Thursday, October 29, 2015

Holistic Marketing and Social Media

In today's era of social media, marketing is now holistic throughout your firm.  All your employees - no matter what their job titles are - serve as de facto marketers.

A helpful sales clerk could get praised on Facebook, while a rude waiter experience might result in a Twitter rant.

Your company needs to take advantage of this - especially since we are in an age of information overload.  Traditional ads are no longer effective and even potentially useful content (such as blog posts and articles) is frequently ignored.

To turn your employees into actual marketers, they must become producers/innovators and promote by creating actual products and services that give value.

For example, as part of its marketing, a restaurant could get their chef to demonstrate simple recipes on its You Tube channel.  Then, they could expand on this by getting him/her to offer weekly cooking classes, for a nominal fee, at a time when the restaurant is closed or business is slow.  The classes could be promoted in the restaurant and online.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Don't Let Tax Decisions (CAPEX Vs. OPEX) Drive Your IT To The Cloud

The latest thinking among CIOs and CFOs is to drive IT to managed cloud services in order to convert capital expenditures (CAPEX) into operational expenditures (OPEX).

OPEX spending has the advantage of being immediately deductible, while CAPEX has to be carried on the books and depreciated over time.

However, when it comes to business and investing, making decisions based on tax consequences is the equivalent of "playing not to lose" in sports.

For every tax dollar you save, you could be giving up a potential 5-10 dollars, simply by not considering a long term competitive IT strategy.

It might make sense, for example, to migrate routine, lower level IT functions to the cloud but, if all your systems are in the cloud, what differentiates you from any start-up who plunks down $100 at Amazon Services?

With so many competitors accessing cloud services, with the same performance, it might make sense for your company to retain your existing infrastructure to deliver critical functionality faster and more reliably.  This creates a competitive advantage, "a moat", that competitors can't easily offer.

As a strategy consultant, I always advise my clients to focus on the key question: "How can we increase the value we provide to our customers?"  If you continually increase your relevance and value to them, you won't be considered a commodity - you will be a trusted business partner.

Your internal tax treatment (CAPX vs. OPEX) has no value for them, but proprietary IT infrastructure  / operations that enable them to meet their objectives better and faster than cloud - only has a lot of value.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Mouse, Bird, and Fox

A haughty bird spotted a mouse crawling through the field.

The bird landed next to the mouse and said: “Oh, poor mouse! A hungry fox prowls this field! What are you going to do if he sees you?”

The mouse answered: “I have but one option – I will run away”.
The bird boasted: “I know several ways to escape the fox!”

Just then, the fox arrived!

The mouse ran away, and the fox ate the bird while it tried to figure out which escape method to use.

Moral: It pays to keep things simple! 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Business Synergy and Why Value Creation is Abundant

The best way to grow and market your business is to continually innovate and add value for your customers.

One way to do this is through collaboration.  A lot of innovation and value creation happen at intersections - between products, disciplines, and services.

I saw a reminder about this today when I read how Dunkin Donuts and Mondelez have created Oreo and Chips Ahoy based Coolata coffee drinks, and donuts.

Collaborations and synergy opportunities like this are endless - which shows abundance, because value can be created out of thin air, simply by combining things which already exist.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

25 Year Old Hubble Telescope Shows That Old Tech Isn't Bad Tech

The Hubble Telescope recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.  During that time, it's completely changed our understanding of the universe and, with the latest camera upgrade, it's better than ever and taking great photos.

The Chicago Tribune had an article on this and mentioned how the Hubble "was conceived in the 1940s, designed in the 1970s and 1980s" and it still has old computer hardware from that time.

I'm not surprised that the 1980s computer hardware still functions very well because, in those days, they used simple and robust designs based on unix.

Today's computers and software are much more complex, but not necessarily any better.  A lot of the complexity, storage, and space is taken up because of the graphical user interface (GUI) and object-oriented, inefficient programming.

In the old days, programmers were better engineers, and they used simple, elegant command line commands.  Today, hardware and memory are cheaper than programming talent, so software is bloated with large object libraries, so that mediocre programmers can just slap together modules.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Always Keep Things Simple

If there is one rule for success, I believe it's "keep things simple." 

I know that, ironically, this advice sounds, well, simple. But, don't underestimate how hard it is to follow.

Human nature is such that we have an urge to complicate things. We think it shows off our abilities, sophistication, and intelligence. We hide behind complexity to mask our insecurities. We think that if we only do the simple stuff, we are "naked" - there is nothing special to distinguish us and we are replaceable.

The truth is we are replaceable no matter what we do. Employees, businesses, suppliers, vendors, etc. - they can all get replaced by their competition. But, if you keep things simple, and succeed, and give a delightful experience to your customer (everyone has a customer), you have a better chance to stick around.

Simplicity, success, and customer delight go together because, when you keep things simple, they tend to be robust - less goes wrong, and there is less to maintain and less to breakdown. Simplicity leads to accuracy, reliability, and lots of "up time".

Monday, April 27, 2015

Don't Be Upset About Being Upset

I don't think that a lot of our stress, worry, and mental anguish comes from our reactions to external events.

Instead, I think it is our reaction to how we reacted, compared to the way we think we should have reacted.

For example, when I was younger, I used to get nervous and dread going to the doctor or dentist because I might (or would) get a shot.  What I realized was that a lot of the suffering was because, almost unconsciously, I was beating myself up over being nervous - that I was being a wimp and should be calm and cool.

When I stopped beating myself up, and said "OK, you're nervous, it's just a reaction, it's temporary, and you'll be fine after the appointment.  Just let yourself be nervous", I ended up much better off.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Walt Disney: "Plus It!"

