Thursday, December 22, 2011

Handwritten cards trump e-cards

I don't pay much attention to the growing number of holiday e-cards that I receive from companies or people that have me on their email list. This is an impersonal mass mailing by vendors that go through the motions by using a no effort approach to sending the same e-card to everyone.

However, I read every word in a personally written holiday card.

I consider other types of e-cards such as birthdays or customer anniversaries as nice to receive.  For these I know that their system differentiates me from all the rest of its list.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Successful People Surround Themselves With Others Who Complement Them

I hear successful executives say this all the time, "I know what I'm good at and what I'm not good at.  My success depends on finding other people to fill my gaps."

Sales organizations are quick to title their people as "sales executives".  If they are truly executives and want to be successful, then why should it be expected that each one is fully competent in everything necessary to produce a thriving sales organization?  No one is good at all the things necessary to fulfill the sales role including proposal writing, finding new business, giving presentations, relationship building, closing the "golden spike" deal, etc.

I think the compensation system disables sales leaders from doing the right thing with respect to organizing for success.  In most sales situations, team selling is essential.  If companies were able to break down the role into positions just like on a baseball team, there'd be someone playing first base, pitching, driving in runs, etc.  And the right compensation scheme would naturally fit into place.

So, how can we make this happen and not let singular sales rep commission entitlement be the deciding factor?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Good Mission Statements Are Sustainable

Yesterday I read an interesting post on Seth Godins' blog There's nothing wrong with having a plan. Seth's message is that over time plans succeed and fail and need to be updated, but your company's mission should be bullet proof and stable - the beacon that drives your plans. 

So, what should a mission statement include?  Here are some ideas to mull around:

Mission statements define why a company exists. With underpinnings of trust and integrity, a mission statement must address employees, customers and partners, community [online and offline, cause based and industrial categories] and financial results.

  • Employee satisfaction based on accomplishment and pride in belonging to something excellent
  • Customers and partners value the quality of their experiences with your company as much as they do the products and services they purchase.  It is our goal for them to have an excellent experience throughout their lifetime relationship.  We make it easy for them to do business with us.  Interaction is smooth and easy and we enable communications through the means they prefer.  We provide useful information to them.  We guarantee our work.  We quickly follow up to correct experience gaps.
  • A visible member of the community through sponsorships and participation in events.
  • Results measured in financial, marketing and operations terms

Monday, October 3, 2011

Business Development In Its Basic Form

Find Ways To Win Today
While Building For The Future

Allow your business to be the best it can be by answering four basic questions every day:
  1. What will my business look like in a couple of years if I continue to run it in its current form?
  2. What could I be doing today to improve short term results?
  3. What would I like my business to look like in 2 to 3 years?
  4. Will short term results subsidize my company's future?

Now, you're ready to define business development's role for your business.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hooke's Law As Applied to the US Economy

I believe that everything seeks an equilibrium point, but never settles there until all external forces are gone [this never happens].  The spring provides a great analogy.

The US economy has oscillated above and below its equilibrium point in a healthy fashion. Although each uptick was followed by a downturn, the trend line in equilibrium points continued with a 4.5% upward slope between 1982 - 2008.

It's been a few years now and the expected rebound has not occurred. Is it possible that we've stretched the spring beyond its elasticity point?

We need to replace the broken spring with innovation and visionary leadership.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sustainable Energy Needs a Rock Star

Yesterday I attended a venture group event and the topic was sustainable energy.  The panel included people who ran companies that produced sustainable energy technology [solar, hydrogen fuel cell, etc.] along with government officials who are trying to catalyze sustainable energy investment.

The conversation centered around obstacles and "policy" rather than customers, markets, creativity, etc.  I learned about all the reasons that sustainable energy hasn't become a mainstream alternative.  For example, without a way to store natural energy for when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing, public utility companies will remain adversaries because they won't be able to fulfill their backup role and the traditional grid will never go away.  Maybe we should be funneling investment money towards entrepreneurs who can design and manufacture the right backup solution.

Another reason is that since natural gas prices are so low, it's tough to justify investing in sustainable energy solutions.  We all know that as soon as natural gas demand skyrockets, its price will also soar.

