behind the counter. Her face turned red, she turned her body physically away from him and she clenched her jaw. He kept talking….
I interceded with some friendly comments and you could just see her defenses melt. I patted him on the back and said that I thought there just might be grounds for a very nice discussion with her husband, the owner.
She didn’t say yes but she left the door open to the possibility.
In all fairness, this young man and his wife just had a baby a week ago and he’s in “daddy” land. When he settles down we’ll have a good discussion about bonding with prospects and not overwhelming them with all that good information before they want to hear it.
It would be a better world – and we’ll sell a lot more – if we stop talking at one another so much.
- Interest: Do work you love. Spend YOUR day well matched.
- Skill & Experience: Next, filter to those interests where you have superior skill & experience or at least a driving passion and the discipline to become a superior practitioner
- Subject Matter Expert: be a craftsman and keep raising your game with continuous improvement to the point where you have valuable things to share & others want to hear them
- Target Market: find a market niche where these skills & experience can be sold for premium prices because there are un-served or underserved buyers.
- Market Leaders: identify high quality buyers in your target niche and respectfully ask them to help you understand their needs and their challenges and the $ value they ascribe to solving each issue
- Formulate: using the Good/Better/Best model, develop product/service offering packages
- Position: find a sustainable place in the competitive pecking order which is not dominated
- Key Message: cut through the noise with “wow” that solves an important need
- Communicate: pick the marketing vehicles that work the best for your audience
- Center of Influence (COI): join an organization where you target market gathers, be active and visible and become a hero by helping the group achieve a tangible result and by helping others.
- Goals: establish clear monthly, quarter and annual Goals… and exceed them by
- Measuring key activities: i.e. establish weekly targets for meetings with decision-makers
- Measuring Results: you greatly increase the probability of winning if you measure results.
There is a cure for the common cold call. Don’t do it. It’s not that it can’t work but rather that it is a very inefficient method (produces minimum results for maximum effort) that should be used only as a last resort.
Here are some ideas about how to approach an important decision-maker in a manner that has a much better probability of getting a meeting:
- Do research on them to learn about their business and personal goals, interests and experience. The more you know before you contact them, the greater the potential outcome of your interaction.
- Reach out to them through a common connection. This may be through the staff on an Association they belong to, one of their colleagues whom you know or somebody who knows them personally. If you don’t have a common connection, create one.
- Start the relationship in “learn” mode, not “sell” mode. If they want to buy from you, that can be determined after communication begins so don’t assume it. If it turns out that they are not a candidate to purchase from you but they like you (partially because you didn’t try to sell them), they may make a valuable introduction to somebody else.
- Develop a keen understanding of their concerns, which are often shaped by conditions in their industry so that you can speak intelligently with them about their perceived needs
- Email blast short messages with very appealing titles that indicate strong subject matter understanding of their industry, market and needs. If the title is right, the percentage of recipients who read it is dramatically higher.
- Create a new email blast campaign every Quarter and follow up every single email sent with a series of 5 phone calls that span the Quarter: 1 a week later, 2 & 3 spaced a week apart and 4 and 5 spaced a month apart.
- Be active in Associations where your target prospects congregate. Help bring in Members, with Events and make friends with the staff and with Board Members. They know the members and can open doors after you’ve contributed.
A Company with only a GOOD product but GREAT sales, marketing & service will be more financially successful than a competitor with a GREAT product and GOOD sales, marketing & service almost every time. On the surface, it doesn’t seem right, does it? You would think that buyers, over time, would prefer superior technical performance. But there is no question that “Good Enough” Products are kicking butt.
WHY does this happen? Simple, the great marketers first of all make greater investments in time, money and resources to ensure that prospective buyers are aware that they exist. They Plan to spend appropriately to achieve the sales results they want. Then, they HOOK buyers with a superior brand promise, competitive positioning and key messages that resonate well by tapping a strong need, desire, fear, uncertainty or doubt (FUD) and then RETAIN them with superior Customer experience by caring, communicating, working proactively and responding nimbly to solve problems as they occur. Your product or service is better? Well, the Customer won’t easily let go because they’re reasonably happy or at least not seriously dissatisfied enough to do something about it. If you’re 10-20% better, yawn. 40-60% or more? Maybe…
A Lucky Strike cigarette commercial from the 1960′s said it well:
“I’d rather fight than switch.” The law of Inertia (as applied to human buying behavior) means unless it’s really important, I’m not gonna switch!