I read that Walt Disney always liked his "imagineers" to keep pushing the envelope - increasing the value they generate.

Whenever they would do or create something, he would always exhort them to "Plus it!"

One story is that, after Disneyland opened,  Disney wanted to spend $350,000 to create a Christmas parade on Mainstreet.  His accountant objected, saying that customers will already be in the park and won't be expecting it.

Disney replied that that was the reason they should do it (it wasn't expected).

Especially in this age of global competition and attention scarcity, how are you pushing beyond the expected to shower your customers and prospects with value?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Creeping Complexity

Complexity can easily creep in through even seemingly insignificant decisions.

For example, naming the computer servers in your organization.

I've been in one company where they named one set of servers after U.S. presidents, and another set after animals.  On the other hand, another company named them things like chidirsdap05 and chihdirdap05.

In the case of this second company, many hours were lost over time with people trying to communicate server names in meetings and conference calls.  Risk and errors increased because people typed in the wrong names and worked on the wrong servers.

In the first company, there was never any misunderstanding if you were told to log into "Reagan" or "giraffe."

I've also seen this in other examples.

For example, in an organization, one software payments application assigned sequential numbers to transactions.  So, for example, "10,301" followed by "10,302", etc.

Another application assigned Oracle auto-generated IDs such as "B65AZX456RD45WRFT" and the next one would be "B65AZX457LD45WRFT" - the difference is a couple of positions in the middle of the string.

When it came to help desk support and tracking payments for customers, which one do you think created extra complications and headaches?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Alan Weiss: Small Deeds of A Meaningful Life

Alan Weiss, the great speaker and consultant, publishes a weekly "Monday Morning Memo" newsletter.  I really like this morning's memo:

Someone allows me to turn left into Dunkin' Donuts in heavy traffic. A passerby tells me I've dropped something. A store clerk finds something out of stock in another store and gets it for me the next day. The lawn guys clear up some debris that has nothing to do with their work. A bill is $10.03 and the cashier says not to worry about the change which I don't have. Someone offers tickets to a performance which they can't use. These are the small deeds of a meaningful life. We don't need to be thanked, we don't need to "demand" that people reciprocate or prove they're "passing it forward." We simply treat each other in a manner consistent with civility and in a way we'd like to be treated. The more we brag in public that we've performed such deeds, the less meaningful they become, because they're done by us for us. But when we do them without self-regard just because they are the right thing to do we're contributing in a powerful way.

© Alan Weiss 2015. All rights reserved

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Focus on Outputs, Not Inputs

If you want to simplify and streamline your business processes, then you need to focus on outputs.

Take each function or task and consider it a black box.  A black box abstracts a task by representing it by a box that has inputs and outputs.  Somehow the contents of the box transforms the inputs into the outputs.

The black box concept is valuable because it puts the emphasis where it belongs: on creating the outcomes.  The steps / processes inside the box are a "necessary evil", and need to be reduced as much as possible, while still accomplishing your goals.

So, things like meetings, reports, processes, and procedures are all "inside the box" elements that have no importance in themselves.

For example, an output might be to name a new product.  If you can decide the name through a couple of emails back and forth between a few key individuals, then great!  You're done.  You don't need to gather everyone into a series of hour long meetings and create a 30 page report.

This is the opposite of the way bureaucracies think.

In a bureaucracy, the workers feel more comfortable with the meetings and long report.  It makes them look busy and provides cover, since they fear to make actual decisions.
Bureaucracies focus on the inside of the box.  The processes become more important than the outputs.

You Are In The "Edutainment" Business

It doesn't matter what your product or service is.

If you want to attract people in this Age of Attention Scarcity, then you should consider yourself in the "edutainment" business.

What is "edutainment"?

Simple - it means a mix of education and entertainment.  Think Food Network, Discovery Channel, or HGTV.

Maybe you don't have your own cable channel, but you can still have online and offline points of contact and influence.  For example, You Tube videos, blogs, twitter, and live events.

Let's say that you are a restaurant.  Then, don't consider yourself in the restaurant business.  Think of yourself as your own Food Network.  

Your job is giving value to people through entertainment and education.  The actual food and dining experience is simply one part of it.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Theme nights at the restaurant.  An example is kid's game night, where kids can also win "food bucks" to be used in the future.

2. Live cooking classes.

3. You Tube video cooking classes.

4. Special nights - for example,  a performance by the award winning local high school orchestra or a wine and cheese party at a local luxury car dealership to see the latest cars, mingle, and hear live music.

5. Secret menus and special limited-time dishes only listed online.

The idea is to advertise the events in the restaurant, capture people's email addresses and drive people  online.  Then complete the loop and use online to drive people to the live offline events.

Give Enough Value That They Can't Ignore You

The art of marketing can be boiled down to one sentence:

Give Enough Value That They Can't Ignore You

Today we are no longer in the "Information Age."  We have a glut of information.  There are tons of books, blogs, websites, etc. out there, and more added every day.  Information is no longer a valuable commodity in short supply.

Instead, we are in the "Attention Age."    Attention is the new scarce resource.  With our limited time and capacity, how can we choose and organize information to meet our needs?

If you are trying to market and sell something, it is very easy to be lost in the noise.  People have to filter tremendous amounts of data, quickly.  Unless you have something valuable to offer them, they won't give you any attention.

People don't want to hear your sales message, or even an "informercial" that is 30% info and 70% pitch.  Instead, you need to give them valuable content they can put to use - no strings attached.  Then, you build credibility and can hopefully build a relationship with people so they think of you when they need your product or service.