Another reason is that because of party politics, the federal government align with a unified energy strategy.  Well, what a great opportunity for a state to attract new tax paying businesses by making itself "energy friendly" through a creative approach.

No wonder sustainable energy is going nowhere fast.

Sustainable energy needs a rock star.
  • VHS beat Beta Max
  • Prius beat all the rest [and will do even better when their technology finds its way to other types of vehicles]
  • iTunes succeeded while Napster failed
  • Blue Ray beat HDTV
Each one of these success stories was led by a charismatic visionary who focused on the customer rather than the easy to rationalize reasons as to why it won't work.

JFK challenged us to go to the moon.  We did.

We need someone like Ted Turner or Steve Jobs to make it happen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Generating Sales-Ready Leads is Essential

How do you define "sales ready" leads?

An inquiry does not equal a lead, nor does a suspect or prospect.

An early stage lead is marketing accepted, but needs nurturing before it can be "sales ready".

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Business And Basketball Are Similar

Business And Basketball Are Similar
We're well into this year's NBA playoffs.  This got me to thinking about the similarities between leading a basketball team and leading a business.

You need a great coach, manager and architect with the vision to structure the team and design a style of play that integrates cohesive rhythm on offense with intensive continuity on defense through players who work as a seamless unit and execute through teamwork and communication.

Ensure understanding by breaking down the play [not the same as micro-managing] and use candor to translate goals into a set of individual responsibilities and a series of specific steps.

You're always recruiting multidimensional, dexterous, skilled players that fit the same style of play each season.  They must have strong fundamentals: shooting, passing, dribbling, instinctively create balance on the floor, move the ball, move without the ball, exploit mismatches, know when to dish and when to take high percentage shots.

Super stars share the spotlight with complementary role players e.g. defensive stopper.  The right approach to practice optimizes the chances to win through timely hoops at the end of the game.

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Demand Generation" is a Misnomer

Why do marketers call it "demand generation"? They're not creating demand.

Check your microeconomics text to be reminded of the difference between a "change in demand" Vs. a "change in the quantity demanded".  This has nothing to do with what the marketing automation vendors are espousing.

Instead, they should be calling it "lead generation".  That's the best they can hope for. Either of two situations determines demand and the quantity demanded.
  1. The environment [social, economic, governmental regulations, technology, and competition] is what drives and enables demand for commodity products for buyers who are employing traditional deductive problem solving techniques e.g. here's the pain caused by my problem and here's the root cause of the pain.  After evaluating potential solutions, they find the best price/performance fit. Marketers influence the quantity demanded based on their pricing and campaign tactics.
  2. For those companies who are lucky enough to have a new paradigm e.g. Apple iPad, potential customers can be persuaded to find the funding to purchase them based on deductive reasoning e.g. here's a new idea or product; what can I do with it to improve my current position?  Pricing is probably elastic and producers can associate their capacity with the quantity demanded based on how they price the product.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Demand Generation Crates New Categories

New ideas become reality through effective demand generation programs.  Entrepreneurs introduce their products to early adopters who find the financial, human and complementary resources to "make it happen".

If their idea catches on, they generate early stage demand for a new category of products.  Then, when it looks like the coast is clear, companies who employ a "category marketing" strategy add their own versions to the category.  This helps the category to grow faster than if innovators try to do it all themselves.

Consider what happened in the early 80's. The Apple II jump started the PC market to reach critical mass and then the IBM PC created a mega-category through its captive corporate market. Tektronix kept its proprietary hi-res graphics technology to itself. Both Apple and Tektronix eventually lost their introductory stage, share leading position of relatively small categories to "standards" applied by everyone else in the growth stage of their respective mega-categories.

Tablet computing is a recent example.  After false starts by many tech companies, Apple finally found the key to success.  As its iPad moves from introduction to growth stage, it opens the door to versions from other companies.  It remains to be seen as to whether Apple retains leadership in this new category.

As a category evolves, total demand shifts to the right as "early majority" pragmatists justify their investments on ROI and TCO benefits.

Once a category is created, however, companies hire sales teams to ensure that they are filling up their capacity with orders.  This is when "demand generation becomes a misnomer".

Thanks for reading.