What actionable steps for entrepreneurs does this imply?
- Make a Strategic Decision: you have a dramatically superior product and will live or die by that OR you have a really good product and need to dramatically improve your marketing, sales and service. Which is it? Your resources are limited. Don’t sit in the middle – CHOOSE!
- If you choose to be a “best product” play, then your highest priority is to locate and start a conversation with buyers whose #1 criteria for purchase is already technical superiority, provide data that “proves” your superiority and capture external validation/testimonials from technical experts whose opinions matter to the target market
- If you choose to be “Good Enough Product” play, then you want to find a niche where you can dominate or you’ll never go far
- Research your Competition so that you know what they are promising and to whom so that you can create a messaging platform that is superior to your competitors for a specific niche (subset) of prospective Clients. Don’t go head to head against an 800 pound gorilla unless you have high confidence that your “counter offer” to the niche they dominate will resonate well
- Determine the essential Marketing and Sales activities that you must invest in to meet the Goals you’ve determined… and then make those investments.
- This may mean diverting funds away from product development to capturing sales
- This may mean investing in a salesperson or outside business development resource even knowing that it could be a year before you break-even on that investment
Singer Sheryl Crowe posed a question in one of her ballads: “Are You Strong Enough to be my Man?”
My question is: “Are you Good Enough to be my Product?”
This weekend we had to put my favorite cat of all time to sleep. Sam, who I affectionately referred to as “Monkey Man” and “Sammy Boy”, has been my personal Yoda for almost 10 years. We knew that he was having difficulty breathing but thought it was just a bad cold. Turned out to be a tumor. A hopeful visit to the Vet deteriorated rapidly into a quick goodbye to ease his suffering.
Driven and determined, year after year, I would sit down in my office at the computer and start pounding away at business plans, phone calls, emails, preparing a presentation or thinking about how to help a Client overcome a sticky situation and within minutes of “getting in gear” Sam would jump up on my lap and demand attention. Slow down, he seemed to say. Lighten up. Take your time. Let’s spend a few minutes together and chill. Deep in thought, I’d ignore him for a few minutes, then hug him then relax my breathing and smile.
Sam never met a lap he didn’t love. He would jump up on stranger’s laps and curl up and fall asleep. And he could purr the entire first quarter of a football game. I consider myself a pretty happy person but he was in an almost constant state of contentment. We’ve given him a great home but this guy was like Steve Martin all the time “the phone book is here, the phone book is here.”
Oh he could be demanding. When it was time to eat dinner or breakfast, Sam could bug you with the best of them. He transformed into “the devil made me do it” when hunger struck. Attacking your feet until you got up and fed him. Dive bombing your legs at 5am to get you up. Once fed, he would become very peaceful again. Stretch out and treat you like a warm, safe bed.
I buried him outside the breakfast nook under the bird feeder he loved to watch from the window so I can see him every morning. Still hurts like hell, I’m shell-shocked and the grief comes in waves.
There’s a lot of research that pets are really good for us. People with animals live longer, are healthier and less stressed. It’s been incredible for me. Still have a great dog who thinks she owns the place (she does), a 14 year old anti-social cat and a bird that’s supposed to be able to articulate half the English language but prefers chirping.
Sam was a stocky, furry little creature who gave so much joy and served as a constant reminder to enjoy life every day. Think I’ll do some pushups, then some sun salutations and take a brisk walk around the neighborhood.
Love you Monkey Man.