INTAgLIO Business Solutions
John J. Bernardi
BizD Change Agent
My profiles: Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Blogger GoldMail

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Will The Next Bill Rasmussen Please Stand Up

Innovation, the key to sustainable economic health, has been missing in action in Connecticut for the past 30 years. The state's traditional companies such as SNET, Pratt & Whitney, Sikorksy, Hamilton Standard, Aetna, Travelers, Stanley Works, and Perkin Elmer are in the maturity phase of their life cycle and no longer lead Connecticut's innovation.

It's been over 30 years since Connecticut has had a major business innovation. People asked Bill Rasmussen why he started ESPN in Connecticut in 1978.  "It's simple", he said.  "I live here".  Here's a Hartford Business Journal article about Bill.

Connecticut's innovative past included some pretty cool "firsts".
  • Artificial heart
  • Anesthesia
  • Helicopter
  • Nuclear submarine
  • Retractable tape measure
  • Vulcanized rubber
  • Magnetic core computer memory
  • Semiconductor injection laser
  • Polaroid photography
  • Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus
  • Football rules - Walter Camp
  • Paper clip mass production
  • Dictionary
  • Can opener
  • Steamboat
  • Newspaper
  • Cotton gin
  • America's factory town
  • Movable parts mass production
  • Insurance company
  • Public art museum
  • Portable typewriter
  • Sewing machine
  • Ice-making machine
  • Pay phone
  • Telephone exchange
  • Collapsible toothpaste tube
  • Hamburger
  • Lollipop
  • Frisbee
  • Wiffle Ball
  • Silly Putty
  • PEZ Candy
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • UHF TV station and FM radio station
  • Color television
  • Colt Revolver

Who will be the catalyst to rekindle a long history of innovation?
Will the next Bill Rasmussen please stand up.

[Read this article and this one to see the details.]

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Double Railroad Performance and Reap Great Byproducts - Just Like the Space Program

Think about all the great byproducts from the space program [see yesterday's blog].  They've impacted every aspect of our lives. They weren't planned, but innovators took advantage of NASA's investments and found great commercial and public sector applications.

What's to prevent us from reaping unplanned rewards from investing in our rail system? President Kennedy's goal was to win the space race by safely landing an American on the moon in less than a decade. Why shouldn't the USA be able to upgrade its railroad system to be equal or better than any other country's?  Currently the highest train speed in the USA is 150 mph.  The average for the rest of the world is 357 mph.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Great Byproducts from Achieving Ambitious Goals

In 1961 when President Kennedy set what most perceived to be an overly ambitious goal of safely landing an American on the moon in less than 10 years, his sole objective was to pass the USSR in the race for space.  No one could have imagined the thousands of by-products that would impact computer technology, environmental and resource management, health and medicine, industrial productivity, manufacturing technology, public safety, transportation, along with home, recreation and consumer products.

If it weren't for the space program we wouldn't have the iPad, iPod, CDs, DVDs, microcomputers or Wii virtual reality games. We wouldn't have non-invasive medical imaging devices.  Automobile designers wouldn't have been able to benefit from aerodynamic design software.  Air quality monitoring systems that have helped us to significantly improve our environment wouldn't exist.  Photovoltaic solar systems wouldn't exist.

I also learned that NASA technology has been leveraged to produce enriched baby foods and water purification systems for underdeveloped countries. Scratch resistant lenses and ribbed swimsuits were also invented using space technology - even the DustBuster.

Maybe we're beginning to reach the point of diminishing returns relative to continued benefits associated with space program investment, but I doubt it.  My point is that the investment of time, creativity and money in achieving monster goals will produce significant byproducts if we act with wide peripheral vision.

JFK's 10 year horizon looked impossible to reach, but look what his legacy has delivered 50 years later.

If you'd like to read about unplanned byproducts whose roots are in the space program, check out this article.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cloud Computing: Nothing really new here

Here's an example of how acquisitions can kill a company's innovation culture.

Back in 1974 an innovative company known as Telenet, Inc. was established by BBN.  Telenet offered a cloud based packet switching network.  Customers connected their computers to the cloud.  Their users would dial into the cloud and connect to their host's network address.  This saved customers from having to design, install, maintain, upgrade and manage their own private networks.  It also enabled employees to work remotely and and globally and for customers and vendors to "connect", which created efficiencies and a competitive advantage.