Every now and then a Client doesn’t pay their bills and deciding how to handle that is a challenge for every entrepreneur. The 3 key variables in this process are: the amount to be paid, the timing of payment(s) and how you move forward. Here is how I do it in my business consulting practice:
- Establish the amount due: provide written documentation to the Client and ask for confirmation that the amount is correct
- If they agree to the amount, negotiate a payment schedule, send them notices in advance of due dates (requesting read receipts), call them right away if they are late or miss a payment – staying in touch with them throughout this process is key as you want to hold them as close as possible to their commitment. You are relying on their ethics. It’s easy to get fatigued and stop paying attention but don’t let that happen – stay vigilant!
- If the Client does not acknowledge the amount, engage them in a discussion to understand their point of view and consider the legitimacy of their claims. Try to find out very specifically the points of agreement and disagreement. Based upon a dispassionate consideration of their statements, was your Company’s performance worthy of the invoiced amount? Are you willing to accept a smaller amount either because they have a legitimate point or simply in order to move on?
- If you are not willing to negotiate, tell them so in writing with a request for payment. If they do not respond to this in a reasonable timeframe, ask your attorney to send them a demand letter – this will often do the trick and its money well spent.
- If you are willing to negotiate the amount and the timing of payments, tell them so. You may want to estimate your expected legal fees and the value of your time. Generally speaking, small claims are not worth pursuing from an economic and opportunity cost perspective. Large claims may be worth your time and money.
- Ultimately, if they won’t pay and the amount owed is large enough to justify your time and investment, you may have to pursue them via legal means. Unfortunately, in our legal system, it is very unlikely that you will recover your legal costs, and the process may take 1-2 years to complete so make sure you have the stamina and wherewithal to go through it.
A year ago, a business advisory Client did not pay the final amount due on a business plan because he had cash flow problems in his business. It was disheartening because I had gone the extra mile on the Plan and really enjoyed working together. He was never willing to commit to a payment schedule despite my numerous repeated attempts but the amount was not large enough to justify taking him to court. So, I stayed very constructive in our communications – though I was tempted to not be civil – and a year and a half later he stopped by and made his first payment and handed me a note that said “This is a very small part of what I still owe you. You will have the balance in full soon.” Conducting yourself as a professional craftsman sometimes pays unusual dividends.
Since 1859, 1.2 trillion barrels of oil have been consumed according to Paul Roberts in his article “The Last Drops” in the July 2011 issue of Popular Science magazine. Other critical information from the article:
- Oil is a very high ROI fuel: 1 barrel generates 30 barrels for use. 30:1!
- Daily consumption is now 800 million barrels per day (MBD)
- 1.2 trillion barrels have been consumed since 1859
- At least 2 trillion more barrels will be consumed before our reliance on oil is significantly lower
- There are 8 trillion more barrels of oil available in the earth
- Reserves of 1 trillion barrels have been identified
- The other 1 trillion barrels needed to move to reduced dependency will be more difficult to source
Feel like an expert yet? That’s the clarifying feeling we get when somebody provides us with a clear picture of a situation and supports it with useful information.
So, while great minds reflect upon our energy future, think about key issues in your business that would benefit from gathering and synthesizing critical data so that a clear, crisp picture emerges. When the right data comes together, better decisions can be made.
Entrepreneurs sometimes don’t want to acknowledge the facts as they hear them. They sometimes think they can “power” their way through to the promised land, changing the game, even in environments which don’t bend or give. Business advisors have a responsibility to relate the “facts of business life” so that Clients can make responsible decisions… well, that’s another story…
For example, if you want to raise equity capital, should you consider approaching venture capitalists or angel investors? You don’t know? Does it help to know that you are 40 times more likely to raise money from an angel investor than from a venture capital firm? Or, that venture capitalists are very unlikely to invest less than $1 million so if your need is for $500,000, you are probably excluded. Oh, and venture capitalists will only bet on what they perceive to be potential homeruns while angels would love homeruns but frequently bet on singles, doubles and triples. Do you see how collecting certain information practically guides you to an answer?
Don’t waste your valuable energy reserves. Improve your Company’s MPG (Miles per Goal)© by collecting, analyzing and putting important data to use. How’s that for an energy policy?