In the early days Telenet's customers were primarily the early adopters who saw the benefits and were willing to "make it happen" for their companies.  As they proved the benefits of cloud computing, the mass market pragmatists jumped on board.  This set the stage for AOL and other Internet communities that hit the scene in the 1980s.

Then, in the late '80s, Telenet continued its innovative product line strategy by offering cloud based email and EDI services to customers who had gained confidence in using its cloud based dial-up network services.

Unfortunately, when it was acquired by Sprint, Telenet's product innovation came to a halt as Sprint milked Telenet as a cash cow and force fitted Telenet into its telecom carrier services culture.

If this acquisition hadn't happened, cloud computing services would have been available many years ago and what we're reading about today wouldn't be such big news.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Our Acquisitions Have Been Unified "In Name Only"

In my experience with clients who have grown by acquiring others with similar products and services, I've noticed a common thread, which smacks of short term thinking.

While adding the revenues [albeit for the short term] from newly acquired customers, they do a good job of cutting costs wherever duplicate administrative jobs exist.

However, these quick hits to the income statement don't produce a sustainable boon to the balance sheet or pro forma income statement.

I believe that these company leaders are following financial and operational paths, but not assimilating acquisitions into a unified marketing culture that reaps the benefits of consolidated business development processes.

I've noticed that they allow individual sales, marketing and customer service environments to continue to operate as if the newly acquired businesses were still independent entities.  They do not follow simple logic that suggests a centralization of processes like lead generation and lead nurturing.  They do not systematize one sales process across all business entities.  They do not subscribe to a common approach to ensuring customer satisfaction which breeds retention and referrals.

Is it a lack of courageous leadership where short term thinking is the path of least resistance? Or, does the acquiring company not have a strong marketing culture in which to assimilate new acquisitions in a planned fashion.Or, maybe the acquiring company does not have bullet proof sales, marketing, support and business development processes that will enable a "whole greater than the sum of its parts"?

It's easy to cut costs, but there's only so much that you can squeeze out of the sponge.  The marketing, sales, customer service and business development stuff is tough - the things that great companies are made of.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pay Attention to First Impressions

I thought I was interested in a potential new client who could benefit from my "change agent" services in their business development environment.

I experienced three negative initial impressions; the first was when they called me to set up a planning telephone call. It was reinforced when I visited their headquarters for the first time.

For the initial telephone planning session, they called 30 minutes later than the scheduled time.  They told me matter of factly that an unexpected situation caused them to be late.  I had to reschedule the call because I had another appointment.  A few days later they sent me an email asking to re-reschedule the planning call because of a new unexpected situation.  My antenna went up.  Was this the way they treated their employees as well?

A week later when I walked into their well-adorned lobby, I was greeted by an unfriendly receptionist.  I felt like an invader.

As I was escorted to the conference room, I passed quiet employees who were alone in their cubes and didn't look like they were enjoying their day.

When the managers who could benefit from my services entered the conference room, I sensed a very negative air about them even before the first words were spoken.  The conversation was very superficial and we never got to the heart of the matter after one hour of skirting the issues.

I decided to not follow through with the engagement.

The moral of the story is to pay attention to the environment before you decide to pursue an opportunity.  Maybe it's just one person who is relaying a questionable signal.  But if you find consistency in at least three separate interaction points, something's up.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Subscribers React to Newsletter Themes

It's interesting to see how newsletter themes affect opens and opt out rates for long tenured subscribers.

I continually reinvent my business by adding new services, but for the same target market. Many subscribers who had opened and "clicked through" for earlier themes don't understand how the new concepts apply to them and either don't open the newsletter or opt out.

This analogy evokes the old adage, "we mock what we don't understand".  I hope that's not what they're doing.  Instead, I think it's this world of mass communications that triggers one's first option to quickly delete or opt out if they haven't heard of a new concept.  This places even greater emphasis on the need to find the pace setters and opinion leaders who can influence all the rest.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Rabbit in the Race Helps You to Get Outside of Your Comfort Zone

I am the rabbit in my client's race and I know that because of me they do things they wouldn't otherwise do.

I wish I had a rabbit that was running in my race.  Although I know that there are things I would suggest to a client, I don't necessarily practice them myself.